Category Archives: Marathon training
Unfortunately, this week I ended up coming down with a small cold for a few days. Apparently it isn’t uncommon to get sick during the taper or right after the marathon because running long distances can temporarily weaken the immune system because “the body churns out the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function in large amounts.” I started feeling bad on Tuesday afternoon, but it was mainly just a small sore throat and a little headache near my temples on both sides, nothing to stop me from running. But I feel much better now, almost 100%, so no need to worry!
The last week of training is all about resting, relaxing, and mentally preparing for the marathon. It is key that I don’t try anything new – no new foods, drinks, or sports. As I read before, “Remember, during this final week, you can’t under-do. You can only overdo.“ Training for a marathon is not like studying for a test in school where you can get away with and even benefit from last minute cramming. With marathon training, it is best to err on the side of caution by resting up instead of trying to fit in any extra miles.
I like to be prepared for anything on race day and I want to minimize as much “freaking out” as I possibly can by planning for every possible weather combination. Come hell or high water, I will be prepared for this race. Therefore, I am packing a lot for Charlottesville. Here is what my marathon bag will contain (click the image for a larger view):
I’m leaving around lunch time today to drive to Charlottesville, as are my parents. Then it’s time for the expo and packet pick up and some last minute things before the final stretch. This will probably be the last time I post until after the big race, so stay tuned! I’d be so thankful if you wanted send some encouragement via Facebook or text, as long as it isn’t too late tonight since I’ll be going to bed early 🙂
(P.S. If you want to see my detailed race week run-down, click here, I looove making lists as you can tell.)
Instead of telling you about my running this week, since it’s been what I’d call uneventful since it’s taper time, I’ll tell you what’s been on my mind. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week in lieu of running a lot of miles. A lot of race-day visualization, self-motivation, and reflection on all that I’ve done to train for this. Just thinking about it when I’m in a certain focused mood can give me the chills. I got to thinking about the story of Kathrine Switzer that I had read about once or twice before, who really changed the history of running for all women, and how my story wouldn’t be possible without hers. Here is her story… but first, starting way, way back:
The first Olympic marathon was held in 1896 and it was open to men only. Women weren’t to be counted out entirely, however. A woman named Melpomene snuck onto the marathon route and finished an hour and a half behind the winner, but beat plenty of men who ran slower or dropped out. Women snuck onto marathon courses from that point forward.
Now fast forward to the year 1976 (when it was apparently widely accepted medical advice that running could make your uterus fall out). It is the Boston Marathon, which isn’t just any race… it is the world’s oldest annual marathon and had always been a men’s only race. A headstrong 20-year-old junior at Syracuse University named Kathrine Switzer entered the marathon under the name of K.V. Switzer and was given a number. Kathrine recounts in an article she wrote (which I’ve reduced and added a few notes to below):
“The day of the race was horrible. Sleeting, snowing, windy and cold…As I pinned on my number, the other runners around me noticed I was a woman and got very excited and supportive. They thought it was great that a woman was going to run Boston. We all lined up to go through the starting pen…More people were noticing I was female and congratulated me, all very supportive and excited for me. Arnie [Kathrine’s coach], my boyfriend Tom, John Leonard from our cross country team, and I were in a little group… The race starts and off we go.
Four miles into the race, the media flatbed truck loaded with photographers came through and we all had to get out of the way to let it pass. A bus followed the truck with the journalists and on that bus were co-race directors Will Cloney and Jock Semple. The photographers saw me first and started shouting, ‘There’s a girl in the race,’ and then slowed up in front of us and started taking pictures. By now, I’d thrown away my top sweatshirt and my hair was flying. I didn’t try to disguise my gender at all. Heck, I was so proud of myself I was wearing lipstick!…
Jock [Semple] was well known for his violent temper…He jumped off the bus and went after me. I saw him just before he pounced, and let me tell you, I was scared to death. He was out of control. I jumped away from him as he grabbed for me, but he caught me by the shoulder and spun me around, and screamed, ‘Get the hell out of my race and give me that race number.’ I tried to get away from him but he had me by the shirt…Arnie tried to wrestle Jock away from me but was having a hard time himself and then Tom, my 235-pound boyfriend came to the rescue and smacked Jock with a cross body block and Jock went flying through the air. At first, I thought we had killed him. I was stunned and didn’t know what to do, but then Arnie just looked at me and said, ‘Run like hell,’ and I did as the photographers snapped away and the scribes recorded the event for posterity. The rest is history.”
It wasn’t until 1972 – 5 years later – that the Boston Marathon was officially opened to women, and Kathrine Switzer was a huge part of making this happen. Since then, so much as been accomplished for women in running.
