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.
Here’s a look at how I did:
March: My “huh, this isn’t so bad” month
The first month of marathon training went really well. The first few runs were completed on the treadmill, but my mid-March it had thawed enough that I could run outside — and that made a huge difference in my mental game. My runs in March all felt pretty easy, since I had just finished the build-up for a half marathon; my last long run before the half was 12 miles, and now I was starting with a long run of only 7.
Towards the end of March, I ran the Hot Dash 10-Mile race with a goal of breaking two hours. I was super pumped to finish in 1:58:22, a PR of over 6 and a half minutes. At the end of my first month of training, my legs felt strong and fresh and I was hopeful that my half training had set me up for success.
Total March miles: 55
Longest run: 10 miles
April: My “oh shit, I’m really busy” month
For the past two years, I’ve helped plan Minnesota’s Social Work Day at the Capitol, which is held annually in April. This year, I was actually the chair of the planning committee — an awesome honor but also a. ton. of. work. Planning an event for 1,000+ people, when you already have a demanding full-time job and are training for a marathon, is no joke.
Something had to give and, unfortunately, it was my training. That sounds more dramatic than it probably was — I only missed three runs (a long run of 10 miles, plus 2 three-mile runs) but that felt like a lot to me. More than anything, I knew I wasn’t focused on my training (I just didn’t have the time/mental space for it), and that really bummed me out because I really wanted to dedicate more energy and focus to it. But I made it through the event and, by mid-April, was back on track with a renewed focus. I vowed to be as consistent as possible for the rest of my training.
At the end of the month, I ran the Get In Gear Half Marathon. I had hoped to break 2.5 hours but just missed it. Still, I was really happy with my average pace (11:34 min/mile) and the race was a big confidence booster as I passed the half-way point of marathon training. You can read more about that day in my race recap, if you’re interested.
Total April miles: 84
Longest run: 15 miles
May: My “keep showing up” month
May was a great month for my marathon training. I didn’t miss a single run, despite having a crazy busy schedule at work and traveling home for my siblings’ college graduation. I completed my first 20-miler (I ran the first 10 on my own and the second 10 at Women Run the Cities, my favorite race!) and persevered through some really mentally and physically tough runs. I came out of this month feeling so excited for Grandma’s and actually starting to believe that I can conquer 26.2 miles.
Total May miles: 116
Longest run: 20 miles
June: My “wait, why is my shin hurting again???!!!” month
June started out rough and has been pretty rocky ever since. I ran my second 20-miler but had an absolutely awful time — this was my first experience in the #paincave and I really struggled to make it to the finish. I started the taper and was feeling grateful for the reduced mileage and SO excited for the marathon. About a week and a half into the taper, right after a totally easy 7-mile run, I started to feel some pain in my right shin, in the same spot of my stress fracture. I iced it a ton and wore my recovery sandals everywhere, but the pain persisted. I ended up not even being able to make it through a four-mile run with just a week until the race. This left me totally panicked and I called on the amazing Instagram running community for help. With their advice, I decided to skip my final run of 10 miles and just rest my leg. I’m bummed that training ended on a bit of a weak note, but I would rather have a bad last week than a bad marathon.
I’ve been reading Deena Kastor’s “Let Your Mind Run” during the taper and it has been amazingly helpful in keeping me in a good mental place for the marathon. Deena actually talks about a time she suddenly experienced severe pain calf right before the 2003 London Marathon, where she was hoping to break the U.S. women’s marathon record:
Later that day, with a pack of frozen peas resting on my calf, I called my teammate Terrence and told him the news. ‘I don’t think I can run,’ I said. He asked about the symptoms, if I’d pulled it the day before, or felt it coming on. No, nothing.
‘Then it’s in your head.’
‘Terrence,’ I said, slightly incredulous. ‘My calf really hurts. It’s not an illusion.’
He countered. ‘I believe there is pain there, but you’ve had a great buildup. Maybe you’re scared your best won’t be enough, but it is. You just need to get out of your own way.’
Deena realized she had two choices: She could “give in to the pain and play it safe, or look beyond the fear to the potential.” She went on to place third in the London Marathon, setting a new U.S. women’s record for the distance. Despite the challenges of the last week, I’m in great spirits and cannot wait to toe the starting line of my first marathon. It’s been a great deal of work but I’ve had a blast and am ready to race!
Total June miles: 53
Longest June run: 20 miles