Marathon Training: Peak Week

It’s about time for an update. Right after my first, amazing 20 mile run, I came down with a sinus infection and bronchitis. My doctor asked me to cool it on the running, suggesting I take a full week off. With only 7 weeks til race day at that point, I completely panicked. I began emailing and calling all my running friends, asking for advice on how to mentally and physically handle this break in my training. Everyone said I’d be okay, that I could still get to the start line of my first marathon.

My first runs back after being sick were terrible. I did not feel 100%, and knew I’d lost a bit of my fitness. That week, I went out for my second 20 miler and it was the opposite of my first one – I felt sluggish, tired, and in pain. But, I finished the run, and tried to focus on the positives: that I could run again, and that I pushed through yet another tough long run.

The next weekend, I ran a local half marathon on a challenging course to test my fitness level. With the exception of one sub-par mile, I stuck to my goal pace the whole time and even managed to squeak out 3rd place in my age group.

I went into my peak week of training feeling confident and knocked out some quality runs, including a 10-miler and 6 miles of speed work.

Yesterday, I ran 22 miles. By far a PDR (personal distance record) and one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Early in the week, I emailed my friend Mary to see if she wanted to head to Clearwater to run part of my route with me. After some quality peer pressure on Mary’s part, I decided to drive to Tampa early Saturday morning so that we could run on Bayshore Blvd. as the city prepared for the Gasparilla Pirate Festival happening later that day.

At around 6 AM, I took off by myself for the first part of my run – a nice, quiet 8 miles along Bayshore, where I nodded silently to other runners and took in a beautiful sunrise over the water.

Sunrise on Bayshore Blvd.

Sunrise on Bayshore Blvd.

As my Garmin beeped for my 8th mile, I turned the corner onto Mary’s street and picked her up for the next portion of the run. We headed out to Davis Islands for a big loop, through the stunning neighborhoods filled with gorgeous homes. There are so many houses on that island that blow me away, it’s easy to get distracted from any sort of pain one might be feeling during a 22-mile run… We chatted the whole time, and it was nice to catch up with Mary.

After our loop around the island, we swung back by Mary’s house to pick up her husband, Marcus. He wanted to join us for about 5 miles so he could take in all the sights along Bayshore Blvd, with crews setting up booths and people already arriving to stake claim as close to the front of the parade route as possible. We decided we loved being able to run on the wide road rather than the sidewalk, as it made for a different experience and gave us plenty of people-watching opportunities.

At this point, my mileage was well over 15, and I was starting to feel it – my legs were aching and I could tell I hadn’t taken in enough water, especially with the sun starting to beat down on us. Luckily, Marcus is an excellent entertainer – he told me lots of pirate jokes and funny stories to keep my mind off of running. Mary was also doing a great job motivating me.

We dropped Marcus off, and I continued running around the block while Mary went to grab our next running buddy – her adorable pup, Winnie, who I just love! I was really excited to have Winnie join us for those last two miles as I really needed a distraction. During mile 19, I kept thinking, oh, I maybe I should just call it – 20 miles is good enough, but I knew I’d feel terrible if I didn’t finish what I had set out to do almost three hours before. With Mary and Winnie at my side, I pushed through those two miles and finished my first ever 22-mile run.

When I finished, my legs immediately began to tighten up and hurt. I could barely hobble my way to my car! Usually, when I”m done running, there are very few people around. This was not the case during Gasparilla! I’m sure everyone thought I had started drinking REALLY early, because I was definitely stumbling around and barely able to talk.

Mary and Marcus were kind enough to let me use their shower and feed me breakfast and show me hilarious YouTube videos while I worked up the strength to move my legs again. For some reason, I had agreed to meet my boyfriend on Davis Islands so that we could go to Gasparilla together, even though all I really wanted to do was take a nap.

I am happy to report that I made it through the whole day, with only a couple episodes of “my legs are going to fall off if we don’t sit down right now” or “if you don’t find me water/food/shade right now, I will kick you.”

The craziness that is the Gasparilla Pirate Festival Parade

The craziness that is the Gasparilla Pirate Festival Parade

With all the walking during Gasparilla, I officially did a marathon yesterday. But, I’m more excited to run a marathon on February 17th. Now, let the taper begin.


