How I train between marathon cycles

I was pretty physically exhausted after the 60k buildup and execution this past April. I felt it mentally too and knew I needed a recharge after that race. Originally, the 60k was supposed to be a fun run. Something thrown in before or after marathon training. But, I ended up not running a spring marathon (did Shamrock Half instead), so this ended up being my main event. It was an experience and I am glad I did it, but I think I’ll save the ultras until I’m old and slow. For now, my main goal is joining the sub three hour club in the marathon. I know many of you may think it silly to have a number based goal, but there it is. I want it and I’ll chase it and I may hit it and I may not. And I’m okay with that. I love the challenge and I love the chase and I love the rush of pushing my body and mind to the limits. This is what I do for fun.

Anyway, I knew my body and mind needed a break from the high mileage training. I spent about a week walking, not running at all. After one week, I started reverse tapering. Or slowly building my mileage back up to a solid base, that is. After one month, I was back up to 45 miles a week with one workout. Currently, two months later, I’m running two workouts a week during 50-60 miles a week. My mileage will climb a little more and my workout paces will increase, but otherwise training will more or less stay the same until my marathon build later this summer.

The workouts have been the same from week to week. The nice thing about that is seeing the progress you’ve made from the beginning of the training block. Great if you are a creature of habit, but not if you get bored or freak out easily (over times). Overall, I don’t terribly mind the same workouts and get excited to compare split times and other stats. My workouts look something like this:

1) Mile repeats

  • Warm up 1-2 miles
  • 4 x 100m strides
  • 3 x mile repeats @5k pace with 2 min rest between
  • Cool down 1-2 miles
  • 2) Tempo
    • Warm up 1.5 miles
      4 x 100m strides
      3 miles @10k pace
      Cool down 1.5 miles
  • I also have a long run once a week and easy runs on the rest of the days. I also do full body strength training three days a week. It is important to note that running everyday works for me because my easy runs are REALLY easy. Some days, my runs are over ten minute miles. Especially when I’m pushing the double stroller. These are recovery runs for me. Going slow enough to allow my body to recover and rest from the hard days of training. I am an everyday runner and that works for me, but I know it doesn’t work for everyone. Taking a day off or cross training is a great alternative. Recovery days allow you to run your hard days harder and everyone wants to get faster, right?
  • The focus this summer is speed. Training for 5k’s and 10k’s to get faster for my favorite racing distance ever: the marathon! Counting down the days until later this summer when the marathon grind begins!
  • -S
  • Elizabeth River Run 10k

    This race was put on in Portsmouth, VA by one of our local run clubs, the Tidewater Striders. This year was their 40th year putting on the race, but a new course route due to construction. I haven’t run this race before, but apparently it was more “turny” than previous years. I didn’t really seem to notice though. There were a lot of markers and volunteers directing runners. The course had some nice views, not that I was able to appreciate them fully. I was mainly focused on not passing out or vomiting on the runner next to me.

    I must say that I physically felt strong going into the race. I felt recovered from the 60k and have been doing a workout or two a week for the past few weeks. It wasn’t horrendously hot, but it was pretty humid on race morning. I warmed up with a mile and some dynamic and static stretches. I took a Gu and some Nuun electrolyte drink about 15 minutes prior to the start.

    The gun went off and I kept having to pace check with my watch. I’m more of a start out slow finish fast type of runner, but there have been a few races where I felt I’ve had more gas in the tank at the finish and regret not going out faster. Both the first two miles beeped off at 6:15. Consistent. About halfway through the third mile, I started to feel the pace. Only 3.5 miles left I thought to myself. Kind of early in a 10k to be thinking that. The third mile was a 6:25.

