Saturday, September 26, 2015

MCM Training Week 15

Week 15 of Marine Corps Marathon training was solid, but generally unremarkable. I guess you can't have big newsworthy breakthroughs every week! Can you believe we are only one month away from MCM?

Source: the MCM Facebook page

It's All About the Toenails

Last year I learned the first law of toenails and running:
Always remember to cut your toenails.
Not cutting your toenails can result in pain, blisters, blood, even a lost toenail. I've been diligent about following this toenail law.

My second toes are longer than my big toes, and at distances over 16 miles, my right second toe ends up blistered at the tip and tender. I've learned to put body glide on the tip of my toe to keep it from getting blistered.

In an effort to further protect it, I trimmed my big toenail at a bit of an angle to keep it from poking my second toe. Big mistake. Additional laws of toenails:
Do not cut your toenails too short.
Cut toenails straight across. 
Since the 20-mile run, I've been dealing with what basically amounts to an ingrown toenail on my big toe. Really minor, but super annoying. I have become familiar with soaking my foot, antibiotic ointment and putting dental floss under my toenail to help the nail grow above the skin. It's almost grown out, and I'm hoping it gets there before next week's 22-mile run.

Learn from my experience - follow the basic laws of toenails!

I earned a new Fitbit badge this week for 5,772 lifetime miles.
It has nothing to do with toenails.
I just needed a picture to break up all the text.

Week 15 Statistics

I ran 3 times for a total of 20.7 miles. (This week was only 6 days; I'm back to Saturday long runs after the last couple of weeks with Sunday runs).
  • Track: Short shakeout Fartlek: 20 minute easy warm-up followed by 16 repeats of 30 seconds on (AC pace), 30 seconds off (easy enough to recover for the next hard interval)  (3.6 miles)
    • This was kind of a fun workout, different from anything I had done before.
  • Easy run: 3.1 miles (I would have had a second, longer, run in a true 7 day week)
  • Long run: 14 miles 
    • We ran the first 8 miles at easy/long pace and the last 6 building to marathon pace
  • Strength training: 3 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: no yoga 

Onward to Week 16 - my longest training run, 22 miles, will be next week!

Read about previous training weeks

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

REALLY Picking Up My Pace

As my training for Marine Corps Marathon has progressed, so have my fitness and my training paces. My June training paces were updated in August and now we are updating them again. I ran last Sunday's Navy-Air Force Half Marathon with the goal of testing my fitness, and since I passed the test with flying colors, Coach Adam has rewarded me with speedier paces.

My pace progression

I'm not going to lie - these scare me a little. But they also excite me! I've been training so hard and seeing my progress is incredibly rewarding. Here is what Adam told me about the new paces:
At 1st glance, you might be surprised by the jump, but don't be. You proved your fitness yesterday and I had a feeling you'd see some big time improvements (and we haven't even gotten the cold weather benefits that will hopefully arrive near race day). Some of the non-easy paces may take a week or two to adjust, but they are much more in line with your fitness.

With regard to marathon pace, I gave you a pretty conservative pace. Most running calculators would have you at a bit faster, but I'd rather you run most of the race at this type of effort and pick up the pace if you're feeling good toward the end (like you did at the half) than to push too hard. Just know that you CAN run these :)

It would be easy to get overly confident from this half and cruise the rest of the way, but don't settle for where you are. These next few weeks are the last pieces of the puzzle and will make you even stronger. Only a few more weeks of pushing until the taper. The end is near!
I find Adam's words, and belief in me, really motivating. I'm looking forward to continuing to train hard for a couple more weeks...and then the taper (I love the taper). And then...Marine Corps Marathon!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Navy-Air Force Half Race Recap

Wow, what a race this was! I am so glad that Coach Adam encouraged me to sign up for it and to use it as a pre-MCM fitness test. It fit the bill perfectly and left me feeling confident.


The day before the race I was surprised by how anxious and undecided I felt. I didn't expect that since this was just an impulsive tune-up race, not my big goal race. My tummy felt unsettled and I couldn't decide what to wear for the race, what to bring in my checked bag, whether I needed throwaway clothes. It made me realize that the more of these decisions I can make in advance for MCM, the less frazzled I'll be before the race.

