Week 15 of marathon training

Week 15 was probably the most challenging week of my training plan. I had a couple of 10-mile runs (one at marathon pace), an 8×800 workout, and my final 20-mile long run. I didn’t make things any easier by shifting my schedule around, causing me to run 9 days straight without a rest day. I survived though and my runs were a success, so I’m hoping it’s smooth sailing now as I begin to taper. Here’s what I did for week 15:

Monday: Ran 10 miles. I normally would have run 5 miles to start the week, but I shifted the previous week’s runs a day earlier so I’d be able to run 20 on Saturday this week. I ran on the trails at an easy pace, but it didn’t really feel like such an easy run. I got bored with the long, straight stretches of the Paint Creek and Clinton River Trails. I was okay physically. I just wasn’t very excited about the run mentally. I came across Matt when I had 3-4 miles left, and finishing with him definitely helped.

Tuesday: Ran 8 miles – an 8×800 workout. After running 10 miles the day before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my legs in terms of speed. I figured I’d run my repeats slower if I needed to. While I’ve done some of my 800s around a 6:40-6:50 pace, I told myself to aim for a 7:00 pace this time around. Now is not the time to get hurt, and I don’t need to push much faster than that if I’m aiming for a 3:35 marathon anyway. After warming up for a mile, I hit the track. I made it through all 8 repeats without a problem, averaging around 6:55 overall. I went as fast as a 6:49 pace and as slow as 6:57. I especially felt that the workout was a success because I didn’t walk at all during the recovery laps. When I’ve done 800s recently, I’ve been walking the first 100-200 meters of the recovery laps when I’ve found myself struggling to catch my breath. Maybe slowing the pace down just a bit helped enough to keep me from walking this time around. I was thrilled to complete what I considered the toughest workout run of my marathon training.

Wednesday: 40 minutes of strength training followed by a 3-mile run. I really debated if I should run or take the day off. Higdon’s schedule has workouts take place on Thursdays followed by a day off on Friday. I understand why, because I was feeling it after running the 800s. I felt okay for the most part, but my shins were pretty sore. I was supposed to run 5 miles, but compromised and ran 3 instead. I treated it like a recovery run and took it slow. I was fine and decided it would be wise to ice my shins afterwards.

Thursday: Ran 10 miles at marathon pace. I normally would have done this run on Saturday and 20 miles on Sunday. However, I was going to run 20 on Saturday instead. I really wanted to get the pace run in before my 20 and not the day after. Running 10 on Friday was not really an option. We were going to drive to Grand Rapids after work on Friday, so I couldn’t get the run in then. I start work way too early in the morning to squeeze in nearly an hour and a half of running beforehand. So, I shifted the run to Thursday. My work/running buddy Jeff kept offering to run with me, so I took him up on his offer. He’s super speedy, so maintaining my 8:13 pace was a breeze for him. We ran out and back on the Paint Creek Trail, and his company and distraction really helped. A few of the miles on the way out felt a little tough, but it felt better on the way back. With an 8:07 average, we hit my goal pace and then some. My legs felt a little stiff the next day, but they loosened up as the day went on.

Friday:  Rest. I think 9 days in a row is about the longest I’ve gone without taking a break from running. I needed the break!

Saturday: Ran 20 miles. When I first saw that Gazelle Sports was putting on a 10 and 20-mile training run, I was definitely interested. For $20, the training run allowed people to run a good chunk of the Grand Rapids Marathon course with aid stations, plus a special technical shirt from Saucony was included. We had plans to go to the west side of the state to visit family anyway. I mentioned it to Matt and he was interested, so we decided to sign up and get a hotel. We actually booked the same hotel that we’ll be staying in for the marathon, so this would be a true test run for the big race day. I’d never done an organized training run before and I was excited. I was especially excited to get a preview of parts of the course.

Map of the Grand Rapids Marathon training run

Map of the Grand Rapids Marathon training run

The training run started at 7:30, and our hotel was about 15-20 minutes away. Yet another crazy early morning! The run was based out of the YMCA, which is where the marathon will start as well. We got there about half an hour early to pick up our shirts and bibs. Although it was not a race, they gave us bibs so they could track people in case of an emergency. I would guess at least 200 people were there.

Gathering before the start of the run

Gathering before the start of the run

Don Kern, the director of the Grand Rapids Marathon, was there and talked to the crowd before the start of the run. We lucked out with the weather – it was in the low 50s and clear. Since this wasn’t a race, the start was kind of uneventful. The crowd got moving and Matt and I followed. The roads were not closed, but we only spent about a mile in town before we hit trails. There was very little traffic at that hour anyway. The crowd was so big that half of us were on the road and half of us were on the sidewalk. The first mile or two was a little slow, but then people spread out a bit more. Matt is training for the half marathon, so he signed up for the 10-mile run. It was an out and back course, so he was able to go out a little farther before he turned around to get more than 10 miles in. We ran the first 5-6 miles together which helped pass the time.

