Weeks in Review: 10.6.14 to 10.12.14

10/6/14 to 10/12/14

One of the calmest, oddest taper weeks of my life. School and coaching were busy and we had a lot of stuff going on in trying to get our house set up again. By the time Saturday arrived, I hadn’t even finalized my outfit or fueling plan.

Monday: 4.7 miles early morning with Katie. Had to wear half tights!

Tuesday: 4.6 miles with striders in the last mile.

Wednesday: 2 miles at T pace (6:14, 6:08) and a mile of 200 ins and outs. Cold and windy but felt good when I got into a groove. 6 miles total.

Thursday: Off day.

Friday: 3.5 mile run with striders.

Saturday: 3.5 mile run with striders.

Sunday: 26.2 in 2:54:39. Race Report here.

10/13/14 to 10/19/14

Easy. No running! Monday and Tuesday were pretty sore days, so I just foam rolled and tried to be easy on my legs. I took a short walk with the dog on Friday and jogged a little at the race yesterday. My legs feel ok when I’m walking but were still made of concrete when I jogged yesterday, so I’m giving it a full week before I get back into training for Vegas.

In even more exciting news, it’s States Week!! This team has put in an enormous amount of work this year and started their peaking work last week. This week, we’ll hit full peak and get them ready to crush the State Meet next Saturday. I continue to be impressed with their grit and determination and I’m excited to see what they do next week.

The Hardest Part Isn’t Taper

The hardest part of the marathon isn’t taper madness or the pain of mile 20. The hardest part (for me anyway) is the week after the marathon when I have nothing to do but sit around and wait to run. During the peak of training, the promise of a week off is a beacon of hope. When it arrives, however, it’s miserable.

On Monday and Tuesday, I was sore enough to not miss running. By Wednesday, however, my soreness was gone and the restlessness began. Yesterday, I almost gave in and went for a run but Will pressured me into staying home instead. I walked to get our CSA and played with the dogs but no run.

I understand the benefit of taking some time off after a marathon and in reality, I should probably take two weeks off but with the confines on racing Vegas in a month and the need to maintain the sanity, I’ll be happy with the time off that I can tolerate.

How much time do you take off post-marathon? How do you survive the boredom?

Race Report: Mohawk Hudson River Marathon

Short Version: Amazing day. Ended up at 2:54:38 and 2nd place female, 25th overall. Proud of my effort and proud to say that it was the strongest I’ve ever felt in a marathon both mentally and physically. That’s not to say that there aren’t things to improve, but I crossed the finish line and burst into a smile which is literally a first for me.

Top 3 Women and our big beer glasses (vases?)

Top 3 Women and our big beer glasses (vases?)

Very, Very Long Version

Preparing to race a marathon starts long before the gun (or cold airhorn in this case) goes off. For me, my marathon prep started in earnest in May, which this blog has cataloged in sometimes painful detail since. I’ll do a separate Week in Review post for last week, but it was a pretty standard taper week. In a perfect world, I would have preferred more rest and less stress, but this is real life and standing at a race on Friday to coach is my reality.

We headed to Albany on Saturday after a morning shakeout run and I was in full-on taper terror mode. Traffic was horrendous courtesy of peak leaf season, Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving. It took us almost 4.5 hours to get to Albany when it should have been under 3. Needless to say, by the time we arrived at the Hilton at almost 5, my husband was most displeased with me. That was not helped when we went to check in and found out that I made our reservation for October 12th (as in, Sunday night). Thus began the scramble to find somewhere to sleep. Thankfully, we found a place across from campus (and maybe 800 meters from my sophomore dorm) that was only moderately bank-breaking.

After the hotel snafu and about 100 apologies to Will, we headed out to find dinner. I took him on a brief tour through campus and then we settled at my favorite Albany diner on Western Avenue. Pasta doesn’t actually work that well for me pre-race so I got chicken pasta soup and turkey dinner. It was the perfect pre-race food; liquid, salt and carb heavy without being pure pasta.

