Boston bound

Just a quick post before I head to the airport and head to Boston for vacation. I hope I’ll see some of you guys out on the course! I am beyond excited to (1) spectate at arguably the world’s most favorite marathon and (2) spending one week traveling around New England. This Irish chick sure misses seeing the Atlantic. Follow me on Instagram to see what beer I’m drinking everyday.

And bonus: today I got a chance to run my first (and probably only) 20 miler of this marathon training schedule. And it went swimmingly (or should that be runningly?). I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull off the full 20 and was ready to bail went it hurt -> my tight calves are giving me random achy-breaky heart feet. But if all felt pretty good (well as good as running 20 miles can feel). Average pace 9.13 min/miles with the last 5 miles at goal pace (9.03/8.48/9.05/8.52/8.44). You know your long run went well when your first mile (9.39) is your slowest and the last mile is your fastest. Beginning to think that this marathon may not be a complete disaster!

Mon: 4.2 trail miles at 10.06 pace + 559 ft elevation gain. My legs felt so sore from Saturday’s 18 miler. But it was in the 70s and I couldn’t resist.

Tues: Strength workout

Wed: 7 miles in the snow. Yes – we got our biggest snow storm of the whole season. I manage three “tempo” miles (8.29/8.15/8.16). A little disappointed with my times but my legs felt tired, it was freaking snowing and I just wasn’t feeling it. Giving myself a pass on this one.

Thurs: Yoga and bike commute.

Fri: 2.85 miles with my husband -> his last run before Boston. Bike commute.

Sat: 20 miles at 9.13 min/mile pace. Fast finish.

Sun: Boston!

See you in a week!

Moab!

I’m so glad Monday was a holiday! I needed a full day to recover after our weekend in Moab. We left on Friday lunchtime so that J could check-in for his 55K race and we could both have an early night (5.30 AM wake-up calls are the downside of racing!). But you know you’ve signed up for an awesome race when you pick up your bib at the local bar.

We made it to the start of the race at 7 AM (the 55K started at 8 AM and the 33K at 8.30 AM). I found the volunteer coordinator and go my hi-vis vest – once you wear this people ask you all kinds of questions. It was in the mid 30s which meant frozen toes but still a lot of fun watching people who paid actual money to run 32ish miles over red rock in February. An additional bonus is that you literally cannot see a bad view in Moab.

racestart

While J was running for 5.5-6 hours I decided to hit up one of the best hikes in Moab, and which was conveniently located right beside the parking lot for the race finish. Corona arch is about a 3 mile round trip with minimal elevation gain and the most amazing views. (And no calf pain at all!)

Back in the desert.

Back in the desert.

Red cliffs.

Red cliffs.

Bowtie arch.

Bowtie arch.

Corona Arch.

Corona Arch.

The arch up close.

The arch up close.

Added adventure.

Added adventure.

I managed to get to the finish in time to watch J finish – under 6 hours in his first ultra. The race was around 32 miles with 4000 ft of elevation gain and by all accounts it was pretty tough -> especially if your longest run was 15 miles!

What a terrible view at the finish!

What a terrible view at the finish!

We spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the sun drinking a beer or two before meeting some friends for dinner and having an early night. The next day J was feeling annoyingly surprisingly good so we headed to Canyonlands National Park after breakfast at the Love Muffin (the only place to get your breakfast burrito in town).

We did a hike down to the False Kiva. It’s a protected historical site so it’s not on the official park map but if you ask (or use the internet) you can find the start of the trail (which is really obvious and well-marked). It started off pretty easy and then we made our way down about 500ft in a pretty steep descent before making out way up to the kiva. It’s called a false kiva because normal kivas have an underground section but who cares when you see this view. What a great way to recharge those batteries!

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Looking out over Canyonlands - towards the Green River and White Rim.

Looking out over Canyonlands – towards the Green River and White Rim.

 

Who wants to come to Utah?

It’s (almost) Christmas!

It has taken a while but the Christmas spirit has finally arrived in SLC. Gifts are wrapped, Christmas music is being played on a continuous loop in work, at home, in the car. Our kitchen is full of food and wine and we are ready to go. Bonus: we are due to get a winter storm on Thursday so we are 100% likely to have a white Christmas. This is a huge deal for someone who grew up in Ireland and could go for years without seeing white stuff on the ground. And I’m hoping to get a chance to get out on these:

Snow shoes!

