With Grandma’s Marathon less than a week away (eeeeeeeeeee!!), I thought it would be fun to put together a recap of my training cycle. Grandma’s had been on my race bucket list for quite a while by the time I registered. If you live in the midwest, and especially Minnesota, you know all about Grandma’s. I was coming off a failed training cycle for Twin Cities Marathon due to a tibial stress fracture and in desperate need of a new race to dream about while I healed up. Grandma’s was the obvious answer — I signed up the day registration opened in October.
I was already registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February, so I decided to use half marathon training as a way to build a solid base before training for the full. My training for the half went really well, despite the fact that I had to complete pretty much all of my runs on the treadmill due to the severe cold in Minnesota (oh hey polar vortex). I ended up getting terribly sick with a severe chest cold the week before the race and didn’t think I would make it to Florida — thankfully, I was able to get well enough to get on the plane and the humid air in Orlando did *wonders* for my lungs. My race pace was super slow, but I had the absolute time of my life running through Magic Kingdom with my best friend.
I had a full week of rest between the Princess Half and starting Grandma’s Marathon training, which allowed me to recover fully from both the half marathon and my awful chest cold. I used a pretty standard beginner’s training plan from Marathon Training Academy to get ready for Grandma’s. I ran three days a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), cross-trained two days a week (Wednesdays and Sundays) and rested two days a week (Mondays and Fridays). To be honest, my cross-training efforts fell by the wayside in May when I started to hit those really high mileage long runs. The training plan topped out at 20 miles and included a three week taper.
Since I detailed how I prepare for long runs in my last post, I thought I’d share the other side of the equation: how I recover once my long runs are over. I’m still figuring out what exactly works for me (and what my body needs) after long runs, but here are five things that been staples of my post-run recovery since I started running.
Refuel right away: I start re-fueling pretty much as soon as I walk in the door from my long run. I always make sure I have a Gatorade in the fridge so I can get in some electrolytes right away (Glacier Cherry is my fav). I usually daydream longingly about the Gatorade while I’m completing my miles, so it serves as a nice post-run reward, too.
I struggled for a while experimenting with foods to eat as soon as I’m done. Research shows you should eat within 30 minutes of a hard workout in order to jumpstart your body’s repair process, but for a long time I would get queasy if I ate right away after a long run (usually leftover pasta from the night before). Then I figured out the right post-run food for me: white rice with soy sauce. It’s gentle on my stomach and its high glycemic index helps me get in a lot of calories and restore glycogen quickly. And the soy sauce, in addition to being delicious, helps get some salt back into my system. I’ll usually put the rice in the rice cooker as soon as I get back and then take a hot bath; by the time I’m out of the tub, the rice is ready!
Soak in a bath: Ahhhh, the tub. There truly are very few things I love more than sitting in a hot bath (my husband gets legitimately startled by how hot I make the water, but whatever it’s fine) — especially after a long run. I like to add Dr. Teal’s Relax and Relief Soaking Solution (basically epson salts) and Foaming Bath (aka bubble bath) in eucalyptus and spearmint. I really feel like a hot bath helps me get ahead of sore muscles — don’t have any research to back that up, just my experience.
Put on some recovery gear: After my bath, I put on some pajamas, compression calf sleeves and recovery sandals. I bought my compression sleeves for only $10 on Amazon; I’ve been super happy with them and definitely have noticed that my legs feel much more sore when I don’t wear them. Compression gear can be really pricy, so this is a good option for anyone on a budget. I hope to upgrade to CEP compression pants some day, but for now, these work just fine. I also slip into my PR Soles Recovery Sandals after a long run. These are definitely the best investment I’ve made in recovery gear; wearing these sandals seriously feels like walking on clouds. They are only $35 on Amazon and, in my opinion, worth every penny. I have them in blue and pink.
Rest those legs: After eating my rice and drinking my Gatorade, next up on my recovery to-do list is get into bed and rest my legs. Sometimes I fall asleep, sometimes I’m just watching Bob’s Burgers, but I’m always in bed for at least 2 hours (usually closer to three). Depending on how my body is feeling, I might put an ice pack on my knee or lay down on a heating pad. I also really like to put Nardo’s Natural muscle rub on my legs and/or Aveda foot relief cream on my feet.
