Chicago Marathon Training Recap

Wow.  It’s that time of the training cycle again already.  Time to look back on the training, reflect and do a recap, in order to remind myself just how prepared I am for the race (and to keep track of things in one handy place, because I’m anal like that).

So how did the training for Chicago marathon go?  Very well!  Physically I am, without a doubt, in the best shape of my life.  My entire body feels strong (thank you pilates and core work!).  My legs feel solid, strong, powerful and healthy (thank you biking!  and mile after mile of running!).

Training recap:

16 weeks (including next week of taper) Miles run per week: 35, 49, 44, 40, 54, 50, 56, 60, 56, 50, 42, 63, 62, 45, 27

Long runs (mileage): 15, 16, 14, 18.5, 20.2, 20.3, 13.1, 16, 20, 21, 16

Extras:  Lots and lots of biking during the first 12 weeks; no biking the last 4 weeks (just because of life/work schedule and no time); Core and/or pilates 4 – 6 times a week (woot!)

Quality workouts: 2+ quality workouts a week with MP miles and/or speedier intervals.  My paces were better – and more importantly, felt easier and HR was lower – than similar intervals last year pre-TCM when I got my current marathon PR.

Physically, I am ready to crush my PR (which is 3:42:19).  But we all know that it takes more than physical readiness to do well in a marathon.  Your mental game also needs to be on.  And – I am happy to say – mentally I am also ready to crush my PR.  This is where my blogging gets goofy – so those of you who don’t like the sappy stuff, move along.  Those of you who don’t mind the sappy stuff (hi Mom!), keep on reading. 🙂  I am at a really good place mentally.  Most of you know the last year has been a difficult one for me, with the end of my 16 year marriage and adjusting to life as a single parent.  Much of the first part of this year was a constant up and then down – weekly, daily and even hourly.  Well during this marathon training cycle, I am happy to report that things have stabilized.  There are still some ups and downs, of course, but there are many more ups than downs.  I am at a really good place with everything in my life.  Sounds cheesy, but I am finally at a place where I am comfortable being me.  And I am so thankful for so many people and things that are a part of my life right now.  So what the hell does this have to do with running a great marathon?  I’m not sure.  But I know that in order to run a great marathon you have to have confidence not just in your physical and mental running game, but confidence in yourself.  And, for the first time in a long long time, I like who I am and where my life is going, and I have confidence in all that surrounds me and all that I am. 🙂  And I think this is important because in previous marathons, when I wasn’t happy with all my extra life stuff, I put too much emphasis on the outcome of the race and would (as you know) often fall apart during the tough times in the race and then the whole race would go to hell.  This time, I feel like I have SO much more in life that i’m grateful for that if I have a mental lapse/tough spot in the marathon, I won’t fall apart.  Make sense?  Maybe not.  But I know what I mean.  And trust me when I say I’m ready for a breakthrough marathon! Look out Chicago! 🙂

 

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Marathon Race Strategy: No F-Bombs

I admit it.  I checked the Boston Entry list again this morning. 🙂 Just to make sure I didn’t dream the whole thing up and that I really AM running in the Boston Marathon in April.  And my name was still really there. 🙂

Ok – who’s sick of me talking about Boston already?

Well then, let’s talk Chicago Marathon! My run this morning left me feeling MUCH better about things.  6 miles with 3 miles at goal marathon pace.  And the best part of it was that the MP miles felt great – almost effortless.  Of course there were only 3 of them, instead of 26.2 of them!  But still.

Between life and work craziness, I’ve been trying to figure out a race strategy.  It’s easier, in many ways, to figure out pacing strategy for a race like Chicago where it is apparently flat the whole way (except for tiny bit at mile 26).  I don’t need to take into account evil 2 mile gradual uphills, like at Twin Cities.  Or EVIL downhills at mile 17 like at Little Rock.

I know I’m NOT going to go with the old “go out too fast and then gradually fade and then finish the last 6 miles dropping F-bombs” strategy.  I’ve done that one far too many times and it’s just way too painful.

I also know I’m not going to use the strategy where I have very specific prescribed paces for each mile.  That strategy has too much freak out potential (i.e. I’ll freak out if I’m off pace and then lose my mental game and then resort to the afore-mentioned F-bombs; been there, done that many times as well).

I also know I’m NOT going to follow a pacer.  Pacers freak me out.  They usually go too fast or too slow.  And then I freak myself out when I get off of their pace and then lose my mental game.  And then – you guessed it – I resort to F-bombs.  I quickly learned after my first couple of marathons that pace groups were not my thing.

