Getting back into running: Take 2 (or 3?) of 2017 (And that time I hired a running coach.)

Published by:


I went another four months without a single blog post. Funny how that keeps happening this year. (Note to self: Start scheduling time to blog in your Google calendar.)

To be fair, the past three months have been a bit (a lot) crazy and, at times, stressful.

A family situation in September took up a good chunk of my time until things settled down at the end of October. I couldn’t go to Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly and by Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn exhaustion had crept in, so I skipped that race as well.

In between, my running was all over the place. I averaged 7-12 miles a week most of the time, and somehow scrounged up a couple 20-mile weeks when I didn’t have to work. My nutrition went out the window and I gained weight.

When November rolled around, I knew the time for change had arrived. I tried to coax myself into coming up with a concrete running and nutrition plan. Ultimately, I realized I needed help.

So I did something I’ve never done before — I hired a running coach!

It boiled down to this: I needed someone to hold me accountable to training, to start running consistently, to push me harder than I would push myself and to help me figure out how to tweak a plan if I felt really sore or pulled a muscle somewhere along the way.

I knew Kristen of The Concrete Runner through the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, and my friend Steff completed her Elite Running Academy program and gets custom training plans from her.

I liked that the plan wasn’t just about running — it also focused on nutrition with intermittent fasting and carb cycling (two things I’ve never tried) and strength training (which I desperately needed to get back into my routine). I chose the Elite Running Academy VIP program because, well, I’m needy. I wanted to be able to communicate with my coach whenever an issue or question arose.

I’m about to start week 4, and I’m already seeing results. It’s easier to get out of bed in the morning for my runs. I feel that urge to hit the pavement. The one time I was legitimately too tired to run in the morning, I squeezed in a run after work — and on an empty stomach, no less. I’ve lost a few pounds. I’ve started paying attention to macros for the first time. I don’t crave cheese and carbs as much. I’m no longer overindulging.

I can’t wait to see what the next month of training brings!


How I started running again after hitting a training wall and dealing with an injury

Published by:

It’s been a slow — and sometimes fast — process, but my running game is finally back.

I burnt myself out after ramping up too quickly after the New Year and not taking time off after my marathon in October. By the end of February, I was in serious struggle mode. I didn’t enjoy running and my pace suffered. I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C., and I almost walked off the course halfway.

Now, I’m finally back.

I’ve actually been back for awhile, but didn’t get around to writing about it.

It started with a beach vacation the first week of May.

I’d moved into my new apartment just a week before and barely ran in the week before and after the move, because moving takes an insane amount of work (surprise!). It didn’t help I decided to tackle several furniture painting projects, including a secretary desk I fell in love with.

On top of that, I’d been dealing with low back pain that first materialized in mid-February, then cropped up again a week after my March half. My doctor put me on steroids for a week and I worried about running when I couldn’t feel any pain. I eventually found PT — which started in early-April and finished in mid-May. I’ve had no pain since.

Back to that vacation. Staying in the southern Outer Banks, in the same motel my family has stayed at since I was in elementary school, I once again found running enjoyable.

I went on three runs that week — 3 or 4 miles each — nothing serious. But the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, it reconnected me with why I loved to run.

When I got back to real life, I struggled for a couple weeks with getting up for a run before work, but it sorted out eventually. My weekly mileage in May stayed relatively low. It’s exactly what I needed: I wasn’t pressuring myself, and I added miles slowly — both overall and long-run wise. I ran longer when I felt like it. My first 8-mile run in what seemed like forever felt amazing.

I went from 25 miles total for the month of March (that includes the half), 18 for the month of April to 50 for May. I found once again how much running before work energized me and set my mind at peace for the day ahead.

In June, I felt even more in the groove, and my pace was fully back in the 10-10:30 range. A trip to Quebec late in the month reminded me how much I love to run when I travel. And a full week off at home after that left me so well rested my runs felt almost effortless. I completed two 8 mile runs the final week of vacation, and I felt strong. I topped out at 68 miles for the month.