Get up and move: After waking up from my nap/rest, I usually feel pretty good, albeit a bit stiff. I’ve found that the best way to manage that stiffness is to get up and move around. I usually spend the next several hours meal prepping, cleaning, and/or running errands. By the end of the day, I’m ready to put up my legs again and get some more rest.
Like I said at the beginning, I’m still figuring out what works for me — so I would love to hear what recovery secrets you’ve discovered for yourself!
Now that I’ve got a few dozen long runs under my belt, I’ve figured out a pretty good routine for getting ready. I pulled a lot of these tips from fellow runners’ Instagrams and blogs, so I wanted to share what I’ve learned and add in a few of my own suggestions.
Three days before my long run: This is when I generally start thinking ahead to my upcoming long run. I usually do my long runs on Saturdays, but sometimes on Sundays, depending on what my weekend looks like. These are questions I start asking myself: what’s the weather forecast? And based on that, what do I want to wear? Do I need to wash any running clothes? What am I going to eat the night before? Do I have materials for my usual breakfast before? I find that by asking myself these questions a few days out, the wheels start turning and mental preparation begins early, which only helps me when it’s time to run.
One daybefore my long run: Because I’ve already been asking myself the questions I mentioned above, I’ve got a good idea of what I need to do the day before. If I haven’t already washed my long run clothes, I’ll throw them in the wash before I leave for work in the morning. I stop by the grocery store to get any supplies I need for my dinner (I usually go for some kind of pasta, a side of veggies and bread) and always pick up a gatorade to drink once my run is done. For breakfast the morning of my run, I like to eat pretty much the same thing every week — a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and some fruit (usually a banana or berries). I keep my bagels in the freezer so they don’t go bad in between long runs; if I’m out of bagels, I’ll grab some at the grocery store too.
I also start planning out my route and what I want to listen to while I run. Lately, I’ve been listening to audiobooks on my long runs. If I’ve finished one (or if I just want to listen to a new one), I’ll peruse Libby, the audiobook app connected to my county library, and check one out/request one. If I want to listen to a podcast, I’ll make sure everything is downloaded and that I have enough episodes to get me through my run.
Night before my long run: This is when a lot of prep happens. Because I usually get up super early (like 4 or 5 am) for my long runs, it helps me to get everything ready the night before. I’ll lay out my clothes (shorts, tank, bra, socks, shoes) and any miscellaneous accessories (FlipBelt, hydration pack, Body Glide, sunscreen, chapstick). I make sure my FitBit Versa and wireless headphones are charging. And I pull out the fuel I plan to use for the run (UCan Hydrate powder for right before and Honey Stinger gummies during). I like to put all of this stuff either in the bathroom or kitchen, so my husband doesn’t have to hear me fumbling in the dark when I wake up at the crack of dawn.
Morning of my long run: Because I’ve pretty much got everything set up, I’m able to get ready quickly. I try to wake up an hour before I want to start running, so I have time to eat breakfast and go to the bathroom a few times. My first priority is always to eat: I thaw out a bagel in the microwave and then toast it, and cut up some fruit. I drink a glass of water when I first get up and then drink another with UCan Hydrate mixed in. Before long, I’m dressed and sun screened-up. And after all that prep, all that’s left to do is run — so I head out the door and get my miles done.
I’m an anxious person in general, so I like to plan ahead for most things. But I’ve found that my runs are just so much more successful when I’ve thought through these tiny details ahead of time. Running 12+ miles is hard enough — I don’t need to make it any harder by not charging my headphones or forgetting to pack my fuel source.
A few weeks ago, when I ran the Get in Gear half marathon, the weather forecast was looking pretty rough for race day — rain, snow, wind, cold temps, the whole sha-bang. I wasn’t looking forward to racing in those conditions, but at the same time, I knew it would be good to experience a long run in that kind of weather before Grandma’s. So I did my best to put on a smile and went out to buy a poncho. Turns out, I wouldn’t end up needing it — it was chilly and cloudy, but no rain or snow. I was relieved but still thought to myself, “I hope I can experience running in wet conditions before the marathon.”
