Hartford Marathon Training, Race Week: Reflection and Goals

nicelegsI don’t know if there are any coherent thoughts in this post, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I feel like I need to say SOMETHING before this weekend, and typing random shit is helping me take my mind off of the impending race. I began drafting this in the middle of my peak week of training for the Hartford Marathon because my mileage was at an all time high (for me), and have sporadically come back to this post to add random thoughts until today. There are many moments I don’t want to forget. You know, like the days where I woke up in the morning, stepped out of bed and felt like a truck hit me and know I had a [insert track/tempo/long run here] workout on the schedule and ohmigosh can I even walk at all. 

alivememe

My peak week (you’ve got to be sick of hearing about it by now – I know I am) featured 75 miles of running and a long run of 23 miles. To add insult to injury, I had a wedding and Meet the Teacher night to schedule my workouts around that week. It was ugly. I had resting bitch face the entire week (probably active bitch face too – is that a thing? Maybe I should just say I had bitch face because that’s all inclusive) – not necessarily because of the running. Because god forbid I had train for a marathon and adult in the same week. Many of you regularly log 75 mile weeks like it’s NBD. For me, it’s definitely a big deal and you are all my heroes. If I ever decide to grow up, I want to be like you.run harderthey said

After I ran my final run of that week, I came down with either a cold or some allergies. Thank God and all things holy that it happened at the END of the peak week or I might have lost my shit.  Now that I’m over the whole sickness thing, I think it was a cold. Who knows – but I do know that it wasn’t the way I wanted my “restful” taper to begin. Some people hate tapering, which I understand. I am not one of those people. Personally, I love it. It’s like hitting the reset button and I really freaking needed to reset everything this time.

taper

If you looked at my workout post for last week, you’ll see that it says “Week 14”, meaning this is currently week 15. I also had two weeks of recovery after Grandma’s marathon before this whole thing began, so technically I’ve been in training for 17 weeks. Early on, some of the weeks were low volume because I was in marathon recovery mode and I didn’t necessarily “count” them towards my weeks of marathon training. Nevertheless, I don’t know that I’ve ever followed a marathon training plan longer than 12 weeks so when I say that the past 17 weeks feels like a effing eternity, well, it was an effing eternity. Top it off with the scorching temperatures we had in September, and I felt like I was in some sort of a hell dimension.

I’m nervous for the race. I mean, what if I did all of this work over the past 17 weeks and I feel worse? Stranger things have happened. I don’t even mean “what if I don’t run my goal time (whatever that is)” – I really mean that I want to run the race and feel good. Last week, I was feeling extremely tired and that scared me a lot little. Like whole body tired, and like a fatigue I’ve never felt before. What if I feel like that on race day?

This week, I hope I’m starting to feel the fatigue lift a little bit. When walking down the hallway at work, that the heaviness I’ve been so used to feeling in my legs for the past month has subsided. I’ve noticed my paces on all of my runs are feeling a little more effortless as the week ended last week. I still don’t feel completely rested. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I have personally never worked as hard as I have over the past 17 weeks. I’ve run high mileage before, but this is the most mileage I’ve ever run and sustained for an extended period of time. Did I do too much? Too little? I’ll find out soon enough.

Now that I’m tapering, I’ve had some time to think about what I’ve done differently this time around versus every other training cycle. I looked back to my pre-coach 2014 training and saw that I ran higher volume with consistent workouts – not always steller paces, but the consistency was certainly there. I was also half-Ironman training at the time, so I had cross training volume. I didn’t do very much strength or stretching. After my spring 2014 season, changed my routine and worked with a coach. From September 2014 through June 2015, I lost a lot of my base because I was logging much less mileage in an attempt to try something new. When I began this cycle, it was clear that I needed to go back to what worked: consistent mileage and a solid base. My issue over the past year was that in my marathons, I was feeling tanked by mile 10. If I want to eventually be able to run a marathon in the neighborhood of my 3:06 PR, I needed to start with more endurance, and I needed to rebuild my base. I hope I was right.

