Saturday, July 25, 2015

MCM Training Week 6

Week 6 of Marine Corps Marathon training is in the books. It seems like time is passing so quickly - MCM is only 3 months away!

3 months until MCM! (source)


Much of my running this week was on the treadmill due to the logistics of my busy life. Lots of people complain about the treadmill, so I will share a couple of things I love about it:

  • I have a custom program I created with my 3:1 run:walk intervals and the optimal pacing for my easy runs. The treadmill does all my thinking for me and keeps me squarely in Zone 2 where my body is learning to burn fat most efficiently.
  • I can binge watch captivating tv shows. This week I thoroughly enjoyed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) and Catastrophe (Amazon Instant Video).

Tracking Calories & Macronutrients 

I've starting tracking what I'm consuming in MyFitnessPal (MFP). In 2013, I lost 15 pounds with the help of MFP and Fitbit. I'm a huge fan of both. I wouldn't go a day without my fitbit, but I did stop tracking in MFP for a while. Why did I start again? Two reasons:

  • It's easy to get caught up in the mindset that you can eat whatever you want because you are running so much. I gained a few pounds last year thinking that, and it took some effort to get them back off again. Keeping an eye on my net calories (calories in from MFP - calories out from Fitbit) helps me be mindful about how much I'm eating.
  • In addition to how much I'm eating, it's helpful to focus on what I'm eating. I tend to eat too many carbs and not enough protein. MFP keeps track of my macronutrients which reminds me to make sure I'm eating enough protein to fuel my training.

It's easy to see how many more calories I can eat and how I'm doing on protein

Week 6 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 25.6 miles.
  • Track: 8 sets 600 Hard, 200 walk, w/ 2 min rest between sets (4.8 miles)
    • Hard effort is around 5k pace - faster than threshold (T), but not all out.
    • I was aiming for 6 repeats, which was the minimum on our training plan. I was thrilled to pull off 8 repeats.
    • Given the heat & humidity, Coach Adam advised us to start our repeats at threshold and build towards hard. My pacing was pretty solid, starting at 11:17 and building to 9:53. 
  • Easy runs: 3.2 and 4.5 miles
    • Both on the treadmill...
  • Long run: 13.1 miles 
    • I took Friday off from work and got my run in then, since Saturday we road-tripped to PA for my Grandma's 99th birthday!
    • I ran 5.5 miles outside on the trail with my training buddies Catherine, Laura, and Natalie (thanks for coming out on a Friday morning, ladies!), and the rest at home on my treadmill.
  • Strength training: 3 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: One yin yoga class at the gym

Onward to Week long run is scheduled to be 14-16, so I am looking forward to a new "Longest Run" record on my Garmin. My previous record is 13.5 from the Philly Half Marathon. Yes, I know a half marathon is only 13.1...running the tangents is not my specialty!

Read about previous training weeks

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Brooks #ThankYouRunning Moment

On Sunday I went to the Potomac River Running Birthday Bash 5k party to celebrate Potomac River Running's 12th birthday. It is a fun party and many of the vendors have festive booths and giveaways.

Brooks was sponsoring a contest with a head-to-toe Brooks outfit as the prize. Yes, please! I would like to win that! To enter, you had to stand at the Brooks podium, make a video about what running has meant to you, and share it on social media with Brooks & Potomac River Running tags. The most inspiring video of the day would win the outfit.

So I made my video - spontaneously, in a single take, I just spoke from my heart. When I got home and prepared to post my squinting-into-the-sun speech, I hesitated. What would my friends think of the video? Was it too raw, too unscripted, too silly? Whatever it may be, it was genuine, so I shared it.

I don't know who won the contest, or if they have even picked a winner yet. I will probably never know who won. But after reading the inspirational comments from my friends who watched the video, I am deeply moved. I have already won. #ThankYouRunning #ThankYouFriends #Grateful

Saturday, July 18, 2015

MCM Training Week 5

Today I finished week 5 of Marine Corps Marathon training. Week 5 began the second base training block, so I'm heading into more volume and longer distances.

Realistic Scheduling

Getting those longer runs in during the week is going to be one of my biggest challenges. I'm having to take an honest look at my calendar and cut out anything that isn't essential. Family, work, training, sleep. There isn't time for much else right now! I am saying no often and keeping my priorities top of mind.

Only 99 days until MCM! (source)

Heart Rate Monitor

I've finally sorted out the issues with my heart rate monitor. I swapped out both the transmitter and the strap and my numbers look accurate again. I also got a Fitbit Charge HR this week. I thought it would be interesting to compare the chest strap heart rate data with the heart rate data from my wrist.

For today's long run, the wrist data was at least 20 beats per minute higher than the strap data, sometimes more. Given the level of effort I was exerting, I think the strap was closer to reality. My main takeaway from all of this is that I'm not ready to switch to training by heart rate. I'm sticking with effort for now.

Week 5 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 22.8 miles.
  • Track: 3 sets of 800 @ T pace, 400 walk, 400 hard, w/ 4 min rest between sets (4.3 miles)
    • Hard effort is around 5k pace - faster than threshold (T), but not all out
    • I did well at hitting my pace targets & I'm really enjoying the speed work
  • Easy runs: 3.0 and 5.0 miles
    • I ran the 3.0 during my son's track practice - a creative exercise window (thank you Jamie for the suggestion!)
    • The 5.0 was also creative - I went to the PR Thursday night fun run early to get some extra miles in before the fun run 
  • Long run: 10.5 miles 
    • I ran a 13:37 pace; very close to my 13:50 target
  • Strength training: 3 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: a few poses during the week, but no formal practice. 
Onward to Week 6!

