Well, it’s that time of the summer when I start trying to increase mileage to begin to prep for fall half and full marathons. Luckily, my PT has allowed me to start increasing mileage again, at least for this week. I’ve been restricted to roughly 15 miles a week for about a month, so getting to run more than three mile runs is pretty exciting to me.
My goal half marathon is the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in Disney in November. I know, a lot of people think it’s silly to try and PR at a Disney race, but I’ve decided that is the race I want to go for. I am shooting for a pretty big time goal- I’d love to go sub 1:40. That would be just over a three minute PR, which doesn’t sound that major, but for some reason saying 1:39 makes me really nervous. My current PR happened on a really hot morning, so I’m hopeful that I can shave four or so minutes off my time with some solid training. Goal pace is 7:33.
My full marathon for the fall is still up in the air, but I am leaning towards the Philadelphia full marathon the weekend before Thanksgiving. I’ve read good things about it, it times well because Wine and Dine could lead into a hard two week taper as I don’t like long drawn out tapers, and I like that time of year because I love racing marathons in cooler weather. Give me 30’s or 40’s for a marathon any day. So I’m not making it official yet, but that is the one I am eyeing. I am undecided on my goal time for this race. Based on my goal half time, I should be shooting for a 3:28, however that would be a 32 minute PR, and I am not sure how I feel about shooting for that.
Week 1 Training
Monday: 1 mile. This was the day after running the Boilermaker 15k in Utica, where I somehow PR’d off of very little mileage. This hills took their toll, however, so I needed a short day to recover and maintain my run streak.
Tuesday: 4 miles.
Still rough, and my knee is still sore, with pain traveling down the fibula side of my shin. So I stuck to the treadmill and got through the miles, throwing in some spurts at 7:30 pace to break it up a bit.
Wednesday: 5 miles.
Stuck to the treadmill again. Knee/shin was still sore, though not as bad as it was on Monday.
Thursday: 3 miles.
However, I asked if I could run a couple of track races that day, expecting a big no from my PT as I haven’t been allowed to run any interval or track workouts in a long time. He surprised me with saying yes, so that was a change in the plan.
Friday: 1 miles.
I had PT nice and early and did my mile to maintIn my run streak there, followed by a trip to Starbucks and a relaxing float in the pool. I’m enjoying my quiet Friday mornings at PT and will be sad when I have to return to hectic night ones.
Saturday: 9 miles
I decided to do a group run that did the course for a 15k in August. It was an urban trail run group and I had been wanting to get out and join them for the last few runs and finally could attend. Only problem? It didn’t start until 11 am, and the temps were already into the 80’s and the humidity was pretty high. I rode the struggle bus for much of the run and was truly grateful to be running with a group to keep me going. It was definitely a huge help!
Surprise! 3 extra miles
So my running club did a group run/walk/bike to different restaurants in the area. I missed the first stop, but was able to meet up for the second place and on. It was a lot of fun, but that was three more miles added on for the day, and my legs, and my right knee especially, were feeling it.
Sunday: 7 miles: actual 5
I decided I was going to skip another group run and put some miles on my treadmill to give my legs a rest from Saturday’s adventures. Plus it was super sticky out there again, so I decided my body would be better off inside so that the run wouldn’t be as strenuous as yesterday’s. It ended up being rough even on the treadmill, with knee pain becoming pretty prominent in miles three and four so I decided to call the run at five in order to save my knee a bit. It just wasn’t worth pushing onward this early in a training cycle in order to log some easy miles. This is an unusual decision for me as I often push myself to finish all miles listen in a plan, but I am trying to learn to listen to my body and give it the rest it needs.
This year was my seventh time running the Buffalo Half Marathon. It was my first half ever back in 2012, when I really didn’t know what I was doing and just decided to sign up for a half marathon at the beginning of my running journey. I ran/walked my way to a 2:13 and got hooked on running half marathons, running a 1:58 in September and a 1:57 in November of 2012. I ran a 1:45 at Buffalo in May 2013, and sort of flattened out from there. I was able to chisel my PR down to a 1:44:27 in October of 2014, but after that I couldn’t seem to break 1:45 again. I did a lot of half marathons since then, but they never seemed to go right.
