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Posts Tagged ‘marathon training’

It’s the last week of taper here and I got in a nice four mile run on Monday morning — two easy and two at marathon pace. And it was a good thing I wore my new Garmin 220 to pace myself because I realized that when I originally set the data screens, I chose “average pace” (average pace for the entire four miles) instead of “average lap pace” (average pace for the mile you are currently running). For marathons I like to keep an eye on my average lap pace, and that will be particularly important for this downhill marathon, REVEL Canyon City, because I expect the pace to be faster in the first half than the second. In fact I used the pace band feature at FindMyMarathon.com to create a free pace band that is specific to the REVEL Canyon City course. Other marathons I’ve generally tried to run an even pace, but that doesn’t make sense for this course. It’s nice to see what the predicted adjustments to pace are for the hills — both up and down — for this specific marathon.

Yesterday I did an easy three-miler that nearly undid six months of marathon training when I got distracted and rolled my ankle on this sucker:

Marathon killer: the magnolia seed pod of doom, next to my Brooks Adrenaline for size comparison

Marathon killer: the magnolia seed pod of doom, next to my Brooks Adrenaline for size comparison

In the instant my left foot rolled on the pod, pain shot up my left ankle and the marathon flashed before my eyes. My run came to a screeching halt. I quickly took a tentative step and tried to walk off the injury. By some miracle it felt a million times better after a minute of walking and I was able to finish the run. Throughout the rest of the day it stiffened up and became sore, but I iced it before bed and this morning it’s almost back to normal. Every taper has its aches and pains and this one is no exception. Now I just need to do one more easy three miler (including three strides and not including magnolia seed pods of doom) on Thursday and I’ll be ready for the race on Saturday.

While I ran on Monday I listened to an inspiring Runners Connect podcast interview with Olympic medalist Deena Kastor. Usually before a marathon I watch the movie Spirit of the Marathon again to see Deena race at the Chicago Marathon, but this time it was nice to listen to her advice for getting ready for a big race. She suggested that a runner list five reasons why the upcoming race should be successful. That helps calm your nerves and gives you things to draw upon during the race if and when your confidence falters.

So, here are five reasons my sixth marathon could/should/will go well:

1. With my switch to a traditional training plan that had me running five days a week, I managed to hit my highest mileage week ever (40.5 miles) and highest mileage month ever (156.3 miles in October). Not exactly numbers to write home about but pretty darn good for a 44-year-old mother of three.

2. I had that successful and joyful practice 20-miler on the course in the San Gabriel mountains.

3. I looked back over my training log (I keep one on my paper training plan and one on MapMyRun) and reminded myself that I kept consistent with the training. I didn’t miss a single run. Several times when the plan called for cross-training or rest, I rested, but I did every prescribed run. One 16-miler I cut short at 10.6 miles because I felt dehydrated and under-fueled and it was more important to set my ego aside and call it a day than continue and risk injury just to hit that 16 mile number. Sure enough I went on to have several confidence-boosting long runs after learning from my mistakes on that one “bad” run.

4. I made sure to keep up with the strength training at least twice a week. If you asked me the one thing I would recommend to other runners to improve their marathon performance, it would be to add strength training if it’s not already a part of their regimen. As little as 20 minutes twice a week can pay off tremendously in better running form and ability to hold pace in the final miles of a race when your primary running muscles are tired.

5. I nailed down my carbohydrate loading plan and race day plan. It’s not easy to consume over 600 grams of carbohydrates a day but I’m doing my best. I didn’t mind the whole wheat pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast this morning!

So, if you want to see if my ankle cooperates for the race, if my training plays off, if the carbo-loading prevents me from hitting the wall, you can track me on race day (Saturday November 7 starting at 7 a.m. PST) through my participant tracking link. The tracking registers my time at the half marathon point, 5K to go (mile 23.1), and the finish. I expect the first half to be significantly faster than the second given the 4,000+ foot elevation drop in the first half, so don’t be surprised if it takes me a while to pop back up at the 23.1 mark. Cross your fingers for a sub-3:55 (BQ) and better yet a sub-3:36:58 (PR)!

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Twelve more days until the REVEL Canyon City Marathon! I’m in the thick of taper — or more accurately, the thin of taper as the training miles thin out and my muscles recover to get ready for race day. I used to hate taper and the nervous energy that comes with it, but I’ve learned a few tricks to harness that nervous energy and put it to productive use.