I finally picked out some race clothes, and I turned my attention to figuring out my race dots. I had trouble with them last week, but so many of my friends rave about them that I knew I had to be doing something wrong. I did what I should have done in the first place: watch the video about how to use them. And there it was - I was trying to make adjustments to my bib position by moving my bib, when I should have been gently moving the race dots. Success!

I finalized my race strategy, target pace, and goals and went to bed early, setting the alarm for 4:30.

Flat Kim, ready to race!


Although Metro was opening early for the race, a 6 am opening isn't early enough for a 7:10 race, especially for the Reston suburbs. I made plans to meet Sallie, Mike, Mekhla, and Viji close to the Metro station (giving us the option to come back by Metro after the race if we got separated). Viji was so awesome - she drove us to the race and supported us on the course with cheers and pictures.

Sallie, Mike, Mekhla & me
Early morning drop-off on Constitution Ave.
(picture courtesy of Viji)

The early morning view was beautiful

We headed to the porta-potties and there was no line! We started walking towards bag check and saw that there were already long lines for the porta-potties that were directly behind the ones we used. It was just like last year at Army Ten-Miler...people don't think to look on the other side because they don't realize there is a whole row behind the row they can see.

Bag check was very well organized and quick. And the volunteers were so nice! I ended up taking off my throwaway jacket and putting it in my bag before I checked it because it wasn't that cold. I did have arm warmers on that I was planning to put into my hydration vest right before the race started. And that ended up being the right call; I was comfortable before the race and happy to have the jacket as an extra layer after the race.

We met up with some other folks from PR Training and talked about the race. Then I left to go to the Moms Run This Town photo by the Washington Monument, planning to meet back up with my PR buddies after the photo. There were so many MRTT ladies and it took us a bit to get organized and capture the moment. By the time I made it back to the medical tent, my buddies were gone. I waited for a few minutes, and then headed to the starting corral.

Multi-Chapter Moms Run This Town Half-Marathon photo


I seeded myself in the 12+ starting area. I knew that I would be going faster than that ultimately, but I like to start conservatively, so that seemed like the right choice. I chatted with the woman next to me and she put my arm warmers into the back of my vest for me. We wished each other luck as the race started.

My plan was to run just under a 12 min/mile pace overall (goal time of 2:37), starting a tad slower than that and picking up the pace after mile 6. While on the course I checked my time against the course mile markers, but I'm going to describe my pace using my Garmin splits since that is what I have readily available. 

Mile 1 - Independence Ave
  • My first mile was 12:03 and I wondered if I had gone out a smidge too fast

Miles 2-6 - East & West Potomac Park
  • I adjusted my pace (I thought), but miles 2 and 3 both came in at 11:25
    • I felt good, but worried that I was going faster than I planned
  • I adjusted again (I thought), and miles 4 and 5 came in at 11:18 and 11:20. Hmm.
    • I decided to try to keep it steady, rather than starting to speed up after 6 miles
  • I saw Viji cheering - yay!
  • Mile 6, 11:14
    • I sure hope I don't regret this in the 2nd half of the race

Miles 7-12 - Out & Back on Rock Creek Parkway
  • We could see the runners coming back on the other side so I started to watch for Mike
    • I saw him at (my) mile 7.2 
  • I looked up and saw tiny yellow leaves falling on our heads like snow
    • It made me think of the Cherry Blossoms from the 10-Miler last spring
  • Miles 7 and 8 came in at 11:22 and 11:26
    • We were running gradually uphill and I was feeling mentally tired of the same scenery
    • I watched for Mekhla, but didn't see her
  • Mile 9, I kept looking for the turnaround that never. seemed. to. come.
    • We were now running steeply uphill - where is the turnaround?!
    • Finally, the turnaround, and we were coasting downhill! 11:13
  • Mile 10, working to keep the pace steady
    • I watched for Sallie, but didn't see her. 11.21
  • I was feeling strong and decided it was time to pick it up; I only had a 5k left, I could do that much a little faster, couldn't I?
    • Mile 11 was 11:14, Mile 12 was 10:53 - wow, where was this coming from?

