Race Recap: 2016 Air France 8k: PR + Age Group Win!

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This recap is a bit delayed…my blogging always goes hand in hand with how busy I am at work and with life! It’s been a great, but busy couple of weeks, and so finding the time to write about this race was at the bottom of the priority list!

Last Sunday was the Air France Run in Central Park organized by NYRR. In an effort to get out of my comfort zone and race shorter distances more often, I signed up for the 8k several weeks ago – knowing full well that the 5 mile course included all the lovely hills of Central Park. And by “lovely”, I mean “why do I do this to myself?”. By mile 3, I was cursing my decision and swearing off short races in Central Park once again. It’s hard enough to race hard for 5 miles. When you throw in the Harlem hills, it becomes a major sufferfest.

When I lived in the city, I ran in Central Park almost every day. Shorts runs, long runs, speed workouts. Those hills were part of my routine. As much as I try to run hills these days, I’m limited. The route that is safest for me to run is rolling – but nothing like the hills in the park. The hills I would love to run daily are part of a stretch of road that is more desolate – no homes and the woods on both sides. So I won’t venture there until it’s getting light out – which means no time to run them in the AM. Now that I’m so removed from the park, I am reminded each time I race there that it’s no joke.

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    Body and Weight Changes During and After a Training Cycle

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    **I don’t post here every day, but you can find me on Instagram sharing everything related to running!**

    I’m always hesitant to talk about body or weight-related topics because they are definitely touchy subjects! But I wanted to talk about some things that have been on my mind recently.

    I am almost two months removed from the Boston Marathon.

    My running during the peak of Boston training was around 65 mpw. These days, I’m anywhere from 20-40. No run has been longer than 11 miles. Very few have been beyond 10. (I’ll go into more details soon about how I’m feeling, what I’m doing / not doing, etc).

    I’m also not eating as “healthy” right now as I was several months ago. It means ice cream at night, muffins or donuts on the weekend with my little guys, frappacinos when I feel like it. I’m not eating until I’m nauseous but I’m allowing myself to eat all those things that I may have passed up during the peak part of my training.

    And I’m about 6-8 pounds heavier than I was three months ago. Now, I’m not saying I’m heavy or need to diet or anything like that. Not at all. But I am heavier. I can feel and see the weight gain. 6-8 pounds on my body is noticeable (to me). It’s about 5-7% of my total body weight.

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      Can You Really Balance Family, Work and Running?

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      For years, I remember seeing women who juggled successful careers, families and running and thought they had the kind of balance I hoped to one day have.

      I returned to work full-time this past fall after almost five years of being home with my two children. I’ve learned that (for me) there is no balance.

      I don’t know if it can ever be balanced. There will never be enough time in the day. And I believe the phrase “doing it all” is misleading.

      I would love to spend every possible moment with my boys and not miss a school pickup or a soccer practice on Wednesdays.

      I would love to not feel heartache when I am at work late finishing a project for a deadline. Or feel that I should have stayed longer at work rather than rushing home to see my boys.

      I would love to have more time to cross-train, stretch and recover properly from the miles I do run.

      And I would really love to sleep more.

      But I have found a balance in the imbalance. And here’s what I learned:

      I can’t give 100 percent of myself to everything all the time.
      But I can still give 100 percent all the time. It’s just that the 100% is now divided.
      And I can focus 100 percent on what I’m doing THAT moment, whether it’s work, housework, family or running.
      I have to be okay with “good enough” rather than perfection.
      Priorities can shift from one month or week or day to the next. The closer I get to the Boston Marathon, the more important my workouts are. I’ll choose a run over folding laundry or vacuuming the house. Offseason? Running isn’t as high a priority as to other aspects of my life.
      I have to be kind to myself.
      Sleep is always a priority.
      Sometimes, it’s best to do what will make me happiest, even if it may be viewed as selfish.

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        Learning to Race Well + Post-Boston Racing Plans + RnR Coupon Code!

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        I don’t post here every day, but you can find my daily running, thoughts and tips on Instagram!

        It’s no secret that the more you do something, the better at it you become. Want to swim better? Get in the pool and start swimming. Want to perfect a dish? Keep cooking it and making small improvements.

        And so, in order to race well, the best thing to do is to jump in and race.

