Richmond Marathon 2013

It’s been over a week since I ran the Richmond Marathon.  I have been thinking about it every day – remembering the details, trying to learn from the experience and embrace all that I loved about it and all that I struggled through.  In some ways, I have found myself wishing I could go back and do it all over again.  Not necessarily out of regret or wanting to change the result, because I am so happy with my time and how awesome the whole experience was and because I really did learn so much, but because I feel like it just flew by so quickly and some of it is a blur to me now.  Those few hours that I worked for months and months to arrive at, went by in a blink.  I want to savor all of it.  I don’t feel that way about every marathon that I’ve run.  Some of them I have literally begged and prayed to finish and then swore I was DONE with marathons altogether afterwards, and I never wanted to think about running 26.2 miles again.  Not this one.  This one was nothing like that.  This one left me feeling more excited, more grateful, more passionate about running and especially about running marathons.  This one left me understanding more about myself as a person and as a runner.

halfway through and happy – doing what i love!

We talk about this kind of thing a lot as runners – one of the reasons many of us love distance running so much is because it is so symbolic of life.  You get out what you put in.  When everything sucks and you feel like you’re falling apart, the best thing to do is to keep moving forward.  All you need is within you.  Trust in the process … trust that you are exactly where you’re meant to be and that the struggles and how you overcome them (and you WILL have struggles and you WILL overcome them) are there for a reason and will help you grow.  It’s about the journey, not the destination.  Be in the moment, that’s where it’s at and that’s all that matters!  Don’t worry about what lies ahead or how far you have to go.  Just BE.  Here.  Now.

It all might sound cliche, but I don’t even care.  It’s all true.  And that kind of stuff is the reason I know I will run for all of my life.  Not for times on the clock, but for what it does for my spirit.  How it fuels my fire and reminds me of who I am and that I am ALIVE.

Every marathon, in my opinion, is practice at trust.  Practice at not quitting, hanging on and hanging in.  Practice at moving on when you hit the lowest of lows.  At riding it all out – the good the bad, the amazing, the agonizing.  And every marathon is also an opportunity – a chance to learn things about yourself, a chance let yourself shine, a chance to dig deep inside and pull out some courage and fight when the going gets tough.  A chance to take some risks.

I think the biggest lesson I have to face from Richmond is this – I am still a scaredy-cat when it comes to putting myself completely out on the line.  Don’t get me wrong – I have done a ton of work on this and I have grown by putting myself in tough places and pushing through them, but when it comes to racing the marathon I am bit of a chicken later in the race.  I keep myself as comfortable as possible for as long as I can and then when things start to get hard, I just make it my mission to stay comfortable, which oftentimes means pulling back and resisting the chances for disaster.  This might sound smart to you, and for the first 2/3 of the race I think it really is the way to go, but what I’m realizing from Richmond is that I am going to need to take a risk later in the race if I want to achieve my full potential.  I’m going to need to make myself really uncomfortable during those last 6 miles of the marathon, and let things happen and maybe even let my wheels fall off as a result…and be OK with that because I will KNOW I gave it my all.

I almost went there for Richmond, but I made a decision not to because I was pretty happy, really content is the right word, with how I was doing and the time I was running.  I knew I was going to run a personal best time and didn’t want to risk failing at that.  I weighed my options and decided to be careful.

For the first half of the race, I was steady and in control and everything felt light and easy – just as it should!  I was drenched from the rain, but I had a huge smile on my face as it poured down on me.  Everything felt good and I was happy and strong and in control.

Miles 1-13: 7:21, 7:14, 7:18, 7:12, 7:09, 7:15, 6:53, 7:13, 6:58, 7:15, 7:24, 7:09, 7:26

I came through the halfway point in almost exactly 1:35.  And I felt like I was ready to crank things up a bit.  I had a LOT of energy in my tank there.  This was awesome because I felt confident I could negative-split the course and come in under 3:10.  I hadn’t been checking my watch at each mile up to that point, I was listening to my body and trusted that I was running a smart race because everything felt so smooth.  I saw Maddie (most amazing friend ever!!!!) at that point and gave her my hand-held water bottle.  I would grab cups at water stops from here on out.

I ran the next couple of miles faster and felt strong, and then had some hills to tackle for a few miles which I was both mentally and physically prepared for.  I didn’t let them get to me, didn’t worry about my pace slowing because I was maintaining a steady effort.  It wasn’t time to feel like crap yet, I told myself.

