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I survived the first week of the taper! Sunday’s Half-Marathon marked 3 weeks to race day, and the beginning of the gradual decline in intensity and mileage.

After many, many hard weeks of training, I’m a bit relieved. The end is near. My goal is (finally) in reach. November 6th used to feel so far away- especially through all those humid, sweaty runs in July and August- and it was hard to visualize race day. September rolled around, the fall air began to hit, and upping my long runs helped draw the marathon a bit closer. And now, we’re suddenly nearing the end of October and it’s in sight. How did that happen? I’ve logged three 20-mile runs, pushed through weekly workouts at half-marathon and marathon pace, reached a new highest weekly mileage, and I feel ready. Well, most of the time.

The great part is… all the really hard work is behind me. But that’s also the scary part. I second guess myself. Did I do enough? Were my runs long enough? Was my pace fast enough? I’m out of time to put in the hard work. These few weeks of tapering will be about getting my legs fresh, staying healthy, resting up, and mentally preparing. While these things are all a very important part of race preparation, it’s difficult not to question how you could have done more during training. Stretched more, iced more, ran longer, ran faster, slept more, ate cleaner, took iron more, lifted more, worked on my core strength more.

I think this is totally natural. No matter your ability, there is always room to doubt yourself. No matter your training, there is always the question if you could have done more. It’s like that in all areas of life: did I study enough for that test? Did I prepare enough for my big client presentation? Did I spend enough time with my family? Did I do enough to show my friends I care?

I need to focus on looking back at all I’ve accomplished over the last 3 months, and trust in that. I feel confident that I’ve done the best I could in my training given the time and energy I was able to dedicate. I am thankful to have stayed healthy and injury-free this entire training cycle. I have woken up earlier than the sun, run faster and farther than comfort, and am ready. Sub-3:00 is no longer a lofty goal, it’s in reach. The preparation is done. It’s all up to feeling good, running smart, staying strong, and digging deep on race day.

Hopefully, crossing the finish line as happy (and satisfied) as last year! This time, a few minutes faster.

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This week, I hit 49.5 miles.

  • Sun: 13.1 miles- Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco: 1:32:09
  • Mon: Off
  • Tues: Flew back from CA on redeye. 4 miles easy after landing before work.
  • Weds: 4.5 miles in CP
  • Thurs: 2 warmup, 5.16 tempo (6:44 average pace), 2.5 cooldown
  • Fri: 2 miles shakeout
  • Sat: 16.5 miles total, including last 10 miles of the marathon course (!)

Next week, I’ll probably hit around 35-38 miles, and then only around 22-25 miles the week before the marathon. Hooray!

To rest, I’ll be keeping it pretty low key these next two weekends. Last night, I went to the Meatball Shop with Dan for dinner. The wait was less than an hour, surprising for 7 p.m. on a Friday. Like last time I went, I decided to get the sliders again so I could choose multiple ball/sauce varieties. I chose the spicy pork with spicy meat sauce, veggie with parmesan cream sauce, and the special ball- chicken cordon bleu with mushroom sauce! With a side of carrot and chive risotto, steamed spinach and the market salad with arugula, pomegranate seeds and persimmon. Yum!

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And of course, no dinner is complete without dessert. Special apple cinnamon ice cream with special oatmeal cherry cookies. Amazing.

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No, these hairy arms are not mine.

This morning, I met a few of my CPTC teammates on 59th and 1st to run the last 10 miles of the marathon course. I ran about 4.5 miles through the park to meet, and 2 miles easy after we finished to run back to my apartment. Afterwards, I refueled with a giant mug of Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice coffee, and steel cut oatmeal mixed with pumpkin and protein powder. Now that it’s finally feeling like fall, I’m in the mood for warm, flavorful food. MMM.

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I have to run a few errands this afternoon before fun evening plans. I can’t wait to sleep in tomorrow!

How do you stay confident during a taper? Tips to trust in your training? Any fun weekend plans?

The Final Push!

October 13th, 2011 | Posted by Lindsay Runs in Blog Posts - (9 Comments)

I’m almost done with my last week of heavy training until November 6th. Remember last week how I said I hit 70 miles and felt great while doing it? Well, the tables have turned this week. My goal was (is?) to hit 75 miles this week, but my legs are just not feeling it. To hit 75 miles on 6 days of running, without a workout, is harder than I thought. I keep reminding myself that taper time is just around the corner, and it’s okay if the volume is making my legs tired for now.

