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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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! 🙂

Lansing Marathon Training recap

Here is the much anticipated Lansing Marathon training recap.  I know.  It’s exciting.  Control yourselves.  I DO find it very helpful to put together a training recap though.  Kind of corny, but it helps me to look back over my training cycle – both the details of the workouts and a more general picture.  It usually gives me confidence and perspective going into the marathon.

  • The training plan:  provided by Coach MB from Lifetime, though I didn’t workout with the group much at all this time.
  • Weeks of training: 17  (including last week of taper next week)
  • Miles run: 695
  • Long runs: 14 miles (1 times); 15 miles (2 times); 16 miles (3 times); 17 miles (1 time); 20 miles (3 times); 21 miles (1 time); 22 miles (1 time)
  • Tune up races: Polar Dash Half Marathon (1:40:33)
  • Other things of note:  My paces on most of my runs were faster this time; typically in the 8:30 – 8:45 range.  MP was around 8:00 – 8:10.  This was also the most 20+ milers that I’ve done in a training cycle (5).  But, of note, my last 20+ miler (22 miles) was 4 weeks out from race day instead of the “usual” 3 weeks out from race day.  (So last long runs were 22, 17, 16, 10.5).  I’ll be interested to see how these changes pan out for me.
  • Extra stuff:  pilates several times a week.   I had such good intentions of doing cross training and weights, but that never happened.  I just couldn’t do it all and those were things that I sacrificed this time.
  • Injury:  None!  However, my right hamstring still feels a little off/tweaked at times, ever since August of last year when I did something to it.  Nothing major, but off.
  • Weight:  started at 115, not sure where I am now but if I had to guess I would say about 118.

So those are the numbers, but how do I feel about Lansing?  I feel calm, peaceful, excited and ready.  I feel like this training cycle, more so than any of the previous 8, has prepared me – both mentally and physically – to tackle the distance and leave everything that I have out there.  I feel like I’m in a really good place physically.  I feel strong and fast.  I feel like I’m peaking at just the right time.  And all that is good.  And important.

But, more importantly, I feel like I am in the best place mentally that I’ve ever been before a marathon.  As you know, I’ve been through an enormous amount of life stress since last Fall, with the divorce, adjusting to life a single parent and several really big trials. And this stress carried through the entire training cycle.  But I feel like I’m in a good place, a better place, now.  I feel like I’m moving forward in a positive direction and I feel excited about the new opportunities that are out there.  Mostly, I feel like this life stress has made me really really strong and comfortable with who I am, where I’m going and what I want out of life.  In terms of the marathon, the life stress I’ve been through has made me realize two things:  1) It’s just a race.  It might be a great day, it might not be.  But in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a race.  There are so many more important things. So relax.  And enjoy.  2)  I can handle anything.  I have learned that I am tougher than I thought I was.  I have dealt with some major lows and hard times during this training cycle, but I made it.  And I am not just ok, but great.  So even though there will be low points in the marathon, really, they are just low points in a marathon.  I can get through them.

So what do I feel like I’m trained for, time-wise?  I think on a great day I could do 3:32ish.  Let’s hope April 22nd is a great day!

One week from tonight I’ll be in Lansing trying to sleep before race day.  Hopefully I won’t need to make a 9 o’clock noise complaint call to the front desk like at Grandma’s Marathon last year.  Man, I’m getting old and lame.  🙂

Bring It! (Twin Cities Marathon 2011 Training Recap)

It’s that time of the training cycle again.  Time for my marathon training recap!

What’s the point of doing a training recap, you ask?  Many marathons ago a running friend suggested that I do it as a way to prove to myself that I’m ready and that I CAN do this thing.  He suggested that I do a recap, looking back over the miles I logged, workouts I did, how my paces have improved, etc.  Sure, this information is in my runningahead log entries.  But there is something about putting it all together in one nice neat little place, not only because I can then reference it during future marathons, but also (and mostly) because the act of putting it together makes me really reflect on how much work I’ve put in and how ready I am.

So here goes.