Most of the run was on the Kent Trails / Indian Mounds Rd. It is basically a paved bike path, and we had run on a portion of it when we did the River Bank Run 25K in May. It’s a tree-covered path that’s very pretty and peaceful. As the 20-mile runners got farther out, we went through a park and along a main road before turning around and retracing our steps. When I got back to the bike path, the pretty and peaceful aspect was harder to appreciate as I got tired and bored. That stretch is pretty desolate. On the way out, I always had a number of people close by. People were much more spread out on the way back. Miles 15-17 were the toughest for me. Although my pace was still decent, my splits slowed down for those 3 miles and it was more of a struggle. As we got out of the tree-covered portion, I stopped at an aid station around 15.5 miles. Most of the stations were unmanned, and people could help themselves to water, Gatorade, oranges, Oreos, and pickle juice. That station didn’t have the snacks, so I put some extra water in one of my bottles and kept going. I had it in my head that I needed to at least try some of the Oreos. I wanted to wait until later in the run in case they didn’t sit well. About a mile later I hit another aid station. There was a friendly volunteer and that table had Oreos. It was the one thing I had to look forward to at that point in the run! I stopped my watch for a couple minutes and ate a couple Oreos as I stretched. They were wonderful, and then I trotted on happily. It’s possible that the Oreos boosted my mood and/or blood sugar, or the stretching and brief break helped my legs. Maybe it was some of both. My pace picked back up for the remaining 3 miles or so and I had a strong finish.

There was a table about a mile from the finish where a guy from Gazelle cheered for the runners very loudly and enthusiastically. He made me smile and I’m sure that helped too. Right around the corner, I ran into Matt. He had come out to help run me in. I knew that I had less than a mile left and I got pretty excited. I was about to finish 20 solid miles and I felt good! It felt very empowering to finish those 20 miles. I realized that I don’t care what kind of pace I run for the marathon. I’m just going to feel so excited that I’ve done it when I finish.

At the end of the run, there were bottles of water, apples, and some bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. We hung out for a little bit, then headed to the car where I also had a Clif Builder’s Bar to eat. I found out that Matt had been able to swap my t-shirt, and I was thrilled. For some odd reason, small shirts were white while all of the other sizes were orange. White shirts are usually my least favorite and often seem to be see-through. I signed up for a small since that’s typically my size even though I knew I’d be stuck with white. They had extra shirts afterwards, so Matt asked if he could swap for an extra small. I was worried it could be too small, but it was actually just right. I really like the design of the shirt, so I was happy I’d actually want to wear it.

Front of the shirt plus my bib

Front of the shirt plus my bib

Back of the shirt

I was really glad we did this training run. I knew if Gazelle was involved, it would be a good event. When it comes to running stores, Gazelle is one of the best. They have locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Holland. When we’re on the west side of the state, we love to stop there.

Sunday: Ran 5 miles. Matt and I ran 5 miles together near the Battle Creek area, where we were visiting family. I thought my legs would surely struggle after 20 the day before. It was a nice surprise that I held up just fine.

Totals for the week: Strength training once, ran 56 miles.

I’d like to think I’ve made it through the hardest part now…aside from the marathon, of course. Aside from some aches and pains (my shins and my left hip) I’m holding up pretty good. I’m feeling confident and I’m looking forward to cutting back on the miles as I taper for the next few weeks.

– Janet

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Week 14 of marathon training

Week 14 was a stepback week with reduced mileage. During the week, I mostly ran 5 or 6 miles. My long weekend run was 12 miles. It was a relief to cut back a bit after last Sunday’s Romeo 2 Richmond Half Marathon. I pushed so hard during that race that I was cautious going into the next week of training. Here’s how it went:

Monday: Ran 5 easy miles on the trail. This was the day after the half marathon, and it’s probably one of the slowest runs I’ve done during this training segment. I wasn’t sure if I should even run, but figured I’d take it easy and give it a try. My calves were tight and I felt stiff. Around 3.5 miles I began to feel my left achilles. That’s never been a problem for me, so I took it extra slow. I iced my shins a bit and wore my calf/shin compression sleeves to bed and to work the next day.

Tuesday: Rest. I was supposed to run 6 miles, but thought taking the day off would be smart. Now is not the time to get injured!

Wednesday: 40 minutes of strength training followed by a 6-mile run. I listened to a Dave & Chuck podcast at the gym, and that’s not always the best idea. Laughing while lifting heavy things is not a good combination. It does keep the workout entertaining though. I went home and decided to try running the 6 miles I had on the schedule for yesterday. I felt a bit better, though my calves were still a bit tight and my shins were stiff. I was slow, but not as slow as I was on Monday. I used the foam roller and wore my compression sleeves to bed again.

Thursday: Ran 7.5 miles. I had a 45-minute tempo run on the schedule. I kept debating whether I should try the run outside or on the treadmill. I ultimately chose the treadmill because I thought I’d have more success hitting the paces. It’s way more challenging for me to do a tempo run and control the pace on my own than it is to mindlessly set the treadmill and just do it. It was the easy way out for me. I ran a mile to warm up, starting above a 9-minute pace. I cut down to 8:27, which is where I started the tempo portion. I ran a half mile at 8:27 and cut down each half mile for the next 5.5 miles – 8:20, 8:13, 8:06, 8:00, 7:53, 7:47, 7:41, 7:35, 7:30, and 7:24. It started to feel hard when I hit the 8-minute pace, but at some point I must have gotten into the flow and the rest wasn’t too bad. I was working hard by the end, but I was able to maintain it. I did a mile to cool down, and the run was a success. I wondered if I’d be able to pull it off because my calves were still a bit sore, but I was okay.