Mile 13.1 - Independence Ave
  • I realized I was going to come in under 2:30 if I could stay strong 
    • I turned the effort up another notch
  • I saw Viji again - yay!
  • I saw Mike and he asked me how I was feeling. Awesome!
  • Mile 13, 10:04!!!
    • I think (know) I said a curse word out loud I was so surprised
  • And I finished off the last 3/10 of a mile at a 9:12 pace for an official finish time of 2:28:43
    • So much for that goal time of 2:37, huh?

Splits from my Garmin

Viji Sighting at Mile Marker 12!
(photo courtesy of Viji)

New records for me!

Post Race

A really nice woman put a medal around my neck. I headed towards runners village to find some water and food. Both were easy to find, and I appreciated that the food came in a pre-packaged box that you got in exchange for the ticket on your race bib. Back-of-the-pack runners like me appreciate a system that keeps the food from running out before we get there. 

I went to bag check where there was again no line and a nice volunteer. She found my bag almost before I got to the tent. I found a spot on the grass and gingerly sat down. I pulled out my "She Believed She Could, So She Did" socks and my Cherry Blossom shirt, which both have special meaning to me, and proceeded to change into them. 

I discovered that my big toe was bloody and my second toe was blistered. Ouch! Good thing I had wipes, Ruby's lube and bandaids in my hydration vest. I cleaned the situation up, and headed over to Viji's car, where Mekhla was waiting. 

We talked about the race and enjoyed our post-race munchies. Pita chips, cheese spread, salt & pepper cashews, applesauce, caveman bar, wafer cookie, and a banana. Yum! What a nice variety of snacks. I was bummed to discover that the much-anticipated Nestle Quik chocolate milk was not part of the box and must have been in a different tent that I hadn't noticed. 

Mike texted us a picture of Sallie finishing strong. They were heading to the Redskins game after the race, and rumor is that Sallie enjoyed a Johnny Rockets Chocolate Milkshake with Jack Daniels in it. Guess she didn't mind missing the chocolate milk!

Mekhla, Viji, and I headed home, reflecting on how grateful we each felt for the experience. 

We did it!
(photo courtesy of Viji)
Feeling confident about MCM!

MCM Training Week 14

Week 14 of Marine Corps Marathon training was the week I tested my fitness with the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. I didn't just pass my test; I blew past it and left my goal behind in my dust. Color me seriously surprised.

Previewing the MCM Course

Today's half marathon course gave me a preview of parts of the MCM course. Some parts were already familiar to me - Hains Point, Independence Ave, the Arlington Memorial Bridge - but some of it was new. 

I went farther on Rock Creek Parkway than I have in the past, which mirrors that section of MCM. At least now I won't be thinking, "where in the @#% is the turnaround" during MCM like I was thinking today. Because now I know it is far, far away. 

Between today's race and last year's Army Ten-Miler, I've run much of the MCM course. That will help me on October 25.

My friend Heidi took this photo after her long run on Saturday.
It gives me chills of excitement - and gratitude - to look at it!
(photo courtesy of Heidi)

Week 14 Statistics

I ran 5 times for a total of 27.2 miles.
  • Track: 2400-2000-1600-1600 at threshold (T) with 3 minutes rest between intervals (5.5 miles)
    • This was another solid speedwork effort of which I was proud
  • Easy runs: 2.4, 3.9, and 2.2 miles
  • Long run: 13.3 miles (Navy-Air Force Half Marathon)
    • My goal was to run at half marathon race pace; I wanted to beat a 12:00 min/mile pace. 
    • I ran an 11:21 pace! I couldn't believe it.
    • The Runners World race time predictor says my marathon time will be 5:10:12 based on my half marathon time. hahahahaha. as if.
  • Strength training: 2 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: no yoga 
    • (if I left right now I could make it to my favorite Sunday class. But I am clad head to toe in compression gear, have bloody & blistered toes, and don't really want to move much. Not. going. to. happen.

Feeling triumphant at mile 12!
(photo courtesy of Viji)

Onward to Week 15!

Read about previous training weeks

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Preparation for Navy-Air Force Half

Tomorrow I am running the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon to test my fitness before next month's Marine Corps Marathon. This race snuck up on me since I impulsively signed up for it a month ago. Usually I do a detailed course guide before a race to help me visualize and plan for it. My prep has been a bit compressed for this race, but I do have a plan!


