Fall 2014 Marathon Training: Take Two


Last week, I wrapped up my first week of marathon training for the Clarence Demar Marathon, and it’s going a little different than I’d originally planned. I’d planned to jump right into Pfitzinger’s 12-Week “50-70 miles per week” plan. I was planning to mainly run general aerobic and recovery miles but with a little more volume. What I didn’t plan on was having to recover from an injury in my first week of training.

I feel like every single season I write a post very similar to this one. In 2013, I had two stress fractures. One in the spring, and one in the fall. Both times, I started training and had to modify everything because of injury. After going through the ringer of MRIs, blood tests, DEXA scans (to rule out osteoporosis), I began a pretty cool supplement program for maximum calcium absorption designed by my smartie pants pharmacist friend, Lauren. So when 2014 rolled around, I was ready. And then, a few days after I began training for Boston, I got the flu. Take two, once again. This time around is no different…and it wouldn’t be marathon training if it started any other way!

I came home from Charlevoix and was ready to go, but I promised myself I would take a week off of running. Anyone who knows me knows that I never do this willingly, so my thought was that a week of much needed rest would help with injury prevention. I was also hoping that a week off and some massage therapy, ART (active release therapy – a post for another day), and ice baths would help kick my plantar fasciitis that I’ve been battling since March. The entire time I was running my marathon, I kept telling myself that and promising my body a rest. I had 2 weeks of downtime in between Charlevoix and training for my first fall marathon so one week of swimming, biking, stretching and resting would be good for me.

Usually, I declare something like this and never follow through. Last year, after my marathon in Alaska, I promised myself the same thing – but made it four days before deciding I should run and explore the Alaskan wilderness. I can’t say I regret that decision…


Except last year, I couldn’t just stop at a few miles and ended up overdoing it. The result was being sidelined for nearly 5 weeks (8 if you count the time where I was barely running because I didn’t know what was wrong) with a tibial stress reaction. So this year, I stuck to it. I took several days completely off, and did ice baths almost daily. I was stretching, and by the end of the week, strength training and biking again. Maybe I put in too many miles on the bike, or maybe my body needed just a few more days without running. On my first day back out, I strained my calf. I was so confused when it happened. I rested! I took care of myself! Why was this happening?

Well, my first run back was on Monday, June 30th and I was a little to excited to get back out there. I went a little too far and fast for coming off of a break, even though I only took a week off. I’d done a fairly hilly 56 mile ride the day before, and two other decent rides in the days before that. My legs were tired, but not from running. I know better. Thankfully, I was at the Saucon Rail Trail when it happened. It’s a flat, cinder trail – at least I wasn’t trying to run Honeysuckle Road or something. I probably would have completely torn my calf on that.

I got about three quarters of the way through my run when I felt a sharp twinge in my calf and the whole thing felt like it seized up. I stopped immediately, recognizing the pain from a small hamstring strain I had earlier this year before the Columbia marathon. When I felt the tell tale pain in my calf, I didn’t take another step, even knowing I was still 2.3 miles from my car. I massaged the area, and walked to see if it was just a cramp. There was a water fountain, so I took in some fluids and started to stretch a little. Ow. Stretching was excruciating. After about 10 minutes of frustration, I tried to take another step running – ow. So I started walking, which didn’t feel good but didn’t result in the same alarming feeling running produced.

About 10 minutes of walking and I was bored and cranky. I tried running again- slowly – and it was okay for about a minute. I continued the run walk pattern until I ended up back at my car. The rest of the day was spent icing, elevating, compressing and taking some ibuprofen. As I’ve said before, I don’t like taking NSAIDs, but I thought it was the best way to get down any initial inflammation. There was no visible inflammation or bruising, but as the day went on walking became more of a chore. I kept a calf sleeve on it, went to bed that night and hoped for a miracle. No miracle – but it certainly felt significantly better in the morning. Not better like I should go run a marathon, but I was walking fine. The following day, I tried running. I made it one slow mile when I started to run with a limp and feel uncomfortable. I stopped, knowing I did enough and more miles would be pointless and unnecessary. After an afternoon session with my massage therapist, Mary Fitzgerald, I was feeling a lot better. The next day, same thing: one mile. This time, faster, but I felt like I’d hit my limit at the one mile mark. Still, it was progress. I felt better.

The whole thing was still bugging me, so I went to the doctor just to be on the safe side. I like Dr. Krafczyk at OAA, but he was unavailable so I saw Dr. Laura Dunne, who I used to see before I met Krafczyk. I wanted to confirm that it was, in fact, a calf strain and that what I was doing to treat it was on point. Dunne has seen me through several injuries, and she told me she was relieved to confirm my suspicion and thought she was going to see me with a completely torn calf muscle. I’m glad I stopped when I did, because it could have easily turned into that. She cleared me to run – I was supposed to run a four mile road race the next day and she encouraged me to do it. I opted to stay home because I didn’t want to chance racing it and tearing it.

Instead of racing, I went out solo and made it three glorious miles. I finally felt like I could keep going – but I still made myself stop at three. I was just happy to make it past the one mile mark and though I wasn’t at the point where I was running with a limp, I didn’t want to chance it. I made it six miles the next day at a decent pace, but felt a little tired towards the end. I opted to rest it on Sunday and start the week fresh on Monday morning. Biking really seemed to aggravate it, so I stayed out of the saddle the entire week it was bugging me.

What did I really expect? Seven marathons (six PRs), a half-Ironman, and some awesome shorter distance races since the end of November. My body wanted some rest and gave me a warning sign. I am still following my trusty Pfitz plan, but I chose a different level to allow my body to ease back into training. I only ran a total of 27 miles last week, and the first few days were not the most comfortable. My legs felt heavy. I felt tired. But as the week wore on, I started to feel like it was coming back. By Saturday, I ran the Belmar 5 Miler and PR’d (more on that later) but I had to work pretty hard for it. I felt every single day of my two week hiatus on that run.

My last marathon still feels like it was a dream. I did it on tired legs – it was my last race of a very long (but fun) season. I am confident that I have more in me. Right now, it’s more important not to ignore warning signs and to give my body the recovery it needs and do some real training. So here’s to two months of rebuilding mileage, track workouts, tempo runs, and shorter distance racing!

