Overdue Update on Weeks 3-5

I know, I know, I know…it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve updated this thing!  The truth is, the last 3 weeks have been less than stellar and I’m trying to pretend they didn’t happen.  However, one of the main purposes of this blogeroothingamabob is to hold me accountable to my training or lack of thereof.  So here we go…

When we left off, I had just finished Week 3’s long run on a Wednesday.  After a 2 mile death march recovery run on Thursday, I decided to give myself the rest of the week off due to anemia fatigue and birthday festivity plans that I knew would pretty much consume my weekend.  After two solid weeks of relatively high mileage, I figured it was time for a step-back week anyway.  The entire week looked like this:

Week 3

Monday – Rest

Tuesday –  9 miles easy (treadmill)

Wednesday – 14 miles long run in the great outdoors

Thursday  – 2 miles easy (treadmill)

Friday/Saturday/Sunday – Rest

Total: 25 miles

By the following Monday (Feb. 23, first day of Week 4), I was raring to lose the 5 pounds worth of delicious food I ate over the weekend go!  Three days off of running is never desirable, but my body needed the break.  I also learned on Monday that my anemia is due to a run of the mill iron deficiency, and not something scarier like Ebola.  [Side note: I have now been taking iron supplements for 2 weeks and I am sensing improvements in my turtleyness.]  Week 4 started off strong, but ended lamely due to a combination of calf pain, laziness, and impending sickness. 

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Monday’s workout consisted of 8 miles followed by an intense strength training session! Dog not included.
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Proof that I foam rolled. And that I have a tongue.

Week 4 also included a “speed” workout consisting of 6 x 800.  I put “speed” in quotes because my paces were nowhere near as fast as I would have liked them to be.  Still, it felt good to pump. it. up.  (Said in my best Arnold voice.)

Shannon or a tomato?  You be the judge!
Shannon or a tomato? You be the judge!

Week 4’s long run was cut short from 14-15 miles to 9.25 miles.  Let’s first discuss the positive aspects of this run.  First, the sun was out!  Second, I ran up Battery Street, which is VCM’s *scariest* hill.  It comes around mile 15 of the marathon, which is always a pleasant time to run up a big hill.  So while running up a big hill may seem more like a negative aspect than a positive aspect to some people, the positive part is that after cresting the hill, I realized that Battery Street is much bigger in my head, and that I eat bigger hills for breakfast.  [Side note: My mantra during the Race Vermont 1/2 Marathon, where I PRed big time on a hilly course, was “I eat hills for breakfast.”  It worked wonders.]

The not-so-great aspects?  My silly right calf was bothering me throughout the run.  Not in a major way, but in a if-I-keep-running-this-might-get-worse-way.  I probably could have run through it without problem.  However, at mile 9.25 I made the decision to refuel at South End Kitchen on Pine Street.  This was a rookie mistake.  It was cold out and they had a fire, people!  For the first time in less than 2 weeks (cue foreshadowing), I made the boyfriend come “rescue” me.

Salted caramel gu by the fireside?  A runner's paradise!
Salted caramel gu and water by the fireside? Men, take note: This is my idea of a dream date.

Here is the entire Week 4 rundown:

Week 4

Monday – 8 miles easy (treadmill)

Tuesday –  8 miles easy progression (treadmill)

Wednesday – 6 x 800 = 6 miles total w/ warmup and cool-downs (treadmill)

Thursday – 4 miles easy (treadmill)

Friday – Unplanned rest day for some reason (I don’t remember why.  I probably felt like crap.)

Saturday – 9.25 miles in the great outdoors

Sunday – Rest/Onset of the plague

Total: 35.25 miles

How did I spend the first, second, and third days of Week 5?  Sick and dying on the couch.  While I luckily did not have the flu, I did have some sort of Ebola-like cold that managed to hack away at every aspect of my soul except my ability to eat copious amounts of food, resulting in me being the only person in the world who actually gains weight while sick.  I seriously could not even fit into my sweatpants by Thursday.  I managed to get in some slow pathetic miles on Thursday and Friday.  By Saturday, I was ready to kill someone if I did not get in a solid run.  I smeared Vaseline under my nose, stuffed my pockets with tissues, and headed out the door.  For the first 3.99 miles, I felt GREAT given the circumstances.