My mantra for this race is Test Your Fitness. That's the purpose of this race in my training plan for Marine Corps. I want to remind myself that this isn't a training run. I can be a bit aggressive, push my pace, see what I can do.


Ideally, I would like to PR (personal record) at this race. My current PR is 2:39:34, from the Philly Half Marathon. I created a pace guide for a 2:37 finish (11:59/mile) to help me keep track of where I am during the race. 

My other goals are to enjoy the race and to remain injury-free. While a PR tomorrow would be nice, I don't want to jeopardize MCM. I would take a DNF (do not finish) tomorrow over a DNS (do not start) at MCM. So I will listen to my body carefully tomorrow - discomfort is okay, pain is not.

My pace guide for tomorrow.
It will be in my vest pocket inside the tiny ziploc.
UPDATE: I totally didn't use this. During the race I  realized it was
*much* easier to just calculate 12 min/mile in my head. Duh.

Course Guide

Usually I would break a course down mile-by-mile, but there isn't a whole lot of variety on this course. Here's my broad assessment:
  • Mile 1
    • Out & back along Independence Avenue - scenic!
  • Miles 2-6
    • Around East Potomac Park (aka Hains Point, backwards from how I usually run it)
    • Past West Potomac Park
    • Capped with a jaunt past the Lincoln Memorial
  • Miles 7-12
    • Out & back on Rock Creek Parkway (turnaround a bit before the National Zoo)
    • Capped with a short out & back on just the tip of the Arlington Memorial Bridge
  • Mile 13.1
    • Another scenic trip along Independence Avenue, ending by the Washington Monument

The 2015 NAF Course (source)

Race Plan

  • Carry my own water so I can drink on my own schedule
  • Take GUs at miles 3, 6, 9, and ~11.5, and bring a 5th one just in case
  • Follow 3:1 run:walk intervals
  • Run conservatively through mile 6 and then progressively pick up the pace 
Wish me luck!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Revenge of the Penguins 20-Miler Recap

On Sunday a group of us from PR Training in Reston participated in the Revenge of the Penguins race in place of our weekly long training run. The race is designed as a supported training run, and offers both a 10-mile and a 20-mile option.

Why Revenge of the Penguins?

I absolutely love the story behind this race. The Marathon Charity Cooperation (MCC) has a training program to prepare runners for fall marathons. In the distant past, they used the National Capital 20-miler race as one their longest training runs. However, this race has a 4-hour time limit. That is not enough time for us slower, back-of-the-pack runners...also known as "penguins" thanks to John "the penguin" Bingham. So, MCC started its own 20-mile race - one with no time limit - and called it "Revenge of the Penguins." The 2015 race marked its 8th year!

Pre-Race Logistics

The race has a "green" initiative, offering reserved parking spaces to cars with 3 or more runners. We signed up for a space, ultimately bringing six runners and one penguin to the race in a 12-passenger van. Our penguin, also known as Coach Mike, drove us to the race, cheered for us, took pictures of us, and wore a penguin suit.

Our PR Reston running crew:
me, Rachel, Sallie. Penguin Mike, Jamie, Jen, Natalie

We met up in Reston and drove to Carderock, MD. We zipped into the reserved parking area and found ourselves parked next to my dear friends from Reston Runners and the Women's Training Program!

Therese, Amy, Donna Lea, Sylvia, & Roz
Everyone wanted a picture with the penguin!

We headed over to packet pickup for our bibs, timing chips, and embroidered wind breakers. Yes, we got embroidered wind breakers!

sweet swag

We walked over to the start when we saw a large group of people starting to head that direction. I made it to the start just in time for the multi-chapter "Moms Run This Town" picture. Later in the day I learned that MRTT is co-branding with "She Runs This Town" to clarify that the group is for all women, not just moms. On the down side, it means a new logo and temptations to buy newly branded running gear. But I digress. On to the race!

Moms Run This Town seriously represented at this race!

