MCM Race Recap: BQ or Bust…Well, Not Exactly

I set out this year with a BQ or bust racing mentality that all centered around one race – the Marine Corps Marathon. After coming just more than two minutes shy in my last attempt, I wanted to get there more than ever. The bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon only intensified that desire.

I didn’t get that goal on Sunday though. I wasn’t even close, instead running one of my slowest marathons in years. Was it a bust though?

I battled through one of the toughest training cycles I’ve had to date where I was sick multiple times and dealt with constant tight and sore calf muscles that landed me in physical therapy for the last two weeks of training. Still, I made it to the starting line on race day. Despite running through pain from very early on in the race, I crossed the finish line of my 10th marathon.

No, I definitely can’t call that a bust. I’m really proud of that accomplishment.

I’d be lying though if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed and sad that I didn’t reach my goal. I’ll have more to come on what I think went wrong and where I’ll go from here, but for today’s post, I’ll stick to the race day recap.

After a good night’s sleep I popped up when my 5 a.m. alarm went off and started getting ready. I had my usual pre-race meal, body-glided up and packed all my fuel into my Oiselle distance shorts. After adding some throwaway layers on top, we were out the door and Ian dropped me off as close as possible to the Rosslyn metro.

IMG_3688I hopped right on a train and was quickly at the Pentagon stop. It was really crowded on the platform so I waited what seemed like forever (actually not that bad) to get up the escalator and exit the station. I was stuck right behind some guy throwing up into a bag though, which was a bit gross, but I kept reminding myself he had it much worse than I did. On my way out I ran into one of my Oiselle teammates. It was so awesome to meet Prianka and have someone to chat with and keep the nerves calm on our walk to the start area.

My parents stayed at the Hyatt just around the corner from the finish, so I’d left a bag with them and skipped past the bag check area to grab a spot in the bathroom line. Soon after I was warming up while watching a group of paratroopers make their way down to the ground with a giant American flag…love this race. Then I made my way to the start. It was already very crowded, but I got a spot about 10 feet behind the 3:35 pacer. I ditched my extra layers and soon was on the move at the sound of the starting gun.

The first mile was a lot of weaving until I finally just settled in as we turned up Lee Highway and made sure to keep the 3:35 pacer in my sights to stay on track. This was my first glimpse of my support crew – Mom, Dad and Ian – who were waiting with a sign to cheer me on and take pics. I ran by for a high five and headed up the hills. My pace felt easy and my calves which I’d had so much trouble with weren’t bothering me, however I could already feel my hamstrings tightening up at mile 2. I figured they would loosen up on the downhill and I’d be fine.


The early hills passed pretty quickly and we turned onto Spout Run to make our way back down. I love how you can hear the roar of the crowd as you near the end of this small stretch and get ready to turn and cross the Key Bridge. Another high five from my support crew and I was smiling my way over the bridge. The crowds on M Street were fantastic, but I could feel the tightness in my hammies was still there and was spreading to my quads.

IMG_3739By the time we turned down Wisconsin to make our way toward Rock Creek Parkway the 3: 35 pacer was already slipping away. How could this be happening so early I thought? I didn’t feel out of breath or at all winded, but I just couldn’t get my legs to go faster.

Despite not having a great day, I still standby my earlier statements that getting rid of the Canal Road portion of the race and bringing Rock Creek Parkway back was a great addition. This part of the course is beautiful and way less hilly than the old route.

By mile 7 the 3:45 pace group went gliding by me as if I were moving in slow motion. Ugh. Shortly after the turnaround on Rock Creek, I heard someone yell, “Go Oiselle!” This happened a handful of times throughout the day and really made a rough day so much better! Around mile 9 my right IT band and left ankle added themselves to the list of body parts that hurt. What is going on I kept thinking and it really hit me that today was going to be a much longer day than I had planned.

Soon I was on my way into Hains Point. This part of the course gets a bad rap, but really wasn’t all that bad this year I thought. Thanks to the picture perfect race weather, the wind that can be beyond brutal here was barely there. Also, passing the line of signs here with pictures of marines and the date they were killed in action was a humbling and inspiring experience. The strategically placed cheer squads along this section of the course provided a great boost as well.

