taking a closer look

I entered into my last training cycle ready to make a lot of changes to the way I prepared for the marathon.  I added speed work once a week, daily foam rolling, dynamic stretching, strength training sessions, Pilates, slower paced long runs, race pace mileage workouts, monthly chiropractic care visits (to keep things in check) and peaked at a higher weekly mileage than I ever had before (50 miles).

All of these elements contributed to a majorly successful racing season for me.  I PR’d in every race I ran from the 5k to the marathon.  My marathon best went from a 4:35:09 to a 3:41:56 over the course of my training, all before my third baby turned one year old.

It was amazing.

In some ways, the improvements I saw in my running over the last year all feel like some sort of illusion to me.  I am still stunned when I look at the paces on my watch as I run around the track.  When I see that I’m holding an “easy” pace of an 8:30 mile over the course of 18 miles – and I feel so comfortable and truly content at that pace – I’m serious when I tell you that in that moment I am truly astounded.  There are times when I think to myself that this can’t really be happening.  That I will wake up from this dream somehow.

But I know it is real.  I know because I’m the one doing the work.  It’s not “happening to me” –  I’m making it happen.  I’m the one logging the miles.  Hitting my paces.  Toughing it out when I feel like giving up (this happens regularly).  Waking up before dawn to run before the day gets going.  Running on the track in the freezing cold and pouring rain at night.  No, there is no illusion about it.  It’s real.  I’m living it.

I was happy and excited and grateful when I crossed the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon in October.  I had worked so hard and was very proud of my new PR.

But it was bittersweet.

I missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by less than 2 minutes.

coming into the finish at MCM, 2011

Ever since that moment, I have been dreaming and scheming about my next attempt.  I feel a strong determination from deep down inside my soul.  I’m willing to do whatever I can to cross that finish line at the Rock n Roll USA Marathon on March 17th with a BQ time in my pocket.

I’ve put a lot of thought into how to best chase this dream down.  Anything can happen on race day, and I know that – trust me.  But I want to arrive at the Start Line of my next 26.2 feeling stronger than I ever have before.  In order to do that I had to look closely at my training and identify where I could make changes to enhance the likelihood of running my fastest marathon.

This training cycle there are two specific areas I’m honing in on to seek improvement:

More Miles ~ I’ve mapped out a training schedule that has me peaking somewhere between 60-65 miles this time around.  Last cycle my highest weekly mileage was 50.  I reached 51 this week and am feeling great.  As long as my body continues to respond well to the increase, I will keep it up.  If I start to feel fatigue set in or injury knock on my door, I will pull back.  This is brand new territory for me so I am taking it one day, one week at a time as I increase.  But I believe that if my body can handle running higher mileage this time around, it will help me. 

Purpose ~  Every run has a purpose and I intend to honor that purpose each and every time I lace up my shoes.  Long runs will be done at a slower pace (8:30-9:30/mile average) for the most part – with some marathon race pace miles (8:00/mile) incorporated as my training progresses.  Speed will be saved for speed work – tempo pace saved for tempo runs.  Recovery runs will be slow.  Easy runs will truly be easy, even if I feel like a million bucks and want to run faster.  I am going to run my slow runs slow and my fast runs fast.  

Yesterday I ran 18 miles again.  It was tough – so tough.  I wasn’t terribly jazzed about the cold and the wind, but I held a strong and steady pace and came out of it feeling good.  Feeling like I had conquered a beast!  I averaged an 8:38 mile, which was right where I wanted to be.  My slowest mile was an 8:51 and my fastest an 8:20.

The hardest thing about the run yesterday was being alone.  I usually really enjoy the time to myself, but yesterday was different.  I wanted my buddies by my side and I missed them.  A lot.

together and happy

We celebrate one another, respect one another, encourage one another – on the run and in our lives.  We are always there for one another, even if we’re not side by side on the trail.  I was so glad that some of us were able to get together today for our recovery run at Run Club.  Recovery runs are the best – no pressure, no major mileage.  The recovery run has a purpose and that purpose is to promote healing.  What better way to do that than with good friends?  Today’s run with friends made up for the loneliness I felt yesterday.

This was a good week.  I’m excited that I ran more miles than I ever have in a week and that my legs don’t feel like they’re going to fall off.  I’m happy I kept each run true to its purpose.  I’m grateful that so many of the miles were shared with dear friends.  With each passing week I’m getting closer and closer to my goal and learning so much about myself and about my training in the process.  Just about 2 more months to go….

14 thoughts on “taking a closer look

  1. You're so inspiring with your enthusiasm and dedication. 3:40 will be yours soon enough! (March isn't so far away). I hope to have a good attitude like you when I'm back to running… (hopefully soon)….

  2. Great job. Running with friends in priceless.
    I loved that you said each run has a purpose. I struggle with making each run count in some way and sometimes turn off my brain. Not good when you are training for something and when you have children you need to make all those runs count.
    Great post.

  3. Great insight into the things that have made you stronger as a runner! And the “Every run has a purpose” mentality is great— especially when you are adding a lot of extra miles. Hope things continue to go well!

  4. There is no doubt in my mind that you are going to BQ in March provided you get to that starting line healthy. Your training is going SO WELL! I'm in awe of you that an 8:30 pace is feeling easy on an 18-miler. YOU GO!!!

  5. I like your plan, especially the fact that every run has a purpose–that's how to get that BQ! And I feel for you w/ the girlfriends and long runs. I am so spoiled–I don't think I've ever done a 20 w/o my friends and I don't think I want to!

  6. Congrats, Jess! I love your plan of having each run have a purpose! I feel the same way – I've gotten so much better at that since AJ was born. Before that it kind of like I would run however far I wanted to. No real training plan in place…But I think once time becomes more valuable to us, we learn to prioritize and focus on what needs to get done.
    I have NO doubt that you will kill the BQ time. I cannot believe you took over an hour off your previous marathon PR – and so soon after your 3rd baby was born. Obviously all of the hard work that you did paid off tremendously!!
    Wish I lived closer – would love to come cheer you on or pace you for some of the marathon in March!!

  7. So fun to learn more of your background–awesome job coming so far! Your story is a lot like mine, I never really ran with purpose or incorporated much strength work or speed work until this past year, and surprised myself with a 3:44 marathon… also so close to a BQ! I'm not sure that this is the marathon year for me, but I'm excited to follow your journey…you've got this!!

  8. I am so confident that you will have an amazing marathon in March. I love your long run pace. I averaged 9-9:15 pace this past training cycle and while I am happy with my results, I really feel that I can bring that number down. I am a numbers person and I look at training paces, mile splits, race times…..It is crazy how it all fits together like a puzzle! I think if you can go into your race with total confidence, you will kill your goal time and you will be running Boston next year!

  9. Wow, what a great training! Do you think the monthly visits at the chiropractor help? I checked with my PT. He is really good in ART and I asked him if it makes sense to come once per month to check. But he said it's not necessary. I do get a massage every month, but I'm not sure if this is enough to get my tight hips and hamstrings under control.

  10. I am totally inspired by your story and all that you have worked hard for. After pulling back from running for a few years, I'm starting to train for a half marathon and I'm so excited. Also determined to train smarter and as you say make sure that every run has a purpose and that I respect that. I have no doubt that you will run an amazing race in March!

  11. Just catching up with your blog, Jess!

    You know I understand about near-miss on the BQ (though you are much nearer than I am!). I'm following your training like a disciple and rooting for your every step.

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