Archive | May 2013

This Training Cycle I Will…

1. Go to yoga at least once a week. Preferably twice if time allows.

2. Swim or otherwise cross train [hiking, group fitness classes, etc.] once a week.

3. Do arms/abs/core exercises on days I don’t run [so about two to three times a week]

4. Practice positive thinking while I run. Recite mantras, tell myself that I CAN.

5. Cherish every mile. Enjoy the journey. To train for and run a marathon is a privilege, not a punishment.

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 12.01.24 AM

Click to zoom in

So last night I finally put all of the runs from my sketched-out, hand-written training plan into a google doc. I even added the google docs app to my phone so I can look at my training plan when I’m not at my computer. Seeing all those workouts planned out, scrolling through the weeks til I see 26.2 miles on October 27, gives me a jolt of excitement about running that I feel like I’ve been missing. I’ve been having some trouble with motivation lately — well, really all year. Its not that I don’t like running anymore, or don’t want to run. And occasionally I will have one of those magical runs when the miles fly by and I don’t want to stop. But in the day to day, there are so many excuses NOT to run. So lately my runs have been feeling slow, forced. I’m out there because I’m making myself, not because I want to be.

I guess this is natural. Running and I had a bit of a honeymoon period my sophomore year of college, when I ran my half PR and my first marathon. It felt like every day I was running a new distance PR, or hitting faster speeds in my tempo runs and track workouts. Now is the plateau. I’ve been all these places before and I won’t instantly get better just by heading out the door. The motivation to run is no longer the thrill of doing something new.

As I typed my plan into the google doc last night, I thought about what I DO want to get out of my training now.The most immediate thing that came to mind was speed — I’m hoping to run this marathon a full 35 minutes faster than my first. But I thought a little bit harder, and I realized that even more than getting faster, I want to develop a better relationship with running. Rather than the high-intensity romance that I had my sophomore year (fall 2011 to spring 2012) or the resentful drudgery of last year (fall 2012 to spring 2013) I want running to be like a old, good friend — comfortable, stable and always there for me.

A lot of my goals for this training cycle actually have to do with things that I’m doing when I’m not running — ways that I can keep myself saner and healthier so that running doesn’t burn me out. I was super diligent about stretching and yoga when I trained for the Baltimore Half, and that entire training cycle was remarkably pain-free. I want to train for this marathon without getting injured, so yoga is goal number one. I also want to make sure that I’m working other parts of my body besides my legs and feet, in order to both build a better running form and also to find other outlets for exercise besides running. I have a terrible slouch and in photos from the end of races — especially the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. marathon last spring — I’m always all hunched over. Doing arms and core exercises will help that. I also am going to be working as a lifeguard this summer, so I’m hoping to do lots of swimming — which is good for the arms and also non-impact!

My mom always says that running is totally mind over matter. The body can do almost anything you ask it to — you just have to have the willpower to ask. I want to embody that mentality with my running this summer and fall. My body CAN run another a marathon and it CAN run it in 4:10. I just have to train my mind to WANT to. That means I have to start wanting to run again. I may not wake up burning with desire to lace up my Brooks and hit the road, but once I’m out the door, I need to work on banishing negative thoughts. If I spend 10, 15 and 20 miles thinking about how much I don’t want to be running, of course it’s going to suck! Of course I’m going to feel slow, and sluggish, and resentful and bored. But if I try to live in the moment, to breath deeply, to appreciate my legs moving under me and the sound of my sneakers slapping the pavement, to take each mile as a gift and not a punishment — then I think I’ll remind myself how to love running. After all, I signed up for this marathon. I chose my goal time, I designed my training plan. If I don’t want to be doing this, then I don’t have to. But I DO want to be doing this — which means that I need to keep on keeping on even when it’s hard.

I’ll be glad I did when I cross the finish line this October and see 4:10 on the clock. And knowing me, and knowing running, I’ll be glad I did long before that moment as well.

This Week

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3.5 miles with mom
Wednesday: 8.33 mile hike  on Mount Taurus.
Thursday: 20 minutes of abs/core workout
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday: Super rainy/windy 5 miles
Sunday: 10.5 mile long run

TOTAL: 23 miles


When a 30 min/mile is actually a good thing

I think I have a new favorite way to get sweaty.



