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Continuing from Part I and Part II….

Spirits were high among the runners in wave 3, corral 5 as we trotted across the starting line timing mat at 10:50 a.m. on Monday, April 18, 2016. No one said much as we tried to navigate the pressing crowd of runners, pretty much running in lockstep and not trying to bump into anyone else. However, the spectators were already making plenty of noise to make up for our silence! The entire Boston Marathon was just a fantastic experience, and I mean FAN-tastic! The spectators could not have been more welcoming and encouraging along the entire route. The race course runs through eight cities: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston. Each community managed to extend its own unique form of hospitality. As a runner, I could tell that the spectators genuinely wanted the race to run through their town, and they not only welcomed the marathon itself but each and every runner that passed by. The spectators all along the way somehow managed to make each runner feel like a rock star, like we all mattered just as much as the elite athletes! That outpouring of support makes the experience of running the Boston Marathon a good one regardless of the runner’s finishing time.

Speaking of time, while I had said before that I had not planned to run this race for time, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to pay attention to my pace. I had run the Phoenix Marathon in a PR time of 3:36:58 with an average pace of 8:16 per mile. Every article I had read on Boston warned not to go out too quickly on the early downhill miles on the course or you would regret it around mile 20. So I planned to stay between 8:45-9:00 per mile for those early miles and I thought I might finish in a total time somewhere around 4 hours.

Miles 1-3 (8:52, 8:42, 8:44)

I certainly didn’t want to waste any energy dodging other runners so I just tucked in the crowd and maintained my pace. That became easier said than done though when I factored in walking through the aid stations. In light of the high temperatures forecast for the race, the organizers had sent out an email advising runners to pay close attention to hydration, and indeed I needed to stop at the first aid station at mile 2 along with nearly every other runner. The volunteers did a great job, but there’s just no managing that volume of runners (27,491 runners total). I couldn’t use my usual technique of speeding up a bit before the aid station to “bank” time to walk through the aid station because other runners blocked the way. It was also hard to get going again, and it was odd to run on the road completely covered in Gatorade and cups. Once the road cleared, my shoes were sticky for about another 100 yards! My advice to runners wanting to race Boston for time? Especially in the early miles, skip the aid stations on the right and go for the less crowded ones on the left. Don’t stop at the first Gatorade table — there are 4 at each station (followed by 4 of water).

Miles 4-6 (8:35, 8:50, 8:43)

In mile 4 in Ashland, don’t be alarmed when the course splits in two to go around some cement traffic islands. Volunteers make it clear you can run on either side. Running the tangents on this course is hard due to the crowds and features (spoiler: my “marathon” ended up being 26.74 miles instead of 26.2).

In rare quiet moments along the course, the runners’ footsteps sounded like the pattering of raindrops. The sheer sea of runners in front of me again reminded me of a zombie apocalypse! I kept waiting for the crowd of runners to thin, but it didn’t let up as much as I expected (I might just be a bit biased given that the other six marathons I have run have each had 1/10th the number of participants as Boston). All I know is I got elbowed by other runners right up to mile 25 and even in the finishing chute! No one was particularly aggressive, there were just a lot of people on the course.

Miles 7-9 (8:45, 8:47, 8:48)

In Framingham, the winds picked up, especially by Lake Cochituate at mile 9. At first I appreciated the cool breeze, but then there were times where I felt the need to draft off runners to protect myself from the wind (for once I was grateful for the crowded pack of runners!)

Miles 10-12 (8:49, 8:54, 8:38)

The course enters Natick and I took in the sight of yet another town common with a beautiful clock tower. There are also digital clocks at every mile marker along the race, which is helpful if you can do the math to figure out how that time compares to when you crossed the starting line.

When I entered the town of Wellesley, I kept an eye out for a Wellesley girl to kiss. As I said, I came to this race for the experience and I wasn’t going to miss out on any of it! You could hear the girls screaming before you could see them! I rounded the bend and saw a girl holding a sign that said, “Kiss me — I’m from Cali!” I knew that was my girl and dodged over to the side, pointed to my cheek and asked for a kiss. She kindly obliged, and I ran on with a smile and renewed energy. Later though I thought maybe I should have stopped for the girl whose sign said “Kiss me or I’ll vote for Trump!”