Well friends, the universe listened. And boy did she deliver.
Fast forward to yesterday, the day of my first 20-miler and the Women Run the Cities 10-mile race. Once again, the forecast was looking grim: 100% chance of rain, high of 45 degrees, 25 mph winds. But this time, the storm didn’t blow over — it was here to stay. And I would finally get my super wet racing experience.
I decided to run Women Run the Cities even though I had a 20-miler scheduled for that weekend because it’s, quite simply, my favorite race of the year and I couldn’t imagine missing it. There’s just something about being in a huge crowd of women, cheering each other on, celebrating every step. It’s magical. So I decided to include the race in my 20-miler. I planned to run 10 on my own early in the morning before the race started and then 10 later in the morning.
I knew the weather was going to be rough, so I planned ahead Saturday night to help make things smoother on Sunday. I laid out two different complete running outfits, one for the first 10 and one for the race, since I knew I’d want to change into dry clothes in between. I also had everything packed for the race, so I could dash out the door quickly after changing.
I woke up at 4 am on Sunday — the earliest I’ve ever gotten up for a long run! I drank a big glass of water with a UCan Berry Hydrate Electrolyte Packet mixed in, ate a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and piled on my rain/cold weather gear — my normal running clothes, plus a waterproof jacket, brimmed hat and gloves. By 5 am, I was out the door.
It was still dark out when I started and I don’t really ever run in the dark, so part of me was a bit on edge for the first few miles. But once the sun started to come up, I really relaxed and enjoyed listening to all the birds waking up around me. I ran past the set-up for Women Run the Cities — it was super cool to see it early in the morning when they were just putting everything together, and then again later on when set-up was all complete. Those staff and volunteers work HARD to get the whole race set up in just a few hours!
It was pouring rain and I was totally soaked, but it really didn’t bother me too much. My feet got cold towards the end because of all the puddles I ran through, but other than that, I wasn’t that uncomfortable. I brought a pack of Honey Stinger energy chews and ate half at mile 3 and the other half at mile 6.
I finished my first 10-miles with an average pace of 12:06, which is pretty good for me on a long run. I was home for about 30 minutes to change into dry clothes, re-hydrate with some Gatorade and feed my pets breakfast. Before I knew it, I was heading back out, this time with a poncho and some throw-away waterproof pants.
It was really pouring by the time I got to the race (which is luckily about 5 minutes from my house, so I didn’t have to drive far). I checked my bag and then took refuge under a pavilion with all the other runners while we waited for the start time (8:30 am). I was feeling really stiff and cold at this point — my legs were starting to ache from the earlier run and I wasn’t feeling super excited to do it all over again.
I stayed in this negative head space for the first two miles or so of the race. I was running with the 12-minute-per-mile pace group and had a goal of sticking with them the whole time. But the pace felt super fast early on and I had doubts that I could hang with them for the remainder of the race. Luckily, once my muscles warmed back up and my body relaxed, the pace started to feel much easier and I was comfortably running with the pack. It also definitely helped that the rain let up a bit around mile 4 of 5; instead of pouring, it was now more of a heavy mist.
I brought another pack of Honey Stinger chews for the race; this time I took one-third at mile 2, one-third at mile 5 and one-third at mile 7. I really felt great for the last 7 or 8 miles of the race — the pace felt easy, my breathing was relaxed and even the two big hills we covered weren’t too difficult. Before I knew it, the finish line was there. I honestly felt like I could have kept going, which is something I *rarely* experience after a long run.
I finished the second 10 miles faster than the first, with an average mile pace of 11:58. My combined 20-mile run time clocked in at 4 hours, 44 seconds, for an average overall mile time of 12 min/mile even. I was super happy with my time!
I got my medal and some finish line snacks (half a banana, a bag of chips, a bottle of water and a small bottle of chocolate milk). I then grabbed my bag from back-check and changed into the warm rain jacket that I had packed for after the race (I was super happy that I thought to do that!). But even with the warm jacket, I still got cold really fast. I headed over to the post-race brunch (yep, you read that right) to re-fuel. They had mini quiches, fruit cups, bagels and donuts. I grabbed two huge (and delicious) glazed donuts, mostly because they were easy to carry and I already had a lot of stuff in my arms.