Race Review: The Charlevoix Marathon


20140630-070832-25712609.jpgMichigan was state #24 in my conquest, and ended up being another great choice. I’ve really been enjoying traveling to and running small town marathons. We spent a few days making our way up to Charlevoix, and we drove up almost the entire peninsula in the process. We camped in state parks and took lots of back roads. It’s a beautiful state with lots of character.

 In the days leading up to the race, everything about this marathon screamed “disaster”. I was sure it was going to be a tough experience. Every single run since Eagleman was rough: I couldn’t hit my interval paces on my final track workout (and it was just a few 800s), and my last long run took everything I had. My final key workout before the race (a 7 mile run with a few marathon paced miles) felt much harder than it should have felt. I woke up on Thursday morning with the nastiest case of poison ivy – including a cute patch right on my face – and it kept spreading. I wasn’t eating my usual pre- race foods, and I thought it would be a great idea to go camping on Wednesday and Thursday as we made our way up to Charlevoix. I LOVE camping but we were a little ill-prepared, making sleeping uncomfortable. During a shakeout run on Thursday, I tweaked something in my left hamstring. By the time I woke up Saturday morning, I was just excited to run the race and take a little break afterwards!

Getting There

Charlevoix is a charming town in northern Michigan and sits on Lake Michigan. It’s tricky to get to, particularly if you choose to fly. We drove, and it took about 13 hours. We chose to camp on Wednesday and Thursday but once we got to Charlevoix, we spent the night in a hotel. We ended up staying in Petoskey, which is the next town over. Word to the wise: book your hotel early for this race. By the time I was looking for a room, I ended up staying in the next town over. Many of the hotels in Charlevoix wanted a two night commitment, which I was unwilling to do since we already planned to make our way through Ontario in the direction of home after the race.

The Expo

For a small town race, the expo was decent. There was your usual bib pick up and t-shirt distribution, and they had a table set up with some free items (like toiletries). There was a tent set up with merchandise for purchase.

Local Attractions


It was drizzling, and my left hamstring was feeling a little strange from my shake out run the day before so I opted to walk around the town to shake my legs out. We explored the shops and restaurants on Bridge Street and a stroll along the water to see the lighthouse and Lake Michigan. Walking and along Lake Charlevoix (which feeds Lake Michigan via the Pine River) showcases the boats that the locals dock in the water. We took a drive to see the beautiful lakeside homes – some built by famous architects.

The Pasta Dinner

The pasta dinner was held at a local Methodist church and the entry fee was donation based. It was held from 4:30 pm on, and I like to eat early (especially because the race started at 6:30am!). I wanted to get off my feet so we showed up early. There were other runners already there, and the women and men preparing the meal welcomed us with open arms and let us start eating early. This pre-race dinner is not to be missed. It’s not really the quality of the food (though it was pretty good) but the quality of the company. The church parishioners take pride in hosting the event and absolutely love having the runners. At dinner, we sat with another couple from Pennsylvania – Dave and Cathy. Dave was running the race and we had a blast chatting with them.

Race Day

20140630-070835-25715070.jpgThe gun went off at 6:30am, which is the earliest I’ve started a race. I was thankful for the early start as I was finishing the race and it began really heating up. There was also a half-marathon, 10K and 5K – they all started sometime after the marathon.

The marathon route is an out and back, which I’ve never done in a marathon. It was mainly run along route 31, on a path off the road so we weren’t near any traffic. I thought it would be completely flat since it was next to the lake, but it wasn’t totally the case. It certainly was NOT a hilly course, but there were a few hills that got me (particularly the one at mile 10 and 25). The course started by weaving through some residential areas and the town, until hitting the path along route 31 somewhere between mile 2-3. Once on the path, the entire path was paved with the exception of one mile – it was a wooded path and felt great to run on. The whole run gorgeous, and every so often the trees would clear and you’d get spectacular views of Lake Michigan. There were frequent water stops – I’d guess every 1.5 miles or so – and friendly spectators. Not a lot of spectators: the ones that we saw were basically the same ones each time tracking their runner, but very fun and energetic. It’s an out and back, and the race has an uphill start, but that means the finish line is downhill.

Personally, I went into this race with three goals: My “A” goal was to simply finish the race, “B” was to run a Boston qualifier, and “C” was to shoot for a 3:08. Based on the days leading up to the race, I was thinking it would be a “B” goal kind of day but I wasn’t really sure until the race got going. I lined up at the start and went closer to the front of the pack, and off we went. I held the first place female position for about a mile, when a girl passed easily passed me. I looked at my Garmin and already knew I was going out fast and told myself not to follow her. I was planning to start in the 7:30 range, but as my watch beeped it was telling me my first mile was a 7:01. Too fast. But I could already tell that I felt REALLY good, so I made a decision: it was my last full marathon until the fall, so I was going to go all out – even if it meant walking it in.

20140630-070836-25716443.jpgFor miles 1-9, I was a little scared every time my watch beeped: each mile was somewhere between 6:54-7:06. I thought it was all over when I hit the hill at mile 10: it was steeper and longer than I’d anticipated and that mile ended up being a 7:17. I feared that I’d used my energy up in the first nine miles, and now I was going to pay for it. But after the hill, my pace continued to stay consistent – mainly 6:56-7:05. One mile that was a 6:45 – when I cruised back down the hill that slowed me down on the way out. It was kind of a dumb move, because the last six miles ended up getting the better of me: 7:10, 7:32, 7:21, 7:15, 7:38, 7:29 and a 6:30 pace for the last .2. My slowest mile was mile 25 – it was slightly uphill and I’d had enough by that point and just did everything I could to keep moving. My official finish time was 3:06:56, which was good enough for 2nd overall female!

Post Race/Awards

20140630-070837-25717387.jpgThe award ceremony was just a few blocks from the finish line, and on the same road. It’s also where the post race food spread was set up, and where the expo took place the day before. The awards for the 5K and 10K had already been given out, and they were working on distributing the half marathon awards when I made my way over. The marathon awards began around 11 am. Overall finishers got a slab of granite in the shape of the state of Michigan and inscribed with the place you finished. Age group winners got enormous beer mugs.