The Race

I connected with Indira and Madhura right before the race started. They are also training with PR and were running the 10-mile race - their longest race! They wanted to run with Natalie & me since we run similar paces and run/walk intervals. I was glad to have the extra company for the early miles and quite proud of them. I wish I could have seen them finish.

The race was run on the C&O Canal Towpath. On the plus side, it was absolutely beautiful - the water, the flowers, the ducks! On the down side, the path was clay and stone. It was tough on the feet and the body. I don't think I would want to run on this surface again.

The Early Miles
The early miles required a bit of adjustment. The path was narrow in places. We were caught up with two large groups who ran similar paces to us, but different intervals. We were running 3/1 (run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute), one group was running 2/1, and one was running 30 seconds / walking 30 seconds. As you can imagine, we kept getting tangled up in each other and passing, then being passed. It was frustrating for everyone and involved needless maneuvering and wasted energy.

Fortunately, we solved the problem when another problem arose that needed solving. I was wearing gaiters on my shoes to keep the stones out of them. The gaiters worked great for their intended purpose, but they were tight which made my neuromas flare and my feet go numb. We stopped briefly so I could take them off, and that put enough of a cushion between us and the other groups to ease the traffic jam.

The Middle Miles
Indira and Madhura ran with us until mile 6.5, where the 10-mile run turnaround was. Natalie and I wished them luck and continued on. We made a porta-potty stop around mile 8.5. Around mile 10, we stopped to look at Natalie's ankle, which was starting to swell. I had some KT tape in my hydration vest which she wrapped around it. At mile 11.5, we reached the turnaround point. Turning around was an exhilarating feeling - every step will now bring us closer to the finish!

The Challenging Miles
By mile 15, Natalie's ankle was really swollen. We stopped at the porta-potties. The volunteers at the water stop asked Natalie if she wanted a ride back to the finish, and she said she was going to finish the race. We continued on.

The next couple of miles we slowed the pace down a bit. I could tell Natalie was hurting and I didn't know how to help her other than by slowing the pace. She didn't want to walk, she didn't want to stop. She was determined to finish. Natalie built some serious mental toughness during this run. We ran together for another half mile or so, and then she told me to go on ahead and run my own pace. 

The Last Miles
I started picking up the pace again and was amazed at how strong I was feeling, how much gas I still had left in the tank. I decided to see what I could do for the last couple of miles, how much I could bring up my average pace for the run. We had run the first 10 miles at a 14:06 pace. The next 7 were at a 15:08 pace. I wanted to get as close to an average pace of 14 as I could.

I stunned myself by running mile 19 (by my Garmin - I was not aligned with the course markers at this point) in 11:58, mile 20 in 11:16, and my last 3/10 of a mile at a 9:33 pace. I was able to run fast enough at the end to bring my overall average pace back to 14:09. I even earned a new "fastest 1k" record during this last push!

That gave me a good sense of confidence that I could "beat the bridge" during Marine Corps, which requires the first 20 miles at a 14-minute pace. This had been an easy-paced training run. I could have run faster, I could have run further. I felt good. I will be ready.

Finish photos courtesy of Coach Mike

Post Race

Penguin Mike was close to the finish, cheering for us and taking pictures. Although I wanted to go cheer with him and watch for Natalie, I could tell I needed food, and I needed it quickly. I walked back to the pavilion and had a slice of cheese pizza and a banana. 

On my way back towards the finish, I ran into Natalie, Rachel, and Jamie headed in my direction. We went back to our spacious passenger van, where we changed into dry clothes and Oofos recovery sandals, and found ice for Natalie's ankle. Soon after we were joined by Sallie, Mike, and Jen and our merry band was back together and very ready to head home, proud of our collective accomplishments!

We did it! (photo courtesy of  Penguin Chauffeur Mike)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

MCM Training Week 13

Week 13 of Marine Corps Marathon training brought my first 20-mile run. I feel accomplished, tired, sore, confident. All good things for marathon training, right?