Then I grabbed a mimosa (yep, you read that right again), which was so delicious and totally hit the spot. I also got a sample of the 26.2 Brew beer (and a free koozie!) but they were making runners finish the whole drink in the brunch area and my teeth were starting to seriously chatter at this point, so I only had a few sips before I threw it out. I felt really guilty for not drinking more of it, but I was just so cold, I knew I needed to get out of those wet clothes (this is also why I don’t have any post-race pics — sorry!). I happily ate my donuts on the short walk back to my car and was a bit alarmed when I looked in my rearview mirror and saw that my lips were turning blue. Again, I luckily live right around the corner, so I was home and in a hot shower in just 5 minutes.
After getting into my PJs and compression calf sleeves, I had an avocado sandwich and the chips from the race, plus the chocolate milk and another Gatorade. I happily climbed into bed for a 2-hour nap with my dogs. When I woke up, I felt a bit stiff, but overall really great — I definitely did not feel like I had run 20 miles earlier in the day! I did a lot of meal prep for the upcoming week, watched A Star Is Born (again) and was back in bed at 8 pm for a good night’s sleep.
Despite the wet conditions, Sunday was a great experience and it gave me a lot of confidence for the last 5 weeks of training. I know running 20 miles with a break in between will feel different (and probably easier) than running that distance consecutively. My second 20-miler (which I’ll run in one go) will be in two weeks and I’m legitimately excited to see how I do.
It wasn’t lost on me yesterday that the next time I put a bib on, it will be for my first marathon. I’m so excited for Grandma’s and feeling so grateful that so far (knock on wood) my body is healthy and ready for 26.2!
This time last year, I was just about to start training for my first-ever marathon: the 2018 Twin Cities Marathon in October. I had big plans for my summer of training — I envisioned myself being super consistent, tackling all my long runs with vigor and energy, and getting as prepared as possible for the big 26.2.
In reality, I fell into a lot of traps that first-time marathoners fall into. Four months sounds like a really long time at the start of a training cycle. So if you miss a long run or two, it doesn’t feel like a huge deal. But once you get into the pattern of missing runs, it gets easier to miss more and more, and then before you know it the marathon has arrived.
That’s pretty much what happened to me. My training was sporadic at best — I frequently missed both long and short runs, rarely making up the missed miles. My diet was all over the place. When I did run, recovery wasn’t something I prioritized. I shouldn’t have been at all surprised when I developed a serious femoral stress fracture seven weeks out from the marathon, but I was surprised. Really, I was devastated.
I had this epic vision of what my first marathon experience would look like — crossing the finish line to cheers from my husband and friends, getting that glorious medal placed around my neck, chowing down on an epic post-race burger and beer. So when the doctor told me I would be in a boot for at least 8 weeks, I took it hard. It took me quite a while to get out the emotional funk that came with my injury.
Eventually, I did come out of it and made plans for my text training cycle. I’m currently seven weeks out from Grandma’s Marathon, the same length of time I was from Twin Cities when I got injured. So maybe that’s why my failed marathon attempt has been on my mind a lot recently. I thought about it for most of my 16-mile run yesterday and came to a conclusion that simultaneously shocked and heartened me: I’m grateful that I developed my stress fracture and couldn’t run the marathon.
It was emotionally and physically painful, but it taught me a really important lesson. I was envisioning and expecting a marathon experience and finish that I hadn’t worked for, that I hadn’t earned. I didn’t put in the work, yet I was expecting a picture-perfect race.
If I had made it to the starting line, I know I would have had a miserable run. I wasn’t prepared, physically or mentally, for the challenge. Ultimately, I’m guessing that the bad experience would have totally soured me on the entire idea of ever running a marathon again. I didn’t know it at the time, but by getting injured, I was actually protecting my future as a long distance runner.
