Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

Last week was a tough one and a bit discouraging. I started out the week pretty sick and lost my motivation battling coughing fits while running, so I only ended up getting in four of my six scheduled runs for the week totaling 35 miles. I initially had plans to try to cram those missed runs into this week, but I know better than that and understand it won’t really help – and could even lead to injury. I just need to stick to my plan going forward and stay as healthy as possible.

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Monday: Rest day – not feeling well.

Tuesday: Rest day – not feeling well.

Wednesday: I went to the gym Wednesday night thinking I could hop right back into things and do my speed workout on the treadmill. My warm-up went OK, but I didn’t even make it through one interval before realizing it was not in the cards for the day and put in one of my easy six milers instead.

Thursday: Today was the high point of the week. I had a 6-mile tempo run on tap and got that in en-route to DC for a Christmas lights run with some of my Oiselle teammates. I ran a one mile warm-up along the Mt. Vernon Trail, six miles hard continuing along Mt. Vernon over the 14th Street Bridge onto the Mall, followed by a 1-mile cool down to our meet-up point near the Chinatown metro. Tempo runs in the Hanson’s plan are marathon pace miles. I was admittedly a bit off my goal for these (nearly 20 seconds), but all six were consistent and I felt strong – given the week I had so far I counted this as a win. The best part was what followed – the roughly 4-mile jaunt around DC with the Oiselle girls checking out lights and trees at City Center, the Willard Hotel, the National Christmas tree, the Capitol Building and the Canadian Embassy – so much fun!

Christmas Tree Stop at the Willard

Christmas Tree Stop at the Willard

Friday: I put in 7 easy miles along the Mt. Vernon trail after work before grabbing dinner at Jimmy John’s and making a Wegmans run…not a bad Friday night!

Saturday: After having a lot of trouble sleeping Friday night I got a later than planned start on my Saturday long run and felt like my legs never woke up for this one. I put in my 10 miles though, so I’ll take it and move on to next week!

Sunday: Unplanned rest day. My sore legs and lack of motivation got the best of me today.

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Footprints: Monday Morning Recap

I got off to a slow start this week, but finished strong. It was another week of all easy, base-building runs as next week officially starts my marathon training!

Here’s the day-by-day breakdown:

Monday: Rest Day.

Tuesday: Unplanned rest day. After too little sleep Monday night, I decided a couple extra hours would do me better than a workout.

Wednesday: 40-minute treadmill run at the gym after work followed by a core workout.

Thursday: I hit the gym after work again for a 50-minute treadmill run and some core work.

Friday:  It was back to the gym after work on Friday night to kick off the weekend. I got in 30 minutes on the treadmill while watching the first half of the Syracuse game and a quick full-body workout during halftime.

Saturday: It was a beautiful, but chilly, morning for a 40-minute run along the W&OD Trail. It is amazing how having the right gear on can make a run in cold temps so much more enjoyable though! I also got in some core work later that night.

Sunday: I got in a quick and easy 35-minute run along the W&OD this morning before packing up and driving to Syracuse for Thanksgiving week! It was a bit warmer out than yesterday, which I did not realize and totally overdressed. Good thing it was a quick run!

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Running Goals

I do my best, most consistent training when I have concrete goal races and times, so I put my credit card down and registered for my next big race. Putting it in writing makes it more real for me and keeps me accountable, so here goes…

I’m giving a BQ attempt another go this spring. I signed up for the B&A Trail Marathon on March 29 in Annapolis, Maryland. My goal is sub 3:32. I want to give myself a good cushion so that I don’t just qualify, but can actually register to run Boston in 2016 as well. My current PR is 3:37.

Putting a goal like that out there is a bit scary since I’ve failed before, but I am more determined that ever to make it happen. I came just more than two minutes shy at the Niagara Marathon before a humbling race at the Marine Corps Marathon after an injury-riddled training season.

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That was a hard blow to take and I took a long marathon break after that race, which involved a lot of sporadic training. Now it’s time to get over and get after it.

I’m going to follow the Hanson’s Plan for the first time. I’ve long been intrigued by this plan and am excited to see how it works out for me. It involves a lot of running on tired legs with six days a week of running. Long runs top out around 16 miles, but the plan is designed to make those 16 milers feel more like the last 16 of a marathon than the first. Most days will be at an easy, conversational pace with weekly track and tempo workouts as well.

The plan is 18 weeks with week one starting on a Thursday, so my training will officially kick off on Thanksgiving! Who couldn’t be thankful for that?! More turkey for me!

Moving Forward

In my Marine Corps Marathon recap I mentioned I’d be doing a post on what I thought went wrong. After playing it over in my head a million times since Sunday though, I have decided against it. Thinking of every little possible thing I could have done differently or done better, and continuing to beat myself up for it, won’t change my finish time from Sunday.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to just forget about it and not learn anything from it. There is always something to be learned from every race – good or bad. It just means that I don’t see the need to dissect every factor that could have impacted my race.

Instead I’m choosing to focus on things I can do moving forward to help me hit my goals in future races.

  • Stick to a strength training plan all the way through my training cycle.
  • Do my best to get enough sleep on a daily basis to help keep my immune system strong and fighting off colds.
  • Don’t change too many things up too close to race day.
  • Get more training runs in at or faster than goal pace.
  • Conversely, make sure I have enough easy runs that really are easy runs.
  • Find new shoes and make sure they work for me.

It all seems pretty simple. Now, time to put it into action!

Hopefully, this will be my smile at the end of my next race – not just at mile 1.5!

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What big lessons have you learned from racing that have helped you get better?

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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!

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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.

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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.

Garmin
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.

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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.

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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.

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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!