The details:

  • The training plan:  provided by Coach MB from Lifetime
  • Weeks of training: 14* (including last week of taper next week)
  • Miles run: 588.7
  • Long runs: 14 miles (2 times); 15 miles (2 times); 17.5 miles (1 time); 16 miles (3 times); 20 miles (2 times); 21 miles (1 time)
  • Quality runs: each week had hill/tempo AND intervals
  • Tune up races: 10k (2 times, 1 PR!); HM (1 time)
  • Extra stuff:  weights (1 – 2 times a week); pilates (2 – 4 times a week); cross (1 – 2 times a week); Rest days (1 time a week)
  • Injury:  tweaked right hamstring in early August, set me back for about 2 weeks, but now it’s all good.
  • Weight:  started at 122, ended at 117.

So those are the numbers, but how do I feel about it?

Honestly, I feel like I am in the best physical shape of my life.  I have improved my speed a ton.  It’s hard to compare it from beginning to end because our workouts were all so different (even when we did same distance, like 800’s, they were different each time because sometimes we would try for 10k pace, sometimes HM pace, etc.).  But I think looking at where I was with a workout before Grandma’s in May of this year, versus the same workout a couple weeks ago will show how much I’ve improved my speed:

The workout was 12 x 400m, w/ 1 minute rest in between. With the pre-Grandma’s ones they were all .25 b/c when I trained by myself I would stop right at .25; when i trained with the group the track always measured .26 – .27, so I think looking at the paces, not the time, is more reflective of my improvement!

(pre-Grandma’s May 2011 on left; pre-TCM September 2011 on right in bold):

  • 1:38  (6:35)     1:36 (6:11)
  • 1:36 (6:27)      1:37  (6:15)
  • 1:41 (6:46)      1:37  (6:14)
  • 1:40 (6:40)     1:35  (6:24)
  • 1:37 (6:32)      1:35  (6:07)
  • 1:38 (6:34)      1:32  (5:58)
  • 1:40 (6:41)      1:34  (6:05)
  • 1:38 (6:36)      1:35  (6:21)
  • 1:43 (6:37)      1:33  (5:59)
  • 1:40 (6:44)     1:33  (6:02)
  • 1:37 (6:47)      1:34  (6:04)
  • 1:38 (6:35)     1:36  (6:27)

It’s not just intervals like this that my speed has improved.  It’s with all my workouts.  My easy pace has gotten faster (but feels just as easy).  Same with tempo and marathon pace.  The legs and lungs just feel really really good!  Even though I love me my high mileage plans (I LOVED the 60 and 70 mile weeks I was doing before Grandma’s), I do think that the lower mileage, which enabled rest days and cross training and weights  this time around, has made me a stronger, better runner.

Even though this new and improved physical me is fabulous, there is even better news this time around.  If you’ve been following my training, you know what I’m talking about.  The new and improved Mental Edge that I found.  Really, this has been SO MUCH more important to me than improving the physical speed and strength.  I now really, truly do believe in myself.  I have a confidence that I didn’t have before.  I know that I can not just cover the distance, but cover it at a pace and  in a manner (race strategy) that makes sense and will get me to the finish line with the goal that I want.  I now know that I need to (and can) push negative thoughts aside and replace them with positive thoughts that will propel me to the finish.  I know I can race well.

So the physical training and mental training have both been better than any training cycle I’ve had so far.  But I think the best thing about this training cycle has been that I’m not alone anymore.  Training with a group and having the guidance of a coach has been SO motivating and inspirational for me.  It’s given me an element of my running that was missing from the previous 7 marathons.  In those training cycles and marathons, it was all about me.  It was me motivating me.  It was me that I was accountable to.  Now, it’s not all about me.  There are a dozen other runners and a kick-ass coach that I am honored to now call my friends.  It is these people that are now motiving me, inspiring me and making me accountable.  And I know that when things get tough during the later miles of the marathon, I’ll think about these new friends and how inspiring each of them are and will channel that into pushing myself even harder to reach my goals.

Bring it!

*But, don’t forget that really, I’ve been in training since January, since this will be marathon #3 for the year 2011.  I’ve done 12 – 14 week training cycles, followed by 2 – 3 week breaks since January.  So coming into this round of training, I had a really strong base.

Twin Cities Marathon Training, Week #5 recap

This was another good week, with some new stuff mixed in.