July was even better. I logged 92 miles for the month, including three 10-mile long runs. Getting back in the double-digit run area was not without struggle. I have not been good about getting up early on the weekend and the 10-milers left my legs tired. The first one was the hardest, of course. The second was on the treadmill (because: swamp outside), and that last mile took forever. The third was back on the trail, with a lovely breeze, and finally felt not exactly easy, but totally doable.

I’ve largely avoided the super hot and humid long runs. I’ve either stuck to the treadmill or completed a shorter run outside. In fact, I may end this summer season without ever running long in hotter, more humid temperatures. (Fingers crossed.) It’s helped that D.C. has had an unusual — but welcome — assortment of cooler, less humid weekends than I remember in the past couple years. And I’ve scheduled any 5-6 mile weekday runs around the cooler days, as well.

There are still days where I struggle to get out of bed to go for a run, days I even say screw it, I’m sleeping in. But by and large, those days are few and far between. And when they do strike, it’s a sign to me to examine whether I need a dropback week, as I did this past week. You know you’re tired when you sleep in both weekend days and still need a 3-hour nap each day.

The next race on my calendar is Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly, and I know I’ll be ready to tackle the half once again. After that I’m looking forward to enjoying fall’s cooler temperatures and lower humidity once again — and not having to consider hitting the treadmill to avoid the heat.




Back in the running groove … and finally blogging again

Published by:

So that happened. I didn’t write on my blog for four months. Four.

And my last two posts were not exactly motivating.


Here’s the short list of what happened:

— That back strain I mentioned redeveloped and derailed me starting a week after the March half until mid-to-late April. I completed four weeks of PT in mid-May and haven’t had any pain since.

— I moved to a new apartment in mid-to-late April. I’m much closer to work and no longer have to deal with the insanity that is 66 and 495. And the best part is I’m only 3/4 of a mile from the W&OD. (Also, moving is hard work!)

— A beach trip the first week of May helped really me get back in the running grove. I slowly built back up after that, making sure not to do too much too soon and either reinjure my back or burn myself out again.

— I’m back in the double-digits for long runs and tallied 28 miles total last week, 92 overall for July. Even better: My speed came back. I’m no longer struggling in the 11-minute mile range. All my runs, even my long runs, are coming in at 10-10:30, despite the heat.

— My weight loss is back on track. Only 5 pounds left until I’m back to normal.

— I’ve been taking a cardio kickboxing class twice a week this summer, and already signed up for the fall version. It’s a ton of fun and incorporates a lot of strength training.

I’ll be writing a longer post this week after how I got back into running. Stay tuned!




Training Recaps

That Time I Almost Walked Off Course Halfway Through a Race: 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Half Marathon Recap

Published by:

So that happened.

The headline is no exaggeration. I almost walked off course a little more than halfway through the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Half Marathon. How do I put into words how I felt? Over it.

Over running the race, over the you’re (a little) more than halfway there, over running each mile, one mile at a time. Totally, utterly, completely over it.

I started wondering about the location of the nearest Metro, and dreamed about how I could just go home and sleep the rest of the day away. Screw the finish line, the medal, brunch.

I risked a glance at my watch, hoping those thoughts distracted me enough that I’d magically find myself farther along the course. I’d gone a whopping tenth of a mile.

This is gonna be a long race.

As I further contemplated the thought of walking away, I felt myself choke up. Just enough to feel that pre-tear sting in the eyes and for my throat to slightly close up. I needed to walk to regain my breath.

How’d I get here?

About 10 days out from the race, I wrote about my running rut, where even 3 miles felt like forever. I’d run into training burnout and denied it. To make matters worse, my training for the half wasn’t on where it needed to be, due to a combination of sickness, injury and skipping too many short runs for no valid reason.

I funneled my mental pre-race plan into helping my friend finish her first half marathon. She happily ran such an amazing race. The pace left me going out too fast, and we parted ways 1.5 miles in. I watched her disappear into the crowds ahead of me.

