20 Miles and Tapering

Last Saturday was my peak training run, and the first time I’ve ever run 20 miles. Since moving to The Heights, I’ve been able to take advantage of some good elevation changes while running. I planned it out so I’d hit a really big hill around the 16 mile mark. I was a little nervous about it, knowing that most of my training has been pretty flat, but I knew that it would be a HUGE confidence booster if I could do it. One of my biggest fears going into Marathon day is how I’m going to handle the hills on the bridges. I’m happy to say, even 16 miles in, I was able to conquer that hill without issue. All in all, it was a pretty good run. I finished in just under 4 hours and I felt pretty good after….just really sore ankles and knees. Assuming I’ll run a bit faster during the Marathon, I’m really hoping to get in under the 5 hours mark. It’s not a lofty goal, but it’s my first marathon so I’ll really just be happy if I’m able to finish without hurting myself!

This weekend I was supposed to run 12 as part of my taper. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards for me. Sean and I recently got engaged (yay!!) and we spent the weekend looking at venues and worrying about furnishing our new home. I just couldn’t bring myself to get up early to run before venue shopping. I haven’t been getting the best sleep lately (likely due to all the stress of having to do a million things) and I needed to take it easy. I’ve also been feeling pretty sick and the last thing I want is to make it worse 2 weeks out from Nov 1. This morning, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was starting to burn out pretty hard a few weeks out from my 20 miler, and I really just felt like I needed a break. That, and I hurt my neck on Friday morning during a 5 mile run. Instead of the 12 miles, I ran 2 with Sean on a pretty tough course that goes up a VERY steep hill. I felt like my breathing recovered really well after the hill, so I was happy with the effort I put in even though I couldn’t do 12 today. Tomorrow would usually be my rest day, but I’ll probably get in a couple miles before work to make up for this weekend. I’m not too stressed about it. I have my base and I’m ready to go. If I can add on some extra miles this week, and maybe do 10 instead of 8 this coming weekend, I think I’ll be set!

I just got my bib # and start time from NYRR this week. I’ll be starting at 11 am (and hopefully done by 4 pm haha). In just 2 short weeks I’ll be running in the NYC Marathon!

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One month out and I’m feeling the pressure!

Yesterday marked the official 1 month countdown until the marathon. I really felt like that was an enormous milestone, but i was just too busy to even have a moment to myself yesterday. We’re in the middle of moving, and this week has been a challenge. I had a 12 mile run scheduled for tomorrow, but knowing that we had to wake up early and move the remaining things out of our apartment tomorrow and move into our friend’s for the night (until we can get into our new apartment on Sunday) I just felt like it would be impossible. That and impending hurricane “doom” (that has now been squashed) forced me to change that run to BEFORE work on Thursday.

Let me tell you–when you work all day and come home to packing and moving boxes out of your current apartment and into your new apartment every night, your body is shot. I’ve never felt this kind of exhaustion before. And then after moving a bunch of heavy crap all night I decide to wake up at 5:30 am for a nice 12 mile run before heading into the office (and then coming home to move MORE crap). What is wrong with me? I don’t think I’ve ever been as dedicated to anything before!

Buuuuut it’s almost over. Next Saturday will be my peak mileage at 20–and from there I start to taper. I’m excited for the taper period because I think my body really needs to recover before Nov 1. My knees in particular have been feeling pretty sore lately. Over the next month I’m hoping to focus more on yoga and swimming because yoga will help stretch me out and swimming is much lower impact than running.

The view from Jersey City during my 18 miles run a couple weekends ago

The view from Jersey City during my 18 mile run a couple weekends ago

Three things that have me a little nervous–first, I’ve only trained on hills a handful of times this year. Second, I feel like the jump from 20 to 26.2 is HUGE. Last weekend when I finished my 19 mile run and I started to walk, I hardly noticed a difference in speed haha. I was pretty wrecked. I know I know…race day adrenaline. But honestly whenever I’ve trained for half marathons in the past I always trained up to 10 miles and relied on adrenaline for the last 3.1 and I can safely say I always felt a pretty big difference between 10 and 13.1. Third, I’ve been training SLOW. Part of my thinks my GPS watch doesn’t work well in my area because when I train in Central Park I’m at least a full minute per mile faster than when I train in my neighborhood. Maybe that’s a good thing–maybe I’m putting in way more miles than I even think I am! After the marathon I’ll loop back and reflect on how prepared I think I was. It’s a little too late to change much, so I’m hoping all the miles and workouts I’ve put in pay off!

