Olympic Trials, Haircut, And A Long Run

Happy Sunday!  I’m enjoying Day 2 of a 3-day weekend!  I just got back from barre class which kicked my butt, as always.  My legs were already tired from 15 miles yesterday and all the pulsing and squeezing sent them over the edge this morning.

So, the Olympic Marathon Trials?!  So exciting.  I cannot wait for London.  I just got back from my long run in enough time to catch the Twitterfest of the finish.  Meb is amazing and Shalane, Kara, and Desi are a force to be reckoned with in London.

Hawk enjoyed watching the Trials as well

I wish I could say that I channeled some of that elite energy during my LR but I didn’t.  15 miles with an average pace of 9:04.  I will call that a LSD run.  I slept 4 hours on Friday night (random insomnia) and, beginning at mile 6, I developed a blister on my right foot (while wearing my Adrenaline 11s – yes, the ones that are supposed to feel good).  I have no idea what kind of metamorphosis my right foot is undergoing but it better morph back to my old foot pronto.  I’ve never had issues with blisters before.  They suck and can really derail a run.

To be honest, my heart was not in this run.  I was tired.  It was so, so cold.  The wind kept smacking me in the forehead and pissing me off.  I wanted it to be OVER.  I came home and I was upset.  This was a slow run for me and a good 45 seconds slower than MP.  Then I took out my FIRST plan and looked at what pace I was supposed to run those 15 miles (note:  when it comes to long runs I generally “beat” whatever pace the FIRST plan calls for…so I never even bother to look at it pre-run).  9:08.  I ran 9:04 and called it a terrible run.  I stopped sulking after that.

And…I got my hair cut yesterday!  I got a good 6 inches lopped off the back.  It feels amazing to have less hair to deal with!  It was getting to the point where my hair was in a ponytail every single day.  Some pics…

it may not look like a lot from the front...

but I now have a tiny ponytail

Good luck to everyone running Houston today!

What did you think of the Trials?

Did you have a good long run this weekend?


Being Flexible and Boston Week 1 Recap

When I first started training for marathons and knew very little about myself as a runner (or really anything about marathon training), I would follow a set training plan.  All 16 weeks planned out in black and white.  This type of training is beneficial for beginners, as long as you are listening to your body and pushing when appropriate and resting when you need it.  My approach to training now is drastically different then it was back then.

Every Sunday, I plan out my running schedule for the week.  I’m using the FIRST plan so in a way those 16 weeks are planned out but I modify the plan so much it’s never set in stone.  Things I consider:

  • Am I busy this week?  Do I have stuff to do after work or during the weekend?
  • What’s the weather like (especially in the winter)?  If there is even a hint of snow, I will finagle my schedule to get all my key runs in before the snow hits.
  • What was my total mileage last week?  How much should I increase it this week or decrease if it’s a drop back week?
  • When will I strength train this week?
  • How am I feeling overall?  How did my runs go last week?  Did I hit all my key workouts?

All of these factors go into my planning.  The only things really set in stone are my track workouts and long run mileage.  Everything else I decide on the Sunday prior.  Even the days I do track, tempo, and easy runs change each week (although I try and get track work done on Mondays to get it out of the way).  I love the flexibility this gives me and my training has improved so much.

Boston Week 1 Recap
I’ll call week 1 a success!  Aside from my failed tempo run and yoga fail (I just couldn’t get my butt there on Sunday – I have no better excuse than that), I was happy with my long run on Saturday.

MON:  3 x 1-mile repeats
TUE:   7 easy
WED:  barre class
THU:  rest
FRI:  6 pseudo-tempo miles
SAT:  13 (avg pace – 8:37).  I totally under dressed for this run.  I started running at 7:30 and it was bitterly cold (it later went up to 60 degrees!).  I had a thin, long-sleeved tech shirt and cheap Target stretchy gloves.  I thought my hands were going to freeze and fall off.  I even stopped into a bathroom to use the hand dryer to warm them up (I hate stopping during long runs too but this was so necessary).
SUN:  6 easy

38 total miles for the week 🙂

Do you follow a set schedule or plan your runs weekly like me?

Ever think you were going to get frostbite during a run?  Once my hands get cold, it’s all downhill for me.  It actually gets painful and I can’t concentrate.  I do use hand warmers sometimes but apparently didn’t think it was necessary on Saturday.  