        The reality is, no matter how hard and well you train, if you are a poor racer, you may never see the results of your work. Things like fueling improperly, going out too fast, overdressing, not being comfortable with the taper and letting the negative thoughts come into your mind can all be honed by racing.

        I don’t know if I would call myself a great racer, but I’ve made a lot of progress the last couple of years and can confidently say that I am a light years ahead of where I was two or three years ago.

        The more you race, the more you can take away from each experience. Find what works well. What things you need to improve upon. A bad race, while unfortunate in the short-term, will provide you a lot of insight into things you probably don’t want to do again. And can be a great tool to use in the long-term. Use it as a learning experience – write those nuggets of wisdom you learned down – and then move on.

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          A Break From Training

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          Are you following me on Instagram? Make sure you are for some fun news and giveaways soon!

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          About two weeks ago I decided to take a break with training. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still running most morning and have every intention to train hard for Boston in the spring. But right now, I just need a mental and physical break from being tied to a training plan.

          I think it’s partially because I’m adjusting to a new normal for me and my family and I’m trying to find that happy balance where I don’t feel like I’m running myself ragged. I think it’s also partially because I am a bit worn out from a long, hard training cycle. I was pumped up after Wineglass and had plans to put my head down and continue working hard through Boston. But my body, heart and mind are not in it right now.

          The truth is, for a few weeks, I didn’t have much of a desire to run long on the weekends. Zero desire to run 8 miles every day. Zero desire to run in the freezing cold.

          And I was getting annoyed with myself and frustrated that I wasn’t running the mileage outlined in my training plan.

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            Winter Running Necessities

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            Last year was the first winter where I can say that I truly ran through the entire winter season. In years past, I start out with the goal of running on the roads, but typically end up doing most of the sub-freezing runs on the treadmill. I strongly dislike cold weather – give me an 85 degree day over 0 any day of the week. But after a few spring marathons where I finished not feeling as good as I wanted or running the times I thought I was capable of, I made a promise to myself to try to learn to love (or at least accept) the colder weather. I wanted Boston to be a strong race and I knew that in order for that to happen, I needed to focus on more running on the roads, regardless of wind, cold, rain or snow.

            And so, in the Boston trainup, I did just that. With the exception of one tempo long run, every long run was outside.

            And virtually all of my easy or recovery days were outside as well. The speed days were a tossup – I chose the treadmill when I was worried about footing or visibility outside (hard to concentrate on not slipping when you are trying to run as fast as you can). With Boston on my race calendar again, I plan to mirror a lot of what I did last year. The 2015 Boston Marathon was my strongest marathon ever. It was one of those perfect racing days where you run strong the whole way through. The weather was less than ideal, but it was a great day of racing for me.

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              Wineglass Marathon Training Update (T-2)

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              The hay is in the barn, the money has been deposited…less than two weeks to go! Just one long tempo workout and a mid-ish distance run on Saturday and then nothing but short, easy runs before race day!

              This was a big week of running for me. At this point in training, there are no short speed workouts on the plan. No more 600s, 800s, mile repeats, two mile tempos. Those were to build speed. For the last few weeks, the focus has been on longer workouts that will make marathon pace feel easier – long steady state, longer tempos and longer tempo intervals. See the similarity? They are all LONG. These workouts have been sprinkled throughout the cycle and have been gradually building in length – and three of them culminated this week – longest steady state (12 miles), longest LT tempo (5 miles – total 11 miles) and longest long-run tempo (16 miles w/ 8 @ tempo). I’ve seen these workouts on the plan for several weeks now – and I’ve been a bit intimidated. Each of them, alone, is tough enough. But to have all three over the course of six days made it even more so.

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                Wineglass Marathon Training Update (T-3) + Returning to Work!

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                LESS than 3 weeks until it’s time to lay it all out there – getting close!!! I feel like the last 4-6 weeks flew by – just like the end of the summer. School started for my little guys on Monday – Pre-K 4 and Pre-K 3!

                I’m also happy to share that I got another job offer this week – and will be accepting! Everything about this job and position feels right to me and I’m over the moon ecstatic to return to work. Most days will be close to 13 hours out of the house (it’s in Midtown East so the commute will be 60+ min in AM and 90+ min in PM) and I know running will have to take a backseat. Not sure what I’m going to do yet in regards with training and racing – I think decisions will be made as we go along and I see how much running I’m able to fit in. But I feel ready to shift around priorities and cut back where I need to.