When Life Gets in the Way of Training

The weather’s changing so I’m feeling a cold coming on. I’ve been training 5-6 days a week for 14 (or more) weeks. I’m planning a major move that will leave me and my boyfriend and the kitties (and all our stuff) temporarily without a home for a day/night. I’m exhausted.

But I’m still waking up every morning and doing SOMETHING.

In the beginning of this training plan, I mapped out my goals. The plan actually calls for 2 days of rest a week, but my goal was 1. I built that in with the caveat that if I’m having a rough week I can still take 2 days off. I needed that more than ever last week.

Last week’s training culminated in a 13 mile (recovery week) trail run because I was out at my boyfriend’s parents’ house getting some moving logistics taken care of. I don’t do a lot of trail runs…and I never wear my glasses when I run. Needless to say, 2 miles in I tripped over a really sneaky rock and fell. I finished the run but it wasn’t easy. Usually, the day after my long run I’ll take a nice easy 4-5 mile run. I elected to skip on Sunday, and let me tell you, it felt great. I NEEDED that day off.

As I sit here with my lentil soup, next to my Throat Comfort Yogi Tea and my honey, lemon, and ginger, planning out our move, I am anticipating an ugly week ahead. Moving in a week and a half and dealing with closing and money and moving out on day and moving in the next–on top of a possible cold–it’s all pretty stressful.

But I still wake up and run. And hopefully I will next week too. Maybe getting a cold now is a blessing because I’ll get it out of the way for the fall season before Nov. 1.

Life happens and you get sick and you get busy. It’s important to build in at least 1 optional rest day into your training. Mentally I see it like this–every week that I’m able to get 6 workouts in is a huge win because it’s more than what my plan calls for. Every week that I need to take an extra day feels great and I don’t feel guilty for skipping a day.

Aches and Pains and Running 43 Miles in a Week

The Marathon is less than 2 months away and I’m about 3 weeks out from my last serious long run (20 miles). Yesterday, I ran 18 miles and the weekend before I ran 17. I ran 43 miles this week. The difference between 17 and 18 seemed significant, but it could have just been the difference in weather and the fact that I really needed new sneakers (my current ones have about 350 miles on them right now).

When I finished the 17 miler, I felt pretty good. When I finished the 18 miler, my calves, ankles, and knees were really sore and my legs felt like jelly. It wasn’t a bad run, but it was pretty slow. I’m ok with that though. The long runs should be slow. I don’t want to hurt myself. It’s a really strange feeling getting to 9 miles and turning around as the halfway point. I didn’t feel weak or tired during the run, but felt a little woozy immediately after until I ate. I feel pretty good today, though–and I’m really happy it’s a rest day. Funny enough, the sorest part of me is my arms…probably from carrying my water bottle for 18 miles.

My office is closed today for Rosh Hashanah, so I was able to finally get myself over to Hoboken Fleet Feet (I love Fleet Feet) and buy a new pair of sneakers. I’m a Brooks person, and I stick to the Ghosts right now (I might explore different lighter models eventually but I want to stay consistent for the Marathon). I bought a new pair back in the middle of June…I’m a size 8 in regular shoes but usually do an 8 1/2 in running sneakers. Back in June, the guy in the running store thought I could benefit from a size 9 but they felt a little big and clown-like to me at the time. Fast forward to Sept and I’ve had a bunch of bruised toenails from my long runs over the summer. They don’t feel great and I’d like to prevent getting more. I was more willing to give size 9 a shot today, so I brought my orthotic to try with the shoes. They felt pretty good, so I’m going to run in them tomorrow (5 miles) and see how it goes. From everything I’ve heard, you really need a bunch of room to let your toes spread out in the toe box. If you’re getting a bunch of bruised toes when you’re running, there’s likely a problem. These will be my Marathon sneakers, so it’s pretty exciting!

What does your training schedule look like?

For the past 11 weeks, I’ve been running 4-5 times a week (usually 5), cross training one day, and resting one day. Before that, I was slowly building up to a comfortable 8 miles. The Hal Higdon Novice 2 plan that I’m (loosely) following has the first long run at 8 miles, so I figured I should build up to 8 and be very comfortable running 8 before starting my program. I usually add in an extra day of running to my week, as the program I follow has 2 rest days. If I need the 2nd rest day, I take it.