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I did NOT feel great when I face planted on the ice at mile 4.
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This was taken before the goose egg fully took form. Good thing knees aren’t important when it comes to running or anything.

For the second time in 2 weeks, I required rescuing.  Although I knew right away that I wasn’t seriously injured, I was soaking wet and covered in mud.  Also, my face was bleeding, which isn’t exactly a huge deal but I AM A WIMP, OKAY?  Not exactly how I wanted to spend the next 10 miles.  So I went home, rinsed the mud and blood and tears off of my face, changed into shorts, and hit up the treadmill for the remaining 10 miles.  Not the most ideal long run, but sometimes you just gotta git-r-done.

Week 5

Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday – Sick

Thursday – 3 miles easy (treadmill)

Friday – 4 miles easy (treadmill)

Saturday – 4 miles in the great outdoors  + 10 miles (treadmill) = 14 miles total

Sunday – Rest

Total: 21 miles

Except for the fact that my nose has been replaced by a leaky faucet, I am pretty much back to normal.  Between the anemia and the plague, the last couple of weeks have been somewhat discouraging.  I’m trying to remain optimistic that I will continue to see improvements in my performance very soon.  However, I still have 10.5 weeks to whip my butt gluteus maximus into shape.  That is a long time in the world of marathoning.

In other news, I no longer have to run with a headlamp now that the time has changed!  (Well, unless I want to run in the middle of the night, which would be weird.)  Yesterday, I headed out for a glorious run after work in 50 degree weather.  I was actually too hot, which is a nice change from trying not to lose any extremities to frostbite.  The only downside is that my favorite dirt roads are now impassable to non-crazy runners.

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This is actually a picture of pavement. The dirt starts midway up the road. Okay, so this is a bad example.

I’ll try to be better about updating this thing, especially since my readership has increased to practically 8 readers!  Hello!  Here’s to hoping for some excellent confidence-boosting training runs!

I will leave you with a picture of Basil, who turned 7 this week.  This has nothing to do with running.  Oh wait, Basil runs!  This is totally related to running.
I will leave you with a picture of Basil, who turned 7 this week. This has nothing to do with running. Oh wait, Basil runs! This is totally related to running.

Anemia Update and Other Exciting Life Events

The last time we talked, I mentioned that I am a turtle anemic.  Well, I have since visited my doctor.  After careful analysis of my blood work, he determined that I am most likely experiencing a deficiency of iron, B12, folate, or a combination of the three.  He ordered more tests and hopefully I will know the source of the problem (and thus be able to correct it) pronto.  When I noted that I run more than the average bear, he informed me that my hemoglobin levels are such that it probably feels like I am running at 10,000 feet in altitude.  While this was certainly a relief to hear given my turtle-ness as of late, I am looking forward to returning to sea level.

Week 3 started off slow, but has quickly picked up speed.  Due to an ill-timed Bloody Mary on Presidents Day, I decided to make Monday an impromptu rest day.  I’m sure George Washington would have approved.  While it perturbed me to veer off course for a fourth day in a row, impromptu rest days, especially in times of imperfect health, are good for the soul (and feet, muscles, and cardiovascular system).  I easily pumped out 9 treadmill miles on Tuesday as a result of aforementioned rest.  Although I ran slower than usual, I felt good for the first time in weeks.  In related news, I learned that Bruce Jenner is definitely maybe transitioning into a woman.  Thank you People Magazine for making the miles fly by.

I had to capture this moment because I usually pull the emergency chord by accident midway through my run.
I had to capture this moment of treadmill perfection because I usually pull trip over the emergency chord midway through my run.