When I began training myself again in June, I had to start from scratch so my mileage was lower, but my paces for short distances were a little faster. I knew that my paces might suffer when I started to hit heavier volume weeks, and I was right. During the weeks where I was below 60 miles, my paces were faster on all of my runs in general and I added a significant amount of cross training and double workouts to my schedule. Once I crested the 60 mile mark, I cut back on cross training because it became a delicate balance of structuring my week so my legs would be recovered for my key run workouts. I found that my paces on my recovery and general aerobic runs began to suffer as the mileage continued to climb. As the cumulative fatigue set in, I could still maintain the McMillan suggested paces but I found myself gravitating towards the slower end of that range.persist

Regardless of what happens in Hartford and Indianapolis, I want to keep evolving my training. In my next build, I don’t expect to see weeks that go above the volume that I was sustaining for this build. Partially because it’s winter, but also because I want to become more comfortable with the milestones I just hit in this last block. Moving forward, the focus will be on becoming comfortable with my current volume. I want to be able to run the same volume I just sustained and add more speed workouts. Along with the variety in the workouts, I also want to add variety in the terrain. I did a lot of running on rail trails over the summer. Running the rail trails has gotten me much more comfortable with running false flats, which used to kick my ass in races but those will most likely be covered in snow during the winter months. I also need to incorporate more hill specific workouts into my training. There’s a lot I can tweak without adding more volume.

struggle busWhat I liked about this training block: Running more mileage and being back to calling the shots for myself. I could structure my week based on my schedule and how I was feeling so I could get the most benefit from each workout. What I disliked: Hands down, the mid-week long run once I went back to work. I rode the struggle bus hard on each of those, and I really thought those were going to be the end of me.

As for the upcoming marathon, I’m not going to sit here and post a time goal. Everyone knows I want to break three hours eventually, but that is not my goal for Saturday. When I crossed the finish line at Grandma’s in June, I knew I needed to take that off my list until I could get back to where I was in 2014. Personally, I don’t think I’m in sub-3 hour shape – YET. But on the day that I ran a 3:06, I lined up at the start and didn’t think I was in sub 3:10 shape, either. I honestly don’t know what Saturday will bring. I have a rough idea how I want Hartford to play out and the time I’d like to run, but my ultimate goal for Saturday is not a time goal. I haven’t truly enjoyed a marathon and felt good from start to finish since spring of 2014, so my goal is to run smart and enjoy the race experience. I want to line up at the start of the race and feel the way I felt when I ran Sugarloaf or Charlevoix – unstoppable. I’m not asking for the 26.2 miles to be “easy” – no amount of training can make racing a marathon an “easy” task. tolerate

Physically, I believe I’ve put in the work to run a strong race. Mentally, I believe I’ve come a long way from where I was last season. All I can do now is rest, carbo load, and say a few prayers that all the stars align this weekend. But most of all, thank you all for following me throughout this entire journey and supporting me along the way! Your posts and comments always helped to keep me motivated and on track. Posting here held me accountable and gave me an outlet to post my concerns and pose questions about training. I felt like I had not one coach, but a whole blog world full of coaches through this whole build. I love our blog community and I’m so thankful to be part of it. GOOD LUCK to everyone that’s racing and running this weekend – I’ll see you on the other side!!

Anyone else racing this weekend?!?! Do you enjoy tapering?

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72 comments

  1. Great post! I am so excited for you and can’t wait to hear how it goes. I hope no matter what, the race is every thing you want it to be and most importantly feel awesome the whole race!! 🙂 I feel like its always so easy to let nerves get the best of us on race day, but you’ve worked hard and put in the miles, so just enjoy the race now. I’m sure Hartford is beautiful this time of year!!

  2. Great post! I think the most miles that I’ve logged in a week was right around 50, so you are my hero. If I ever decide to grow up, I want to be like you. 🙂
    Seriously though, you have worked so hard and I hope that you have a wonderful race! I’ve enjoyed reading about your training experience and I can’t wait to hear about the race. You are going to rock it!

  3. I love tapering. Wish all of my weeks of training could be tapering.

    I really appreciated reading this. While I know we all go through struggles, being slower than you I forget that you can feel this way too. I look at the faster runners and think, “it’s so easy for them.” And it’s not. The paces may be different but the struggles, doubts, and breakthroughs are the same.

    1. Thanks, lady!!! I think regardless of pace, we all absolutely have the same struggles. And talk about speedy – I read your Wineglass post earlier this AM and saw 3:54 on your FIRST marathon (I’ve been so busy at work today that I’m just getting to comment on everything now)? That IS freaking speedy! My first marathon was 4:53. It took me three tries to break four hours. You ROCK!!!

  4. First of all, that was not nearly as incomprehensible of a post as you lead us to believe! Secondly, you’ve done the work. I am right there with you about the amount of sustained volume/consistent workouts this cycle and even though it’s super easy to get bogged down in the holy-shit-I’m-tired-and-what-was-I-thinking-this-will-never-work moments, I think Saturday will show just how freaking strong you’ve gotten since June. Because you are SO strong!

    I’ve got my last long workout (Hanson’s style Simulator run) this weekend (because my tune up half was cancelled due to all the flooding here in SC) and I will be thinking of you and checking the tracker the second I get done! Have a blast!!!