I saw Maddie again just before around 18.5/19 and told her I was feeling good and that I was happy because I was pretty sure the hills were over.  She gently told me I was wrong (she ran this race last year), that there was a pretty big hill coming up.  She was right.  I told myself to stay comfortable for longer.

Miles 14-20: 7:01, 6:58, 7:19, 7:26, 7:28, 7:18, 7:43

mile 18.5-ish

When I came into Mile 21, I started to feel discomfort in my tummy.  This is when I wanted to RACE, when I intended to put it all out on the line.  But …. I also didn’t want to.  I had a reasonable excuse not to now – another reason to stay conservative.  I had noticed my tummy feeling crampy earlier in the race a few times but it subsided.  I told myself if I stayed at a comfortable pace that maybe it would subside again, but I had a pretty strong feeling I would need to make a porta-potty stop at some point.  My efforts to ignore it stopped working, and by the time I was in Mile 23 I realized I had no real choice but to stop and take care of it.  I was determined not to let it ruin my experience or derail me – I started telling myself it was still okay that I wasn’t racing yet.  I jumped right back in and tried to get my pace back down.  I found myself hanging in a pack of guys which turned out to be the 3:15 pace group.  I stayed with them for a mile and then tried to pull ahead a little bit.

For the last two miles, I made it my mission to ENJOY the finish of my fastest ever marathon.  I knew the race wasn’t over yet, that I still had two miles more to run, but I had no doubt I would do it and that I would keep running, even if I wasn’t “racing” in the way I wanted to at that point.

I saw Maddie again just before the finish and she said to me something like “How awesome is this!??!”  Seeing her really help me move beyond any lingering negative thoughts and feelings about those last several miles, because there was SO MUCH to be SO HAPPY about.  I was running my fastest ever marathon!

Miles 21-26.2: 7:29, 7:44, 8:20, 7:20, 8:06, 7:54, 6:57

almost done!

When I crossed the finish, the first person I saw was Bart Yasso.  I had met him at the expo the night before – which was a very cool experience!  He gave me a hug and then pointed at me and said “BE HAPPY!”  And I was.  So happy.

My official finish time was 3:14:10.  A 7:22 average pace.  This is a seven and a half minute PR for me, and over 11 minutes faster than I ran my fall marathon last year.  I’m pretty ecstatic about that.  There’s a lot to be happy about.

For the first hour after the race, all I wanted to do was be dry and not on my feet.  Maddie and I sat together and talked for a while – I can’t even tell you how much it meant to me that she was there.

so grateful for her

The rest of the weekend was really nice.  My sister Jodi and a bunch of our buddies and I all went out for yummy Mexican and beer that afternoon.  Jodi and I stayed in Richmond Saturday night together and had a mellow and fun evening hanging out with Bart Yasso which was, um, really really neat.

so fun!

I got on the foam roller that night and my legs felt great.  This past week I did not feel as though I was recovering from a marathon at all, though I am no dummy and knew that even though I wasn’t feeling that way, I needed to honor my usual post-marathon recovery routine.  I went swimming this week (!), worked on my core, and went for a run on Friday with Maddie and yesterday solo.  My legs feel great and I’m excited to spend the next 6-8 weeks not training for something, just enjoying running because I love it, sleeping in some (if my kids will let me!) and recharging so I will feel renewed and excited about training in the winter for Boston!

As Thanksgiving approaches I am feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude.  Gratitude for this sport I love so much, and for the people it has brought into my life.  Gratitude for my family and and for my friends and for all of their support and love and encouragement, always.

peak week is done … hello taper!!!

Last week was my peak week of training for the Richmond Marathon!  I can’t believe it.  It was quite a week!

I ran 101 miles total (this is a very *wow* thing for me), with six days of running and one day of rest.  Every run had a purpose and I listened to my body and let how I felt dictate what the purpose and the goal for each run would be.  This is what it looked like….

Monday:
Early morning – 11.5 miles solo.  8:15 average pace.  Mostly easy miles, but some race pace miles thrown in there.

Evening – 9 miles.  8:32 average.  I ran the first 3 by myself at goal race pace, and then the next 6 miles with my good friend Cindy at run club before the Pilates class I teach every Monday night.

