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?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Do Every Stupid Thing That Makes You Feel Alive

In unsurprising news, my legs were nowhere near ready to run Lakefront Marathon with only a 9-week buildup. Whoops! Look, I never said that I do smart things. In hindsight I probably should have known that going in but I always harbor these stupid "What if?" dreams. Plus, I was super fired up about missing the Boston cutoff again so I thought maybe I'd be able to ride that energy.

Eh...not so much. I ran a pretty solid 3:45 on a beautiful fall day and funny enough, I didn't even feel mad about not being able to run my sub-3:40 goal. It was one of those days where I just felt super grateful to be healthy and able to participate in this incredibly stupid hobby of mine year after year. Jason came out to cheer for me on the course and I felt excited that he was there for me at the finish line. No tears or pouting for me this time. I was happy that I did my best with what I had and that I enjoyed the day. Running makes me feel alive and I definitely felt alive that day.

Speaking of this stupid hobby of mine, I decided to also run the Milwaukee Marathon last weekend even though it was just two weeks after Lakefront. I mean why not, right? I'm no stranger to a double marathon month! I figured I should be able to take it easy, enjoy the course, and still finish under 4 hours. Also, I was curious to see how the new management handled the event since I quit working for them back in March.

That time I ran 25.5 miles.
YIKES. Yeah, that's a bummer. The course was almost .8 miles short! Good thing I wasn't trying again for a BQ that day. (I know, I know, like I even could have done it.) My "official" finish time was 3:48 but it really probably should have been in the 3:55 range. I could tell exactly where it happened during the run too- a turnaround point was set too early on a long out-and-back portion between mile 21 and 22. Truthfully, when I realized I was going to be done early I felt kind of relieved, but I also felt a little sick to my stomach since I knew this mistake was going to blow up and be a huge deal. Last year the course was long because of a similar snafu in the EXACT SAME area. I could not believe this was happening again to the new race directors!

I also thanked the sweet baby Jesus I was not working for the event anymore and wouldn't have to answer all the inevitable angry emails and Facebook posts. I mean, let's be real.

I have so many mixed feelings about this race that have zero to do with the time I ran. Really I'm just sad that an event I worked so hard on and really believed in had something this happen two years in a row. I just don't see how it can come back from this mess and that sucks because I feel like Milwaukee runners really deserve a "big city" marathon. There were so many obstacles we faced getting this event off the ground that first year and when we pulled it off it felt like the sky was the limit. Sure, the second year was stressful with the course problems (and about a million other things) but I really, really hoped it would bounce back.

When the race was sold to the new investors I walked away and just crossed my fingers super hard. I figured the new management would have its problems but I honestly still wanted the race to be successful. Other cities similar to Milwaukee's size have big marathons like this but for some reason it's just felt like an uphill battle here the whole time. I could go on and on about all the roadblocks that were thrown up back when I was on the staff but at this point it doesn't matter. They had a chance to turn it around this year and it didn't happen. It's just sad because I really believe a big event like this that celebrates the city of Milwaukee is something that SHOULD exist.

So instead I prefer to remember the finish line of that inaugural year back in 2015 when it felt like anything was possible:

Well, anything except beer at the finish. :)