                So, Wineglass is rapidly approaching. We are down to 19 days. 19!!!

                Thankfully, I had a pretty solid week of training last week. I felt great, the paces felt comfortable and most importantly, I feel like my motivation and excitement for training has returned. After the last couple of weeks of lackluster running and then my discouraging run/race at RnR VB last weekend, I was beginning to freak out with how poorly I felt. I was worried that those feelings would cause a landslide into the final weeks of training.

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                  A Successful Tempo on Roads – Finally!

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                  Head over to my friend, Lottie’s blog (Running On Veggies) to check out my Workout Wednesday Feature! I’m sharing what a typical day looks like for me – training, food, activities and so on!

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                  So, I FINALLY nailed a LT tempo outside. After two failed tempo attempts the last couple of weeks (a 4 mile LT tempo and 8 mile AT tempo), I was both excited and nervous when I saw this little beast on the training schedule – it’s a short, but intense tempo.

                  For those that have been reading here for a while, you may know that I have a much easier time with workouts on the treadmill – even with the treadmill at 1%. I don’t know what it is but I can run paces on the treadmill that I can only dream about outside. And so, I am always much more inclined to give in and use the treadmill on workout days.

                  But the reality is that I don’t race on the treadmill. I race on the roads. And that is where I need to practice these paces. And to get the confidence that I CAN run these paces. So when I start to get tired or question my ability during a race, I can pull from these workouts.

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                    Wineglass Marathon Training Update (T-9)

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                    I started this post Sunday evening in the midst of one of those “can’t stop eating” days of marathon training. Last week was the longest long run and highest mileage week since Boston training…and it capped off the 2nd highest mileage month ever for me (have to go back to October 2014 for highest). So my insatiable appetite is understandable and expected.

                    On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being a completely successful week), I’d classify last week as a 9 – it would have been a perfect week of running had Wednesday’s tempo gone better. But, instead, I quit after 2 of the 4 tempo miles and turned the remainder of the miles into “easy”. I’d love to blame the heat and humidity, but I think it was just a result of a lot of things. And I refuse to complain about this weather because no matter how hot it is, it still beats the 0 degree weather we were dealing with in the winter.

                    My husband was away from Mon-Thurs evening – and I was able to run all of my training runs outside and solo (except one treadmill run). I’m lucky enough to have a supportive family who will come over to watch the boys so I don’t need to run with the stroller or on the treadmill. My running happened this week when I had the chance – couple of days were right smack in the middle of the 95 degree weather – but it beats being down the basement, right?

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                      Wineglass Training Update (T-10) + Slowing Down

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                      After months of falling off the early morning running wagon, I am happy to be back on! Last week was a pretty successful week of getting up when my alarm went off – most days around 5am (two days as early as 4:30am) – and finishing my runs before 7/8am.

                      My weekly mileage is slowly starting to rise again – I had back-to-back 60+ mile weeks and came out feeling rested and ready for more training. I think a HUGE part of that is how much easier I am taking easy runs these days.

                      I don’t know what it is, but it’s like a lightbulb finally went off in my head. And if there was a way to smack my younger self upside the head, I would. Looking back on the last several years of training, I know that I was running too fast on my easy days. I can remember coming back from an easy/recovery run and feeling wiped. Ummm…you shouldn’t be wiped after an easy run.

                      Lately, I’m focusing on heart rate or just perceived effort and I wear no watch most days (if I want the HR data, I wear it). I can tell you that it’s significantly slower than I have been running my easy runs. And I’m finishing up my easy runs feeling energized and ready for the day, rather than feeling like I want to crawl back in bed.

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                        Orange Mud HydraQuiver Vest Pack 1 Review!

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                        After writing this post a few weeks ago, I was surprised at how many of you are/were in the same boat as me – struggling to find the right hydration source for these sweltering summer runs. We don’t want to hold a bottle, don’t want to have to stop every few miles to drink from a bottle either along course or by our home and hadn’t had luck with belts.

                        Well, I tried a new hydration system this weekend – the Orange Mud.Vest Pack 1 – and am already hooked.