10 Productive Things to Do during Taper

1. Review the race course. Check out the course map online and look at the elevation profile.

With a net elevation loss of over 5,000 feet, here's hoping runners of the REVEL Canyon City Marathon did some downhill training in preparation for race day!

With a net elevation loss of over 5,000 feet, here’s hoping runners of the REVEL Canyon City Marathon did some downhill training in preparation for race day!

If it’s a smaller race or you’re hoping to be in the front of the pack (not me) make sure you know the turns. I’m lucky with the REVEL Canyon City Marathon because the directions are like, “Yo, run 23 miles down the mountain on route 39 and continue on Azusa Avenue.” It’s nearly impossible to get lost with just a few turns in the last two miles of the course.

2. Review your fueling strategy. Um, I confess I kind of failed on practicing my fueling strategy during training. I did try out a new fuel I’m very happy with — Honey Stinger Waffles. But after I signed up for REVEL Canyon City many months ago, I forgot all about checking the on-course fuel and I trained with Gatorade as my sports drink for the past six months. I just checked the course electrolyte drink and it’s not Gatorade — it’s PowerBar Perform. Oops. I’ve got just one more long run to test my tummy when I fuel with that. Fingers crossed.

3. Try out any new race gear, even if it’s the same brand/model you always use. I trained over the past few months with two pairs of Brooks Adrenaline 14s. They each have about 250 miles on them (which I know thanks to the Gear Tracker on MapMyRun.com) so I ordered up a new pair of Adrenalines for the race. I will put about 30-40 miles on them before race day just to make sure they fit the same and there are no flaws in the shoes (I’ve always been happy with Brooks but I have heard horror stories of people ordering the same brand and model of shoes they’ve always worn and finding problems with them). Plus I like to change out the laces with Lock Laces (see the link below to Marathon Tip #1: Fasten Your Shoes with Lock Laces) and test them out ahead of time to make sure the fit is right.

4. Decide if, when and how to carbo-load. The literature is unclear on whether carbo-loading really helps (especially for women) but in my personal experience I find it helps and certainly doesn’t hurt. In the three days before the marathon, I increase carbs to about 70% of my daily diet. That translates to 10 to 11 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight. I like to lay out a general plan of how to reach that total amount of carbohydrates because it’s harder than you think. Of course, every time I taper remind myself to write down that plan to save for next time, and every time I completely forget about it in the excitement leading up to and after race day. Maybe this time I’ll actually type my plan on the computer and keep it for Boston 2016!

5. Go over your travel and race day logistics. I did this yesterday and it eased my mind a lot. I wrote out directions to drive to the expo to pick up my bib and directions to the parking on race day. I gulped a little when I saw that I need to be at the marathon parking between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. to catch a bus for the one-hour ride up the mountain. That’s going to mean getting up around 3:45 a.m., getting to the parking at 4:30 or so, arriving at the start at Crystal Lake Cafe around 5:30 a.m., and being prepared to wait in the cold for an hour and half before the race starts at 7 a.m. Thankfully the race organizers provide coffee, hot chocolate, gloves, and mylar blankets at the start. I’m actually really excited to be racing in cool weather after months and months of training in the heat. I mean, come on, Southern California, 90 degrees for the high today on October 26? Have mercy on us!

6. Keep your family and friends involved. If the race offers real-time tracking, send out the link to track you on race day. Pick a place to meet your fellow runner friends at the start of the race and your loved ones at the finish. If you will not have support at the race (ugh, Santa Rosa Marathon — great race but I missed having someone there!), make sure you have a solid plan for recovering and getting back to your hotel or home safely.

7. Trim your nails a few days before the race but don’t go crazy with it! And leave those hard-earned calluses intact. You don’t want to end up with black toenails after the race, but you also don’t want to have sore toes or feet before the race.

8. Gather your gear and put together a checklist for race day. This post should probably be titled 11 Productive Things to Do during Taper because in order to gather your gear, you also need to check the weather for race day. I’m going with a short-sleeved technical tee and Saucony Bullet shorts. I’ll take a hat, sweatshirt and sweatpants with me to wear until it’s time to turn in my gear bag.

9. Write down your race goals. And notice how I said “goals” and not “goal.” I already laid out my race goals for REVEL Canyon City.

10. Visualize the race to boost your confidence and calm your nerves. I’m willing to bet that at some point all marathoners have that nightmare where they oversleep on race day or can’t find the starting line and they end up running around frantically, wasting energy they should be saving for the race itself. To try to head off that kind of bad dream, I practice visualizing myself at the starting line. I’ve successfully completed my training and arrived at the race healthy (that’s half the challenge right there!) I’ve got all my gear and my Garmin is fully charged and working. I start out at a steady pace — not too fast — and slowly work up to race pace. I execute my running and fueling strategies and cross the finish line with a smile on my face!