I went on my second hike in five days yesterday and it was absolutely glorious. I’m on a bit of a hiking bender actually — I have another one planned for Monday. It’s not like I’ve never been hiking before. My family always did outdoors-y vacations to places like Yellowstone and the Colorado Rockies. And I worked at a sleepaway camp for two years. And I liked hiking then, too. But it’s been a while since I’ve spent much time in the wilderness, or even the woods (DC isn’t exactly the world’s greenest city — the National Mall can barely maintain its grass!) and I’ve become totally, completely hooked on the thrill of clomping 3 hours at a brutally slow pace up a mountain, and then finally having what remains of my breath taken away by the view, and then scrambling back down again.

[Just a brief side note to reassure running: this is just a summer fling that will be soon cut short when I return to DC, where a lack of extensive public-transportation means that what green areas ARE nearby are totally inaccessible to drivers license-less me. Soon it’ll be back to pavement and Brooks Adrenalines, my friend.]

Wednesday’s hike was up Mount Taurus, a 1,400 foot mountain that N-, my ultra-outdoorsy, certified wilderness guide, going-to-spend-the-summer-leading-eight-day-canoeing-trips-in-Maine hiking buddy, scoffed at as a mere hill. (Fun fact: A mountain is a mountain if its summit is 1000 feet taller than its base. So Mount Taurus IS a mountain, even if it doesn’t meet N’s standards.) We took the Metro North to Cold Spring, NY, about an hour and 15 minutes outside the city. After a brief bit of wandering around the town trying to find the trailhead, we made it to the base of the hill/mountain and started to climb.

The path up the mountain was steep enough to keep our talking to a minimum, but it was well-marked and had several amazing views along the way. I only wish that it had been a less cloudy day — apparently on clear days, you can see the Hudson stretch on for miles in either direction.


Once we were near the top, the trail guide that I had printed out that morning said that there was an easily-missed viewpoint that offered a great panorama of the Hudson valley to the right of the trail. According to the guide, lots of people don’t even know that the viewpoint is even there, and it’s the real “money view” of the hike.

Well, we clomped around (clomp is the only appropriate verb to describe the forward movement of someone wearing hiking boots)  looking for the viewpoint for about 10 minutes. We never got the promised “money view” but we did encounter two GINORMOUS snakes. They were thick and black and at least two feet long, maybe three. At the time, we had no idea if they were poisonous, but we scurried away as quickly and quietly as we could. In N’s words: “We can’t get bitten by snakes today. I only brought one benadryl pill!”

After some careful study of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry webpage on the snakes that reside in the area, I believe that we saw a Northern Black Racer. Not venamous, but still totally terrifying.


We ate lunch close to the summit of the mountain, after walking a good 10 minutes away from the snake site. I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich that tasted 10 times better than any sandwich ever has when it was eaten at a table at sea level. Then we continued on. The way down had fewer views than the trail up, but there was lots to see at ground level. First we passed a fallen tree that hikers had covered with rock cairns (little piles of rocks that you leave as an environmentally-friendly marker that you were once here). We stopped to take pictures and built a cairn ourselves before continuing on.


The rock cairn tree. 


Our cairn!

Further along the trail, we came across an old abandoned mansion. The trail guide said the home had belonged to the Cornish family, but didn’t really say much about who they were. So we were left to wander around the dilapidated stone building, trying to imagine what it once looked like and the kinds of people who lived there.



I later found out that the Cornishes were a well-to-do but not particularly interesting NY family. Edward, the patriarch, was president of the National Lead Company.

So that was the hike! Garmin stats, because I’m obsessed with that gadget: 8.33 miles in 4 hours, 1,421 miles of elevation gained (then lost). Afterward, we headed to the local ice cream parlor and got big scoops of what their storefront claims is the best ice cream in the world. I’m not sure I can agree, but it was pretty darn good.

For those who are interested, here is the hike we did: You should try it! Just bring your snake repellent!