After the Finish

The church that held the pasta dinner offered free post race showers. It was about two blocks away from the finish line, fully stocked with clean towels and toiletries, and free! The best part was it seemed that no one knew about it so there was no wait.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this race to anyone looking to check Michigan off their list, but also as a good Boston Qualifier. While it’s pretty flat, there is some variation in the terrain and a few hills to keep it interesting and to get different muscles working. The race is well organized and offers a 5K, 10K, half-marathon and full marathon to get more people involved. The setting is unique and beautiful. Check it out!20140630-070838-25718400.jpg

Race Review: Eagleman 70.3


After a tough winter and long season of marathon running, my first half-Ironman is complete! In the weeks leading up to the race, I was more than ready for this race to be over. I was irritable, exhausted, and basically just a hot mess. Although I couldn’t have picked a better course for my first 70.3, it couldn’t have come at a more terrible time for a teacher. It was the end of the school year, so things were pretty hectic over the past few weeks in all aspects of my life. Now that I’m on the other side of this whole thing, I’m sad to say it’s in the past. I’m sure there is another one in my future at some point, but I have no plans for another 70.3 at the current moment.

20140611-132955-48595027.jpgEmily, Cassie and I drove to Cambridge, Maryland on Saturday morning for the expo and bike drop off. Before we could head to our hotel, we had to make two stops. Our first stop was at Sailwinds Park for the expo. We got there in the afternoon and met up with a few other friends: Jon, Jeff, and Anthony. Since I’m pretty unfamiliar with Ironman events, the whole “picking up your bib” thing had some extra steps than what I’m used to. Just to get into the expo, you have to show your USATF card and photo ID. Once that all checked out, you head over to a table and tell the volunteer your bib number. Instead of being handed a bib, you are handed documents to sign your life away. One was a waiver saying you know what you are getting yourself into (hmmm, should I be signing that?) and the other confirmed your medical/insurance information. Once everything was signed, you headed to a second table to hand your completed paperwork off to another volunteer.

We visited a table to get our race bibs, and I knew that was much more complicated than running a marathon since I’ve done a few shorter distance triathlons. There was your traditional race bib for the run, but then there were stickers for your bike and helmet and a wrist band, all labeled with your bib number. Next stop was swag bags, t-shirts, and timing chips, which are worn around your ankle for the duration of the event.

Once we were done checking out the vendors at the expo, it was time to rack our bikes. The transition area was in Great Marsh Park, which was a few miles away. We unloaded our bikes, covered them with the provided stickers, and and headed to the transition area. As were entering, volunteers made sure the numbers on our bracelet matched the numbers on our bikes. The racks were clearly marked and I easily found my spot. It was conveniently located right next to the finish line for the swim and the starting line for the run.

The first thing I noticed? My bike looked way less cooler than everyone elses! I have a pretty basic road bike – a Specialized – and I really do love it. It looked pretty funny when I racked my bike next to some super fancy tri bikes. For a second, I was thinking “wait, what if my bike won’t make it 56 miles?” Haha! Nevermind that I’d just take in it on a 55 mile ride about two weeks ago. I actually really like my bike, as basic as it is, so I never really gave that another thought.

20140611-133202-48722679.jpgOnce the bikes were racked, we met up with Jon to walk around and check out the water for the swim. There were a number of people in the water testing out the course and warming up for the race. It looked relatively calm where the swim ended, but then we walked over to the start and there were waves crashing up against the rocks. It looked very choppy and a little scary…but mostly fun! All of the buoys were out marking the course, and the distance looked crazy far. Luckily, I tagged along last weekend with Emily and her family to swim at Dutch Springs (a local quarry) and remembered that everything looks way further in the water and once you start swimming it goes pretty quickly. After checking out the whole scene and snapping a few pictures, we were ready to leave and get situated at our hotel.


Swim Start


Swim Finish









Once we were done at the expo/bike drop off, we headed to the hotel to eat, prepare for the race, and sleep. Since we procrastinated booking our lodging, we ended up in a hotel that was in the town of Salisbury, about 35 minutes away. I was kind of sick of driving by that point in the day, but it ended up being nice to have a little drive in the morning to wake up and get ready for the race. Cassie and I headed to church, picked up a pizza and ate dinner back in our hotel room with Emily. After some last minute preparations and an Epsom salt bath, I was falling asleep by 8:30. I still really didn’t know what I was in for, and I wasn’t nervous. I had no trouble sleeping. Usually, I don’t sleep well the night before races but since I really had no expectations for the following day, I was out like a light.

Even with an early bedtime, 4am came way too quickly. Usually, I’m picky about pre-race foods because my stomach is very sensitive when I run, but I had a lot of activity to complete before getting to the actual run. Although we had to be there early, my wave didn’t start until 8:25am so I made my usual pre-race bagel, banana, and peanut butter to go. We got dressed, threw our stuff in the car, and headed to Mace’s Lane Middle School. This was the designated area where we could park our cars and take the shuttle to the start.

20140611-133202-48722858.jpgAt the start, we entered the transition area and volunteers marked your body with your bib number and put your age on your calf. I found my bike and set up my area with all of my gear. Once we were had everything ready to go, we had to leave the transition area by the time the first swim wave began, which was at 6:45 am. We watched the first few waves start and camped out at the starting line, waiting for our wave to be called. I still wasn’t nervous (really, I think it was just my ignorance) and was enjoying hanging out with Emily, Cassie, and Jon at the start. Jon was the first in our crew to hit the water, and I was second. Emily was in the second to last wave, and Cassie started in the final wave.


Pre-race photo op of the crew!


The swim was technically on a river, but it feeds into the Chesapeake Bay so it was actually saltwater. Not like completely like swimming in the ocean, but definitely had higher salinity levels than straight up freshwater. It was kind of dirty looking and smelled pretty gross. I was in the 8:25am wave (females 30-34) and I lined up as soon as our wave was called. The girls in my age group were friendly and chatty, and everyone was so excited as we stood in the water to wait for our start.

Oh and that wetsuit I bought back in December? The one I only got to try out once prior to this race? It was useless since the water ended up being 76.5 degrees, making it not wetsuit legal (wetsuit illegal? I don’t know my triathlon vocabulary too well)! I didn’t really care so much because I’d never actually used a wetsuit in a triathlon and thought that it might actually slow me down since I wouldn’t be used getting rid of it in transition. Ended up not being a problem…I just wanted to use it since I went through the trouble of buying it. More motivation to sign up for another, I suppose.

