Tag Archives: marathon training

Berlin 2020 to 2021

When I set out to run the six Abbott World Major Marathons, having the three U.S. runs completed, and the Berlin lottery opened I gave it a shot. I’ve not gotten into London three times and not gotten into Tokyo once. So why not try for Berlin? Low and behold, I got in to Berlin 2020!! And then, covid. I trained with optimism all the way through a 20-miler in July in 2020 and finally accepted that the race would not happen.

I know I’m not alone when I confess to feeling totally rudderless in 2020, without races to train for. So I am eternally grateful that Berlin allowed us to transfer our 2020 lottery entries to the 2021 marathon, September 26. It would be my 15th marathon, my first international, and my fourth in the Abbot World Major series. We just needed covid-19 not to cancel it again.

Berlin Training, Round Two

I used the app RunCoach for a PR at CIM in 2019, specifically under the wings of Coach Hiruni.  I didn’t hesitate when it was time to train for Berlin, again. We started in May. I needed to base build all over again. I ran 3 quality runs a week; most weeks I also swam 1-2 times a week; every now and then I did some half ass upper body strength work (sorry Coach), and that’s it. Fast forward to my finish and I’m confident my lack of strength work contributed to my performance (and not in a good way). Nonetheless, I trained far longer than an average 10-12 week plan so I knew I had the miles going into this race under my belt. I also, overconfidently, felt I had the speed. Given the fast Berlin course I really hoped I might even hit another PR (CIM was 3:29:02…so let me tell you, I was ambitious with Berlin).

Running Internationally

Crossing the pond to run was a first. I’ve taken planes, trains, and driven myself 3-4 hours to and from marathons. But I’ve never flown 13+ hours for a race. Not to mention after not having traveled that far in over two years. I used to be a pro at international travel (for work) and all of a sudden I had to dust off old travel tricks. If you’re considering running internationally, here’s what I did, plus a few tips on what I should’ve done:

  • 13.5 hours from SFO to Zurich; 1 hour to Berlin
    • Out of paranoia, packed my race day gear in a carryon which turned out to be unnecessary
  • Had 3 sleeps before race morning…one more would’ve been ideal
    • I banked NO sleep on night 2 due to jet lag, and as a result went to bed early and entirely exhausted before race day thankfully giving me loads of sleep to run on
  • Packed all the gear — extra everything for all weather conditions including rain, cold, extra socks, etc
  • Did NOT pack enough of the right power converters
  • Did NOT pack favorite race morning food but got somewhat lucky with the hotel breakfast; Nutella will always be an acceptable substitute for peanut butter
  • Turns out Berlin is a walking/biking friendly town; was probably on my feet a few hours more than ideal the day before the race…but to travel this far and only be in race mode would be silly; so, I hoped for the best

Berlin 2021 Marathon

As a runner, I obsess about the weather. I watched Berlin, compared to my hometown of Moraga, CA, for weeks. My early morning runs in the 50s/60s were relatively similar to what was shaping up to be lovely fall weather in Berlin. Race day, however, was unseasonably warm. We started in the low 60s and it was downright hot within the first hour. Granted, I’ve run hotter, and more humid, races, but still not ideal marathon weather.

We stayed at the Steinberger Hotel on Ella-Trebe-Strase, which was about a 10 minute walk to the start area and a generally great location overall. Highly recommend. My start time was 9:35am so also a very civilized time that allowed for plenty of prep time and breakfast at the hotel, but late in terms of temps. I’ve never been less rushed or stressed at the start of a race. I simply walked over, walked through the “vaccinated line,” and straight to the porta-pots!

Despite having studied the start area map for DAYS, I still didn’t fully understand the lay of the land until I was in it. I made my way from the main area over toward my corral (E) with a solid hour to spare before start time. I wouldn’t have wanted to cut it any closer than the total 75 minutes I gave myself from hotel to corral. After porta-pot round two near the corrals, I sat for 15 minutes and then lined up with the 3:30 pacers for the last 20 mins before our start.

Race Recap

I checked in with Coach Hiruni many times pre-race for many reasons. And I set many goals. On my second to last long run (19 miles) my left knee totally gave out. So one main goal was to get to the starting line healthy — which I did — and I’m happy to say I had zero knee pain or weirdness during the race. But we chatted about it a lot and how best to prepare for a healthy start after that long run.

I wanted her thoughts on travel, rest, and most importantly pacing. She very wisely guided me to not go out too fast for the first 5-6 miles, to not get swept up in the excitement. And then, she also very wisely consulted me on the weather and that given the temps, I should not overreach in the first 40% of the race and then see what I had. She provided the exact right amount of confidence that I could hit my stretch goal if, BIG IF (my words, not hers), I heeded her advice and all the stars aligned.

At mile 15, I shed a tear, or maybe just salty sweat spilled from my eye, I said out loud to no one, “Marathons are so humbling.” Here’s what happened.

First 15

At the start line, despite my two porta stops, nerves (and my espresso) got the better of me and I knew I wouldn’t make it the whole race without stopping. I took care of business early, just after 5k and only lost about 45 seconds.