Miles 13 – 15 (8:43, 8:47, 9:12)

The half marathon point is in Wellesley and I passed the timing mat at 1:55:41. I remember my energy dipping a little at that point. I don’t know if was the relief of passing the halfway point, or if the noise of the Wellesley “scream tunnel” took a little out of me, but I felt a change in my ability to keep pace.

Miles 16-18 (8:43, 10:09, 9:41)

The course enters Newton next and the hills begin in earnest. Frankly the whole course felt like rolling hills and I had a hard time distinguishing one from the other. A lot of people on the course started suffering at this point. Talk about the zombie apocalypse — I’ve never seen so many people walking on a race course! I suspect that a lot of runners trained hard to qualify and ended up injured, or got injured in training for Boston itself, but they didn’t want to miss out on the experience running Boston so they vowed to get to the finish whether they had to walk or crawl to get there. Heck, I even saw a girl in the first mile wearing the kind of boot you need for a stress fracture! And as I passed Newton-Wellesley Hospital somewhere between the 16 and 17 mile points, I watched grimly as someone was wheeled off the course and into the hospital on a stretcher.

Miles 19-21 (9:25, 9:45, 10:33)

My family and friends were waiting for me at the mile 20 marker. You can see that I picked up the pace a bit in anticipation of seeing them! The kids made these awesome signs for me out of pipe cleaners, beads, and blue glitter.

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I grabbed some Gatorade from the aid station and then braced myself for Heartbreak Hill. The funny thing is that I didn’t even realize that particular hill was THE Heartbreak Hill until I saw a spectator holding a sign! It was just another hill, and I’d done a pretty good job of training on hills in my hilly neighborhood. I never walked (except through aid stations) and kept on trucking. My pace certainly slipped in that mile though.

Miles 22-24 (9:26, 9:31, 10:05)

Honestly in these miles through Brookline and into Boston, I was simply focused on running and keeping my legs moving. The crowd support became more important than ever. Not only their cheers, but their offers of ice, flavored ice pops, orange slices, banana slices (watch out for those peels on the course — I’m not kidding!), jelly beans, pretzels and M&Ms. I could have even had a full can of beer if I’d wanted one, and I was sorely tempted, not so much by the beer but by the idea of grabbing the can and stopping to walk along and enjoy it!

My favorite bit of course support though was when people had set up their hoses to spray the runners. While the temperatures did drop a bit the closer you got to Boston and the ocean, much of the course this year (at least for those in the later waves like me) was uncomfortably warm.

Miles 25-26.74 (9:45, 9:25, 6:39 pace for 0.74 miles)

Two things encouraged me in these final miles — the sight of the Prudential building (Boston! A building in Boston!) and the sight of the Citgo sign. I used to be able to see that sign outside the window of my on-campus apartment at MIT, so that held special significance for me even beyond the fact that it meant the final miles of the race.

I really picked up the pace when my Garmin beeped to say that I had run 26 miles. At that point I knew I had it in me to sprint and I really wanted the race to be over! So funny that I paid for the privilege to run this race, but I was just so ready to be done at that point. I sprinted for nearly 3/4 of a mile. There’s a little hill when you turn up Hereford but you are rewarded by the sight of the finish line when you turn left at the top and look down Boylston Street. Once again I could hear the absolute roar of the spectators and I felt like a rock star! Could they really be cheering that loudly for middle and back of the pack runners? It was amazing and it made my heart swell. I received a lot of support along the way, from my family, from readers of this blog, and from the race volunteers and spectators, and I was extremely grateful. I came in at 4:05:09 with my arms in the air as I finally crossed the Boston Marathon finish line.