Due to 30th Birthday festivities this weekend (NOT MINE, I AM STILL IN MY 20s THANK YOU VERY MUCH), I decided to move up my long run to Wednesday.  Although all hard work outs (including the usual MGP run the day before a long run), have been shelved until further notice, I figured that Tuesday’s 9 miler would allow me to simulate running on tired legs.  Maybe it was the fact that the sun was shining for the entire 14 miles, but I actually felt OK for the duration of the run.  I felt a little sluggish, but that was likely due to the anemia rather than tired legs.  It’s funny how my legs automatically settle into an 8:45-9:00 min/mile pace during long runs.  I had to consciously slow myself down multiple times in order to keep my turtley breathing in check.

Although the sun was shining, it was still only 8 degrees when I started my run.

Swagger not included.
Swagger not included.

I passed some friendly horsies.

Neigh.
Neigh.

The majority of my route was an out and back on Spear St. in Burlington/South Burlington.  I always forget about this route.  The scenery is beautiful (with the exception of the mini mansions scarring what used to be Vermont farmland) and the shoulder is mostly wide enough to prevent me from becoming roadkill.  Nom.  The cars are generally few and far between.  With the exception of one monstrous hill in the beginning, the hills are rolling, which I love!  I also added on a couple city miles at the end of my run.  Note to self: college students are the worst at sidewalk hogging.  Also, since when did college students start looking like 7 year olds?  I swear I am still in my 20s.

I recovered with a little stretching and Gatorade in front of the fire.

Glacier Freeze is the best flavor.  Trust.
Glacier Freeze is the best flavor. Trust.

I probably should have foam rolled and/or stretched some more, but I was FREEZING!  Luckily, I remembered to braid my hair this time so my shower was quite enjoyable.  Sorry to abandon you, new BFFs Mr. Comb and Mr. Bottle of Conditioner.  Until next time.  (And there will be a next time.)

It's the little things in life!
It’s the little things in life!

Today, I have a recovery run on the agenda.  Given that it snowed last night, I will probably stick to the treadmill.  Also, I really want to watch highly intellectual television on Netflix.  Until we meet again…

Week 2 Recap

Adios Week 2 of Marathon Training!  I am officially 12.5% done with my 16 week training cycle.  Uhhh, that is actually really scary, especially in light of the ROUGH week that was Week 2.  Let’s start with the good before moving onto the bad and the ugly.  The good:

  • I ran 40 miles, only 2 miles short of my goal of 42 miles.  Pretty good, all things considered.
  • Despite insanely cold temperatures, I managed to run outside once.  Never mind the fact that this was a sad, sad run.
  • I received an awesome running-related gift from my Valentine:
I will start this as soon as I'm done with
I will read this as soon as I’m finished with the highly intellectual book on my nightstand about a woman who murders her cheating husband.  Priorities.
  • I foamed rolled!  It is amazing how much less sore I am the day after a long-ish/hard-ish run when I foam roll.  Must. foam. roll. often.
  • I ate chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast 2 days in a row.  Runger is real, my friends.
  • I soaked my sore muscles in an Epsom salt bath.  This relaxing experience nearly turned not relaxing at all when my water-loving Yellow Labrador, Basil, launched herself over the edge of the tub the moment I leaned back and shut my eyes.  She managed to get both front paws over the edge before I took a bubble bath with my dog stopped her.  Unfortunately, I did not have my phone nearby, but luckily cute things happen when you Google “yellow lab in bathtub.”
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Not as cute as Basil.
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Also not as cute as Basil.
Basil!  I die.
Basil! I die.

