Thursday, July 16, 2015


Somehow, this blog got away from me these past few months. Sorry for that (if there are any of you out there still following along). I have changed a lot of things about my training these past few months and they all seem to be paying off. Before I get into that, I will offer a quick update on my last few months of running and my future race plans.

March--injury averted: I was really happy with my decision to abandon ship at the Napa Valley Marathon. This may have been one of the smartest decisions I've made in my running career. I spent the month working on the niggles that plagued me during the race and successfully ended the month with pain free running without having to take time off.

April--we can rebuild her: I ran as much as I could this month despite lots of work commitments. Working as an ecologist in California, spring is my busiest time of year. I ran a couple of 'races' (a 10 miler and a 12k) just to keep the wheels greased.

RnR SD. The calm before the storm.
You can get these ridiculously cute shorts here
May--racing fun: I had been focused on 10k training and a fast 10k on Memorial Day when I saw that the Masters 1/2 Marathon Championship race was being held in San Diego. I made a quick call to my Mom asking if she wanted to go, and the decision was made. My brother and sister-in-law joined too. This wasn't my best race as far as time, but it was a lot of fun. I love Rock-n-Roll events and was happy to get the chance to run this one.

June--mo miles: Marathon base building was THE focus. My goal for this month was to get my mileage consistently in the 70-80 mpw range. I was successful.    

Race plans

I have decided to run the Chicago Marathon in October as my goal marathon race. This is where I qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials. I really enjoy the city and the course and am hoping for a fast finish under the 2:43 qualifying mark.

I also have a few other races lined up between now and then:

18 July: Eppie's Great Race 5.82 mile run (filling in for a friend; tempo workout within an 18 miler)
26 July: SF Half Marathon (2nd Half). Not the fastest course, but a good check in on my fitness.
22 August: The Giants 1/2 Marathon. Looking for a check in 8 weeks out from my goal race.  


After my abandoned marathon race in March, I thought long and hard about how my training had gone and how my lifestyle affected my running. This is something I do after every major race, but in this case, I needed a lot more soul searching. When I started working with Coach Jack Daniels, I was a bit of a mess. I had become injured in a build up to a marathon and was just coming out of it. I remained a mess as health issues took me down in 2014, but throughout the time I worked with him, he took a conservative approach to building back my mileage adding about 10 miles per week every 6 months. I started with 40-50 mpw in Nov 2013 and ended up at ~70 mpw by March 2015. This was so important for me. I remained injury free that entire time and now have a great base that I am building upon.

For this next marathon, I decided to try my hand at self coaching again with the help of a book called "The Science of Running" by Steve Magness. I am pretty sure very few people knew who he was (except those geeks like me who have followed his blog and writing for years) until the whole Salazar doping scandal emerged. I highly recommend reading this book as there are a lot of really great insights in it and a good summary of the latest science and research related to training.

I am loosely following his marathon training plan right now with modifications to fit my mileage limits and the areas I need to focus on. I am just finishing the base phase of training (roughly 6-7 weeks) with my main focus on getting in a solid base of mileage. I have prioritized building volume over all else in this phase and will be ending the phase at 92 miles this week. This is higher than I've been in a long, long time and I feel good. When I have felt tired during the build up, I have abandoned intensity in favor of just getting the miles in. I have been listening to a ton of podcasts (Runner's Connect, Runner Academy) and the common thread among all of the athletes and coaches I've listened to is that volume is king. The more the better, as long as your body can handle it.          

Rethinking all the other stuff long as your body can handle it. When I dropped out of the Napa Marathon because I was worried about becoming injured, I initially thought this was because I wasn't doing the rehab work that I should have been. I now believe that I was overtrained from doing too much "extra stuff" in addition to running. This is a pattern I have seen in athletes I coach and now myself. I was constrained in how much running I could do, as I mentioned before, so I had time to add in extra stuff like strength classes and other cross training. The thing is, we only have one body. Injuries occur because tissue gets stressed beyond its capacity to repair itself and I was stressing that tissue in everything I was doing, not just in running. Sure, you use muscles differently in other activities and some are even low impact, but they all stress your body and require repair. I loved the group training I was doing, but when I took a hard look at it, maybe 30-40% was supportive of my running and the rest was just extra energy spent that should have been spent running.

After Napa, I stopped doing all added cross training and non-running-specific strength work. This decision was somewhat influenced by the Magness book, but mostly I wanted to see how I felt just running. The results have been good so far. Magness writes that a little goes a long way in that you don't have to do a ton of strength work to get a big benefit. Strength work takes many different forms for runners, from weight training to hill running. I have steered my strength program to the more running specific side with hill sprints, plyometrics and some limited weighted and body weight work focused on the core. I like the way Magness applies strength training based on what phase of running you are in: with heavier weights and hill sprints during the base phase followed by a focus on explosive strength exercises like plyos during the pre-competition phase and then tapering off in the competition phase. Core work is important throughout the training phases, but not a lot of that is needed. I do about 20-30 minutes per week now and sometimes none when I'm feeling pretty tired.

I strongly believe this refocusing of all my energy back to running has been the key to handling the higher mileage without injury (knock on wood).

Rethinking thinking

After the Napa Marathon, I also entered a low point mentally. The training leading up to the marathon was tough for me. I was spending a lot of mental energy worrying about how my workouts would go and ultimately did not enjoy them. In fact, I wasn't really enjoying my running in general. When I was being honest with myself, I had to admit this had been going on for a while. I knew I needed to turn this around.

I was placing pretty high expectations on my workouts since I had a specific time goal and was forcing myself to hit paces that I probably wasn't ready for. I had to ask myself some tough questions. Why am I trying to qualify for the 2016 Trials? Is it that important? For one, I am already an Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier and will be for the rest of my life. This came to me when I recalled a conversation I had with a colleague at The Nature Conservancy back in 2009 or so. She qualified and ran in the 2008 Trials and I asked her if she was training to qualify for 2012. She looked at me sideways and said, "why would I do that? I have already achieved the goal of running in the Trials." Excellent point.

The reason I want to shoot for that goal is because it is lofty and slightly out of my reach. This is how I achieved the OTQ in 2012. I started working toward it before I even broke 3 hours for the marathon and barely had 3 years of running under my belt. I like the challenge of having a lofty goal and will do everything I can to get fit enough to run it. Having such a lofty goal also means sacrifice. I need to spend a lot of time and energy focused on running and especially on recovery. So, I am trying to arrange my work and life this summer to allow for this. I see Chicago as my first attempt at the time but I will keep trying if I fall short. I would love to PR in the marathon at least and can definitely see myself doing that.    

I am enjoying my running much more now and have worked hard to run workouts at an effort level that is commensurate with my fitness level. Trying to shoehorn my workouts into paces that I think I should be running just harshes my world. I want to have fun running and let the fitness come as I build mileage, confidence and mitochondria.

My journey to Chicago is underway. I promise to bring you regular updates along the way. And, as always, thanks for reading!