    1. Thank you so much!!! I’m definitely feeling like a bundle of nerves this week because it’s scary to think about how this whole training block is about to come to an end! I’ve been talking about the race and training for the race for what feels like forever, and now I can’t believe it’s HERE!!! OMG and I saw the flooding down your way, that is INSANE!!! I am so sorry you are going through that right now and that your race was canceled!!!! That stinks. Good luck on your workout this weekend! You will absolutely crush it!!!

  5. I am constantly amazed at how much work you put into running – and how much you generally enjoy it when you do work so hard! I wish I had the motivation to do a 75 mile week, but when I hit 50 now, I feel that fatigue. It’s clear what works for you with all the new PRs you set this season and I think you’ll surprise yourself with this marathon. We all get nervous…even though my last few long runs have been really successful, I’ve had easy runs that feel terrible at slower than marathon pace even when my legs aren’t that tired! Ugh, the self doubt creeps in then. But I love that your main goal is to enjoy the marathon and I think if you run by feel and not with a goal pace in mind, you may very well find yourself with a new PR (or at least very very close to one!). Wishing you all the best at Hartford this weekend! I will definitely be stalking the results 😉

    1. Thank you, lady! I didn’t always have the motivation to run that much. That’s something that definitely came over time. I really just want to feel good running the race. I miss that feeling. If it means no PR, I would still consider Saturday a success if I can feel good doing whatever pace I’m doing!!!!!! Ball of nerves right here now, too!!!

  6. I’m so excited for you! Woohoo! I wouldn’t be too concerned about the fatigue, your training probably just caught up with you last week. I feel like this week my body has been like “Woah woah wait, WHAT were you making me do the past 16 weeks???” I was expecting to be restless and not sleep well, but I’m so tired at the end of the day like I’m still running higher mileage. Your mileage volume and past race times are very inspirational to a marathon newbie like myself. It’s also always comforting to read from an experienced marathoner that has the same type of thoughts and feelings I have been having leading up to the race. I tell a lot of people this, but when my sister was in high school she ran XC and I still have one of her team shirts that I wear from time to time because I love the quote on the back – “Run hard when it’s hard to run.” It seems so simple and obvious, but it’s one of the mantras I tell myself sometimes, so just remember to run hard when it’s hard to run! Good luck!!!

    1. Thank you so much!! It’s so funny you say that about the fatigue – another blogger I follow said something along the lines of your body feels tired during taper because it’s breathing a sigh of relief that you are giving it a break! I agree, I was expecting to be less tired (and less hungry – I was laughing at your post about the snacks – I just want to keep eating!!!) and have trouble sleeping, but I’ve been out like a light every single night, no problem! I love the quote from your sister’s XC shirt. I think I might write that on the back of my bib this weekend. I’m so excited for you to run your race!!! It seems like we have a great weekend to run 🙂 🙂

  7. I’m glad you wrote that all out. You needed to do that, so all those hard workouts are fresh in your mind when you’re running the race this weekend. There’s going to be moments while you’re out there where you second guess your training for a split second but it’ll all come back to you, how hard you’ve worked, how effective your training is, everything that you just wrote down, it will all come back to you and keep you going. I’m looking forward to seeing how you do this weekend and I have no doubt you will blow your own mind. Good luck Allison! I’ll be thinking of you!

    1. Ahhhhh thank you Suzy!! It felt good to put everything down and read through my thoughts as I was writing. It was very calming, in a weird way. I’m heading out tomorrow and I’m starting to get super excited! Eeeek!!!!

  8. Perfect weather conditions expected.

    The stars are aligned for you – you are going to crush it!

    What’s your expected pace (if I may ask)?

    Hopefully I recognize you on the turn around – I’ll cheer for you as you head back to the finish line.

    1. Eeeeee well my PR is a 3:06 and I want to come close to that. Ideally, 7 minute pace. But, really whatever feels good. I am planning to be at the expo by 2-3ish tomorrow afternoon and I’m staying at the Mariott by the airport. I found a place for sushi for dinner recommended by another blogger so I’m thinking I will be getting some takeout and relaxing in the evening. I was considering the pasta dinner, but saw it started at 6pm. I want to be back at my hotel by then, LOL! What are your travel plans looking like?? What is your expected pace??

      1. I’m local to Hartford, so I will hit the expo on my way back from work tonight. Since I ran Clarence DeMar 2 weeks ago, I’m going to take it real easy. I’ll start at 8 min per mile pace, then see how I feel for the 2nd half.

        Good luck! You will tear up the course!