Okay, getting a little off topic here…

  • I did some strength training.  Not enough.  Whomp.  Does this still qualify as something that falls under the “good” column?
  • I purchased some new gummy bears running fuels.  After the stomach incident of 2014 (a.k.a. the time I barfed chocolate outrage Gu during the GMAA marathon), I am excited to try out new products.  Here is what I purchased:
So far I have discovered that the Strawberry Lemonade Nuun is an excellent hangover cure.
So far I have discovered that the Strawberry Lemonade Nuun is an excellent hangover cure source of electrolytes.

Now for the bad.  For a few weeks now, I have struggled to maintain paces that should be fairly easy for me.  I attributed this to treadmill running and evil snowy road running, but I was becoming increasingly concerned that something else was wrong.  I raced a lot in 2014, and according to the internet, over-training is a real thing.  Could all of the races and hard workouts of the last year be catching up with me?  I don’t run that much.  Well, last Thursday I received a phone call from my doctor informing me that I tested positive for anemia.  According to WebMD:

Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia — like fatigue — occur because organs aren’t getting what they need to function properly.

In a way, this news was actually a bit of a relief to hear.  An explanation for why I feel like crap when I run anything faster than 10:00 minute miles!  Furthermore, anemia is completely treatable.  Hopefully, after taking iron supplements eating cheeseburgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a couple weeks, I will be back to my old self and be able to knock out 8:00 minute miles like they are going out of style.

Here is my weekly training summary:

Monday – 7 miles easy on the treadmill

Tuesday – 5 miles easy on the treadmill

Wednesday – 5 miles easy outside w/ 1 hard mile (This was an abandoned hill workout)

Thursday – 5 miles easy on the treadmill

Friday – Unplanned rest day thanks to anemia

Saturday – 11 miles easy on the treadmill (Felt like crap and had to cut my planned 14 miler short)

Sunday – 7 miles easy on the treadmill (Trying to make up for Friday’s unplanned rest day and Saturday’s too-short long run)

TOTAL: 40 miles

Final thoughts: Despite feeling lethargic and slow, I still managed to run only 2 miles short of my goal.  I am proud of myself for not giving up out of frustration, but rather listening to my body and giving myself permission to run like a narcoleptic walrus slow down.  I will continue to chug along this way until I feel better.

Just one more, I swear!
Just one more, I swear!

The Time I Almost Had to Chop Off All of My Hair

Where did we leave off?  Ah, yes.  I was midway through Week 1.  Well, Week 1 has come and gone.  Was it a success?  More or less.  I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it.

The Friday before my long run, I had planned on running 6 miles at marathon goal pace (MGP) (8:00 min/mile).  Due to frigid temps, I decided to run on the treadmill.  Mistake #1.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I have issues when it comes to running fast on the treadmill.  Mistake #2 was probably not canceling my run altogether due to illness but I am a crazy runner person and I will run unless I am dying and/or my legs are broken.  As a result of the aforementioned mistakes, my run did not go as planned.  I quickly realized that running 6 miles at MGP was NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, so I spontaneously decided to downgrade my plan to 2 x 2 miles at MGP.  Despite this downgrade, the run was still a struggle-fest.  It probably didn’t help that I had to blow my nose every 12 seconds.  (I’m sure my fellow gym-goers were thrilled by this.)  Here is a picture of me during my run:

JK, obviously I don't run in a bandana.
JK, obviously I don’t wear a bandana when I run.

Luckily, Saturday morning arrived accompanied by slightly warmer weather and only the flurriest of flurries.  I donned my winter running attire and headed out the door.  Twelve glorious miles here I come!  Screeeeeech…hold the phone.  I spent the first 7 miles struggling down a snowy dirt road.  During the warmer months, this particular road is my favorite, with the exception of one stretch adjacent to the smelliest farm in the entire universe.  For those of you who have not experienced the pleasure of winter running, running on snowy dirt roads is a a lot like running on the beach.  Seven miles felt like an eternity and probably super important stabilizer muscles I didn’t know I have ached after only a couple miles.  Eventually I veered off the beautiful, yet evil, course and found some sweet, sweet pavement.  My legs never fully recovered, but I was able to bust out a fast finish.  I finished Week 1 with 40 miles for the week.