Boston Training and Goals

I hope everyone is surviving this week so far.  Work yesterday felt so strange…what’s my password?  Where’s my to do list?  What happened in December?  Tuesday was a blur.  I did manage 7 easy miles outside in the numbing wind.

Onto my Boston training…not surprisingly I’m using the 3:40 FIRST marathon plan.  It worked well for me in the past so I’m going with it.  Each time I modify it even more to fit my needs.

More mileage – hopefully (maybe) I can hit 60 miles this training cycle?  I hit 53 last cycle but I think I was running my easy runs too fast.  If I slowed down I probably could have accommodated higher mileage.  My hard days are really hard, so my 2 easy runs should be really easy.  Of course, this will all depend on how I feel.  Adaptive training 🙂

Strength training – barre and yoga each week.  I think I figured out a schedule that works, which was an issue in the past.  This means 6AM barre class on Wednesday mornings!

Hills, hills, hills – Uphills and downhills!  My LRs will be done on a hilly course and I’ll probably swap out a track or tempo workout every now and then for hill repeats.

Less Garmin-obsessed running – like I mentioned Monday, my track workouts will be based on effort and my easy days (which are now really easy) will be Garmin-free.

As for goals, I want to re-qualify for Boston at Boston.  That means a sub-3:40 which should be doable.   Here’s how I see it…I’ve shaved 30 minutes off my marathon time from May 2010 to September 2011, so what’s an additional 4 minutes?  It won’t be easy, Boston is a tough course, but it’s not impossible!

Another unrelated goal is to eek out a sub-7:00 mile.  6:59 would be acceptable.

This morning is my first time going to barre class before work.  I’m getting changed at the gym and then heading straight to work.  No shower.  The thought of showering at the gym skeeves me out, like I’m back in college.  I don’t sweat that much at barre and I will shower beforehand.  Matt thinks this is gross.  I can guarantee I will be no cleaner after using a communal shower!  I just hope I don’t forget anything important, like my work pants.  If so, wunder unders it is!

Ever shower at the gym?  Is it gross?  I just have flashbacks to dorm living and wearing flip flops in the shower!  

Are you currently training for anything?  If so, what are your goals?


Thank you for all the incredible comments on my post yesterday.  I think Alyssa said it best…

I thought all BQers were naturally speedy and ran sub-4 marathons without even trying.

That’s a myth!  I used to think the same thing.  This is exactly why I wrote that post – to show you that an average runner can BQ!

How’d I do it?  Let’s start with the physical part first.

Know what works for you
When I’m coaching someone, I often tell them that I made every mistake in the book so they don’t have to.  I really think I did.  Lots of trial and error.  But it made me a smart runner.  I know what my body can handle and what it can’t.  I know which training plans will work for me and which ones won’t.  I know when to back off and rest and when to kick it up a notch.

Listen to your body and keep a training log.  After each training cycle and race, jot down what worked and what didn’t.  Review often and look for any patterns.

Marathon-paced long runs
I love me some marathon-paced long runs!   I wrote a post awhile ago explaining my reasoning for not doing long, slow distance long runs here.  LSD does not work for me.  I gave it a fair shot.  My coaching certification is through RRCA and they heavily stress LSD long runs for everyone – beginners to elite.  I 100% agree with LSD long runs for beginners who need to build an adequate endurance base.  But, if you have a time goal in mind, you need to incorporate some MP miles into your long runs.  For the simple reason that practice makes perfect.

Speed work (FIRST training plan)
I used the FIRST training plan for my last 2 marathons (with modifications – I added in some easy runs for more mileage).  I definitely credit it with helping me BQ.  Before the NJ Marathon, I went to the track here and there but I wasn’t consistent.  I’ve been doing speed work consistently for the past 9 months and the results are astounding.  My marathon pace dropped significantly.  And I saw results quickly.

Consistency is key here.  Pick a day each week and dedicate it to speed work.  It’s easiest to do on a track but any flat, paved path (free of traffic) will do.  And don’t think you have to run all-out…that is a misnomer.  You can do intervals at 10K or half marathon pace.  For my final weeks leading up to the Lehigh Valley Marathon, I kept my intervals at 10K pace because I found myself overstriding (and subsequently hurting my hamstring) when I did intervals at 5K pace.