Out With The Old, In With The New

Happy New Year’s Eve!



This time of year is always filled with goal setting, reflecting, and resolution making. I did pretty well with my 2012 goals, only missing a few that probably weren’t very realistic (seriously, a month without sweets?!).

A lot happened last year. When reflecting on the last 12 months this morning, I realized I:

I think that’s the most productive year I’ve had in a really long time!

Now, I’m thinking about what I hope to accomplish in 2013:

  1. Finish a marathon
  2. Run 12 races throughout the year
  3. PR in the 5K and 10K
  4. Break 1:40 in the half marathon
  5. Complete a trail race
  6. Take swimming lessons
  7. Nail one of the “crazy” yoga poses – arm balance, bird of paradise, etc.
  8. Achieve all of my work goals
  9. Travel to 5 new places
  10. Read 25 books

So, here’s to the last day of 2012 and then it’s on to the next!

My First 20 Mile Run… Ever

Run: Redefine the Impossible

image credit: Pinterest

I did it! I ran 20 miles and, dare I say, felt great the whole time – well, relatively speaking, of course.

I kind of loved it… throughout the whole run, even when it got mentally tough, I loved that my legs were carrying me further than I usually drive in a car.

I loved being out on the road, in a beautiful location that is one of my favorite spots in the whole country, by myself with my thoughts, jamming out to music and taking in the scenery around me.

I loved that I found strength from family, friends, other bloggers, mantras, and myself.

I loved that the weather was on my side today, giving me cooler temperatures and lower humidity than the run that shall not be named.

I loved climbing bridges, running into the raging wind, and knowing I am stronger than I’ve ever been.

I loved that I pushed myself so far out of my comfort zone, that I still can’t believe I actually accomplished this milestone. I keep checking my route to make sure I covered 20 miles and not, like, 12. (Let’s not talk about how much that would suck…)

But, that didn’t happen.


I ran 20 miles. I ran 20 miles with a faster average pace than what I did 18 in last weekend (by one second, but I’ll take it!). I ran 20 miles and saw more than a few miles hovering below my goal pace.

It’s hard to believe that I used to cry my way through 6-mile runs, that I hated the 5K distance because it was “too long.” I guess I’ve officially crossed over from 400m/800m runner to long distance runner.

And, I kind of love it.

18 Miles of Confidence-Boosting Awesomeness

My mileage is creeping up, and it seems that I’m hitting new personal distance records regularly. This past weekend, I had 18 miles on my training plan. For some reason, that number has really freaked me out from the beginning of this training cycle.  There’s something about seeing “18 Miles” that has been giving me quite a bit of running anxiety for a couple months now.

Friday, after work, my boyfriend and I drove up to Jacksonville from St. Pete to spend the holiday weekend with my family. I kept getting nervous when I thought about running 18 miles – my stomach started to flutter and my mind wouldn’t stop racing. To help calm my nerves, I used my iPhone to search for blog posts from people recapping their first 18 mile runs. It actually did make me feel better. I love running blogs!

Earlier this week, when planning for the long run, I knew I’d have to get it done very early due to a slew of family birthday parties starting right at 10 AM. A 5 AM wake-up call didn’t sound all that fun, especially after a long, traffic-filled drive the night before.

Also, I wasn’t looking forward to the potentially boring route I’d have to run. My mom’s house is in a very residential area that can make for some dull runs. For long runs, I usually drive to other spots around Jacksonville to get better scenery, but I  couldn’t afford the additional hour of driving to/from a running location this time.

This is when having another long distance runner in the family comes in handy. I asked my uncle if he would be up for getting in a few miles with me on Saturday, and I was surprised when he said he wanted to try to run 14 (his longest run ever!). A quick check on showed that his house is exactly 4 miles from mine, so I could run there, pick him up, and complete another 14.

To make the run less mentally daunting, I broke it up into three segments: 4 miles to my uncle’s house, 7 miles out, and 7 miles back.

The first leg of the route went by quickly – I had to keep slowing myself down because I wanted to stay close to 9-minute miles for the first 5 to prevent my famous positive splits.  It was also really, really dark at this point, and I had to focus on not tripping or falling.

Mile 1 – 8:38 (too fast!)