It was also at this point that I met another Oiselle teammate. Brennan came running up to me and gave me a hug and some words of encouragement before passing by and continuing on to her first marathon finish!! This was enough to keep me going through the rest of Hains Point as the pain slowly started to get worse.

Around mile 15 my hips started aching too and I started to wonder how I was going to make it to the finish line like this. Thankfully the crowd support was great here as I made my way back up toward the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial. Have I mentioned I love this race and all it’s amazing sights? I also knew my support crew was waiting for me just past mile 17 and I couldn’t wait to see them again.

As I ran up the Mall toward the Capitol Building I kept my eye out for the orange sign they were holding and let a big smile cross my face once I spotted them. A quick handoff with my Dad and I had a new water bottle to replace my empty one. At this part of the course, I’m always so thankful when we hit the Capitol and turn in front of it rather than going up and around like many of my training runs. That hill is brutal!


I quickly realized it was a bad idea to carry my smaller water bottle first, as having my 16-ouncer now felt like it weighed a TON. Luckily the fam had hurried across the Mall and saw me again at mile 19. I waved and dropped the bottle as I ran by. Thankfully without even saying anything they realized what was wrong and had the smaller one refilled for the next time I would see them.


There was no doubt I was hurting, but I’d come to grips with the fact that my goal was not going to happen today and coming up on mile 20 the end started to feel within reach. I passed the mile marker and came up on the infamous 14th Street Bridge.

In an instant everything nearly fell apart. The bottoms of my feet like most of my body hadn’t been feeling great today, but all of a sudden I felt a shot of pain up my left heel. Every time it hit the ground was excruciating. I hopped along trying not to curse too loudly as I grabbed the road divider for support and tried not to let my left heel touch the ground.

This is why I love runners. I can’t even tell you how many people asked if I was OK, patted me on the back, told me I could do it and offered me waters, Gu and assistance. You all are remarkable as I’m sure no one was feeling super good at this point of the race, so thank you. Thankfully though, the pain started to dull after a quarter to a half mile of this that felt more like 20, and I was able to put weight on my foot again and resume my run to the finish. It was more of a shuffle by this point though as I could barely even lift my feet over cups strewn on the ground as I passed through water stops for the rest of the race.

Finally, I would “Beat the Bridge” and make my way into Crystal City. This is another area with great crowd support pushing you closer to the finish. It was around this point that my ego would take a bit of a hit. I was passed and eventually beaten by a a Dunkin Donuts cup, the Chick Fil A cows and a dragon. Awesome.


As Crystal City was coming to an end I kept my hopes up that I would see my support crew one more time. Depending on how the metro worked out, they were going to try to catch me at about 23.5. Again I spotted that orange sign my Mom was holding high and couldn’t be happier. Ian was still snapping away with the camera and my Dad held up my smaller water bottle. I ran over to grab it, yelled that I loved them and continued on my way so incredibly thankful for such amazingly supportive people in my life.


I worked my way back by the Pentagon where crowd support waned, but Marines loudly cheered us on and told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other for the last two miles. I have never wanted a marathon to be over so badly in my life. I ran back through the start line and heard people yelling less than a mile and a half to go. Oh. Thank. God.

I could hear the crowd before I could see them as I made my way toward the final stretch. Despite the cruel, cruel hill up to the finish line, I have always loved the finish experience of this race. With Arlington Cemetery just to your left and thousands of people cheering wildly, you feel like a rock star as you climb the last hill and turn towards the finish line just before the Iwo Jima Memorial.

I put my head down and summoned every last bit of energy I had to push up that hill and run to that finish line. I crossed the line and felt relieved. My finish time was 4:12:41.

If I’m being honest I didn’t smile when it was over or get my picture taken in front of Iwo Jima like after my last two MCM’s. I just took my medal, thanked the Marines and was happy it was over – but I wasn’t really happy at all. I fought back tears and plodded my way through the finisher’s area trying to thank as many of the Marines as possible.