In our track workout on Thursday we did a mile and a half of “Indian Run”, where you all run in a line, with the front person setting the pace and the back person surging to get to the front of the line.  Repeat.  Good way to get a decent paced run done and have fun at the same time.  We ended up about a 7:05 pace.    When I told my 13 year old daughter that we did this run, she said that their cross country team does this all the time.  Then she said, “Cute.  Your little running group is just like my cross country team.  So who do you have a crush on?  Everyone on our team has a crush on someone.”  I had to remind her that I’m almost 40.  And married!

The other new thing this week was the long run on Saturday.  It was the “Damn Hill Workout”.  15 miles total, with 5.5 miles to the hill, then 4 miles of hill drills, then 5.5 miles back to the club.  The hill is a good hill for workouts.  1/4 mile up at a decent grade.  We did 8 hills/drills (and jogging back down).  Crazy stuff like high knees, cherry pickers, backwards running, different paces, sling-shot (like the Indian Run), etc.  At the top of the hill we had to go to “Survivor Island” and do different core things – push ups, crunches, planks, etc.  I thought it was a good workout – pushing me to do things I wouldn’t do on my own.  BUT, it was a ton of waiting around.  There were 100+ people doing it and they were all different paces, so when we got to the hill we had to wait around for 15 – 20 minutes.   Definitely pushed the pace on the 5.5 miles on the way back though (with the last 2 miles at 8:00 and 8:10 and it was ultra hot and humid) in keeping with my No Holding Back mantra.

Summary for Week #5:

  • Run: 52 miles;
  • Weights: 2 times;
  • Biking: 60 minutes;
  • Pilates: 1 time*

The details:

  • M: Bike 45 minutes; weights
  • T: 7.8 miles (8:35) hilly route w/ 6 x 45 second strides
  • W:  7.5 miles (8:44); weights
  • Th: 8.55 miles w/ speedy stuff mixed in
  • F:  7.1 miles (8:58)
  • Sa: 15 miles w/ 8 x. 25 hill drills in the middle (8:28 for the running miles; couldn’t track hills accurately)
  • Su: 6 miles (8:24); pilates*
*technically, I haven’t done pilates yet.  But, I slacked on pilates this week big time, so I figure if I put on here that I did it, then the guilt of being accountable to the internet world my 5 blog readers will make me do it tonight!

Twin Cities Marathon Training, Week #4 recap

Twin Cities Marathon Training Week #4 recap

Miles run: 51.2

Strength: 2 times

Pilates: 3 times

  • M: 5.7 miles (8:23)  (2 hilly miles at harder effort 8:11; 7:50); weights
  • T: 3.5 miles (9:22); pilates (abs)
  • W: 9.2 miles (8:40);
  • Th: 8 miles (7:34); (3 x 1 mile at 6:51; 6:48; 6:40;   2x800m at 3:23; 3:19); weights
  • F:  pilates (abs)
  • Sa: 10k race (7:59) and 1.1 mile w/u, c/d
  • Su: 17.5 miles (9:19)*; pilates (abs)
* Garmin said 9:19 pace for today’s 17.5, but it was WAY faster.   See below.  We did a group run and I didn’t hit stop when we stopped for water and for people to catch up.  I meant to hit lap each time, so I could get a realistic picture of how fast I ran, but I think I can guesstimate based on how long I know we stopped each time.    For a good chunk of it it ranged between MP and tempo.  I alternated between going with the slower group for a bit and the fast group.  Splits:  8:31, 8:23, 8:41, 8:20, 8:30, 8:10, 8:06, 8:02, 8:15, 9:14, 9:06, 9:00, 8:16, 8:18, 8:47, 8:45, 8:52, 4:18 (8:48 pace).  I’m still not sure what to think about group long runs.  Part of me thinks I should just run my 17 miles at my own pace, without any stops (or quick 30 second potty stop if necessary).  I mean, I won’t be able to stop in the marathon, like we did today.  But even though we stopped a ton today, the times were were running were way faster than I otherwise would have run.  And isn’t the point of this training to train me to run faster, ultimately?
Good things about the week:
  • Lots and lots of quality at paces that are way faster than I normally train at.  Seriously.  Look at my average paces for week #4 of training this time around, versus my paces for week #4 of Grandma’s training in April.
  • My mid-week medium long run was back!  Though I cut it short a mile because of the unbearable dewpoint and temps that morning.
  • The speed workout felt much easier than previous weeks (at paces that were faster)
  • I managed to do weights and pilates (and random core stuff throughout)
  • I’m back above 50 miles!
  • Today’s long run.  It really really pushed me. But it also sucked (see below!)
Bad things about this week:
  • My 10k race sucked.  I’m really disappointed that I gave up when it got hard and didn’t push  myself.  This whole mental part of racing needs some major work!
  • Today’s long run.  Although it was good, in that it pushed me. It was also bad, in that it pushed me too hard, I think.  It’s 7:00 p.m. (8 hours after run is done) and I still feel like crap.  I’ve had a monster headache all day that won’t go away no matter how much water I drink or how many advils I pop.  Mistakes I made:  not drinking enough water; not taking another gel (i only did 2); pushing the pace too hard a day after I also did a relatively hard 10k effort.
Weeks like today also made me really appreciate the rest day!