It’s a long walk in the finishing chute. I almost didn’t grab a space blanket to keep warm because I was so heated from the race. Thank goodness I did though because by the time I reached the family meeting area and my family arrived to walk me to the T, my lips were blue! I felt really good though — sore but not injured — and just happy to have come full circle on four years of marathon training from my first marathon at Santa Barbara in 2012 to my seventh marathon at Boston in 2016!

I’ve never been particularly excited about race medals, but this one just symbolizes so much.

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Continuing from Part I….

I slept really well and got up at 6:30 a.m. Our host John had so kindly made me some steel cut oats and coffee for my pre-race breakfast, and I packed a banana for the bus ride up to Hopkinton. Christine drove me in to Boston and dropped me right off at Boston Common at 7:45 a.m. so I could board the bus at 8 a.m. I had to laugh because it looked like a zombie apocalypse with all the people walking across the Common toward the buses! There were plenty of porta-potties for use before boarding the school buses. The volunteers were chipper and helpful and I got on a bus right away — no waiting at all!

I chatted on the bus with a very nice woman who was running Boston for a third time. She echoed the advice I kept hearing: don’t go out too fast in the first five downhill miles or you will regret it on the hills of Newton!

I arrived in Hopkinton around 9 a.m. with plenty of time before my wave #3 was scheduled to depart the Athletes’ Village at 10:50 a.m. I hit up the porta-potty line and this time there really was a line — it took 40 minutes of waiting. By that time I pretty much needed to hop back in line to make sure I could go one last time before the race. So I didn’t even sit down once in the village!

I was happy to sip on some of the Gatorade provided for free in the Village. I unsuccessfully tried to eat the Clif Organic Energy Food sample that was included in the race goodie bag. It was nothing I hadn’t eaten before — oatmeal, bananas, maple syrup. I’m sorry for the bad review Clif, but it tasted like warm, mushy baby food and it was so unpalatable I had to throw it away. Luckily though Clif redeemed itself with a booth in the Village where I gratefully grabbed two free samples of White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Bars, something I already knew I liked and could tolerate before my run. You really could find anything you needed in the Village — in a great spirit of camaraderie people were passing around bottles of sunscreen and leaving things that you could use to sit on the grass.

Before I knew it my wave was being called and it was time to walk a few blocks to the starting corrals. It was sunny and quite warm by 10:50 a.m., in the high 60s in Hopkinton. I was glad I’d worn compression shorts and a short-sleeved tee.

I was in corral 5 and on the way I saw someone wearing her race tank top from the 2015 Phoenix Marathon, so we chatted about how we both qualified at that race. After the starting gun went off it took a while to walk to the starting line from corral 5. On the way I got high-fives from five race volunteers and passed up many more! I should have taken that as a sign of what was to come. Click the link to the next post for Part III of my Boston Marathon 2016 Race Recap!

I’m still catching my breath after an amazing weekend in Boston. Some crazy person scheduled me to run a marathon on Monday, fly 6.25 hours home on Tuesday, and start my first day on my new job at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Oh wait, that crazy person is me! And I have a lot to say about the whole Boston Marathon experience!

So, first I must confess the fact that I missed my flight to Boston on Friday and added six hours to an already very long travel day. Add on top of that the cough and chest congestion that I managed to catch during taper, and it was a pretty rough start to the weekend. Thank goodness I had already planned to run to enjoy the experience and not to race for time, because I wasn’t doing myself any favors in the days before the race.

I got happily settled at the house of some long-time friends John and Christine and enjoyed catching up with them. My brother- and sister-in-law and nephew also came up from Connecticut and it was great to see them and have their support at the race!

On Saturday my family went to the expo with me at the Hynes Convention Center. What an amazing sea of people! I’m not a fan of expos but I have to give credit to the organizers. Any time I had a question a volunteer seemed to step forward and give the answer before I could even ask the question! In no time I had my bib and an exceptionally nice blue and yellow long-sleeved technical tee. I couldn’t leave yet though without finding my name on the wall of marathon participants.

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So happy to be listed on that wall among all of the 2016 Boston Marathon participants!