Tuesday:
Early morning – 11.5 miles – easy/recovery run, at a 8:19 average pace.  After Monday’s double (20.5 miles total for the day) even though my legs were feeling fresh and strong I wanted to take it easy because I was planning on a track workout on Wednesday and I wanted to feel good for that.

Mid-morning – 45 minute strength training session, primarily focused on core and upper body.

Wednesday:
Early morning – TRACK!  I hadn’t  been to the track in MONTHS.  I was so happy that my good friends Dora and Michiel were up for meeting me there!!  11.5 miles total.  10×800 with 1:00 timed recovery between each set.  I ran these really smart and strong – consistency was the goal and I wanted to hit them between 2:57-3:05.  They came in as follows: 2:59, 2:57, 3:01, 2:58, 2:57, 3:01, 2:59, 3:02, 2:59, 2:58.  I felt really good about this workout, especially with all the miles on my legs these past few days and weeks!

Mid-morning – recovery run – 10 miles all very, very easy (8:38 average).

Thursday:
Early morning – 8.3 miles recovery pace, 9:04 average.  Legs were feeling the soreness and heaviness from yesterday’s workout so I took it really easy.

Mid-morning – Another 7.2 miles recovery pace (9:24 average), pushing Baby Gus in the stroller!  Also did another strength training session at the gym, again easy on the legs and more focused on core and upper body.

These runs were both much slower for me than most recovery runs are, and I felt I had faster in me but I just did not want to be risky knowing how much more I had left in my week.  Nothing felt off or tweaky, just tired.  I wanted flush the gunk out of my muscles and honor the recovery my body needed.

Friday:
My legs were feeling good and strong again!  But it became an unplanned rest day — Maddie and I met to run 10 miles together, but the weather was totally creepy.  It was very windy and rainy on-and-off and we decided it might not be the best idea to run in those conditions.  So, rather than run we hung out together nice and cozy in Starbucks.  It was a really nice morning!  So funny because we both showed up wearing the exact same outfit!

Saturday:
Early morning – 10 miles nice and easy (7:56 average).  My legs felt really, really fresh and I wanted to run farther and faster, but was saving my energy for Sunday’s long run.

Sunday:
Early morning – Long run!  Wow did I feel good.  22.5 miles total.  First 10 miles easy, then the next 11 miles at marathon goal race pace, followed by 1.5 miles cool down.  Average pace was a 7:18.  I ran 11 miles heading east and really tried to just make it feel extremely easy.  At the start of mile 11 I picked up my pace still heading east and it felt very good and natural going into that 7:00/mile range. This made me happy!  But then after that mile, I turned around to head back west and found that I was running into what felt like a WALL OF WIND.  I was not happy about this … seeing as how I wanted to run the next 10 miles at goal race pace!  Mile 12 was HARD and I didn’t hit race pace or even close to it (at 7:19) but I knew I was working way harder than the pace on my watch.  Thankfully, I found my groove despite the winds though and from there the miles clicked away right where I was hoping they would, if not honestly a bit faster than I had expected.  I felt steady and strong.  And this made me really, really happy.  This is what my splits came in at: 7:33, 7:35, 7:46, 7:42, 7:43, 7:34, 7:22, 7:35, 7:28, 7:24, 7:01, 7:19, 7:06, 7:04, 7:04, 6:55, 6:46, 6:50, 6:46, 6:53, 6:59, 7:48, 7:54 (last .5).

 
I got home, quickly showered and put on my compression socks and headed to Abby’s soccer games.  Last night I foam rolled as usual (part of my nightly routine) and this morning I woke up with zero soreness in my legs and ran a little more than 7 miles at recovery pace to flush anything out that might be lingering from the huge week I had last week.

I am feeling really, really good.  I never would have guessed that this is what I would feel like after the kind of mileage I have been putting on my body.  I think my body likes this.  I know that sounds silly to some, and probably insane to most, but it is really, honestly and truly, how I feel.

The taper has arrived and Race Day is less than 2 weeks away now!  I am going to do this taper right, and trust in it’s magic and purpose, no matter how crazy it might make me feel some days.  This week I’m planning to run the same number of days that I usually run (6), but lower the volume considerably, almost cutting my mileage in half.  I will plan on a tempo run or mile repeats at the track on Wednesday and then do a long run of probably 12-14 miles over the weekend.  Next week I will take extra rest days and really tone it down over the days leading up to my race.  So that should all make me feel really good and ready to do what I want to do on November 16th in Richmond!!