The thought of 11 solo miles hit me, but I focused on little milestones — the next water stop, the next mile marker, the big hill at mile 6.

I stuck with my plan to take walk breaks at water stops. I looked forward to the hill, because that’d always been a planned, long walk break.

A bit more than a half mile after that hill, I’d had it. I’d been struggling from the start, and I wanted to throw in the towel at the thought of running 6+ more miles. My pace slowed considerably after the first few fast miles, and my legs already ached.

When I choked up, I took a walk break to get my breathing back to normal and regain my mental composure. I scanned my body. Am I hurting so much that I shouldn’t finish the race? Am I risking injury? Am I too cold? (Temperatures were in the 20s with wind chills in the teens, which isn’t terrible but I hadn’t run in anything lower than 30 degrees all winter due to abnormal warmth, particularly in February.)

The answer to all those questions — a resounding no. My over-it feeling was entirely mental.

And with that I knew I couldn’t stop — I’d never forgive myself and I’d struggle in all my races to come, worrying I’d give up again.

Instead, I plowed ahead. I let myself take walk breaks on any hills, and later in the race whenever my legs required a break. When I hit miles 9 and 10, I knew I’d gotten over the worst of the hump. The knowledge only 3-4 miles remained eased my mental anxiety considerably.

Still, my legs screamed by the end — it felt like I was in the final miles of a marathon instead of a half marathon.

I didn’t experience that ecstatic feeling of crossing the finish line — I was simply happy to be done. By far, this was one of my slowest half marathons ever. My official time: 2:36:15.

While I was proud I didn’t give up, I still struggled post-race with my result. A year ago I’d run the same race in 2:00:48 — a PR that bested my first half and former PR on the same course in 2014. Five short weeks later after that shiny new PR, I ran another — this time a sub-2.

The comparison game is never good, especially when you compare yourself to yourself. It breaks your mind and heart down into little bits and spits them back out into millions of shattered pieces. It’s a lesson I continue to learn over and over again.

Blog Training

I don’t want to run. And even 3 miles feels like forever.

Video Published by:

I don’t want to run.

My alarm sounds, and my motivation to climb out of bed is 0%. Actually, if we’re being completely honest, it’s -1,000%.

The mileage doesn’t matter. Whether it’s 10, 6 or 3 — it all makes me go “ugh.” Not helping — my pace on all runs is stuck at 11 minute+ miles — slower than ever.

I’ve tried the “just go out for 2 miles” and the “just go out for 1 mile” … and all the other tricks in the book — ” ‘I regret that workout,’ — said no one ever,” tuning into music, focusing on one mile at a time.

I’ve been running for 3 1/2 years, and I’ve never felt quite like this. Sure, I’ve gone through individual runs or weeks where I wasn’t really feeling it, but I always powered through — and relatively quickly.

It’s been seven weeks since I dived back into running after a self-imposed three-week break around Christmas to give my legs — and mind — a rest. AKA, things I should have done after running my first marathon Oct. 9.

I have an inkling of what happened — I jumped back into running, and all other areas of fitness, too quickly. Four of those weeks I worked out 7 1/2 to 8 hours (yes, I double-checked my Fitbit stats just now) — higher than many of my marathon training weeks. I completed more strength, cycle and swim workouts in addition to my normal routine, which included one strength session and one yoga class per week on top of 4-5 runs.

I’d also stepped on the scale and realized my holiday indulgences hadn’t added 5 pounds — but 12. I wanted all that extra weight gone as quickly as possible — because now is never too soon.

At the same time, I also focused on dislodging bad habits I’d developed, specifically walking up somewhat-difficult hills instead of running (actually the best thing I could do, and I will stick with running vs. walking) and not skipping runs on some days my legs felt tired (I should have been kinder to myself).

It’s not surprising looking back that in the same seven-week span, I developed a virus that left me sleeping 15 hours a day and lower back pain that steered me to an entire workday spent on my couch — something that’s never happened before.