Sometimes it helps (and takes my mind off my upcoming race) to think about the big picture. Not just how I got to this place, but how women got to this place, and it hasn’t been an easy road. I can’t even imagine being Kathrine where on top of all of my training I am also going against the rules, social norms, and literally fighting (or having your boyfriend do it for you) to stay in a race where you wouldn’t be given an official time anyways. Today, female participation in marathons has been steadily increasing, and I’m so excited to soon be part of that growing statistic! So thank you Kathrine Switzer for setting the precedent and making this marathon training comparatively “easy” compared to what you had to go through. 🙂
P.S. Kathrine is truly dynamic to listen to, so if you want to, watch this short video of her describing her experience in Boston, I enjoyed it a lot.
P.P.S. It’s looking like it’ll be beautiful weather on race day! 5 more days!
For my first week of the taper I had a pretty decent week of running, although my pacing was feeling strange, like I just couldn’t get the rhythm down ever since hurting my ankle, but at least I was able to get my week day runs in. On Friday, I drove down to Charlottesville after work for the beginning of my birthday weekend. Since Matt and I have the same birthday, it makes celebrating together extra special. This year was the 5th birthday that we’ve spent celebrating together, since the first one was when we turned 20 together, wow!
On my birthday I woke up early to find it pouring down rain so I decided I’d have to do my 12 mile run inside on the treadmill, which I wasn’t looking forward to because the treadmill gets so boring. I had bought some more KT Tape Pro, and I decided to basically tape everything that hurt or could possibly hurt as a precaution. I taped my left ankle, my right hip, and my right outer knee (the parts that had been hurting from the extra impact). I actually felt really cool with my pink and green tape, and felt like I looked all hardcore and intense, like a real athlete!
After one boring mile on the treadmill, I decided it was just way too hot in the gym to be inside and there was no way I’d be able to do 12 miles like that, and plus I needed to stop being a baby and shying away from the rain. So I went back to Matt’s real quick to grab my sunglasses and Fuel Belt, and off I went in the rain for the last 11 miles of my run. The rain was bad at first, making it hard to see and making me wish I owned a hat! But after the first 5 miles outside it stopped and the cool air was perfect to run in. I was really glad I decided to move outside instead, sometimes running in the rain is really invigorating.
That night the celebrations began! Matt and I had dinner at the Melting Pot, which he had never been to. It was delicious cheese fondue, followed by salad and then an entree of all sorts of meat (steak, filet mignon, shrimp, BBQ chicken, and lobster tail), and finished off with my favorite, the dessert course. Flaming turtle chocolate fondue with delicious treats to dip in it – Rice Krispie treats, graham cracker-covered marshmallows, Oreo-covered marshmallows, pound cake, cheesecake, brownie, strawberries, and banana slices. Mmmm! That wasn’t the end of it though – on Sunday I had two more celebrations, including the famous brunch at Boar’s Head Inn with Matt and his family, followed by going back home for a family birthday dinner and my mom’s famous chocolate cheesecake for my birthday cake. It was a gourmet, chocolately, delicious birthday that’s for sure.
Thank you so very, very much to everyone who made my birthday super special! First and foremost my mom, for birthing me! My dad, my brother, my Aunt Katie and Uncle Matt and my 3 sweet little cousins, Grama, Poppy, Grampa, Eileen, Mimi, my sweet boyfriend and his family, and my great friends who I got to have board game night with last week! Thanks for making my golden birthday amazing, I love you all so much!
So as the taper continues and the nervousness starts to set in as I have less than TWO WEEKS till the marathon, I must remember all of the work I’ve put in to get this far and how much I’ve been preparing for the day.
The beginning of this week was totally… strange. All of the sudden it seemed like, I was extremely tired, really moody, and reeeeally hungry. I tried running on Tuesday (at 75% reduced mileage as suggested since I was out for a week with 4 weeks till the marathon), which didn’t go as well as I had liked. By Wednesday, I was in 100% mood-swing-engaged mode. I just didn’t know why I was so out of whack. Was it the time change? The move? The new (really long) commute? The fact that I wasn’t able to run last week and was off schedule? It ends up, I wasn’t going crazy, but I am experiencing exercise withdrawal. Yes, it’s a real thing (I didn’t realize it before now)… I’m about to get really science-y:
In 2006, a doctor went out to discover “whether withdrawal of regular aerobic activity provokes depressive mood symptoms and fatigue, and to what extent reductions in fitness levels contribute to the development of these symptoms.” It turns out that “fatigue and somatic depressive symptoms emerged after 1 week of exercise withdrawal and subsequently predicted the development of cognitive-affective depressive symptoms at 2 weeks…” And here is where I had my A-HA moment: “Depressed mood and fatigue are commonly observed in individuals deprived of usual exercise activities, and the increase in fatigue may be partially mediated by reduced fitness levels. These findings may explain mood changes in response to short-term exercise withdrawal such as injuries and recovery from medical procedures that do not require full bedrest.”