During this training cycle, I’ve only missed one long run — and that was a decision I agonized over and did not make lightly. I’ve been super consistent in getting my runs in and, as a result, I’ve seen a real improvement in my times. Diet has been a major focus for me this time around, too. I’m always thinking about what I’m putting into my body/how it could positively or negatively impact my next run. Recovery has been another priority during this training cycle; I schedule my weekends around my long runs to make sure that I have enough time and space to properly recover from hard efforts.
Do I have marathon training totally figured out? Nope, not at all. But I learned a lot about the work I need to do in order to have the marathon experience I’ve dreamed of. I’d say at this point, I’m cautiously optimistic about Grandma’s. I’ve still got lots of training miles ahead of me before the race, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But I’m proud of the effort and consistency I’ve maintained so far in this cycle. I’m super excited to see what the next seven weeks will bring. And ultimately, I’m grateful for the injury that played a big role in getting me to this point.
Welcome to the inaugural post of the Tryna Run blog! What better way to kick off this whole shebang then with a good, old-fashioned race recap? Let’s dive into my most recent race, the 2019 Get In Gear Half Marathon.
The race was held on April 27 at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, MN — conveniently located about five minutes from my house. I registered just about a month before the event. I wasn’t planning on running another half before Grandma’s because I had just run one in February (the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando. It was *literally* magical, but that’s for another post). But I was super sick the week before the Princess Half and humidity that day was at 90%, so my best friend and I walk-ran most of the race. I knew our final time of 3:32:35 was not at all a reflection of how fast I could race, so I wanted to get another half — one where I was actually racing — under my belt before Grandma’s. Here’s how it went:
The day before: I worked a full, busy day the Friday before the race and then went out to dinner, where I filled up on a delicious turkey burger and fries. I headed over to Minnehaha Park around 7 pm for packet pick-up, which was open until 8. (Side note to any race directors who may be reading: Having a late packet pick-up is so helpful and very appreciated!) The pick-up process was super smooth and quick. The bibs and t-shirts were located in different areas of the park and I didn’t totally understand why, but it worked out fine. I then headed home and pretty much went straight to bed; I was pretty emotionally exhausted from an intense week at work and wanted to get as much rest as possible before the race.
The morning of: Like I mentioned earlier, the course was located super close to my house so I slept in a bit longer than I usually would the morning of a race. I got up at 6:45 am, with the race starting at 9. I ate a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and drank a glass of water/small cup of coffee. I had been going back-and-forth all week on what I was going to wear for the race. The forecast a few days out said it was going to be in the 30s with 100% chance of rain and even some snow mixed in. But by morning-of, it had changed to a temp of about 45 with only a 30% change of rain. Ultimately, I decided to wear my Saucony spandex shorts, Under Armour v-neck tee, New Balance lightweight rain jacket (can’t find the exact link, but this is close), and a free running hat I got at a race last summer. I also wore some cheap waterproof Nike warm-up pants that I got at GoodWill as throw-away gear when it was looking like it would rain a ton. After applying lots of Body Glide and getting dressed, I drank a big glass of water mixed with UCAN Performance Energy Powder (orange flavor) and then headed out around 8:15 am.
Bag Check + OMG I GOTTA PEE: I parked about a quarter of a mile away from the start line, so I arrived at the pre-race area by 8:30. It was pretty chilly out and I was regretting that I hadn’t brought gloves. I also sent my husband some nervous texts when I realized that very few people were wearing shorts and most had on a lot more layers than I did — he assured me that I had run in every type of Minnesota weather and he was confident I made the right decision in my gear (#ThanksRich). He ended up being right — tons of people took off outer layers once the race was about to start. I waited in line for a bit to use the indoor bathrooms, which gave me the chance to stay out of the cold and keep warm. Afterwards, I reluctantly took off my warm-up pants and checked my bag. This was at about 8:50 am. I was starting to walk to the corral when my bladder urgently informed me it had magically re-filled in the 10 minutes since I last went. Super fun. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have had so much liquid in such a short amount of time before the race. Next time, I’ll wake up earlier so I have more time to pee at home.
Anyways — back to the race. I jogged over to the Port-o-Potties and got in a long line. I finally got into one at about 8:58 and then ran over to the corrals. I usually like to get to my corral 10-15 minutes before the race starts, so this was cutting it super close for me and my anxiety was high. I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm myself. Within 30 seconds of arriving to the corral, the start gun went off and we were officially off!