My old campus running loop. 3.1 miles around. I used to run it once every week day and twice one weekend day. How things have changed...

My old campus running loop. 3.1 miles around. I used to run it once every week day and twice one weekend day. How things have changed…

After dinner, we picked up some Gatorade and gum then headed back to the hotel. I laid out my clothes, we watched a couple of episodes of Revenge and were going “to sleep” by 9:45. I actually slept until 2:30, at which point I was wide awake and thrashing around. I fell back asleep around 3:30, but was restless until the alarm at 6 to eat. My turkey sandwich wasn’t looking good to me so I had a Pumpkin Pie Poptart instead and started sipping my Gatorade and water mix. We were out the door of our hotel by 7:30 and at the start area by 8:00 am.

I did a brief 10 minute warmup (which was accurately termed as it was only 35 degrees out) and was thrilled to find that a jogging effort turned out to be 8:02 pace, which was an encouraging sign that taper worked. We found LT and Lauren as well which worked wonders for my nerves. At 8:20, I walked over the start line and just worked on breathing deeply. Paul, another friend and invited athlete, showed up at the start line and we were able to hang out until the start.

Lauren and I showing off our gloves at the start.

Lauren and I showing off our gloves at the start.

My general plan for the race was to go out moderately through the first couple of miles, settle in from 3 to 10, be prepared to slow from 10 to 13 due to the hills in that section then cruise from 13 to home as best I could. I will say that I thought the course would be more level than I found it to be. Although it is definitely a fast course, it wasn’t as flat as I anticipated and I encountered more false flats and fast drops than I was planning.

Elevation, which I should have studied a little more carefully.

Elevation, which I should have studied a little more carefully.

In reality, I found the first half of the race a little…tedious. I went out cautiously but had to keep slowing myself down so that I didn’t end up way ahead of pace too early on. There was a group of guys near me through the first 3 miles but none seemed keen on all of us working together so I was mostly alone from 4 until the end. There is an INCREDIBLE view at 4 when you come around a corner and see the Hudson for the first time. Otherwise, I just tried to get comfortable and checked in with myself repeatedly to make sure my effort felt easy. The only hitch was at 6 where I dropped my first Gu and had to turn around to grab it. Definitely let a four-letter word drop there. I saw Will for the first time at 8 and he told me the first woman was over 4 minutes up (she would go on to run a 2:34) so I just focused on my own race.

Cruising through Mile 8, second woman by 4 minutes already.

Cruising through Mile 8, second woman by 4 minutes already.

As we got into the hills from 10 to 12, I was feeling good although a little nervous about the hills. In reality, they weren’t too bad but they did take some momentum out of my legs. I made a deal with myself that I would just ease back into goal pace by mile 15 and that took some mental pressure off as my Garmin pace crept up. I hit the half at 1:26:13. I saw Will again and he mumbled something about my competition but I didn’t hear, which turned out to be a good thing as the dark miles were coming.



Miles 13 to 18 were fine, although my quads were starting to dislike the gradual downhills that kept cropping up. Around 18, a race volunteer told me to “hurry up because the train was coming,” which I thought was a joking way to motivate me. It turned out it wasn’t a joke; about 3 minutes after I crossed the tracks, I could hear the bells start ringing and they would stop a pack of runners for almost 2 minutes as the train crossed.

At 19, however, the dark miles began. I was tired, we were running along 787 and the cones were placed such that I had to either run on the broken up shoulder or in the road with cars. My legs started to feel like concrete and my last Gu, which I took at 18, wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. My pace slowly started to creep up and I was having serious doubts about the pace at which I’d gone out. Other people were hurting too; despite my slowing pace, I was still passing people and my form remained (fairly) good. I did start to worry about my competition, as I really wanted 2nd place and the $500 in prize money.

Not quite a happy camper at 20.

Not quite a happy camper at 20.