It seemed like an endless walk to the entrance of my old apartment where I knew my support crew was waiting. Once I saw them I finally smiled and gladly accepted their hugs despite how gross I must have been at that point. Now I was done.


A disappointment to walk hobble away missing my goal by so much for sure, but I’m so very glad I didn’t give up. Ten marathons is certainly something to smile about.

If you made it all the way to the end of this ridiculously long post, thanks for reading through all of my rambling thoughts. How did your weekend racing go? How do you bounce back after falling short on a goal race?

Footprints Weekly Recap

Well, last week was the big week…the Marine Corps Marathon.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown of my week leading up to yesterday’s race…

Monday: Physical Therapy. 45-minute pool run with about 35 minutes at tempo effort.

Tuesday: 30-minute pool run with 25 at tempo effort. Core workout.

Aqua Jog Belt

Aqua Jog Belt

Wednesday: Physical Therapy.

Thursday: Rest. I also visited the Expo Thursday night to get my packet.

Friday: Last physical therapy appointment – very light massage and dynamic stretching.

Saturday: One mile shake out run followed by a dynamic stretch routine. I felt awesome and was feeling so positive about Sunday.

Sunday: The wheels fell off a bit and everything (but my calves which I spent the last two weeks working on in PT) felt awful. I missed my time goal by a whole heck of a lot, but was really proud I was able to pull myself together and keep going through the pain to cross the line in 4:12:41. Full recap and pictures coming soon.


Marine Corps Marathon: The Expo

Things are getting real! I made it over to the D.C. Armory for the Marine Corps Marathon Expo last night. Other than a few wrong turns on the way to the expo that made it a much longer trip than it should have been, things went very smoothly.

The Marines have this one down to a science, so I was in and out of the tent to pick up my bib in just a few minutes. After going through another round of security (first one was to get into the tent to grab my bib) I made my way into the armory and it was time to explore!

I made Ian take some silly pictures of me when we first walked in.

expo2 expo1I cannot wait till I have The Iwo in my sights on Sunday and am getting my picture snapped in front of it with my finisher’s medal. Does anyone know how I could just fast forward to that part of things?!?

After that I picked up my shirt and for the first time of my three MCM’s I will actually wear this one and not just keep it as a souvenir. Don’t get me wrong, the bright red and mustard yellow cotton unisex mock turtle necks in the bin under my bed do hold a special place in my heart…they just don’t get worn very often (read ever). This year they unveiled newer technical long sleeve shirts that look a whole lot better and might actually get me to “rock the mock” as they like to say! Kudos to MCM on making this change!

expo4After grabbing my shirt, there were a handful of free samples you could grab before heading into the Brooks official merchandise area.

expo3The lines were really long so I didn’t end up getting anything, but I may try to find my way back there before it closes. My only complaint about the gear was the sheer amount of pink women’s MCM gear. I like pink as much as the next girl, but it doesn’t seem to fit with this race in my mind, and I also get frustrated when people think all you have to do to sell gear to women is slap some pink on it. Regardless there was still a lot of good stuff!

I also wanted to get a new pint glass for this year to go with the one I have from 2011, but didn’t see any. I very easily could have just missed them though. If you were there and saw them, let me know!

I wish I had more time to explore the booths, but we were there pretty close to closing time and hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so I moved through pretty quickly checking out all the different running gear and goodies. I did stop by the Clif Bar booth to pick up my 3:35 pace band!

All in all, it was a pretty great expo and I left feeling motivated and excited for race day!

Are you racing MCM? How was your expo experience? Are you a fan of large race expos?


Marine Corps Marathon Course Preview and Race Strategy

Three more days! Yikes! The Marine Corps Marathon is almost here. Having run this marathon twice before and being lucky enough to do many of my training runs along the course, I feel like I know every inch of it.

Sometimes knowing what’s ahead is good. Think the rush from the crowd as you run the final stretch down 110. Other times I wish I didn’t know what was just around the bend. Think that final hill up to the finish line.

Here’s my advice and a preview of the course for first timers.

