Three weeks until race day!
This past week served as a sort of recovery week for me. After my weekly mileage PR of 50 miles two weeks ago, I was exhausted and craving a break. This past week was much lighter at just 42 miles, with only two instead of three hard workouts. I’m still tired–it’s the marathon grind after all–but it hasn’t been as bad. And with just three weeks to go, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hanson’s method has a 10-day taper, so I have less than two more weeks of training, then taper.
Coach Melissa has been helping me a lot with mental preparation. I shared with her a list of things about the race that scare me, and she helped me with how to prepare for those. She is not letting me think for even a minute that I won’t hit my goal time. She created a pace chart for me that shows how much I can slow down in the first half because of the incline and then how much I’ll need to speed up in the second half to make up the time. It sounds totally doable. On paper, of course!
That’s where I keep going back and forth. On one hand, I truly believe I can hit my goal time. I trust my training completely and feel extremely prepared. On the other hand, I’m worried I’m being naive about it. I’ve never run a marathon, so I can’t know what it’s like. And even if I had, each race is different, so I won’t know what challenges this race will hold for me. I know it’s going to be hard, and I know it’s going to hurt. But when will it get hard, how will it feel, and will I be able to handle it? My biggest weakness is rallying after things have turned south. So I guess the best I can do is to stay in the mile. When things get rough, I’ll just need to get through that mile as best as I can. And the mile after that. And the mile after that. I do know that having my friend running with me will be a big help. I guess I’ll just have to keep believing in myself and trusting my training.
Here’s how last week went down.
Week at a Glance
- Training mode: Training for small, local, rails-to-trails Indiana Veteran’s Marathon near Pittsburgh on November 6 using a version of the Hanson’s Marathon Method beginner plan customized by a Hanson’s coach
- Days running: 6
- Miles this week: 42
- Time running: 9:14
- Miles this training cycle: 491.78
- Miles this month: 106
- Miles this year: 1,209.82
- Strength training sessions: 1
Recovery run: 4 miles (40 degrees)
This was a short recovery run following my 16-miler the previous day, and it was the coolest day of fall so far. I wore gloves!
Easy run: 6 miles (40 degrees)
Another cool morning! It’s fun to say hello to my cold-weather gear again.
Speed workout: 7 miles (46 degrees)
Wednesdays are typically a rest day, but this week was different due to preparing for Saturday’s race simulator. This workout was shorter, faster repeats, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve been running at either marathon pace or easy pace for a few weeks now, so it felt good to bump up the speed a bit.
But the workout really did me in. This was my seventh consecutive day of running, and with the fatigue and the increase in intensity, I was beat the rest of the day. I was so tired later in the day that my head got foggy and I got a headache. I went to bed at 7 p.m.!
Rest day! It felt sooooo good. In the evening I did 30 minutes of strength training, my only session for the week. I’ve just been too tired to do more.
Shakeout run: 4 miles (38 degrees)
This was a pre-race shakeout run, but because it was so cool at 38 degrees, I had to really stop myself from going faster.
Buffalo Creek Half Marathon: 14.8 miles (46-63 degrees)
This race was my first half marathon redemption race four years ago. I’d run a very disappointing and nausea-infused first half marathon at the Montour Trail Half Marathon a month prior and wanted another shot at the distance. I loved Buffalo Creek and had a great experience. This was my fourth time in a row doing the race, and I always enjoy it and do well.
This year I was using it as my race simulator, where I practice everything for race day–dinner the night before, breakfast the day of, fueling, outfit, and pacing strategy. The pacing goal was to ease into my marathon pace over the first few miles, be patient and hold steady to my marathon pace in miles 3-10, and then push the pace and race the last 5K if I felt good. I was also to do a mile warm-up and cool-down, making this my long run. All did not go as planned, but I learned a lot.
I was so tired the night before that I decided to get my stuff ready in the morning. I ended up forgetting two critical things: my orange juice mixed with spirulina powder that I drink 15 minutes before running and my visor.
I’d brought an extra gel so took that in place of my juice. I’m not sure if that’s the reason, but this race is the first time in forever that I’ve had a bit of nausea while running.
The forecast was 40 degrees when I was headed out, 50 degrees at race start, and around 60 at the end. It was also clear and sunny, making it feel much warmer. Every previous year it’s been very cool and overcast, which is why I didn’t remember to bring a visor.
I got to the start early to have time to pick up my packet, get everything ready, and use the bathroom before starting my warm-up mile. When I got there I immediately noted that it was much warmer than I’d expected. The start was at a church, which had indoor bathrooms and places to relax inside before the race, which was nice. Even though bathrooms were plentiful, I waited a long time. I was in line for one inside and learned there was no toilet paper or paper towels left, so went to another and got in line. As soon as I got to the front, women were reporting that none of the toilets flushed. Ugh, no thanks. So I went outside to wait for a porta-potty, only to learn after waiting for a while that the majority were empty even though they appeared to be occupied. Argh! Finally I headed out for my warm-up mile not sure if I’d make it back by the start of the race.
Once I started running, I got warm really quickly. I know I want to wear my Lulu Speed Tights on race day because I’ll need all five pockets. I knew I’d be warm running in full-length tights in warm temps, and I was. I had a very lightweight longsleeve but wished I’d worn a tank instead. I got to the starting line just as the race was about to start, warm and sweaty already.
