Friday, October 19, 2018

Wrap Up, Hard stuff, and Lessons Learned

Yep, that's what happened at Chicago. I still stand by what I posted after the race because I refuse to have a negative outlook based on one crappy year of racing... BUT now I'm ready to pick apart what exactly went wrong for me this year and how to fix it going forward.  

Recapping some other stuff first:

1. I did go to Geveva, IL again in September to run the Last Chance to BQ Marathon. After 20 weeks of training with not even a sniffle I managed came down with a 101 degree fever- no joke- the day before the race. *Punches things* It was the dumbest of luck, but me being even dumber I still drove to Illinois and curled up in a hotel bed for 12 hours hoping I would be able to put something together on race morning.

Of course I couldn't! I was absolutely miserable and started walking at mile 15 before dropping out shortly after. I figured I at least had to give it a shot since there was the slightest possibility I'd be able to shake off the sickness and run well, but it was very clear once I got going that could not outrun a fever. 

2. Mistake number two was not just chilling out, extending my training for a month, and taking a shot at a redemption run in Chicago. Instead I signed up for the DoLittle Marathon in Waukesha just two weeks later. It's a very small local race on a super fast course, so when I saw the weather forecast was going to be perfect on race day (temps in the 40s, no wind) I got on board.

It was at this race when I started to realize that my problem this year is that despite my best efforts, I'm just not currently in sub-3:40 marathon shape. Even with a very conservative start at DoLittle, I still couldn't keep my goal pace when I needed to. By mile 17 or so and quickly fading, I realized that at the pace I was going I was going to be lucky to finish in around 3:50. (A perfectly good time just not what I've been working so hard for.)  At mile 20 I started walk/jogging and at mile 23 the course went close to where I was parked so I took off my bib and bailed once again.

Yes, that makes four races that I have DNF-ed at this year. Granted three of them I had legit reasons (sickness, heat, sickness again) but fourth one I honestly just got really down on myself realizing I wasn't at the level I thought I was at. Not my proudest moment but the last thing I wanted to do was have to talk to a bunch of local running friends at the finish when I was feeling so bummed out. 

I decided then that when I ran Chicago all time goals would go out the window. I'd go out "slow", enjoy the spectators, and finish happy at what has become my favorite marathon:

Having fun! And not even breaking 4 hours!

Wow I felt pretty terrible at the end of this one, but at the same time I actually really enjoyed myself and for the first time in quite a while I took the time to take everything in around me. Jason came down to cheer for me at the final turn before the runners head up Roosevelt to the finish and I about lost it I was so happy. Chicago really is my favorite race and l look forward running it many more times in the future. I knew going in that I had missed my peak to even try to run a fast-ish race that day but being fast was not the point. I needed a finish in 2018 and I got it.

So that's it for marathons this year! No looking for a November race to try once again to scrape a better time together. I have to face the fact that the new training plans I followed this year just didn't work for me. I really wanted to switch it up this year and I put a lot of faith in the training I followed but looking back now I kind of knew in the back of my mind that things weren't totally clicking for me. My marathon pace never felt dialed in during tempo runs when in the past an 8:15 would feel pretty comfortable for me. I also completed every interval workout on pace but nothing ever felt "good.  I was just barely making it through. At the time I chalked it up to having the "cumulative fatigue" of training but at some point things really should begin to come together. It's ok to have bad days from time to time but to never have a real breakthough in months and months of training is pretty rough. 

In conclusion I've decided that I need to return to what got me into PR shape in the first place- so I'm going back to the training method that got me my 3:38 and 3:39 marathons a couple of years ago! Back then I thought I had plateaued with the Pfitzinger training plans but now I feel it's time to return to what got me the best results. Additionally, I need to add back in my strength training routine at least twice a week. I don't know why I fell out of doing strength workouts this past year but I did. I put too much faith in all the running I was doing when really I've always believed that consistent strength training can be key in putting you over the top. It's silly that I let it slide so now I'm firmly back on the kettlebell train. 

Next up! I plan to run the Last Call Half Marathon in 6 weeks to see what my starting point is for spring marathon training. I am down but never out.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Double DNF!

Holy moly is the weather at Wisconsin Marathon ever not a complete mess? If it's not 30 mph winds then we're suddenly treated to the first 80 degree day of the year. This year unfortunately turned out to the be latter. The only thing I can say is at least it wasn't a surprise as I tracked the forecast all week. I knew things were probably not going to go my way but you can't fault a girl for trying.