Mile 2 – 8:50

Mile 3 – 9:00

Mile 4 – 9:00

My uncle was waiting outside for me, so we took off quickly. I told him I needed to keep a slower pace for a couple more miles, and he had no problem settling into pace with me. Once we turned out of his neighborhood onto a long straightaway, our pace picked up, and I surprisingly felt great – much better than the 17 miler a couple weeks ago. My uncle and I chatted the whole time, enjoying being the lone “crazy people” out on the road. The sun didn’t start to rise until around the 10 mile mark, which made it feel very peaceful.

Mile 5 – 9:00

Mile 6 – 8:48

Mile 7 – 8:39

Mile 8 – 8:43

Mile 9 – 8:41

Mile 10 – 8:42

Mile 11 – 8:45

We turned around and I told myself, “only 7 miles left!” At this point, I did cut back talking as I tried to fall into a steady rhythm to focus on not hitting a wall. I think the wall is my biggest fear, and I’m also scared of that feeling where your legs tighten up and you just want to stop.

Around Mile 13, I found myself falling into the whole, “Ugh, I still have X miles left to run” mentality. I worked at fighting back those thoughts, and instead kept my attention on not falling too far being my uncle (he was doing a great job of making sure I was drinking water and staying close to my desired pace).

Around Mile 15, little aches began to pop up – my calf, my knee, my quad. Nothing too bad, just little reminders to say, “hey, you’re working hard here.” I never had feelings of wanting to quit, though… I just kept going.

When my watch ticked off Mile 17 signifying one mile left, I don’t know what happened, but I found another gear. I could tell that mile would be my fasted, which gave me strength to keep trucking along and gradually speeding up the whole time.

Mile 12: 8:50

Mile 13: 8:54

Mile 14: 8:54

Mile 15: 8:49

Mile 16: 8:54

Mile 17: 8:53

Mile 18: 8:22 (!)

Mile .2 @ 6:54 pace (!)

I am most proud of that last mile… I hope I can find that strength again come February 17th!

When we stopped running, my legs instantly tightened up. Despite that, I knew I could have kept running if I hadn’t stopped, which gives me confidence for next week’s 20 miler and, ultimately, the marathon.

After a quick bit of refueling at my uncle’s, I rushed home to grab my boyfriend and siblings so we could head to my cousin’s 6th birthday party at Rebounderz, a trampoline gym that involved 90-minutes of jumping. Not exactly the smartest way to recover post-long run, but it was so much fun!

I really needed that run to boost my confidence as I approach peak training time. I’ve got some high-mileage (for me) weeks looming on the horizon, and I’m ready to tackle them.

The Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon, Or Why I Didn’t Stop Smiling for 13.1 Miles

It’s hard to believe, but yesterday I ran my 7th half marathon. Less than 10 months ago, I ran my first. Every 13.1 has a special place in my heart, but yesterday’s is now at the top of my “favorite half marathon” list, which is funny because I didn’t set a new PR, the course wasn’t the prettiest I’ve run, and I could have done without the high humidity.

So, what made the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon so amazing?


My uncle and I crossing the finish line.

These few things:

  1. I got to run my uncle’s first half marathon with him. Early this year, right after my first half marathon, I challenged my uncle to run this race with me. At that time, he didn’t run. The months went by and I kept asking him if he’d signed up yet, and he told me he would soon… was he going to leave me hanging?! Luckily, when I visited my family in early August, he told me not only had he signed up, but he had started training that month. I was so excited! As he kept me updated on his training, I became more and more impressed. He was dedicated and getting quite speedy. Though I was nervous about running with him after suffering an injury a few weeks ago, we decided to still run together and we did just that. He was on my heels the whole race, and I’ve never been happier running 13.1 miles. As we finished, we could hear our whole family cheer, making it even better than it already was.
  2. The Running Circle of Life – I introduced my uncle to the person who got me into running back in high school. One of my closest friends’ older brother was a talented high school cross country runner who embodied everything great about the sport, and his passion for running influenced my friend and me so much that we decided to join the team our freshman year. Even though I wasn’t very good, he inspired me to stick with it all four years, and has been incredibly helpful as I’ve gotten back into it recently. (Also, he dominated the race, running a 1:13:37 and coming in 6th overall in a talented field – unbelievable!).
  3. It’s my hometown race, one that I volunteered at four consecutive years with my high school cross country team. One year, we handed out water to runners as they approached the 24-mile mark and I remember thinking, “Wow. I’ll never be able to do that.” Now, I’m in the middle of training for my first marathon.
  4. I got to see so many familiar faces cheering along the course route, from former teammates to close friends to my family.  Spectators really do make such a difference.
  5. This is a flat, fast course with few turns, a lot of shade, and a track finish. The First Place Sports team executed a well-organized race, as always. Basically, this race is everything the Runner’s World article said it would be (including the extremely humid temperatures at the start, but it wasn’t as bad as last week.)