So what IS my race strategy?  Simple.  Sort of.  I’m starting at Pace A (which is a MP that if I did 26.2 miles in, I’d be ECSTATIC, but which is actually slower than the goal MP I’ve had in mind, based on my training and fitness, the last 14 weeks)  and holding it through the half marathon point.  And then I’m playing it by feel and either speeding up (by about 10 seconds a mile) if things feel good (well if they feel ok, do they ever really feel good??) or else maintaining Pace A through mile 20.  Then, when I get to mile 2o, I’m switching to mile-by-mile mode and giving it all that I have for each mile (and by “all that I have”, I don’t mean all out like mile race pace.  I mean all that I have for mile 20, 21, 22, etc. of a marathon, which I’m hoping is right around goal marathon pace, or faster).  One mile at a time.

I like my strategy because to me it doesn’t sound complicated. (It may sound complicated to you because I haven’t told you my actual paces; a girl’s gotta have some secrets).  It sounds very do-able.  It has flexibility for me to adjust based on how I feel on that day, during the race.  And I shouldn’t freak out if one particular mile is a bit off.  And it should get me some kind of big PR!  That’s the plan anyway.

And, for the record, my plan is NOT to switch into F-bomb mode at any time.  Unless it ends up being 80 degrees and sunny, then I reserve the right to drop F-bombs right from the starting gun.

Chicago Marathon Training, Week #14 recap

Chicago Marathon Training, Week 14 recap

  • Miles run: 44.5
  • Pilates: 3 times
  • Core: 3 times

The details:

  • M: 7 miles (8:03 w/ 4 miles faster 7:46, 7:33, 7:24, 7:19)
  • T: 8 miles (8:42)
  • W: rest
  • Th: 8 miles (w/ 10 x 400m intervals)
  • F: 5.5 miles (8:42); pilates
  • Sa: 16 miles (8:18)
  • Su: pilates

13 days til race day!

This was the first week of taper, but really it was just like a normal “cut back” week and didn’t feel much like taper.  Though I have to admit that feeling like complete crap on yesterday’s run made me think that I need to REALLY taper now.  So for the next two weeks I’m trying to shove work/life stress aside, get extra sleep, eat and drink better and cut back the miles (but leave in quality a couple times a week).

I’m SO excited for Chicago!

Chicago Marathon Training, Week #13 recap

Chicago Marathon Training, Week #13 Recap

Got through peak training week.  And still feeling really good about where I’m at – physically and mentally – for Chicago.  So now it’s taper time!

Summary:

  • Miles run: 61.9
  • Miles biked: zero (no time; crazy busy!)
  • Pilates: 2 times
  • Core: 3 times

The Details:

  • M: 7.6 miles (8:10 w/ 3 x 1.2 mile hill repeats at about 7:30)
  • T: 11.3 miles (8:43)
  • W: 5 miles (9:46; w/ 5 x 100m strides)
  • Th: 9 miles (8:11; w/ 4 x 1 mile progression intervals 7:19, 7:09, 6:59, 6:54)
  • F: 3 miles (9:31); pilates
  • Sa: 21 miles (8:16)
  • Su: 5 miles (9:20); pilates

20 days til race day!

Chicago Marathon Training, Week #12 recap

I feel really good about training this week.  Mileage was back up there and I hit all my paces on the quality workouts (and was smart about making the miles slow during recovery miles).  I am SO excited for the actual marathon weekend itself – we started making travel plans, dinner plans, post-race party plans, etc.  I can’t wait!

The workout that I was most excited about this week was my 20 miler.  Instead of meeting up with the group for it, I had planned on doing it solo.  I love running with the group – especially long runs – because it’s social and it pushes me.  BUT – I decided it was more important for me to run my 20 solo this week because I needed to know that I could do it straight through (we end up stopping on group runs for like 5 – 10 minutes total, waiting for people to catch up, stopping for water, etc.) and at my own pace.  When I run with the group I get caught up in running other people’s paces, which can make my easy miles too fast.  Plus, I desperately needed 3 hours of “me time” to process some stuff – all fun.  🙂  The run was EXACTLY what I needed – fabulous feeling, no GI issues, no leg issues and 6 miles in the middle at marathon pace.  It was such a mental boost for me!

