Reflections on training for my first marathon

Yesterday marked the final training run in my 18 week marathon cycle. A chilly 4 mile tempo run. 2 miles at 7.14 min/male pace sandwiched with a downhill warm-up mile and an uphill recovery mile (7.41 min/mile average). I have a two mile shakeout run scheduled for Saturday and then M-Day – the Twin Cities marathon – my first ever 26.2 miles.

J has agreed to run this race with me (he has already qualified for and been accepted into the Boston marathon and this one is just for fun), and last night he asked me what pace I was planning on running. For me, as a first-time marathoner, this is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. I’ve trained hard over the last 18 weeks and want to show that in my time. Personally, it’s not enough just to finish. I need to do “well” but I’m not exactly sure what that means. On the other hand my major freak is hitting the all – and especially hitting it early by going out too fast. I had the pleasure (!) of experiencing this on my first 20 miler and do not want this to happen with another 6ish miles to go.

I started to look back over my training schedule. I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate plan (Hal has gotten me through my first 3 half marathons).

Monday: Rest or strength training day

Tuesday: Slow, recovery run. These varied from 3-5.25 miles and generally ranged in pace 8.50-9.20 min/miles.

Wednesday: For the first couple of weeks I took these easy. I ran a half marathon on the second weekend and was coming back from injury. But from week 6 onwards this became a steady state run. Ranging from 5.5-9.3 miles with paces averaging 7.50 min/miles.

Thursday: For 10/18 weeks this was a morning trail run that was super fun mainly because I had a running buddy which definitely makes the time go by so much faster.

Friday: Rest day

Saturday: I ran four races during this time, all of which fell on Saturdays;

Utah Valley Half Marathon 01.40.35

Park City Trail Series 5K 00.23.33

Park City Trail Series 10K 00.54.01

Park City Trail Series 15K 01.19.41

There had to be a couple of switching things around to make room for awesome vacations to Great Basin National Park and white water rafting. And of course the Hood to Coast relay which I realized I have yet to do a recap on. Oops. Six of the other Saturdays were also fast (for me). Ranging from 5-8 miles around 7.45-8.05 min/mile pace.

One of the things I wanted to practice during my training was to get used to running long runs on tired legs. So the Park City Trail races and my Saturday fast runs were followed by Sunday long runs. I peaked with two 20 milers but also had 15, 15, 17, and 18 mile runs in too. The average pace was around 8.55 min/mile. Peak week hit 45 miles but over the 18 weeks I was averaging 35ish miles for a total of 550ish miles total. Can you tell I’m a data nerd?

I feel pretty prepared. I made all of my scheduled long runs. I only missed one run due to injury (way back in week 3). And I think I’m as ready as I can be. But I’m still running a new distance for the first time and am a little totally nervous about it. On the plus side – I’ll be running a pretty flat course at sea level on fully rested legs. I have friends who have run this race multiple times and tell me the crowd support is amazing so I’m hoping for a race day adrenaline boost. And it looks like it’ll be pretty cool temperatures.

Using a race time predictor with my half marathon times (all around 1.40 -/+ a couple of minutes), it suggest that I should be able to run 3.30. I feel that this is way too ambitious for a first marathon, so I’m thinking around 3.45 (8.35 min/mile pace) if everything goes perfectly. I’m pretty confident that a sub-4 is on the cards but who knows – the marathon is a crazy beast.

I knew going into training that it would be tough, time-consuming and I would have to sacrifice some of my other hobbies (hello dusty yoga mat). But overall I’ve enjoyed it. Sure I’ve had some bad runs and a lot of mornings where I have not wanted to get up and run 8 or 9 miles before work. I guess what I’ve learned is that I really enjoy running. And following a schedule really works for me. It helps me get focused – I leave my house knowing exactly what workout I’ll be doing that day – distance, pace, hills etc. I like knowing I’m getting better even if those improvements are small and almost unnoticeable from day to day. I’ve read before that the actual race is just the victory lap for all those 6 AM starts and 3 hour long runs. I guess I’ll find out on Sunday!

Any last minute marathon/pacing advice to share?

 

Unexpected encounters with wildlife………

I had a very traumatizing wildlife encounter during the last few days…………..If you’re queasy like me, maybe wait til you’ve finished eating.

But first a mini-recap of the weekend. Friday was a post-work strength workout. You’re welcome core!

Saturday – back to running and a scheduled 5 mile pace run. Right now I have no idea what my marathon pace is – having never run further than 13.3 miles – but I do have a half marathon next Saturday so decided I would try half marathon-ish pace. The first mile was hard but once I settled into my rhythm it felt pretty OK – 5 miles at 7.50 min/mile pace. And the first pace run I’ve done in a long time. I’m pretty sure I can’t run a 20 miles at that pace but maybe the half on Saturday (net downhill!!) will be better than expected.

Saturday was spend doing chores. And wedding stuff. Invites to our Irish party are out. Photographer is locked in. Honeymoon is organized.

And then a wonderful dinner (+ margaritas) with our friends up in Park City. Nothing better than sitting on a deck in the mountains with good food and great company.

Sunday is long run day. This week I got more than 5 hours sleep so was good to go. I met my Thursday trail running buddy and another runner friend for a trail run. This time we did the whole trail – 9.3 miles out and back with stunning views and a lovely breeze. 9.33 min/mile with rolling hills – total elevation gain of 1400 ft but without any really big hills. I managed to squeeze in two whole episodes of Scandal while stretching and doing PT exercises. Total mileage for the week 28 miles on the dot.

I spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on our front porch before heading to a 4PM Restore yoga class where I may or may not have dozed off for a couple of seconds.

This weekend was all about the burgers – portobello mushrooms and fresh corn on Friday.

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Homemade turkey burgers with potato salad (carb-loading has started with a vengeance!) on Sunday. Ciabatta is my new favorite way to eat my burgers.

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We also are having salad with pretty much every meal to use up our CSA greens ASAP. Finding a snail as you are washing your salad leaves – pretty normal, right? I still had a mini-freakout (can’t do “slimy” things with no legs including (but not limited to) earthworms, slugs, snails, snakes) and had to get J to deal with it.

What is totally NOT normal was waking up the next day and finding a snail had appeared in your kitchen and found it’s way INTO your water bottle which was standing open on the counter. This freaked me out. I had to leave the room. And I felt sick about it all day – especially when I sat down to eat my delicious SALAD. I checked for wildlife before I tucked in.