As the race starts adrenaline kicks in and emotions run high. Remember to keep your breathing in check and don’t go out too hard as you head up Lee Highway. The good news is you get to come back down along Spout Run before heading over the Key Bridge and onto M street in Georgetown. M Street should be loud and lined with fans so feed off of their energy as you get ready to turn down Wisconsin and loop onto Rock Creek Parkway.


Rock Creek is back after several years absent from the course and I for one am very excited about this. I wrote about the course change in an earlier post if you want to check that out. This stretch has a slight incline, but it’s really beautiful and a great addition in my mind.

The next big challenge is Hains Point. I’ve written often about my love-hate relationship with this stretch that has been a part of so many of my races this past year including the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Nike D.C. Women’s Half and the Navy Air Force Half Marathon. The crowds can be sparse and the winds can be brutal, but as of now anyways, the forecast looks to be in our favor. If it is windy, try to tuck in behind another runner or a group. If you start to feel the lack of crowd support, let yourself enjoy the views of the water. It’ll be over in just a couple miles and you’ll be on your way to miles 15 and 16.

Soon you’ll be gliding (or hobbling – whatever it takes) past the monuments. Take it all in as you approach the Capitol Building – it really is a special view and so much history. You’ll see a big hill ahead by the Capitol, but don’t worry, the course turns just before sending you up and brings you along the Reflecting Pool before heading back down the other side of the Mall. Also, photographers are usually ready and waiting to take your picture here with the Capitol in the background, so get your race face ready.

Screenshot of the course map from the MCM website

Course map screenshot from the MCM website

Next the course turns cruel again as you try to “Beat the Bridge” crossing 14th Street Bridge back into Arlington. Crowd support wanes again. The bridge seems to go on forever. There’s no getting around this, but don’t let it get you down. Fight it. Summon up all the mental energy you can and keep yourself going through mile 20 and 21 along the bridge.

Once you cross the bridge and enter Crystal City the crowds will be back and you’ll start to feel like the end is finally near. Dunkin Donuts is usually stationed around here handing out munchkins. I remember thinking this sounded awesome before the race, but then wanting to throw up just at the sight of them during the actual race, so I passed by without enjoying one.

The Crystal City portion is slightly different than the last time I ran when it was an out and back on Crystal Drive. Instead you do more of a rectangular loop heading down Crystal Drive, turning right on 23rd and taking another right back on S. Clark St. toward the final stretch.

You’ll pass the Pentagon including the 9-11 Memorial and make your way back to 110 along Arlington National Cemetery. No matter how bad you’re hurting, seeing this here and knowing what kind of sacrifice so many people made for this country will help propel you to the finish.

The energy and excitement boils over as the cheers from the crowd get louder and louder as you run the last half mile. The final point two takes you up a cruel hill toward the Iwo Jima Memorial and the finish line. This is your last test until you become a marathon finisher and receive your medal.

Iwo Jima Memorial just beyond the trees

Iwo Jima Memorial just beyond the trees

My biggest advice if this is your first marathon or first time running MCM can really apply to any race…smile at the crowds, thank the volunteers, make friends with other runners and enjoy the heck out of it!

Proactive PT

If you’ve been to my blog over the last couple months, you may have noticed a theme of on and off calf tightness and pain. Despite plenty of stretching, icing and rolling I couldn’t seem to make it really go away. It would start feeling better, but then strike again forcing me to take extra rest days, cut a long run short or just be a small annoyance along the run.

After running through pain for way too long and landing myself in some pretty serious physical therapy last year forcing me to defer my entry for the Marine Corps Marathon, I decided to be proactive this time and not let it turn into a serious injury. I believe they call this learning!

I got myself an appointment to see my doctor and a referral to Fast Track Physical Therapy out at the Endurance Athlete Center in Falls Church. I love this place – they work wonders and understand athletes. I met with Kerri on Monday for my first session, explained to her my issues and after an assessment she talked me through what we could do to get me in the best possible shape for a successful marathon in two weeks. (Just about one week now…eek!)

She immediately noticed my limited ankle mobility after having me attempt a squat, which was later confirmed when she measured my dorsiflexion for each foot (ability to pull the foot upward) at five degrees. Normal is about 20 degrees. She also found some serious knots while doing soft tissue work. Ouch! I did my best not to yelp while lying on the table for this.