Training Plan

Not much has happened since my last post, which is why I haven’t posted since then. I had a really good 6.5 mile run on Tuesday, during which I alternated 9min miles with 8:30 min miles. It wasn’t revolutionary or particularly fast (even by my slow standards) but it felt good. Today’s run was … less good. The park was full of a bunch of people going to Googa Mooga, this new music/food festival. I silently resented all of the skinny hipsters walking by in their maxi dresses and gladiator sandals as I chugged along in my sweaty t-shirt. Plus there were all these bikers going the wrong way around the park and I only nearly avoided being hit by one of them. Grrr. Clearly I have the temperament and inner soul of a judgmental 80 year old man. Or at least, I do when I’m running slowly and there’s sweat in my eyes.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 5.33.45 PM

In other news, I also said I’d post my marathon training plan online. I still need to actually PUT it somewhere online (I’m a pen and paper kind of gal, so right now my schedule exists solely on a set of blank calendar pages I printed from the internet) but here’s the gist:

1. I’m doing a 19 week plan based on Hal Higdon’s intermediate 1 training plan. I added the extra week (it was originally 18) because I’m running a half 6 weeks out from my marathon rather than 9. I’m hoping to PR in this half marathon (is that too ambitious? maybe?) so I added the extra week in as a buffer and a mini-taper.

2. My goal time for this race is 4:10. That would allow me to run a little bit slower than a 9:30 minute pace, which is pretty much my easy run pace now. Yes, it’s a full 35 minutes off my current (and only) marathon time of 4:45, but that race was (A) my first (B) 80 degrees and (C) more disorganized and not very well spectated (as opposed to the Marine Corps, which is known as one of the best-run marathons in the country). I also didn’t incorporate any attempts at speedwork into my training for that race — all I wanted to do is finish. This time, I’m confident that if I train well and don’t get hurt, I can run a 4:10 marathon.

3. To that end, I’m going to incorporate more tempo runs and race pace workouts into my training. My mileage will be about the same as it was last year — about 45 miles per week at the peak of training — because I’m a busy college student and I think that heavy mileage is part of what led me to burn out towards the end of my training last time. I’d rather focus on quality rather than quantity. So every week I’m going to do a tempo run (8:15 min/mile pace) and incorporate some half marathon pace (8:30 min/mile) and marathon pace (9:30 min/mile) running into my long runs.

4. CROSS TRAINING! I did NOT do this last time and I definitely regret it. Things like yoga, weight lifting and swimming are so important to training different parts of your mind and your body when you’re running so much. Luckily, I am working as a lifeguard at an outdoor pool this summer, so I’m hoping to get in the habit of swimming there whenever I can. I also want to try and commit to a weekly yoga class and a weekly strength training session. The swimming and yoga should be easy, but I’m gonna have to come up with some ways to hold myself accountable for the strength training. I hate lifting weights. Got any tips?

So, what do you all thinking? Clearly I’m no expert, but I’m pretty happy with the plan I’ve sketched out for myself.

Hope you’re all looking forward to a great weekend, especially if you’re running the Brooklyn Half tomorrow. I’ll be out there cheering!







How Long’s It Been?

Hey there! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

A whole lot has happened in the 11 months since I last posted on this blog. There have been some serious ups and downs — in running and in life. So much was happening that running kind of went to the back burner, as did this blog.

But this morning I spontaneously decided to return to this blog for the first time in months. Waves of nostalgia and pride washed over me as I re-read my posts about the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon. It was my first 26.2, and now I’m about to start training for my second  — the Marine Corps Marathon on October 27! It occurred to me that I would want some sort of log of my training, both to hold me accountable and to give me something to read over and reflect on after the race is over. After all, the joy of a marathon is as much in the countless hours of effort put in BEFORE race day as it is about the finish line and the medal.

So anyway, now I’m back, ready to start recording my second journey to 26.2 miles. Even though the race isn’t til October, I’m following a 19 week training plan, which actually starts pretty soon (in about a month!). I’ll talk about that  in my next post, but for now, here’s a quick recap of the past 11 months:

June through August: I spent last summer studying Arabic at the University of Alexandria in Egypt! It was a totally overwhelming, exhilarating, unimaginably challenging experience involving lots of fun, lots of hard work and LOTS of sweating, but unfortunately not of the work-out variety. In many ways Egypt is a pretty modern country, but social freedom for women is not really one of those ways. Shorts and a tank top were absolute no-nos, and there wasn’t any way I was going to try running in long sleeves and yoga pants in a city with 100+ degree weather and terrible air quality. Luckily, I was able to get in a decent amount of swimming at the local athletic club (where bathing suits, thankfully, were allowed!) so my muscles didn’t turn entirely to mush. And in the end, the experience was well-worth the hiatus from running.