Once outside the expo we walked down the street to see the marathon finish line on Boylston Street.

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Tourists crowded around to see the Boston Marathon Finish line on Boylston Street.

We had to go across the finish line to get to our lunch restaurant but I refused to walk across it and made my husband carry me. I wasn’t going to cross that finish line on my own two feet until I raced across it on Monday!

On Sunday, the day before the race, I pretty much laid low and drank as much herbal tea as I could to try to get as healthy as possible! For the pre-race dinner my husband Mike cooked us all an amazing pesto pasta dish with portobello mushrooms and asparagus, and made a caprese salad and garlic bread. Carbo-loading like a boss!

After dinner I took a hot bath to relax and help ease the cough and congestion. Then it was early to bed at 9:30 p.m.! Click the link to the next post for my Boston Marathon 2016 Recap Part II!

Boston Marathon Goals

I can’t believe tomorrow is race day! I picked up my bib yesterday at the expo and had this surreal experience as I waited and waited while the volunteer searched for my bib number. She started to get a worried look on her face and I actually had an irrational moment of panic where I thought she was going to say there was a problem and I wasn’t going to get to run the race (this is leftover anxiety from when I qualified for Boston 2015 but found out a few weeks later that my time did not meet the registration cutoff). But then she smiled with relief and handed me bib number 20130 and wished me luck! I confess I got teary when I finally held the bib in my hands (you all know it doesn’t take much for me to get emotional about these things).

Speaking of emotional, I got pretty excited when I rode in a car on part of the marathon course (not on purpose, we just happened to be going that way) and I saw this:

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I’ve gone through waves of nervousness and excitement and now I’m just looking forward to tomorrow and ready to start taking in the whole experience. I trained hard but do not have a goal time in mind. The goal is to enjoy the race while running strong (I have a lot of respect for the history of the Boston Marathon and the course itself, so I want to run strong and well without pushing myself so hard that I miss soaking up the whole atmosphere). I hope that makes sense. I anticipate coming in around four hours or less but who knows how I will feel on race day. I am recovering from a cough and congestion that plugged my ears up on the plane. I’m just grateful I can hear again and am well enough to toe the line for the 2016 Boston Marathon!

Two more weeks until Boston! What happened to March and how can it be April already? The past three months since I started working part-time as a substitute aide in the special education classrooms have gone by in a blur of working and training. I think I’m ready for Boston but it doesn’t feel like I’m ready because I’ve squeezed in my training around a very erratic, unpredictable work schedule (if I leave my phone on overnight I will often get a call at 5:30 a.m. to work at 8:30 a.m. that same day). Training has been a priority, just not top priority and that seems to be allowing the taper crazies to get to me a little more this time around (Boston will be full marathon number 7 for me).

Last week was spring break and I took the week to focus on a very important part of my training — altitude training! I’m kidding — my family likes to ski so we went to the mountains in Whistler, British Columbia.

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Apparently I’m not the only one who likes to joke. I saw this sign on my run through Stanley Park in Vancouver.

I skied for four days and got in some pretty serious workouts trying to keep up with my kids (ages 13, 11 and 7), all of whom are better skiers than I am. This was one of my favorite trails, a traverse along the Whistler Peak:

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Swapped a gorgeous ski trail for a running trail that day!

I made sure to get some running in though too. Check out the moon above Whistler just as the sun was rising over the Valley Trail:

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Five miles at an 8:15 pace along the Valley Trail. The cold morning encouraged me to run at a brisk pace!

I also ran 10 miles on the Seawall Trail in Vancouver.

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What a treat to do a long run as a tourist in beautiful Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia. I saw many other runners that Saturday morning and I wondered how many of them would also be going to Boston in a couple of weeks!

Now I’m back home and back to reality. I started a second part-time job grading online California state assessment tests. Good thing the training schedule is lighter in these last couple of weeks before Boston! One six-miler for my long run this weekend and before I know it, I’ll be back in Beantown. (I lived there for two years when Mike went to business school at MIT Sloan. It’s where my 13-year-old was born, and where my 11-year-old took her first steps when we went back for a visit 10 years ago!)