This whole training cycle I have told myself – take it one day at a time.  Be in the moment – the day, the mile, the step – that I am in.  Push myself forward, and listen to my body and to my heart.  Trusting in where it can take me.  Trusting in what is meant to be, being.  The same goes for the taper and I need to remember that.  Right now I’m just floating on how amazing the experience has been so far, and my heart is full of hope and excitement for all that is possible.  Not just what is possible on November 16th in Richmond, but well beyond that.  Beyond running even.  All that is possible in LIFE.

less than 6 weeks to go!

Somehow I am staring at my calendar realizing that there are less than 6 weeks left until I run the Richmond Marathon on November 16th.

Ummm….how in the world has time flown by so quickly?  Wow.  That’s life for you.

Training has been awesome.  As good as – or really better than – I could have expected and I am just feeling SO thankful for that.  But honestly, I am not thankful because of the results it might produce.  I’m grateful because I am feeling so good and for the simple fact that I am running, doing what I love.  I’m grateful for the journey.

There really is a lot to be said for taking things one day, one moment, one step at a time.

Being in the moment, yet also working towards something bigger than yourself … this is how I want to be with all areas of my life.  It really, truly is.

It’s tricky though.

When you are “in the moment” that would mean you aren’t thinking about the future, right?  However if you have dreams you want to do things in the moment that will help lead you the direction of those dreams.  Kinda tricky if you ask me.  But maybe it is actually very simple and I over-complicate things with my tendency to over-think?  This is probably the case actually.

I like having a plan because it helps me see the big picture and hold myself accountable.  At the same time, I change it almost on a daily basis depending on how I am feeling or what is going on in my world.  Gotta roll with it.

planning the work to work the plan

I completely altered my training over the last couple of weeks and did a little less running so I would feel fresher since I decided to RACE my 10 miler last weekend and not just use it as a training run.  With so much time left to train I knew I would have the wiggle room to do that and still have one more build before I have to taper for my marathon.  I had to trust in that gut feeling.  I am really glad that I made that change because it felt so good to race!  Right now I am fiddling with what I will do over these next several weeks.  My main goal is to arrive at the start line for Richmond feeling happy and excited and strong and healthy.  Ready to pour it all on and run my heart out on race day.  To get there feeling that way I know I will need to take it one step at a time and adjust everything according to how I am feeling each day.  I’m not totally sure what the mileage will look like or what all the workouts will look like when all is said and done.  I haven’t even decided if I’m going to go with my usual 3 week taper, or if I will make it a 2 week taper instead like I did for Boston.  I just have to see how things go.

Yesterday I went out for a 20 mile long run.  I did 16 two weekends before and only 14 last weekend because of my race.  I was aiming for 18-20 yesterday and thought I would just see how I felt.  If it was a tough run and my pace was hard to keep, I would stop at 18 or maybe even cut it down to 16.  If I was feeling strong I would do 20.  With the warmer weather (hello August in October!?!) I had my doubts.  But thankfully as I got moving I knew that I felt strong.  I held a very steady pace and decided to go all 20 miles.

strong run!

When I look too much at what I have planned ahead I sometimes get really nervous.  If I stick to the plan I have laid out, I will peak at 96 miles before tapering.  I’ve never run that many miles in one week before (the most I have done is 92, and I felt awesome when I did that, but still those 4 miles make a difference to this girl!).  The thing is though I also know that I won’t do what’s planned unless it feels right at the time.  So I have to trust in myself and in my ability to listen to my body and to always keep the big picture in mind.  There is no point in running a ton of miles if it runs your body into the ground, after all.  High mileage is relative, and different for each one of us, and it does not necessarily mean you are in the best shape of your life just because you run a lot of miles … it could mean you are on the couch with an injury because you over did it.  I saw a quote today – somewhere I so wish I could remember! – but it said something like “there is a very fine line between being a badass and being a dumbass, so tread carefully.”  I love that.  I am trying to keep it in mind these next few weeks before I taper.  I really don’t care how many miles I actually run as long as I am feeling good and able to run!