Chicago Marathon Training, Week #12 Recap:

  • Miles Run:  62.3
  • Miles Biked: 0  (no time;  crazy busy work/life stuff)
  • Pilates: 2 times
  • Core: 2 time (I swear I thought I did more; uggggg; I guess pilates counts as core though, huh?)

The Details:

  • M: 10.9 miles (w/ 10k race 45:39)
  • T: 8.2 miles (8:32)
  • W: 8.5 miles (8:48; w/ 6 x 100m strides)
  • Th: 9.5 miles (w/ 8 x 800m ranging from 3:17 – 3:22 and 1 x 1 mile at 7:33)
  • F: pilates
  • Sa:20 miles (8:18; w/ 6 miles at MP 7:39 -7:53)
  • Su: 5.5 (9:22)

27 days til race day!  Holy crap!

******
After my 20 miler, I spent the day being an assistant brew master, making beer!  So fun!  (And since the beer wasn’t ready for drinking, much red wine was had instead.  Perfect recovery for a hard 20 miler).

Barley going in!

 

Something else going in, not sure what exactly!

 

I have no idea what I’m doing here.  Too much red wine, I think. 🙂

5+ gallons of beer doing it’s thing (it’ll be ready for drinking in 2 weeks)

So fun to make beer! 🙂

The Most Brilliant Combination Ever

I hate to be one of those people that tweet and blog about food that they eat.  But I need to do it here.  Because I just ate the most delicious, brilliant thing that has ever existed.

 

Those aren’t just sliders that you are looking at.  They are PEANUT BUTTER & BACON sliders.  Yep.  You read that right.  An unlikely combination.  A little bit intimidating of a combination.  But the most fricking brilliant combination that I’ve tasted in ages!  It was seriously SO delicious.  How could it not be?!?

So here’s hoping that peanut butter and bacon sliders provide the right combination of nutrients to fuel me to a 10k PR tomorrow! 🙂 I’m gonna lay it all out there during the 10k, not only because I want a PR, but because the friend that I’m going with made me promise if I didn’t get a PR in the 10k, I’d do the double header that he is doing (a 5k after the 10k).  Wish me speedy racing vibes!

****

In other exciting news – I had a fabulous weekend catching up with my college roommate.  I haven’t seen her in 16 years!  I remember us starting our freshman year in college 23 years ago just like it was yesterday.  I was nervous and excited, but RELIEVED after I met her and we hit it off right away.  I can’t believe we let life and distance get in the way of staying in touch (other than via FB) for the past 16 years!

 

*****

In other REALLY exciting news:  I can see my abs!  And they are starting to feel hard and defined all the sudden.  Guess watching what you eat does help (other than my treat filled open house, I’ve been relatively good this week).  There will not be a photo of my stomach, so move along.

********

Chicago Training Week #11 Recap

  • Miles run: 42.3
  • Miles biked: 44.5
  • Core: two times (I swear I thought I did it more!)
  • Pilates: two times

Details:

  • M: 6.3 miles of hills (8:15)
  • T: bike 24.5 miles
  • W: 8.1 miles (7:23) (4×400, 1×800; 4×400; 1×800)
  • Th: 3.6 miles (9:31); pilates
  • F: 8.3 miles (8:34)
  • Sa: 16 miles (8:18)
  • Su: bike 20 miles; pilates

I felt good about this week.  It was a cut back week so that we can totally ramp up the next 2 1/2 weeks before taper.  Just cutting back a tiny bit this week made my legs feel stronger and fresher for the quality workouts that I did.  Now I’m ready to work hard for about 17 more days, then taper!

34 days til race day!  (Holy crap!)

Chicago Marathon Training, Week #10

Chicago Marathon training, week #10 recap:

  • Miles run: 49.9
  • Miles biked: zero – no time and mini-taper
  • Pilates: 2 times
  • Core: 2 times

The details:

  • M: 8.1 miles (7:51) (Progression run paces from MP to 10k)
  • T: 10.25 miles (8:01) (w/ 7 at MP)
  • W: 8.4 miles(7:41) (w/ 3 x 2 mile repeats at diff goal paces 6:54; 7:21; 7:36)
  • Th: pilates
  • F: 6 miles (9:08) (w/ 5 x 100m strides)
  • Sa: 3 miles (8:37)
  • Su: Women’s Half Marathon 1:42:32 (7:48) and 1 mile warm up

I can’t believe there is only 6 weeks of training left.  3 1/2 hard weeks and then 2 1/2 weeks of taper!  Although this week is a cut back week in mileage (but still lots of quality).  Focus for the next weeks for me NEEDS to be food – I feel big and icky from eating and drinking like crap.  I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m serious this time!  Gonna eat better starting . . . NOW! 🙂

41 days til race day!

