Saturday, August 29, 2015

MCM Training Week 11

Week 11 of Marine Corps Marathon training was a bit of a mental struggle for me. I realized that I am halfway done with my training. While I try to have a "glass half full" mindset rather than a "glass half empty" one, it was a challenge this week.

Two Months Left

I've been working hard. I've been proud of, even pleasantly surprised by, my progress. But when I realize I still have two months until the marathon, I feel apprehensive. That seems like such a long time. Can I maintain this momentum and progress? How do I keep from peaking too early, from burning out?

Some of my training friends look at the situation another way: there's only two months left?! That's not enough time! It all depends on your perspective, doesn't it? And I'm sure there must be people out there thinking that two months is exactly the right amount of time, but that isn't the kind of comment that ends up on Facebook, is it?

[post-script note: my brother reminded me that there aren't 8 weeks of maximum effort left. There are 5 weeks of hard effort and 3 weeks of taper. Thanks for the perspective, Josh! That sounds so much better!]

The Marine Corps Marathon Facebook Page posted this 4 days ago

Practicing Race Pace

Our long run this week was a mix of alternating "easy" and "marathon" paces. Specifically, we were looking at: 2 (miles) easy, 2 marathon, 1 easy, 2 marathon, 1 easy, 2 marathon, 2 easy. 

We run out and back on a trail, so for a 12 mile run it would seem logical to go out and back 6 miles. However, we have a rule in our training group to not go out more than 5 miles. It limits the distance a coach would have to cover to find you if something were to happen to you. 

I mapped out a strategy for Debbie, Natalie, and me that respected the 5 mile distance, allowed us to end at the coolers (our start/finish point - we don't like to get back to the coolers and still have another couple miles to cover), and kept us from having to turn around in the middle of one of our pace segments. 

I wrote our plan on my hand so I could still remember it
when most of my blood was in my legs instead of my brain

Overall we did a good job alternating back and forth. The "easy" segments in the middle weren't quite as slow as they should have been, but it gave us a feel for running closer to race pace. None of us quite believed that we could actually run at that pace for 26.2 miles, but I guess that's what the next two months are for, right?

Week 11 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 25.9 miles.
  • Track: 4x2000 at threshold (T) w/ 3 minutes rest (5.7 miles)
    • In week 10 we ran 1600s and called them "grinders" because they are such long intervals. Susan & I dubbed 2000s "mega-grinders." 
    • The high school band has started practicing on the field during our runs. They played "Mr. Sandman" this week. It's nice to have music. 
  • Easy runs: 3 and 5.2 miles
    • A big "thank you" to Marian who ran the extra distance with me for the 5.2 mile run, even though she had to get home and pack.
  • Long run: 12 miles 
    • Alternating between the easy and marathon paces helped break the run into small chunks and made it go by faster.
    • We had a "luau" themed run which was great for our spirits. We especially appreciated Coach Mike wearing a tutu to entertain us all.
  • Strength training: 2 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: 1 yin yoga class 

Michelle, Sallie, & Coach Mike
photo courtesy of  Laurentina Photography

Post-run celebrations
photo courtesy of  Laurentina Photography

Festive coolers mark our start/finish spot
photo courtesy of Coach Mike

It is still dark out when we meet at the PR store
photo courtesy of Sallie

Onward to Week 12!

Read about previous training weeks

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cool Fitbit Badges

My most viewed blog post is my Fitbit-Vivofit comparison. And while I would like to think it is my insightful analysis driving those views, my keywords suggest that people (from all over the world) are checking out my Fitbit badges. I've had a Fitbit for over four years, so I do have some cool lifetime badges. So, let's give the readers what they want - here are my Fitbit badges.

Daily Steps

From left to right:
  • Boat Shoe: 5,000 steps
  • Sneakers: 10,000 steps
  • Urban Boot: 15,000 steps
  • High Tops: 20,000 steps
  • Classics: 25,000 steps
  • Trail Shoe: 30,000 steps
  • Hiking Boot: 35,000 steps
  • Cleats: 40,000 steps
  • Snow Boot: 45,000 steps
  • Cowboy Boot: 50,000 steps
  • Platform Shoe: 55,000 steps
  • Blue Suede Shoes: 60,000 steps
  • Ruby Slippers: 65,000 steps
  • Spring Loaders: 70,000 steps
  • (next badge at 75,000 steps...)

Daily Climb

From left to right:
  • Happy Hill: 10 floors
  • Redwood Forest: 25 floors
  • Lighthouse: 50 floors
  • Ferris Wheel: 75 floors
  • Skyscraper: 100 floors
  • Rollercoaster: 125 floors
  • Stadium: 150 floors
  • Bridge: 175 floors
  • Castle: 200 floors
  • Waterfall: 300 floors
  • (next badge at 400 floors...)

Lifetime Distance

From left to right:
  • Marathon: 26 miles (ahem, *26.2*)
  • Penguin March: 70 miles
  • London Underground: 250 miles
  • Serengeti: 500 miles
  • Italy: 736 miles
  • New Zealand: 990 miles
  • Great Barrier Reef: 1,600 miles
  • Japan: 1,869 miles
  • India: 1,997
  • Monarch Migration: 2,500 miles
  • Sahara: 2,983 miles
  • Nile: 4,132 miles
  • Africa: 5,000 miles
  • Great Wall: 5,500 miles
  • Russian Railway: 5,772 miles
  • Earth: 7,900 miles
  • (next - and last - badge at 12,430 miles...)

Lifetime Climb

From left to right:
  • Helicopter: 500 floors
  • Skydiver: 1,000 floors
  • Hot Air Balloon: 2,000 floors
  • 747: 4,000 floors
  • Cloud: 8,000 floors
  • Spaceship: 14,000 floors
  • Shooting Star: 20,000 floors
  • Astronaut: 28,000 floors
  • Satellite: 35,000 floors
  • no other badges exist in lifetime climb


From left to right:
  • loss of 5, 10, & 15 pounds
  • goal weight achieved
  • lifetime loss of 20 pounds
Breaking news! Fitbit has finally released an official list of all of their badges

Monday, August 24, 2015

Special Race Discounts!

***These races are over***

I don't often promote races on my blog, but this week two of my fellow Cherry Blossom Blog Team members alerted me to two cool races in the next month with special discounts. I checked out the races and they are both opportunities I would be interested in *if* they didn't conflict with my Marine Corps Marathon training schedule. Which, unfortunately, they do.

National Press Club's Beat the Deadline 5k

Natalie told me about the Beat the Deadline 5k. It's in Washington, DC on Saturday September 5th and benefits the National Press Club Journalism Institute. There is also a special P90X Boot Camp with Tony Horton on Thursday night. Use code 5K15ND for $5 off race registration and $5 off the Boot Camp.

Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon & 5k

Megan told me about the Iron Girl Columbia Half Marathon and 5k. It's in Columbia, MD on Saturday September 12th and benefits the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. This race has a relatively small field of runners, so I'm especially encouraging my speedy friends chasing age group awards to think seriously about this one!  Use code MEGAN15 for 10% off registration.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

MCM Training Week 10

Week 10 of Marine Corps Marathon training was a real confidence booster for me. I had a solid week with lots of accomplishments:
  • New longest run record - 18.06 miles
  • First week with more than 30 miles - 32.5 to be exact
  • New, faster target training paces
  • Fitbit "Snow Boot" badge for 45,000 steps in a day
  • Fitbit "Great Wall" badge for 5,500 (fitbit) lifetime miles 

New records and badges!

Week 10 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 32.5 miles.
  • Track: 4x1600 at threshold (T) w/ 3 minutes rest (5 miles)
    • I wrote about this workout earlier this week - it was great and resulted in new (faster) target paces 
  • Easy runs: 3.1 and 6.3 miles
    • Mother Nature made that 6.3 mile run take almost 3 hours to complete:
      • I met Lynn early for some miles before the Brooks Fun Run at PR, which wouldn't be quite long enough for my scheduled run.
      • We ran 2.3, and met up with the Fun Run folks just as lightning started.
      • We waited an hour for the storm to pass. Finally Lynn, Jamie and I went out for 4 miles, accompanied by a gorgeous double rainbow!
  • Long run: 18.1 miles - new longest run record!
    • I felt great during this run and we kept a fairly consistent pace of 13:13. My energy level was high and I felt like I could have run further (but was glad I didn't have to!).
  • Strength training: 3 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: 1 yin yoga class 
    • The last two weeks I made this class a priority - it is so great for my recovery

A "fun run" with a double rainbow!