I ranted about my runs feeling so hard to my friend when we ran 5 miles on my birthday. I told her how my back injury seemed to develop: I ran 10 miles and the next day felt a dull ache (not entirely uncommon after long runs), but ran 4 miles, swam 20 minutes and went to a yoga class anyway.

She immediately honed in: “That sounds like overtraining” and “Kat, you did a lot of workouts in one day.”

I can’t be overtraining, I thought. I’m not running high mileage weeks. And I’ve always run the day after a long run and done yoga after. And yoga isn’t really a “workout” workout (Yes, I know it actually is). And I only swam 20 minutes, which isn’t a lot. And I’ve done similar strings of workouts before without “overtraining.”

The comparison game — to my own self — and the drive to ramp up my fitness quickly somehow developed into a beast in my brain.

It took a few days for my friend’s wisdom to sink in. As a result, I retooled my training plan — I’ll just focus on a 10K PR in May.

Then I talked to my trainer, and when he said I should stick with 10 miles for my long runs, even in 10K training, my heart sank.

It wasn’t until then that I fully realized I’d been looking for an easy way out instead of dealing head-on with the issue at hand — burn out, both physical and mental, and so early in the year.

Normally, this is part of the blog post where wisdom and wit combine into a solution, or at least some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. Except, I have no solution. I am living day-to-day and considering my runs in the same way.

I don’t know when I’ll get my running mojo back, but I do know it will return again — someday.

Training Recaps

Weekly Recap: Feb. 19-25

Published by:

This week was just busy at the front end, and my allergies kicked in big time at the tail-end. I am feeling rundown and tired, which means it’s time for a total overhaul of my running plan for the spring. More on that to come in a separate post.

Sunday: 5 at 11:09 for my 31st birthday! I ran with my friend, Mary, and got to see her adorable 7-month-old girl.

Monday: Rest. Too much to do.

Tuesday: 15 mins elliptical + Strength.

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 4 at 10:58.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: Rest


Weekly mileage: 9

Training Recaps

Weekly Training Recap: Week of Feb. 12

Published by:

Back in the double digits!

Not gonna lie, my 10-mile long run felt hard. I am just not where I was fitness-wise a year ago or even in the fall, when 12 miles was my normal “short” long run. And that’s frustrating and disappointing. But I refuse to waver and know my persistence will eventually pay off.

I have been trying to figure out why my pace is so much slower than late October/early November and even right before I took my 3-week break from running starting around Christmas.

I am retiring my main pair of running shoes since September as they’ve finally worn down, but I don’t think that’s it. I wonder if it is more a response to cutting calories. I’m losing about a pound a week by cutting 500 calories on average a day. I don’t feel starved and I’ve been checking my nutrient levels to make sure I’m still eating enough protein/carbs/fat.

I don’t like things that don’t make sense!

Sunday: 10 miles at 11:15. I almost cut this run short because it started raining pretty heavily early on. Luckily, it cleared up and I was able to finish my route. My legs were definitely tired by the end. It’s been a long time since I’ve run double digits for a training run.

Monday: 4 miles at 11:06. Treadmill. + Yoga + 20 mins Swim. I didn’t feel like dealing with the 50 mph winds outside and I quite frankly wasn’t sure how many miles my legs would be up for, so I stayed indoors. I watched Tiny House Hunters and marveled at the people who are like we have a $50,000 budget and these tiny houses you have found for us are too tiny — the largest was 400 sq feet. What did you think you were going to get?!

I mentioned last week I wanted to get back to my Monday Cycle/Core class. Instead, I decided it was just a bit too much for me to try to do all those things and I wanted a more relaxing weekend (I work Tuesday-Saturday).

Tuesday: Strength + 15 min elliptical warmup. My back began hurting a lot after this. What started as a dull ache the day after my long run — which happens occasionally — must not have responded well to my workouts Monday or I hurt it some other way. I went home and spent the night with my legs up on the couch, back propped against a bunch of pillows.

Wednesday: Rest. I worked from home — from my couch for the first time ever — so I could keep sitting propped up on the couch, which felt much better than sitting in an office chair.

Thursday: Rest. I decided to take another rest day because of the back issue, even though it felt better.

Friday: Rest. I was off work, so I slept in. I probably could have gone for a run, but I decided to be extra cautious since I have a half coming in 3 weeks.

Saturday: 3 miles at 10:43. First run since the back hurt. My calf was super tight for the first 3/4 of a mile for some reason. My back didn’t hurt but I could feel where it got hurt — if that makes sense — in the first half mile. A few hours after the run, I could feel a little ache in my back again. Not cool.


Weekly mileage: 17

Got in: Swim, Yoga, Strength

Missed: Cycle, 2nd Strength

Training Recaps

Weekly Training Recap is back!

Published by:

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a weekly training recap. I took three weeks off running from late December to early January, and quite frankly it was hard picking it back up again.

Plus, I’m looking to loose the 10+ pounds I gained over the holidays and during my low-exercise period.

But I love writing these recaps to look at what I’ve accomplished for the week, and I love reading other runners’ recaps too. So here’s this week and a catch-up on the previous weeks!

This past week I got back in action after being under the weather the previous week. I skipped my cycle/core class on Monday because I was so far behind from spending Sunday with my parents.

Week of Feb. 5

This past week I got back in action after being under the weather the previous week. I skipped my cycle/core class on Monday because I was so far behind, on things like laundry and food prep for the week, from spending Sunday with my parents.

Goals for next week: Get back to the cycle/core class and complete at least three All in 18 workouts.

Sunday: 8 miles at 11:16. The pace of this run really surprised me. I didn’t look at my watch until halfway through and immediately saw I was going much slower than I thought. It was hard, but I reminded myself I am still getting back into the swing of things and I just came off being sick, so a slow run means nothing. Getting out there means everything.

Monday: 4 miles at 10:57 + Yoga. I slept over at my parents for Super Bowl Sunday, which meant I had an easy route to run in the morning. I love the W&OD trail and can’t wait to move closer to it. My legs were definitely tired, but nothing too serious. I hit up my usual yoga class in the afternoon. I skipped my cycle/core class because I was so far behind on things and felt guilty. But I tried to allow myself a little grace and remind myself of all the other things I’d done.

Tuesday: Strength training w/ 15 min elliptical warmup.

Wednesday: 3 miles at 10:32 + Swim. I set my alarm for 6:30, planning to get in 5 miles and my All in 18 DVD. I tossed and turned and didn’t want to get up. Finally a little after 7, I said to myself — it’s amazing out. It’s 55 degrees RIGHT NOW. In February. Get out there or you’ll regret it. By that time I only had time for 3 miles. Bonus: It was so nice out, I talked my friend and colleague into two laps around the work pond.

Thursday: 4 miles at 11:00. Waking up before the sun rises has just been so hard lately — I’m pretty sure it’s just because it’s dark out and that doesn’t go over well. I was able to take a break at work and hit up the gym, though, so it worked out.

Friday: 5 miles at 10:41. 4 x 800 w/ 1-mile warm-up and 1/2-mile cooldown. In the first few minutes of hitting the treadmill I thought, “Uh oh.” My legs were sore. I reminded myself of all the other runs — including speed sessions — I’d done on legs like that felt the same way or worse and stuck with it. I haven’t done any speed in a long time, and I’ll admit it was a bit disheartening that my 800 paces were 10:20, 10:10, 10:00, 9:50. A year ago I was nearing my sub-2 half marathon.

Saturday: Rest.

Weekly mileage: 24


Week of Jan. 29

Sunday: Rest. I worked past 11 on Saturday and was exhausted.