Well, that explains all of my symptoms at the beginning of this week… I was out for a week with an ankle injury after 13 solid weeks of marathon training, which ended up being a big, big break in my routine for my mind and body that hit me all at once this week, leaving me feeling insatiable, cranky, and tired. This week also gives me a little bit of (possible) insight into a phenomenon I’ve read about called “post-marathon blues.” If you google it, you will get a tons of hits, like this or this one for instance.
Luckily by Thursday I had a great run, no ankle brace, just KT Tape, and even though the run was short, it was reassuring and good for my confidence. Then on Saturday I had my long run – originally (pre-injury) I would’ve done 20 miles, at 75% reduced mileage I could perhaps do 15 miles. But it was really hot out and I was still easing back in, having only run twice in the past 2 weeks, so I was did 12 miles, and there was no ankle pain, YAY!
It was a mentally tough run, but I did it and didn’t have to stop at any point except for a water refill and bathroom break. And the best part was that at mile 11, Matt joined me for the last mile 🙂 he didn’t like how slow the pace was, but hey, I had been running for hours, so he could go my pace for a mile! It’s definitely harder with his longer legs and he was all fresh, whereas I had just run 11 miles! Even though 12 miles is on the “shorter” end of my long runs, I decided to do an ice bath afterwards as a precaution, and even managed to stay in for 20 minutes, eating pizza, listening to music, browsing Facebook on my phone, anything to pass the icy time.
And now, there are 19 days left until the big day. The last three weeks is all about the taper – so my mileage goes way, way down, but I keep running 4 times a week – this is so that the body has time to recover from the high mileage before going into the race. Getting excited now!
A special shout out some friends that did marathons this weekend! Asta completed the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, and Nicole finished the LA Marathon (her first!) – CONGRATS LADIES! 🙂
One thing I’ve been trying to do, whether running inside on the treadmill or outside, is add lots of hill training, since the marathon will be super hilly (in case you forgot, look at the elevation chart). So, let’s do a quick test. Do me a favor and look at the picture on the right. Put yourself in his shoes, imagine you are running up a giant hill right now, and describe think about your emotions. Are you: (A) Angry, agitated, defeated, miserable, and resentful, or (B) Happy, joyful, blissful, chipper, and thrilled?
If you answered (A), then congratulations, you are a normal human being. If you answered (B), then welcome to my world, pal! I have to add that I haven’t always been “abnormal,” but since I started marathon training, me and hills are best friends (most of the time, all friends have arguments, right? And when the arguments do happen, the hills usually win…)
Anyways, when I’m running in Charlottesville, it’s no problem, I can run literally anywhere and get my hill fill. But when I’m at home it’s a little more difficult, and I have started ravenously seeking out hills…
Despite finding and running as many hills as possible at home, I find that on my runs I get saddened when I feel like I am running on mostly flat/downhill terrain, and I get super happy when I am running uphills. It’s a sickness. Honestly. Most people hate hills.
I sang a short ode to the hills when I ran my most recent 5k, because hill training did wonder for my speed. Running hills is just all around great for you, it gives you more strength, efficiency, and endurance – as long as you’re careful and do it the right way!
In addition, I was feeling so good on my long run on Saturday (my pacing was steady, no cramps, steady heart rate, legs felt good, great weather, the whole nine yards) that I decided around mile 11-12 that I was going to add an extra mile and do 20 miles instead of 19 miles (technically I went a little over 20, because I was just guessing after mile 19 since I hadn’t mapped out 20 miles before on mapmyrun.com). My finishing time was with probably 5 minutes worth of breaks (bathroom, water refill, shoe adjustments) and it all felt super steady and totally do-able. If I had to run more, or if a bear had jumped out at mile 20 and started to chase me, I would in fact still be alive, cause I would’ve been able to run away still.
My training plan had me only running 20 miles once. I am doing the Hal Higdon “Novice 2” program, but the “Intermediate 1” program has two 20 milers, so I figured, you know what, I’m feeling good, and it feels safe to tack on an extra mile here. So I’ll be a step ahead of my plan by doing two 20 milers, the next one being St. Patrick’s Day weekend, which I’ll try to do in Charlottesville if I’m lucky! What has the world come to when getting to run on hills is considered “lucky” in my mind? 🙂
Saturday’s run was crazy – here is the good and the bad.