Coach said don’t get too excited. On marathon 15, I KNOW the risk of going out too fast. And yet, I did. I couldn’t slow down. I tried. I kept pep talking myself to “slow down, chill out, take it easy.” Miles 1-11 were average sub-8. I wasn’t with the 3:30 guys and had already decided to “run my race.” My race, however, turned out to be positive splits and pure grit. Miles 12-15 were fine; maybe 8:30 average. But then it got hot. No breeze. And despite studying the course, I think not really knowing it also threw off my mental game. I also spent the whole race studying the right side of the course for my husband — the only other person here I know — for my “energy boost” which I got about 4-5 times.

I had the Gu I brought with me and only water on the course. I wasn’t going to try the “Tee” for the first time ever on the course. I walked through every water stop except for at mile 24 and by the halfway point was one cup to drink and one cup to pour down my back. I do think that blast of cold helped every single time.

Miles 16-20 were a miserable “one mile at a time” stretch to see if I could stay under 9 minutes per mile, which I did. However, I was back and forth between telling myself I could just enjoy, just slow down, not worry about finish time, enjoy the sites, the views, running in BERLIN…all these totally fine positive options versus my own competitive self.

Finish Miles

By mile 20 I switched over to the “final 10k” mentality. This “one mile at a time” mentality is very different than the mid-race wall I hit. This was, just push. See what you have. Definitely stay sub-9. And then, just like that was the final 5k. I didn’t want to overdo it there. I decided to make sure I had enough to finish strong which meant I had arbitrarily landed on an 8:30 at mile 23 (8:57) and then from there my time check read 3:20. That meant I had 20 minutes to run 2.2 miles and still hit my last goal of 3:40. Seemed doable. Mile 24 was 8:40, fine; I wanted to save it for the end. Mile 25, 8:20. Mile 26 I pushed and ran 8:16. And then I saw the arch, and I could see the mat under the arch.

And very, very stupidly, I thought it was the finish. I gave it everything I had, crossed and stopped my watch. Only no one else had stopped running, so neither did I and in that split second moment realized that was not the finish, hit my watch again, shed a tear and looked up to see the proper big blue arch ahead of me. I looked at my watch and knew I couldn’t make 3:40. I wanted to walk that last tenth of a mile. I didn’t.

I crossed in 3:40:49. 

My goals as I went into the race:

  • Stretch: 3:30
  • If all stars aligned: 3:33 (the 7 min margin I would need to actually get into Boston from my actual BQ)
  • What I trained for based on paces: 3:29
  • BQ exact time: 3:40:00
  • Just enjoy, start and end healthy: #runforjoy


No matter the goals, I got to run in Berlin. Period. I know that I’m lucky to be able to run at all, let alone internationally while so much of the world is still navigating a pandemic. I have a support system, I have a vaccination, and I carry with me the gratitude for what this means.

It may take many more lottery tries to round out all my six stars, and that is motivation enough to stay healthy and keep running.

How I Didn’t Quit the 2018 Boston Marathon

There’s no shortage of heroic stories for the finishers of the 2018 Boston Marathon, one of the worst weather Boston Marathons in the history of the race. Finishing this race was a victory in and of itself, and it took every ounce of my being, grit, and willpower to not quit. This was my second Boston and my 13th marathon. Here’s how I didn’t quit the 2018 Boston Marathon. Continue reading

2018 Boston Marathon Training

I first started training for the 2018 Boston Marathon the day I finished it in 2015, and more officially in December 2017. I (over)confidently decided to use the same ASICS sub-3:30 plan that had worked for me at Chicago. I’ve never trained the same way twice and despite my intentions to followthe same plan, it did not go according to plan. It’s tempting to blame the weather, but I really can’t. I have the gear and although this winter did truly suck, I rarely missed a run because of it and there are runners who had far worse winters than me so I’ll just park that excuse over there and move on to how training really unfolded for my 13th Marathon.

Back in December I looked at the 16-week plan and felt like if I spent the first four weeks rebuilding my base, I’d be right on track to really dive in for 12 weeks of solid training. And that sort of worked. But it was cold, and icy, and dark. So I took the 5 days a week down to 4 and decided to – for real this time – add in strength and cross-training.

Enter yoga. In October 2017, I started tagging along with a yogi runner friend (who now teaches!) to some classes at YogaWorks. Fortunately, I got hooked. I decided yoga is the ying to my running yang and is the thing I’ve been missing in all my running. I started to feel stronger. I discovered a new appreciation for stretching and strength training simply using my own

body weight as the core weight. My new obsession with yoga meant that I was trying to add it in 1-2 times a week. This worked pretty well most of Jan


uary and February. And then March hit with work events, changes in our family logistics, longer runs, weekend commitments, and yoga started to take a back seat. The good news is, I think about it all the time and I continue to practice the headstand which is something I hope to really master and evolve by the end of this year. And I’m definitely looking forward to bringing it back into my routine with some consistency.