I’m not a fast swimmer, but I know how to swim. I swam briefly in middle school and a little bit of my freshman year of high school, but it was enough that I walked away with decent form. That’s half the battle. I lined up in the back, but in the future I’m going to start towards the front. I spent a good two minutes just fighting my way to the front, and I finished swimming with the wave that started 10 minutes before me. Overall, it was a tough swim because the water was a little choppy, particularly on the way back.The water was pretty gross, but I felt really strong and enjoyed being in the water.

Another negative was towards the end – the water was shallow and people could stand. I was still two buoys away from the swim finish and people stood up and started to walk it in. WTF?! I was cruising along at a decent pace and people would just stand up – so now I had to worry about completely railing someone who was walking. I swam until my hands touched the ground, but the last 100 meters or so was spent dodging people wading through the water to the finish! I thought that was crazy. My goal was to swim somewhere between 35-40 minutes. I was pleased with how I swam, and the lesson I learned for next time is to start in the front. I may not be the quickest but I can hold my own, and I was fast enough to catch a good portion of the wave ahead of me.

Official Swim Time: 37:02


I came out of the water and jogged to where my bike was racked. As I ran my legs kind of felt stiff and tight, and I wasn’t thrilled – but  I couldn’t worry about that since the immediate concern was getting on my bike as quickly as possible. Even though I exited the water with women from the wave ahead of me, I saw the vast majority of the bikes were still racked around my bike, confirming I’d gotten off to a good start. I got to my bike sat in the grass for a moment to catch my breath and put on my socks and bike shoes, my bib (even though it was unnecessary for the bike; I knew I would forget it later), chug some water, and dump the remainder of the bottle over my head to get rid of some of the nasty, dirty Choptank River. I grabbed my helmet, sunglasses and bike and headed for the bike out. I’m sure I could have been more efficient, but I didn’t know what to expect the rest of the day. I still had a lot of ground to cover.

Swim to Bike Transition: 2:58


The bike was the real wild card for me in this event. I put in some good time in the pool and out running on the roads, but I slacked on my bike training because I was always tapering for a marathon. Shame on me for doing so, because what an awesome bike course they had for us. Don’t get me wrong – I was completely pleased with my time and effort on this leg, but more preparation would have been helpful. As I clipped into my pedals and headed out, I took the first mile to continue getting my shit together. Adjusting my attire and getting comfortable in the saddle, eating some shot blocks to get some food in my system, and drinking some Gatorade to stay hydrated.

I’d say I was pretty uncomfortable for the first 5-10 miles. I’m sure part of it was that I was warming up, and that I just swam 1.2 miles before hopping on my bike. In my mind, I wanted to average about 16-17 mph. I thought that was reasonable and not much faster than I’d been doing most of my training rides. I use the Garmin 310XT and don’t have a bike computer (I know, I know, I really need to get one of those) and so I didn’t really know my pace until each mile registered on my watch. Before the race, I was trying to figure out how long each leg would take me. I was hoping for about 3:15 on the bike but thought that might be too aggressive based on my not so stellar bike training. 3:15 meant 17.2 mph. It meant that every time my watch beeped to indicate a mile had gone by, it had to say 3:29/mile.

Miles 1-10 were tough since I was warming up, but managed to average 17.13 mph through that point. I ended up taking in some GU (my favorite – Chocolate Raspberry Roctane) and fluids and started to feel really good. The next split time recorded was at mile 47.7, and at that point I was averaging 18.37 mph for miles 11-47.7. The last 8ish miles were clocked at 17.07, and I was starting to feel the distance and my lack of training. I don’t have the fanciest bike, and I was starting to get a little uncomfortable. I have a road bike and never put tri bars on it, and by that point my hands were going numb from being in the drops. My left groin was starting to ache pretty badly in a way that was unfamiliar. I think it was because it was a flat course, so I’m not used to sitting in the saddle and peddling for 3+ hours straight. There was no reason to get out of the saddle to climb, and no downhills I could recover on. It was straight peddling for 56 miles, and it was much harder than I’d anticipated. Here in the Lehigh Valley, we train on hills by default.

Other highlights from the bike leg? How about the huge black snake that slithered across the road RIGHT in front of my bike around mile 48? Yep – I seriously almost ran it over. It was pretty cool to see. Also, getting passed by my girls: Emily around mile 30 and Cassie around mile 45! They are pretty amazing cyclists and I knew they would be coming at some point. I couldn’t wait to see some familiar faces out there. Both of them came flying by me, all smiles and completely rocking the bike leg, as expected. Emily cranked it out at 19mph, resulting in 2:56. Cassie killed it with 20.4 mph and cruising into T2 with a time of 2:44. Being as the bike leg is my most challenging leg, this is seriously impressive to me. I can’t imagine breaking 3 hours for that many miles. As for me? I was beyond thrilled as I crushed my original goal and cruised into T2:

Official Bike Time: 3:07:19; 17.94 mph


Somehow, this transition was slower than my first one. I didn’t expect that. In any of the shorter distance triathlons I’ve done, T2 is always faster for me. I racked my bike, and (once again) took a seat in the grass to change my shoes and just take a breath. I grabbed a (now completely warm) bottle of water, chugged a little and doused myself with the rest, knowing that I had a pretty hot half marathon ahead of me. I hit T2 at 12:07 pm, and it was 83 degrees and sunny at this point. I made sure to take in some GU around mile 50 on the bike, so I really just put on my sneakers, put on a headband (I hate when sweat gets in my eyes) and got ready to run.

Bike to Run Transition: 3:28


The last six miles on the bike, all I could think about was how excited I was to go for a run. I thought I was ready to get off my bike and go…but as I took my first few clumsy steps, I realized I just wanted to be done. What the hell? This is the part I love and looked forward to, but instead I was kind of like, “I’m good, thanks.” I felt like I was moving soooooooo slooooowwwwlllyyyy, and made it about a half mile before my shoe came untied. I thought, “Oh well, I’ll stop and tie it” (like I had much of a choice in the matter – but I guess when you’ve already covered 58 miles or so, your thought process doesn’t make a whole lot of sense) and was just kind of relaxed about it. When I started running again, I felt like I was barely moving. I told myself that I would just try to keep the pace comfortable and not worry about my time. Besides, since I was using my Garmin in multisport mode, I wouldn’t know my pace until I hit each mile. So I just ran. I passed people, and I heard a spectator say “nice pace” but I really didn’t think they were talking to me. Until my watch beeped. I looked down. 7:45? What? I expected more like a 10 minute pace. I started to realize that I probably had no sense of pace since I was just moving at almost 18 mph on the bike. Everything was bound to feel slow compared to that.