                        First, let me say that I owe a HUGE thanks to Cheri for recommending it to me. I looked into every single recommendation that was mentioned in the comments – and actually got a couple that I will be testing out to see what works best for me.

                        But rather than wait until I try them all out to do one massive review, I wanted to share my initial thoughts on the Orange Mud pack – I feel that after a 16 mile run in 80+ degree weather, you know one way or the other if the vest is going to work!

                        The Orange Mud markets it’s products as “no bounce, ultralight hydration packs.” The idea behind the Orange Mud is that you use a bottle instead of a bladder and hose system. The bottle is kept behind you on your back – similar to a camelbak or other bladder backpack system. The bottle is easy to grab and replace thanks to a wide funnel opening and perfect retention.

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                          Going from 3:21->3:15

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                          As most runners do, I like to go back and take note of things that worked during the previous training cycle as well as highlight some things I plan to improve upon or change. For this post, I am focusing on things I changed which seemed to work – and which ultimately helped me run my strongest and most-consistent marathon to date.

                          (Note: Even though my PR went from 3:21 to 3:15, the PR was from a few years of training so some of these changes were over a period of time.)

                          Garmin-free as much as possible. This may not work for a lot of runners – but for me, it worked wonders. My problem has always been that I push TOO HARD when I should be taking it easy. Almost every single easy or recovery run this cycle were done sans GPS (unless I was on treadmill). This allowed me to honor the true purpose of “easy” days. Easy-paced days should be just that – easy. Pace is secondary to effort. And so in order to focus on effort and not get distracted by pace, I left the watch at home and either ran routes where I was familiar wih mileage or ran for a set amount of time and ballparked the distance. These runs quickly changed from my least favorite runs of the week to my favorite. It was a time for me to zone out, enjoy the sunrises and let my body actively recover from the stress days. Slowing down the long run. I look back at previous training cycles and can’t help but raise my eyebrows at my long runs. Similar to going garmin-free, I believe I was pushing too hard on a weekly basis and exhausting myself too often. This cycle, I focused on going easier on long runs and saving the faster paces for those long runs that required it (long run tempos). Winter running made this much easier – I kept my garmin under my jacket and would only feel the vibration of the miles – but I ran in blissful ignorance regarding the pace. Most runs were between 7:50-8:10 – which was well within the range my coach had given me (and almost all were progression runs). More strength and core work. I touched on this a few times this training cycle. One of my goals for 2015 was to do more strength work and I think I have succeeded so far. Most weeks I got in 2x 30-35 min strength workouts and 2-3x 20+ min core workouts. Some weeks maybe a bit more, other weeks a bit less. And I whole-heartedly believe that they paid off heavily last Monday.  Long Runs outside. Again, I covered this at the start of the year. My 2nd goal was to run outside as much as possible regardless of weather. I race on the roads, so I wanted to train on the roads. With the exception of one long run (plan called for a long tempo – it was 10 degrees out and I wanted to focus on hitting specific paces), every single long run was outside. Incline on treadmill – 1%. My husband did a lot of traveling this cycle and so a good amount of my running was on the treadmill. I talked about increasing the incline from .5% to 1% in this post – and I really believe this helped – if for nothing else, than because it more accurately gave me and my coach an idea of my fitness. And for easy/recovery runs, I played around with incline – from 1%-3.5% – simulating rolling hills as often as I could. Less=more (esp during taper and race week). I think in previous training cycles, I felt SO tied to a training plan that I missed cues my body were giving me. I HAD to run those 5 miles. Or hit the higher end if my coach gave me a range. I couldn’t take a day off. I haven’t talked much about the weeks leading up to the race, but I ended up taking a few extra days off, especially during the last 10 days of taper. Some days I physically was not feeling it, other days, I was mentally not up to it. Missing a few miles during race week will not affect race performance (especially when you are still moving around throughout the day). In my opinion, it’s far better to be rested than pushing yourself just to run those extra few miles.