For Tuesday’s appointment we planned that I would run there – 6 miles – so she could rule out something more serious like compartment syndrome and confirm it was just calf strains. This would be my last run before race day. I’d come back for another session Thursday and three next week where I would do some running drills to work on my form and more soft tissue work. Aside from that, the rest of the my workouts will be on the elliptical or water running along with a set of exercises and stretches to loosen me up. (Only having slight panic attacks about this!)

Old picture…but this is one I’ll be doing a lot more of until race day.

Calf Stretch - Knee Straight

Calf Stretch – Knee Straight

On Tuesday we did a video run analysis and I could immediately pinpoint some of my issues before Kerri even started to break things down. I’m getting airtime mid stride – full on both feet off the ground at the same time…talk about inefficient. I’m landing way out in front of my body and practically on my toes. I’ve always been a mid-foot striker, but now I’m up on my forefoot and barely touching my heel to the ground making my calves push me through my runs rather than pulling my legs through with my glutes. We even noticed that hip drop that gave me so many problems last year creeping back in. Thankfully it was nowhere near what it was last year, but still disappointing given how hard I worked to get rid of that.

Retooling my entire running form in the final two weeks before my goal marathon would be difficult and would likely turn me into a headcase during the race. Instead we’re focusing on a few small things and practicing them at each session. I’m working on shortening my stride, staying off my toes so I land on my midfoot instead and RELAXING. As I try to change things I keep tightening up my feet and calves causing even more stress. She suggested checking in with myself each time I pass a mile marker as a good way to make sure I’m on the right track.

Once race day is over we can work on addressing some of the other issues and I might have to give up my beloved Newtons, but until then I’m going to keep it simple and avoid impact so I’m ready to go on race day. Here I come Marine Corps Marathon! (By the way, super relieved it’s still on!)

From MCM’s Facebook Page today making my day…



The taper is always tough, but without being able to run it’s definitely a test of my mental strength to stay confident.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever had to substitute other exercises for running during your taper. How’d it go? 

Hope everyone is having a great fall marathon season!

20 Treadmill Miles Later…It’s Taper Time

My weekend long run got bumped to Monday and lack of daylight hours after work plus major storm warnings for the D.C. area meant I was going to have to take my long run to the dreadmill. I’ve done 20 miles on a treadmill before, but it’s been awhile and there is just something daunting about having to run in place for that long.

My hopes of getting the one treadmill in front of the TV were instantly dashed when I walked into my little apartment gym and saw someone already running on it. Instead I opted for one with a window view, which sounds much nicer than it is. Since the gym is in the basement, the window has a bit of light sneaking through, but the view is of a concrete wall. This was going to be a mental challenge for sure.


I had an idea in my head based on my plan of how this run would work out and it was going to include 8 miles at a faster pace. The first 6 were early in the run and wouldn’t be an issue, but I was a bit worried about the two I had planned for later in the run.

I got myself set-up with a water bottle in the right cup holder, a towel draped over the top of the treadmill and a bunch of baggies filled with Honey Stinger bites in the left cup holder. There was no turning back now. While I no longer listen to music for outdoor runs, I still depend on the tunes for most treadmill runs, so I popped my ear buds in and hit play on my old standby long-run playlist. Here goes nothing I thought!

I set the incline to 1.0 and started out with 2 miles at an easy 8:57 pace. I bumped it up to 7:53 for the next six miles and felt really strong all the way through them. It still felt easy. I let myself smile for a minute, but remembered I still had a long way to go.

I settled back into my easy 8:57 pace, which now felt even easier and grinded that out for the next 7 miles. My calves, which have been bothering me lately, started to tighten up and feel a little pain around mile 13 or so, but nothing that really hurt or made me want to stop. I bumped the pace up to 7:53 again for mile 16 before hopping off the treadmill for a quick minute to refill my water.

For mile 17 and 18 I dropped back down to my 8:57 pace before adding in one more speedy 7:53 mile and ending with a final cool down mile back at 8:57. This time I didn’t stop myself from grinning. I felt good. Really good. Like I could have kept running good.