Do you like to ski? Have you ever been to Boston? Where should I go to eat when I’m there? We have our old favorites and are definitely planning to go for brunch in the South End (Aquitaine. [ETA — closed for renovations! We now have reservations at Gaslight.]) and Italian in the North End (not sure which restaurant yet. [ETA: Rabia’s!]).

Twenty-five days until Boston! I say that with a combination of excitement and nervousness. I’m at that point in the 20-week training cycle where all the hard work of training has started to wear on my body and spirit, so the doubts creep in. “If I’m struggling this hard to maintain race pace for eight miles, how will I ever do it for 26.2 miles?” and “That 20-miler was tough — I can’t imagine adding 6.2 miles on to that!” But then I remind myself about about the concept of periodization (dividing training into phases that build toward peak performance on race day) and the magic of taper (those last two to three weeks of reduced training that result in fresh legs for the race), and I trust that I am doing what I need to do to have the best race possible.

To keep myself motivated in this last month before Boston, I’ve taken advantage of some travel to run new routes in interesting places. When my husband and oldest daughter wanted to watch the tennis matches at Indian Wells, I made sure to get in a 10 mile run in Palm Springs.

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I could see a dusting of snow on top of the mountain as I headed out on my run from Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs.

I started my run at 11:00 a.m., which was very good practice for Boston. I’m in the third wave, which starts at 10:50 a.m. EDT. I prefer an early morning run or race, but I didn’t have any trouble on the 10 miles at that later time of day.

My next opportunity to “vacarun” (“traveljog”? “runtour”?) came when I transported 5th graders on a field trip to Rancho Soñado in Silverado, California. Parents didn’t need to stick around during the science lessons, so I drove to nearby Irvine Regional Park and headed out on the trails for eight miles.

First I picked the aptly named “Road Runner Loop.”

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Irvine Regional Park is home to a grove of heritage Oak and Sycamore Trees.

What a treat to find views like this in the middle of a densely populated suburban city.

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There is a zoo in the park, but I didn’t have to pay admission to see some wildlife! On the Horseshoe Loop Trail, I saw a bobcat!

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Not the bobcat I saw, but it looked much like this. Photo credit: dbarronoss.

Apparently my survival instincts need a little honing, because my first thought was, “What is a cat doing on the trail?” Once realization dawned on me that this wasn’t an overgrown house cat (doh!), my second thought was, “I need to get a picture of it!” Thank goodness that bobcat wanted nothing to do with me and didn’t stick around for its photo opportunity. I finally had the good sense to Google “What should I do if I see a bobcat?” Answer: Back away slowly. Don’t run or it might chase you! Make lots of noise. Spray it with water if necessary.

I walked very slowly around the next bend in the trail and there it was again! This time I stood still and watched it go right back through the brush to its original position on the trail. Once it was out of sight, I slowly walked along the trail until I thought it was safe to start running again. Whew! Thank goodness the last few miles were uneventful and the only creatures I saw were horses and people.

What’s the “wildest” creature you’ve seen in the wild?

I’ve seen bears (from a safe distance) in the national parks.

Where’s your favorite place to run or hike?

I’ve got to stick with the national parks here — I’ve had some fun adventures in Zion and Joshua Tree National Parks.

Six more weeks exactly until Boston! Yesterday I got in my second 20-miler of this training cycle. It rained in the early morning but I knew it was going to be a good run when the rain stopped the second I stepped out my door at 7:15 a.m. Perfect running weather — dry, overcast, and 61 degrees for the entire run.