The Course – Part 1: The first third of the course was either flat or downhill. I was feeling great during these early miles. Coming down the huge hills, I started feeling anxious about the fact that I was going to have to go back *up* them in just a short while. But instead of focusing on that worry, I tried to instead just cheer on the super fast runners who had already passed the turnaround point. Seriously, the other runners near me must have been so annoyed by my constant shouts of “WAY TO GO” and “LOOKIN’ GOOD” every time someone passed me in the opposite direction. But I couldn’t help it, I was in cheerleader mode.
Splits for miles 1-4: 11:03, 11:18, 11:27, 11:29
The Course – Part 2: This is where things got rough, just like I knew it would. Tackling these big hills was not fun, but I thought a lot about what my Insta friend Katherine (@katherun26.2) had posted about the day before: “Prepare for the race to hurt. Visualize your race ending how you have been training for it to with your goal time on the clock, but also visualize the hurt that comes with racing and yourself working out of a rough patch (like how you have in a workout before and ended up still hitting your splits!).” Such great advice, right? Going up those hills, I just kept saying to myself “you knew it was going to be hard, this is where it counts.” Katherine also recommended coming up with a mantra to help you get through those hard miles. My mantra for this race, and particularly for those hills, was “head up, heart up, keep moving.” This helped me keep my form in check and, before I knew it, the worst of the hills were behind me. During this part of the race, I also fueled a good bit — I ate half of my Honey Stinger fruit smoothie energy chews at mile 6 and the other half at mile 9.
Splits for miles 5-9: 11:11, 11:33, 11:39, 12:00, 11:26
The Course – Part 3: Part two of the course was hard physically. Part three was hard mentally. By mile 11, I just felt ready to be done. I found myself taking a few small walk breaks. I could feel my mental energy draining. So I decided to focus on picking off the runners in front of me. One at a time, I focused on reeling them in and passing them by. With one mile left, I really started pushing, just wanting to get to that finish so badly. I was super happy to see that my last mile was my fastest of the whole race. I crossed the finish line in 2:31:36 with an average mile time of 11:34 and a huge smile.
Splits for miles 10-13.1: 11:24, 11:35, 11:15, 10:57
Recovery: The smile, unfortunately, didn’t last long. Very shortly after I stopped running (like before I had even collected my medal), it felt like all the muscles in both legs started seizing up and cramping. I limp-walked to a grassy area and tried to stretch out a bit. I managed to smile for some post-race pictures but was still hurting pretty bad. After grabbing my bag from gear check, I headed to the refreshment tent and grabbed two chocolate milks, two bananas and some Great Harvest Bakery rolls (always a favorite post-race treat). Then came the hardest part of the day: the walk back to my car. I hobbled the quarter mile, trying to hold back tears from the pain in my legs. I seriously considered calling my husband and asking him to come get me. But just like with the end of the race, I tried to focus on keeping myself moving. A few times, I felt really nauseous and thought I was going to throw up, so I’d crouch down in preparation. Luckily, nothing came up and I made it to my car, albeit slowly and painfully. In retrospect, I’m not sure if I should have gone to the medical tent and gotten some help?
As soon as I got home, I got in the hottest bath of my life (with some Epson salts and bubble bath) and my leg muscles almost immediately started relaxing and the pain decreased greatly. Once out of the tub, I rubbed some muscle rub all over my legs, pulled on my leg compression sleeves and got in my PJs. I finished my chocolate milks and ate one of the bananas while some white rice cooked in the rice cooker. After eating a big bowl of white rice with soy sauce (one of my favorite post-race meals), I posted my race time on Instagram and took a 2-hour nap with a heating pad. When I woke up, my legs were tired but I felt pretty good in general and started to get ready for a work party at my boss’ house.
Overall, this was a great race and I had a blast. I had hoped to break 2:30 and even though I was 90 seconds late, I’m really proud of how hard I pushed. I’m feeling much more confident in my fitness and readiness for Grandma’s, which is really what this experience was all about. I would definitely run this race again and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good spring half in Minnesota!