It looks like a spring marathon finish is not in the cards for me this year. Is it strange that I'm actually kind of ok with it? I ended up dropping out of the Wisconsin Marathon at the half when it because pretty clear the heat was turning my race into a shitshow. If I had trained all winter to "just finish" the race I would have stuck it but with time goals being my end game I wasn't really excited about wrecking my body walk/jogging another 13.1 miles in the heat just to say "I did it."  It felt better to just chalk it up to bad luck and build on my current training for a fall marathon instead.

So that makes not one, but two DNFs for me this spring. After training harder than I've probably ever trained before in my life! 800+ miles total these past 4 months... and a big goose egg.

After I dropped out of the Spring Chance to BQ race two weeks ago I was baffled as to why I felt so bad. It turns out by Monday I was sick. The cold I had been battling during my taper came roaring back to life and I dragged my butt to urgent care to get some antibiotics. Luckily everything cleared up in a few days (mostly just gunk clogging my throat/lungs) but the damage had been done. I felt like all my training went up in a puff of smoke and was so disappointed that I "wasted" perfect 40 degree conditions at the Spring Chance race that I decided to sign up for Wisconsin Marathon to hopefully still capitalize on my fitness.

And we all know how that went!  It was just so, so. brutally hot that morning for a marathon. Sometimes the odds are just not in your favor. I keep telling myself that of all the things in the world to struggle with, I'm very lucky that this is my personal struggle. I'm very conscious of the fact that it's a gift for me to be able to do the things I do. I also want to make sure that I keep writing about and sharing the bad races I have because it's important to not just talk about the times you do amazing. It's all part of the process and if I only shout it out when I have successes then that just seems disingenuous, right?

I've been fortunate to qualify for Boston three years in a row now,  but unfortunately unlucky to not get into the race before it filled since my qualifying times have all been right on the bubble. I may have bit the big one this time around but just because this training cycle was a bust doesn't mean I won't continue to improve. So my plan is to build off of what I've done for the past 4 months and bust my bottom for a race in September. The good news is that I still love training hard. It's what makes me excited about each day when I wake up in the morning. I'll just need to live in a bubble during those final weeks so I don't come down with a stinking respiratory infection again.

18 weeks until the next one! Let's get started.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


Looks like my 16 week training plan is probably being converted to an 18-week one. I had the worst time at my stupid race today! So bad that I dropped out at 16 miles. Truthfully I only finished 16 because I wanted to salvage it as a long training run and hopefully come back at another event.

I don't even know what my problem was. I'm kicking myself for squandering perfect race conditions (40 degrees/cloudy/no wind) on a flat course for.... ?? I just felt sluggish and slow and like my legs were dead the whole time. I was working so hard for a pace that should have been (and HAS been in the past) easy for me on race day. I always tell myself not to worry if I start out and don't feel amazing but once it gets to mile 8, 9, 10 and I'm still struggling to fall into a groove and keep up I know I'm toast. Was my taper not long enough? I struggled with how short the Hanson's taper was on paper because I was so tired for all of my training but I really wanted to trust the process and do it (mostly) by the book. I probably should have listened to my gut when I was feeling so bad because my legs are definitely not rested enough. Still, how would I know? "Cumulative fatigue" is supposed to be the point on this training plan.


The good news is since I only ran 16 today (12 of it at pace) and I've been running pretty decent mileage during what was supposed to be a "taper," I might be able to get some REAL tapering/rest done in the next two weeks and get another stab at this at Wisconsin Marathon. I'm really glad that I didn't slog out a 3:50-4:00 marathon and totally trash my legs for dead but JFC I'm frustrated!

 This quest of mine, man. The saga continueth.

The one stupid photo I grabbed from the
video they posted on Facebook. I might
have felt good for these first five steps. :-/

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Peak to Taper


Long run is "only" 16 miles but omg the rest of the week.

Lol joke's on me though because the Hanson's marathon method apparently doesn't believe in tapering.


To be fair, it really just doesn't believe in a full three week taper. Even though my last "long" run is behind me I still have a few more pretty intense workouts coming up and a decent amount of overall mileage to run before I finally get to start my taper about 10 days out from the marathon. The plus side of this is that I will have less time to sit around obsessing over everything because I'm still training pretty hard for the next week and a half at least.