Trying New Things

I tried some new things this week - race dots, gaiters, ice bath, and running on a clay/stone trail:

  • Race Dots - I wanted to like these but I just couldn't get my bib flat and straight. I made a real mess of it and switched to pins. So many of my friends love them, but they just aren't for me. Updated: After I watched the video on how to use race dots they worked much better for me and now I'm a fan!
  • Gaiters - I got gaiters because the trail has lots of tiny rocks. 
    • I'll do a separate blog post on how they work and how I prepped my shoes for them.
    • They worked great for keeping the rocks out of my shoes, but were tight enough that they made my neuromas flare and my feet go numb.
    • I took them off at mile 2 - the feeling returned to my feet, and tiny rocks irritated me for the rest of the race.
    • Isn't it ironic? Gaiters = no rocks, and numb feet that can't feel rocks. No Gaiters = rocks and the full sensation of those rocks in my shoes.
  • Ice Bath - I took an ice bath after my long run...we'll see in the coming days whether it seems to help with my recovery. It wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. Although it wasn't exactly fun!
  • Running on a Clay/Stone Trail - I am not a fan of this!! 
    • The rocks were annoying and the terrain was tough to run on. 
    • Parts were like cobblestones. The bottoms of my feet felt tender towards the end. 
    • I think it was harder on our bodies overall than our usual paved surface.

Our crew at Revenge of the Penguins
Coach Mike is the penguin - the race director asked him to come back next year!

Week 13 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 31.4 miles.
  • Track: 3200-1600-4x800 at race pace (RP) building to threshold (T) with 3 minutes rest between intervals (5.8 miles)
    • I was really pleased with this workout, especially going for all 4 of the 800 repeats (our plan called for 2 to 4 repeats)
  • Easy runs: 3.1 and 2.2 miles
  • Long run: 20.3 miles (longest run to date!)
    • We ran the "Revenge of the Penguins" 20-mile race as our training run. 
    • This run gave me a lot of confidence. I felt good throughout and ran the last 2.5 miles particularly fast for me. 
    • Coach Mike drove us and supported us and dressed as a penguin! He is awesome.
  • Strength training: 4 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: 1 yin yoga class 
    • I realized I will miss this class for the next 3 weeks since my runs will be on Sundays until October. That bums me out.

New long run record!

"Cowboy Boot" badge from Fitbit for 50,000 steps!

Onward to Week 14!

Read about previous training weeks

Saturday, September 5, 2015

MCM Training Week 12

Week 12 of Marine Corps Marathon training was a recovery/cutback week and I was grateful to scale things back a bit. I think I needed a mental break even more than a physical one.


I've been thinking about my goals for the race. The one that immediately leaps to mind, of course, is to finish. But that isn't my only goal. Here are my goals so far:

  1. Get to the starting line injury-free
  2. Be in the moment and really experience MCM
  3. Beat the Bridge*
  4. Cross the finish line
  5. Time goal? Uncertain if I will have one. TBD...

What is Beat the Bridge?
Runners must maintain the 14 minute-per-mile pace to reach the 14th Street Bridge and successfully "Beat the Bridge" just before mile marker 20. The 14th Street Bridge will reopen to vehicular traffic making it unavailable to runners after 1:15 p.m. Any runners unable to "Beat the Bridge" will be required to board the straggler buses and be driven to the event finish area. 

From the Marine Corps Marathon Facebook page - 50 days to go!

Week 12 Statistics

I ran 4 times for a total of 26.5 miles.
  • Track: 5x1000 at threshold (T) w/ 200 (speed)walk followed by 1 minute rest (4.5 miles)
    • It was very humid and I barely slogged through this workout. 
    • My neuromas flared up for the first time in months during this run. I hope they don't make a return appearance anytime soon.
  • Easy runs: 3.1 and 4.7 miles
    • A big "thank you" to Roz who gave me sport beans during the 4.7 miler when I suddenly became ravenous. 
    • I should have eaten something closer to the run or brought a gel. My stomach was empty.
  • Long run: 14.2 miles 
    • We started out too fast, running the first 4 miles closer to marathon pace than easy pace. 
    • Although we slowed down for the rest of the miles, we were feeling the effects of going out too fast by the end of our run.
    • We'll make sure not to make the same mistake next week when we run 20 miles!
  • Strength training: 3 times (my routine)
  • Yoga: 1 yin yoga class 

My MCM Vision Board

Onward to Week 13, and to running 20 miles in the "Revenge of the Penguins" race!

Read about previous training weeks