Friday: Ran 6 easy miles. Friday is usually my day off, but since I took Tuesday off, I kind of swapped rest days. I decided to switch my schedule around a bit and move my weekend runs a day earlier this weekend to allow me to run 20 miles next Saturday rather than Sunday. It was on the verge of raining when I was ready to run and there was a chance for storms, so I ran on the treadmill again. Of course the storms never came, but it did rain. I seem to do better on the treadmill when I try to run faster. This was a slow and easy run, and I didn’t have a good rhythm half the time. It wasn’t super enjoyable, but I got it done.

Saturday: Ran 12.5 miles. It wasn’t too warm outside, so I slept in a bit and started my run later. Luckily this run felt fine despite running 6 miles the night before. We live along the Brooksie Way course, so I saw a bunch of signs notifying people that the race is coming.

Brooksie sign

Brooksie sign

I mapped a route that would take me to the cool boardwalk area I had discovered a month or so ago. I enjoyed the distraction of the nice scenery for a little bit.

Brooksie sign

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

Sunday: 40 minutes of strength training followed by a 5-mile run. I’ve been doing strength training on my shortest run days lately, and with only 5 to run today, it seemed like a good time to hit the gym first. Matt was running 8 miles, so he started a little earlier and we met up for the last 5 of his run. It was in the 50s with a breeze and sunny, so it was a beautiful day for running. We did much of the run along the Paint Creek Trail.

Just off the Paint Creek Trail

Just off the Paint Creek Trail

Just off the Paint Creek Trail

Just off the Paint Creek Trail

A friendly kitty on the trail

A friendly kitty on the trail

We took it nice and easy because I have 10 miles on the schedule on Monday.

Totals for the week: 42 miles of running and strength training twice.

Luckily I seemed to recover okay from the Romeo 2 Richmond race. I was a little iffy for a few days, but a day off early in the week and easy runs helped. This next week will be the peak of my marathon training. I’ll be doing a couple of 10-mile runs, 8 x 800s, and my final 20-mile run. I will approach 60 miles by the end of the week. If I can survive the week, it should be smooth sailing the rest of the way. Only 4 weeks to go!

– Janet

Romeo 2 Richmond Half Marathon race recap

Sunday, September 15th was the day of the Romeo 2 Richmond Half Marathon, and it also happened to be my birthday. I managed to PR by 2.5 minutes, so it was an excellent way to celebrate!

When I first considered this race, it was half because it would be fun to race on my birthday and half because it would help me get through a big chunk of my second 20-mile training run for the Grand Rapids Marathon. I was supposed to run 10 miles at marathon pace the day before, and 20 the day of the race. I was thinking that I’d add on the extra 7 miles and take it easy during the race. As race day approached, I realized it was going to be nice and cool. Combine that with a fast, flat course, and it makes for perfect racing conditions. I knew it would be hard to discipline myself and not truly race it. I opted to still run 10 miles the day before, but took it easy. I’d save the marathon pace for race day and push it harder if I had it in me.

Matt signed up for the half as well, and we headed out to Richmond early on Sunday morning. Packet pickup was available on Saturday morning in Romeo, and we were strongly encouraged to go then. We were told that it would save us from having to stand in line on race day. We didn’t want to make the extra trip, so we waited until the morning of the race. We got to Richmond High School a little before 7am and got our packets quickly and easily. Because the race raises money for the Macomb Food Program, we took some canned goods with us to the pickup.

Romeo 2 Richmond race t-shirt

Romeo 2 Richmond race t-shirt

They had technical shirts which actually had different cuts for men and women. They didn’t mention the different sizing when we signed up for the race, so luckily the size did work out for me. The packets included a drawstring bag with some goodies like animal crackers, trail mix, pretzels, and the usual coupons and flyers.

There were bathrooms in a building by the football field with no wait, but that’s probably because it was still an hour and a half before the start of the race. Since this was a point-to-point race, busses ran from 7-7:30 to take us out to Romeo. We found our friend Jeff, a speedy runner who I sit next to at work, and got on a bus easily. It was about 7:45 when we got to the park in Romeo, and the race was due to start at 8:30. I had decided to run 3 miles to warm up prior to the race. Rather than try to run the full 20 miles on my schedule, I’d run 16 miles and figure that the harder effort would help make up for fewer miles.

It was a cool morning around 55 degrees, so I had a jacket to leave at the gear check. They gave us garbage bags for our stuff and bussed them back to Richmond. Matt, Jeff, and I headed out on the Macomb Orchard Trail to run 3 miles to warm up. We went out 1.5 miles and got a preview of the first little part of the race route. When we got back, we had a good 10-15 minutes to spare before the start of the race. We knew a bunch of people at this race and chatted a bit as we headed out to the start. Everyone was gathered in a park/field area right by the trail, but the race actually started a good quarter mile or so up the trail. There’s a bit of an incline where the trail crosses over M-53, and we started right in the middle of the incline. The chip-timed race started right at 8:30, and we took off up the short hill. After we got over M-53, there was a nice little downhill stretch that made for a speedy start. After that, the trail flattened out and stayed that way.

The elevation chart for the race

The elevation chart for the race

The Macomb Orchard Trail is a nice paved path that mostly runs through some woodsy areas with a few farm-like areas with cornfields. People can probably run about 4 wide. With a little over 300 people running the half, there was a little bit of dodging and weaving at the start. It wasn’t bad, and people spread out soon enough. Luckily, it didn’t seem like there were many (or any?) non-racers out on the trail. At one of the first crossroads, I was surprised to see a co-worker there with his kids calling out my name! It was a great surprise that gave me a little boost and kept me smiling for a bit.