I’ve had a really tough training cycle and have been lacking in confidence lately, so I needed this big time. Now I head into my taper and can focus on race day with a bit more confidence and a bit less doubt.

It’s hard to believe Marine Corps Marathon will be here so soon, but I can’t wait! In just a few weeks I’ll be at the start line and will probably think to myself – here goes nothing!

How did all of your weekend long runs go? Any races coming up soon?

Resolution Check-In

And just like that…it’s October. I can’t even believe my marathon month is here. Commence freaking out now!

I’ve made it a point this year to look back on my New Year’s Resolutions each month so that I don’t let myself forget about them. I also pick one thing each month that I’m going to focus on to help me reach those resolutions/goals. Last month I turned my focus back to core workouts after letting them slip a bit. I did a great job getting back on track with these and will continue to do so throughout the next month as I get ready for Marine Corps Marathon.

This month my big focus will be back on drinking less soda. The fridge full of free soda just steps from my desk is killing me! I only have one can a day, but still, I don’t need to be drinking soda every day! Most times I just drink it out of habit, so I’m going to try make myself do something else whenever I hit that point in the afternoon that I start craving caffeine. I drink a ton of water so sometimes I get bored and just want some taste, so I’m also keeping my desk stocked with Nuun and Crystal Light type drinks.


Staying healthy this year was another important goal. I’ve been doing a great job maintaining my stretching, rolling and icing routine, but have had some aches and pains creep in especially with my calf muscles. I don’t think it’s anything serious, but I’m going to be proactive and get things checked out early this time instead of waiting for it to become something serious that puts me on the sidelines. Learning. 🙂

Butterfly Stretch

Butterfly Stretch

My biggest resolution/goal for this year is a Boston Qualifying time. I’m admittedly not as confident about this as I was during the first half of the year, which I hate. Initially I thought I could crush the BQ time I needed and shoot for a time in the 3:20s, but I’ve had a tougher than expected training cycle and that doesn’t seem possible to go for. Still, I’m shooting for that sub-3:35 time I need to BQ, and will run my heart out at MCM at the end of the month trying to get it.


How are your resolutions going this year?

Lessons Learned: Takeaways From My Latest Half Marathon

As noted in my recap from the recent Navy Air Force Half Marathon here in D.C., while I may not have hit my goal time I did learn some valuable lessons to take with me in the final month of prep for Marine Corps Marathon.

Yikes, one month – this was the first thing I saw on my Facebook newsfeed this morning causing simultaneous excitement and full-on panic!

The Takeaways

Nathan Pack
My main takeaway and the first thing I blurted out when I saw Ian at the finish line was, “I need my water pack for longer races!” I wear a Nathan Hydration Vest when I train and have also worn it during my last three marathons. They are the only three of the nine I’ve run under four hours and have been under four by a big chunk of time. Granted, I was better trained for those races also, but I do think the vest makes a big difference.

Unlike some of my older camelbacks, this vest is so light my neck and shoulders aren’t a bit sore even after running 26.2 with it on. Well, at least not any more sore than running 26.2 normally causes. It doesn’t bounce or move around at all and feels as if it’s barely there. I’ve learned to do the whole pinch the water cup thing and drink on the run, but I don’t like doing it and I don’t like depending on water stops. I’m much better at getting water down in frequent small sips then gulping down a cup every few miles at an aid station.


There were a lot of points along the half where I wished I could just have a sip of water meaning that each time I got to an aid station I gulped down too much water knowing I wouldn’t have another chance for a couple miles leaving that uncomfortable sloshing feeling in my stomach. I also didn’t memorize where the aid stations were so it ended up being 10 or 15 minutes after taking my Honey Stinger bites before I had any water. The pack also has an easy access pocket on the front strap to hold all of my gummies.

I know a lot of people think the added weight slows you down in races, but it just works for me and has proven so in the past, so I’d like to stick with it. That said, a week after reaching this conclusion I saw talk on Twitter about MCM banning camelbacks this year. It appears to be a new security  measure because of the Boston bombings. It’s buried on their website, so I’m not sure how serious they are about this. I have a tough time seeing how this could be a real security threat, but I also don’t want to cause any issues, so now I’m at a loss for what to do.