-I’ve recently started a new tradition that before my long runs I’ll go to Panera Bread and buy a pre-run bagel and a post-run bagel. My pre-run bagel is relatively simple, a whole grain bagel with regular cream cheese. My post-run bagel (and my motivation during some of those hard miles) is a cinnamon raisin swirl (or french toast bagel in this weeks case) with hazelnut cream cheese (or icing, as Matt calls it). It is literally like eating a delicious dessert. A-MA-ZING.
-It was about 56 degrees and beautiful outside! I was in shorts and short sleeves and my sunglasses.
-That night I got to hang out with Matt, his youngest sister Jenna, and their cousin Sarah who was in town. The girls made delicious chicken tacos, homemade salsa AND guacamole. Mmmmm, it was heaven!
-I was dragging the first 5-6 miles, I felt sooo heavy. I realized that the Gu I took before the run (Peanut Butter) doesn’t have any caffeine in it, and I need that caffeine beforehand!
-Since I was at UVA and part of my run goes by the basketball arena, I somehow managed to time it so that I was running through crowds arriving TO the game at the start of my run (mile 1-2), and then on my way BACK there were people overflowing the sidewalks and streets leaving the game (mile 10-11), it became sort of an obstacle course trying to get through! Next time I should check to make sure there aren’t any major sporting events I’ll have to run through, haha.
-Running by a Wendy’s around mile 16 – made me want to gag. I don’t ever eat fast food, but it smells ESPECIALLY bad when you’ve been running for 3 hours. People were sitting in their car eating their artery-clogging burgers and staring at me like I was an exotic animal they had never seen as I ran by. Some people are amazed/confused/amused(?) by me running with all my gear and intensity! 😉
…and the next category, the new:
–Ice bath! Even though it was only one mile more than my longest run last week, my ankles were feeling especially tired. I told Matt I felt like I had baby ankles – I guess that means my bones are still forming and are hard to walk on and I would’ve rather been crawling – a bit of post-run genius right there. I knew that putting some bags of ice on them just wasn’t going to be enough, so I decided, for the first time I would try an ice bath. I did some googling of ice bath criteria and rules as Matt started filling the tub was luke-cold (his word, not mine) water. I went in to check the temperature and immediately made it colder because I’m a champion like that. One of things I read was that some runners like to sip hot chocolate or hot tea while in the ice bath to make it feel not as bad. So by the time the tub was all full of icy cold water, Matt started heating some water for tea. I was literally pacing around being all nervous as I waited for my tea and as the ice bath waited for me. Finally, I decided I need to JUST DO IT and get it over with. I did it with my clothes on to provide some (small amount of) warmth, so Matt came in as I stepped in and lowered myself into the tub while yelling things such as “IT IS SOO COLD, OH NO, SO COLD,” and the like. As I was all the way in, sitting up with my legs straight, the water was up a little past my waist and my legs extended straight out. Within about 15 seconds I realized it didn’t feel bad anymore. But it didn’t feel GOOD per say. It just felt strange. I could rotate my ankles in the water and they didn’t hurt at all like they did outside the water.
Matt started the timer (10 minutes) and went to get my tea for me. The ice bath was definitely a super strange feeling and I never really felt like I was the happiest child on the planet, but it did feel relaxing, I can’t deny that! After adding some ice cubes, sipping on some hot tea (great idea by the way!) and asking Matt “how much longer do I have?”, I finally finished my 10 minutes and slowly stood up. My legs were red, but they felt good, they felt totally cooled off right through the muscle. All in all, a great, great idea that I will definitely be doing again after my long runs, when frozen peas are just not going to cut it.
Oh, and one more thing to add to “the good,” I didn’t have work today so I got to stay with Matt another night AND it snowed yesterday in Charlottesville, beautiful! 🙂
47 more days till the big day! I am getting SO excited!
I had a good week, but a great weekend! On Friday, I got to have dinner with my lovely friend Emily, and then we hung out with our buddies Cody, Dan, and Ted – these are friends from high school, some things just never change! Then on Saturday, I ventured out to run 17 miles. I was nervous… I had skipped my 13.1 miles last weekend because of my injury, so I didn’t know how that would effect me, but luckily, I was still able to just bust it out. Did some pre- and post-run Panera bagel again (mmmm!) and also alternated with Peanut Butter Gu and Chocolate Outrage Gu. The Peanut Butter is a new flavor and apparently people were going NUTS for it so I thought I’d love it, but I wasn’t that into it! Luckily I only bought two packets and not an entire box (like I did with the chocolate, which is still my favorite!) My pacing has actually gotten a lot better than it was just recently. I was able to stop being so excited about running for hours and hours (HA!) and slowed it down to make sure I wouldn’t burn out before the end. So the pace I did, 11:17 min/mile, which is still a liiiiittle quick for this long run (which you run slower than the runs during the week), is much closer to how I should be training. 🙂 And yes, I ran for over THREE HOURS, woah! I could’ve watched all of Titanic in that time, sheesh!