Training Balance

This round of training I can safely say I had a training-life-work balance. I gave myself the flexibility to move runs around within the week, change up mileage, and accept the outcomes for what they were. In the moment, this felt like a good balance. Two weeks before the race, I’m just shy of panicking that I did it all wrong. I didn’t feel stressed in the moments of training, but I also didn’t feel “all in” all the time. I was proud of myself for working in yoga and rides on my bike trainer. I did speedwork, sort of, usually on Tuesdays. I kind of had some tempo runs but not nearly at the paces I had last summer. I did the long runs: one 20, one 21, one 18, and several in the 15-17 range. The good news is that with the exception of one 17-miler, I felt really good on these long runs. My fueling is good (something I learned and practiced 3 marathons ago thanks to training from Coach Scott) and once I get past the mental barriers that are inevitable in most long runs, my mental game is also pretty strong.

The caveat there is that my mental game is strong while running. For reasons I cannot put my finger on, this training cycle is missing my obsession. It’s the BOSTON MARATHON. I am beyond lucky to have the opportunity to run this race for the second time. I qualified for it, well within my age group’s BQ window, and I even earned myself a 2019 BQ in the process. I know in my heart I will love everything about this experience once it is under way. And yet, I’ve struggled to truly embrace it. I spend more time trying to figure that out then I do focusing on all the things I could be around training. Deep sigh. Perhaps, it’s kind of like any run – they’re all different and they certainly aren’t all perfect.

From Training to Race Day

After 16 weeks of marathon training, I will follow a pretty consistent taper and prep plan. I will have multiple gear options, I’ll have all my Gu ready, I will have obsessed over the weather (that is something I’ll always obsess over), I’ll have studied the course, and the one thing I will have over-thought is Heartbreak Hill and if I’ve done enough in my balanced training to actually be ready for that climb. I still have a lot of questions coming out of this training plan.

I’ll only know the answers on race day.


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.

Continue reading

Taper Time Equals Restless Mind

There are three weeks left until the Chicago Marathon which means it’s almost taper time and my mind is starting to get restless. With 4 weeks to go, I did my last 20-miler and in the week leading up to it was feeling ready to be “done,” ready to taper, let’s get to the race already! I was physically tired but that last 20-miler hit the spot. After that run, I felt physically and mentally ready. And then a funny thing happened. I looked at the remaining three weeks of training — it’s really only one more solid week of hard runs and two weeks of taper — and all of a sudden my mind goes wild. One 16-miler, one 10-miler, and then it’s race day! It’s a feeling of not quite panic, excitement, and an immediate unsettled feeling of what will come next.  Continue reading

2016 TCS NYC Marathon Recap: A New PR

My last post was a marathon recap and it’s crazy how much has happened in the course of 5 months from one marathon to the next, including a Presidential election. Perhaps I’m choosing to write tonight as a distraction from what’s happening to the fate of the future of our country. I’m much happier reflecting on my new PR just two days ago at the TCS NYC Marathon. Long story short, I finished the NYC marathon in 3:33:31, a time that crushed my previous PR from 2013 by 2:11. AND it earns me a 2018 BQ by a 7 minute margin! While I am still riding this runner’s high, possibly one of the things that makes this PR so sweet is that it’s not even what I set out to do. I set out to run smart, to run a specific race strategy; I set out to run through pain, to run with everything I had in me. I set out to finish hard. As it turns out, the combination of these things resulted in an incredibly rewarding race and new PR. Continue reading

Compression Sock Considerations: Yay or Nay?

IMG_3437I’m not sure exactly when compression socks made it on the running scene but one article I read credited Paula Radcliffe with being among the first to really introduce them to long distance running. I know a few running friends that run with compression socks (some swear by them) and I certainly see plenty of people at the starting line of races sporting them. I’ve loosely wondered for a couple years what the big deal is and whether or not it’s something I need to try. After reading an article in the July issue of RW that recommended wearing compression socks on a long flight before a marathon, I decided they’d be worth a try if nothing else for the flight from Baltimore to Salt Lake City for the Big Cottonwood Marathon. Continue reading

Downhill Training: Dealing with Quad Work

I love to run. I’m pretty good at running. I really, really enjoy cycling. With consistent riding I am a decent biker. I like to swim. If I could work in swimming with regularity I could be an ok swimmer again. But I hate quad work. I dread the idea of having to do squats, lunges and wall sits. And yet, those are the exact things I should be doing if I were going to be preparing as best I can to run two marathons this fall, both of which have significant downhill components. Continue reading

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

Do I Need a Running Break?

DSC_7071I took on what I consider to be serious long distance running and training in the early fall of 2008 when I signed up for and started training for my first half marathon. With the exception of the last 6 months of my pregnancy (in 2011-2012) I have been pretty much consistently training for one race or another. There may have been a few “down” moments where I wasn’t heavily logging miles or focusing on a specific plan, but I have regularly been running, biking and swimming for about six years now (ok, mostly running). And just when I hit my peak, just when I decided I should try and train for a BQ, just when my first tri in over a year is on the horizon and just when I felt like I might have figured out even the slightest ability to balance work, life, motherhood, wifehood, and training–I decided, I realized, I’m tired. Continue reading