Considering how I’d run 10 miles the day before and was approaching the end of a 52-mile week, I wasn’t sure how I might hold up. I hoped to at least run at my goal marathon pace, which is 8:13. I actually ran 8:13 for the first mile, sped up a little for the next couple miles, then ran a sub-8 pace for the rest of the race. After the first mile or so, I ended up behind a couple of guys who were running about the same pace. I usually get uncomfortable if I’m hanging too close to people, but they both happened to be running a pace that was just right for me. We only chatted for a minute early on, and I learned that one of the guys was aiming for an 8-minute pace. That sounded good to me, and I joked that hopefully he’d pull me along. Although we weren’t talking, it was actually kind of nice to have them around. They were going at a good, steady pace and I think it helped keep me consistent. I was probably by one of the guys for almost 10 miles. There were a few miles in the low 7:50s, and I worried that I might be pushing too fast too early. I wanted to be a bit conservative for at least the first half of the race, and I’d step it up later on if I had it in me.

I’ve never eaten anything during a half marathon before, but wanted to practice for my marathon. I ate a few Honey Stinger Chews around 4.5 miles when I got hungry. At that point I’d actually run a total of 7.5 miles for the day. I ate a few more about 6 miles later, and switched between drinking GU Brew and water that I had in my hydration belt. The belt might seem heavy and obnoxious, but I’ve gotten used to it and really like being able to drink whenever I want to.

When I reached the 10-mile mark and I’d held up consistently in the 7:50s, I decided it was time to give that extra push for the last 5K. I dropped to a 7:39, 7:27, and 7:11 for the last 3 miles. Somehow I dropped down to a 6:43 pace for the last .16 miles! That’s about the fastest I can run Yasso 800s, and I didn’t realize I’d picked it up that much. It was definitely a hard effort for the last little bit. I had the race a little long on my Garmin, probably from my weaving at the start. My official time was 1:43:09.7, which shaved 2.5 minutes off my previous best time!

My splits

My splits

I was thrilled with my time. I knew I was well overdue to crush my half marathon PR, but kind of shocked myself that I could finish that strong. When I can hit my 5K pace at the end of 13 miles, I feel like I’ve definitely done something right. In the spring, I ran the Fifth Third River Bank Run 25K at a 7:50 pace and beat my half PR within that race. It was nice to finally be able to beat my PR officially though. The 25K was the most successfully executed race I’d run at that point. I started out a little slower than goal pace, picked it up and held it through the middle, then finished strong. I took a similar approach during this race, and it paid off yet again. It’s a really great feeling to finish a race feeling so strong. I probably still need to find the right balance so that I don’t have THAT much energy at the end though. Maybe I should push my pace a tad bit more a little earlier. It’s always a learning experience!

The finish

The finish

I collected my sweet medal at the end and got a bottle of water. Matt had finished just a bit before me and found me right after I finished.

Romeo 2 Richmond medal

Romeo 2 Richmond medal

The medal features the barn-like covering over M-53 at the start of the race

The medal features the barn-like covering over M-53 at the start of the race

I went right for the food to see what was available. I got some apple cider, apple slices, a banana, and a bagel. The guy I’d been running by for the first 10 miles came over and we talked for a bit. He managed to hit the 8-minute pace he’d been aiming for and PRed. In addition, he got an age group award. It’s always fun to talk with people at races and realize how friendly and supportive most people are. Most of us are out there trying to achieve our own individual goals and racing against ourselves – not each other.

This race awarded age groups by every 10 years and I was 5th out of 48 women 30-39. Had they used 5-year age groups, I would have pulled off a third place finish. Oh well! I have never placed in a half marathon and wasn’t expecting it anyway. Matt and I hung out for a bit to talk to friends, and it was fun to see so many people we knew.

Me with my medal

Me with my medal

When we left, we went to Dairy Queen to gain back some of those calories we’d burned. After that, we hit a cider mill for some donuts. Running a half marathon on my birthday was a great idea because it helped me justify eating a whole bunch of junk food without feeling too guilty!

Although it may have been a little risky to race so hard during marathon training, I’m glad I did. It makes me wonder how much more potential I still have when it comes to racing a half. If I don’t run 10 miles the day before and I’m not in the heart of marathon training, I can probably shave even more time off. This race left me feeling even better about my upcoming marathon. Apparently Hal Higdon’s Advanced 1 plan is working wonders for me!

– Janet

Week 13 of marathon training

My 13th week of training is complete, and I now have 5 weeks until the Grand Rapids Marathon. Higdon’s Advanced 1 training plan is still going well. A week of 50+ miles ending with a half marathon PR tells me that it must be working! Here’s what I did for week 13:

Monday: 40 minutes of strength training followed by an easy 4-mile run on the trail.

Tuesday: 10 miles on the treadmill. I think 10 miles is about the most I’ve ever done on a treadmill. Somehow I survived. My car said it was 100 degrees outside when I left work, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I debated between suffering in the heat versus suffering on the treadmill, and the treadmill seemed like the better option. I usually survive the treadmill best when I do intervals because changing the pace every half mile or so gives me something to strive for. This was supposed to be an easy run, so I started around a 9-minute pace, worked down to an 8-minute pace for half a mile, then slowed down to around a 9-minute pace to finish.