Monday: 6 miles at 10:57 + Yoga + All in 18

Tuesday: Rest. I felt sick, slept until 1:30 p.m. and took the day off work. I started to think that sleeping until 3:30 p.m. Sunday was more than just being a little tired.

Wednesday: 5 miles at 10:38. I took the day off work but rallied before an afternoon doctor’s appointment and felt like going for a run. I’d been stuck inside for 36 hours and was having none of it. I set out for a few easy miles and ended up doing 5. Later that day my doctor said I had an acute viral infection with low-grade fever and should take it easy. Oops.

Thursday: 4 miles at 11:03 (treadmill). I struggled to get through this treadmill run after my first day back at work because I felt hot. I wasn’t able to secure the treadmill next to the sole fan in the cardio area, but I made it through the run.

Friday: Rest. My plan called for 3 miles but I could tell I was too tired and worn-out.

Saturday: Rest

Weekly mileage: 15 miles


Week of Jan. 22

Sunday: 5 miles at 10:59 + All in 18

Monday: 3 miles at 11:06 (treadmill) + Yoga + Cycle/Core

Tuesday: 40 minutes elliptical + 23 minutes swim

Wednesday: 3 miles at 10:44

Thursday: 3 miles at 11:06 (treadmill) + All in 18

Friday: 3 miles at 10:36 + All in 18

Saturday: Rest

Weekly mileage: 17


Week of Jan. 15 — first week back running

Sunday: 3 miles at 10:36 + 30 minutes elliptical + All in 18

Monday: 60 minutes elliptical + Yoga + 20 minutes swim + Cycle/Core

Tuesday: 15 minutes elliptical + Strength Training + Yoga

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 3 miles at 11:04

Friday: 3 miles at 11:06 (treadmill)

Saturday: Rest

Weekly mileage: 9


Week of Jan. 8 — slowly picking it back up after a full week of no exercise

Sunday: 45 minutes elliptical + All in 18

Monday: 45 minutes elliptical + All in 18 + Yoga + Cycle/Core

Tuesday: 15 minutes elliptical + Strength + Yoga + 20 minutes swim

Wednesday: 45 minutes elliptical + All in 18

Thursday: 45 minutes elliptical + All in 18

Friday: Rest. I’d planned to exercise at the end of the day, but the Florida airport shooting kept me in the office until past 9 p.m.

Saturday: Rest


The Treadmill-Dreadmill Dance Runners Play and Why the Machine is Worth it

Published by:

“I want to stop.”

The treadmill display stared back, unwavering — 0.8 miles down.

“At least I’m almost to mile 1.”

After what seemed like five minutes later: “I’m only at 0.88?!? WHY is this going so slowly?!?”

A half mile later, I knew it was time to check in.

I am not a treadmill fan per se, but I tolerate what runners often call the dreadmill fairly well. I regularly log some of my miles each month on the treadmill, including many speed workouts. I definitely play mind tricks to get through the sessions — sometimes focusing on the mile I’m in, other times thinking of a regular route on the pavement that’s of the same distance and where I’d be at any given point in that route, and occasionally switching up the pace even if it’s an easy workout.

In early 2016, I spent about a month with the bulk of my mileage on the machine because of the weather, including an 8-mile long run the day after up to three feet of snow hit the D.C. area. I don’t care how dedicated you are — there was zero way to do a long run outside that day. (Fun fact: After running those 8 miles, I spent 2.5 hours digging out my car. That’s how long it took to carve out that small, single space at my apartment complex.)

So. Much. Snow.

So less than a mile and a half into my 4-mile treadmill run after work I realized it was time to take a step back — not literally, for fear of falling off the machine — to examine what was happening in my mind.

“OK,” I said to myself. “What is so bad about this … and you can’t say everything.”

I thought about my legs — are they sore or tired? A tiny bit, I weighed in, but nothing significant. Did it take longer for them to warm up? I’ve spent several treadmill runs with tightness in my shins or calves for the first mile only for it to dissipate quickly after hitting that 1.0 mark. That wasn’t the case here, either.