Snow shoes!

A friend was upgrading her set and kindly donated these to me. So I’m hoping there is some trekking through snow in my future.

But before the storm hits I had a chance to continue my return to running. J is signed up for his first ultra in February and wanted to hit the trails. This sounded like an awesome idea. Well, it didn’t feel so awesome climbing 1000 ft in about 3.5 miles. We topped out just under 6000 ft and got some beautiful views across the city and valley. And you know that what comes up must come down! Rollercoaster-ing those downhills was a ton of fun. 7.15 miles pain-free (well except for my lungs) and my longest run since October 12th.

It was a little muddy up there.

It was a little muddy up there.

Sunday was a rare occurrence here in Utah – running in the rain. Because it happens just a couple of times a year it was surprisingly easy to convince myself to go out for a short recovery run. I was also excited to try out some new shoes. I bought these Altras way back in September, but between marathon training and an injury break they have been sadly sitting in their box waiting for the chance to make a break for it. I ended up doing a little over 3.5 miles – a little longer than I’d planned mostly because my sense of direction is so bad that I can get lost on streets I’ve ran a million times before.

Pretty! And a Utah local!

Pretty! And a Utah local!

My very first impressions: They are incredibly light and the toe box does let your toes splay out. I did notice that although I wear a size 7 in my Brooks PureCadence that the same size in these shoes felt a little snugger. I think I’ll keep them for very short runs for now. My ankle felt a little achy on Monday – and my calves were incredibly tight (no real news there) so I’m going to take it easy with these guys. Luckily for me, Sarah at RunningonHealthy just wrote a blog post about switching up your running shoes. I think she might be a mind reader.

The rest of the weekend was spent in a baking/cooking haze. We had a cookie exchange party on Saturday night. I have never baked a cookie that I have been happy to share with other people………..the baking gods do not want this to happen. But I can make biscotti – especially the chocolate chip variety – so that is what I brought. We ended up coming home with a ridiculous amount of deliciousness that I have been slowly working my way through as after lunch and after dinner treats.

Damn - I need to stop hanging out with people who bake such deliciousness!

Damn – I need to stop hanging out with people who bake such deliciousness!

As you might know I am also slightly obsessed with Skinnytaste (the biscotti recipe is from her website) so I tried out her butternut squash lasagne recipe for dinner and a white bean crostini recipe for a savory party snack. That woman can do no wrong in my book.

All from Skinnytaste.

All from Skinnytaste.

But the food highlight of the weekend was saved for Sunday afternoon. For my birthday, J had booked me into a cooking class for October at the Sur la Table in downtown SLC. Unfortunately, they had to cancel that class and couldn’t rearrange it until December. By that time I had found a couple of girlfriends to go. It wasn’t too hard – the class was described as “Cooking with Decadent Chocolate”. We got there at noon and immediately were offered coffee, water and a freshly-made (and amazingly delicious prosciutto frittata). The class was a mixture of hands on cooking and demonstrations (like seeing how to make your very own caramel). The key seemed to be splashing your cash on the fanciest chocolate that you can afford. We (well mostly the instructor who was super nice and informative) made pistachio and peppermint bark, chocolate caramels, chocolate and cherry biscotti and rum and raisin truffles. Everything tasted so good and we got to take samples of everything home to *cough* share *cough*.

My parting gift of chocolate with more chocolate.

My parting gift of chocolate with more chocolate.

I had never done a cooking class but it was so fun. They even do date nights but I think I’ll have to work on J for a little to convince him to come cook with me.

I think I’ve mentioned already that I’m hoping that some running-related gifts make it under my Christmas tree. But I couldn’t stop myself from treating myself to my first ever grab bag from ProCompression. Three pairs for a little under $38. Happy Christmas to me!

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Happy Christmas everyone!

Learning to trust myself

Hello again! Last week was a much needed break from blogging – busy at work and stressful personal stuff do not make a good combination. But luckily this weekend has been the definition of relaxing and worry-free. And we finally got into the Christmas spirit. Tree. Check. Cards mailed. Check. Gifts purchased. Check-ish.

Real trees are awesome.

Real trees are awesome.