It looks so innocent...
It looks so innocent…

As I alluded to in the title of this post, Week 1 was capped off by a somewhat traumatic incident.  Upon competition of Saturday’s long run, I discovered that not only was my hair tangled into 10,000 intricate and finely woven knots, but it was also frozen!  Instead of spending the hour following my run foam rolling/stretching/drinking my recovery beer smoothie, I was forced to spend it whimpering in the shower with my new best friends Mr. Comb and Mr. Bottle of Conditioner.  The moral of the story is ALWAYS BRAID YOUR HAIR DURING LONG RUNS!

IMG_1245
Had I realized the full extent of the problem when I took this picture, there would have been tears in my eyes.

Obviously, I am well into Week 2 at this point, but I will wait until it’s over to summarize the highs and lows.  I will close with a few random thoughts:

  1. I am overall pleased with Week 1.  I hit my goal of 40 miles, and I had some quality runs.  Due to snow/ice/cold, I ran on the treadmill for 28 of those miles and I only feel mildly murderous.
  2. I did a bit of strength training, although I can always do more.  I need to remember to break out the old stretchy bands for some fun-filled hip exercises!  (Including my favorite, the monster walk.)
  3. I need to foam roll more.  Every day, preferably.
  4. I own a lot of running shoes.  I have 6 pairs currently in the rotation, although 3-4 of these are nearing the age of retirement.

    My babies.
    My babies.
  5. I eat a lot of bananas.  Bananas are the perfect food.  I love bananas.
Sometimes I even make banana phone calls.
Sometimes I even make banana phone calls.

Week 1

Week 1 of marathon training started on Monday.  So far so good!  I created my own training plan for this training cycle, which is loosely based on Hal Higdon’s Advanced Plan.  Each week generally follows the same pattern:

Monday – Easy run on the longer side (1/2 the long run distance)

Tuesday – Easy run on the shorter side

Wednesday – Speed, hill, or tempo workout depending on my mood

Thursday – Easy run on the shorter side

Friday – Same distance as Monday, usually at marathon goal pace

Saturday – Long run!

Sunday – Rest/Eat all of the food

I am tracking my runs on a Google Spreadsheet.  All future runs are in red, and all completed runs are in black.  The plan is intended to be a “guide” because I have learned from past training cycles that things do not always go as planned.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 11.30.30 AM

Due to snow and/or arctic temperatures, all of my runs this week have taken place on the dreadmill hamster wheel treadmill so far.  I have a love/hate relationship with the treadmill.  On one hand, I love that I can get a run in when it is -30 degrees outside and/or there is 3 feet of snow on the ground.  I love that I can run specific paces without thinking about it.  I love that I can run “hill” repeats on a whim.  I love that I can zone out while watching Netflix* on my phone.  However, I hate with a fiery passion that time seems to stand still when I’m running on the treadmill.  Six miles on the treadmill feels like 12 miles outside, and 12 miles on the treadmill feels like an ultramarathon.

* I would never, ever watch every episode ever of Pretty Little Liars while running.

Another thing I hate about the treadmill is that anything over 6.7 mph (~9:00 min/mile) feels like sprinting.  Outside, 9:00 min/mile generally qualifies as an easy pace for me.  Today, for example, I have 6 miles at marathon goal pace (8:00 min/mile) on the agenda.  Given that it is 2 degrees outside (not exaggerating – see photographic evidence below), I will likely run on the treadmill unless it miraculously warms up by at least 18 degrees.  Six treadmill miles at 7.5 mph?  I’m pretty sure my heart rate monitor is already shuddering at the thought.

My propane bill > The number of miles I will run in 2015
My heating bill > The number of miles I will run in 2015

As for tomorrow’s long run of 12 miles, that will be taking place outdoors even it means losing a few toes the feeling in my face.  The thought of running 6 consecutive days on the treadmill, and for 12 miles, makes me want to break things.

