Tag Archives: long runs

2017 Chicago Marathon Recap

Author’s Note: This marathon recap was started in Oct. 2017 and finished in Jan. 2018 which is amazing because the experience of the race still feels like yesterday.

The 2017 Chicago Marathon was marathon #12 for me. I’ve not trained for any marathon the same way twice but I have combined the best parts of my past experiences and having just achieved my best personal record yet, I may be a tad closer to a formula for marathon success. From my first marathon eight years ago with a 4:11 finish to my Chicago finish in 3:29, there are a lot of little things that add up to successful marathons. But there are two constants – one is all mental, the other is putting in the work.

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Running in 8 Degrees and Other Cold Temperatures

imageIt takes a while to get used to running year round and to figure out all the various iterations of layering needed for different cold temperatures and winter elements. I follow plenty of athletes who run in much colder climates than Maryland so in general I’m not sure I have room to complain, or give advice for that matter. That said, my last long run was in 8 degrees with the wind chill factor. I’ve been running year round with the exception of days where it seems dangerous (i.e., icy routes) or when there’s more rain than I’m willing to bear.

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The Winter Mileage Decline

In November I ran two half marathons, one of which was an awesome PR. I had a couple shorter runs on the calendar for the rest of the year–a Turkey Trot and the Baltimore Celtic Solstice 5-miler to be exact–so nothing that required me to really keep up my mileage. Like every year before, I (still) have all intentions of doing more strength training this winter while maintaining a base. The problem is that I’m not positive I know what mileage counts as a “base” nor do I know yet what to try and maintain as I haven’t nailed down my 2014 race plans yet. And so, I have fallen into the trap of the winter mileage decline.

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Long, Slow, Hot Summer Distance Runs

hot-sunI had an 18 mile run on the calendar for Saturday. My hope was to be out the door running at 5:30 a.m. When I hit start on my watch it was 5:50. The sun was up, it wasn’t terribly humid and it was almost cool for a summer morning. By the time I got to mile 5 I was thinking how much better it would’ve been if I had actually left at 5:30. And if I could’ve run at 5 a.m. I bet I would’ve enjoyed even a few cooler temperatures earlier in the morning. The point is, the earlier, the cooler. At the end of 18 miles I was hot, covered in salt and had downed all four bottles of water in my fuel belt. And it’s only June. I have 11 more weeks of marathon training to do and the long runs inevitably peak during the hottest parts of the summer. Continue reading

When Long Becomes Short

One of the things I love about distance training is the tipping point when all of a sudden what were once long runs become short runs. I tend to spend 2-3 months each winter rebuilding my base and my benchmark is always 6 miles. I always want to get to the point where I can comfortably run 6 miles and then I like to get to the point where I can run 6 miles slightly faster than my easy pace. It takes a long time for 6 miles to become easy, let alone fast. But, every season when I hit the tipping point I will find myself running with a goofy grin on my face. Because once 6 miles becomes the short run, soon 8 and then 10 miles also become short. Continue reading

The Day Before the Long Run

When it comes to following a training plan, regardless of distance, it is likely that you will want to tweak it to best fit your personal goals and life schedule. For any given training plan I’ve ever followed I almost always make a couple adjustments here or there to fit my schedule and comfort level. One area of a training plan I almost always ‘make my own’ is the day before the long run. Continue reading

Long Slow Distance Lessons

CB032718At the Annapolis 10-Miler this year I was behind a couple girls with t-shirts that read on the back “Trained on LSD and Speed” and as a runner I thought that was cute and a clever play on those two words. It wasn’t until days after the race that I started to really consider how the blend of long slow runs and speedwork really are the core tenants of training. And then I realized it was time for me to evaluate if I had been training on LSD and speed.

I’m on week eight of Bart Yasso’s Runner’s World marathon training program as I train for the Richmond Marathon. His plan very clearly spells out Easy runs, Hills and Hill Repeats, Speedwork, LSD runs, and rest days. This is the last week of the hill work-outs and then we move on to mile repeats and a variety of other track work like the famous Yasso 800s. Up until this last week the LSD runs have been between 7 and 13 miles and I have to admit I was only doing LDs. In each of the long runs, I went out with the goal of maintaining my 9-minute, or faster, pace. Over the weekend I was working the gracie’s gear booth at the Nation’s Tri with Coach Gracie Updyke and we each had a 16-mile long run planned for Sunday, so we got to talking about long runs. Continue reading

Thresholds: Heart Rate Help

j0438743At the suggestion of a friend of mine who is an NSPA-certified instructor, I got a Polar heart rate watch last fall to help me train better. I read the Polar user manual and it was obvious the watch does a lot more than what I am ready to do in my training (different alarms for speedwork, a variety of lap settings, etc), and while I haven’t delved into the watch’s many functions, I did set it up to monitor my heart rate. My “own zone” is 65-85% of normal heart rate and I am almost always above the max.