  9. Congrats on making it through what sounds like an intense training cycle! It sounds like you definitely deserve the taper. It’s been interesting and educational for me to follow your progress – I’m excited to see what you’re gonna do… I’ve a feeling you’ll nail it! Wishing you the best of luck 🙂 xx

  10. I am so excited for your race! I just hopped on to following mid way through your training, but you have put in so much work it is going to be amazing. Also, I was dying laughing at the beginning of this post. Training and being an adult at the same time is hard. Give yourself credit for making it to work, remembering to eat meals, and being a human during these past few weeks. You have earned this taper!

    1. Thanks, Sam!! Haha – one thing I never ever have to be reminded of is to eat, hahahah! I was dying laughing at that comment 🙂 But, I do feel like I deserve a medal or something just for making it to work. Then again, marathon training or not, I feel like we ALL deserve medals for going to work! 🙂 🙂

  11. My race this weekend was postponed. I was going to run a half. I’m debating a local 5K but will probably just opt to train hard instead.

    You are super ready for your marathon. To me, the hardest part of training in general is balancing it with life and not letting it take over your life. Sometimes the runs and workouts with the most meaning aren’t even the fastest- it’s managing to get out there in the 100 degree temps after working all day. I feel like those workouts where you have to mentally tackle a run when you don’t want to make you stronger for race day, sometimes more so than a tempo run or interval workout or long run. I know it was tough that week you went back to work and school and with the wedding but you got it done then, and you will get it done at Hartford!

    26.2 miles is a long run and a long time for everything to go your way (and a long time when something can go wrong), but I bet you will be very close to 3 if you are not sub-3.

    1. Thank you so much, Amy – reading this made me feel so much better! You reminded me of something that I used to tell myself all the time – mentally tackling a run when you don’t want to do it makes you stronger. You are so right. I mentioned that the last time I trained consistently and saw big PRs, I didn’t always run stellar paces in training – but I went out and did my training runs. I remember it clearly because we had a super snowy winter so many times, pace went out the window and it was just a matter of getting the mileage done. This block might not have been in the cold and the snow, but the crazy 100 degree temps were just as hard! I am sooo bummed that they canceled your race – the bridge run, right?!?! You’ve been running the bridge in preparation. I was so excited for you, especially since you’ve been flat out running the course as part of your training!! If you don’t do the 5K, what’s next on your schedule?

      1. Super creepin’ on the comments over here, but Amy I think we were supposed to run the same race! The Georgetown Half? I was coming in from Greenville and it isn’t bad up here at all so it’s crazy to see the chaos down y’all’s way. I’ve now decided to head up to a half near Asheville- you could totally drive up here and run with me! Sorry for hijacking your comments Allison 😛

      2. Well my half is Nov. 14 and I will still run it. I have another 5K I’m running in 2 weeks, too, and next weekend we are going to NC to visit grandparents (not a running related trip). So, I’ve got a lot going on!

  12. Hah I feel like a chap for reading the whole thing. I always forget that races are SUPPOSED to hurt. sometimes im like whaaaaaa i didnt train enough! im still miserable! but yeah. we train to tolerate it. I like that.

      1. hahah totally meant to say CHAMP for reading it, not chap. not even sure what feeling like a chap would look like 😉

  13. Awww. A lot of this was exactly what I felt before Grandma’s. So as I read this, I felt like there were so many things I could say and yet, nothing I could say. People gave me such great advice while I tapered, but nothing anyone could say was enough to make the nerves and the doubt go away.

    But when I got out there, up to that starting line in the pouring rain, my mind was inexplicably clear and calm. And I think that’s what saved me. I was just like “alright, well, we’re running a marathon now. Let’s get’er done.” I wish you that same calmness when you line up at the starting line this Saturday. I focused on one mile at a time, and as long as each one was where I needed it to be, I just kept going.

    Anyway, now I’m just rambling. So I’ll tell you the same thing that I believe you told me in June: sometimes it takes literally right up until race day for the exhaustion to go away, and then the adrenaline sets in and you’re raring to go. Just trust yourself. Channel everything you’ve learned from your numerous successful races this summer. Just remind yourself: I’m a good runner. I’ve done this hundreds of times. I’m experienced and I know what I’m doing here. It is me, not the race, who is in charge today.

    Best of luck! You’ll do great. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the result!!