For more advice on what to do (and not do) during taper, see 10 Tips for Taper. And for more marathon training and racing tips, see:

Marathon Tip #1: Train for the Course and Race Conditions
Marathon Tip #2: Fasten Your Shoes with Lock Laces

What’s your best advice for gearing up for race day? Do you have a race coming up on your calendar?

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Three more weeks to go until the REVEL Canyon City Marathon on Saturday, November 7! Training for my sixth full marathon has gone relatively well. I took a chance on a new training plan (the “Own It” marathon training plan from Train Like a Mother) and while I think it’s gotten me ready to tackle the distance, I discovered that my body really, no-I-mean-it-I’m-not-kidding, does not like to run five days a week and really, yes-I’m-sure, prefers to run three days per week and ride a bike for an hour or two on the other days. My legs simply felt tired throughout the training and there have been several days where the plan called for a tempo run of eight miles and I just couldn’t do it. I could run eight miles, but not at a 7:45 pace. With that feeling and the onset of shin splints, I’m pretty sure I became the textbook case for overtraining. But that’s a lot of what I love about marathon training — each round teaches you something new about yourself, and amazingly, there is always something new to learn. Now I know what this 44-year-old body can handle and I will make a different choice next time (training for Boston starts four weeks after Canyon City!)

In spite of the overtraining, I had a fantastic 20-miler last weekend. My family and I drove up to Crystal Lake Recreation Area in the San Gabriel Mountains and stayed Friday night in a cabin there so I could preview the REVEL Canyon City Marathon course early the next day.

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Valley

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Valley

As I started out on my run at 7 a.m. and I took in the spectacular views, I got the same feeling that I get every time on race day: I am so lucky to be here.

The stately yucca stalk stands out like a sculpture in the early morning sky.

The stately yucca stalk stands out like a sculpture against the early morning sky.

I love the downhill profile of the marathon course. The top half of the course declines even more rapidly than the bottom half (see my REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon recap from last year), losing 4,200 feet over 13.1 miles. Instead of feeling like it pounded my quads though, I felt like I was cruising down the mountain. (Don’t get me wrong, I was plenty sore over the next few days, but my legs felt great throughout the 20 miles and I hardly felt winded by the end).

Much of the run down the canyon remains in the shade even as the sun comes up.

Much of the run down the canyon remains in the shade even as the sun comes up.

The course hits a couple of rolling hills around miles 16 and 19 and those were tough but presented a welcome change in the muscles I was using. I switched from focusing on maintaining a steady pace to maintaining a steady effort and just kept trucking up the hills, knowing that the downhill payoff would come again soon.

The welcome sight of water in the San Gabriel Reservoir, although you can see how the waterline has dropped significantly due to the drought.

The welcome sight of water in the San Gabriel Reservoir, although you can see how the waterline has dropped significantly due to the drought.

I completed the 20 miles in 3 hours exactly and I felt fantastic. It had just been such a joy to run down that beautiful canyon. And look who greeted me at the end:

The best sight ever -- my three girls running towards me at the very end of my 20-mile run.

The best sight ever — my three girls running towards me at the very end of my 20-mile run.

My husband and girls had driven down the mountain just in time to pick me up at the 20-mile mark.

We stayed another night at the cabin and soaked up more of the amazing sights. The next day we took a short hike out to Crystal Lake.

Crystal Lake, one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Southern California. It is fed by snow and water runoff.

Crystal Lake, one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Southern California. It is fed by snow and water runoff.

While my legs felt great Saturday afternoon after the run and on the hike on Sunday, by Monday morning I was experiencing a major case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The DOMS either means it was a bad idea to run 20 miles downhill in training or it was the perfect way to build up those muscles with four weeks to go until the marathon. I guess we’ll see on race day! I’m feeling really good now with three weeks to go. Tomorrow I’ll run 17 miles and then taper will officially begin.

Downhill running: love it or hate it? Love it! Bring it on, Canyon City! And heck yeah, bring it on, Boston!

P.S. For any of you out there running REVEL Canyon City, the Glendora Ridge Runners are doing a preview run on the course tomorrow, Saturday October 17. They have said that all are welcome, not just club members, so check out the Glendora Ridge Runners Facebook page for more details.