2-week taper
This training cycle was the first time I experimented with a 2-week taper.  And I will never go back to a 3-week taper again!  For me, it’s more mental than anything.  I had a good 22-miler 2 weeks before the LVM.  The day of the race I kept thinking that all I had to do was repeat the run that I did only 2 weeks before.  It boosted my confidence significantly.

Before you try a 2-week taper, think about how long it takes you to completely recover from a 20 mile run.  If it takes awhile, I would err on the side of caution and stick with a 3-week taper.  You don’t want to have any lingering effects of that last 20-miler come race day.

Train for the worst case scenario
I learned this the hard way during the Pocono Marathon.  Know the marathon course.  Look at the elevation profile.  Ask people who ran the race in previous years (sidenote:  take their advice with a grain of salt.  A big hill to some is a little hill to others and vice versa).  If there are small hills, train for big hills.  It will only help you come race day.

Now for the mental part…

Break it up into small chunks
When I started to get closer to my BQ time, I looked at each marathon as a way to inch closer and closer to my ultimate goal.  My goal for Steamtown was to break 4:00 hours.  Then my goal for NJM was to hit 3:50…and finally BQ (3:45) at LVM.  This made it much more manageable and less daunting.

Such a powerful word.  Believe in yourself AND in your training.  If you think you can, you can.  If you think you can’t, you can’t.

Be present
This tactic worked well for me at LVM.  Instead of thinking ahead to the later miles (i.e., the last 6.2), I forced myself to focus on the current mile and mastering it.  It can get overwhelming to think of how many more miles you have and how you are going to maintain MP, blah, blah, blah.  It’s a vicious cycle of self-doubt.  If you find yourself going down this road, snap out of it (during the LVM I audibly said “stop”) and regain your focus.

Phew!  I had lots to say.  If you made it through this post, kudos…you deserve a gold star!

Lehigh Valley Marathon: Week 12 Recap

7 miles speed
*10 x 400m.  The last time I did this workout (12 x 400m) I averaged 1:36 and ended with up with a sore hamstring for the remainder of the week (due to overstriding).  I held back today and averaged 1:50.  Much slower but I have a happy hamstring!  Although I did run the last repeat in 1:34 just to make sure I still had it in me 😉

Let’s recap week 12…

MON: 7 miles easy
TUE:  11 miles tempo
WED:  7 miles speed
THU:  6 3 miles easy (thunderstorm)
FRI:  9 miles easy
SAT:  rest/HLS
SUN:  15 miles long

A total of 52 miles for the week.  After Thursday’s derailed run, I was hell-bent on getting my 55 miles in.  That feeling faded quickly when life and the weekend got in the way.  So I maxed out at 52/53 miles this training cycle.  My intention was to max out at 60 but my legs had other plans.  There is a reason why the FIRST training plan focuses on low mileage.  It’s difficult to run hard 3 days, add in 2 easy 8-milers, and repeat week after week.

But my legs feel rested and ready for my 22-miler on Friday.  I can’t wait.  I always treat the last “long” run of a training cycle like a dress rehearsal for race day.  I’ll wear the same clothes…and maybe even the same socks and hair bands if I have a particularly good run.  I guess I’m superstitious?!

Question – do you treat your last long run (before the taper) like a dress rehearsal for the big day?  Or do you just go with the flow?  

An Ugly Tempo

6 miles easy / 57:50 / 9:38 avg pace

Sunday’s tempo run was downright ugly.  I was supposed to do 1 mile easy and 10 miles at MP (8:35).  I’ve been doing my tempo runs each week on a trail since my marathon has 12 miles of towpath.  All week I kept thinking how good of a practice tempo this would be…really mimicking race day terrain and pace.

The result?  An ugly tempo.  I ended up with 10 miles total – 1 mile warm-up, 6 miles at MP, and 3 miles cool-down.  The only highlight was my MP miles – a complete disaster in terms of consistency – but all at or under MP:  8:09, 8:17, 8:27, 8:09, 8:32, 8:33.