Since Matt was coming into town Saturday night for a surprise birthday party of some mutual friends (HAPPY BIRTHDAY STEVEN AND BRIAN!), I didn’t have much time to really rest up, relax, and most importantly… nap, after the run. I had to go pick up my race packet for my race the next day (more on that in a minute), shower, paint my toenails since they were looking particularly “runner”-like… So we went to the surprise party at a bar nearby which started at 6pm, and by 8pm I was exhausted. It was so much fun to see all my old college friends again and hang out with them, and also earn back all those calories I burned on my run by eating mozzarella sticks and a chicken club sandwich (yum yum, bar food)!
On Sunday morning, I did a race called Love the Run You’re With 5k, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day! It. Was. Cold. Like much colder than I imagined it was going to be – oh, and windy. (I got there at 8am and the race started at 9am.) BUT, it was a great time, and I also GOT a great time! I got a PR (Personal Record) in the 5k of 26:05 – which is the fastest I’ve EVER gone. To put it in perspective, my previous PR was 29:31 and the first 5k I did back in like August 2010 or something was around 32 minutes, something seconds. So for 3.1 miles, my time has gotten dramatically better! The course was what I’d call flat (others might not, but considering what I’ve been trying to train on for Charlottesville, it was flat), so I was putting forth the amount of effort I do on a hilly route but ended up going much faster since it was so flat and even some downhills (oh, the perks of training on hills). So even though I was skeptical about racing the day after a 17 mile run, it went well for me! I also lucked out and got to meet two online-running buddies in person for the first time, YAY! It was great to meet you guys, Max and Steph, I hope we run into each other again soon at another local race 🙂
As it is Valentine’s Day weekend, it is worth mentioning that I had a great Valentine’s weekend with my boyfriend Matt. Since we live in different cities, we can’t celebrate on Valentine’s Day (but who wants to celebrate on a Tuesday anyways anyways haha), so we celebrated this weekend when he came into town.
In the spirit of Valentine’s day, I present to you a throwback picture (you can click on it to view it larger):
I normally wouldn’t be lovey-dovey on my running blog, but I will make an exception for Valentine’s Day because I happen to have the sweetest boyfriend in the world – I am seriously one lucky girl. Matt, I love you so much, Happy Valentine’s Day, and here’s to many more to come!
Everything went well this week until I got to the weekend when I was supposed to do a half marathon (I was going to do my own time trial). On Saturday, Matt and I went skiing, so I figured I’d do my run on Sunday. Unfortunately, after a nasty spill on the slopes I wasn’t feeling too hot on Sunday and ended up laying around and popping medicine. I had banged my head pretty hard so I had a little scratch on my forehead and then the back of my neck and shoulders were super sore. Luckily there was a lot of sitting around anyways since it was Super Bowl Sunday! I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive back home Sunday night feeling like I did, so I decided to take Monday off and go to the doctor then, that way I could rest up more before driving home.
My mom drove me to the doctor and after a little evaluation it ends up I have a neck strain, ouch!
The doctor gave me this wonderful manual that looks like it’s straight from the 80’s (first copyright in 1981). It’s both entertaining and informative – what a winner!
Basically I had sort of a “whiplash” experience when my head flung forward and hit the snow/ice and then bounced back, so for now, I can take a prescribed muscle relaxant, Motrin for the pain, apply warm compresses or heating pad on the area, and do neck stretching daily, including laying down after long periods of sitting or standing.
The good news in all of this is that I can still go about running and exercising! Yay! I was nervous this was going to cut into my plan for a few weeks or something. Even though I missed the long run this past week, which is NEVER good… but at least it wasn’t a week where I had an increase in mileage. I am such a planning person that it’s hard for me to miss such an important run like that, that’s 13 less miles I will have run to train for the marathon, but I’m hoping it won’t matter in the end – after all, I probably would’ve done more harm than good if I had tried to tough it out and run with a hurt head, neck, and upper back!
And now, it’s on to week 10, and I plan on running as planned tomorrow. I’m off to go lay down and rest on the heating pad – tough life!