*****

The Women’s Half Marathon in Bloomington was this weekend.  Definitely the hardest half marathon I’ve done, in terms of the course (hilly).  Throw in 100% humidity and the fact that this race was during peak mileage/training (55/60 mpw) and it definitely wasn’t a PR.  I ended up with 1:42:32 (7:48 pace).  (PR is 1:38:56).   Still – I’m happy with the race because I felt like it was a solid effort with the hills and even though it wasn’t a PR, it was my second best race time (PR was in June and before that my PR had been 1:44:44 – so the fact that I can get sub 1:45 on a tough course is great news for me).  Plus my overall place (30 out of 1230 women and 3rd in my age group) isn’t too bad!

I had a fabulous weekend! 🙂

Chicago Marathon Training, Week #9 Recap

I feel better about training this week – core and pilates returned and I had a (relatively) high mileage week even with two days completely off of running.  Pretty sure I’m feeling so good because I made more of an effort to eat better and sleep more.

Chicago Training week #9 recap:

  • Miles Run: 55.6
  • Miles Biked: 71.2
  • Pilates: 1 time
  • Core: 3 times

The Details:

  • M: 8.2 miles (8:11 w/ 2.5 miles GMP and 3 x 3 minutes at about 90%); Bike 19 miles
  • T: 12 miles (8:44);
  • W: 9 miles (8:35 w/ 10 x 400m at 1:31 – 1:36)
  • Th:  Bike 20 miles
  • F: 6.1 miles (9:05); pilates
  • Sa: 20.3 miles (8:16)
  • Su: Bike 32.3 miles

48 days til race day!

*****

Congrats to Kristy on rocking her first ultramarathon and being 3rd place female!

Stay tuned for an exciting running related give away later this week or early next week!  Hint:  It involves my BFFs, who I am not stalking, Adam and Tim.

How I REALLY feel right now!

It struck me this morning, as I was thinking about how I felt and what I had blogged and recorded in my running log, that I need to do a more in depth post with details about how I am feeling at the 1/2 way point of this marathon training cycle.

So – those of you who read my blog only to look at pictures of chocolate cake accompanied by a side of beer, or to hear stories about the different ways that you can fall off your bike (or now, apparently, how you can fall while running) – well you readers should just move along because you will find this post extremely boring.  Those readers who are RUN NERDS, grab yourself a snack and settle in, because you may actually find this post interesting with all it’s nerdy details!

Why do I want to document how I feel at this point in my training?

  1. Because I’m 1/2 way through my Chicago Marathon training cycle, so now seems like a good time to evaluate things so that I can make changes if necessary.
  2. Because I’m ultra Type A and I like to document every single detail about everything.
  3. Because this time around – for marathon #10 – I have ambitious goals and my training is (or was supposed to be) more serious/more intense, so that I could try to meet those goals.  So I want to document how I’m feeling so that I can look back after the marathon and decide whether the change in training intensity was good or bad.
  4. So that next time I’m putting together a marathon plan, I can look back and decide what worked and what didn’t.
  5. So that next time I’m in the middle of marathon training I can read this post and compare how I’m feeling at that point to how I’m feeling now.

I’m in week 9 of a 16 week training plan.  Half way through.  The training plan is tweaked from what the rest of the group is doing because I’m a pain in my coach’s ass I have done enough of these to have an idea of what works for me and what I need to reach my goals, and I felt that I needed a bit higher mileage (but not crazy high) than the plan called for.  In addition to the slightly higher mileage, I’m adding more core, more cross (cycling) and hill sprints or striders a couple times a week.