So let’s rewind to workouts. I was trail running with a friend this week (more on those runs later) when she asked me if my foot pain is real or psychosomatic. And I wasn’t sure. I know that when I’m distracted or running then my foot doesn’t hurt. But I’m terrified of getting a stress fracture so I get random foot pains and convince myself that I’ve broken my foot. That is super duper fun. As well as that, after every run I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop……..so to speak………..really I’m waiting to get punished for daring to try.

As someone who never exercised regularly growing up I’ve always found it hard to trust my own opinion of how my body is feeling. I seek reassurance from PTs or doctors to hold my hand and tell me when I should push myself a little harder. Having to rely on my own judgement for this is scary. I’m scared of making the wrong decision – and maybe this is a reflection of my life in general. The fear of choosing the wrong thing and being full of regrets. I know that I need more faith in myself. In my own judgement. And not being so afraid – of failing, getting it wrong, admitting I f*cked up.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Running when I’m a little scared – of triggering my injury, getting a compensation injury. Believing that I am more resilient than I believe. Aren’t we all our own harshest critics? I know that this is true for me. I hold myself to much higher standards than I expect from anyone else. The one thing I have noticed is that yoga seems to aggravate my foot – probably due to the one-footed balancing – so I’m taking a break from that. My gym is also out of action until mid-January so strength training isn’t really an option right now either. Cardio it is!

Sat: 2000 yd swim (this is the half iron-man distance 1.2 miles)

Sun: 4.2 mile trail run + PM skiing!

Mon: 2000 yd swim

Tues: 4.2 mile trail run

Wed: 1350 yd swim

Thurs: 3.9 mile run

Fri: 4.35 mile trail run

Sat: 2500 yd swim (fastest mile 37.05 minutes, and longest distance!)

Sun: 5.3 mile run

My doctor recommended that my return to running should be on softer surfaces – so for me that means plenty of trail runs. I’m lucky to live in Salt Lake City where it is easy to get to a trail-head in 10-15 minutes (including a whole bunch right by my workplace). Although they tend to be full of hills.

One route I’ve been running is a little over 4 miles with 500 ft of elevation change plus beautiful views over the valley. I’ve been lucky in that both J and my trail running buddy A have made these runs so fun – plenty of chatting which keeps the pace manageable. Most of these runs have also been at lunchtime which gives me the rare pleasure of daylight running in winter. It was even in the 60s for our run on Friday!

On Tuesday we tackled Dry Creek canyon. I ran this a lot during the summer. It’s one tough uphill run – a little over a mile non-stop uphill with 426 ft elevation gain in that distance (800 ft total for the whole run). It is hard and I couldn’t quite make it to the top without stopping for a walk break. It was a little discouraging – I used to run ALL the way to the top in the summer – so I know that I’m not where I was during marathon training. Although why that was surprising to me I have no idea. I haven’t been running the same mileage, tempo runs or hill work so why should I magically retain that fitness? I guess I needed to get a reality check.

I will defeat you Dry Creek!

I will defeat you Dry Creek!

What I like about trail running is my complete lack of interest in pace/split times. I personally believe that trail running improves your running efficiency – it shortens your stride, strengthens your feet/ankles, and works your cardiovascular system in a way that seems fun (well……..most of the time). One of my main goals for 2015 is to do longer trail runs in the ski resorts in Park City and enter some trail races. (I always thought that these races were for crazy people………..so um yeah I think I’m turning into a crazy person).

Top of Dry Creek from the summer.

Top of Dry Creek from the summer.

The other running option is a local park about 1 mile away that has a wood-chip 1.5 mile trail around it. We had plenty of rain here yesterday so when I went for my run today there was a real spring in my step. I had no expectations for this run except that I wanted to run at least 5 miles. When I left my house it was 33F and snowing lightly and I felt great. So I pushed it a little – 8.08/8.07/8.10/7.55 for 4 miles. And the first time I’ve seen a sub-8 minute mile in two months. After that excitement I decided to be sensible and slow it down for the way home. Overall, 5.3 miles at 8.14 min/mile pace. And it felt awesome! I might not be in peak shape but I can see myself getting there again.