My key to treadmill survival lately is to listen to funny podcasts. Dave & Chuck the Freak keep me distracted and entertained. The tricky part is that sometimes they crack me up so much that I laugh out loud. Of course they had me laughing when I was trying to maintain an 8-minute pace, so that was a bit challenging. I also listened to a Patcast for part of the run. Pat Monahan, lead singer of the band Train, interviews people and does a song or two with them. This Patcast featured Matt Nathanson, one of my favorite musicians. Matt is practically a comedian too, so I was very entertained. I was thankful for these podcasts because they helped me survive an hour and 25 minutes on the treadmill!

Wednesday: 30 minutes of strength training followed by 5 miles on the treadmill. It was crazy hot outside again and storms were on the way. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to beat the storms, so it was another treadmill day. I listened to music this time around and varied my speed again to keep it somewhat tolerable. The storms were pretty bad when I left the gym, so I definitely made the right choice.

Thursday: Ran 7 hill repeats and made it to 7.5 miles total. Luckily the temperatures dropped to the high 70s by the time I started this run. Hill workouts are already intimidating enough, so I was glad I didn’t have to worry about the heat as well. I ran a couple miles on the trail to warm up, then hit the hill. I was not excited about doing hill repeats at all. However, when the first couple weren’t too bad, it made me feel better about it.

I always like the look of the elevation chart when I do hill repeats.

I always like the look of the elevation chart when I do hill repeats.

I made it through the workout just fine and aimed to do a couple miles to cool down. By that point, it was getting pretty cloudy and I knew rain was coming soon. I knew I should stick close to home in case I had to bail on the cool down, yet somehow I convinced myself to run a mile down the trail. That was a bad idea, because of course the rain started once I was exactly a mile out. There was quite a downpour and I was drenched pretty quickly. It can be kind of fun to run in the rain until the mixture of sweat and water gets into my eyes. When my eyes start to burn, it’s not so fun anymore. Instead of running a nice cool down pace, I went faster than I should have following the hill workout. As a result, I aggravated my shin problem.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Ran 10 easy miles on the trail. My schedule called for 10 miles at marathon pace. That was originally my plan, then I’d run 20 miles on Sunday. I planned to run the Romeo 2 Richmond half marathon at an easy pace on Sunday. I realized the weather was going to be nice and cool on Sunday, and I knew the race course was flat and fast. I had a feeling it would be difficult to discipline myself and take it easy during the race. I decided I should run Saturday’s 10 miles at an easy pace and save the faster pace for Sunday. It was nice and cool Saturday morning, so I didn’t feel the need to get up early to beat the heat. That meant I finally got a solid 9 hours of sleep – that never happens anymore! I ran into running buddies Jeff (see his blog at Detroit Runner) and Kevin right after I started, so I ran with them for a few miles as they finished their 20-mile run. It was nice to have the company. I also got to see a couple of police horses on the trail, and that made me smile.

Sunday: Ran 16 miles between the Romeo 2 Richmond half marathon and a warm up run. I had my second 20-mile run on the schedule. However, I had decided I would run 3 miles before the race and give a pretty solid effort during the race. Even though that would only get me to 16 miles total, I figured the hard effort would help make up for a few less miles. I didn’t know how hard I’d be able to run, but hoped I’d at least run at marathon pace. I did run marathon pace…for the first mile. After that, my pace was roughly 10-20 seconds under marathon pace for a good portion of the run. I ended up with a new PR by over 2.5 minutes! Hopefully I’ll write a recap of the race in the next few days.

Totals for the week: 52.7 miles of running and strength training twice.

I was pretty thrilled with the results of this week’s training. I knew I was well overdue to break my half marathon PR, but didn’t expect to do it by 2.5 minutes at the end of a week with 50+ miles. I probably pressed my luck by running the race so hard, and I’m hoping it doesn’t set me back in my training at all. I have another down week coming up, so hopefully that will help me recover. I’m pretty excited about how well training has gone so far, and I just need to keep it up for 5 more weeks.

– Janet

Week 12 of marathon training

Another week of training for the Grand Rapids Marathon is in the books. Although it was a stepback week, it felt challenging enough. That’s partially because I was coming off a hard week last week, and because I squeezed all of the runs in without taking a day off until Sunday. Here’s what I did for week 12:

Monday: Ran 4 miles. I had the day off for Labor Day and chose to sleep in. By the time I got out, the sun was pretty warm, but half of my route was in the shade anyway. My quads were still sore from the Milford 30K, but I felt them more on stairs than I did while running.

Tuesday: Ran 8 miles – 7 x 800 repeats plus warm up and cool down. Matt and I hit the track to do a speed workout. Matt has paced me through a few of my track workouts, but I know he needs to get some practice running his own (much faster) repeats. I knew I needed to work on hitting the right pace on my own. The last time I did 800s, I feel like I pushed a bit harder than I should have. Following the Yasso 800s rule, if I run 10 800s at a time of 3:30 each (a 7:00 pace), it can be predicted that I might be capable of a 3:30 marathon. Since I’m aiming for roughly 3:35, I probably don’t need to run my 800s much faster than a 7:00 pace. I ran 6:43 and faster last time, so I aimed to keep myself slower this time around.

I thought a slower pace should be easy enough to maintain, but this was still a tough workout. My legs were probably still recovering from the hard 20 I ran on Saturday. Despite tired legs, I stayed pretty consistent, hitting paces of 6:54-6:58. I’d settled on a goal of 6:50-7:00, so I was right on track. I did 400m jogs in between repeats to recover, incorporating some walking after my third or fourth 800. I struggled to catch my breath after a few repeats and the walking helped. I figure if I could still pull this off with such tired legs, I’m in pretty good shape.