                        • Increase meat/eggs, decrease processed foods. I talked about some of the changes we made with our diets here. My husband and I made a conscious effort to minimize the amount of processed food we consume as a household and instead eat more fresh veggies, fruit and meat (mostly beef and chicken). While basic, dinners most nights were bbq or baked chicken, sweet potatoes and a salad packed with veggies.
                        • Mental Training. I think you’ve me babble on enough about this already. But something clicked during Boston when things started to get tough. The negative thoughts didn’t affect my running. I acknowledged the doubts in my mind and the pain in my body and then moved on.
                        • Coaching. One of the best decisions I made last year was working with Coach Hadley. I began following his plan after the NJ Marathon last spring. I have three new PRs under him (mile, 5k, marathon) and believe in my heart that I would have set PRs in 10k and/or half marathon if I had raced them this spring as well. Coach Hadley’s race strategy for Boston got me this PR. After working together for 6-8 months, he understood my racing and pacing strengths and weaknesses and tailored a plan for ME (he gave me a pretty wide range of paces from start to finish – much wider than he normally gives).
                        • Smarter Pacing for Races: I had about 2:45 (first half 1:36:33, second half 1:38:42) positive split for Boston – and considering the hills and wind, I could not have hoped for a more consistent race. Regardless of what shape you are in, if you don’t have a smart pacing strategy, especially for Boston, you are setting yourself up for failure. I went out slower than I have in any of my recent marathons and was able to maintain that pace through the finish.
                        • Have you made any changes in training that helped you run a PR?

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                            Homemade Tomato Sauce

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                            I’ve never been one to eat out constantly – it’s not that I don’t enjoy the food or the “time-off” from cooking – but I much prefer to know what’s in the food I am eating. I find that I feel much more bloated and just “blah” after a meal out at a restaurant than I would if I ate a similar meal at home.

                            But I also really love cooking. I credit most of that to my mom who cooked six nights a week for us when we were growing up. Dinner was always a time to sit down at the table, as a family of six and talk about the day. I’m thankful that the boys are such great eaters – I don’t ever have to make them something special when we eat – I cook one thing and we all eat it.

                            One of my go-tos is a made-from-scratch tomato sauce that takes ~30 minutes. There’s nothing fancy about it – but it’s a meal that my little guys LOVE – and it’s light and easy enough on my stomach to eat the night before long runs. I can also use it on a variety of main dishes – whole wheat pasta, black bean pasta, broccoli, chicken (for chicken parmigiana), salmon (baked in the oven with the sauce).

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                              22 Miler: Try, Try Again

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                              This week’s long run ended on a high note. I got the mileage in that was on the training calendar – but more importantly, walked away with some confidence (physical and mental) that hopefully will help me in three short weeks.

                              But it was pretty close to being a wash.

                              My plan was a 22 mile dress rehearsal. Practice eating beforehand. Practice fueling and water during run. Wear clothing I plan to wear for race day. Basically do everything I can to simulate race morning – to see how I feel and make sure the food choices don’t upset my stomach.

                              The morning started off great – some coffee and a quick stop at the local bagel store.

                              It was 16 degrees (with windchill) and I’m still battling a hacking cough, congestion and cold so I decided it was going to be a treadmill run. Plus, I’m over winter and the thought of 3+ hours in the freezing cold (and wind) sounded absolutely awful to me.

                              By 9:30am, I was on the treadmill ready to watch the Hunger Games while mindlessly logging the miles. My legs were shot though. I did a lower-body strength workout on Friday and could barely walk up and down the stairs. Every step I took was painful.

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                                Race Week Tips

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                                Marathon training plans range can range from 12-18 weeks long (or more). But in my opinion, the most important week of training is the week with the least amount of training – race week. Occasionally missing a run during a training cycle or having an off week in training will likely have minimal impact on your race performance. But running too fast or too long, not getting enough sleep or not focusing on things like nutrition and hydration can have a huge effect on your performance on race day.

                                We just entered the window for spring marathons (check out Daily Burn’s article on the Top 15 Spring Marathons in the US). With that comes some peak mileage, the taper and then race week. Race week always means several key things for me. Nutrition, Hydration, Sleep, Rest, Trust. I try to focus on just these five things – otherwise I feel overwhelmed, confused and unorganized.

                                – Nutrition: Think plain, simple, lightPlan your meals this way and your stomach will thank you. I typically aim for carb-dense foods in the days leading up to the race and then add some protein the night before. But everything is very plain – nothing loaded with cheese or spices. Plain pasta (or pasta with coconut oil), bagels or bread with coconut oil or almond butter, pretzels and chicken are my go-tos during this time.