Just as the national anthem started, the sound system died. The crowd of about 1,100 runners all started softly singing the national anthem instead. I got chills. It was definitely the most memorable start line experience I’ve ever had–the entire field of runners coming together to make the national anthem happen. It was really cool!
As soon as I started running, I hit the brakes. The start of the race is a downhill, and it’s easy to go out too fast. I kept to my pacing strategy and started just slower than marathon pace.
I felt good, but immediately the sun started irritating me. Most of the course is on a rails-to-trail and is shady, but there were many points where the sun was shining in my eyes. I was kicking myself for not bringing my visor. The reason I love this race so much is the beautiful course through fall leaves. Not so much this year. I guess because we’d had such a hot summer, the leaves had barely turned. And because of the sun, I had to keep my eyes down and couldn’t enjoy the trail like I usually do. Because of the lack of fall color and the intense sun, I didn’t enjoy the race as much as I did in previous years.
Still, I felt good and had no problems keeping to my marathon pace. In fact, it was hard not to go faster. This course is fast, and many runners I know get a PR on it–my current PR is on this course. I had to almost constantly check my pace and pull back to keep to my planned pace.
At about mile 5 I got a huge rock in my shoe and had to stop twice to get it out, but I had no problem picking up the pace in the rest of the mile, so that was good practice. I do plan to wear gaiters for the race but haven’t ordered them yet.
The race went by very quickly. I just wanted to get to mile 10 so I could start running faster. Around mile 8 I had some nausea, but I told myself it would go away. And it did! I’m actually glad that happened in case it happens on race day.
Throughout the race I practiced walking a few steps through water stations to pour more water into my handheld, and that worked well.
I also cried during the race. I ran past a dad and two small kids, who’d made their own signs for their mom running the race. The kids were so excited about their signs that it made me tear up a bit. Geez, marathon training makes me crazy emotional!
Finally I got to mile 10 and started bumping up the pace. Then I started making mistakes. In mile 11 I knew I was going really fast so intentionally slowed up a lot to take my last gel and salt stick. But then I ran out of time to get my pace back up, so that mile was my slowest in the race. Dumb mistake! I was kicking myself and determined to get some faster miles in, so mile 12 was my second mistake. I busted out my fastest mile of the race at half marathon pace, 1:00/mile faster than my marathon pace. It was a mistake because after that, my body was like, “That’s enough of that!” and I was super tired and struggling just to keep to my marathon pace. The hill at the very end before the finish line caused me to end that mile just slower than marathon pace.
My two slowest miles were in the last 5K, which I was bummed about because they were due to dumb mistakes, not how I was feeling. I was feeling so strong the whole race, and passing so many people who were walking or struggling at the end–until I was struggling myself after stupidly running a really fast mile 12. I finished at exactly my goal marathon pace, per the official race results. Ha! So, I really can’t be mad at myself.
After the race I got my medal and water and tried to run my cool-down mile. The finish was in a very small town, and there were crowds of people everywhere so just not really anywhere to run. I ended up stopping at .6 miles, making the total 14.8 for the day since I logged 13.2 miles in the race.
While I didn’t enjoy the race like I have in previous years because of the sun, it was great practice and I learned some things for race day.
- Prep the night before instead of morning of. Duh.
- Wear a visor, even if sun isn’t in the forecast. The sun in my eyes irritates me too much to chance it.
- I’m the queen of patience and keeping to a slower pace even when I feel good and want to run faster. I know this is going to serve me well in the marathon.
- If there are unseasonably warm temps on race day, I’ll be fine. Even though it was very warm during the race and I was overdressed, it didn’t affect me. This is likely due to all the hot weather training this summer.
- I can run through nausea, and it will likely just go away.
- I will not bust out a fast mile in the marathon! It will be the death of my race if I do. Melissa confirmed that the only time I should be running that fast in the marathon is in the final mile when I need to leave the last of my energy on the course.
- I’m ready for the marathon! Except for my pacing mistakes at the end, my marathon pace felt easy, despite the warmer temps. This gives me a lot of confidence for the race itself!
My last thought on the race is that the tee and medal are my favorite of all the years I’ve done the race. The race organizers pick the design based on something they’ve seen on the trail that year. In the past the designs have featured a dragonfly, turtle, and flower. This year it’s an owl. This is my all-time favorite medal!
Recovery run: 6.2 miles (61 degrees)
I was tired and sore when I woke up and really didn’t want to run. But I got out there and got it done. It was warm again. This little warm-up is supposed to last until the middle of the week. Eh. I’m ready for cold weather and will be happy once the warm weather is gone for good.
In the afternoon Dave and I loaded up Django and drove to the Ghost Town Trail–the course of my marathon. The last times I’ve run on it I wanted to explore off the trail a little but couldn’t. There is an old concrete bridge you can cross, leading to the ghost town of Claghorn, where there were 85 houses, a three-story hotel, and other buildings built in 1903. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing left of it. All we saw were trees. It’s really interesting to think how an entire town can just disappear like that.
It was a bit too sunny and warm for me, but the fall leaves were pretty. Django has definite preferences and makes them known. He didn’t like walking on this trail at all. He likes to walk where there’s a lot to sniff and pee on, and there wasn’t much on this trail. So throughout the walk he would sigh heavily and whine a little to let us know how much he didn’t like the trail. When we turned around to go back, he really picked up the pace because he was so eager to get off the trail and into the car. How dare we make him go on a walk on a nice fall day! Ha!
This week is another lighter week to recover from Saturday’s race. I’ll have less mileage and only two hard workouts again. Onward!