Wednesday: 40 minutes of strength training followed by 5 miles on the treadmill. After the previous day’s workout, I made sure to take it slow and easy for this run.

Thursday: Ran 6 miles. I kept this trail run easy because I planned to run 6 more miles the next morning.

Friday: Ran 6 miles at marathon pace. Friday is usually my rest day, but with family plans on Sunday, I thought it would be best to shift my rest day to Sunday. Doing this run in the morning meant a ridiculously early treadmill run. I wondered if I’d be pressing my luck doing my Thursday and Friday 6-mile runs only 10 hours apart, but it all worked out. I averaged just under my marathon pace and felt good.

Work was busy and I kept moving all day, keeping me from crashing too hard from the super early morning. By the time I got out of the car after my drive home, it was a different story. I was wiped out. We were supposed to go to a concert, but I was so tired I bailed on those plans. I guess I can’t do it ALL!

Saturday: Ran 12 miles. The idea of 12 miles as my long run seemed easy in theory since I’d done 20 last weekend. After so many consecutive days of running, it was still a bit intimidating. Matt and I did most of this run together. We ventured out to some dirt roads for part of the run. It’s always fun to see that we have more isolated farm country so close to an area that’s so busy. We also ran by the Rochester Museum and Van Hoosen Farm. It’s really pretty around there, so I took several photos.

Van Hoosen Farm

Van Hoosen Farm

Stream by the Rochester Museum

Stream by the Rochester Museum

A bridge behind the Rochester Museum

A bridge behind the Rochester Museum

More by the museum

More by the museum

A path leading from the farm back towards downtown Rochester

A path leading from the farm back towards downtown Rochester

I averaged about 30 seconds above race pace for this one, and ran the last mile just above race pace. So, it was definitely a good run. It’s usually a good sign when I can finish strong.

Sunday: Rest (phew!)

Totals for the week: 41 miles of running, strength training once.

I ran 8 days in a row without a break thanks to my schedule shuffling. Prior to marathon training, I worried that running 3 back-to-back days might make my shin problem unbearable. Running 8 days in a row and still feeling okay tells me that I’ve made a lot of progress.

By Friday, I was especially hungry and thirsty. I guess running 6 miles Thursday night followed by 6 miles Friday morning can explain that. I didn’t have a big dinner or a big breakfast after either run, so I was ready for a second lunch by 2:00 on Friday. I am lucky enough to sit next to someone at work who is also training for a marathon, so we were both trying to get our hands on any food we could!

With my second 20-mile run coming up next weekend, I decided to sign up for the Romeo to Richmond half marathon. The Milford 30K was perfect to work into a 20-mile training day because I only had to add 1.4 miles to get the full distance. I’ll have to add 7 miles to get to my full distance next Sunday. The race follows the Macomb Orchard Trail, so I will probably try to get 7 in on the trail before the race starts. I think the race atmosphere is a good way to get through a long run. Plus, it happens to fall on my birthday. When I’m lucky enough to celebrate my birthday on a weekend, it seems fitting to run a race. I did that last year by running the Rochester Rotary 10K. That course was short and I wasn’t totally thrilled with the organization of the race, but it was still fun. I’m expecting a much more organized and enjoyable experience with this year’s birthday run. With 10 miles at race pace the day before, I should have pretty tired legs and will not be racing this one.

On to another busy week of running 50+ miles!

– Janet

Week 11 of marathon training

This past week was another big one. It was my first time going over 50 miles in one week. All of this training brought a major high for monthly mileage as well – 210 miles for August. Somehow I’m still holding up. Here’s what week 11 looked like in training for the Grand Rapids Marathon:

Monday: 40 minutes of strength training followed by 4 easy miles on the treadmill. My shins were pretty sore after running 9 miles at marathon pace over the weekend, and they didn’t get any better after adding on 19 miles the next day. I took it extra easy on the treadmill and held up pretty well.

Tuesday: 7.5 miles on the treadmill. It was hot and humid outside, so I chose to stay inside. I had a 45-minute tempo run on the schedule and I always seem to do these workouts best on the treadmill. During marathon training, I’ve been running my tempo runs as cutdowns rather than maintaining a specific pace the whole time. I warmed up for a mile, then did a 5.5-mile cutdown run. I started the first half mile at an 8:27 pace and sped up each half mile, ending with a 7:24 pace for the final half mile. I finished up with a cool down mile. It was a solid run.

The run started out on a good note when OK Go’s video for “Here It Goes Again” began playing on one of the gym’s TVs right as I started. I didn’t start my own music until the video was done. It’s a song on my running playlist anyway! If there’s a chance you haven’t already seen this video, you should check it out. If you have seen it, you should check it out again anyway because it’s always fun to watch. At least I think it is.

Wednesday: Ran 5 miles on the trail. I was glad that I “only” had 5 miles to run because it was pretty hot outside. In addition, we had gone to a concert the night before and I was pretty tired. I took it easy, and staying in the shade for much of the run helped too.

Thursday: Ran 10 miles. I was a bit worried about running 10 miles after work when it was close to 90 degrees and sunny at the start. I’ve gotten a lot better at taking it slow during my runs. During summer runs in the past, I’d sometimes crash pretty hard. I’ve developed a much better feel for judging how fast I should really go in order to maintain my pace. One of my guides is my breathing. I know that if I’m huffing and puffing early, it will probably get ugly later. If I run at a pace where I don’t hear my breathing, it will probably be easy enough for me to maintain the pace. I ran the trails for a bit and neighborhoods for a bit for some variety. I did go through the full 21 oz. of GU Brew I brought. It was definitely a warm one. My pace at the end of the run was about the same as the pace at the beginning, and I wasn’t dying at the end. I considered it a success.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Ran 20.14 miles. I ran 1.4 miles to warm up, then the Milford 30K. Read that recap here.