So what's been good over the past few weeks? Overall I'm still pretty tired most of the time but I have have had a couple of bright spots where glimpses of the training taking hold have broken through. I ran the Chicago Get Lucky Half a couple of weeks ago where I practiced my goal marathon pace for 10 miles of the 13.  I felt pretty strong that day but I was also ready to be done by the end of the race. I had run 60 miles total that week so I keep telling myself that on marathon day when I'm well rested and fueled things will tell a different story. My legs still never really feel totally fresh for any run (thanks cumulative fatigue!) so I'm still looking forward to seeing what I can do when I'm fully prepared to race.

The best run of my training definitely came this past Wednesday. Once again I had a 13 mile run with 10 miles at marathon pace (8:10) on the schedule. This wasn't even my "long" run for the week but just another mid-week tempo run in the middle of a 63 mile training week. (Again, see why I'm always tired?) Everyone was on Spring Break at my house so I decided to drive to Chicago for a change of scenery and run along the lakefront there. I don't how much the location played into my success but everything came to together perfectly that morning and I executed the strongest tempo run of all my training this cycle! The paces I ran were the the same as when I ran the Get Lucky Half but I felt so much better and stronger overall during the run- and I didn't even have the adrenaline of a race environment this time. It felt so good to have such a solid workout at this late stage in training. Once again, my legs never felt fresh and peppy but my lungs and heart rate felt relaxed and even the whole time. I sound like a broken record but I just can't wait to see what I can do on fresh legs!

I love Chicago running.

My marathon is now just under three weeks away. I need to start working on a pacing/fueling strategy but most of all I'm really just trying to relax and trust my training. I know I've done things a lot differently this time around (which was the whole point) and I'm excited to see how it all plays out on race day.

Monday, March 5, 2018

This Will Be an Update

I'm doing things completely different this time. Over the past few years I've got pretty good at finishing marathons in the 3:38-3:43 range, but I realized recently that if I ever want to make a big leap in my training I'm going to have to switch things up a bit. After all, don't they say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results?

I had heard about the Hanson's training method before but I never gave it a hard look because it doesn't have training runs over 16 miles. I admit I kind of turned my nose up at that because I've always been "good" at running the super long training runs and wasn't wanting to give them up. Also, I was a little skeptical about being able to run a marathon at an aggressive goal pace without a few 20-22 milers in the build up. After reading the Hanson's book though, and looking at the training plan as whole, I really started to buy in to the mentality that "cumulative fatigue" was just as good (if not better) than breaking your body down with those extra-long 20+ milers. In the past I've trained and had success with the Pfitzinger training plan as well as with my own coach, but still haven't been able to have that "big" breakthrough I feel like I've been on the cusp of for a couple of years now. So I figured "what do I have to lose?" and decided to give the plan I thought I'd never do a shot.

Right now I'm in week 10 of 16 so I'm well into the second half of the journey, and I have to say I'm the most tired I've ever been in any marathon or ultramarathon build up I've done. Part of me wants to say it's because I'm a few years older than when I first started on this quest to run Boston, but another part knows that I'm definitely training differently than I have before and something new (hopefully good?) is happening.

I'm so tired. And hungry, or course. But mostly tired. I almost never have "fresh" legs anymore. I'm doing the workouts and hitting the paces but dang I wish they felt good! I used to hate running slower for recovery runs but now 10 minute miles on recovery days are just about the best thing I can think of and even then I'm still tired and sore when I run them.

What has changed? Funny enough, the mileage is pretty much the same-it's just broken up differently. Even without an 18, 20 or 22 miler I'm still hovering around 55-60 miles a week right now. The biggest difference really, is the intensity. Now, I'm not a stranger to hard speedwork. I really enjoy running intervals and you can get results from doing them fairly quickly. What's new for me though is that in addition to the weekly speed workout there's also a weekly hard tempo run at marathon pace. Theses tempos started out at 5 miles (plus a warm up/cooldown) but eventually work their way up to 10 miles at marathon pace. On their own they would be manageable but every tempo day my legs are still fatigued from interval day. And then every long run day I'm still fatigued from tempo day. (See how this works now?) Of course on all the inbetween days I'm still running too- just super slow- so everything is continuously compounding. Oh, and there's one whopping rest day a week. Woo!

So alllllll this cumulative fatigue means that when I go out to run *only* 16 miles for my long run, I'm really simulating the last 16 miles of a marathon instead of the first 16.  At least, that's the mentality behind the training. And people really seem to swear by this method- according to many reviews and race reports I've read online. (Oh, and you better believe I've read tons!)