September: A slow return to running was topped off by the chance to pace one of my good running buddies to a half marathon PR at the Abebe Bikila half marathon. It’s a gorgeous (FLAT!) race along the C&O Canal Path in D.C. I’m actually hoping to achieve my own PR there this fall — but that’s a story for another post.

October: No races on the agenda, but I did run/spectate the Marine Corps Marathon to cheer for two of my great friends (Ka- and Ke-, who ran with me during my own marathon). I wound up being able to see them at 4 different spots along the race course and ran alongside them for a total of about 16 miles, including running the last 8 miles of the course with Ka-. It’s the second time I’ve run that section of the Marine Corps course, because I helped pace a different friend to her first marathon finish the year before. It’s such a great race, and running with Ka- made me absolutely certain that I wanted to be racing myself next year. So I am!

November and December: The Marine Corps Marathon was pretty much the high point of my fall running — after that all kinds of athleticism basically took a nose dive. I got super busy with school and the newspaper and also had to deal with some life drama that left me dreading nothing more than a long run alone with my thoughts. It was probably the first time since I’ve started running that I’ve ever had such a serious case of the “I don’t want to run”s. I just didn’t have the motivation, and since I was so busy, it was easy to let working out fall by the wayside.

January through April: Luckily, things changed in a BIG way in January. I’d gotten my dream internship at a radio show and wound up deciding to take a semester off from school to work there full time. Suddenly my schedule had changed from late nights, afternoon runs and weekends in the library to having a 9 to 6 job and my weekends totally free! The change in schedule, plus a planned half marathon with my mom in May, put some mojo back into my running, though the fact that I hadn’t been running consistently since last May meant that I was a lot slower than I used to be. In March, I ran the Marine Corps 17.75K, which meant I got guaranteed entry to the Marine Corps Marathon this fall. A lucky thing, since the race wound up selling out in under 3 hours! The 17.75K (about 11 miles, for those who don’t want to do the math) was fun but INSANELY hilly. The downhills were so intense I even got shin splints, a problem I haven’t had since I first started running!

Pittsburgh Half

Mile 6 of the Pittsburgh Half. Why do I look so happy?

May: My mom and I ran the Pittsburgh Half together last weekend, and I feel like that race finally put the spark back in my running. I didn’t really train at all for this race and I wasn’t too pleased by my time (1:59:48) — though I guess I got what I deserved for not training. But the race was fun and the crowds were amazing, and that feeling of finishing was the best in the world. The race ended on a big downhill and you could see the finish line from about half a mile away. I knew that I’d have to book it the last mile in order to squeak in under 2 hours, so I summoned all my willpower to sprint towards the finish. I’d been losing energy pretty quickly  for the last four miles or so of the race, and I remember being shocked by that unexpected kick I’d had in reserve. The last half mile of that race reminded me what I’ve always loved about running: how it show that you can do so much more than you’d expected, that you’re always stronger than you think, and that your body is exactly as strong as your mind allows it to be. That finish left me loving running again, but also hungry for another shot at a half marathon — hopefully one that I could PR in.

In case future me is interested (or needs some motivation to actually train for her races), here are the splits from the race:

Pittsburgh Half Splits

“Half marathon splits,” or, “How to positive split like a pro”

I was hoping for a sub 9min/mile pace and just missed it — but look at the split for the last .23 miles! (Side note: I stink at running the tangents! I don’t think I’ve ever run less than .10 mile more than the actual race distance) 6:59 min/mile is faster than my 5K pace — I probably shouldn’t have been running that at the end of a half marathon. Either its a sign that I could have been going faster earlier in the race (maybe during some of those 9:30 miles!) or just a result of the crazy downhill that the race ended on.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 4.01.14 PM

Nothing like a 100-foot elevation loss over the course of a mile to speed things up a bit!

 Alright, I think that’s enough of a recap for now. Happy Thursday!