The other thing that you may have noticed is that ski season has started. We haven’t gotten a ton of snow here in Utah yet but I wanted to test out my ski legs. So last weekend we headed up to Alta for a couple of hours of skiing – $10 for 1.5 hours. 5 runs and no quad burn. That is usually the factor that puts an end to my ski day. Luckily the green runs didn’t kick my butt too much this time.

Skis!

Skis!

So I think I might be finally ready for winter…….

Hope you had a great four-day or two-day (non-Thanksgivingers) weekend.

Thanksgiving started with a “Pumpkin Pie” yoga class where sadly no pumpkin pies were eaten. But we did try to get into the most ridiculous crescent roll pose.

Something like this - minus the beach.

Something like this – minus the beach.

Then a quick stop at home to get some dough ready for our contribution to the Thanksgiving festivities.

Freshly baked sourdough courtesy of J.

Freshly baked sourdough courtesy of J.

And then on to the part that I was dreading/looking forward to all week – my first run outside in about 7 weeks! My treadmill runs had been going fine but were incredibly boring (I swear that time slows down in the vicinity of the dreadmill). I wanted to get outside so badly that I was having serious runners’ envy when I spied people on their daily runs. I decided that Thanksgiving was the day to take things outside.

But there has also been the ever present knowledge that doing too much too soon (AKA the classic injured runner trying to get back on the road ASAP) could lead to recurrence of my injury or even worse a full scale stress fracture. I haven’t noticed any symptoms in my foot since taking a break from running back in October but I am all too familiar with finding myself with a brand spanking new injury while recovering from something else. Yay – runner’s problems!

So with a little trepidation I headed to one of my favorite trails near SLC – the Pipeline in Millcreek canyon. The temperatures in the valley have been pretty mild lately and our high on Thanksgiving was set to get near 60F. Obviously I decided to wear some shorts and contemplated running in just a t-shirt. That is until we got near the trail head and saw snow everywhere! Yike! I guess I forgot that 1500 ft can make such a difference in winter.

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It wasn’t that cold – 39F – but the trail was packed down with snow for the first mile which made running a little slower and a lot slicker than normal. The second half was snow-free and mostly dry although I still manage to get my legs nice and muddy.

Running

 

Just a little over four miles but with 898 ft of elevation gain. Maybe not the easiest way to return to running but it felt amazing! Pain-free and out on the trails – who could ask for more?

I woke up the next day expecting to feel pain – and I did but mostly from my intense yoga posing – hello hip flexors! My calves felt a little tight, which seems to be the story of my life. But I can deal with muscle pain – it doesn’t scare me like tendons/bone pain.

After de-muddifying we headed for dinner and filled our bellies with an amazing spread. This might be a controversial opinion but my favorite thing about Thanksgiving dinner are the sides. Give me extra mashed potato and stuffing over pie any day.  And pumpkin flavored things – meh – I can take it or leave it – and this even applies to pumpkin pie. Sorry if we can’t be friends anymore – although if we stay friends I’ll give you all of my pie (in return for some of those taters).

Friday was some low impact cardio – a 35 minute (uphill) bike ride to work (yes work – boo) followed by a core yoga class. And then more trails on Saturday (right now I’m running every other day) – 3.75 miles – bringing my total mileage for the month up t0 28ish miles. Not exactly what I wanted but I am going to take.

And I’ve become an accidental triathlete. Biking + trail run on Saturday and a swimming session on Sunday. Don’t worry – I have no plans to ever ever ever intentionally do a triathalon – that is officially for badass/crazy people. But I am really digging all of this cross-training right now.

 

The TMI post

Or how I became a real trail runner this weekend.

I feel like I need to include a disclaimer for this post. If you are uncomfortable with lots of poop talk then you should probably stop right here. Also, there are some trail rash photos if that’s not your bag either. But we’re all runner friends here so read on……

Saturday was the final race (for me) in the Park City Trail Series. They have a half marathon in September but I’ll be out of town. I ran this race last year and it was not pretty. I ran out of gas on a horrible set of switchbacks and was hanging on for the last 4ish miles. It was tough and I was a little nervous to go back, especially as I’m in the middle of marathon training (->tired legs) and had a 17 miler on the cards for Sunday (yes – great planning by me).