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It’s official! This landed in my mailbox on Monday morning:

Boston Marathon acceptance

I should have been jumping for joy, but I was surprised to find that my joy was dampened by some other emotions. I remember all too well the feeling last year of getting a very different email, one that said my qualifying time of 3:44:26 did not meet the minus 1:02 cutoff for Boston 2015 and I would not get to race that year. I re-doubled my efforts and stayed strong at the end of the Phoenix Marathon last February to make sure that I qualified this year by more than the standard minus five minutes, coming in at 3:36:58 for a BQ minus 8:02. Online speculation predicts that this year’s cutoff will come in somewhere around minus 1:30 to 1:50, even harder than last year, and my heart goes out to all the people who worked so hard to beat the qualifying standard and yet will face the disappointment of that “we’re sorry to inform you” email. I hope the BAA comes up with a better solution, either by tightening the qualifying standards or figuring a way to expand the field safely to allow all qualifiers to register if desired. In the meantime, I will do my best to appreciate the opportunity to run the race. I am particularly grateful to my parents who generously offered to pay the $180 registration fee!

General Training Update

It feels very strange to be registered for my seventh marathon when I have yet to complete my sixth! I never do that! I always wait to see how I feel after a race to set my sights on my next goal and my next goal race. But this time I am in the middle of training for REVEL Canyon City, which takes place November 7, about 6.5 weeks from now! Training is going well, although I have regretted my choice of training plan this time around. I thrived on the Run Less, Run Faster and Smart Marathon Training plans that called for three targeted runs per week plus two cross-training sessions and some strength training. Bumping up to 4-5 runs per week plus training on some hills to get ready for Canyon City left me with a painful case of shin splints — medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) to be exact, which is a fancy way of saying pain on the inner part of the shin. I have managed to run through it over the past five weeks while trying many different remedies (rest, ice, compression socks, strength training) which I will be happy to share once I have beaten this overuse injury once and for all. I’m happy to report that this morning’s 8-mile run was my first completely pain-free run in a long time and it felt fabulous. I lost a bit of the joy of running when I was feeling the weight of injury, and it felt so freeing to run strong this morning (fingers crossed, knocking on wood).

Do you have an opinion on the Boston Marathon qualifying standards and registration process? Are you training for anything right now?

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Random fact about me: I’ve never paid for a race photo. I am just too darn thrifty and I’d rather put that money toward another race. They’re never the best photos of me anyway. Case in point, the free race photos from my last two races:

iCureMelanoma 5K

Downtown Anaheim 5K

I’m not sure what I was pointing to in that photo. Maybe I was signaling for help in catching my breath? Anyway I’m glad to have these free photos.

Training officially starts next week for the Revel Canyon City Marathon on November 7. This week was a transition week and I filled it in with an easy 5-mile run on Monday and a tempo run yesterday. Spell-check tried to correct that to “temper” run. I did almost have a temper tantrum because I was scared to run 3 miles at 7:46 pace, but I convinced myself to just get out the door for the two-mile warm up and then see how I feel. Two miles into any run I usually hit my stride and feel a lot better. It’s like my legs give in and say, “Fine, if you’re really going to do this, I’ll cooperate.” It went well and I tacked on another two miles of cool-down for a total of 7 miles.

Today the schedule said “Rest or cross-train.” I wanted a nap and was in fact resting on the couch but my six-year-old asked if we could do one of my workout videos. How did she know I needed some motivation? We did the Insanity – Cardio Abs workout. Perfect! 17 sweaty minutes. I really believe that strength training has made all the difference for me in racing. Not only does it help with injury prevention, it also helps maintain good form in those last miles of a race where the leg muscles need the support of several other muscles in the body.

Cheryl from Why Mom Runs is also starting training for a November 7 race, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. She laid out her race goals and inspired me to do the same. I always set out several goals:

1. Sub 3:55. The best thing about aging is bumping up an age group, and with that wacky Boston Marathon Qualifying math, even though I turn 44 in August, this is the year I move up to the 45-49 group for Boston 2017 and the qualifying time jumps from 3:45 to 3:55. I’ll take that advantage, thank you very much.

2. Sub 3:36:58. It would be nice to get a PR over my time from the 2015 Phoenix Marathon.

3. Sub 3:35. I’ve set my training runs/paces to hit a 3:35 time.

4. Sub 3:30. This is the in-my-wildest-dreams time. It would require perfect training, perfect weather, and perfect execution on race day, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if I plug my 3:36:58 time into the Marathon Time Converter from Find My Marathon, it says I could run Canyon City in 3:22:12, simply due to the advantage of the downhill profile of the course. But that comes with its own challenges. I am going to need to be careful about not going out too fast, not trashing my quads on the downhill, and not hitting the wall. Easier said than done. Plus I am taking a chance on a new training plan. I enjoyed the Run Less, Run Faster and Smart Marathon Training plans I used for my first five marathons, but this time I am going with the “Own It” marathon training plan from Train Like a Mother.