It was really hot, so at every aid station I took cups of ice and dumped them down the back of my tri suit so it would melt slowly (or not so slowly) and keep me cool until I could get more. I’d grab cups of ice water to drink and douse myself with, and ice cold sponges to cool my face and neck whenever I could get them. The residents were out with their sprinklers and hoses, which was awesome. The course was an out and back, and I think it kind of made the whole ordeal a little easier. On the way out, I was pretending I had to run 6.5 miles because it sounded a whole lot better than 13.1. I caught up with Emily at mile four, and she was running strong and looking good. After hours of not talking with anyone, it was good to exchange a few words as we both were toughing out that last leg. I kept on going and as I was nearing the turnaround, I saw Cassie heading back towards the finish. I saw her awesome pace as she cruised by and I perked up again. It’s against the rules to use headphones and it is heavily enforced at these events, so my game to make it through the miles was to focus on someone in the distance and pass them. It worked. My overall pace was extremely consistent for the run – actually, I somehow ran a negative split! The first 6.5 I ran a 7:47 average, and the second was a 7:46 average.

Official Run Time: 1:41:47

The Finish Line

20140611-132958-48598458.jpgWhen I was about a quarter mile away from the finish, I could see it in the distance but it looked so far away. By the end of the run, I was ready to be done. It was a totally different type of tired than marathon tired. When I am at the end of a marathon, it’s like my legs are so done that I can’t take another step. At the end of the 70.3, it’s a different kind of tired. Like whole body tired. It’s a much longer event and you incorporate so many more muscles throughout the race.

Overall Time: 5:32:39

20140611-133203-48723037.jpgIt was truly an incredible day, and it was such a humbling experience. I’ve gotten very used to straight up running races, and this took me out of my element and made me uncomfortable in a totally different way. Particularly for marathon training, I like being put in situations where I am expected to be comfortable with being uncomfortable for an extended period of time. I think it really helps train your mind to realize that you can accomplish whatever goal you are setting out to achieve. As for my friends, they all loved the course and kicked ass out there. Emily finished in 5:33:57 and broke three hours on the bike. Cassie PR’d by over 12 minutes and got close to the five hour mark, with a 5:07:53. Jon was just coming back from knee surgery and did not run, but completed the swim and bike. He cranked out almost 24 mph on the bike – something I can’t even comprehend.

Will I ever do another one? Most definitely. Actually, I noticed that they have a FULL Ironman on that same course in late September…

Oh, and the best part about 70.3? The amount of food you can eat afterwards.


Best picture of Emily. Ever.

On Pins and Needles: Acupuncture and Plantar Fasciitis Relief


Acupuncture_needles_1Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a healthcare professional. I’m a recreational athlete with an interest in endurance sports and a healthy lifestyle! Please seek medical assistance if you think you have an injury or illness.

Back in March, I started feeling some pain in my heel. It started as a little twinge every here and there, and finally I started feeling it consistently every morning when I woke up. Being as I was sidelined by stress fractures last year, I went directly to my doctor. An x-ray and clinical exam later and it was official: plantar fasciitis. In the very earliest stages. While it’s certainly frustrating, it’s not something to stop me from running as long as I don’t ignore it. It’s a high maintenance and relentless injury to deal with, and requires constant attention.

I like to document injuries and provide as much information as possible on my symptoms, diagnosis and treatment in the interest of helping anyone that may find themselves in the same situation as me. I hear people talk about plantar fasciitis and how it often is an annoying injury that keeps them off their feet. Of course, runners are often affected by this condition and it causes hiccups in training plans and race schedules. I always hear people talk about it and would stretch my arches and calves to prevent it. In the past, I’ve felt my arches get sore and thought that I had plantar fasciitis so I’d simply stretch some more. It wasn’t until I really got plantar fasciitis that I understood what it was. The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, irritated, and inflamed. Consequently, the heel or the bottom of the foot hurts when standing or walking . Not the best thing to have if you happen to be a runner…

I did everything my doctor suggested, and more: rolling it out with a tennis ball or frozen water bottle and all kinds of stretching. I used my foam roller to roll out my calves, and took Epsom salt baths. I started taking turmeric supplements and incorporating tart cherry juice and other antioxidants for inflammation into my diet. I didn’t take ibuprofen because I don’t believe in using NSAIDs to mask pain to get through a workout. I think it tricks the body into thinking it’s recovered from a hard race or workout when you really aren’t…but that’s a post for a different day. At night, I’ve been wearing a Futuro night splint to sleep to keep my foot flexed and avoid doing more damage when taking my first steps in the morning (if you thought compression socks were sexy, they’re nothing compared to a night splint!). I continued with my scheduled mileage and races, and it never got any worse. It also never really got better – just remained status quo. So, I decided to try something a little different. I went for acupuncture.

Heather Shoup, owner of Balanced Acupuncture in Bethlehem was recommended to me. She has has a degree from Lehigh University in Psychology and underwent extensive training in three different styles of acupuncture. Besides word of mouth recommendations, I felt very secure in choosing her as my acupuncturist due to her background in healing and extensive education. I scheduled my first appointment for after the Sugarloaf Marathon.

On my first visit, I was tasked with filling out new patient paperwork, much like I would if I were visiting a doctor for the first time. Only this paperwork was much more extensive and detailed, and really covered a lot in terms of past medical history so she could get a good understanding of my background. When Heather was ready to see me, she went through everything with me and explained thoroughly how acupuncture works. Acupuncture uses the energy in the body and trigger points to heal and treat different conditions. It’s basically what you expect: tiny needles placed on certain trigger points in different areas on your body. There’s a whole lot more to it than that, but the one thing everyone wants to know is, “Does it hurt?” I don’t think so. I think it’s kind of glorious.