How did this run go from having great potential to ugly?  It makes total sense now…

  • It was ungodly humid…repeat ungodly humid.
  • I was dehydrated.  Matt and I were out and about all day Saturday and I wasn’t drinking enough water.  Then we went to dinner and I had a few beers 🙂  The beers tasted especially good, since I was so thirsty!
  • I didn’t bring any salt caps with me.
  • I didn’t sleep much on Saturday night.  We finally watched Paranormal Activity and I was terrified.  I slept with one eye opened.
  • So…I was tired.  And mentally I just wasn’t there.  I really wanted to be back in bed sleeping.
I can’t be too upset.  My long run was pretty much done at MP pace on Friday.  So I know I cando it.  I’m dropping back a few miles this week so I can rest up for my final 2 weeks before taper time!Let’s end on a positive note.  We ended up going out for Matt’s birthday on Saturday night.  We went to a very causal place so we could sit outside with Hawk.

Hawk enjoyed some ice cubes

Birthday boy

Enough with the pictures

Put me down and let me get back to my ice cubes

Do you like scary movies?  I like them and then regret watching them all the time.  Paranormal Activity was scary but still doesn’t top The Exorcist.  That is hands-down the most terrifying movie I have ever seen.  

Changing Things Up

8 miles (4 at tempo) / 1:09 / 8:37 avg pace
2 miles @ 7:44 — 8:02, 7:39
2 miles @ MP — 8:42, 8:32


“If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll get the same results”.  So very true when it comes to training for a marathon.  So what will I do differently with this training cycle?  For starters, it’ll be more challenging.  I’m still using the FIRST training plan with the following modifications:

Increase overall mileage
Since NJM was only a month ago I still have a good base built up and plan to build on top of that (starting at ~40 miles per week and going from there).  I’d like to max out at 60 mpw, but not sure if that is possible.  We’ll see.  So in addition to 3 hard runs (speed, tempo, long), I’ll be adding 2 easy runs to get my miles in.

Switching between hill repeats and track workouts
When I trained for Steamtown, I did lots of hilly runs and I felt so strong.  For NJM, I concentrated on flat and fast.  Both worked well for me but I want to combine the two for the Leigh Valley Marathon.  I need speed in order to BQ and I need hill repeats so I can maintain my marathon pace over hills.  So one week I’ll hit the track for intervals and the next week I’ll hit the hills for repeats.

Trail running
Since 12 miles of the Leigh Valley Marathon will be on a trail, I need to be able to maintain a fast pace on gravely terrain.  I’m going to try and do my tempo runs on a trail.

Still aiming for yoga at least once a week and maybe (gasp!) some strength training.

Long runs – some fast and some slow
Usually I do my long runs pretty close to my goal marathon pace.  I still plan on doing some of them but I also plan on slowing down my pace every now and then.   

Hopefully all of this will lead me to a BQ in September!

Review of the FIRST Training Plan

I never mentioned the actual name of the marathon I’m running on 9/11. It’s the Leigh Valley Marathon (or Via Marathon). It’s a point-to-point course starting in Allentown, PA and ending in Easton, PA. The course was designed by the wonderful Bart Yasso! I love Bart!

I wanted to do a review of the FIRST training plan, which I used for the NJ Marathon. For a description of the plan and the modifications I made, please see this post. Overall, I really liked it and will be using it again (with modifications) for the LVM.

What I liked:
1. The FIRST program has specific Boston qualifying plans. For NJM, I used the 3:50 plan and I liked that all my workouts were focused on getting me to run a 3:50 marathon.

2. Nothing but quality workouts. There are 3 key runs per week: speed, tempo, and long. I added a 4th run each week (an easy run) to increase my overall mileage. These key runs were hard but since my overall mileage was lower, my body could handle them.

3. The speed workouts each week nearly killed me; but they absolutely without a doubt made me faster.

4. The tempo runs were manageable and I was able to do them without too much difficultly.

5. I felt the long runs were a little easy. I often ran faster than I was supposed to but I generally do that anyway (see this post for an explanation). My endurance is much greater than my speed and this training plan made that very apparent as I was sucking wind at the track!

6. I only had 1 case of “brick legs”. Usually when I train for a marathon, this happens a few times. Again, I attribute this to less overall mileage.

7. Running 4 days a week allowed more time for yoga, which I desperately needed during this training cycle.

What I did not like:

1. Even though running 4 days a week was a plus, I had to get over feeling like a lazy slug. I have always run 5 days a week, with 2 rest days. But I really wanted to make yoga a top priority so I kept to the 4-days-a-week running regime. With 3 tough runs a week and 1 easy run, I don’t think running a 5th day would have any added value.