    1. Omg thank you so much for all of this, Hanna! I was sitting at my desk at work got teary eyed reading it. I am such a dork! I feel like I tackled this training with a lot of confidence, so I fully expected to head into race week with that same confidence but it somehow turned into doubt! The calmness that you mentioned is absolutely the thing I should be focusing on now. I’m running a marathon. And like you’ve said, I’ve done this hundreds of times before. Thank you for the kind words and thank you for the reminders! It really means so much ❤

  14. Great summary and good luck this weekend! I was glad to reach taper after a long 16 week plan for Chicago but this past week has been tough…but we just arrived in Chicago and getting real excited to line up Sunday!
    Good luck!
    James

  15. I seriously get so excited for other peoples races!! You’d think I was racing lol You’ve done amazing work this training cycle, I’ve found it inspiring and have enjoyed all your posts! Sending you tons of positive, speedy, happy vibes for race day!! No matter what you’re awesome 🙂 You definitely can toe that starting line with the confidence you put in the hard work! Best of luck!!!

  16. When I grow up I want to be YOU. Rock Star. Total Rock Star. I’m so proud of your training. I’ve loved suffering along with you this training cycle. You’ve totally inspired me. Truth! And you’re right. 17/18 weeks is a long damn time. I’m living proof. I’m also a zombie right now, but I digress. I also might just copy and paste this post into my blog with the 3:06 scratched out. DAMN GIRL. Well done.

    Best, best of Luck in Hartford!!!!!! 🙂

  17. I’m so excited for you! I started following your training partway through and I genuinely believe you are going to run an amazing race at Hartford. Your mileage, your paces, your strength/supplemental training, and your consistency has been nothing short of impressive. Like you, I love the taper – it’s like crashing into bed at the end of a long day. I trained for 18 weeks for Portland and that is a long, long time! You’ve really got this race, hands down, and I can’t wait to read your recap.
    Also, you’re my hero for running those mid-week long runs and then going to teach. Teaching is demanding and hard work!

  18. Possibly creepy, but I’m tracking my friend David at the Hartford marathon and I found you!! At the 10k mark, 6:59 minute mile you’re a badass!!!! Great job!!! (Also he’s running a 7:07 min mile, so you guys are neck and neck heh)

    1. Ahhhh I went out too fast but you’re not creepy, thanks for checking in!! I’ll post about it next week 🙂 not the day I was hoping for but definitely better than my spring season! Wooohooo!

  19. Allliiiiisoooonnn!! Good job!!! I can not WAIT to read the recap! PR pace well through the half, and still staying strong for a solid finish?! Girl, color me impressed!

    1. Ahhhh thanks!! I will post the whole thing. I went out too fast – stupid, stupid!! But, it was the same pace I went out in February, and that day I had to walk the marathon in – and yesterday, I was able to keep running and finish strong. So I feel like I have a really good starting point for how to pace myself in a few weeks at Indianapolis! Basically (I’ll post about it all but just a brief recap) I was not running with a pacer (I’ve had bad experiences) but I kept getting upset because the 3:10 pacer was way ahead of me most of the race. I crossed the half at 1:32 and he was so far ahead I couldn’t see him. His that he began with had to walk it in, and I heard he finished under 3:05. I was stupid – chasing him from the start. I literally spent 7 miles thinking, “my Garmin is broken, I trained all wrong, omg, I need a new one”. Turns out, the 3 hour pacer came in at 2:55, and I spoke to someone that tried running with the 3:20 pacer who said he had a horrible race because they were doing sub 7s from the start. I wasn’t running with the 3:10 guy, but mentally it was really upsetting to see him so far ahead when my goal was actually under that time!!! After reviewing the Garmin data, it was a total positive split but my paces were pretty decent (everything under 8 min miles, even after having to slow up). The first half was too fast, most of the miles under 7 min pace. I’m going to start around a 7:25 in Indy, progress down to 7s over the 1st 10K, then try to just hold onto 7s through the end. If I feel good, I want to pick it up in the last 5K. We’ll see! I’m not bummed because I definitely made progress from the spring and I really had no idea where I was. Hopefully knowing what I know I can run smarter in a few weeks! My next one is on 11/7. So now, we have your race to look forward to! Woooohoooo!

  20. Ah, GOOD LUCK THIS WEEKEND!! You’ve really put into the work this training cycle and I know it’s going to pay off into an amazing race for you! I also have my half marathon this weekend (and my mom is running the full) so I’ll be thinking of you when I’m lining up and hoping some of your speediness will have rubbed off on me from reading your posts! Can’t wait for your recap of Hartford 🙂

    1. Thanks!! The post is almost done! It was a good way to kick off the marathon season. I was happy with the race! The real race is on 11/7 in Indianapolis. I went out too fast on Saturday but I didn’t know what “too fast” was since it had been a weird year! Good luck this weekend, and good luck to your mom!

  21. I love that quote about how it’s supposed to hurt! I try to remind myself of that in every workout (hello burpees)… Reminding myself it shouldn’t feel comfortable somehow makes it better!

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