I debated before the half whether or not to wear a watch or just go by feel. I was all set to go without, but let my coach convince me to just wear a regular stopwatch. He’s not a fan of Garmins, which I understand, but for me I feel that I would have been better keeping the Garmin on or going completely without. The in-between just meant I was doing more math in my head along the course to determine my pace and kept me from just running on effort. Since I plan to run with a pace group at MCM, I’m not too worried about having to look at my watch much anyways, but will go with the Garmin so I can have a record of the race.


Eat a Bigger Breakfast
I don’t think I had enough fuel in me for the half. Part of it was that I forgot the Honey Stinger waffle I packed to eat once we got into D.C., but I’m also getting up much earlier for races than I used to. I used to cut it pretty close so a bigger breakfast wasn’t always smart or just wasn’t necessary because I wasn’t going to have 2 hours to get hungry during. More calories on marathon morning will definitely be important, especially since I’ll be going twice the distance. Bonking in a goal race because I didn’t eat enough beforehand seems silly!


Start Slow, Finish Fast, Start Slow, Finish Fast, Start Slow, Finish Fast
I figure if I say this enough times I’ll follow through with it. This year’s Cherry Blossom race was one of the first times that I was able to actually follow through on this plan and boy did it feel good to fly through those last few miles. The beginning of a marathon should feel easy, so I’m going to do my best to stick with the pace group rather than jump out too fast leaving me exhausted later in the race.



Have you learned any big lessons on race day that you used to get better in your next big race??



A Conversation with Bart Yasso

On Tuesday, the coolest thing happened – I got to interview Bart Yasso, Runner’s World’s Chief Running Officer. I was so excited that I immediately called my fiancé, parents and brother to tell them about it. Call me a runnerd. I don’t care, I’m still too excited!

Bart Yasso has one of the coolest jobs on the planet and he knows it. It’s so refreshing to talk to someone who truly loves what he does and appreciates it. We talked training tips, Yasso 800s, race strategy and race experiences. I was so impressed by how genuinely nice he was and that he took the time to thoughtfully and thoroughly answer all of my questions. He had some great advice and some cool race experiences, and I’m so excited  to share them with all of you.


Training – Going for that BQ or ultimate PR
Bart outlined 3 key workouts for successful marathon training. “The cornerstone of everything is the long run,” he said. It’s all about proper pacing on your long run too as he sees many runners do them too quickly and leave their race out on their training runs. During the long run you should focus on building endurance and not worry about speed. He highly encourages runners he coaches to try to negative split their long runs – finish faster than they started.

For example, a runner doing a 20 miler with a marathon goal time of 3:30 should run the first 10 miles at roughly a 9:30 pace then start working up to a 9-minute pace and wrap up with 3-4 miles at or close to marathon goal pace.

The next key workout is a hill/speed session to work on increasing turnover and leg speed. He recommends hill repeats earlier in the program and speed workout later. For hill workouts, mixing it up can lead to more success than just powering up the same hill repeatedly. Try running 4 shorter hill repeats, 4 longer ones and 4 shorter ones again. This lets you work on faster turnover on the short hills and strength on the longer hills.

The final key piece is the tempo or marathon pace run. You need to teach your body to run the pace you want to run in the race. Start with a 10-15 minute warm-up, work your way up to 8-10 miles at marathon pace and wrap up with a 10-15 minute cool down.

In between these key workouts you’ll have your easy recovery runs and cross training that make up the rest of your training. Another common thread among runners who have achieved marathon success is that they’ve been able to run injury free for a couple year period. It’s so important to listen to your body as most injuries he sees are basic overuse ones. (Been there.)

Yasso 800s
I had to ask Bart about this famous workout named after him as I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. He says he gets that a lot and hears from runners that they use his name in vain quite often! For those not familiar with this workout, you do 10X800 and the time you can run your repeats in should correlate to your marathon finish time – i.e. if you run your repeats in 3:20 each you should be able to run a 3 hour and 20 minute marathon.