Miles 19 to 23 were pretty darn miserable. It’s a quiet part of the course with almost no crowd support and everyone around me was either in the hurt box with me or blowing by me like I was standing still. I’m not proud of this fact, but I was definitely having a pity party. To make matters worse, my foot was starting to KILL me and I definitely had some thoughts of “I did this way too soon.” When I crossed 24, however, I got my shit together. I was at 2:40, which meant that I could still have a good PR. I also thought of my girls and what I would say to them: Don’t give up on yourself. Decide you can. I did both of these things and decided that it was going to hurt either way, so I might as well end proud of myself. I dug down and cranked my pace down to 6:30 again and finished in 6:10 pace including outsprinting a guy who had passed me easily at 20. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I burst into a huge smile, a first for me.

Finishing her up!

Finishing her up!


1: 6:30

2: 6:33

3: 6:22

4: 6:19

5: 6:26

6: 6:36

7: 6:35

8: 6:40

9: 6:39

10: 6:39

11: 6:38

12: 6:40

13: 6:50

14: 6:38

15: 6:34

16: 6:35

17: 6:36

18: 6:32

19: 6:45

20: 6:43

21: 6:50

22: 6:56

23: 6:58

24: 6:55

25: 6:42

26: 6:32

.2: 6:10 pace

Post race was probably my favorite part, as I was so happy with my performance despite a few rough miles. I also felt GREAT. I was tired, but not injured and besides a big blister on my left foot felt totally fine. I even had Will tape a video of my walking skills. We didn’t hang around long because we needed to get back home to study and even after a 3 hour car ride, I felt pretty good. I’m sore this morning, but primarily in my quads which I would have predicted after how I felt at 20 yesterday. I’ll take today off completely and keep it to walking and biking until Wednesday or Thursday this week when I start getting geared up for Vegas.

All smiles collecting my prizes.

All smiles collecting my prizes.

Post-Race McDonald's Selfie. Fries were SO good.

Post-Race McDonald’s Selfie. Fries were SO good.

The marathon is an unforgiving beast and requires such a long list of thank yous once it’s over. First and foremost is Will, who plays the role of coach and husband. Thank you for crafting a plan that plays up my strengths, for constantly believing in me without inflating me with false hope and for dealing with everything that it means to be a marathon spouse. Second are my “girls.” I draw so much inspiration from you and absolutely would not have had the performance I did without thinking of coming home to all of you and wanting to practice what I preach to all of you daily. Finally, thank you to Ed Neiles (Elite Athlete Coordinator) at HMRRC and to the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon for putting on an excellent race with every detail thought through.

On the Race Itself:

I would recommend this marathon to anyone; the course is great (provided you don’t require a ton of crowd support) and every single detail is attended to. Every water station has a sign about 40 seconds ahead so that you can open and eat your Gu. There are volunteers on every single corner or turn and even at the bumps along the way. The post race food was plentiful and included veggie broth and chips, which are my two favorite things post race. Of course, the weather was perfect (and it was the first time I did it too), but I don’t think HMRRC has a lot of control over that. All in all, this is a must-do marathon from my perspective and I’ll definitely be back in the future.

Good Coach/Bad Coach

It’s no big secret that I love being a coach. I tell my girls almost daily that my time with them is always the highlight of my day and there’s little in my life that has rivaled my last four years at MMU. I had a physiologically “good” coach in high school, but he certainly wasn’t a cuddly guy and compliments were rare. When I took the job at MMU, my biggest goal was to make sure that every single one of my runners gained a lifelong love of activity and knew how proud I was of them, regardless of performance or outcome. The reality is that very few of my runners will go on to run in college. MMU is not a D1 production house. And that’s ok with me. My success as a coach is measured in how many of my girls leave MMU and still want to run. It’s measured in the bonds that form between generations of MMU runners. It’s measured in smiles that stay on our cheeks long after the races are over.

DSC_9322Coaching requires constant learning and adaptation, especially at the high school level. Although science says an exponential rapid drop taper is best, I learned the hard way last year that it doesn’t work as well with high school athletes who rarely get enough recovery due to outside forces. Over the past 4 years, I’ve kept a coaching log where I write up reflections on workouts, race performances and season patterns. This way, I don’t panic when we have a week in mid-September where the whole team is sick or injured.

