Marathon Training

Training Recap: My Build for Grandma’s Marathon

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:

Continue reading “Training Recap: My Build for Grandma’s Marathon”
Marathon Training

Long Runs: How and Why I Start Preparing Several Days Out

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 day before 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.

Think ahead so you can run like Phoebe Buffay

Marathon Training

Why I’m Glad I Got a Stress Fracture and Couldn’t Run My First Marathon

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 drew a smiley face on my boot to try to keep my spirits up during the recovery period.

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.