    The fourth and fifth miles were a struggle. I would be lying if I told you the thought of dropping out hadn’t crossed my mind once or twice. I tried to focus on my form and keeping my breathing even. I just told myself to make it to the last mile. I knew I could push myself in from there. Miles four and five were 6:37, 6:42. I was able to push a little on the last mile with 6:25 and didn’t think I could have been happier to see the finish line. I managed a female win, which I was excited about even though I didn’t PR. My overall time was 40:28, about a minute slower than my best time. I am overall pleased with that time and my overall effort. I was aiming for about two minutes faster, but it is only the beginning of my new training block.

    Some of the Endeavor Running team

    Overall female finish awards

    I’m not sure what my next race is. Maybe the Fourth of July 5k at the Mount Trashmore YMCA in Virginia Beach, which is also put on by the Tidewater Striders. I’m not a huge fan of summer races because I don’t like racing in the heat and humidity, but there is a kids dash and that would just be too fun to pass up. Also, the Tidewater Striders races are always affordable and even more discounted if you are a member (which I am). They also put on a Summer Series, which consist of four (three are free for members) family friendly races held at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens in July. We did a couple last summer and the kids and I had an absolute blast. Not to mention NBG is always a good time!

    That’s all for now! Stay hydrated out there! Also, thank you Clif for the race photos!

    -S

    April Training and 60k Recovery

    Well, it’s been a pretty boring month aside from the excitement of DNFing at the 60k. I was very sore the two days immediately following the race. But actually not as bad as I anticipated, considering how much pain I was in during the end of the race. I walked almost a week before returning to running. And I can honestly say it was a much needed break. I would start to run a little bit to just see how I felt and my body was like “hell no, girl”. I usually feel uneasy about not running, mentally and physically, but not this time. I needed it.

    Hair down because I didn’t run!

    I started running the weekend after the race, but they were very slow runs. Even at a very easy pace, the runs have felt labored and my heart rate has been high. I have been suffering from seasonal allergies and the increased humidity hasn’t helped, but I think I’m just still recovering. I haven’t felt super strong on any of my runs yet.

    High heart rate on 5/4/19 during an easy 8:05 min/

    I did do my first interval workout since…before Richmond Marathon? I’m not sure. Point is, it’s been awhile and it felt so good to be back at it. Even if it felt super labored and I may or may not have wet my shorts. I ran with my coach and our training group. We did a two mile warm up, followed by 3 x mile repeats at 5:59, 6:10 and 6:20. Two minutes of walking between repeats. Followed by a one mile cool down. We did the repeats around the neighborhood and it was pretty hot and humid, even at 6:30. I was toast by the end of the second repeat. Not sure how I managed the third one. Looking forward to improving on this workout.

    Splits for the interval run on 4/30/19

    The Elizabeth River Run 10k is three weeks away. Not super confident about how this race is going to play out, but excited to see the results and how I can improve. I’m excited to be putting speed back into my training. I love the challenge of hitting target paces and crave the feeling of being utterly exhausted at the end of a hard workout. I’m not sure, but that may be slightly masochistic.

    Not sure exactly but April may have closed out with around 150 miles? Probably one of my lowest months in awhile, but the rest is doing my body good. Recharging for the next block and that sub three hour marathon.

    Some R and R at the Norfolk Tides baseball game with the family

    -S

    Long Creek 60k DNF

    DNF. A runner’s most feared three letter word (if you’d call it that). Well, that’s what happened for me this past Saturday on the trails. Am I bummed about it? Yes. Did I ugly cry for a bit? Yes. But nothing a beer (or three) and a good cry couldn’t fix. I went into the race knowing it may be a good possibility and I’m just glad I got out there and gave it my best. I’m actually most proud of the fact I stopped when I did. I listened to my body, like I promised myself. My priority races are coming up this summer/fall and I’d rather be able to run them, than not. I’ve spend some time looking at the numbers and recounting the events of that morning and I may have an idea of where things went wrong.