I was interested to read this article on Coach Wetmore of Colorado last week. Wetmore is a fantastic coach (CU is arguably the most successful XC program in the US) but isn’t known for being warm and fuzzy. I found it interesting that despite this, his athletes love running for him. I especially loved the story of him walking away as an athlete won a national championship because Wetmore already knew he would. He didn’t need to watch the final stretch to see it happen.

I was appalled to read this article about a coach in South Carolina who drove a vehicle full of athletes while drunk. Driving athletes is terrifying. I drove a car full of girls to Manchester recently and have rarely paid more attention to the road. Precious cargo! I cannot fathom the decision making process that coach must have gone through that led to this news story.

Finally, I loved this article on why some kids try harder than others. Although it was more applicable to parenting, I can certainly see applications to coaching. The premise is that there are two mindsets: fixed (what you’re born with for talent is what you have) and growth (talent can be developed with hard work). Coaching relies heavily on a belief on the latter; if talent was all that mattered, we wouldn’t need coaches.

If you’re a coach, what’s your favorite part of coaching? Who is your favorite “famous” coach and why?

Week in Review 9.28.14 to 10.5.14 (The Final Countdown)

It’s always amazing to get to the week before a marathon, especially with most of your sanity and limbs intact. Usually by this time in taper, everything hurts and I’m not convinced I can start. This time around, however, my life is so chaotic that I’m almost appreciative of the opportunity to only run a few miles a day. In a perfect world, I’d keep my taper stress-free. Instead, we had an exam, our housemates unexpectedly moved out leaving an enormous financial and physical mess, and during this coming week, our clerkships are assigned which determines what we’ll be doing and where we’ll be rotating for the next year of our lives. Just a little stress. Regardless, I’m thrilled to find that I actually feel really good. I have no sore “things” that I’m hoping will go away, I’m in a decent mood and running feels pretty good.

Monday: 4.25 miles easy.

Tuesday: 5.5 miles.

Wednesday: 7.5 mile workout. Warmup, 3 by Tempo Mile at 6:04, 6:06 and 5:54 then 4 by 200 really effing hard.

Thursday: 4 miles easy.

Friday: Off Day.

Saturday: 5 miles at Thetford. Typical coaching day with sprinting around, standing and finally a 3 mile run after the race with the varsity girls.

Sunday: 8 miles with 3 at MP (6:35 today). Legs felt pretty punky but I stood for 16 hours yesterday…

Total Miles: 40 miles. 50% of normal, right on schedule.

Current Weather Forecast: Low of 42 on Saturday night, high of 62 on Sunday “mostly cloudy with a little rain.” Here’s hoping the rain holds off but the temperature stays the same.

30 Days Hath September

I’m having a little difficulty believing that today is October 1st, despite the fact that it is misting sideways outside and there are more leaves on the ground than on the trees. You see, October is when my goal race for the fall happens and we can’t possibly be there yet. I was just strapping on my Icebugs for a 1 mile run in the Intervale. I was just celebrating my first month back in the 200 mile range.

But it is October 1st and my big fall focus happens in 11 short days. Since my first run on February 16th of this year, I’ve run 1801 miles including 297 in September.

February: 12 miles

March: 129 miles

April: 214 miles

May: 256 miles

June: 266 miles

July: 296 miles

August: 331 miles

September: 297 miles

I guess the hay is in the barn. Now we wait.

This Is Why We Love XC

We had the pleasure of volunteering at the middle school race today and although we may not have been professional starters (we had a small airhorn glitch for the girls), we had a blast cheering on the up and coming runners. I won’t lie, I was also scouting heavily and like what I’ll inherit next year.

While we were there, we happened upon a bunch of motivational signs in the utility shed and it inspired a photo shoot. Joking aside, this really is why running is just the best sport to coach, to participate in and to watch.