J had signed up to volunteer for the race and I tagged along, which meant a 5 AM wake up call so we could arrive by 6 AM to get our assigned duties. J and a couple of other volunteers headed out to set up an aid station. Because I was racing, my job was to acts as a parking attendant. (FYI – people really listen to you when you’re wearing a hi-vis yellow vest).

By 7.50 I was done and had just enough time to put on my bib and head to the start. This meant I had to miss my pre-race bathroom visit and disobey my first rule of running: No poop, no run. The elite/pro athletes who usually run this race seemed to be missing so I found myself very close to the start line. I had decided to run this at a moderate effort – with those darn switchbacks in the back of my mind.

The first couple of miles felt ok – the start was a bit mellower than the 5K/10K course and I was feeling pretty good. And catching up on some of the people who went out too fast. We then merged with the 10K course and headed towards the switchbacks, which felt GOOD! How did that happen? I felt about a million times better running up these switchbacks compared to the 10K. What a great confidence boost.

Then the downhill began. I’m definitely better at keeping a steady uphill pace than flying downhill. The trail was really dry a with a lot of lose stones, steep turns and switchbacks. I had a few close calls but at mile 6ish I was letting a guy pass me on single track when I went down. The guys I was running with immediately stopped to see if I was OK – and of course I said I was. I knew my elbow was bleeding and I could taste dirt in my mouth but nothing sprained or twisted so I kept going but took it a little more conservatively on the downhill. Eventually it mellowed out and the last couple of miles were pretty easy. I finished in 1.19.41 which was 5 whole seconds faster than last year.

At first I was a little bummed that I wasn’t faster, but I definitely held back in this race and was never going at max effort. I felt comfortable throughout and was conscious of needing to conserve energy. And I finished strong. I also managed to finish 2nd in my age group, and 8th woman overall – I even won a couple of prizes in the raffle.

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Race haul!

Splits.

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Scratches and scrapes!

I made my way to the first aid station to clean up along with a bunch of other fallers.

Now the poop talk. The last couple of miles I really needed to go. REALLY needed. My pace at this point was a hybrid between wanting to finish ASAP but not go to fast to freak out my bowels. Why am I telling you this? Well so this never happens to you, and also my stomach has been a wreck since Saturday morning, including my epic 17 mile trail run. Ughh!

On Sunday, J suggested we head up to Park City to do our long runs (17 for me, 18 for him) on Mid Mountain trail. This trail connects the three ski resorts in PC and is about 20 miles long. We parked at Deer Valley and decided to do an out and back. This trail is described as pretty flat. Now, here’s some life lessons for you – if someone describes a trail that connects three SKI resorts as flat they are lying to you!

The first couple of miles felt so hard. My calves were burning. All I could think was: there is no way in hell I can run 17 miles today. But I bargained with myself: Make it to four miles (1/4 way through) and then reassess. By the third mile the trail had leveled out and become more rolling. I decided I wasn’t going to quit. After four miles we made it to Park City Mountain Resort and stopped for our first Gu.

The trail alternated between shady Aspen forests and clear ski run meadows. It was heavenly. I didn’t care about pace, just decided to run a pace that I thought I could sustain for the whole run. At mile 8.5 I turned around and told J to catch up to me as he added on another mile. This was fun at first – just myself and my thoughts until I started worrying about running into a moose. J caught me with about 4 miles to go – and reminded me that it was OK to walk on a trail run. We finally made it back to the car for some chocolate milk and snacks.

17 miler

This was the longest run – 17 miles – I’ve ever done and, by far the longest I’ve spent out running by at least 40 minutes, and the most elevation gain – 2000 ft. Holy crap it was hard – but my legs felt pretty good afterwards.

What didn’t feel so good was my stomach. At first I was hoping it was nerves – I tend to get a little nervous when running a new distance. No such luck. And at mile 13 I needed to go. So yes, I got to lose my trail running poop-ginity. May you never have to experience this yourself. By the time my run was over, it felt as if my stomach had gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. The rest of the day was a write-off. Along with any workout today.

This is my first experience like this – I like to pride myself in my iron stomach. I have no idea how anyone with chronic digestive issues can cope. Let’s hope another early night will help.

When is a 10K not a 10K?

When it’s a 6.7 mile run! Sorry – no smart runner jokes here.