Sunday: Ran 10 miles. The way my schedule is set up, I normally would have run 10 miles on Saturday followed by 20 on Sunday. I swapped the runs due to the race, and wasn’t sure I’d actually be able to pull off 10. My shins were a bit sore and my quads were feeling it after all of the hills during the race. One bonus is that I finally got some decent sleep – probably 8-9 hours. I rarely get that much anymore and it was really nice. I headed out for the run without any big expectations, sticking to the flat trails. It was super humid and I went slow. Somehow I made it through the full 10 miles successfully, and it was actually a decent run.

I tried to do a good amount of stretching after the run. Our pal Romeo always seems to show up whenever I roll, stretch, or do any kind of exercises on the floor. He seems to have a special radar and shows up almost immediately, making it difficult for me to do whatever I’m trying to do.

He kind of gets in the way

He kind of gets in the way

Totals for the week: Ran 56.6 miles, did strength training once.

I’ve come to accept that I’m not going to fit much cross-training in during marathon training. At a minimum, I will make sure I always get weights in at least once a week though. Aside from shin and quad soreness, I’m doing pretty good after such a crazy week. I only have 2 more weeks of training within my plan that will be this action-packed. This coming week will be a down week, which will be a big relief.  Only 7 weeks to go!

– Janet

Milford Labor Day 30K race recap

I’d been warned that the Milford Labor Day 30K tends to be hot and very hilly, but I’m not sure any warning could have prepared me for how tough the hills were on this course. Bottom line – this race was TOUGH.

When I realized I had 20 miles coming up the weekend of this race, I began to debate if I should sign up for it to get me through the training run. I kept going back and forth, monitoring the weather constantly. With an 8am start, I was concerned that I might want to start running earlier for a 20-mile run. The race was to take place on Saturday (August 31), and I finally decided on Thursday night to go for it.

I left the house after 6am on Saturday to make the trek to Milford and got there just before 7am. The timing worked out just fine, and volunteers directed the parking. There was plenty of parking in the lots surrounding Baker’s, and large fields provided overflow parking for those who arrived later. Baker’s is a banquet hall that acted as the central gathering place for the events. It was possible to pick up packets the evening before the race, but it wasn’t worth the extra trip for me. It was quick and easy to get my packet the morning of the race. There were a few tables with flyers and things available, and people could register the morning of the race as well.

Baker's of Milford

Baker’s of Milford

Here’s a picture of the shirt. It’s a technical shirt that’s pretty thin – you can see the print from the back right through it. It probably won’t be one of my favorite shirts, but it will be a good one when I want to be visible!

Race shirt

Race shirt

It almost felt like a triathlon kind of atmosphere because of all of the bikes. In addition to the 30K run, there was a 30K bike, a 10K run, a half-mile kids run, and a 30/30 challenge – 30K of biking followed by 30K of running. The events were all staggered, with the bikers for the 30/30 challenge starting at 7:15. The people only biking the 30K started at 7:45, and the 30K run started at 8:00.

I went back to the car and got my hydration belt ready. I kept my bottles in an insulated bag with ice to try to keep them cold as long as possible. I went back to Baker’s to wait in the restroom line for about 10 minutes. It was nice to have the option of indoor restrooms, and Porta-Potties were available outside as well. After that, I took off for a warm up run. Since I had 20 miles on the schedule, I chose to run 1.4 miles to warm up before the race. I never like to do a cool down afterwards – I just want to be done and eat, haha. I knew the race would probably be longer than 18.6 miles since it was a certified course, but went for 1.4 nonetheless. Baker’s is right by an entrance to Kensington Metropark, so I crossed the street and ran on a paved path through the park. At my turnaround point, I stopped for photos.

Kensington

Kensington

Since it’s a bit of a hike from where we live, I’ve never run around Kensington. From what I saw, it would be a great place to run.

I finished my warm up with a little over 10 minutes to spare before the start of the race. Runners gathered on the road, and I positioned myself somewhere in the middle. I had no intention of racing this one. I wanted to keep my pace under control and use it as a slow long run. I figured if I had it in me, I could pick up the pace a bit later in the run. I really wanted to concentrate on making it through my first 20-mile run successfully, and without pushing so hard that it would set back any of my upcoming training.

The race started up Milford Road and took us into the downtown village area. The roads were partially closed for us pretty much up until we hit the dirt road portions. The downtown was fun to run through, and I enjoyed looking at all of the shops and restaurants. We ran through some neighborhoods as well, which is where the real hills began. I suppose it’s probably no coincidence that hills can be found on Summit Street. That stretch came between 3 and 4 miles, where we climbed nearly 100 feet in about .3 miles. There was a brief reprieve before hitting another short but steep incline. We got a break from the hills for a couple miles as we made our way out to the dirt roads around the Highland State Recreation Area. There were houses in spots, but eventually we got to some backroads that were out in the middle of nowhere. It was really pretty and peaceful running through the woods. It was also nice and shady.