I checked my breathing. It was definitely harder today than previous days, but I wasn’t out of breath at my easy pace.

I thought about my recent bout with a virus that left me sleeping for 15 hours a day and resulted in two days off work. Am I run down to the point I need a break? Maybe. Let’s be perfectly honest — my doctor probably would say yes. But I felt a lot more energetic by the afternoon that first day back at work.

What else?

“It’s hot as hell, like actual hell, there is zero air movement and I am actually going to die,” I said exasperatedly to myself.

That’s it. That was the issue. I realized I was wiping sweat away every two-tenths of a mile.

My work gym is nice, but there is one large fan for the entire cardio area that’s probably three times the size of my apartment. Basically, if you’re not right next to the fan, you don’t feel it. On top of that, most people apparently don’t like it. The gym staff turn it on each day, and someone usually turns it off.

Apparently I am the only person who relies on it. I usually come in and take the treadmill right next to the adjacent fan, shift it to point directly at my machine, turn it on to medium and enjoy a nice breeze that keeps me cooler, and clearly happier, for my entire workout.

That day, someone was on that treadmill, the fan was off anyway and I was stuck far, far away. Two miles in, I almost switched machines when the other one became available because I felt that hot. And then I almost tripped because it’s apparently hard to look 90 degrees to the right while running on a treadmill.

Then I took apart my earlier statement. Was it hot? Yes. Hot as hell? OK, probably maybe definitely an exaggeration. Was it so hot that I could overheat? No, and I had my water bottle with me if needed.

From that 8-mile treadmill run after the Blizzard of 2016.

I stuck with it. I didn’t die. I made it through those 4 miles and ended with a shirt far more soaked than if I’d been near the beloved (by me) fan.

I distracted myself with HGTV and reminded myself that a shower would immediately follow. I picked up the pace the last half mile. And, after I stopped, it was interesting to see the steady climb in my heart rate chart from the beginning to the end of the run — a clear indication of the effort when it feels warmer.

This is the treadmill dance a lot of us runners deal with, but beating that combination of boredom and downright loathing for the machine we come to depend on at times — even if it’s a love/hate relationship — makes us mentally stronger in the end, and it’s totally worth it.

Also, “Fixer Upper” helps, a lot.







Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done = Training for My First Marathon. What I Learned.

Published by:

In case it’s not been underscored enough here, on this blog, or elsewhere in the running community, training for a marathon — particularly your first — is not easy. It’s actually been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

You’d think that statement might be reserved for race day itself, but early on in training, I realized race day would be a relative piece of cake — barring unlikely and unforeseen conditions — compared to the hours logged on the trail, the early alarms, the constant hunger, the feeling of always wanting a little bit more sleep, and most importantly, the mental aspect of it all.

Here are just a few of the things I learned in the 18 weeks of training.


I’ve always been a big sleeper. I feel best when I get 9 hours of sleep. Marathon training cut into that at times, and at other times amplified it — a lot. I found there were more times I was in bed around 9 or 9:30, sometimes even in the 8 o’clock hour. And originally, I felt a relative rest day on Monday — with only yoga and maybe a bike ride on the plan instead of my normal short run — would feel like too little given I am off that day. Instead, as my mileage increased, I found I needed to sleep in the day after the long runs. After the 18 and 20 mile long runs, even with a nap the afternoon after completing them, I logged 12.5 hours sleep the night after. And, I needed every minute of it.


I definitely felt the increased hunger everyone warned about early on. I was running 30 mile weeks regularly when I’d been more used to 20 mile weeks. At first, I tried to keep calories in check, thinking I could lose a few pounds during training. My friend Natalie made me see the light — that might not be the best idea.

I decided to stop trying to eat less than my body needed and try to remain relatively in line with what MyFitnessPal told me I needed on any given day, without stressing too much. I also ate more bagels that I have in a long time. I needed something solid after logging 6-8 miles before 8 a.m. As time went on, the hunger subsided. I no longer was constantly starving by 3 p.m. or by 10 a.m. if I hadn’t eaten that bagel. Sure, it’d still be more hungry than pre-marathon training at times, but nothing significant.


