Archive of ‘Fitness’ category

Bellingham Bay Marathon Training: Week 8 – The Week Running Sucked

How have I already completed EIGHT WEEKS of marathon training? I thought this just started? I thought I was still making “new to training” mistakes? No? Just regular “I’m an idiot” mistakes?

This week. Ugh. This week. The best words to sum it up would be ‘the week running sucked’ or simply ‘tired legs’ Or maybe ‘I really need a fucking break’ would have been better, but not totally appropriate for a blog post title.

Pretty much every run this week sucked. The best run was coincidentally the one I generally hate the most, 800s. There were six of them, so that sucked. And even though those weren’t as fast as I would have liked, I was also pretty OK with this run. More on that later. And hey – as much as some running days or weeks might suck, at least I’m not injured! I am running and despite my complaining, I am happy.

Here’s a summary of the week:

Week 8: July 7 – July 13

  • Monday - Maintenance legs + Easy 4 (43:48)
  • Tuesday – 10 miles easy (1:42:04)
  • Wednesday – Refine
  • Thursday - 2 mile warm up, 6×800 (active recovery), 2 mile cool down
  • Friday – OFF
  • Saturday - 14 miles (4 easy, 3 marathon pace, 3 half marathon pace, 2 balls out, 2 4 easy)
  • Sunday – OFF

Total (running) miles: 35.76

Summary of Week 8 running:

Like I said, I really felt like I just needed a fucking break.

My ‘easy 4′ was one of the hardest runs of my life. I am not exaggerating in any way. Every single step felt impossible. My legs were tired and heavy — I believe achy is the word I’m going for –and  the miles went by slowly and painfully. I felt like I was working SO much harder than my 10:58 average pace.

This was the kind of run that totally fucks with your confidence. I’m training for a sub-4 marathon with easy 4 milers averaging almost 11:00 per mile? Who do I think I am? Are you all laughing at me and my ridiculous goal? Should I adjust my expectations on race day? Am I delusional?

See? Like that. My poor confidence.

The next day’s 10 miler was faster but not any easier, though I did get to run some of it with my friend/Refine Challenge buddy Margaret before she moved to London a few days later! The 6.5 miles with her were OK, but the rest were miserable. Like the day before, it was so hot and so humid early in the morning. We started our run at 6:30 am and the sun was beating down. I was never the type of person to get very bothered by the heat (I usually thrive in it!) but this year it’s just so humid all the time and is really getting to me.

Every mile felt hard. My legs were achy again, from very early on in this run. By the final mile it took everything I had in me to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

The next day, I Refined, and it was awesome. I was worried the achy legs would carry over into class but I felt awesome. My jumping lunges were a little slower than they have been but otherwise I was good. Being injured in the neck actually helped my legs in this case because I’m not using heavy kettlebells for squats and lunges. CONFESSION: I secretly like how Refine is easier because of my injury modifications.

I’m probably not supposed to say that.

Anyway, during Tuesday’s 10 miler I told Margaret I was thinking of skipping Thursday’s run. My legs were so achy and tired and I really just needed a break! If my easy runs were so difficult, how could I possibly do 6×800?

I did 6×800!

I didn’t feel burned out from running. If I did, I would have taken another day off. But I was excited to run! My problem had been that once I started running, I felt like shit. So I decided I’d start the run and if it was another achy, sluggish, tired day I’d turn it into an easy run or just cut it short and go home. But if there was any chance I could do my 800s, I wanted to do them. I am committed to improving as a runner and doing everything in my power to hit my sub-4 goal.

My 2-mile warm up wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! It was the best I’d felt running all week, and I saw no reason not to go for my 800s. The last time I did these was during my 4x800s in Cape Cod and I hated them (this post is doing nothing to convince anyone else that running is fun, is it?) so I didn’t really expect these to be much better. I’m not a fan of the 800 meter distance – it’s too long to sprint but too short to run an attainable pace. I find it hard to pace myself. If there’s one thing worse than 4×800, it is 6×800.

Don’t even get me started on the 8×800 I have coming up in a few weeks.

Anyway, my first 800 was the fastest of the day (and the fastest 800 I’ve run this training cycle!). That should tell you something, and that something should be that this got much harder and more painful as it went on. It was another humid day (surprise, surprise) so I did cut myself some slack. My worst 800 was the fourth one – I felt like I ran out of juice. There was just nothing left, nothing keeping my legs moving. The first three were tough but OK (though none were close to where I’d like to be pace wise), but I ran against the wind in the final three. And the wind was strong – tons of resistance. I did what I could.

I tried to give the last 800 everything I had, but the fact that it was 11 seconds slower than my first one shows just how much I even had left.

(1) 3:30
(2) 3:35
(3) 3:38
(4) 3:58
(5) 3:42
(6) 3:41

But I did it, and I did the 2 mile cool down, and I was really happy that I didn’t skip this run!

And that left one more run during this week — my highest mileage week this year — the long run. I was actually looking forward to this run, even though I was worried about achy legs. I liked that it was divided into manageable sections:

14 miles – 4 easy, 3 marathon pace (9:10), 3 half marathon pace (~8:40), 2 balls out, 2 easy recovery.