The good news is acupuncture absolutely provides immediate relief to my symptoms. The not so good news is that it has not resolved the plantar fasciitis issue completely.  I can tell when Heather removes the needle that is “releasing” the tightness in my calf muscle causing the plantar fasciitis, because that one does ache a little bit. Plantar fasciitis didn’t happen to me overnight, so I don’t expect it to be fixed overnight and I like the results I’ve gotten from acupuncture. It still stands that the best long term remedy I’ve found up to this point is simply stretching my calves and arches. Being as the location of the plantar fasciitis is on my heel, it signifies that the underlying issue is calf tightness and so I focus on stretching and foam rolling that area the most.

I’m still working on getting this all sorted out, but my best advice is not to ignore heel pain. It’s not going to “just go away” unless you deal with it, whether it be with stretching, icing, acupuncture, etc. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, I encourage you to go and check out Heather at Balanced Acupuncture. I’m still not healed at this point, but if I were ignoring it I’m certain it would be far worse.

Race Recap: Tortoise & Hare 5K, and my upcoming 70.3 debut!


After years of hearing about the Tortoise and Hare 5K, I finally got to check it out. I always hear such good things about it but I’m usually either running somewhere else, recovering from a race, or (God forbid) recovering from an injury. It was only a week after the Sugarloaf Marathon so I signed up but wasn’t sure I would actually go. If I did, I was certainly not racing it. My legs felt somewhat decent, so I lined up at the start last Monday with no expectations. Just to get in a nice faster paced run, evaluate how the marathon recovery was going, and hang out with some friends. I hadn’t done any sort of taper and had some pretty solid workouts in the two days prior. The race had a late start – 9:00am – and the temperatures were warming up quickly.

It was a little hillier than the last 5K I ran. This course had long, gradual climbs starting with the first .8 of a mile. I ended up finishing as the 3rd overall female and got 1st in my age group with a 19:51. It was a hot day, and I ran it on somewhat tired legs and ended up only 6 seconds off of my PR. Not a bad way to kick off the summer!

Unfortunately, rest of last week was kind of a wash. Following the race, I went for a 55 mile ride with Emily, and it was ROUGH. The pace was completely reasonable and should have been more than comfortable, but it felt like no matter how hard I peddled I wasn’t moving. It was windy, and I got really frustrated (there might have been a few tears at one point). I wasn’t surprised that evening when I felt a sore throat coming on, and felt a lot better about how terrible I felt on the ride. I still don’t know if it’s a summer cold or seasonal allergies, but I felt pretty badly this week and it’s still lingering today. Hopefully, a week of tapering and reduced training efforts will be just the rest I need to get me feeling fresh for Sunday.

I still have two significant races in my imminent future, with Eagleman 70.3 on June 8th. My first crack at a half-Ironman. I’ve put in the work on the swim and the run, but my bike…well, I’ve been riding, but not nearly as much as I should have. I’m not upset about it, and I’m not making any excuses. When I had to pick, marathon training took precedent over triathlon training. And don’t get me wrong: I’m still going to bring whatever I have that day and do whatever I’m capable of. My only real goal I had in mind when I took on this new challenge has already been met. It was meant to force me to cross train through the winter. It was about not letting myself slack off when the weather was poor (and WOW, was it rough!) and do something other than running to hopefully keep injuries at bay in the spring season. It’s already been a win for me. I’m headed to Cambridge with a bunch of really talented people that have conquered this distance before, so it should be really cool to spend the weekend with some seasoned triathletes and watch them throw down.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever do another half-Ironman (HIM). I know what it’s like to do a triathlon since I’ve done a several shorter distance tris. There is no question that they are exciting and rewarding events. For me, the challenge was fitting in the biking and swimming around marathon training without overdoing it (which I often did, probably why I’m not able to kick this little cold right now). My mistake in taking on this new distance was signing up for a SPRING race, rather than wait until the fall. Not that it would be completely impossible to train for this distance during the school year (most people train and work full time), but I was also really working on my marathon time. If I really wanted to be able to focus on my marathon time AND train for a HIM, I probably would have been better off picking a fall race so I could spend my summer preparing for it. So as of right now, Eagleman is it for me for this distance. I like the Olympic distance events and plan to continue signing up for those until I get the urge to take another crack at the 70.3 distance.

At this point, I’m a little tired, very sick of bananas, and I have a mountain of laundry to fold that could quite possibly take the entire summer to conquer. With trying to fit workouts in around my work/life schedule, I practically lived out of my car since October and can’t wait to clean it out. Thankfully, the race is three days away from the end of the school year, and I plan to kick my summer break off by relaxing and recovering pool side. I’m stoked to check “Half-Ironman” off my list for many reasons, but one of them is so I can finally restore some sense of normalcy in my life!

Race Review: Sugarloaf Marathon (Maine)


20140520-093138-34298889.jpgState #23 is in the books! I couldn’t be happier with the marathon I chose for Maine. Originally, I was registered to run the Portland Marathon last fall, but had to bag it due to my stress reaction. Everything really does happen for a reason, because if I’d made it to the start of that race I never would have had the chance to experience the beauty of Carrabassett Valley. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but this easily makes my list of favorite marathons.

20140520-092751-34071453.jpgIt’s a pretty long drive to get to Sugarloaf (about 10 hours), but that’s not a deterrent for me. I’d originally planned to take this trip alone. My husband and I decided to drive to his family’s lake house in upstate New York on Thursday evening. He was doing a spring project at the house, so I was going to continue north to Sugarloaf on Saturday morning. My friend, Kathy, decided to meet me in Bennington and run the marathon to celebrate her 40th birthday. We left on Saturday morning for the six-hour stretch to Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley.

Getting There/Accommodations

20140520-092756-34076762.jpgWe left from Bennington, and it was a scenic and enjoyable drive. Less than half of the trip was on an actual highway, with most of the drive being on quaint back roads.  The longest stretch of the ride was on stunning Route 16, winding through New Hampshire and Maine. It’s not the route we would have taken if we came directly from the Lehigh Valley, but the drive was breathtakingly beautiful. Between the good company and the views of New England, the six-hour trip seemed to fly by.

