We are getting down the the final weeks of training. This past week, I have been really starting to feel my months of training pay off. I remember in the beginning I thought 11 miles was a “long run”… I am officially starting to feel like one of those “crazy runners” that now considers 11 miles as a “short run.” I’ve definitely been through a lot of ups and downs with my training since October and it great to finally feel confident and strong in where I am.
December I logged 116 miles, January 59 miles, and February 106 miles. As you can see my mileage jumped around a bit and it is because I was really hard-core with training when I first started out. I was pretty strict with following a training schedule in December and unfortunately ignored listening to my body. In January I fell behind due to an injury and took lots of weeks off from running to focus on cross-training and getting better (also going to see a chiropractor and listening to my body). When we entered into February I changed my training plan. I was going to train based on how I felt. I have been doing that since. I noticed that I don’t have to kill myself with logging tons of miles during the week (I know my dad already told me this, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way). I also started becoming more dedicated to speed workouts on Tuesday nights and long runs during the weekends.
This week’s training was pretty scarce with miles because I had the “big race” this past Sunday…a 20 miler! This was the longest distance I have run to date and have ever run in my life. Here is how my week 6 training week went:
Sunday – I ran the Hyannis Half Marathon (13.1 miles) – I wrote about this in my previous blog post
Monday – 60 minute spin class and 30 minute stretching/weight training. I had the day off from work so I also went to the chiropractor in the morning and had a massage in the afternoon. I was feeling pretty refreshed to take on this week.
Tuesday – We had one of the toughest speed workouts yet…and I totally forgot to bring my watch to this workout. A watch is key for speed workouts because it is obviously all based on pace. I managed to get through the workout by following along another runner who brought a watch. The workout we had this Tuesday is called the “ladder.” We did two sets of 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1600m at a 5k pace with a 200m, 400m, 600m, and 800 meter recovery in between, respectively. This was challenging because as you get to the 1600m (or 1 mile) you are pretty drained from all the other laps. Once you complete this set you re-do the whole ladder again. Between warm up and cool down, I ran about 8 miles. My hip was bothering me a bit when I was running, but I think it was because I just ran a race 2 days before.
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday - Rest
Friday – Rest (yes, three days of rest!) and I didn’t feel bad because the week before I did the same (i.e. rest three days in a row) and did pretty well in my race. I think allowing the body to completely recover and taper down towards a race is important!
Saturday – I think my body can’t go more than 3 days without working out, because at this point I just felt gross. I went to the gym and did 30 minutes on the arc trainer and 30 minutes of some good stretching
Sunday – I ran the long-awaited Black Cat 20 mile race in Salem, MA. This race sounded like a great idea when I signed up for it 2 months ago, but when I had to wake up at 4:45 AM this Sunday I wasn’t feeling it. Also, your nerves really get to you when you’re trying to sleep the night before a big race. Let’s just say, I didn’t sleep much waking up every hour checking my clock. Anyways I woke up and did my normal race prep routine. I like to allow my body to really feel awake. I try to wake up an hour before I have to leave my house so I can drink a cup of coffee, eat a protein bar, stretch a bit, shower, and change. I did do something a little strange and different from what I have done in other races – I took my table salt and poured it in a spoon and ate it. Tasted disgusting by itself, but I thought it might help with dehydration (in prior races my face always looks and feels salty, which I guess is a sign of dehydration). I left my house at 6 AM and headed to Salem, which was about a 40 minute drive from where I live. I also like to get to a race at least an hour or an hour 1/2 before it starts. I have to get my registration packet, check out where the start/finish line is, drop of my extra layers of clothes, stretch, and go to the bathroom a few times (It is a nervousness thing…believe me the lines for bathrooms at races are disgustingly long before a race and you know what I mean if you’re a runner. It is funny that there is absolutely no line after the race). I was happy to hear the race started at 8 AM instead of 10 AM like the Hyannis Half, because I was able to finish the race before noon and still have the afternoon to rest.
My goal for this race was to go out slower and test my food intake during the course. I saw my co-worker Mike right at the start line and we ran together for the first couple miles. It helped a lot because I tend to go out way too fast…the last race I was nearing 7:15 minutes miles at the start. It felt like I was crawling at the beginning of this race because runners sprinted out. Toward the end of the race I was pretty drained and looking back I think my starting pace was probably still a bit too fast seeing that my watch said I was going a little faster than 8:20 minutes miles. I think I should be aiming for closer to 9 minute miles for the first 5 miles or so, but I guess I’ll have to test this out on training runs going forward. Another runner in my Dana-Farber group said he was going to aim for 10 minute miles in the beginning and build up to “negative splits” (meaning that you build up speed as you get closer to the end of the race). The idea is to save energy for the end and use it to push you through as runners and dropping away like flies (read more about it here in an article from Runners’ World: http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-244–12106-0,00.html) This method really works because he actually only finished a couple minutes behind me and he said he felt awesome the whole race. I always try to write down mile times for certain points so I can get a feeling of how I am doing during the race (if I am going too fast or too slow), but I didn’t calculate it so accurately to account for negative splits. The day before I was trying to think of what kind of time I should aim for. I originally thought I would try for 8:30 min/mile pace. I wrote the 3 mile splits and the respective times on a post it to later write on my watch. Last minute at 9 pm the night before the race I decided to see what the pace would feel like if I were to qualify for the Boston Marathon. For my age group I would have to run about an 8:10 min/mile pace (the marathon I would have to finish in 3 hours 35 minutes). I decided that I would try writing the 3 mile splits at Boston Marathon qualifying pace and just see how I felt. I didn’t expect to run this pace because I thought it would actually be too fast, but I wanted to see how I compared in time. My goal for the 20 mile race was to finish under 3 hours (if I were to follow my split times I would finish in 2 hours 44 minutes). While I love the Garmin watch for training runs, I try not to focus as much on the distance and per mile pace during an actual race. I don’t really look at my watch often other than every 3 miles as I marked out on my watch. Mainly because I want to be able to enjoy the run and not get so caught up in the mechanics and technicality of the race. Here is a picture of my simple watch with the splits at 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 20 miles.