Onward to Week 11!

Read about previous training weeks

Friday, August 21, 2015

Picking up My Pace

At the end of June, I worked with Coach Adam to estimate my target paces. I've been using those paces for the past 6 weeks. This week's speedwork called for 3 to 5 mile repeats at threshold pace. Adam said he likes to call them "grinders" because you just grind them out; they help you get used to being a little uncomfortable so you can overcome the discomfort if it occurs (when it occurs?) during your race.

It was hot and humid so I was aiming conservatively for 3 repeats, the minimum workout. My threshold pace was 11:45. I warmed up, and started the repeats:
  • Mile 1: easing into it so I can build to threshold - 11:58
  • Mile 2: time to get serious - 11:41
  • Mile 3: I feel pretty good, maybe I can go a bit faster - 11:18 (!)
  • Mile 4: I think I have another mile in me at that pace - 11:13 (!!)

So I surprised myself - by running 4 repeats instead of 3, and by successfully pushing the pace on the last 2. I consulted with Adam, and we decided it was time to adjust my paces to account for my increasing level of fitness! I feel proud of my progress.

My updated paces!

We also talked about how beneficial it would be for me to put a race on my fall schedule to test my fitness level and build my confidence going into the Marine Corps Marathon. So I am adding the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon on September 20th. I'm really excited about testing myself in this race.

And I marveled at how easy it was mentally for me to sign up for this half marathon. No questions in my mind about whether I could run the distance, if I could beat the course time limit, etc. Last year questions like these would have weighed heavily on my mind. How far I have come!

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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How to Prep for a Long Run

I have three goals for the early mornings before my long run:
  1. Sleep as late as possible.
  2. Don't wake up my family.
  3. Don't forget anything important.
For me, the best way to accomplish these goals is to lay everything out the night before. This is how I do it...


I have two things in the morning before my long run: 
  1. Chocolate chip Clif bar 
  2. Iced coffee with chocolate almond milk. 
I make the coffee the night before and pop it in the fridge and put the Clif bar on the kitchen counter. While I'm doing that, I put ice cubes into two tall plastic cups and put them in the freezer. I'll put the ice cubes in my hydration vest in the morning, and pouring them out of the cups is quieter (and quicker) than getting them out of the ice maker.


Got Ice?

Post-Run Goodness

I bring clothes to change into after my run. It's important to get out of those sweaty clothes as soon as you can! I usually bring a loose dress and OOFOS recovery shoes. They go into a large plastic bag that also has a small towel to dry off the sweat and a small plastic bag containing chocolate milk and a protein bar. I put this bag in the passenger seat of my car the night before my run so it's ready to go.

Post-run towel, clothes, & nutrition go into the bag

My sweaty clothes go into the plastic bag after the run, along with my sweaty hydration vest. I put my Garmin watch and heart rate strap into the small plastic bag so they don't accidentally get thrown into the laundry when I get home.

After changing, I drink the chocolate milk that was in the small plastic bag. Sometimes I eat the protein bar; sometimes I put it in my drawstring bag (see below) to save for next week. It depends how many miles I ran and how long it will be until I can get to real food.

Things I Plan to Wear

I lay out my clothes and shoes on the top of my dresser. I put Body Glide next to them so I don't forget to apply it. I also put my heart rate strap, Garmin watch, and Road ID there so I can put them on when I'm getting dressed. I check to make sure the Garmin is fully charged. 

Ready to wear!

My Gear

I put my essentials into my Nathan Intensity hydration vest. GUs go in the front pocket, and I take one more than I plan on consuming during my run. Lip balm with sunscreen and a mini Body Glide go in that pocket, too. I keep a small ziploc in my pack that has KT Tape, bandaids, Nuun, sunblock, and SaltStick capsules. I clip my bluetooth speaker onto the vest. I also pull out my sunglasses, hat, and a buff. I use the buff as a sweat or snot rag. Classy, huh?

Gear to go

I put the sunglasses, hat, and buff in a drawstring bag that goes into the passenger seat of my car with my post-run clothes. Also in that bag is anything I have for my running buddies; I often pass along goodies such as interesting things from a StrideBox or RunnerBox that weren't quite on the mark for me but might be just right for someone else, or maybe I have a personalized pink tiara to deliver!