I spent a lot of time deciding what my cross training would be. I have been running for probably 5 years now, and doing not much else. Every once in a while I’ll dabble in spin or yoga or I’ll get to a gym and lift some light weights. I’ve never had a strong core, but I’ve always wished that I did. I ended up going with spin on my first week of the program, mostly because there’s a studio a block from my apartment and it’s reasonably priced. I also wanted something more cardio than strength. When I made that decision, I had no clue the amazing gem of a spin studio I had stumbled upon. I got to my first class and realized these bikes were like no other spin bikes I had ever seen. They’re called Real Ryders–they are on a hinge so that you can “turn” left and right by engaging your core. In the standing positions, you have to engage your core just to keep the bike steady. You get a total body workout this way. After my first class, I was toast. I came back to the apartment drenched in sweat and Sean thought I was the grossest. Not really, but kind of. It is SUCH an amazing workout. I’ve been going once or twice a week ever since and I can really feel the difference in my core. I don’t think I could ever take another spin class on a bike that isn’t a Real Ryder. I feel like I work three times harder on it versus a traditional spin bike.

Within the next month, I’ll be moving to a new neighborhood in Jersey City so the studio won’t be as close. That coupled with the fact that they recently significantly raised their prices if you’re not a monthly member has me looking for a new cross training routine. My new neighborhood has a community pool and a reasonably priced yoga studio, so I’ll probably swim laps some weeks and do yoga other weeks.

Cross training is probably one of my favorite parts of the week (other than my rest day of course). I love running, but 5 days a week gets really tedious…especially now that my long runs are 15, 16, 17+ miles. It’s also really important because it helps me build up my extremely pathetic core strength.

50 more days to go…this is getting real!

Since you’re training for a marathon, are you losing a ton of weight?

When you run an average of 35-45+ miles a week, people probably expect that you’ll lose a TON of weight. If weight loss is your primary goal, training for a marathon probably isn’t the best method. That amount of exercise will destroy calories, absolutely. However, calories are energy and energy is what you need to complete a 10-20+ mile long run–so you need to eat, and you need to eat a LOT.

I’ve never exercised this much or this consistently in my life–even before my NYC Half PR a few years ago my longest run leading up to the event was 10 miles. Not only am I running 40-ish miles a week (I’m up to 17 miles for my long run), I’m spending at least one day a week cross training. With the amount of calories I’m zapping, my body is BEGGING me to replace them. After a long run, I’ll immediately replace calories with coconut water or a smoothie before I eat my first meal of the day. On a good day, I’m hungry every couple of hours–but I typically find myself hungry again an hour after I eat. I find myself eating constantly, and needing to consume larger meals, and snack frequently in between meals. I find myself seeking out the most filling foods (which also happen to be pretty calorically dense)–beans, hummus, carbs. My appetite is a result of my body needing to replace the calories I burn working out so I can keep going. Increased activity leads to increased calorie intake leads to a relatively stable weight.

In the beginning, I shed quite a few pounds pretty easily, but now I’m evening out. I’d say overall in the last 2 months I’ve lost maybe 10 pounds. That’s not so say I don’t LOOK a lot more fit. I’m gaining muscles I’ve never seen before and I’m losing fat. But I’m not losing a TON of weight. And I didn’t expect to. I would never deprive my body of the calories and nutrients it needs to perform its best leading up to the marathon. Lately I’ve been worried about whether or not I’ve consumer enough the night before a longer run to ensure my energy level is high enough to get me through the run.

If you want to run a marathon, prepare yourself to eat a lot during training. Don’t expect to lose a ton of weight. If you do, you’re going to deny yourself what you need to perform your best. Eat when you’re hungry and make sure you’re getting enough calories. You’ll still lose a little weight and you are going to look and feel fit. Just think about all you can eat without feeling guilty, and ENJOY it. You’re going out on 3-4+ hour long runs and working out almost every day. You’re experiencing aches and pains you never thought were physically possible. You are sacrificing hours upon hours of your free time. You’re going to sleep early on Friday nights (and waking up early on weekends). You’re missing out on countless happy hours and drinks with friends. You DESERVE to eat and enjoy things you’d normally feel a little guilty about. Pasta and bread, yes please and thank you!