I ended up finishing much better than I expected. I finished in 2 hours 44 minutes 33 seconds or a 8 min 14 second pace. Only 4 seconds per mile off a Boston Marathon qualifying pace. I was proud of my time and gained a lot of confidence in my running capabilities during this run. I have to admit, I was pretty spent the last few miles and questioned how people do another 6.2 miles to complete a marathon. But I also thought the same thing when I ran the Boston Prep 16 miler and thought, how do people do another 4 miles to make a 20 mile race. I think somehow I will just find the energy and use up every little bit to complete the marathon.
The Black Cat race is a fairly new course as this was the 2nd year the race was put on. I was a bit nervous to run this newer race because when I ran the Worcester Half Marathon during its first year, I was pretty disappointed with the mile markers and water stops. The Black Cat was surprisingly really well-organized and laid out. I would definitely recommend it to other runners training for Boston. They had the local college sororities cheering the runners on and handing out water. Even though these college kids were complete strangers, it was so nice having a friendly face cheer you on as you feel like you are going to tumble over at the last few miles. I can only imagine how nice it will be in Boston to have cheering along the whole course. I feel like that will be exactly what I need to get me through the last 6.2 miles of the race.
The water stops were every 2 miles or so and I stopped at probably all of them but 1 or 2 to gulp down Gatorade. I used the method of walking for 10-15 seconds at stop while I quickly downed the liquid before running again. Not once did I drink water during the race…I am sticking to Gatorade during my marathon. I also tried to take down a gu at mile 10, but it was a Powerade brand (I normally eat a chocolate GU brand) and a strange kiwi flavor that I couldn’t seem to stomach other than a few squeezes before I dumped it on the side of the road. I think it would have helped if I had a little more GU, but I managed to feel pretty well fueled despite not having much other than liquids during the 20 miler. I am wondering if I should carry 1 GU packet with me during the actual marathon. I don’t think I really need anything more than 1 GU and Gatorade during my actual race.
The Black Cat 20 Mile Course went through the historic areas of Salem as well as entered into Marblehead and along the ocean. The course had some nice rolling hills and I enjoyed the downhills as I let my body just fall forward and opened my strides. I let my arms hang to avoid any cramping. During the uphills I focused on my posture and just pushing through to the top. I know I’ve said it before, but the Boston Prep 16 mile race in January was such good preparation because I have not experienced any hills nearly as bad as that. Any hills I have run since have seemed like cake compared to those in Derry. No joke.
The interesting part of this race was that there was a 10 mile and 20 mile race on the same course. The race was made up of one 10 mile loop that you did twice if you were completing the 20 miler. I wasn’t a big fan of the whole loop idea going into the race because the thought of crossing the 10 mile point and seeing people finish would be mentally challenging. It was actually not as bad as I thought. The second time along the loop, I was more zoned out. It was also nice being able to loop and get a sense of where I was in the course. When we were around mile 8, a girl who was wearing a Reach the Beach shirt ran along the side of me and told me she was following me to help her finish the 10 miler. I wished her luck as we crossed the 9 mile mark. At the 10 mile mark when people were finishing the 10 mile race, I joked with the girls cheering everyone on that I only had 10 more miles to go. I felt like I had more “fun” during this race. Because the course was a loop, you passed other runners a number of points during the race. I waved to my fellow Dana-Farber runners and a friend from Holy Cross the 2 times I did the loop. It was fun seeing them and it gave me a boost of energy that I needed at those points of the race. I also noticed the photographers on this course (normally I am so tired I totally miss them) and even waived and smiled at one. Hopefully some of these pictures came out good!
When I finished the race I felt pretty good…I even had enough energy to kick it up at the end and sprint to the finish. It was around mile 15 or so that I started feeling tired. At mile 19 I definitely wanted the race to be done. In my mind I kept doing a countdown to myself. “OK Jamie only a 5 miler left” “OK, only a 5k left” “Alright, one mile girl, that is only 4 times around a track…you got this” Let’s just say there was a lot of conversations going on in my head. I wasn’t really even focusing on my music much as I did in my last race.
The weather was pretty perfect. It was around 40 degrees and cloudy. The sun can be really draining when it beats down on you, so I was glad there was a bit of an overcast. I wore fewer thick layers this time around because last weekend I was so hot from running. Since we were running so long I actually felt cold at the end because of all the sweat that was built up on my clothing. I did experience a bit of chafing for the first time as a runner. I felt sore everywhere to the touch when I got home. I actually have a little bit of scabbing under my chest. I will have to apply the anti-chafing stick everywhere before my next long run. Nothing too serious, but a new experience for me.
The post-race celebration is always the best part. I enjoyed some warm soup and caught up with an old friend from Holy Cross that ran the 20 miler.
Overall I had a really great time! (Easy to say now that I am done) I am feeling much more confident in being able to complete the Boston Marathon in a pretty decent time. I plan to do 1-2 more longer runs before enjoying the tapering. In the next few long runs I will have to experiment again with going out a little slower and trying to aim for negative splits. So far, so good!
Here is a photo from my Derry Prep 16 miler in January: