Marathon training for real runners Part 4….facing the long run….

"Boston is in 3 weeks!!! I hope I did enough long runs!"

Ok, here’s what makes marathoning different from just going out and running.  It’s all about doing distances you never thought you could do.  It’s about runs of 20 or more miles.  It’s about doing distances that seem far even if you are driving.

Don’t freak out!  There are ways to get through the long run.  Here are some things that work for me:

1.  Live like an athlete but not too much.   The day before my long run, I focus on my body.  I eat well, I keep a water bottle handy all day, I don’t make plans that mean being up late.  I spend a mellow night at home with a movie, and save the night plans for the next day.  I try to eat a good dinner.  BUT, I don’t try to overdo it.  I might still eat out, just not late.  If have a glass of wine after work sounds good, I’ll have a small glass.  I just try not to get too worked up that I have 20 to run the next morning, and I don’t do something silly like get in bed a 1am, but I don’t get in bed at 800 just to stare at the clock for hours.

2.  Break it down.  This is by far my favorite way to run long, especially if I am solo, or only getting a buddy for a couple of miles.  I love, love, love to run loops.  I don’t repeat a small loop over and over, but rather pick about 3 routes and do each one.  Last weekend I had to do 20, and I ran a 7 mile loop, an 8 mile loop and then a 5 mile loop.  There was a little overlap on some of the loops, but not much.  It’s the old “eating an elephant” analogy.  The whole thing is overwhelming, so break it into smaller chunks.  3 loops seems much more doable than a huge 20 mile loop.  After one, I’ll think “2 more” and then after that second one I think “almost done”, not “5 more miles”.  Plus, I take a micro break after each to hit the bathroom if needed, fill up water etc.  I swear to you …this is the easiest way to run long!!!!

3.  FUEL, FUEL, FUEL.  I have a couple of friends who can do 20 miles on a couple sips of water, but not me.  I eat breakfast before I go, and I always bring more gels or gummies than I think I will need.  I don’t get trying to run on fumes.  If you keep your blood sugar up, I guarantee the run will feel better.  If you feel “blah” or a little down at one point, it may just be a dip in blood sugar, so to eat something.  My favorite tip for fueling is take extra and even if you hit just 3 miles to go and you feel bonk-y,  just take half a gel, or one little gummy.  It may give you that jolt you need to finish strong, which equals finishing confident for your race.  There is no point in bonking!  It is avoidable.

4.  The art of distraction.  I’m not the hugest fan of listening to music while I run, but I’ve used it before when I just can’t handle the negative thoughts of “this sucks!” in my head.  I prefer to listen to an album rather than playlists, and really try to take it all in as one creation.  Example:  Listen to the Beatles White Album in one stretch.    Totally different experience than throwing a song on a playlist.  I also love, love, love podcasts.  By now most of the two of you who read this know that.  I love listening to interviews with runners who inspire me.  I also love to pick an old episode of This American Life where they only have one story.  If you are a fan of the show, I promise you will become completely sucked into in within the hour it’s on, and then depending on your pace, you’ll be done with a pretty good chunk of your run.

5.  Finally, guilt yourself into it.  You set aside the time, you have your family on board, you are planning to enjoy a delicious IPA and pub fries later (if you’re like me), so don’t be a loser and back out.  Plus, remember that running is a gift.  You get a way to tap into mind, body and spirit that not everyone can or is able to do.  We’re lucky folks…those of us who have a life that lets us do this stuff.   And that IPA will taste sooooo much better after you can check the 20 mile box.

And to get totally inspirational poster BS crazy on you….here’s one of my favorite ultra running quotes (not sure who first said it, but a lot of people quote it)   “You’re better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.”

.Now go out and run!  (but bring an extra gel and a really good podcast with you)


Weekend wrap up…

Jasper is doing his favorite sport...throwing rocks into water

I am still formulating what the next marathon training tip will be, so you get a recap of my weekend in the meantime.

The highlight of the weekend was banging out the last of the big training runs for Boston. It’s always a little bittersweet to come to the end of a training cycle.  On one hand it’s nice to not be committed to such big runs in the future, but I always miss the feeling of satisfaction of a 20 miler.    But, I’ve got a fall marathon planned so I know after a little rest the fun starts up again!

Jasp and I spent the bulk of the weekend at parks.  Jasp is quite the hiker, which is great because I love to hike.  A 2 year old’s hiking consists of lots of exploring, and Jasp is never one to turn down touching a bug, or finding a good stick to stir up some mud.  So we don’t cover huge distances yet, but I am really glad he just loves being out on a trail and gets as much activity as if I brought him to a playscape.  This is good for future plans, as next summer we want to bring back our annual trip to the mountains, and I think it will be a whole different experience with him getting more and more into the outdoors.  His favorite activity by far is throwing rocks into water.  He could do it for hours, and it makes him so happy.  There’s something wonderful about watching this activity that doesn’t involve anything manufactured and doesn’t cost a dime.   I also am all too aware that if we get anything like last summer for this summer, the creeks will dry up and it will be way too hot to hit the trails.   We are maxing them out while we can.