Saturday was the Park City Trail Series 10K held at the trail system in Round Valley. After my horrible 5K race (going out too fast, feeling like crap at the end), I decided to be more sensible about this race.  Keep a steady pace. Don’t push too hard (long run on Sunday). And enjoy it all the way through.

I started out the day with some sensible pre-race fueling (missed that out for the 5K) – wholewheat toast with Trader Joe’s Cookie butter. J was running this race (he came 6th overall), so we headed up to Park City a little before 7 and arrived in plenty of time to pick up our bibs, use the restroom and do a quick warm-up. The weather was perfect – high 50s and sunny. Right before the race started it was announced we’d get to run some bonus mileage. Whatever. I figured most of my races are a little over the listed distance. In fact, last year this race was 6.1 miles according to my Garmin.

8AM rolled around and we were off. The first part of the course was identical to the 5K but with added hills. I decided to go out at what I would describe as a mildly uncomfortable pace. I knew I could push harder but had to remind myself that I needed to run 14(!) miles the next morning and that was enough to reign me in.

I also knew that there was a pretty burly hill in the second half of the race. It was broken up by some switchbacks but was about 200ft of climbing in one go.

  1. 7.42 min/mil  87 ft up/11 ft down
  2. 8.25 min/mile 163 ft up
  3. 8.00 min/mile 111 ft down
  4. 8.11 min/mil 85 ft up/77 ft down
  5. 8.43 min/mile 125 ft up/25 ft down
  6. 7.26 min/mile 111 ft down
  7. 7.37 min/mile 124 ft down

Total: 6.7 miles – 54.01  – 8.03 min/mile – elevation gain/loss

So I guess I have a new 6.7 mile PR! Woohoo!

I actually really enjoyed this race. My focus was on keeping a consistent effort (pace varied with the hills) but I felt good at the finish. I felt I could have pushed harder but that’s not what this race was about. I’ve been trying hard to keep consistent pacing in my workouts. I feel that this is something you have to learn. Ideally, I would like to be able to accurately judge my pace by my effort, so I don’t have to obsessively look at my Garmin every two minutes.

We waited around for the awards. J placed second in his age group and won a really cool water/and or wine holder for backpacking/traveling. I didn’t place – 4th in my age group and 10th woman overall. But I did snag a matching water bottle in the raffle.

We also got some free race photos.

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Downhills! And a little bit of muscle definition. FYI the guy behind me passed me out a little after this but then had to stop to puke at the top of the final hill. I think I saw him do the exact same thing in the 5K.

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This is me just about to pass out my 18 year old neighbor. Salt Lake City is such a small place that if you go to any event you will invariably bump into someone you know.

I checked the online results when I got home and was surprised to see that I had been bumped up a place in the overall standings and in my age group. I emailed the race organizer as I was planning on volunteering for the 15K next month and found out that a guy had run using his wife’s bib and had been DQed! So another placing – 3rd in my age group!

The rest of the day was spent running errands and catching up with my parents over Skype to wish my Dad a happy 60th birthday. And a fusion yoga class – an hour long class half core work and half restore. Perfect.

Sunday was long run day. And it was epic for me. My longest run ever both in distance (14 miles) and time (a little over two hours). And my first 2 Gu run. I’ve approached my marathon training with the idea that long runs should be done on tired legs so that you train for the latter portion of the race.

I’m not going to lie, this was hard. It started out OK but by mile 9 I was starting to feel the effects of the race and the heat (it had just hit 80F by the end and I was running in the sun). I had to bargain myself into finishing the final mile. And when I was finished I was the sweatiest I had ever been in my entire life. I stood in the kitchen gulping down chocolate milk, two pints of water and some Nuun while a puddle of sweat pooled at my feet. It was pretty gross.

But afterwards I felt OK. No major pain  – just a little muscle tiredness. And my pace was pretty consistent throughout – about 8.50 min/mile average. Although, I think I’ll try and slow it down a little in the future. I know that you should run your long runs slower than your goal race pace but how much slower should that be? 30s-60s-90s per mile?

Sunday turned into baking day. I finally made a pie with the bag of cherries we got in our CSA. I think I’ve finally figured out how to make a good pie – I’ve had a couple of disasters.

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Then cornbread for dinner and chocolate chip scones for breakfast.

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And boy was I glad that Monday was a rest day. 33.15 miles for the week.