This picture that my aunt captured really shows how happy I was this whole race:




Final Chip time: 1:51:20

Age Group: 17th Place

Overall: 99th Place (My uncle and I were in the “Top 100” – yeah!)

Training: Not Pretty, But Getting It Done

Training for 26.2 with Donna is underway. Yesterday, with a 17 mile run, I set a personal distance record. Each week, I fill in boxes on my training plan, marking off scheduled runs and yoga practices and rest days as I complete them. On Sundays, I reflect on the previous week, leaving italicized notes in the margins of the Google Document that serves as my training program.

I’d be lying if I said that this training has been amazing, that I’m loving it, and feeling more and more prepared to tackle a marathon in February.

Actually, I’m struggling. Marathon training is tough. I knew that when I signed up, I wasn’t naive. But, training for a marathon while moving to a new state, traveling overseas, starting a new job, and adjusting to a new climate is even tougher. There’s no getting around it. Needless to say, this hasn’t been the prettiest training cycle.

Yesterday, while tackling 17 miles, I endured the toughest mental battle I’ve ever had. It started while I was getting ready, when I checked the weather and saw 75-degrees with 100% humidity. Not exactly ideal conditions when running the furthest I’d ever gone before, but I shrugged it off, drank more water than usual to prepare, and left my house to head to Clearwater Beach.

I’m still unfamiliar with Clearwater, but am trying to do the majority of my long runs there so I can take advantage of the steep bridges (the same ones from Iron Girl) and nice, waterfront routes. I prefer running long in Clearwater compared to where I live because it’s easier to map out loops rather than out-and-backs, which I hate – there’s nothing worse than running really far only to have to turn around and cover the same ground twice.

Another great thing about running in Clearwater is that my uncle lives there so I’m able to park my car at his place. It makes me feel safer to know that someone is aware of my route and knows when I should return. Plus, he’s an endurance athlete so he has excellent recovery fuel when I get back!

Well, I spent most of Friday night mapping out and memorizing my run so I wouldn’t get lost. I felt comfortable with the first half of the run, but there’s a neighborhood that can get confusing, and that was making me nervous. I decided I’d run with my phone so I could have access to a map just in case, but spent a lot of time creating a mantra out of the directions I’d need in the neighborhood.

After dropping off my car at my uncle’s, I started my run in thick, muggy fog. It was still very dark, so between that and the fog, I was focusing on every step to ensure I wouldn’t trip. The thick air made it difficult to breathe, and in spite of being drenched in sweat by mile 2, I felt surprisingly good. In the dark, I climbed the first bridge and made my way to the beach, still focusing on my footing and maintaining an easy pace.

As the sky began to brighten, I noticed my surroundings didn’t look familiar  “You’re being paranoid,” I told myself. “You’ve only run this route once before, and it was dark.” I kept going… enjoying the beautiful beach-front scenery and trying to take my mind off the stifling humidity.

After a couple more miles, I thought I should have reached the hotel I was planning to use for a hydration/fueling/bathroom break. I pulled out my phone, tracked my location, and reassured myself I was on the right path. I continued on my way.

Another two miles passed and, 8.25 miles into my run, I still hadn’t reached the hotel. This isn’t right, I thought. Frustrated, I stopped and pulled out my phone to check my location again. I couldn’t believe it – I had been going south instead of north from the minute I came off the first bridge, and was completely off the route I had mapped. Due to the layout of the gulf beaches, when I had checked my location a few miles before, I was still parallel to where I had started, making me think I was going the right way.