    If any of you have read my previous posts, you already know I’ve been feeling flat and pretty run down. I was honestly shocked at how well I did at the Shamrock Half Marathon. You also know my hip and feet have been bothering me. Well, I ended up getting X-rays done last week because I was pretty freaked I was going to be running 38 miles on stress fractures and really do some permanent damage. Everything ended up turning out negative, and I went to see a specialist Friday before the race. He said he wasn’t going to tell me not to run. So I ran.

    All the gear a girl could need on a 38 mile run

    I woke up Saturday morning, more nervous than I usually am for a race. I was unsure how things would turn out because of how my body was feeling. Especially during such a long race. I had some peanut butter and honey toast with some coffee and water. And then I foam rolled. I packed up and headed to the car. It was low 60s and overcast when I arrived at First Landing State Park. I went warmed up, stretched, and did some drills. I took a Hammer gel and chased it down with some more coffee. And before I knew it, the gun went off.

    It was a small race. Around 60-80 people, so the trail wasn’t jam packed at the start, which was nice since it was pretty narrow and sandy. I started out easy, around 8:30-8:44 min/mi pace. Around mile 5, I decided to switch the display face on my watch from pace to heart rate. Constantly checking my pace, was just stressing me out. I decided to just go with what felt easy. But when I switched the display, my watch said I was running in zone 5 (highest heart rate zone) and my heart rate was in the 170’s (way too high). That stressed me out and I decided it must be wrong (because my pace felt so easy), so I ignored it and switched the display face to time. Maybe my first mistake of the run.

    Heart rate data from Garmin Connect

    I took my first Hammer gels at miles 5 and 10 chased down by some lime Nuun. My stomach started sloshing around then and I couldn’t take in any more hydration or nutrition until mile 17/18. I knew I could be in trouble, but I still felt good and was maintaining a strong pace about a quarter mile behind the lead female. I felt good through mile 21 and then I started slowing, but still managed to pass a few people. This was the part of the course that was more technical and hilly, and I chalked it up to that. Afterall, everyone seemed to be slowing and I was gaining on the lead female. Then my hips started to tighten and at the mile 23 aid, I stopped to stretch, refill my bottle and start up some music. I felt better for about a mile or so, and then my hips started to tighten back up, followed by my quads, soles of my feet, and shins. What was happening? I was so worried about my toes and my right hip, but those weren’t bothering me at all. Nothing else could possibly stop me from finishing this race, right? Wrong.

    The cramping got so bad, I had to stop and walk a few times. I finally made it to the next aid station. I told the volunteers there that I wanted to drop. They wouldn’t let me (and I love them for that). I rolled my legs out and cried a bit and then hobbled on my way again. 10 miles left. I had to keep stopping and walking because of the cramping. I had just started crying again when I ran into a local runner who hugged me and gave me some salt tabs. He made me feel better, but it was then I decided to drop. What was the point? Crawling to the finish, just to avoid a DNF? I was in so much pain and still had eight miles to go. I just didn’t see a reason to risk further injury to my body when I have a bigger race picture and larger goals in mind.

    The salt tabs helped enough I was able to walk/12 min/mi jog back to the start. It still took me a few miles to get there, but I managed. I ugly cried on a few people’s shoulders when I got back to the start/finish, including my coach’s. And then I hustled back to the car. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could and go crawl into a deep, dark hole. I guess I was so upset because I had to drop for unforeseen reasons. I had gone into the race prepared to drop for my feet or hip, not muscle cramping. But my hip and feet didn’t bother me at all. Go figure.

    Mile splits data from Garmin Connect

    I had a couple beers, talked to my sister and best friend, and felt much better. Reflecting on the race now, I think the reason for the cramping was my sloshy stomach. No hydration or nutrition was getting past my stomach and being absorbed into the bloodstream. It caught up with me in the later miles, causing the cramping. My coach seems to think the elevation gains contributed to my elevated heart rate. That maintaining my speed up the hills, spiked my heart rate, and thus delayed gastric emptying (aka sloshy stomach). I may have to agree based on what I saw on my watch and what I have analyzed on Training Peaks. My heart rate was in the VO2 max range until I started walking. Probably not the best thing for a 38 mile race.