Read about previous training weeks

Saturday, July 11, 2015

MCM Training Week 4

Week 4 of Marine Corps Marathon training is in the books. This week was a "recovery" week so my mileage for the week and long run distance were cut back to allow my body to recover from the load of the last few weeks and prepare for the upcoming weeks. I was traveling for work this week so the timing of the recovery week was perfect for me.

Training Blocks

This week completes my first "base" training block. This block didn't feel different from half marathon training in terms of volume and distance. The next five weeks will be my second base training block, and it will start to feel different. I'll run distances that are farther than a half marathon (new "longest run" records on my Garmin!) and increase the duration of one of my mid-week runs.

Heart Rate Monitor

My heart rate information continues to be strange and there is no pattern to when it works or how it malfunctions. I've been doing some diagnostics to figure out where the problem is and I can't isolate it. There are basically three things that could be problematic:
  1. the transmitter 
  2. the electrode strap 
  3. the Garmin
I thought it was the electrode strap but for today's long run I had a newish strap and the old transmitter and my data was still off. Not as bad as it was from last week's long run with the old strap and the old transmitter, but still not right. And to further complicate things my HR data from my track workout earlier in the week looks fine; the short runs have weird data but different weird than the long runs. So the diagnostics continue...

Fallen Comrades

Three of my MCM training buddies are no longer planning to run MCM for various medical reasons. I'm disappointed for each of them, sad I won't be training with them, bummed we won't share the MCM marathon experience with each other as fellow runners. I am also that much more grateful that I am able to run and to take on this challenge at this time.

Week 4 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 16.2 miles.
  • Track: 2400 at T pace, 4 min rest, 6x200 at Econ effort w/ 200 jog recovery (3.7 miles)
    • Econ effort is running hard while maintaining good form
    • I did well at hitting my T pace target
  • Easy runs: 3.4 and 3.1 miles
  • Long run: 6 miles 
    • Relatively short because it is a recovery week
    • I ran a little faster (13:20) than I should be (13:50), but improved over last week's way-too-fast 12:50
    • I remember when it was a big deal that I ran 7 miles, and now 6 miles seems so short!
  • Strength training: 3 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: 2 times
Onward to Week 5 and the start of Base Block #2!

Read about previous training weeks

Friday, July 3, 2015

MCM Training Week 3

Week 3 of Marine Corps Marathon training was a solid one. Retiring my old shoes last week was definitely a good call. The other big change I made was retiring my water belt in exchange for a hydration vest, at least for my long runs.

I swapped my Nathan Trail Mix Belt for a Nathan Intensity Vest

Hydration Vest

The hydration vest was a definite upgrade! It holds 2 liters of water (~66 ounces), compared to 20 ounces in my belt. Coach Shannon suggested that I fill the bladder with ice cubes and then put in water - not only was my water icy cold for my 2-hour run, but the ice against my back helped keep me cool. There is a pocket in the front where I kept my gels, and a handy compartment for empty gel wrappers.


I am still experimenting with sunscreen. I applied it carefully and thoroughly before heading out on my long run, but still ended up with a touch of sunburn on my shoulders and back. I either need to switch brands, re-apply every hour, or both! If you have a sunscreen that works well for you, please let me know in the comments. 

Heart Rate Monitor

I was eager to check out my heart rate data after my long run, and was disappointed to discover that it hadn't transmitted properly. An average heart rate of 43 beats per minute? I don't think so. My heart rate data has been solid the last few weeks, so I'm not sure what happened. Possible fixes:
  • Scale back on the Body Glide. I have a spot that chafes under my monitor and I applied a LOT of glide today. I'll use less, and put a band-aid over that spot.
  • Reboot my Garmin. Sometimes electronics get glitchy. Rebooting can help. 
  • Check for Garmin updates. It's a good idea to stay current on firmware updates.
  • Wash the HRM strap. I usually wash the strap after 7 wearings. This was my 8th wearing. 

Week 3 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 19.8 miles.
  • Track: 6x800 at T pace w/ 2 minutes rest (4.1 miles). 
    • I had planned 2 more repeats of 800 meters, building to AC pace, but felt spent after 6. 
    • I was within the 4-8 repeat range, but would have built to AC sooner if I had realized 8 was too many for me.
  • Easy runs: 3.3 miles twice
  • Long run: 9.1 miles
  • Strength training: 3 times (I'm getting stronger!)
  • Yoga: 90 minutes Yin Yoga by Kim Eng DVD
Onward to Week 4!

Read about previous training weeks

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What's My Pace?

My marathon training plan includes several different paces. When I've trained for mid-distance races in the past, I've had a general idea of what these paces should feel like, but I wasn't very precise about the numbers. Now that I'm training for a marathon, it's time to be more focused and deliberate.

Most of my training runs are either "Easy/Long" or "Threshold" pace:

  • Easy/Long (E/L)
    • I can hold a conversation in complete sentences at this pace 
    • Running this pace teaches my body to burn fat more efficiently
  • Threshold (T)
    • This feels "comfortably hard"
    • Running this pace teaches my body to process lactate more efficiently

Some of my runs will build from E/L to "Marathon Pace":
  • Marathon Pace (MP)
    • This is my goal race pace!
    • It isn't an efficient training pace, but incorporating it strategically into my plan teaches my body what this pace feels like & builds my confidence in being able to maintain it

Some of my track workouts also incorporate "Aerobic Capacity" pace:
  • Aerobic Capacity (AC)
    • This is faster than T, but not the absolute fastest that I can run

What are my numbers? I pulled together information from various sources - my VO2 Max testing, recent race results, some online calculators, and a table from my PR Training plan to come up with some ranges, and then I ran them past Coach Adam for some refinement. Here they are:

I'll be trying these out for the next few weeks and seeing how well they fit!

(To see how my pace improved, go to August and September)