So here’s to the next several weeks.  Staying in the moment and honoring how I am feeling and what my body and heart are telling me each day.  And moving forward towards that start line in Richmond.  Ready to rock it and do what I love!

running buddies – making miles and moments matter

Over the course of this training cycle so far, I have been BEYOND blessed to share a ton of my miles with some really amazing and inspiring friends whose company I truly enjoy.  When we run together, the time and the miles just click on by as we talk about anything and everything under the sun.  We encourage and support one another, we are real with one another, we laugh with one another, we listen to one another and we share whatever it is we feel like sharing.  And oftentimes, we just run silently side by side, to the rhythmic sound of our footsteps and our breath, taking in the beauty of the trail and appreciating that we are there and that we are together.

I cannot take the smile off my face just thinking about how lucky I am to have these guys in my life.

a pretty awesome crew of great peeps

Running buddies are the best buddies.  Even though our friendships were founded in a shared love for this sport, they transcend way beyond the trail because running isn’t just something we do – it is truly a part of who we are.

me and meghan – i never want our runs to end

My running friends have inspired me to believe in myself.  They’ve encouraged me and empowered me to be courageous at times when I have felt afraid.  They have reminded me of my priorities and of who I really am at moments when I have been smothered by self doubt or insecurity.  They have certainly seen me at my very worst on numerous occasions … and they love me anyway just as I do them.  We lift one another up.  We care so much, so sincerely, about one another and all aspects of our lives not just our running.  This connection and bond is strong and steadfast and true.

I am certain that I would not only not be the runner I am today, but I would not be the person I am today, without them.

me and dora – to the moon and back

On Sunday morning I set out for my long run all by myself.  It was the first time I was running long all alone in a while.  A bunch of my friends (including my sister!) were all doing this amazing 22 mile run on the trail with our local running club, the Reston Runners.  It is this amazing annual run they call “The Airport Run” – the club gets two big yellow school buses and drives everyone from our town of Reston out to National Airport, 22 miles east from Reston.  The runners are dropped off there and then run home back to Reston on the trail!  It is really awesome – you feel like you’re on a major adventure and it is great mental training too because you are running point-to-point and, well, you’ve gotta get home somehow!  It wasn’t in the cards for me to join them this year because of logistics with my family and because I wasn’t planning on 22 miles with my training schedule.  So instead I drove a little further east, parked my car and ran from Vienna towards them in hopes that I might catch them and at least give them hugs and high fives along the way.

Maybe it was the cool weather.  Maybe it was the fact that my legs appreciated the step back in miles I took earlier in the week.  Maybe it was the rest day the day before.  Maybe it was the fact that I was excited to be running in a less-visited part of my favorite trail and the change of scenery captured my spirit.  Maybe it was that I knew I was running towards my friends and sister and I was anticipating seeing them.  Whatever it was, it was amazing.  I felt like I was cruising, floating, and my pace was almost effortless.  Going into this run I had a little bit of concern that running long ALONE meant that I would run slower, because for my last few long runs I have been running with some incredible friends (who are also rockstar runners) and the runs have been so epic.  A handful of miles into this run though on Sunday and I knew there was nothing to worry about.  I needed to trust in myself. To listen to my body.  To let go of insecurity, be me, and listen to my heart.

At some point along the way out there, I think around mile 5ish, I came to the realization that it was highly unlikely I would see my sister and my buddies before I had to turn around.  I had this idea – wouldn’t it be so much fun if I had chalk and could leave them inspirational messages along the trail?!  I was bummed I didn’t think of it sooner!  But then I remembered that I would be passing a convenience store soon.  So I popped in and asked the clerk if he had a piece of chalk I could have.  He looked at me as though I had eight heads.  Um no.  I went outside to continue running and started chatting with some bikers who had passed me on the trail earlier.  They were so nice and they suggested I walk across the street to the drug store to see if they had chalk for me.  I went in and they had some but only for sale and of course I had no money on me.  The clerk there was an angel and offered to buy the chalk for me!  It was $1.30.  I was so grateful that my eyes filled with tears!  I took two pieces of the chalk and left the box for him to keep on hand in case any other crazy runner ladies rushed in to borrow chalk some day.  You never know, right!?

I got back on the trail and had so much fun with my messages.  Some of the ones I can remember:

FLOAT

JUST RUN

BREATHE & BELIEVE

HONEY BADGER STRONG

THB FO’ EVA

IT’S ALWAYS A GOOD TIME

22 MILES?? MY FRIENDS ROCK!!

I felt like a little running chalk fairy leaving notes for my friends along the trail and I smiled so big thinking of what their reactions might be as they saw them on their 22 mile run home from the airport.  It made me really, really happy.