    Training Peaks analyzation

    I’m bummed, but happy I’m not permanently injured from this experience. I’m not done with ultras, but I think I’m going to wait to get back into them until I am old and slow (kidding, not kidding). I’m excited to be done with this training block and get back to speed sessions this summer for some 5k’s and 10k’s. Building up some speed for my favorite training block of all…marathon training!!!

    Rest and recovery time 🙂

    -S

    Miles, miles, and more miles…

    It’s been a pretty uneventful training block. Just lots and lots of slow miles. And more slow miles. And more slow miles. I never thought I would be tired of running all the miles, and I’m not really. But my legs, hips, and feet are. I haven’t run this much mileage for this many consecutive weeks. My last marathon block had a three 70+ mileage weeks. This block has had lots more of them. And I’m starting to feel it in places. Both my feet are starting to hurt and my right hip has been bothering me on and off for almost two months. Granted I have a small toddler who I carry around on my left hip (a lot) and I think that may have something to do with it. I think I may be out of alignment, but I’m afraid to “get fixed” before the race in fear it could create other problems.

    Hooty has been my new best friend. I like this heating pad because it 1) heats up in microwave fast, 2) easily forms to body and stays there and 3) smells good

    I think I may have metatarsalgia in both my feet. For it feels like I’m stepping on rocks after I run 20 miles. But I’m not a doctor, so I could be wrong. Really just hoping I don’t have stress fractures. I have been stretching and foam rolling and heating/icing and soaking, but I think I need to a little break to get everything back to normal after this ultra. I never thought I would say that. I LOVE RUNNING and can’t picture my life without it. I run to stay sane staying at home with three little boys. I love them to death, don’t get me wrong. But I would yell a lot more if it weren’t for running. It makes me a nicer Mom. Thinking about not running for a couple weeks gives me severe anxiety. I don’t really know how I’m going to cope yet, but I know that’s what my body needs. I want to keep getting after my 2019 goals…mainly the marathon. So in order to do that, I need to be rest up. One step back, two steps forward, right?

    I have contemplated pulling out of the Long Creek 60k this weekend. I’m scared that racing 38 miles on trails is really going to wreck me. I’m afraid I’ll be so wrecked, I won’t be able to start my next training build (my priority). Well, maybe I’m stupid, but I decided I am going to toe the line on Saturday. On one condition: I listen to my body, and if it tells me to stop, I will. So I may drop, depending on how I feel. But I have begun to do everything in my power to make sure I’m as ready as I can be on race day. I have begun subsitituting my runs for aqua jogging sessions, heating, soaking, stretching, hydrating, and eating lots of carbs and nutrient dense foods. My hip and feet already feel better. I plan to do that for the remainder of the week and think hopeful positive thoughts and maybe I’ll make it through the race Saturday. And maybe I won’t. But it will be okay either way. I’d rather stop now and have a successful summer and fall season, than push through this race I am not prioritizing.

    Getting my aqua jog on in the pool this week

    The next few weeks will be pretty slow for me. Next week will be a walk/aqua jog week (I like aqua jogging because of its low impact and its transferability to running). The following two weeks will be reverse taper weeks, slowly getting back to my base mileage of 50-60 miles/week. Depending on how I feel, of course. If my feet and hip are still bothering me, it may mean more time in the pool and more of a focus on strength for now. Either way, I will make it work. Think positive thoughts for me!

    -S

    Do lots of slower miles lead to faster races?

    So I just finished up Matt Fitzgerald’s book 80/20, which emphasizes the theory that 80% of your training be low intensity and 20% be at moderate or high intensity in order to most effectively improve your fitness. Those of you reading my blog posts will already know that the vast majority of my current training block has been low intensity. Way more than 80%. Probably more like 90%. This has been stressing me out before races. I start wondering how I am going to run 13 miles at 6:30 min/mi pace if I have been doing no (or very few) miles at that pace. However, the last two races I have run (Oozlefinch 10 mile and Shamrock Half) my fitness has improved. I honestly was shocked at how good I felt crossing the Shamrock finish line, and faster than I had run the ten miler!