14 miles alone would normally seem long and daunting, but I really liked how I had 4 miles easy (which I do all the time) followed by 3 miles at marathon pace (which isn’t tough for me on a normal day) – and then it would already be turnaround time!

And while the second half would be much tougher than the first, I also thought it sounded very doable. Bonus: I’d finish much quicker than a normal 14 mile run!

Well, as it turned out, none of it was doable. I set my alarm for 5:30am, but when I woke up on my own at 6:00, the phone screen said “ALARM – Tap to snooze” but NO SOUND WAS COMING OUT. This has never happened to me in all my years of iPhoning.

So I left my apartment at 6:30 and by then the sun was strong. By the time I finished my 4 easy miles, I was HOT.

1 – 10:54 
2 – 11:47 
3 – 10:41 
4 –  9:52 

When it came time to start my marathon pace miles, I just couldn’t do it. I worked so so so hard to be 12 seconds SLOWER than marathon pace. The entire three miles was the same. My effort and my paces didn’t match up.

5 – 9:22 
6 – 9:14 
7 – 9:21 

I took a breather before turning around because I knew I had to run even faster – and I wasn’t sure I could. Somehow, I did – though not nearly close to half marathon pace.

8 – 9:02 
9 – 9:02 
10 – 9:04 

These 3 miles didn’t even feel like half marathon effort – they felt like balls out effort. I was running as hard as I could, I was in pain, my legs were getting achy again. I thought a lot during these miles about my next 2 “balls out” miles and realized there was no way I could do them. I knew that I’d be doing more harm than good, and I really felt like I’d be risking injury. I was already running at that effort just trying to get to a half marathon pace. The sun was hot. The humidity was strong. This was not my day. And really, it was not my week.

My only option I had was to run the last 4 miles at an easy pace – and even that was brutal. I just wanted to be done!

11 – 9:31 
12 – 9:47 
13 – 10:10 
14 – 10:28

The best part of finishing this run was ending at the farmer’s market in front of my apartment, where ModCup was just setting up their cold brew stand. I treasure my post-summer run iced coffees.

And what does someone with a week’s worth of tired legs do immediately following a challenging 14 mile run? She walks many, many more miles over the course of the morning because it was Pack Walk day! Once a month, all the puppies of Jersey City get together for a group walk.

Hound About Town jersey city pack walk

The arrow points to me and Larry. Miranda and Rusty are in front of me. My mom is next to me, and next to her is the Ander.


And then she does watches Sex and the City reruns for many, many hours. Because as it turns out, the show is even better when you actually understand it.

Ever deal with achy legs? (FYI I am not an ice bath person - I got hypothermia in the summer once. In North Carolina.)

TL;DR: I ramble on and on about achy legs. It’s exciting!


Bellingham Bay Marathon Training: Week 6 – Ode to The Running System

In this post: I had a great running system from my old apartment before I moved. Also, I nailed 2×2 miles, did OK at 10×200 and my 14-miler sucked.

Ode to a Perfect Warm Up/Cool Down System
I moved to a new apartment on June 30, but before that I had my running plan all worked out. There were two routes I could take to get to Liberty State Park from my old place – a one mile route and a two mile route. This turned out to be absolutely perfect based on how my runs were usually set up.

Most of the time, I’d have a two mile warm up and a one mile cool down. That meant I could take the two mile route to the park, begin the “meat” of the workout, turn around halfway through, and then when I was done take the one mile route home for my cool down.

No thinking, no brainwork, no calculations involved. And no extra walking at the end. It was perfect.

Now, I’m in a MUCH better apartment in a much better location (and closer to the park!), but without my perfect little system. I will miss the system, but I won’t miss anything else about the old place. Not even the pool.

On that note, here were last week’s workouts:

Week 6: June 23 – June 29

  • Monday – Maintenance legs + easy 4 miles (42:00)
  • Tuesday – 2 mile warm up, 2×2 miles at 8:00-8:10 with 5 min active recovery, 1 mile cool down
  • Wednesday – Refine
  • Thursday - OFF
  • Friday – 2 mile warm up, 10×200, 1 mile cool down
  • Saturday - 14 miles (1:26:37)
  • Sunday – OFF

Total (running) miles: 29.87

Summary of Week 6 running:

This week was actually a milestone – June 28 marked three months until the Bellingham Bay Marathon! I can’t believe how fast it’s approaching. And after a tough week before involving a total failure of a tempo run, I needed a confidence boosting run. Badly.

And that is just what I got on Tuesday! Even though I was nervous for this run - 2 mile warm up, 2×2 miles at 8:00-8:10 with 5 min active recovery, 1 mile cool down – I also knew this was my kind of workout. I have a whole other post drafted about this topic, and I mentioned it a little two weeks ago, but basically it comes down to this: I struggle with shorter track workouts but I tend to do well on extremely-challenging-but-attainable paces for somewhat longer intervals. I think I’m good at mentally pushing through discomfort (which is why I like marathons) but not as great as physically pushing through discomfort (which is why I don’t like shorter, faster races as much).