Modeling the latest in winter running fashions a few weeks back.
Modeling the latest in winter running fashion a few weeks back.

In addition to running all. the. time., I will be incorporating into my routine as much strength training as possible to prevent injury.  As any runner will tell you, strength training is a necessary evil.  It is necessary because a strong core (especially the glutes and hips!) is crucially important to both preventing injury and improving running performance.  It is evil because time spent strength training is time spent not running.  This may not seem like a big deal, but 1) running is awesome, 2) running is time consuming, and 3) time is precious.  It’s science.

Here’s to hoping for warmer times!

Some day it will be warm enough again that my outdoor runs require water!
Remember when I used to run outside in a tank top, get really sweaty, and carry water?  Yeah, me neither.

By Way of Introduction…

My name is Shannon.  In 16 short weeks, I will be running the Vermont City Marathon.  My big fat goal (BFG) is to qualify for the Boston marathon.  The qualifying time for my age group (F, 18-34) is 3 hours and 35 minutes.  To improve my chances of actually being accepted into the 2016 Boston Marathon, I am going to shoot for 3:30.  This means I must run 26.2 miles at approximately 8:00 min/mile.  Whelp.

I ran my first marathon, also the Vermont City Marathon, on May 26th, 2013.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but boy did I learn a lot.  Let’s back up for a second – In 6th grade, I joined the cross country team after a traumatic incident involving my nose and a soccer cleat.  Middle school cross country races were about 1-2 miles long, and despite walking and complaining during most practices, I somehow managed to display some talent when it came to running.

The one time I won a race
That one time I won a xc race in 7th grade.

When high school rolled around, the distance increased but my motivation did not.  I joined the cross country team in 9th and 10th grades, but ultimately quit for good mid-season during 11th grade.  Although I knew I had it in me to be “fast,” I was missing the mental strength/determination/whatever-you-want-to-call-it required to excel in the sport.  I dropped out of more races than I finished.  I faked ankle sprains to get out of practice.  I wanted to love running, but I just could not force myself to get with the program.  When I left cross country practice the day I quit for good, I remember feeling an immense sense of relief that I would never ever ever ever ever have to run again.

Obviously that feeling wore off pretty quickly, because throughout college and law school I ran on and off to keep in shape.  I generally maxed out at about 4-5 miles, which  seemed like an insanely long distance to run at the time.  I flirted with the idea of running a marathon and even briefly “trained” for one, but quickly realized that I did not possess the necessary determination, perseverance, and dedication.  Still, I could never fully shake my desire to join the 26.2 club.

Fast forward to February-ish of 2013.  Realizing that the Vermont City Marathon was a few months away and for reasons I cannot explain, I found a training plan on the internet, condensed it from 16 weeks to 12 weeks, and got to work.  I will never forget my first “long run” of 7 miles.  I did it on the treadmill at 5.2 mph.  I thought I was going to die.  My second “long run” was 8 miles and I ran outside.  Again, I thought I was going to die.  However, slowly but surely I increased my distances until one day I completed 16 miles.  That was the day I actually registered for the marathon.  I knew upon completion of that run that, barring tragedy, I could finish a marathon.  I finished my first marathon in 4:39:45.  I knew nothing about pacing, garmins, or BQ times.  I maxed out at slightly over 30 miles/week.  (Less than I will be running during Week #1 of marathon training this time around.)  I simply ran to finish.

Ignore the chocolate Gu on my chin.
And finish I did! Ignore the chocolate Gu on my chin.

Once I regained my ability to comfortably use the toilet (QUADS!), I realized that I had been bitten hard by the marathon bug.  I immediately started thinking about my next race.  I set goals.  I bought a Garmin 10.  However, my body had a different plan.  A few weeks after the marathon, I suddenly developed debilitating posterior tibial tendonitis (fancy name for shin splints).  I tried EVERYTHING to make the problem go away.  KT tape.  PT.  Compression socks.  New shoes.  Yoga.  Bargaining with the running gods.  Eventually, after 6-8 months, the pain subsided to the point where I could run and train comfortably.