Honestly, I have struggled a lot with motivating myself to get in my runs this week. A combination of training and some exciting personal changes (which I’ll discuss on the blog…soon!) seem to have zapped my energy and focus. Yesterday was one of those mornings where I felt like stopping dead in my tracks after a few miles, walking home, and being okay with that. Instead, I mustered up 11 easy miles as a run-commute to work, though every step was a bit of a mental struggle. This morning I woke up around 6 a.m. before my alarm, and wanted nothing more than to skip my run and sleep forever. I procrastinated on Twitter and email, and finally stood on my doorstep for about 5 minutes before I could actually will myself to run. 9 dark and misty miles along the Hudson River actually flew by, and I questioned why I thought the run would be so miserable.

The point here is, running has highs and lows. Training does not comes easy, and I don’t hit the pavement with a smile on my face every day. Some days I do, but many more days I don’t. But the days I don’t feel like running the most are the days I always seem to return back home, smiling that I did it. Putting in the work isn’t always fun, but the rewards of a new PR (fingers crossed!) on race day motivates me day in and day out to not listen to my body, and get out there and run!

Here’s how the week has shaped up so far. I am planning to take it easier on Friday and off on Saturday before running the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon on Sunday(!). This totals to 75 miles for the week, though I’m not sure how my legs will feel doubling again tonight so I might skip the run to rest.

  • Sunday: 20 miles with Alex in Central Park, Riverside, Battery Park, Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridges
  • Monday: 9 miles in morning, 3.75 at night
  • Tuesday: 6.75 in morning, 5 at night
  • Wednesday: 11 miles run-commute to work
  • Thursday: 9 miles in morning, Planned 4 after work
  • Friday: Planned 5.5
  • Saturday: OFF

I might have forgotten to mention this on the blog, but yes, I am flying out to San Francisco this weekend to run the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon! (NOT the full!) My friend Jill from college is running it with her sister and friends, so I got looped in on their team and accepted into the lottery. My sister goes to college in San Francisco, so it was an easy trip with a free place to stay!

San Francisco is known for its hills, so my game plan is to use this race as a workout versus a race to PR. I’ll aim to run the first 10K  around marathon pace (~6:50) and then work on bringing that pace down for the second part of the race to practice feeling good while negative splitting.

I’ll also use this race to test out my (hopeful) marathon shoes! I’ve had a bit of a shoe dilemma…

Last year, I ran the marathon in an old pair of Nike Lunarsomethingorothers (honestly can’t remember if these are the LunarElites, LunarTrainers, LunarGlides, etc.), which I really liked. They had enough support while still being lightweight and fast.

However, after a few workouts and races, I wanted to find a fresh pair. Plus, the heel came up pretty high in the back and sometimes cut up my skin. Ouch. I bought a pair of Nike LunaRacer’s, because they seemed similar and I loved the color. Sucker for fun shoes.

After a few workouts, I felt okay in the shoes, but didn’t love them. The base felt a bit too spongey. I’ll keep wearing them for workouts, but wanted to find a new pair for the race. Since CPTC gets a 40% New Balance discount, I ordered the 1400s below and am crossing my fingers they work out! I’m hoping to wear them on my easy 4 miles to break them in a bit before the half. How fun are they?

New Balance 1400s, so bright! Hope these work!

Peak marathon training also means my appetite has increased tremendously, enough to feed a family of four at times it seems. To prepare, I made a big batch of quinoa on Sunday night and have been basing my lunches and dinners around it to ensure that I had a healthy source of whole grains and protein with every meal. Otherwise, it’s just way too tempting to eat peanut butter and 16 Handles for dinner every night. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…but I want to make sure I’m fueling my body the best I can to carry me to the finish line. Convenience is my friend in the kitchen when logging tons of miles and spending long days at work. With a bit of prep work, these meals have come together in less than 10 minutes. Hooray!

Wednesday's dinner: Quionoa, spinach, tomatoes, baked mahi mahi pieces and TJ's peanut satay sauce (new discovery- so good). Made this same thing on Monday with a burger patty instead of mahi mahi.

Today's lunch: Quinoa with zucchini, tomatoes, feta, walnuts and TJ's garlic chicken sausage

How’s your running going this week? What do you look for in a good pair of running or racing shoes? Favorite easy (and filling!) meal?

