Marathon Reflection Monday: 83 Days Until Boston

First, thanks for all of the encouragement and congratulatory comments this weekend! Both Aaron and I ran Half PR’s yesterday at Rock n Roll Arizona! I’ll have a recap up in the next couple of days, but we were in full celebration mode yesterday afternoon!

But today we are back to business.  The Boston Marathon is in 12 weeks, and training starts today (kind of…I will either do some elliptical at the gym this evening, or take a rest day since stuff still hurts).

Welcome back to Marathon Reflection Monday! MRM is something I started doing this past summer during my quest to BQ at The Chicago Marathon.

MRM is a way for me to take a hard look at my training progress every week.  What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong? And what lessons can I take away from all this to make me a stronger runner both physically and mentally? Plus, I heartily encourage unsolicited (solicited since I encourage?) advice on everything from compression socks to electrolyte tablets.  I’m so happy that other people have found this weekly reflection post useful, and I knew a few people have started posting their own versions as well!

So, Boston training. How did I get here?

Last February, high off of RnRAZ 2012, Aaron and I decided to sign up for our first marathon (well, Aaron’s first non-Ironman marathon).  After analyzing my paces, I concluded that it was perfectly reasonable to train into a Boston qualifying time of 3:30 (twice my half time…makes sense, right?) on my first try.  Go big or go home.  I made my goals public on our first day of training.

Turns out, preparing to run a full marathon was a whole different experience than preparing to run a half marathon.  I was emotional, I was grumpy, I was hungry, everything hurt all the time, and I got discouraged sometimes on a daily basis.  But I pushed myself and kept the dream alive. Going into the race, I wasn’t very confident, but thanks in part to a flat course and perfect weather along with 4 months of solid training, I qualified with a time of 3:33:55.

Typically, Chicago falls after Boston registration closes, so I wasn’t expecting to run until April 2014.  But in a very weird turn of events, registration remained opened, and I got one of the last spots for the 2013 race. Despite an initial emotional breakdown fueled by post-marathon depression, I am actually pretty damn excited and quite humbled to run what is considered the most prestigious road race in the world. And I’m a pretty big fan of unicorns.

So here we are.

I have opted to do a 12 week training plan, which is truthfully making me extraordinarily nervous since I’ve seen Boston training recaps popping up for the last month.  I thought I’d have a better base established, and even though yesterday’s race was a little confidence booster, I know I haven’t been putting in the number of miles that I should be.  It might not have been the best decision, but it’s too late now, so I’m going to have to make the most of the 12 weeks I have.

…I haven’t quite nailed down my training schedule yet (I have the excel spreadsheet open and I’m working on it!).  Hal Higdon’s has a Boston Bound 12-week plan with two 20 milers and a two week taper, so I will likely use his long run schedule (starting with 14 miles next weekend) and use the Lavender Training Plan that got me to a BQ for all of the stuff in between.  I am playing around with the idea of substituting one 20 miler with a 22 miler, and switching some of the back down off it weeks so I can run the Bataan Half in March.

My amazing husband has offered to train with me.  He doesn’t have a marathon on his schedule, so he will be getting up and doing long runs on Saturday for no other reason than to be supportive.  I am a very lucky lady!

I’m not quite sure how to approach making a time goal time for this race.  I put a lot of pressure on myself last marathon training cycle, and looking back on my old posts, I realize that I turned all kinds of crazy when it came to hitting paces and missing workouts.   I don’t know if I want to go through that again (or if you’ll want to read crazy Amy rants again).  Plus, if I do decide that I want to run a 2nd Boston in 2014, I can “double dip” my Chicago time, so I technically already have a 2014 qualifier.

But that being said, I want to challenge myself and I always want to work to get better, so I would like to hit 3:30 (my original Chicago goal) in Boston.  This means shaving almost 4 minutes off my Chicago time, or about 9 seconds per mile.  I’m still incredibly green at the whole marathon thing, so I don’t know if that’s reasonable progress for a 12 week cycle.

Also, I’m worried about the following:

1) Weather.  Statistically, this year shouldn’t be as warm as last year.  But, yikes.

2) The late morning start time.  All of the races I’ve run have been first thing in the morning.  I’m worried about failing to nail a pre-race breakfast/hydration/bathroom routine that works for a 10:30ish start.

3) This little thing known as Heartbreak Hill.


I train next to a mountain, so I’m used to lots of uphill running, but this tiny hill at the very end of Chicago felt epic.