What training plan(s) have you used? What are you training for right now, if anything?

 

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When I started running four years ago, I followed a fairly natural progression. At first I trained for a sprint triathlon. I enjoyed all three disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. While I continued to train for triathlons, I also ran a stand-alone 5K, an 8K, a 10K and a half marathon over the course of the next year. Once I had trained up for the half marathon and liked it, I figured if I was ever going to run a marathon, that would be the time to do it. Five months later I ran my first marathon and was hooked. And so began three solid years of marathon training:

4:02:39 at the Santa Barbara International Marathon – Fall 2012
3:57:29 at the Mountains2Beach Marathon – Spring 2013
3:52:42 at the Long Beach Marathon – Fall 2013
3:44:26 at the Santa Rosa Marathon – Summer 2014 (BQ minus 34 seconds)
3:36:58 at the Phoenix Marathon – Winter 2015 (BQ minus 8:02)

Those last two races took a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy as I raced to qualify for Boston. When my qualifying time at Santa Rosa did not meet the cutoff to register for Boston 2015, I felt a huge sense of disappointment. I dedicated myself to training for the Phoenix Marathon six months later. It took an incredible amount of focus and commitment to finish that race strong and not give up on qualifying with several minutes to spare. I accomplished that goal, and yet I felt an odd sense of letdown. I think I burned out on training 10-11 hours a week with three runs (a 4-5 mile speed workout, an 8-mile tempo run, and a long run) and two bike rides (20-30 miles each) and strength training (40-60 minutes per week). The training worked, but it left me ready to take an extended break from regimented training.

So, I took the month of March off formal training. I went skiing with my family at Whistler (where I still took advantage of the trails to get a few runs in) and I engaged in marathon housecleaning sessions rather than marathon training sessions.

Rest is great, and there’s lots of research that says muscle memory and endurance make it easier for you to get fit again after a break than it was the first time you got fit. However, I have to say that it took me a good two months of regular training before I felt back on track again, so to speak. I held off signing up for my next race because I just wasn’t sure it was worth putting myself out there. Finally I decided I was just being chicken and I signed up for the Downtown Anaheim 5K a week from tomorrow.

After that, I will start training for my sixth full marathon, the REVEL Canyon City Full Marathon on November 7, 2015. I had such a fantastic run at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in 2014 that I couldn’t resist putting the full on my calendar this year. The challenge now is to train for the net -5,134 feet of downhill on the full marathon course. I take that very seriously and I plan to do at least a couple of long runs on the course to make sure I can handle the pounding on my quads on race day.

What’s up next for you? Have you ever taken a break from running? Do you like to have a training plan in place or do you enjoy the flexibility of some time off from formal training?

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If you don’t know what Yasso 800s are, you can listen to the man himself (Bart Yasso) explain how doing ten 800-meter repeats with 400-meter rest intervals in between can predict a runner’s potential marathon finish time: Yasso 800s.

I’d never done them before until today, when my workout called for 12x800m. After a one-mile warmup, I did 10x800m and called it good based on the time I had to do the 8.3-mile workout. I later determined that my pace averaged out to 3:34 per 800 meters. If you believe the ability of Yasso 800s to predict marathon finish time, that means I could finish the marathon in 3 hours and 34 minutes, which would be a 10-minute PR for me. That time is also what the McMillan Running Calculator predicts I could do the full marathon in based on my half marathon time at Revel Canyon City, and what the Marathon Time Converter says I could do at the Phoenix Marathon based on my 3:44:26 finish time at the Santa Rosa Marathon (which you might recall qualified me for the Boston Marathon but did not meet the cutoff to get me in to the race for 2015).

So, with 10 days to go until the Phoenix Marathon on February 28, this workout was just the confidence booster I needed. Tomorrow calls for 30 miles on the bike plus 20 minutes of strength training, and Friday calls for an 8-mile tempo run. After that it’s an easy “long” run of 6 miles (one mile warm up on Sunday morning plus the Brea 8K) and then an easy week of taper until the Phoenix Marathon on Saturday, February 28. Whee! After 5+ months of training, it’s hard to believe it’s almost here!

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