I thought maybe it would be helpful to switch from the percent of heart rate to the actual heart rate setting thinking I would have a better idea of how I’m doing if I knew my actual heart rate. I do like seeing the HR rather than the percent of HR, however, I’m still not clear on what the numbers actually mean. For example, I did a 4.05 mile run with the watch beeping at me almost the entire time. My HR limits were 162/124 and I was only in my zone for 8 minutes of that run. Oddly, the rest of the time I was below my zone with an average HR of 120 despite the fact that my time on this run was the fastest I’ve had yet for that route. How could my HR have been so low when I was actually running faster?

Realizing the number of questions I have, I decided it was time to do some more reading. I turned to Polar’s website as well as an extremely helpful document called Optimal Results, a heart rate training program that was developed in 1994 by Dave Ruff, the National Personal Training Director for TFC Partners and owner of Ruff Fitness. In reading through the training articles on Polar’s website, I learned that I probably should first monitor my resting HR and then set up my own limits based on that number in order to properly conduct heart rate training. Continue reading

Marathon Week: What to Eat?

Food pyramidWhether training for a marathon, a triathlon, a 5K, or nothing at all it’s always worthwhile to set healthy eating goals. I would like to tackle the much larger topic of healthy eating over a series of posts and here will be focusing on what the best practices are with regard to meals for the final week before a marathon.

For the past nine weeks I have been averaging somewhere between 30 and 35 miles of running each week and the calories burned during those sessions adds up. On my longest runs, my Polar watch said I burned about 1800 calories so I can fully expect that running a full 26.2 miles will burn at least 2000 calories. I thought a good starting point for this post would be to learn how many calories I should be consuming. According to a basic Caloric Needs Calculator, I need around 1900 calories a day.

Doing a little math (not at all my strong suit), knowing I will burn 2000 calories on Sunday, if I want to maintain my current weight that means this week I should try to consume an extra 285 calories per day bringing my daily intake to 2185. Had I started thinking about my training diet when I started training, I probably would have followed the rule of thumb to add about 100 calories for every mile to my daily diet. Unfortunately, you can’t just randomly add calories; it’s important to know what layers of the food pyramid those calories should be coming from. If I had my way they’d all come from the tip top fats, sweets, and dairy categories.

MarathonRookie.com suggests that 65% of calories should come from good, complex carbohydrates, 10% from low fat and lean proteins, 20-25% from unsaturated fats and all balanced with plenty of vitamins, calcium, and iron. Carbohydrates provide the glycogen necessary to fuel the body through a long run so it seems that if I build up the glycogen stored in my body the week before I will have sufficient fuel to burn on race day.

Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) I am not a calorie counter. I simply eat until I’m full and often until I’m just about stuffed. I like food, what can I say? I also know from experience and from research that it’s not smart to vary the diet too much before race day. The body gets used to processing certain foods and I have no intention of messing with that system before my first marathon. I would, however, like to identify the best balanced diet with the foods I normally eat and with the food already in my kitchen though there are plenty of good marathon recipes out there. Any special recipes or best foods you want to share?

I believe in writing this that I have figured out that my own personal marathon week diet needs to be the right percentages of the food pyramid with types of food my body is already used to. I will err on the side of adding more carbs and do my best to make sure they are complex carbs like cereal, oatmeal, wheat bread, pasta, carrots, and apples. I will also use the day before the run to “carb load” and I admit I’m looking forward to it!

And for future training, I’ll start my diet off at the beginning.

Running Questions: A Long Run Fuel Recipe

long_run_fuelFor the last few weeks I have been dabbling lightly with the best pre-run routine for long Sunday runs. I’m acutely aware of the need to fuel up before heading out but I’ve also become more in tune with the amount of time it takes for my body to wake up and go through its own routines.

I’ve tried drinking coffee, not drinking coffee, not having breakfast, having light breakfast, and drinking lots of water regardless of the rest of the routine. I believe I’ve finally found something that works (thanks in part to the oatmeal suggestion from @crossn81). Part of the trick to the long run recipe is to start the day before.

Knowing ahead of time that I would be burning well over 1,000 calories on my 20 mile run, I let myself indulge a little on Saturday. In addition to high fiber banana bread for breakfast and a well-endowed PBJ sandwich for lunch with sides of carrots and dip plus a granola bar, I enjoyed some mid-afternoon hot chocolate to fulfill a sugar craving and also keep the calories flowing. Dinner was high in protein and veggies with chicken stir-fry and I downed a bowl of kettle corn popcorn while watching a chick flick later. Saturday also including drinking lots of water. The rest of the recipe? Continue reading