We stayed at the Sugarloaf Hotel, which is right on the ski area and the host hotel for the race. The rate was good, and it’s easy to locate. Packet pick up and the pasta dinner are located at the base lodge, which right next to the hotel. The best part? Since the ski area is closed, the hotel is pretty much only open for the marathon runners, so a late checkout was offered. When we asked about it, the guy was so laid back: “Oh yeah, don’t worry about checkout. Aim for 1:00 pm? If that isn’t enough time, whatever. Stay as long as you want.” I can count on one hand how often hotels have allowed late checkout after a race, and even then it’s just until noon or so.

The “Expo” and Pasta Dinner

20140520-092758-34078809.jpgIt was really more just like packet pickup, and exactly what you’d expect from a small town race. There were tables set up so you could pick up your bib and a bag with your shirt. Interestingly enough, there was one vendor set up outside. It was a tent selling Sketchers. It’s funny how Sketchers are all the rage ever since Meb won Boston wearing them!

This course is a good one for people trying qualify for Boston, and I could tell by the atmosphere of the expo and pasta dinner that the field would have some serious runners. The dinner was a little pricey – $17 if you opted for the pasta dinner that you could register for with the marathon. Registering for the dinner got you spaghetti, meat or marinara sauce, bread, salad, cookies, and drinks. The Sugarloaf Hotel offered their own pasta dinner for $24, but it wasn’t advertised anywhere before arriving at the hotel. I pre-registered for the pasta dinner because it didn’t look like there were many local options. Once I was settled, I didn’t want to be traveling around trying to find food. It was a good decision ($17 and all), because the town had some cute restaurants but nothing that looked appropriate for pre- race eats.

Race Day

20140520-092755-34075284.jpgThe marathon offers shuttle service from different locations in the area, and staying at the Sugarloaf Hotel meant we got door to door service. Shuttles picked us up right at the hotel and dropped us off at the start of the race, which was right by Flagstaff Lake. It was a beautiful backdrop for the start of the marathon and the weather was ideal. Everything was so easy: plenty of bathrooms, easy bag check option and no frills. Just a timing mat and a guy starting the race with a gunshot to send us off on our 26.2 mile journey.

I had an idea of how I’d like to run the race if all the stars were aligned: I was hoping to run about a 7:30 for the first few miles, and then pick it up to a 7:25 through mile 20. Around miles 8-10, I planned for some slower paces because of the hilly terrain. I would resume my 7:25s as soon as the hills were over, and then turn the pace up a little to about a 7:20 around mile 20 if possible. I was shooting for somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:15. Here’s what really happened:

splits At this point, all I can really say is, WTF? I still can’t really wrap my head around the end result. My Garmin calculated my distance as 26.47 so it’s telling me I ran a 7:12 pace. In reality, it was a 7:17 for 26.2 miles with negative splits! At mile 26, I was still feeling great but the crazy camber in the road took a toll on my left foot and I felt a strange little sensation, almost like a cramp. When I felt it during the race, my thoughts turned to the Knoxville Marathon, where my friend ran the half marathon on some mysterious foot pain and completely fractured her foot. I decided to slow down. I knew I was somewhere around five minutes ahead of my initial goal so anything from that point on was just a bonus.

Back to how this all even happened in the first place. As usual, I went out too fast. I was running in close proximity to a few other girls and my friend, Kathy. I got caught up with staying with the pack instead of running my own race. When I looked at my watch, I realized I was faster than I’d planned and wanted to slow down. I don’t prefer to bank time during marathons and try to avoid doing so (although sometimes I get caught up in the excitement and it happens). Personally, it always results in dead legs and feeling like complete shit after mile 20. I dropped away from everyone and reminded myself that I trained to run a certain pace and to relax. Mile 2 only resulted in being 5 seconds slower, but it caused me to drop back from the pack, settle into a comfortable pace and run my own race. It was faster than the 7:25 that I’d estimated, but I felt exceptionally good so I decided to go with it. I negotiated with myself, with my new intention to keep these miles between a 7:15-7:20, at least until after I got through the big hills in miles 8-10. For the most part, I did – with the exception of mile 4 and mile 7.

The course was not closed to traffic (which wasn’t a big deal since the race is in the middle of nowhere) and so I was running as close to the shoulder of the road as possible. There was a girl on the course that took off at the start (I only remember her because she was wearing a windbreaker, which I thought was strange since it was relatively warm out) and I caught her at mile 4. I was behind her and went to pass her, but she sped up to keep me behind her. I wasn’t racing – mile 4 is way too early to play that game. The problem is, she would speed up significantly to keep me from passing her and then slow down. Eventually, I got sick of being stuck behind her and felt like the whole speed up/slow down thing was wasting too much energy. I picked up the pace to put some distance between us, resulting in a 7:10 for mile 4. She caught me again around mile 7, and we played that same dumb game again until she saw her family on the course and stopped to unzip the sleeves off of her jacket and get some fuel. I saw her one more time after the hill at mile 10 but then I shook her for good. My pace was a little faster for those two miles, but remained pretty consistent otherwise.

As the course crested the steep hill at the end of mile 10, it begins an extremely steep descent. Runners came blowing past me but I kept telling myself to hold back because my quads would pay for it later. I continued to run a steady pace through the half marathon point, which is when I really think the race begins. Once I hit mile 13, I was beginning the gradual descent that the course is known for so I adjusted my pace. I renegotiated and told myself to hold between a 7:10-7:15 through mile 20. That lasted through mile 16, and I began picking up the pace and decided to just go with it. At this point, I still didn’t think I’d be that much faster than 3:15 when all was said and done, since my Garmin was slightly off at each mile marker and I’d gone out faster than I’d intended. I figured I’d be toast by mile 20, when the rolling hills hit. Instead, I kicked it up a notch and added a few sub 7 minute miles to the mix and felt great, other than my foot cramp at the end of mile 25/beginning of 26. I still don’t know if it was the course, or if the odds were truly in my favor that day, but I felt incredible and I’m glad I went with my gut early on in the race.

My official time was 3:10:21, and I got 2nd in my age group:

Untitled-2Kathy PR’d by 11 minutes, running a 3:27, winning 1st in her age group, and qualifying for Boston by 17+ minutes! I’m so happy that she had such a great day and will be lining up at the starting line in Hopkinton with me next April. I was really impressed by the other runners in the small field at this marathon: of 504 runners, I was #52 overall – that means that 51 people ran a marathon in under 3:10. That is really freaking cool. Two women broke three hours, which is seriously cool. For such a small field, those are some fast runners.