The feeling of strength and gratitude that I had didn’t escape me the entire run.   About 18 miles in I developed a side stitch on my right side, most likely from not drinking enough — genius me didn’t bring water on this run and only stopped twice for some sips along the way.  I told myself I only had 2 miles to go though and muscled through it and the pain subsided.  It was good mental training for me to push through that.  My final miles were just as fast as my first and my average pace for the run was a 7:17.

b e l i e v e

When I got back to my car I picked up my phone to tell my family I was on my way back and I noticed I had a message with a picture from my sister.

Breathe & Believe is my sister Jodi’s mantra.  She has always told me that when I am suffering – whether it’s on a run or through a rocky patch in my life outside of running – all I need to do is to remember to BREATHE and to BELIEVE.

Don’t give up.
Keep it simple.
It will be okay.

Breathe
Believe

She said they saw my other messages and thought – how cool.  But when she came upon this one she knew it was me and her heart filled up and gave her wings.

I’m sitting here thinking, basking in the thought of, how amazing it is to have connections to people you love so much, who empower you and lift you up — even when you aren’t physically together.  Real friends and loved ones are life’s truest treasures.  By loving them and by being loved by them, I am stronger and my heart is more full.

Here’s to many more miles – and many more moments – spent with good friends and loved ones on the road ahead.

stepping back

Every now in then, in running and in life, it’s good to take a step back.  Not really just “good” actually — essential.  To reflect.  To heal.  Te refill your cup, so to speak.  To gain strength for the next steps forward.  I am always amazed and uplifted by how much my connection to running parallels how I feel about life.  Growth is a process and it involves moments where you either feel like you’re set back unwillingly (injuries or wounds or losses or illnesses, or things just not going the way you planned or hoped they would goshdarnit!), or you purposely take a step back to slow things down so that you can keep moving forward with passion and joy and presence.

As far as my running goes, I really try to take those purposeful steps back so that I can keep moving forward, even when I am feeling really good.  Sometimes these step backs are as simple as a recovery run or a rest day, or a whole week where I step away from my strength training routine, or a week or even a couple of months (between training cycles usually) where I reduce the intensity and/or volume of my miles and just run for fun and the sheer joy of it.

During a marathon training cycle I always take at least one rest day a week – off from all forms of exercise – and every 3-4 weeks I reduce my mileage and the intensity of my running so that I can recover on a bigger scale and stay strong for the training cycle.  I call these weeks my “step back weeks” and really try to not only embrace the additional rest from a physical perspective but also to reflect internally on how things are going, where my head is and where my heart is.  It’s a way to avoid injury as well as mental burnout.  When things are going extremely well in my training like they are now I sometimes have teeny moments where I consider NOT taking them because my body, mind and heart feel so good, but I know better and choose to stick to my own rules and trust that even when I’m feeling good these steps back and short periods of rest have a lot of purpose and will keep me healthy and strong and more energized for the road ahead.  I would much rather take a step back when I am feeling good than have to take one because I ran my body into the ground, after all!

This week is my first step back week in the last month.  Typically I build my mileage for three weeks, and then I step back for one week before building it back again.  The last three weeks were intense and awesome!  I ran three consecutive weeks of sky-high (for me) mileage (81 miles, 84 miles and then 90 miles) with 2 hard days (one quality track workout and one long run per week), one rest day and then easy/recovery running in between making those numbers add up – honoring the purpose of each and every run.  My body has been handling the mileage and the workload very well.  Last week my 90 mile week was topped off with my fastest long run ever – 21 miles at a 7:23 average – run with negative splits and feeling so strong the whole way through.  I came off that week with a major gratitude-filled “WOW” feeling.  I have spent the last few days since that run just hanging on to that feeling and trusting in the purpose of this step back week.

So what does a step back week look like for me?  This week has been mostly easy running with reduced mileage (I am taking my mileage back down to 70 miles this week) and today I went out for a run and threw in some tempo paced miles rather than doing a hard track workout this week.  My long run this weekend will be back down to 16 miles and I am still taking just one rest day this week.  I can tell that my body is appreciating the rest and I feel excited for the next build in my cycle so I know that my mind and spirit are benefiting from this break, too.  My race is still two months away so there is a lot of work to be done down the road and I want to feel fresh and strong and healthy for it!

Do you take step back weeks in your training cycles?  What do they look like for you?