Twin Cities Marathon Training, Week #3 recap

I loved this week of training!  The quality workouts continued AND Coach agreed it was a good idea to increase one of my runs each week for a medium-long run, since I am used to higher mileage.  I’ll still take a couple days off of running each week, but at least the mileage will be a bit higher now.  I also started doing more random core stuff (planks) whenever I have a few extra minutes in front of the tv or whatever.  I’m starting to be able to hold a plank longer/easier, so I can tell the core is getting stronger.

Twin Cities Marathon Training Week #3 Recap:

  • Miles run: 48
  • Biking: 60 minutes
  • Walking: 72 minutes
  • Strength: 2 times
  • Pilates: 3 times
  • M: 8.1 miles (8:24) with 2.8 miles of it a slightly hilly route at tempo (7:50; 7:40; 7:43)
  • T: bike 60 minutes; pilates (advanced); strength
  • W: 11 miles (9:19); pilates (abs)
  • Th: 7.77 miles w/ intervals (7:55) 6×400 and 2 miles of 200m pick up, 200m jog; strength (arms only)
  • F: 15 miles (8:55)
  • Sa: Walk 5 miles
  • Su: 6 miles (9:07, w/ 2 miles at tempo of 7:55); pilates (advanced)
CRAZY hot and humid few days coming up.  Should make for some tough runs!

Twin Cities Marathon Training, week #2 recap

First, a big welcome back to blogging and running to the faster running lawyer, Mindi!  Can’t wait to read about your progress towards kicking Chicago’s butt!

**********

TCM training week #2 recap:

Miles run: 38.2 miles

Minutes biked: 50

Pilates: 4 times

The schedule for the run club runs Sunday – Saturday.  I’m a monday – sunday girl and can’t bring myself to change it!  So my numbers here look different than on the group training log thingy.  I think Lora switched to sunday – saturday weeks.  Anyone else make the switch?
I feel good about the quality of the workouts, but feel like the mileage should be higher.   I’m really supposed to run a sub 3:40 marathon with 38 mile weeks?  I get the cross training thing, and I think that’s good for me.  But I feel like I need more miles.  I really really miss my mid-week medium-long run.   Might ask the coach about why this plan doesn’t have that and see his thoughts on extending one of my other runs, like the Wednesday one that was 6 miles, to the 10 – 12 mile range instead.

 

Ready to Roll!

I’m ready to roll.

It’s been a great training cycle.  The best yet.  The most quality and the most miles.  But, more importantly, the most fun for me.  I can honestly say that out of the 71 runs that I’ve done in this training cycle, I only felt like skipping maybe one or two.  Virtually every time I turned off the alarm and laced up my shoes, I did it with a smile on my face.  I wanted to get out there and run.  I loved the sense of accomplishment that I got each week when my miles went up, my paces came down and things just started to click.

As you know, I followed the Advanced Marathon Grandma’s Training Program that was put together by the Grandma’s organizers.  It was perfect for me.  Just right on the mileage (72 peak miles).  With lots and lots of quality workouts.