Those of you who have been reading about my Chicago training know that I’ve said I feel “good”, my “training is going well”,  I “feel really good about where I’m at”.  But, really, what does that tell you and what does it tell me when I look back?  Not much.  So, here is a little bit more about what I’m feeling this time around:

  • I feel very satisfied with the paces of the workouts that I’ve been doing.  I’ve been trying to stay within a prescribed range of paces (based on McMillan or Daniels) for intervals, marathon pace and tempo workouts.  It’s been hard, at times, to control my pace and not get swept up in trying to keep up with others in the group who zip ahead.  But I have been doing a decent job of reeling it in because I do firmly believe in the “don’t work any harder than you need to for a prescribed workout” theory.  I think this is particularly true when my weeks are filled with several quality workouts a week and with a bit higher mileage.  I think if I pushed the pace outside of where I needed to be, I’d end up injured (several in the group have now come down with injuries – knock on wood right now!) or else I’d be too exhausted to nail the next workout.  So there really haven’t been any runs that I’ve felt too tired to tackle.  I still feel excited and motivated for all my runs.
  • My legs feel strong.  Like stronger than they ever have.  I truly feel like it’s from the cycling.  It is working slightly different muscles and making me strong, while not beating up on my joints as much as putting in additional miles would be.  Side note:  Meghan told me yesterday “Mom, your butt is getting better.”  Nice!  I think that’s from cycling too. 🙂
  • My core feels strong.  Even though the last two weeks the core stuff has dwindled a bit, I can tell that there is a BIG improvement in how my core feels from doing core work or pilates at least 5 times a week for the first 6 weeks.  Not sure that you can see definition in my abs, but that’s because they are probably still masked by Blizzards and Beer. 🙂  Baby steps.
  • I feel fast and fit.  My paces are faster – at the same effort and a lower heart rate – than where I’ve previously been.  I know I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in.
  • My right hamstring feels better than it has in a year.  Last August I injured it (did a 20 miler and followed it the next day by tempo miles – dumb!  Tweaked it and had to take two weeks of cut back/easy mileage and it never has felt fully right since then.).  Again, I attribute it to the cycling.  I think it has helped – not sure why.  It also seemed to get better after Lansing when I cut my mileage a bit to train for the half.  Anyway, it still occasionally bothers me, but only feels like a slight tweak and never usually for more than a day.  Whereas before it was kind of like a nagging tweak that was always there and I just got used to it.
  • The thing that isn’t so great at this point is that I am TIRED.  Not my legs, which seems odd.  The legs are fine – really even after my 18 and 20 miler, the legs weren’t tired or really even very sore or stiff.  What’s tired is just me.  I would describe it as a “lazy tired”.  Like I’ll be sitting on the couch at night and think “I haven’t done my 10 minutes of core yet, I should get up and do it.”  And I won’t get up.  I just don’t have the energy to even get up and get myself a glass of red wine, much less do 10 minutes of core.  (Ok, I lied, I DO always find the energy to get myself a glass of red wine!)  This tiredness has really just come the last 2 weeks of the cycle.  Coincidence that it comes when I put in my highest mileage weeks (55 miles running/80 miles biking and 60 miles running)?  Maybe.  But I also think it may have just as much to do with the “lifestyle” stuff I’ve been doing the last couple weeks – I’ve been cramming in lots of fun personal stuff and had crazy busy work stuff.  And I haven’t sacrificed my running/biking for the most part – those last week I didn’t have time to bike.  And I haven’t changed the time that I do it at – I’ve been up at 4:15 for 5 of the 7 workouts each week.   So maybe my “lazy tiredness” is just that my body is tired from life, work and workouts?
  • The other odd thing that I felt – last week – was sleep tiredness.  Like to the point that on two separate days I could seriously barely stay awake (both times while I was driving, yikes!).  I haven’t felt this during training before.  I am virtually certain it has been from the lifestyle choices I made last week (happy hour and late night celebrations seemed really important but I didn’t want to sacrifice work and running, so I was up early and therefore running on fumes).
  • Mentally, even though I feel faster and better than I ever have, I haven’t quite wrapped my head around my crazy-fast-dream-goal time/pace yet.  I may get there in the next 8 weeks.  If not, I’ll adjust the goal to one that I can mentally handle.  I think if I were training on my own, with just a coach, I’d have my head around my goal.  It’s training with others – and comparing myself and my goal to them and what I know they have run that throws my mental game off.  I need to get over that.
  • Last important thing to note is my weight.  It was down initially in the first few weeks of training (down to 115, which at 5’6.5″ is probably below where I should be), but now it’s up – I think to about 119.  I KNOW this is from my shitty diet.  And even though 119 isn’t bad, it’s above where I want to be and I FEEL large and icky right now.  My feel good race weight is 117.  At 117 I feel fast, but still strong.

There you have it.  Those are the exciting details about what I’m really feeling when I say that I feel “good” and training is going well.

Kudos to any of you readers that actually read this whole thing. Running Nerds unite! 🙂

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