I guess the tl;dr is this: Stuff is hard. I have to idea if anything is really working but I'll find out in six weeks. So pretty much like every other time I've done this. Yay running.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Go Ahead, Call it a Comeback

Yeah, I took a little break from training. I'd like to say that I did it because I'm smart and I know the importance of letting my body recover between training cycles but in reality I was more or less forced to rest in order to heal a specific injury. Luckily *knock on wood* I haven't had to deal with many injuries in the nearly 10 years I've been running but I finally went out and got myself one that required a lot sitting on my butt and resting for a few weeks in order to get better.

Truthfully, I had been dealing with mild plantar fasciitis in my heel since way back in early August when I ramped up my fall marathon training. It was a series of dumb mistakes that that led to it and in hindsight I probably deserved it. Here's how I managed to find myself in this situation:

1. After returning from our two-week vacation in July (where I hardly ran at all) I jumped immediately into an aggressive training program in an attempt to BQ at Lakefront Marathon.

2. Said marathon training program was only a short 11 weeks long instead of the usual 16 I like to do in order to build up slowly and safely avoid injury.

3. I ignored all the early signs of plantar fasciitis that began in late August and didn't adjust my training, take any time off, or change my goals for Lakefront.

4. After finishing Lakefront at the beginning of October I also ran the Milwaukee Marathon for fun on October 15th, followed by the Chicago Lakefront 50K at the end of the month.

All my training got me a 50K PR in Chicago but after that my heel basically exploded and told me where I could shove it. I tried to ignore it yet again to run the Schaumburg Half Marathon on Thanksgiving weekend (a yearly tradition of mine) but my foot basically gave me the middle finger at mile 6 and I hobbled in pain to the finish for probably my worst half marathon ever. Not my slowest finish but definitely the worst I've felt at a half.

It was then that I decided to take some action. I prescribed myself 2 weeks of NO RUNNING at all, started a series of acupuncture treatments at Milwaukee Community Acupuncture, and scheduled an appointment at the Milwaukee Foot and Ankle clinic. I had big plans for 2018 and I was not going to let my stupidity derail them. I was going to be smart, dammit! At the doctor I had x-rays and an ultrasound done on my foot that thankfully(!) showed no stress fractures but I did have a big angry plantar fascia inflamed to about twice the width it should have been. Surprising? Not in the least. I told the doc about my running ambitions for the upcoming year and she assured me I could still get there and that I was doing all the right things. I like the occasional head pat so this made me feel good.

A steroid injection into my heel wasn't immediately recommended (thank goodness) but I did leave the office with an oral steroid prescription to calm the inflammation and a big boot to wear at night that keeps my foot flexed and the fascia stretched. I also had neat-o molds taken of my feet so I can be fitted with some custom orthotics for my shoes. I'm looking forward to getting those made and seeing how they work out!

In the third week of my break I decided to cautiously test the waters. My medication was making my foot feel better and I felt like the acupuncture treatments were starting to help as well. I didn't want to overdo it though so I just did a couple of runs in the 3 to 5 mile range at a very, very slow pace on the treadmill. I felt clunky and sluggish but my foot didn't hurt so that was a plus. Week four I increased the mileage a smidge but still kept things suuuuuper slow. Then on the week between Christmas and New Year's I attempted a very conservative speed workout on the treadmill (400s). I opted for indoors again because it was probably a bajillion degrees below zero outside and the last thing I wanted to do was slip on some dumb ice the week before my spring marathon training was scheduled to begin.

Which brings me to January! Here we are. I officially started a 16-week training plan for the Spring Chance BQ.2 Marathon on April 21st. It's a 10k-ish multi- loop course that is designed for people who are specifically attempting to qualify for Boston 2019. What's my training plan you ask?

I'm going all in on Hansons advanced training method!  It's technically an 18 week program but I had to modify it a bit to 16 weeks because of everything I just talked about above. I originally wanted to start in mid-December but I strongly felt it was more important for me to start healthy, even if it meant sacrificing a couple of weeks of training. If I'm being completely honest though, my heel is a little bit hit and miss right now. Some days it's completely fine but other days (like after my speed workout yesterday) the pain will come back and linger for the rest of the day. Overall I believe I'm on the mend but I'm keeping an eye on things in case it regressed to where it was back in November.

More about the training in a bit! I just needed to get all this injury stuff out of my brain so I can look back and remember the time I made a good decision for myself.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Chicago Lakefront 50K: Achievement Unlocked

My one and only PR in 2017 and it's in the 50K! October was a huge race month for me so my legs were pretty D-E-A-D for this one but I met my goal of running sub-5 hours. Official time was 4:58:07! Kind of makes me wonder what I could do if I trained specifically to race this distance. Maybe next year?