I decided that marathon #2 would also be the Vermont City Marathon.  I wanted to finish in under 4 hours, but based on my time from the 2014 Unplugged 1/2 Marathon, I think I was realistically trained to run 4:10-ish.  To make a long story short, I dropped out of the race around mile 10 due to illness.  Boo.  There were tears.  Lots of tears.  And also lots of vomit.  (TMI?)

This is when things started to get interesting.  A couple of months later, in July of 2014, I ran a local 5K and finished in a time that involved 7-something minute miles.  I had not run a mile that started with a 7 since middle school.  What had just happened?!?  This was a defining moment for me.  I realized that I had potential, and I just had to figure out how to tap into it.  Around this time, I became increasingly active in my local running club, the Central Vermont Runners.  I ran a bunch of races and did well in many of them.  Some highlights included:

  • Berlin Pond 5 Miler – 3rd in my age group, 38:12 (7:39 min/mile)
  • Sodom Pond 4 Miler – 1st in my age group, 28:54 (7:14 min/mile)
  • Leaf Peepers 5K (aka the hilliest 5K ever) – 1st in my age group, 22:56 (7:23 min/mile)
It's always a good day when you win back the $5 race entry fee.
It’s always a good day when you win back the $5 race entry fee.

Meanwhile, throughout the summer I chugged along training for Redemption Marathon #2, the Green Mountain Athletic Association (GMAA) Marathon on October 12, 2014.  I had a big mental boost 3 weeks prior twhen I ran the very hilly and very windy GMAA Common to Common 30K (18.64 miles) in 2:38:27 (8:30 min/mile) as my last long training run.  Despite some calf pain about 2 weeks before the marathon, I managed to toe the line feeling incredibly strong both mentally and physically.   My goal was still to finish in under 4 hours, but I secretly thought I could pull out a time around 3:50.

The race started out well.  I ran the first half in 1:53:13.  Right on track.  I didn’t even feel like I was running a marathon until around mile 16, at which point my stomach started to hurt.  The gels were not sitting well in my stomach AT ALL.  I normally eat a gel every 5-6 miles during a race/long run, but after mile 16 I could only tolerate water.  By mile 20 my stomach was in very painful knots.  I dry heaved a bunch.  I wanted to quit.  I could see my pace increasing on my watch and my goals slowly slipping away.  Luckily, the race was small enough (and the runners spread out enough), that my parents were able to catch up with me on their bikes.  They rode next to me for the next 5 VERY PAINFUL miles.  I think I would have given up had it not been for them.  I did the math and realized that if I could just maintain 10 minute miles until the end, I would still finish in under 4 hours.  At mile 25 I knew I was home free and I told my parents to meet me at the finish.  However, about 400 meters from the end my legs began seizing up and I almost tripped several times.  Several of my friends later told me that it looked like I was hopping toward the finish line.  Somehow I managed to dip deep and fight through the pain to finish in 3:56:49 (9:02 min/mile).  Had the race been 0.5 mile longer, I probably would not have made it.  But I did, and I only shaved 43 minutes off my previous time.  🙂

26.2 miles worth of calories.
26.2 miles worth of calories.

While there is certainly a big difference between running a 3:30 marathon versus a 3:56 marathon, I feel confident that with the right training and a little bit of luck, I can pull it off.  Three weeks after the GMAA marathon, I ran the Race Vermont Fall Half Marathon on the same day as the New York City Marathon.  As you may recall, it was a tad windy that day.  Despite the wind and hilly course, I managed to set a major PR of 1:41:43 (7:46 min/mile).  If I can run that pace for 13.1 miles, I can certainly run 8:00 min/mile for 26.2.

I have a lot of work to do.  Boston here I come!