Weekly mileage (and long run) for Grandma’s Training:

  1. 50.1 miles (18 long; 9:35)
  2. 56.1 miles (16 long; 9:05)
  3. 51.6 miles  (HM race; 8:24)
  4. 65.6 miles (20 miles; 8:59)
  5. 68.7 miles (18 miles; 9:04)
  6. 62.5 miles (22 miles; 9:11)
  7. 65.7 miles (16 miles; 8:52)
  8. 41.3 miles (10.6 miles; 9:07)
  9. 72.3 miles (20 miles; 9:14)
  10. 52.9 miles (15 miles; 8:50)
  11. 36 miles (9 miles)
  12. (Will be 8 miles before RACE DAY!)

Other highlights:

  • Tempo pace went from 8:05ish pace during week #1 of training down to 7:45ish pace during week #11.
  • Hills, hills and more hills!  This training plan did hill repeats during earlier weeks of the plan.  I also did most of my long runs on hilly routes (Baker and Carver).  This should help tons with Lemon Drop Hill (which actually isn’t all it’s hyped up to be; I barely noticed it last time I did Grandma’s and that was without hill training!)
  • Intervals!  Lots of fun interval workouts each week, with a big variety.  Ranging from 200m all the way up to mile repeats.  I think my least favorite (but probably the best for me) was the 6x1600m intervals.  Followed closely by the 12x400m intervals, which seemed to last FOREVER!  And how come it always seemed to be crappy weather on interval day?
  • Having 3 or 4 quality workouts a week (hills or intervals; tempo; medium effort – which usually ended up being marathon pace; and long run).  This kept the training super interesting for me.  It also has made me feel like I’ve improved a ton.
  • My paces on ALL my runs have come down.  Tempo 7:40 – 7:50, depending on length of run.  Easy runs are now usually 8:50 – 9:05.  Medium effort runs are usually 8:25 -8:35.  Long runs usually 8:55 – 9:15.   Most importantly things just FEEL easier.
  • My core is stronger from the pilates I’ve consistently done this time around (2 – 4 times a week).  Though I still eat too many sweets, so those six-pack abs remain hidden under layers of s’mores and cake.  Sounds dorky, but I do think I could notice the strength of my core during the later miles of my long runs and hard workouts.

My mental game:

My mental game has hurt me in previous marathons.  I my earlier marathons I didn’t have the confidence to go fast and far.  In more than one marathon I’ve completely fallen apart, mentally, when my pace faltered (and I fell back from pace groups, or got passed by pace groups).  I have also let weather interfere and derail me, mentally, from what I know I could do.

This time around I have been working on my mental game too.  And I’m happy to report that I am in a MUCH better place, mentally, than I was with previous marathons.  For all 6 of my previous marathons my feeling in the weeks leading up to the marathon was a combination of excitement, nervousness and dread.  I really just felt like I wanted to get the race itself over with.  This time around I’m just excited.  I am looking forward to getting out there on race day because I’m excited to see what I can do and how I feel doing it.  It’s hard to explain, but I have the sense that because my conditioning and training has been SO much better, there is not only the potential for a faster time, but also for a better overall experience.

What have I done to improve my mental game?

Read a bunch.  I read a book called Boston Marathon or Bust, that is supposedly this step by step plan to ensure a BQ.  I didn’t follow it to a T, but I incorporated some of the mental stuff.  Like visualizing yourself on race day from the starting line to the finish line, including the pain and how you’d deal with it, etc.  According to the book, you are supposed to visualize this twice a day.  I didn’t come close to doing it that much (I tried to do it at bedtime and most of the time I’d fall asleep by mile 10!), but I did it often enough.  The other technique that the author swears by is mantras while running, to get you through hard times.  I did this alot during my runs, when I would get bored or they were hard.  My chant/mantra was just a series of “I am strong.  I am fast.  I am fit.”  Over and over.  I don’t think it changed my attitude about myself, but I think it worked to get me up tough hills or through boring spots in a super long run.  I think it will be helpful during the marathon to repeat it over and over when I’m in pain and want to slow down or quit.  I also read Kara Goucher’s new book and, while I found alot of it to be simplistic, there were some good take-aways that I think have improved my mental game and overall attitude about training and racing.  I also think my mental game has improved because I’m physically in better shape, which gives me more confidence to meet my goals.

Obviously I hope that this kick-ass training cycle translates into a kick-ass marathon too, in terms of both clock time and fun times!  My body and mind are definitely ready for Saturday.

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