Since we went directly from winter to summer this year, the humidity has been rough throughout most of my training. But I was sick of making excuses and hoped I could get through this despite the weather. I took my perfect 2 mile warm up to the park and got going. I kept reminding myself it was just 16 minutes of pain. 16 minutes isn’t that long, I could do it.

The first 2 miles were hard, but I had a lovely reward of 5 minutes of rest waiting for me. I fought through the pain, tried not to look at my watch too much (and succeeded! I barely looked) and I was so thrilled to hit that recovery.

(1) 2 miles: 8:13

A success! Sure, it’s 3 seconds off what my plan said but what’s 3 seconds on a humid day? MUCH MORE THAN THREE SECONDS IN REAL LIFE. Trust me. And I’m running a marathon in a place that doesn’t even get humid.

I walked through the five minute active recovery; I was way too spent to try and jog it. I also like walking recoveries because I can stretch my neck while I walk. I also guzzled quite a bit of Ultima. It was hot and it was humid! At the end of the five minutes I felt refreshed and ready to tackle the next two miles, knowing that it was just another 16 minutes of pain before I could jog home.

As soon as I started running again, I felt faster and lighter on my feet. That recovery did wonders! I did have to stop for a few seconds in the middle of this set to massage/stretch out a side stitch, but once I did that I was good to go for the rest. Despite starting out feeling so great, this set was much more difficult than the first. I was tired, I was hot, I was out of breath and I wanted to be done. I was looking at my watch way more often than the first set. I pushed through because, really, what’s another 16 minutes? And…

(2) 2 miles: 8:00

NAILED IT!!! The feeling at the end, when I looked down and saw my pace and know I gave this run everything I had and ran exactly how my plan said – AMAZING.

I jogged (hobbled?) home feeling accomplished and strong, and more ready for my sub-4 marathon goal than I have been in awhile.

That brings me to my next run – 10×200. Eek! Well, 200 meters are by far my favorite of the track workouts because the pain is over quicker. But it’s still really hard for me. I don’t enjoy it. The pain, the gasping for air between intervals, the nausea. I do these workouts because they will make me a stronger runner, but I have never hit a pace I’d like to see. No matter how hard I push, I can never seem to get there.

All that said, this workout wasn’t too bad! Again, I ran my two mile route to the park and then got going. Even with the pain, I felt better during this workout than during my previous track workouts this training cycle. Again, it was VERY humid but I can’t escape that. I would try to tell myself “by the time you get to that tree you’ll be done” or “that bench will be about halfway” to make these intervals seem less daunting. Does everyone do that? Do you?

During my very last 200 I ran past a woman, and when I finished she came up to me and said, “Nice job. Next time, try swinging your arms more.” How nice is that? Free coaching! I will definitely try her suggestion next time. So, even though I didn’t hit the paces I would like, I did do MUCH better than my last attempt at 200s.

1 – 0:50
2 – 0:51
3 – 0:49
4 – 0:48
5 – 0:50
6 – 0:50
7 – 0:46
8 – 0:46
9 – 0:51
10 – 0:47

And lastly, I had my longest long run to date – 14 miles. Every second of this run sucked.  It was SO HOT at 6:40 am when I left with the sun beating down on me. I couldn’t get enough water and kept draining my handheld bottle (I usually don’t need to drink that much or refill very often during training runs, I must have been dehydrated). My stomach hurt a lot, and after mile 7 I couldn’t run faster than 10:30 without my stomach cramping up. My neck ached at times. It just sucked. The good part was that I ran miles 8-13 with my friend Miranda and chatting with her helped take my mind off the misery.

But by the time I got to the end I felt more miserable than ever and couldn’t wait to stop. The only upside of this run (aside from finishing it, which is always a good thing) was ending at my favorite breakfast place in Jersey City, Sam A.M.

Even Larry loved it!

Larry the ratcha eating breakfast

Mmmm grease

And jus like that, I finished another week of marathon training!

In other running news, Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, the subject of Unbroken (one of the BEST books I’ve ever read, and the movie comes out later this year) died at age 97. His story is absolutely incredible – for being a record-breaking runner who succeeded against all odds and competed in the 1936 Olympics, but especially for his experience as a World War II POW in Japan who survived against SO MANY ODDS. Including being on a boat for 47 days and being treated in ways you can’t imagine at the POW camp – and having his future Olympic dreams crushed in the process. It’s an amazing, inspiring book that anyone would love, but runners might appreciate even more. As a runner myself, I know I did.

And finally, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who helped me reach my goal to run the NYC Marathon for the American Cancer Society Team DetermiNation in memory of my Aunt Dale. I am so grateful and amazed by how generous people are. I’m excited to get a second chance at this race and honored to have had the opportunity to raise some serious $$$ for ACS in the process.

What kinds of runs are you the best at nailing? Do you have any interesting running “systems” like I had for my warm up and cool down? Have you read Unbroken?


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