What do you eat before/during your long runs?

This is probably the most consistently asked question I’ve been getting since I started training. I actually spent a really long time thinking about the perfect pre-run snack before I started off on my long training runs. Everyone is different, and different things work for different people. My blood sugar dips rather quickly compared to most people, so I’m pretty conscious of it when I run.

Back before I started training for my first marathon, trained mostly in the 3-10 mile range. A lot of times, I found myself low on energy, sometimes feeling on the verge of passing out. I typically just powered through. I knew this would obviously be an issue going into training. I did a lot of research before I started my 18 week plan–reading, podcast listening, etc. My biggest takeaway–in the past I was constantly training in my anaerobic zone and not giving myself the chance to build an aerobic base. When you train in your aerobic zone, your body relies on stored fat for its energy. When you train in your anaerobic zone, your body relies on sugar and carbs for all its energy. It made total sense to me–once I burned off all the sugar from my small pre-run snack, I was toast. I completely ran out of energy. When you train aerobically, you have an unlimited source of energy re: fat.

How do you know if you’re training aerobically? It’s all based on your heart rate. Everyone is different. The best thing to do is find out by getting a blood test. I don’t have time or patience for that, so I used Phil Maffetone’s formula to figure out my maximum aerobic heart rate for training.

It’s been a really hot and humid summer, so it’s been very, very challenging staying below this number, but I try my best. Not, when I go out on my training runs I eat a peach or a few dates beforehand. On my first 15 mile run last weekend, I brought dates in a snack bag and I ended up needing them about halfway through. That was the first time I needed any kind of sugar during any of my long training runs. I got up to 14 miles the week prior without needing any type of snack! I was shocked!

I still have a long way to go to figure out my perfect formula but typically before a long run:

  1. pasta the night before
  2. lots of water the day before
  3. in the morning, wake up and eat a peach or other sugary fruit or some dates
  4. bring dates in case I feel low on sugar during the run

Before a race:

  1. pasta the night before
  2. lots of water the day before
  3. in the morning, wake up and eat a peach or other sugary fruit or some dates
  4. on the way to the race, eat a Larabar (very few ingredients, usually just dates and some kind of nut and dried fruit)
  5. bring dates in case I feel low on sugar during the run

AFTER the run or race I make sure I get protein into me immediately, and usually try to have some kind of juice or coconut water to replenish my sugar and nutrients.

This seems to work really well for me, but everyone is different. In general, the key is to experiment with different routines and see what works best for you!

NYC Marathon–the 9 week countdown

The end of this week will mark my official halfway point of my NYC Marathon training. I’m starting to write about it a little late in the game, but, you know, all this training means I’ve been PRETTY busy…but now that I’m getting into the real swing of things, I can start to make the time now! I’ve been loosely following the Hal Higdon Novice 2 program. This will be my first (and maybe last) marathon, but I’ve run several half marathons in the past, and I’ve been running in some form for the past 3 or so years, so I thought Novice 2 was the right fit for me. By “loosely” following I mean that the program suggests workouts 5 days a week with 2 rest days–and I’ve been working out 6 days a week with 1 rest day. I also switch around some days to suit my needs, and for any of the 3 mile days I’ve bene doing 4 instead. I think, when training to run 26.2, the minimum mileage for a single run should probably be 4.

This past weekend was my longest run ever. Since I’ve only ever run half marathons, anything beyond 13.1 is new territory for me. I ran 15 really tough miles along the Hudson River on Saturday, stopping once to fill my water bottle in a fountain. Yes–I do bring water with me if I’m going over 8-ish miles. I needed it. Summer running has been brutal this year. It’s been ridiculously hot and humid this Summer, of course. This is the first year I can remember that I’m actually excited for the Fall. Those last 2 miles this weekend were probably the most brutal 2 miles I’ve ever run in my life. Getting to past 15 and running another 11 is going to be a challenge. I’ve also found that working out 6 times a week is taking a toll on me. I’m pretty exhausted, and it definitely takes a lot of getting used to . Especially when you don’t want to compromise on going out, having a few drinks, and sometimes staying out a little (too) late.

While I’m no running expert, I have found that, throughout my training, many of my friends have been asking me advice about getting into running, training for events, nutrition, etc. Soooooo I figured I’d start writing it all down. Over the next 9+ weeks, that’s exactly what I’ll start to do here.