Cutting Back

September 6th, 2011 | Posted by Lindsay Runs in Blog Posts - (14 Comments)

I’m back from Stone Harbor with a bit of a tan, a calmer head, a happy tummy from eating and drinking to my heart’s content, and slightly refreshed legs.

Oh beach, you relax me

Last week, the increasing mileage really got the best of me and I hit a new low: I stopped out mid-workout. After finishing a speedy 15 miler feeling spent (see, told you why I wanted to slow down…), a super easy 7.5 miles along the bridle path Wednesday night, and 2.5 slow shakeout miles Thursday morning, I hopped into Thursday night’s workout feeling a bit flat. ‘No biggie’, I thought, ‘it’s normal to have heavy legs while bumping up mileage. I can hang tough.’

The planned workout was 3×2-mile repeats at half-marathon pace. I tried to stay relaxed but my legs were not feeling it. I tried to stay with the group and ran even 6:31 splits for the first 2-mile interval. Perfect. I dropped back a bit and tried to recover around the Harlem Hills to get ready for the 2nd repeat. My first mile was around 6:44, and I absolutely lost it on the last mile. My breathing wasn’t really heavy, I just felt like I couldn’t keep or pickup the cadence and effort. My hamstrings were seizing up and my calves were like bricks. After my 2nd repeat, I just stopped. I knew if I continued and even tried to squeeze out a 3rd repeat, it’d be way off pace and dig myself deeper and deeper into the hole of exhaustion. So I didn’t.

On one hand, I am proud of myself for recognizing my limits and stopping. This was not the normal kind of tired that I push through day in and day out. This was not something I could or should push through. On the other hand, I am pretty frustrated for not finishing. I don’t know the last time I’ve had to drop out of a workout or race. I don’t want to feel like stopping is an option come November 6th.

I took a lot of time to analyze things over the long weekend, and decided it was time to change up my training plan.

Adjusting this week's mileage goal

I’m taking a cut back week. Also known as a down week, I’m dropping my mileage this week in an effort to rest and refresh my legs slightly. My original plan called for a gradual mileage increase leading up to a peak and then decreasing for 3 weeks of taper. Sort of like climbing a single mountain peak up and up until the tip, and then dropping down significantly. This worked for me last year, but it’s clearly not working this year. My runs have been so hot and cold…but mostly lukewarm. I’ll have a few great runs or workouts here and there, but the majority of my everyday runs are sluggish and I’m just not getting anything out of them.

My mileage hasn’t increased (yet) from last year, so I attribute my fatigue to the increase in intensity. I’ve incorporated weekly CPTC workouts into my routine, most at half-marathon pace, whereas I only did a total of 5 workouts leading up to the marathon last year, mostly at marathon pace. I really want to stick with these workouts as I genuinely enjoy working out with a team, and I truly believe the more I work out at 6:30-6:40 pace, the easier 6:49s (2:59 marathon pace) will feel come race day.

While I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘listening to my body’ (Think it’s taken too lightly: I’d run half as much, sleep in every day and eat pizza and burgers in bed if I really listened to my body), this is a time in which I feel it is important to listen and be open to changing the plan. I knew I was being ambitious this training cycle by setting higher goal mileage and increased workouts, and I want it to pay off on race day. But that approach isn’t working right now and I need to be able to remain flexible to get to the starting line well-trained but well-rested. It’s only September 6th (2 months till marathon!) and I’m about to embark on a good 6 weeks of serious training. It’s too early to feel fatigued.

I’ll probably aim to hit around 40 miles this week, give or take, a big drop from the planned 55. I ran around 8 miles on Sunday at the beach, and averaged around 7:20 pace because I was running with my speedy friends Nicole and Sean before Nicole raced a 5K, and it was flat. I didn’t run yesterday, and I have no plans on running today. I’ll probably still get in a workout this week, and see how I feel come Saturday for a long run. I’ve always been curious about cut back weeks and know they’re pretty popular in training plans, so I hope to begin next week feeling a bit refreshed and ready to tackle a few weeks of 60+ miles. I’ll continue to re-examine my plan and play it by ear. I might take another cut-back week in early October if my body needs it.

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Other highlights from this weekend include:

I golfed for the first time in my life!

Beach time with my handsome man friend :)

And ice cream from Springer's- I got strawberry cheesecake, but ate it before it melted!

How did you spend Labor Day weekend? What are your thoughts on cut back weeks, and changing your plan based on how you’re feeling?