Distance: 20 miles plus a quarter-mile cool down walk

Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes plus 6 minutes of cool down walk

Pace: average 10:00 minutes per mile (6 miles per hour) not counting water stops and stoplights

Water stops: three (one at a park, one at a high school, and one at an elementary school)

Ounces of sports drink consumed: approximately 75 ounces (about half a gallon plus 1.25 cups)

Other runners I saw: 3 total, but not any until about mile 18.5! And then two of them passed me and I was a little bummed and kind of wanted to say, “But I’ve already done 18.5 miles!” Silly I know, a training run isn’t a race. Actually I hoped they’d stop and tell me what they were training for because I often see this woman running in the morning and I know she’s got to be training for a marathon. But she had her earbuds in and I didn’t want to shout after her.

Animals I saw: 4 — 2 very healthy coyotes who were more scared of me than I was of them, one rabbit, and one tiny snake.

Calories burned: approximately 2,434 according to MapMyRun.

Calories consumed in the form of powdered Gatorade: approximately 360.

Memorials I saw to cyclists and motorists killed on the route: 3 😦

Elevation gain: 1,266 feet

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Putting in some serious hill work in preparation for Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon!

Times I thought about Boston while running: eleventy billion

Number of podcasts I listened to: 3 (Another Mother Runner, Runners Connect, Run Buzz Radio)

Number of cities I ran through: 5

Number of donut shops I passed and had to resist stopping in for a maple bar: 2. I’m not kidding. I had $5 in emergency money in my running pack.

Mile at which it started to get pretty difficult to keep running: 16

Mile at which I really wanted to be done: 18.5. That’s when my husband and 13-year-old passed me in their car on the way to a tennis match, and I wished they could have scooped me up and driven me home. My husband reports that I looked hunchbacked at that point (a sure sign of my being tired). But of course I’m really happy I kept going and finished strong.

What’s your favorite donut? What’s your favorite podcast or other choice to listen to? 

 

 

Five Years

My eyes are welling with tears as I write this post. You see, today marks five years to the day since I started running and tracking my progress on MapMyRun. You can see my first entry here:

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Does a three-mile-per-hour pace count as a run? You bet it does when you’re pushing a 2.5-year-old in a jogging stroller over 180 feet in elevation gain for your first run in five years! I’m just as proud of that first mile in 20:23 as the mile I raced in 6:34 a few years later! I had made a decision that I wanted to be “fit at 40” after having the last of my three children. I was on the higher end of a healthy weight and I felt I could stand to lose about 10 pounds. So I got out there for nine runs that first March and logged a total of 24.9 miles.

I quickly got hooked on running and the sense of accomplishment that comes with every workout. My confidence grew over the summer and I added biking and swimming into the mix. Eight months after that first run, I took on my first sprint triathlon at SheROX San Diego in November 2011. And heck, that went so well, I took on an Olympic distance triathlon at HITS Palm Springs the next month! Fast forward through my first half marathon at the OC Half Marathon in May 2012 to my first full marathon at the Santa Barbara International Marathon in November 2012. Somehow in just 18 months I’d gone from 1.67 miles at a 20:23 pace to 26.2 miles at a 9:16 pace (4:02:39.5 for those trying to do the math). And that was at age 41 no less. Proof that you’re never too old to start running or challenging yourself with big goals. Five marathons later if you ask me which is my favorite marathon, I’ll say Santa Barbara, not because it was the easiest course (it wasn’t — my goodness I still remember that hill at mile 23) but because I ran that whole race with such joy and appreciation for what my body could do.

The next several races I chased a Boston Qualifying time, a sub-3:45 for Women 40-44.

Mountains2Beach Marathon, May 2013, age 41, 3:58:29 (race recap)

Long Beach Marathon, October 2013 age 42, 3:52:42 (race recap)

and finally my first BQ at Santa Rosa, August 2014, age 42, 3:44:26 (race recap). Then came the crushing news that a BQ minus 34 seconds was actually not fast enough to meet the registration cutoff for Boston 2015. So I set my sights on the Phoenix Marathon in February 2015 and came in at my current PR time of 3:36:58 (race recap), a BQ minus 8:02 at age 43 for Boston 2016. I tried to top that time at REVEL Canyon City in November 2015 and came in a little slower at 3:39:08 at age 44 on what I now consider a difficult downhill course (race recap). Fortunately there’s a benefit to the Boston Marathon qualifying math, and at age 44 I had bumped up to the 45-49 age group for Boston 2017 with a 3:55 qualifying standard, so that time was a BQ minus 15:52.