All in all, I’m just enjoying our nice spring.   It’s hard not to be in a good mood when it’s sunny and 84 degrees.   We ended the weekend with an ice cream indulgence with some really good olive oil cookies Mike bought me (is he awesome or what!)….and the season opener of Mad Men.  Nothing like a Sunday night with exhausted legs, a big bowl of ice cream and really good tv.    I know that makes me sound like I’m 80 years old, but that’s what I call a good night!


Marathon training for real runners Part 3…..the different runs that a regular person can do

Marathon training is a long road...

If you look at any book on training or an online plan, there will be several different types of runs to prepare for a marathon.  I am going to share what works for me.  Could I do more/ different things and get faster?  Without a doubt.  But the whole point of this is for me to try to share some of my experience for what has worked with a busy life where things aren’t always as planned.

Here’s what I don’t do.  I don’t do track work.  It’s just logistically a pain in the butt.  Maybe if you live next to a track you’ll do it, but I’m already pressed for time, so I am not going to waste time driving to a track and back.  I also think it’s pretty challenging mentally (I did track work all through high school), and I say pick workouts that you are likely to do and complete.  If running is a source of fun and stress release, track work may not fit the bill.  If you love it, keep it in your schedule, but it just doesn’t work for me.

I do shoot for one tempo run a week.  I define this as a slightly faster than marathon pace run.  I’ll run the first mile without looking at a watch and just go comfortably.  Then I shoot for 15-30 seconds faster a mile than I would run a marathon at.   Sometimes I run with Mark, and just by default because he is faster than me I achieve a tempo run.  This is still a fun run because I get to pick a route, and I get home feeling some real work got done, but not completely wasted.

I also shoot for one hilly run.  This may or may not be at marathon pace.  I just pick a routine route that has a lot of hills and if I have a hilly race coming up, I do the hills a couple times each.  I don’t do hill repeats though.  Same reason I don’t do track workouts.    It is a time suck to drive to a giant hill, and not much fun.

I do one Pancake run.  Pancake and I have a 6.5 mile loop we do every week.  She’s 12 years old and does great, and I know my days of running with her could be over soon, so I make sure I get this run in every week.  She runs pretty fast, but we lose a little time here and there for bathroom breaks and sniffing.  I probably end up about 30 seconds a mile slower.  But who cares.  It makes me feel so good to head off to work and see Pancake curled up in her bed, happily exhausted.   I also count this as an easy run, or sometimes a recovery run.

The long run.  This is the meat of the marathon training.  I’ll give it more attention later, but plan to work up to at least 20 miles on 3 different runs.  I do this run very early (usually start by 5am) and it is one of the highlights of my week.  I treat myself to driving somewhere I really enjoy running (most of the time, every now and then I run from home).  This is the one you can’t skip.  You’ve got to commit to doing these.

Easy/ recovery runs.  This is everything else.  These are the chatty runs with friends, the just go out for 6 mile runs, and the aforementioned Pancake runs.  Some weeks this is all I do other than the long run.  Sometimes I have every intention of running a tempo run, but get horrible sleep the night before and know I just won’t make the times, so I aim just to get out.  If your goal is just to finish a marathon, I would say just do these and the long run, and maybe a couple marathon pace runs for your whole program.  If your goal is a certain time, then add the tempo and hills routinely.

Like I said, there is a lot more you can do to get faster.  This works for me though.  It gives me a little bit of pushing myself, but most of it is just going out and enjoying a run.   You may find something different works for you, but if you have no idea how to structure your training this might give you some ideas.

My schedule is a usually like this:

Monday:  easy

Tuesday:  easy

Wednesday:  easy

Thursday:  hilly tempo

Friday:  bike ride on the trainer, no running

Saturday:  long run

Sunday:  tempo run / yoga

Well, if I haven’t bored you silly by this point, I hope you stick around for the next part of the series.   Less than one month until Boston!!!!  Yay!!!!



20 miles, parks, squids, and zombies…

Enjoying some free Japanese comic book punk rock

No marathon training update tomorrow.  I can’t take Jasper to speech, and Mike is,  so no free internet time.   I’ll spare you the details of working out our overly complicated schedule and instead give you another weekend update.