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                                  Remaining Optimistic

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                                  Well, it’s been a while since I did a training update. The #1 reason is because there hasn’t been a whole lot of training going on. I feel like I jinxed myself when I was talking about how great training was going. No less than two weeks ago, I started thinking about how I haven’t missed a single long run this training cycle – something that has actually never happened before. And then it happened. #ugh

                                  But I’m getting ahead of myself. I wrote on Tuesday that I was feeling a hundred times better and ready to jump back into training. Monday’s run was great – 12 miles with lots of hill repeats. I woke up Tuesday and felt a bit achy and just blah so I put off my run until the afternoon. It was warm (55) but windy as heck – 25-30 mph winds. I ran 8 miles and almost immediately upon finishing, knew that something was wrong. I had a pounding headache and just felt fatigued – not the way I normally feel after 8 easy-paced miles.

                                  My husband left on a business trip for the week shortly after I returned from that run and I welcomed what has been a week-long bug. Vomiting, high fever (104-105 at night), body aches, fatigue, coughing, congestion. All of it at once. The first few days were awful – I kept expecting to wake up the next day and feel better, but it actually got worse. I think what made it the hardest, however, was solo parenting for the week while dealing with this bug. The boys watched A LOT of tv because I was too sick to even get off the couch some days.

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                                    How To Prepare For A Hilly Race

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                                    View of some of the palaces on one of my long runs!

                                    Six years ago, I was training for my first Boston Marathon. I was incorporating tempos, intervals and long runs into my 40-50 mile weeks (I peaked at 55 miles). The only missing component were the hills. At the time, I was stationed in Baghdad, Iraq – and while I was fortunate enough to be on the largest American base in the country (which afforded me miles and miles of road to run on!), it was flat as a pancake.

                                    There was one hill (man-made) called “Signal Hill” which US forces used for all the long-range signal equipment. Signal Hill had a paved road that was roughly .3 miles uphill (steep uphill!). And at two points going up the hill, there were paved roads around the hill.

                                    This hill became my best friend. Rather than do hill repeats once a week, I made it a point to run up that hill at least once each run – and most runs 2-3x. It didn’t matter if it was an easy run, recovery run or long run – I was running up and down that hill.

                                    Fast forward to the 2009 Boston Marathon. My husband was running beside me around mile 19-20. I had never seen Heartbreak Hill in person nor did I know the exact point it comes in the race. We had just finished a bit of climbing and I saw a sign that indicated we had crested Heartbreak. I looked at my husband and asked in disbelief – and with the biggest grin EVER – “That was Heartbreak Hill?”.

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                                      Unplanned Easy Week

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                                      Each marathon training cycle has it’s ups and downs. There are good weeks, bad weeks. Great runs, not-so-great runs. It’s all part of a normal, healthy training cycle.

                                      I’d like to think that I push myself pretty hard on my “on” days – intervals, tempos, long runs. I’ve been seeing some good improvement with paces, endurance and recovery times.

                                      But the last few weeks have been different. I have had no desire, energy or motivation to push when I reached the point in workouts where things get tough. And I’ve just quit. Gotten off the treadmill, hit “stop” on my garmin. And called it a day.

                                      It started the week we were in Florida during my 3×2 workout. I chalked it up to being tired from vacation and all the walking around we were doing in Disney. Then, I had a great 1 mile race that weekend and felt like I was ready to go full-force the last six weeks of Boston training. I had a solid week of training – logged the planned miles, hit the paces in workouts and felt good.

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                                        Boston Marathon Training (T-8, T-7)

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                                        Happy Wednesday!! You are in for a treat today – you get TWO weeks of training updates! I know – almost too much to handle =)

                                        But before I get into my recent training, I wanted to share some news from Garmin (not sponsored – just a big fan of the brand and the people within the company). They have launched new Garmin Fitness social media channels on Twitter, Google+ and Instagram! Facebook is soon to follow. From their website:

                                        We want to hear and see pictures of how you crushed a daily step goal, or conquered a 20-mile training run. We want you to share your struggles and triumphs. We want to hear about how you are changing your life by going that extra mile. Our channels will feature content from YOU! Share your images and tag them with @GarminFitness or use hashtag #UpForMore to be featured.

                                        Also, to celebrate the new fitness channels, Garmin will be giving away one Vivosmart a day (for the next week) on their Instagram page. Go check it out!

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