A lot was mental. I started doubting myself, pulling back when it seemed hard. If conditions weren’t perfect, like the weather wasn’t the best or if my training was subpar, I would stand at the start line overanalyzing the details. This of course led to disappointing results and leaving the race bewildered. I started running half marathons for fun, enjoying the sights and the experience, which isn’t a bad thing, but made my times slower than they normally were. Then, when I registered for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in Disney for this November, I realized I had relaxed so much that I didn’t have a decent proof of time to submit for corral placement. Things had to change.
Progress Since January
After the high of the marathon, my PT pulled back my mileage for the rest of January and I was doing a max of three miles a day for a few weeks. However, he didn’t mind if I pushed the speed on these runs. So between PT, joining the RunSmart Online community and getting even more strength and functional training, and running shorter, faster runs, I started to see my 5k times drop.
I entered a 5k in February. It was my first one since August, where I had had an abysmal performance and stopped racing them. I was ecstatic with achieving a 23:20, over two minutes off of my time from August. A few weeks later I got a 23:40 at a windy race, coming in as second overall female.
In April I stood at the start line of a chilly 5k and a friend looked at me and told me he thought I could win this thing. I laughed and told him no. I had never won a race before! I had no confidence in myself when the gun went off, but he was right (thanks, Paul, for having confidence in me when I did not). I ran a 22:40, not far off from my 5k PR from 2015, good enough to take first overall female. It was really exciting and I was overwhelmed. I had always wanted to experience winning a race, and I was blown away that I finally had. The next day I was at another 5k starting line, this time running a 22:53 and taking second overall. I was pretty excited to run two sub 23:00 5k’s back to back and started to feel my confidence grow.
Two weeks later I won another overall female award at a hilly 5k with a 22:22, a new PR, finally breaking my PR from 2015. I was a little nervous that I had run so fast because I had a half marathon the next day that was also hilly, the Flower City Half Marathon in Rochester, NY. I wasn’t planning on racing it, but I was hoping for around a 1:50. Luckily the weather was perfect and I felt pretty good, running a 1:44:49. I ran by feel that race, only occasionally looking at my watch. I was shocked as I neared the end and began to realize how fast I was going.
I ran the Seneca 7 relay race around Seneca Lake the next weekend, which left my knee angry, but I continued on with my planned races. I had my goal 10k that next weekend, wanting to take down my 46:55 PR from 2015. Again, perfect weather conditions helped me along the way to a 45:52, good enough for third overall female. I did a 5k the next day that my husband wanted to do and was shocked to get my first sub 22 5k, earning a 21:58 and taking second overall female at that race. The following Friday I entered a 5k that I REALLY wanted to win because the award was a gold plated laurel wreath brought here from Greece, which was really enticing because I married into a Greek family. I ran that race hard, and was blown away when I crossed the finish line in 21:17 and was told I was first overall. I couldn’t believe I had done it! I ran another 5k the next morning, getting a 21:52 and another first. I was feeling overwhelmed by how well I was running, by how my running had changed from the year before.
The next weekend, the weekend before the Buffalo Half, I ran the Kelly Tough 12k, a hilly race in Orchard Park, NY that supported the Hunter’s Hope foundation. It was exciting to see Jim Kelly speak to the runners, inspiring to see a man who was fighting so much adversity come out and continue to persevere and even start the race and walk it. I ran too hard in the first two miles, underestimating the hills, and struggled through the rest of the race. It was the first rough race I had had this year. I finished in 56:21, 11th overall, 3rd female, but didn’t feel great about my performance and hoped I would turn it around for Buffalo.
The Goal: Buffalo Half Marathon
Like many runners, I anxiously watched the weather forecast for race weekend. At first it was calling for rain and potential thunderstorms, though that forecast diminished and was replaced by heat and humidity. This left my anxiety elevated as we hadn’t had that kind of weather going into that race. We had been cool for most of the spring, so this was going to be a shock for local runners.
The hubbie and I decided to splurge and stay in a hotel close to the start line to help alleviate some of the morning stress. We left the hotel a little after 6 am and were lined up ready to go for the race start at 6:30 am. I lined up around the 1:40 pacer and took off at the start, pacing around a 7:27 and 7:12 (downhill during that mile) for the first two. I stayed around a 7:30 pace for the next two miles, but noticed that I was already starting to struggle and that I should back off a bit. I started inserting 20-30 second walk breaks during water stations, and a few when I was feeling particularly rough. Knowing I have another half marathon in a week, I didn’t want to do anything too stupid during the race.
I was mentally beating myself up a bit. I couldn’t believe that this was how my race was going. I had a ton of support along the sidelines and during the race. That’s what is amazing about the WNY running community, they are incredibly supportive of everyone. I had friends cheering me on from the sidelines and a few runners cheer me on and check in with me during the race, which definitely provided me with a bit of a boost, but I was still extremely disappointed with myself. When I hit mile 8, which is a major water stop that I knew a bunch of people were volunteering at, I started doing mental math and trying to decide what time I would be happy with. I thought a PR was out the window at this point, and I definitely wasn’t hitting my low 1:40 like I was hoping for, so I started bartering with myself.
I oddly started feeling a bit better at this point and threw down a 7:36 and a 7:45 mile after some 8:10-8:20 miles. I noticed that I had a shot to still PR if I could finish relatively strong. I made the final turn and saw the finish line, which in reality was really still about a half mile away, but that propelled me forward. I ran the last part at around a 6:48 pace, pushing to the finish line and being relieved that I finished in 1:43:07. That wasn’t near what I had been shooting for, but it was still a PR of 1:20 and salvaged a bit of the race for me. Later I looked at my data from my Garmin and noticed that my heart rate was high for most of the race, which is why I felt so physically off during the race.
Using the tracking app, I was able to cheer my husband into the finish and locate a friend on the course to support and run in. Then we all stood at the finish line, cheering in friends as they crossed, again showing how supportive the running community is here. We hung at the after party for a bit, touching base with friends, celebrating victories and lamenting set backs. I think that’s one of the best parts of running, is all of the amazing people I have met while pursuing my goals. We all push ourselves to the limit and struggle together, therefore we can relate and understand each other. We build friendships and comradery based upon this little past time of ours, which only helps make each of us stronger.
The fall foliage is turning, however the humidity was still in full effect on Sunday. The hubs and I did 5 miles, working on achieving negative splits.
Monday and Tuesday consisted of easy treadmill runs because my treadmill is finally fixed! It’s been over a month since I really have been able to use it.
Wednesday I was able to convince my PT to let me run a mile as my warm up instead of the elliptical, citing that I will run one after for my run streak, so could I just do it now? He agreed as long as there was no pain and I got my 1.1 in to maintain my streak.
Thursday and Friday were easy runs on the treadmill.
Saturday was a quarter marathon race. I was super nervous for this run as I haven’t run short in a race since August. I’ve also been super mental lately, doubting myself, and I feel this race was a breakthrough as I was able to push myself to a first place in my age group at the end, giving one final hard effort during the last mile.
Sunday was another easy treadmill run, hitting four miles.
Total mileage for 8 days: 30.9
Reflection on the week: My legs are feeling pretty good after Chicago. My knee is acting up a little bit after the race on Saturday, but overall it’s feeling pretty good. Just need to stick with PT and make sure I’m diligently strengthening and stretching.
My biggest achievement was the race. I really did a nice job mentally, reigning in an over enthusiastic pace, controlling it, and pushing it at the end instead of holding back like I often do. Looking forward to next week’s training, as miles increase and I start incorporating some speed work.
When I found out that I got into the Chicago Marathon last December, I was so excited.My mind instantly began racing (no pun intended), imagining the excitement of such a big race and the huge marathon PR I could get on such a big stage.It was going to be epic.
However, life doesn’t always seem to go as planned.I ended up getting a new job at a new school over the summer, while taking three online graduate classes during July and August.My summer consisted of being stressed over interviews, writing grad papers for 4-5 hours pretty much daily, and really just trying to get my life together, which is not an easy task for an OCD planner like myself.
Let’s just say my running took a hit over the summer.I was running, but other life demands took their toll on me.I also started noticing some knee pain in August.Never debilitating, but just enough to cut back on some runs and to be a nuisance.Then mid-August hit and I started my new teaching job, and with it, a whole new world of stress.It’s good stress, because I really do love my new school and students, but stress nonetheless.So while I tried to fit in runs during the beginning of the year teacher exhaustion period, I wasn’t always successful in doing so.
Then, of course, I got sick mid-September.It wasn’t like the flu or anything. I was never completely knocked down, though I did spend one Saturday sleeping for about twelve hours.As I got bronchitis right before my last marathon, I became very paranoid.I cut back on my running, missing my last long run before my taper and really not running much in the two weeks leading into Chicago.
Thus, I knew I was definitely undertrained as I lined up race day.I stood in the F corral, eyeing the 3:55 pacers, my adjusted goal time that I had set over the summer when I knew that I couldn’t meet my original enourmous dream time.I texted my husband, talking about running with them, but kind of knowing that it was not going to happen.I wasn’t ready.I knew it.Plus, it was already 56 degrees, with temperatures predicted to approach 80.I am NOT a warm weather runner, so that was weighing on my mind a bit.
The first few miles flew and I wasn’t far off of my goal pace.However, I could already feel my legs at the 5k mark.I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold my low 9:00paces.I texted my husband around the 8k mark, telling him I wasn’t going to be able to maintain, and he encouraged me to slow a bit.This is where my knee started to complain, and I added walk breaks through water stations.By mile 8 I was hurting and my mind was overwhelmed by the amount of remaining miles.
I hadn’t realized how bad a hit my endurance had taken when I was sick and not really running, but I was feeling it heavily early on in the race.My knee was angry about the pounding, likely having enjoyed its rest period while I was sick, and it expressed itself early on with pain.Then the pain travelled up to my hips, and my shins began cramping.My legs weren’t ready.
It was mentally hard to run this race.There were times I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish.I’ve never felt that much pain so early in a marathon, and I was worried that it was going to get to the point that I would need to stop, that my body was going to give out on me.It was that unknowing, and constant reminder with discomfort and pain shooting through my legs and hips on each step, that made my race an inner turmoil for me.I wasn’t sure how far I was going to make it, and that was killing me.
One great thing about the Chicago Marathon is the crowd support, and I truly believe that is a major reason I was able to finish.As I passed the halfway mark and the temperatures began to climb, I noticed a lot more people start walking.This race was impacting a lot of people, not just me, and that was a little reassuring.I guess misery loves company, right?But it was also during this time that I began to rely on the crowd cheering to help me through.I purposely wore one of my Sparkle Athletic skirts, a super shiny one, to draw attention, and I achieved my goal.Lots of people called to me that they liked my outfit, and that helped me continue on.
People lined the streets throughout the race, which was quite amazing to see.Not only did they cheer, but the supplied things like candy, drinks, food, and even tissues!All of these things were greatly appreciated.My favorite was the people who gave out freezie pops.I can’t even tell you how amazing that was.It was sunny at this point and super hot.I had salt caked to my face from the sweat (ew, right?).Then all of a sudden someone handed me a red freezie, and my life got a million times better.I don’t know if these spectators realize how great their actions were, their cheering or their supplies, but I know that they definitely helped me finish a difficult race and I am forever thankful.
I almost cried when I crossed the finish line.I had really wondered if I would make it at times, and it was a relief when I hit mile 26 and I was able to pick up the pace on the turn and finish somewhat strong.It was easily one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I plan on not making the same mistakes twice.I learned a lot from this race.I am running the Disney marathon in January, which I am now looking at as almost a redemption race, and I plan on throwing everything I can at this race.
I have gotten a coach for this race.I’m looking forward to getting a training plan that runs much higher mileage, because I realized that my best marathon was off of a training cycle that had a number of 55-60 mile weeks, while this time I was around 40.I also am hoping the guidance and accountability of a coach will help keep me consistent, finding time to make these runs work as I settle into my third month at my school and I feel that I have finally fallen into more of a routine there.
I have also started physical therapy.I had my first appointment, and started a rehab program to help with my knee pain.I’m obviously facing some muscle weaknesses and imbalance because I think my soreness from my first PT appointment might have been worse than my post marathon soreness.I need to make cross training and strength a bigger part of my training plan.I also need to stretch more as I was told my legs were pretty tight.
Hopefully with these steps, I can redeem myself in Disney.I am still dreaming of a marathon PR, which would be right around four hours.I’d be thrilled to break four.I think if everything comes together, and if my PT goes well, I might be able to do it.It’s a huge jump, but I’m going to throw everything I have at this goal.I’m not going to make the same mistakes as I did with Chicago.This is going to become a priority now that my life seems to be calming down and I’m ready to take it on.