My arms are sore, but not from running or yoga, but holding a 30 pound child on my shoulders and jumping up and down while we rocked on.  More on that later…

First off I did a 20 miler mostly solo.  Mark wasn’t feeling great and needed to bail 7 miles in.  I really wanted to get a 20 miler as we are in the home stretch for Boston training.  I briefly considered just adding a couple more miles after he left and calling it a day, but rethought things.  I was given the time by my family to get in 20, and I needed to use it.  Also, it is a huge sacrifice on their part that I am even doing Boston and I figured I owed it to them to hit that start line ready.  I did 3 smaller loops to make the 20 miles, my preferred method to do a long run.  It was a really good run.  I stayed away from getting “shuffle-y” and ran in to a couple of folks I know at the very end who were pushing close to 8 minutes miles and I hung on with them a bit.   I’ll probably run alone a lot more once we move, so I need to get used to it, and know I can do these long runs on my own if I have too.

Today was a 7 miler, then a yoga class and then Jasp and I were off to entertain ourselves.   We started at Mayfield Park, one of my favorite parks.

After sufficient energy burning at the park and nap time, we hit one of the many free SXSW shows.  This festival has morphed into having better shows for free than the ones that require a badge.  We saw the fantastic Peelander Z, and Jasp and I are conspiring together to find a way we can tour with them.    I am not sure who all the forces are that put on a lovely children’s punk rock show at a local farm, complete with cool activities and music, but bless them, they are good people to do something so nice for so many kids.

Singing along to "Mad Tiger"
Why would we not want to go on tour with a band with a giant squid?

My arms are already sore from repeatedly hoisting up a 30 pound Owl who LOVED the show.  Came home  and enjoyed some homemade enchiladas, and watched the season finale of The Walking Dead.   But now, I’m tired, time for bed!


Marathon training for real runners Part 2….what’s a real runner and do you have time?

Be prepared for lots of photos that have nothing to do with running...

Thanks so much to those of you who left me such nice comments.   I am happy at least a couple people want to read this!

I realized my term “real runner” may be confusing.  I define a real runner as someone who has a real life!   Jobs, kids, family demands, 4 hours of sleep a night, cellulite, bad eating habits under stress, exposure to kid germs, the list goes on and on.  There are a lot of good training plans out there, but I find I just piece meal things together knowing I will never, never hit a track for mile repeats when I run at 5am.   A real runner doesn’t always get a post run ice bath, enough stretching, and certainly not a nap after a long run.  It’s about doing the best you can with what you’ve got, which sometimes is just a little bit of time each day.

As a real runner who aspires to a marathon, the first thing to really think about is can make the time commitment.   I think in most cases yes.   As long as you can get up early before your family, you can probably manage the regular runs.  The long run takes a little more time and support from your family to happen.  You should plan on 2-3 runs that will need a 3-4 hour chunk of time.    But, you will have these planned out way in advance to arrange for any childcare and warn your family you will need this chunk of time.     I start my long run at 500 and am done around 800.  I don’t think getting home a little after 8am, and then dedicating the rest of the day to whatever my family needs is too much to ask for.   See it suddenly seems pretty manageable, doesn’t it?  Also, I think you need a bare minimum commitment of 3 runs a week. 4- 5 is ideal.  6 is awesome, but 3 will do it.  But you need to be consistent and get those 3, with one being long.  The other two need to be at least an hour-hour and 15 minutes.  I’ll get into the different types of runs I do later (and it’s not much of a list).   Just think about if you can make the commitment.  I think it’s pretty doable.  If your life is completely chaotic right now, it may seem like a lot.  So don’t worry about it.  Once again, you don’t have to do a marathon to have a race goal.  Some other things to figure into your time commitment are a little stretching after each run, and if there is anyway you can fit in one session a week of something that makes you stronger (I do yoga, but there are lots of options).  If you can’t it’s ok….there is some stuff you can do at home, and I’ll tell you what I do at some point, although this is the part that is the biggest challenge for me.

If the time commitment is a struggle due to family, all I can suggest is to plead with them how important this is to you.  And, get tough.  You will probably have to go run earlier in the morning or later at night than you really want to, you will probably need to go run in bad weather since you won’t have the ability to go later when weather may clear, and you’ll have to go run when you are really tired.    But it’s worth it.

Ok…hope that helps.  I’ll get into weekly run breakdown later.  Right now and I counting down until Jasper gets done with speech so I can go re-enter the worst traffic I’ve dealt with in a long time.  Dang SXSW festival.  I think we have about 100,000 more people in downtown Austin this week.


Marathon training for real runners, Part 1…

Maybe you will enjoy marathon training as much as Jasper enjoys running with a balloon.

Here I am with my new weekly free time during speech therapy.  So I figure no better time than the present to start my marathon series of posts.

First, I thought I’d recap weekend Boston training.  I can’t believe we are five weeks away.  We have one last 20+ miler.  Mark and I managed a really good 18 mile run despite 45 degrees and rain all weekend.  I made it to Ashtanga yoga Sunday after another very wet run, and today have my usual Monday slight soreness.   The whole Boston training process and all the challenges that came up gave me the idea to do a series of posts on how I go about marathon preparation.