With the thinking about my food changing, my thinking about weight also needed to change. I realized that gaining a few pounds, so long as it wasn’t to a point it made my runs slower or made me feel sluggish, was not the end of the world. For the first time in a few years, I stopped weighing myself regularly. I am pretty sure I went at least four weeks or more at one point without stepping on the scale. Before this, I’d been weighing myself basically every day — sometimes multiple times a day. The only time I’d skip was if I forgot.

Marathon training also made me rethink what I consider my ideal weight. At one point a couple years ago, that ideal was 125. I realized I was exercising a lot more and upped that to 128-130 to 1) consider added muscle and 2) have a range instead of a single number. Still, I struggled — I always seemed to hover around 135.

Now, I realized maybe my body was telling me something all along that 135 is the weight that works well for me.

Wait until you’re really ready

I originally penciled in running my first marathon in the spring of 2015, which would have been one year after I finished my first half marathon. I look back now and wonder what I was thinking. I got injured, and that changed the sketch I’d made in my head for that spring, but even without that, I know now that I wasn’t ready.

I didn’t respect the distance and hadn’t even run 3 half marathons when I thought about doubling the distance. That injury sucked, but it also changed my plans, for the better.

Summer is hot, but you acclimate (to a degree)

I cursed myself early on in marathon training when I fully realized how many of the super long runs would need to be completed in the worst heat and humidity that D.C.’s summers offer. With half marathon training, I only needed to do 10 miles max for a long run, and even then not every where. Now, 12 miles was my dropback mileage and I needed to run 14, 16, 18 and 20-milers on the higher weeks. That meant more 5 a.m. (and sometimes 4:45 a.m.) wake-up calls than I’d care to recount. But I got it done. By early July I’d mostly acclimated to the worst the heat could offer, and it made my runs significantly less difficult, even though I would trade them in a heartbeat for the cooler temperatures of fall or spring. Still, there’s something awesome about getting to the end of summer and thinking 75-80 degree weather without a ton of humidity is great for a long run.

Running with buddies is a must

During my week 3 freakout, the universe sent me a sign. At the tail end of a simply horrible 13-mile run, I ran into two other women at a water fountain. We chatted a little, and I asked which way they were headed down the trail. Same way I was. I asked if I could run with them. Sure, they said. What pace are you doing, I asked, praying it was something doable. Well, we do a 4:1. Huh?

Turns out the 4:1 is a run/walk method of running 4 minutes and walking 1 minute. I still wanted to blurt out but what pace is the run part, but kept my mouth shut and kept up with them. I really struggled on that run, and we were heading back slightly uphill and with the sun totally in our face. It was definitely a bit faster that I was capable of on that particular run, but I kept up. At a stoplight where we needed to head separate ways, we exchanged numbers.

The next week I met up with one of the two women — the other wasn’t available — and that’s when everything started to go right. Running with friends is a huge boost. I’d always known that and loved running with other people, but if I needed to log 10-12 miles solo, I was OK with that too. I spent the rest of marathon training running with one of both of the two women I’d met that day.

Pushing my limits

More than anything, I learned I am capable of far more than I thought. One week, I needed to move my long run to Saturday instead of Sunday, and I realized I could log 50 miles for the entire week — a new record. I pushed through, and it felt great accomplishing that goal. I also felt a surge of energy and exhilaration at the end of my 20-mile long run, when I’d instead expected to super eager for the end of it.

Knowing when not to overdo it

Let me be clear. I missed a lot of runs during training. Or at least it felt like a lot to me. I didn’t miss any of the key long runs, but I skipped some of the shorter runs when I got sick, felt run down and needed to sleep in, or just felt too sore to complete the run on the schedule for that day. Instead of trying to make it up later, I let it be. It was hard, but it helped me get to the start line.