    Shamrock Half Marathon time on 3/17/19

    I am in better shape now than I was after PRing at the Richmond Marathon this past fall. My marathon training block consisted of two or three 70 mile weeks, but with lots more moderate or high intensity exercise. Probably a 70/30 split during peak weeks. Also, my training block was much shorter at about six weeks.

    Having a blast at the Richmond Marathon 11/10/18 with a PR of 3:07

    Whereas, this training block (for the 60k) has been much longer. I have been running 70 or 80 miles a week for more than two months, and with minimal moderate or high intensity paces. It has honestly been a little boring. I love the challenge of running hard, hitting tough paces, and feeling like I want to puke after a hard workout. Is that weird? And even though the high mileage, low intensity plan is working, I think I’m excited to focus a little more on some shorter events for a speed boost. Run a few 5k/10k races this summer, and then start building up my mileage again for the Richmond Marathon in November. That’s the plan for now anyway!

    -S

    Shamrock Half Marathon Race Recap

    I woke up Sunday morning feeling pretty flat. I slept like crap because of nerves and as a result, my stomach didn’t feel too good either. I still ate a piece of peanut butter and honey toast with water and coffee. The race didn’t start until 7:30, but I like to get there early, so parked the car at 6:00, attempting to get in the zone with some music and more coffee. I dropped my gear bag off at the trucks around 7:10 and consequently started my warm up run followed by some strides. I couldn’t tell whether I was going to have an “on” or “off” day. I said hi to my coach real quick, had a caffeinated Gu, and then hopped in Corral 1 to meet up with a fellow runner.

    My race bib signed by Meb Keflezighi

    The gun went off right at 7:30 and I always have to use my watch to pace check myself. It’s so easy to fly right out of the gates from the adrenaline rush. Miles 1 and 2 felt great at 6:39. I decided to hitch on with some girls for the next few miles at 6:34, 6:31,6:31. This is where I wondered if I should push the pace. I still felt great, but it had been awhile since I’ve raced a half and wanted to make sure I didn’t blow up the last 5k. I wanted to finish fast.

    We turned onto Fort Story base and fought the wind at 6:36, 6:39, 6:37, 6:37. I had another caffeinated Gu around mile 5. We left the base with a little under four miles left. I felt good and picked up the pace with a small group passing by. I had my last caffeinated Gu and got to work. The next three went 6:29, 6:28, 6:32. With one mile left I finished strong at 6:25 and 5:59. Could I have gone faster? Probably a little bit, but I was overall very pleased with the effort given and the results of yesterday’s race. Official time of 1:26:10, average pace 6:33 min/mi. 24th overall female and 9th in my 30-34 age group. Tells you how many fast chicks are out there on the courses!!!

    Mile splits from the Shamrock Half Marathon March 17, 2019

    I’m really satisfied with my performance. I must say I am really kind of shocked. I have been doing absolutely no speed and just one three mile tempo a week since my buildup for the Richmond Marathon this past November. It gets me really excited about my marathon potential once I start adding speed into my next training block. My coach and I discussed doing a micro block for a 10k or two after my 60k April 6. I want to start working on speed, so that I can incorporate that into my next marathon buildup without getting injured. I’m pretty sure I’m going to run Richmond Marathon again this year on November 16. I love the course and the crowds and have always had a good experience. This will be my third year running it.

    Meet and greet with Meb Keflezighi at the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon expo

    Back to the ultratraining grind. Two more hard weeks and then a one week taper. I’m excited to run it as a challenge to myself, but I’m more excited to get back to marathon training. That’s my true love 😉❤️

    -S