Why should you really care what I have to say?  Well, I probably have no better insight than most people, and I don’t think a lot of my friends who read this really need any of my advice, but it will give me a little writing project, and prevent my blog from morphing into a rant about all things toddler.  I also think with the proliferation of online coaching and running groups there are less and less experienced runners mentoring newer runners and not charging them for it.   I kinda figured out the marathon by trial and error, but when I moved up to ultras, I relied on a ton a advice and help from those who had done it before….and I made a lot of new friends out of  folks who were just happy to pass on what they had learned.   Maybe the couple of you who read this with future marathon aspirations may find some of it helpful when you decide to get your training started.  Please let me know if you do!

So first off, decide if the marathon is something you really want to try.  Why should you not try it?  Well, there is no shame in not running marathons.  Running shorter distances is just fine.  If the longest you ever ran was 3-4 miles, that’s still huge.  If you work your way up to a half marathon that is huge.  If you don’t have at least an occasional 3 hour block of time you should maybe not move up to it.   And finally, if you tried moving up your mileage before and didn’t like it, why force yourself into something you didn’t find fun?   At the end of the day that is why most of us are doing it.

So why should you try it?  A marathon is a very doable challenge.  It’s long enough to feel a sense of accomplishment, but short enough that even the long runs are pretty doable with most people’s schedules.   It can keep you motivated to get out and do your runs, despite all that can come up in your life.  It’s long enough that you can’t really fake it without it being miserable, so it helps knowing it’s on the calendar to get you of bed on a cold, dark morning.  There’s also the chance to meet other folks who are training, but you also get some valuable alone time.  And when you finish, you even if that is the only one you ever do, you get to call yourself a marathon runner for the rest of your life.   Not that it’s a resume maker or anything, but it’s a amazing how many people you end up talking to just based on the fact you both covered 26 miles.

So if your in, I hope I can provide some tips and tricks.   Like I said, let me know if anything at all from this is helpful.  I have some really good ideas for posts and hope I can pull them all off.


50 minutes…

Yes, we don't do photo shoots very often. I still think it's a cute photo shoot

So we had our first full week of speech therapy.  Yeah two standing appointments a week so far south it’s not even in city limits is a big scheduling challenge…BUT, once we are there, I am not included in the therapy.  This means I get 50 minutes with nothing to do….which is wonderful.  So far I’ve listened to a podcast and surfed the internet and then went for a nice, long walk.  I am thinking this is the only way I will get to write my blog post series on how a real person can master the marathon.  Have a mentioned I never seem to get anything done in the evenings anymore?  Age two has not been kind to us so far.  So this free time is a nice.  It also sounds like speech therapy goes for a long time.   Like over a year.  You may start to get really sick of all the blog posts that can create….

Well for now, I am at work and that means a quick 20 minute lunch, so I am signing off….hopefully I’ll be back very soon.


Banned from the trails and food therapy…

Jasper is not sharing his cereal

Wow…what a week. Lots going on. First off, we closed on our new house. Yay…another step closer to the move. The sellers are renting it back from us for a month, which is actually good, as we need all the time we can get to pack. But, it was nice to check another box in the whole process.

I had my annual podiatrist visit this week. It went very well. I still have horrible, old lady arthritic toes, but I get another year of no surgery. Yay! I’m not sure how to take the doctor’s statement “as impressive as this looks, and as much as I would love to operate, I just can’t as long as you are pain free.” The one little bit of bad news was he said absolutely no running on unstable surfaces, as in rocky trails. I pretty much have put this into effect on my own, but I suppose it’s official now: my trail running days are over. I got a little nostalgic for a bit, but I can’t complain that I am running marathons.

I debated about this next little bit, but I decided to share figuring maybe I can help someone if they are in a similar situation. For a year of check ups Jasper’s pediatrician went back and forth on sending him to get a speech evaluation for delayed speech. At the 2 year check up, she said she thought he should probably go. I agree there is a marked difference between his speech and his peers. I also had lots and lots of probably well meaning friends and family relay stories of family members who didn’t talk until they were 4-5 years old, and tell me that I shouldn’t worry. The bottom line is I am glad I listened to the medical professionals. It turns out there are multiple things the therapist will be helping us with, and the speech issue is a muscular problem not a cognitive one. It never occurred to me this was a physical problem. Jasper’s willingness to only eat about 10 foods plays into this too, as textured foods are a problem for kids with this issue. So Jaspy will also be doing a lot of therapy to help him eat better. Yeah, most of us should be so lucky to get food therapy. So yeah, if your kid’s eating habits seems extreme this is something to consider…there may be a problem and your kid is not just a picky eater. When it rains it pour though….I just added twice weekly therapy sessions to moving, a massive work project and peak marathon training.

On that note…I am off to bed. Got a tough run in the early am….Oh, and I do think these pictures are just about the cutest ever.