An idea of what the course looked like, thanks to Google Maps

An idea of what the course looked like, thanks to Google Maps

At some point, bikers came up the road in the opposite direction. It was when we had a nice downhill break for running, but they had to bike uphill. I’m not sure how much of their course was the same as ours since I only saw them a couple times. I knew I sure wouldn’t want to climb the hills on my bike though, and I can’t even imagine biking a course like that, only to follow it up with the run. I give major props to the people who did the 30/30 challenge.

People were spread out pretty good where I was running. I always had people not too far ahead and not too far behind, but not many actually near me. The people at the aid stations were wonderful, and they were about the only people we saw along much of the course because it was in such an isolated area. Even though I had a couple of 21 oz. bottles in my belt, I chose to stop at a bunch of the aid stations because I’m not sure my drinks alone will get me through a full marathon. I wanted to practice stopping, and I clearly needed the practice. After a couple of attempts where I just spilled water all over myself, I decided it’s best if I just walk through as I take a couple sips. Eventually I knew I’d have plenty to drink in my bottles to get through this race, so I quit making the stops.

The hills started again after 5.5 miles. At that point, we had another 100-foot climb over about .3 miles. We climbed a little from 8-10 miles, and the next super steep hill came before 11 miles. After that one, we had a nice downhill portion. I was shocked when I finished the 12th mile and saw an 8:17 split, but it makes sense when I see that the mile was all downhill. Just after the 13-mile mark, we climbed about 130 feet for a little over a mile. The hard part about this course was the steepness of the hills. 5 or 6 of the hills just felt brutal. I’m not sure any elevation chart can fully explain how hard it truly felt. It was like doing steep hill repeats throughout 18+ miles. In races, it always seems like the smallest hills feel tough. In this race, the large hills felt extremely tough!

My Garmin elevation chart (click to see more detail)

My Garmin elevation chart (click to see more detail)

I had been warned that the placement of the hills also made things tough near the end. As I hit the super steep hill around 16 miles, I understood. I’d been told that a running buddy who is really speedy and typically places pretty high in races even had to stop to walk up one of the hills near the end. That helped me feel no shame about deciding to walk up that hill. I tried to run, but realized that I was going so slow I may as well walk anyway. I also walked half of another hill that came around 17.5 miles. At that point, I had just turned a corner and saw it up ahead. I couldn’t help but think, “Are you kidding me? Another? Now?” That was the last one, so at least I had the last mile to redeem myself. I had the boost of a downhill portion, then as I ran up Milford Road, I could see the finish up ahead. I had enough in me to surge for the final mile or so. It was a nice feeling to know that as much as I’d felt beat up during the hills, I still had more left in me.

I ended up finishing in 2:41:47. My Garmin said I ran 18.74 (rather than 18.6), which was good for an 8:38 average pace. The fluctuations in my pace can be explained by the hilly portions!

My splits

My splits

I was definitely happy with that. The previous week I ran what I thought was a hilly route with a pace of 8:43. I’m glad I’ve been working some hills into my training or this could have been really ugly. My definition of hilly may change after having run this race. The Brooksie Way half marathon is known for its tough hills. After this race, Brooksie’s hills practically seem like a breeze!

After pacing around a bit to cool down, I went to check out the food. I downed a couple cups of Gatorade and got a bottle of water. I tried a banana, but it wasn’t too appealing to me. They also had some oranges. They were grilling a bunch of things, so I got a burger and some chips.

Yum!

Yum!

The post-race area

The post-race area

Beer was available as well. However, I was distracted by the Dairy Queen across the street. I just had to go over to get a nice big Blizzard. That was a great treat to have following my burger. I ran into a runner I know, chatted for a bit, then checked results. I was 5th in my age group (and 96th out of 332), so no award…not that I was expecting one. I also watched a couple minutes of the little kids doing their half-mile fun run. They were pretty cute. There was one boy who couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old, and he was running so hard and looked so determined. It was adorable. After that, I figured I’d better hit the road for the hour drive back.

I felt very accomplished after finishing this difficult race and also successfully getting through my first 20-miler of marathon training. Although it was nice to feel accomplished, I’m not sure if I’d want to go through it again. This is a race I would never sign up for in advance. Being in the middle of the summer, you never know how hot it might be on race day. I do not do well with the heat. The 90% humidity was not super enjoyable for running, but at least it was around 70 degrees and mostly overcast. The hills are enough of a challenge. Adding heat to the mix could have made it pretty miserable for me. I think if I were to sign up for this again, I’d probably have to somehow forget how brutally tough it was. I’d have to do a whole lot of hill repeats and somehow decide that steep hills aren’t so bad. Either that, or I’d have to decide that I really wanted to torture myself! It was a really nice and pretty run and I’m glad that I did it. I’m just not sure I want to subject myself to it again.

Possibly the hardest I've worked for a medal?

Possibly the hardest I’ve worked for a medal?

Milford medal

Milford medal

Who knows…I’ve done a lot of ridiculously hard things during marathon training so far, so I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if I came back to this race again some day in the future. I just know that it could never be an “A” race for me, because it would be very difficult for me to race this all out.

In the meantime, I’m feeling really good about the marathon. I went into this race with no taper – just my typical Friday rest day following 10 miles the day before that. It was humid and hilly and I ended up running 25 seconds over my goal marathon pace, with gas left in the tank for a strong finish. I’m hoping with potentially cooler temperatures at the end of October, a nice flat course, and rested legs, I can actually run close to my marathon pace. I’m hoping the marathon will feel like a breeze after this!

– Janet