20140520-093140-34300284.jpgBy the time both Kathy and I finished and had a few minutes to discuss, they already began the awards. The clock was still showing that the race hadn’t even hit the four hour mark. I was happy they started so early, but a little surprised since I figured there were still a good number of people out on the course. There were post race massages and a small food spread available. Bags were organized under a tent and it was easy to claim your belongings. The shuttles took you back to pretty much wherever you wanted to go: the start of the 15K, the Sugarloaf Hotel, or the marathon start at Flagstaff Lake.

20140520-092753-34073301.jpgIt was a very well organized event and we kept saying how easy everything was to navigate. The course was by far one of the most scenic ones I’ve had the chance to experience. The whole race follows Route 27, with spectacular views of Sugarloaf Ski Area, lakes, rivers, ponds, and mountains. There aren’t many spectators, but since it is point to point and not closed to traffic you often saw the same spectators several times. Your bib had your name printed on it, so people could cheer for you as you ran by. The volunteers were amazing, and they actually wore signs pinned to their shirts that said “Gatorade” or “Water”. A possible drawback to this race: the races (both marathon and 15K) finish in the town of Kingfield. If you are finishing in the neighborhood of 4:30+, there is a little more traffic on the route and it gets a little backed up in the final mile. The runners are already running on the shoulder and with cars and traffic, this area is pretty small and the surface is very uneven.

It was a successful day for both of us and an incredible weekend overall! If you are looking for a marathon in Maine, Sugarloaf is not to be missed.


Race Recap (DECA Dash 5K) and Ramblings from Running in Atlanta


Last week, I chaperoned a trip with 42 high school students in Atlanta, Georgia. Most of my travels typically revolve around marathons, but the purpose of this trip was to bring students to the annual national conference for a marketing club called DECA. As a chaperone, we are given a list of activities that are available for the students while we are in town for the conference and are asked to choose a few activities to attend and chaperone. Coincidentally, one of the activities was a 5K, hosted by The Finish Line. This year, the DECA Dash 5K was held to benefit muscular dystrophy. So naturally, I had to sign up to chaperone that event. I couldn’t let the poor kids go and run a 5K with no chaperone, now could I?

Several chaperones and a handful of students from our school signed up to participate, which added to the excitement. The start was walking distance from our hotel, and we met in the lobby to walk together. It was an early start, 7am. Usually, I am typically partial to earlier races but we spent the day prior to the race traveling and on our feet. I woke up pretty tired and slightly dehydrated, but still excited. I hadn’t run a 5K since November, and that was coming off of my stress reaction in my tibia and a successful marathon on sketchy training due to said injury.

The start was pretty similar to any other race, except for one little negative: the race started 10 minutes late. When people get all pumped up for a race but end up waiting around, it’s  a bit of a buzzkill. Eventually, we were off for our 3.1 mile tour of downtown Atlanta. I’ll be completely honest: I really wanted to either PR or win the race (or both) so I just focused on the road ahead of me and the people around me. Luckily, I got to see lots of the city by foot on my morning runs in the days following the race because I honestly couldn’t tell you much about what I saw on the course.

What I do remember is that it was rolling hills – nothing crazy, no steep climbs or intense descents. A cross country/track runner from our school started with me and we ran the first mile together. By the first quarter mile, we were still running together and were in the lead so we kept a steady pace to maintain our spots. When we hit the second mile, we slowed down a little because we also hit some of the rolling hills and had settled in to a reasonable pace. I noticed a third girl in relatively close proximity to us – she had on a sparkley headband and it caught my eye. She passed us so I turned up the pace a little, but the girl from our school didn’t follow me. I was hoping for her to catch me again towards the end so we could finish the race together. I passed the girl with the sparkley headband almost immediately and didn’t see her again.

20140514-074756.jpgI was almost certain I had the lead at that point, but I found out for sure when I rounded a corner and blew through one of the water stops. I heard one of the volunteers yell, “first female!” as I ran by and I got excited. The finish line was right near the Georgia Dome/World Congress Center, where the race began. The course rounded a corner and hit a final straightaway and I could see the clock. I knew I was going to finish sub-20, which has been my goal for the past four years. I just never run enough 5Ks to give it a good shot, and this came at a really good time.

My official time was 19:45, a PR by 44 seconds (previous 5K PR was 20:24) and I was 1/642 women and 21/1077 runners. The girl from our school came in second, beating the girl with the sparkley headband by two seconds. It was a great day. The other students and chaperones all crossed the finish line with smiles on their faces, and ran great races. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the trip.

20140514-074815.jpgThe rest of our time in Atlanta was super busy for the kids and the chaperones. Lots of late nights making sure kids were in their rooms by curfew, and early mornings to assist the students in getting to their conference events on time. It didn’t leave a lot of time for long miles, but I did get in a few general aerobic and recovery runs while in town. There are definitely some sketchy areas in Atlanta, but our hotel was located on Peachtree Street and accessing some nicer areas was easy enough. On the first day I had the chance to get out running alone, I found Piedmont Park. To get there, I just had to run down Peachtree Street towards midtown Atlanta and was able to easily access the entrance to the park.

20140514-074829.jpgThe hotel concierge told me I’d have the best chance of finding good running trails if I headed to Piedmont Park, and he was right. There was a short loop around the park, the “Active Oval”, and trails everywhere that led to the Atlanta Belt line. The short loop that ended up being my “daily loop” was a path that went around a lake in the park. Flat, shaded and peaceful. At the parks entrance, you could bear left and find the “Active Oval”, which was really  just like a nice, over-sized cinder track. The trails around the park took you through meadows and fields, and eventually I found the Atlanta Belt Line. The Belt Line is a 33 mile trail system that runs all over Atlanta. I got to run on a small segment of it the day I went exploring, and then ran back to Peachtree Street to return to the hotel.

The rest of the running I did wasn’t quite as leisurely because we were ultimately there for work and I was responsible for a group of kids. I managed to squeeze in a few miles around that pretty little lake in that gorgeous park a few more times before the trip ended. There is an Atlanta Marathon in March, but I’m not sure I’m too interested in that one for Georgia. I’d like to see a different part of the state when I return to knock it off of my list. I enjoyed running through the city and highly recommend doing a few miles in Piedmont Park if you find yourself visiting Atlanta.