2. My overall mileage was low. I had to get over this too. I maxed out at 43 miles per week! My body doesn’t thrive well on high mileage (I consider that to be 60s and 70s) but in previous training cycles I was getting into the 50s. It was hard to not see those numbers climb higher than 43 but I think my legs were thankful.

3. This wasn’t an issue for me but I want to give warning to anyone thinking of using this plan. There is no base building phase. Most plans have you build mileage first (slowly and safely) before you do speed work. With the FIRST plan, you literally “hit the ground running” (pun intended) with speed work. I wouldn’t recommend this plan for beginners. If you don’t have a strong base of 30 miles per week established add about 6 weeks onto this training plan to get your base building time in. You’ll be less likely to get injured.

What training plan are you currently using? Or are you winging it?  I love seeing what plans people use to train. It’s such a matter of preference.

Taper Time + Week 14 Recap


7 miles easy


9:26 avg pace

I’m officially tapering…the hard work is done; now it’s time to rest and prepare for the big race.  I’m aiming to keep my overall mileage in the low 30s this week and the mid-20s next week, since my training cycle stressed low mileage.  Unfortunately, I still have 2 speed workouts to do 😦

This Sunday I’ll be running the Penn Relays Distance Classic 20K (about 12.4 miles).  I won’t be racing it though.  I’m using it as a goal marathon pace run, which is exactly what my training plan calls for anyway.  I love when it all comes together!

Week 14 Recap of NJ Marathon training:
MON:  rest
TUE:  8 tempo
WED:  7 easy
THU:  rest
FRI:  6 easy
SAT:  22 looong
SUN:  rest

43 miles for the week with no speed work.  My legs were more sore than I thought they would be after the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.  I’m glad I took another easy day so I could get in a good 22-miler!  Missing too?  Yoga.  I was leery of taking a class this week since I tweaked something in last Friday’s class.  Usually I leave yoga feeling better but not that time.  I was worried it would affect my race last week, but I was OK.

I’m going to show all of you just how weird I am…every time I say “taper time” I think of MC Hammer’s song “U Can’t Touch This”.  You know…”stop, hammer time” kinda sounds like “stop, taper time?”  Riiiight?  Well if you never thought of it before, I bet you will now!

We saw this sign in Australia (if you look closely it says hammer time). I thought it was hysterical...and how appropriate?!

Run The Long Road is on Facebook!  Click here to “like me”…please!

20 Miles – Take 3


20 miles


9:00 avg pace

The FIRST plan called for 20 miles at 9:16 pace today.  My plan was to slow down and follow the 9:16 pace for 15 miles and, if I did, I could run the last 5 miles at GMP.  I felt good, the weather was beautiful (windy but nice), and I’m glad I held back and was able to speed up during the last few miles.

Splits, shall we?
M1:  9:16
M2:  9:07
M3:  9:24
M4:  9:21 –> Shot Blok #1
M5:  9:10
M6:  9:08
M7:  8:58
M8:  9:02 –> Shot Blok #2
M9:  9:05
M10:  8:52
M11:  9:00
M12:  9:14 –> Shot Blok #3
M13:  9:11
M14:  8:57
M15:  8:54
M16:  8:47 –> Shot Blok #4
M17:  8:42
M18:  8:37
M19:  8:51
M20:  9:14 (suddenly got tired)

I saw a sea of green and beads while running past the train station; lots of 20somethings waiting to the train to Philly for the Erin Express.  The EE is an Irish bar crawl in Philly that takes place on the first 2 Saturdays in March.  I used to frequent the EE for many years and it was a blast, as long as you don’t mind super crowded bars, beer being spilled on you constantly, and long lines for the bathroom (with no toilet paper).  I didn’t mind those things in my 20s but you couldn’t pay me to do it now!  Funny how things change without you even realizing it.  Today I plan on watching St. Joe’s (hopefully) beat Dayton and advance to the finals of the A-10 tournament (all from the comfort of my couch).  Then I’ll take Hawk for a walk and check out our St. Patty’s Day parade (sans solo cup of beer).  Very different from past St. Patty’s Day celebrations.

I did love those beads. Wore them for many years.

These pictures were not even taken on St. Patty’s Day, they were taken at Irish Weekend in Wildwood, NJ (every September).  Yeah, I used to celebrate my Irish-ness twice each year – in March and September.  Ah, the good old days 🙂


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