Now with just six weeks to go until my first Boston Marathon race on April 18, 2016, I’m savoring the opportunity to race on such hallowed ground. I’m training hard so that I have a good race, but I’m in this one for the experience, not the time on the clock. So I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about this historic race. On my bookshelf right now:

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I’m loving Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston with an official bib and a major player in the push to get the women’s marathon into the Olympics in 1984. (Such a #runnerd, I’m tearing up again thinking about it!) Let’s all just take a moment, man or woman, to thank those before us who have helped advance the sport of running. And of course, one of those people is Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray, author of The Last Pick. I’ve listened to him speak on a few podcasts and found his stories to be very inspiring, so I can hardly wait to read his book.

The next two on the list are The Boston Marathon: A Century of Blood, Sweat, and Cheers and 26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Boston Marathon.

Any other books you suggest as recommended reading about the Boston Marathon? Have you run the race before? Tell me about it! And feel free to link to any blog posts or race recaps of yours or anyone else’s that you think we all might enjoy reading.

Work It, Girl

Two months have passed since my husband lost his job. One month has passed since I started working as a substitute aide in special education classrooms. I’ve gotten a special education in the past four weeks for sure! I’ve worked at five schools and taught in classrooms ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade. I’ve taught a roomful of 30+ kids in general education and worked one-on-one with kids with Down Syndrome, autism, and ADHD. I’ve worked an average of 20 hours per week and maintained a workout schedule of 8-10 hours per week on top of that.

There are 11 weeks to go in the training schedule before Boston! Training is going well although I cannot say I am enjoying it as much now that I am having to squeeze it in around a very fluid work schedule. I might plan an 8-mile tempo run for Friday morning and then get a call at 7:15 a.m. asking me to substitute from 8:30-2:30. So how do I fit it all in? Here are five tips I’ve developed over the last four weeks.

1. Consider two-a-days. I’ve split an 8-mile run into four miles outside with my teenage daughter in the morning before work followed by four miles on the treadmill in the afternoon before dinner. It wasn’t fun but it was oh-so-satisfying to get the full mileage in for the day.

2. Be flexible. I don’t mean work on touching your toes, I mean be willing to move a cross-training day from Tuesday to Friday as need be. Or if it’s forecast to rain on Sunday (take that, California drought!), move that long workout to Saturday instead of Sunday. Trade a bike ride out for an Insanity DVD. Count yard work as your strength training for the day.

Gorgeous, rain-free day for 23 miles on the ElliptiGO on the San Gabriel River Trail.

Gorgeous, rain-free Saturday for 23 miles on the ElliptiGO on the San Gabriel River Trail.

3. Be forgiving. If you can’t get the full mileage in for the day, it’s a little tempting to write the day off entirely. But it’s way better to run 5.6 miles instead of 7 than to run 0 miles. I know it stinks to run 5.6 miles and be disappointed (hello – 5.6 miles is dang far), but it will feel a lot better to put those miles in and cross off the day than to leave that blank space on the training log.

4. Remember why you are training. Yes, I am training for a big goal race (Boston) but I am in this one for fun and for the experience. I actually enjoy the training and the satisfaction of checking off my workouts more than I enjoy a big goal race. So when I’ve had a hard day at work (think: kid running out of classroom, biting himself, crying, or refusing to communicate with me) I remind myself how much better I will feel if I get out on the road and zen out on a run.

5. Shake things up. I’ve been running for nearly five years now! I started in March 2011 when I was training for my first sprint triathlon as I approached age 40. It’s wonderful to look back on all the milestones — the first times I hit each new distance or ran a new race. But honestly? I am burned out on a lot of my local running routes! So after a hard day at work today, I came home at lunchtime and asked my husband to help me map out a new route for my 8-mile tempo run. And we chose a hilly trail/road route, and I chose to be flexible (see #2 above) and switch out 8 road miles at 8:00 pace for 8 trail/road miles with lots of elevation gain at 10:00 pace.