Bart says he found this correlation decades ago looking at his training log, but maintains that he’s never said it works for anyone but himself and it certainly isn’t based on any kind of science. Amby Burfoot, however, thinks it works for everyone and wrote about in Runner’s World years ago making the workout famous.

Race Day Strategy
There’s no doubt that the latter portion of any distance race is more mental than physical, Bart says. During the early part of a race you need to be smart and run a proper pace then in the latter part of the race you need push yourself to run faster than you thought you could. While you should have a plan and think about what pace you can sustain, Bart says, don’t kill yourself with a set time – let the race play out and come to you.

His runners that have had the best success also run negative splits. When you’re running faster and passing people at everyone at the end of a race it’s the best feeling in the world and consequently when you feel like you’re on a death march getting passed by everyone it’s the worst feeling in the world, he says. Having been in both these positions in races, I couldn’t agree more.

Bart shared a great story about a 10k run, 50 mile bike, 10k run race he did years ago where he took the lead on the bike. The final 10k was an out and back and he ran as fast as he could swearing he could hear footsteps closing in on him. After the turnaround he realized he was a good 3-minutes ahead of everyone and went on to win the race. If he’d turned around he would’ve slowed down, but instead he “ran scared” and convinced himself to keep pushing faster than he thought he was capable resulting in a big win.

The Journey
Bart has been lucky enough to race all over the world on every continent. As someone who has “only” run 9 marathons and would have a tough time picking a favorite, I really put him on the spot by asking his top races. He said that it has changed over the years as his running changes and that’s what makes it fun. It’s all about the people and the experiences along the way.  He says the races he remembers the most are the ones he has connections with, so running the Rome Marathon where he was able to stop at several spots and chat with his Mom who came along on the trip holds a special place in his heart. He also calls running the Comrades Marathon an ultimate running experience. As a long-time fan of Nelson Mandela he said the race is what brought him to South Africa, but experiencing the country and history of it made it such a special journey.

Seriously, this man has such a cool life!

Runwell’s Perspire to Inspire Video Contest
Bart also chatted with me about Runwell’s Perspire to Inspire video contest in support National Recovery Month. Bart was very candid about his struggles in his youth with drugs and alcohol, which he talks more about in his book, My Life on the Run. “Running saved my life,” he said. He thinks he’s lucky to have found running so young and is willing to share his story in hopes that it can help people to not choose that lifestyle or show people who have fallen down that path that there is a way out.

The Runwell contest is very cool. You enter by submitting a short video describing how you’ve personally helped to inspire others to lead a healthy life. It’s a powerful message and I can’t wait to hear people’s stories. The winner who will be determined by the vote of an online community brings home a pretty cool prize too that includes a slew of things plus free race registration and airfare to a race of their choosing. Check it out and submit your story!

Resolution Check-In

I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record each month when I write these posts and talk about how quickly the year is going, but seriously September got here so quickly I almost forgot to do this month’s resolution check-in post! It’s so easy to let New Year’s resolutions slip after a couple weeks or a couple months, so I’m using these monthly posts to keep me on track.

Resolution number one was to get healthy, which I did early in the year and am happy to say that so far I’m staying that way and any aches and pains have been thwarted with some ice and quality foam rolling time.

Resolution number two was a stronger core, which not only would help me to stay injury free, but could also make me a stronger runner. I feel like I’ve slipped a bit on this and am not doing my core workouts nearly as much as I used to, so I’m going to make that my main focus for this month.

Resolution number three to drink less soda is still an up and down battle, but I’m working on it!

Nuun is definitely helping ease my soda addiction.

Nuun is definitely helping ease my soda addiction.

Resolution number four, which was more of a goal, was a Boston-qualifying time. With less than 50 days to Marine Corps Marathon, it’s almost time to put that to the test. I’m definitely putting in the miles, but as I mentioned in last month’s post, am still a bit worried about my speed. I’m hoping my tune-up races over the next few weeks will give me a good idea of where I stand on this.

Last month’s main focus was the long run and other than missing out during a recovery week when I was sick, I did an awesome job of putting in the long miles each week ranging from 17-19 milers!