The hydration vest gets laid out on the kitchen table, ready to be filled up with ice and water just before I head out the door (and when I leave I am carrying three things - hydration vest, phone, and car key).

Hydration vest, ready for hydration

Personal Care

I put a few more things on my bathroom counter so I don't forget them in the morning. Vitamins and medicine for the day go into a small container so I don't have to open bottles and shake out pills in the morning. I put my brush & ponytail holder next to them. I also put my sunscreen there so I don't forget to apply it. Sunscreen isn't top of mind when it's pitch black outside!

Last-minute necessities

With everything in place, I confidently set my alarm for as late as possible, knowing that I can quickly zip through my routine in the morning and get on the road to meet my running buddies for the long run ahead of us.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

MCM Training Week 9

Week 9 of Marine Corps Marathon training was a recovery/cutback week and I was so grateful for it. I'm used to training blocks that are 4 weeks long; this one was 5 weeks and waiting that extra week for recovery felt like an eternity!

I really focused on recovering to prepare for what comes next week...the beginning of our "build" block. We are beginning the weeks with our highest volume and specific intensity levels, with a focus on increasing our lactate threshold. My training plan cautions: "This block will likely be hard for you." Bring it, build block! I am ready for you.

Rocking My Run

I don't run with music or headphones, but last week during our long run a bicycle whizzed past us with a bluetooth speaker and a great song. After getting that quick earful, I decided we needed some background music for our long runs.

I got a bluetooth speaker from Amazon that easily connects to my phone and clips onto my hydration vest:

The speaker has a carabiner that I clipped to the strap behind the gray plastic

I don't have time to put together a mix, so I explored "RockMyRun," an app that has been on my phone for over a year that I hadn't really used. I think I originally heard about it through #Runchat. I checked out some mixes and we ended up listening to 80s Poptacular during our long run. It was awesome. We kept the volume low enough that we could easily hear bikers and others on the trail, of course. Safety first!

Week 9 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 23.3 miles.
  • Track: 5x800 building to aerobic capacity (AC) w/ 4 minutes rest (3.7 miles)
    • I had a tough time with this workout. My legs felt heavy and my energy was low. I think it's because I ran too fast on my recovery run on Sunday (see below). 
  • Easy runs: 3.5 and 4.0 miles
    • The 3.5 was the Sunday run that was too fast for easy. I was running around the track during my son's practice and my pride got the best of me. I wanted to run faster. I wanted to look like a "real" runner. I'm sure no one else was even paying attention to me, so how ridiculous is that?! I know better.
  • Long run: 12 miles: 6 at easy pace and 6 building to race pace
    • I felt great during this run and my energy level was high. Like last week, I focused on fueling up with carbs leading up to my long run. 
    • I marveled every time I said "only 12 miles" this week. 16 months ago I hadn't even run 12 miles yet and it seemed like such a long distance.
  • Strength training: 3 times (my routine)
    • My husband surprised me with a new Bosu Trainer this week so I mixed things up a bit and did some of my lunges and planks with the Bosu. 
    • I can see bigger muscles in my legs! I feel really strong.
  • Yoga: 1 yin yoga class

Onward to Week 10 and the Build Block!

Read about previous training weeks

Saturday, August 8, 2015

MCM Training Week 8

Week 8 of Marine Corps Marathon training went by quickly. I had a lot going on at work and home which contributed to my missing one mid-week easy run and one strength workout. But I'm not going to beat myself up over it; I know I made the best choices for myself under the circumstances and I made sure that my long run was the overall training priority.


I dipped my toe into the concept of carb-loading this week. It is something I plan to do before the marathon, so I should test it out before then. I'll test it more fully before my longest runs (20 and 22 miles), but I thought it would be informative to consciously work on increasing my carbohydrate intake during the 2 days before my long run this week.

It was harder than I thought it would be to find foods that are primarily carbs, and I'm going to have to eat more calories than I normally do to get all the way up to 4 carbs per pound of body weight; I ate closer to 3 carbs per pound of body weight. (And I'm not sure if that is even the right amount - I need to read up on it in more detail.)

My energy was good throughout my 16 mile long run, which took just over 3-1/2 hours. So hopefully that means my glycogen levels were good and my fueling was on track. I want to do everything I can to prevent that marathon bonk I've heard so much about!