Just one of the hills on my 8-mile trail/road run today.>

Just one of the hills on my 8-mile trail/road run today.

The miles flew by as I was distracted by views of the ocean on one side:

That little bright line is the Pacific Ocean between Long Beach and Catalina Island

That little bright line is the Pacific Ocean between Long Beach and Catalina Island.

and the cacti near me on the other side and the snow on the mountains in the distance:

Not a bad winter day.

Not a bad winter day.

Do you have any advice for fitting workouts in around a work schedule?

Taming the Tempo Run

I love to hate the tempo run. Once a week I face my fear and get out for a mid-distance, steady, hard run of seven or eight miles. On a tempo run, you don’t get the rest intervals of a speed workout, and you don’t get the easy pace of a long run. It’s the workout that in my mind best simulates the effort required in half marathon and marathon races.

The reward for facing my fear and taming the tempo run is the tremendous sense of accomplishment when I finish! Today’s run was no exception. By all accounts it shouldn’t have been that great a run. This was the first week I’d gone back to work after 13 years as a stay-at-home mom to three girls. I worked 21.5 hours at three schools with nine teachers and aides, and 45 children with special needs. I was supposed to do the tempo run Friday morning, but frankly I went to bed at 9:15 on Thursday night and needed all the sleep I could get to face six hours at the junior high and elementary school the next day. By the time my day working and shuttling my own kids ended at 8:30 p.m., there was no way I was getting on my treadmill for eight miles. So I pushed it to Saturday morning, set my alarm for 6 a.m., got my teenager to her prospective high school for honors math and English testing at 7:15 a.m., and hit the high school track by 7:30. I knocked out the eight-mile run in 63 minutes, keeping a solid tempo run pace under 8:00 per mile after a warm-up mile at 8:34:

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The splits from the MapMyRun iPhone app.

So what are the tricks to taming the tempo run?

  1. Consider taking a rest day or cross-training day before a tempo run. Okay, I know a lot of people run five or more days a week, which doesn’t leave a lot of slots for rest days. But if you want to hit your tempo run with confidence, it’s best to do it on fresh legs. I usually cross-train on Thursdays before the tempo run on Friday. This week I took a rest day on Friday (and felt lousy mentally for it — I get so much satisfaction from crossing the workouts off my schedule), but that allowed me to really hit the track hard on Saturday.
  2. Choose a course that doesn’t have many (if any) stops. I like to do a tempo run on the track (“Tracks! They’re not just for speed workouts!”) because I don’t have to worry about stopping at stoplights or dodging cars on the road. I put on a podcast or audiobook to entertain me on the loops around the track, I get into a “zen” zone of maintaining that steady pace, and my body practically goes on autopilot. But if I can’t hit the track, I choose a dedicated bike/running path or a straight out-and-back in a neighborhood without stoplights.
  3. The warm up is key. Don’t try to go out at tempo pace. Spend the first mile easing into that tempo run pace.
  4. Carry your water or sports drink with you. Again, it’s not truly a steady effort run if you stop and start at stoplights or for water breaks. The only exception to that in my opinion is if you want to practice stopping for water at the aid stations for a race. The track is a perfect place to do this. You can set up your own makeshift aid station on a bench or the bleachers next to the track and practice running four laps (a mile) and stopping to grab a cup of water. Then either walk while you drink or practice drinking on the run, whatever you plan to do during the race. It took me a while to get the hang of it. One tip I appreciated was to speed up just before you hit the aid station so you bank a few seconds ahead of time. Then you can walk through the aid station, get a drink without spilling all over yourself, and catch your breath before picking back up to race pace again. That’s easier in my mind than hitting the aid station at race pace, walking, and having to make up lost time by speeding up faster than race pace after you start running again.

Do you incorporate tempo runs into your training? What’s your best advice for taming a tempo run?