Wrong, so wrong.

I realized I was going to have to do a dreaded out-and-back run, which took a big toll on me mentally. I wanted to cry, but I turned around and kept going, trying to think of all the positives: I was already more than halfway done, I only had single-digit miles left to cover, the scenery was beautiful.

At about mile 11, I realized I hadn’t taken in any water. I could feel the humidity affecting me, and knew I was risking getting dehydrated. With an unfamiliar route, I had no idea where the closest water fountains were, causing a slight panic attack. My mind started reeling, and I began beating myself up – why had I signed up for a marathon? How would I be able to run 26.2 miles when I couldn’t even get through 17? I’m not cut out for this.

It’s amazing how the snowball effect works, when one little thing goes wrong and it only seems to emphasize other small things that normally wouldn’t be bothersome. I couldn’t believe it, but I really, really wanted to stop running.


I eventually came across a public beach access with water fountains, and I took full advantage, maybe drinking more than I should have. I stopped and stretched, and re-evaluated how I felt. I found myself considering a phone call to my uncle to see if he’d come pick me up, and lingered on that thought for a little bit.

I channeled my running buddies from D.C. – what would they do? I knew they’d both keep going, they wouldn’t give up. I looked down at my watch and saw I had already run 12 miles, and decided to give myself a little bit of a pep talk that went something like this:

Running 17 miles is hard. Training for a marathon is hard. You’ve run 12 miles in really tough conditions. You are not hurt, you are healthy. If you quit this run now, you’ll feel better for about 10 minutes, but the fact that you quit will make you miserable for days, weeks, months.  You have 5 miles standing between you and a personal distance record… what are you going to do?

And, so, I ran. It was tough, and my legs began to ache, but I kept going. As my watch beeped and flashed 17.00 mi, a huge smile (grimace?) broke out on my face.

The run wasn’t pretty. Very few of my training runs this cycle have been pretty. But, I’m doing them. Every day, I fill in another little box on my training plan and get one step closer to the starting line of a marathon.

San Francisco Half Marathon 2012 Race Recap

On Sunday, I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon 15-Miler. Even though I read numerous race recaps, Aron’s fantastic course preview (bookmark this page and read it if you’re ever doing this race!), and reviewed the official course countless times, I still managed to miss the turn-off for the half marathon finish line and continued running with the full marathoners for almost another mile.

image credit: business wire

The good news is that I was on track to set a new PR in the half marathon despite the challenging, hilly route, which means the changes I made to my training are working. I felt amazing the whole run – in fact, I think I might have conserved too much energy in anticipation of the infamous hills and probably could have pushed myself more earlier in the race.

The bad news is that I still feel like a total schmuck. I keep picturing the course signs in my head, wondering how I could have ended up going the wrong way. Looking back on that final [extra] mile, I don’t know how I missed so many clues that I had ended up on the full marathon route. Clues like:

  • the signs themselves – the course was very clearly marked.
  • the water stop (I even remember thinking, “Weird – why is there a water stop with only about 1200m to go?”).
  • that no one else was noticeably picking up the pace.
  • that it felt like the longest mile ever.
  • that everyone else had a different bib color than me.

I’m not sure when it finally clicked that I’d gone too far, but I finally looked at the guys next to me and asked, “This is the full marathon, isn’t it?”  Internally, I kept willing him to shake his head and say, “No! You’re right where you need to be!” but instead his eyes filled with pity as he explained that I had gone the wrong way.

Instantly, I burst into tears as hopes of setting a new personal best in the half marathon slipped away. Slowly, I turned around to make my way back to the course and to the  finish line. When the balloons above the finish came into view, I picked up the pace to cross the line feeling strong. I’d had a great run on a beautiful course, and I wasn’t going to let a little mix up ruin the experience.

As the volunteer hung the medal around my neck, I felt more tears fall down my face. I was upset and angry and disappointed, sure, but I kept trying to remind myself how wonderful the race itself had been. I’d had the privilege of running through some gorgeous scenery along the waterfront, through the Presidio, and over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, all while pushing myself on a challenging course.

I’ve certainly learned my lesson to pay better attention in split races, and I already have plans to redeem myself by running the second half of the race next year as part of the San Francisco Half It All Challenge.