A typical day for me is on the left: I aim for 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein.
A "carb-loading" day from this week is on the right: 76% carbs, 10% protein, 14% fat.

Week 8 Statistics

I ran 3 times for a total of 25.6 miles.
  • Track: 5x1200 at threshold (T) w/ 2:30 minutes rest (5.3 miles)
    • I was pleased with my speedwork this week; I had good pacing & energy.
    • I was pushing for the maximum of our 4-6 repeats, and was frustrated when lightning showed up 1/3 of the way through my 6th and final repeat and I had to take cover. I definitely had it in me to finish strong on that last repeat. 
  • Easy run: 4.2 miles
  • Long run: 16.1 miles(!) - new longest run record 
  • Strength training: 2 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: um, pretty much no yoga happened this week

Onward to Week 9 when I will get fully back on track.

Read about previous training weeks

Friday, August 7, 2015

Did Your Bra Have a Birthday?

On Thursday I was lucky enough to be invited to the Moving Comfort VIP Bra Event at Potomac River Running in Reston. I learned several things:

  • Sports bras should not have a birthday. If any of your bras have celebrated one, you are overdue for a new bra.
  • If the fit is right, you should be able to fit two fingers under the band - no more, no less.
  • Moving Comfort is a Brooks company - #RunHappy!
  • This weekend (August 7-9, 2015) is "tax free" weekend in Virginia for things like apparel & shoes, so you can get a new bra at PR tax free! 
  • And best of all...someone thinks I'm a VIP!

Moving Comfort & PR generously gifted each VIP with her perfect fit sports bra.
Karen & I both selected the UpRise Crossback - thank you!
photo courtesy of Laurentina Photography 

Brooks representative Mike told me everything I needed to know to find my perfect match
photo courtesy of Laurentina Photography

"Fit Specialist" Rachel gave us personalized fittings
photo courtesy of Laurentina Photography

We were able to try on various models from the Secure, Stabilize, & Control Collections
photo courtesy of Laurentina Photography

Molly shows off her new bra & goody bag
photo courtesy of Laurentina Photography

I am looking forward to taking my new bra out for a test run. If your favorite bra has celebrated a birthday, I recommend that you head over to Potomac River Running (tax free this weekend!) where a fit specialist can help you find your perfect match.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

MCM Training Week 7

With the end of week 7 of Marine Corps Marathon training, my fellow trainees and I are just past one-third of the way there:

A whole column of clickable recap links!


So far I'm staying pretty motivated. That may be more challenging as I move into the "build" portion of my training plan with the higher volumes and intensities. I try to surround myself with motivation:

  • The coaches and my fellow runners from Potomac River Running Training in Reston are my #1 source of motivation - I love you guys!

My peeps!
photo credit: Laurentina Photography

  • My MCM vision board helps me stay focused on my goal

A vision board for my personal vision quest

Now this is motivating!
Richard Pimentel shared this picture in the FB group and said:

A little motivation.
There's nothing like the Marine Corps Marathon medals,
you won't be disappointed at the finish line.

  • Kudos from my tracking devices are always encouraging:

New Longest Run record from Garmin
photo credit: Laurentina Photography

"Congrats on earning your first Cleats badge!" from Fitbit

Week 7 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 29.4 miles.
  • Track: 1600, 2x800, 4x400 w/ 3 minutes rest + another 1600 (5.3 miles)
    • This was a cool workout. It was the same as Week 1, plus the extra mile on the end
      • At first I wondered if the goal was to do it faster than Week 1...
      • ...but it was actually about pacing...
      • with Week 1, we were to start at threshold (T) for the 1600 and keep getting faster with each interval...
      • ...if you've paced it right, you can run the last mile around the same pace as the first mile and not feel like you've just run a 5k.
    • I nailed this workout, and as Coach Adam noted I handled it much easier than in Week 1 
  • Easy runs: 3 and 6 miles
  • Long run: 15.1 miles(!) - new longest run record 
  • Strength training: 3 times (my routine)
    • I can tell I'm getting stronger and I've increased the intensity/reps for everything
    • I like to do the exercises throughout the day which makes it easier to fit everything in:
  • Yoga: No classes or formal practice this week. I did do "legs up the wall" most evenings.

Onward to Week 8!

Read about previous training weeks

Natalie, Debbie & I rocked the long run together.
New longest run records for all of us!
photo credit: Laurentina Photography