Slide2This is straight from my Garmin report, but I think that giant spike in the middle is a lie. 


I’m always slower going uphill, so I’m worried that I’ll crash and burn trying to race the Newton Hills.

So, how am I going to conquer my fear of Heartbreak and shave 4 minutes off my Chicago time?  I still don’t really know.  Bu my training goals for the next 12 weeks include:

1) 4 days a week of weight lifting,

2) 6 days a week of core work,

3) 1 day a week of cross training (likely elliptical, spinning, or swimming),

4) rolling out my muscles and stretching every day,

5) eating completely clean 2 days a week,

6) practicing yoga once a week,

7) and remembering that there will be bad runs, that they aren’t the end of the world, and it is a waste of energy to frustrated or discouraged over them on a weekly (daily?) basis.

I’m not putting “follow the plan to an annoyingly exact degree” on here because I’ve come to realize that listening to my body is important, even if it means taking an unscheduled rest day. And I’ve proven to myself that I will push hard and strive to make the most out of each workout.  But it’s all of the little things like core work and stretching consistently that I need to work on.

In order to stay motivated, I’ve established a reward system for myself.  At first, I was thinking that I would indulge in a giant cookie for each week that I hit 100% of my goals, but then Oliver (which I pronounce Ol-eh-vah since he is British) reminded me (well, me and all of the other people who read his blog) that I’m not a dog and I shouldn’t reward myself with food.  And um, I’d probably eat the cookie regardless.

So, I will treat myself to a pedicure for every 2 weeks that I meet 100% of my goals.  I used to get pedicures all the time, but now I go maybe once a year (cheaper to do it at home), so I think this will be both motivating and rewarding since marathon training doesn’t necessarily make feet feel awesome or pretty.

So, here we go!  Another marathon training cycle kicks off!  I’ve truthfully been dreading the thought of ramping up mileage again, but the race yesterday reminded me that I love the race experience and I LOVE the feeling of crossing the finish line knowing that I’ve just hit a PR.  The harder I work now and the more effort I put into becoming a stronger runner over the next 12 weeks, the more fun I’ll have at Boston.

And if you can’t have fun at a race with something called Heartbreak Hill along the course, where can you?

Change “months” to “weeks” and this fits perfectly!

31 thoughts on “Marathon Reflection Monday: 83 Days Until Boston

  1. Get the book Advanced Marathoning and do one of their plans. I can give you the first week if you want. That book has had me ready like nothing else … just started this morning for Boston.

    Don’t worry about Heartbreak. It’s not that bad. I can give you all sorts of insight on good ways to run the course. I’ve run 104 marathons and four of my five fastest were at Boston.

    Oh and congrats on the PRs!

    • Thanks for the suggestion! I downloaded Advanced Marathoning on the Nook last night! I’m planning on incorporating uphill during all the long runs so hopefully in 12 weeks, Heartbreak won’t feel so bad!

  2. I agree with Sam! I just bought this book for my husband and I’ve been reading it when I can pry it out of his hands 🙂 Good stuff.

    Good luck — you got this! You should post some of your core exercises. I was doing really well with that for awhile but have been slacking lately.

    Congrats again on the PR!

    • I can definitely post the core exercises. Aaron had me doing some weird stuff yesterday! And I downloaded the Advanced Marathoning book last night!

  3. I just decided to rename Diamondhead “Heartbreak Hill” because it’s pretty much at the same point in the HNL marathon and was full of heartbreak. Excited for your plans as you head to Boston – you WILL rock it!

  4. That’s a super intense plan, so I’m glad you’ll “only” have to stick with it for 12 weeks! I like that it’s not all running, all the time — very well-rounded. I think you’ll be much happier physically and emotionally. Good luck!

    • I think it hit me more this morning that I’m heading into this again. I’m starting to have rosy feelings about the marathon, but I don’t have warm fuzzy memories of the training. Maybe it is good that I only have 12 weeks instead of 18 this time!

  5. Congrats on your PR!!! I really hope to half marathon PR this year (and marathon for that matter). I just bought one of Hal’s books at a used bookstore and I am hoping for some helpful tips to get me under 4 hours. Your training plan sounds great. 6 days of core…I need that too! Post your workouts for sure! Hope you had a nice day off (or on the elliptical)!

    • Thank you! Hal seems to really be the authority on these types of things, so I bet you’ll get some good information from that book. I’m hoping I can stick to 6 days of core! I figure posting that goal on here will help keep me motivated!

  6. Good luck Amy 🙂 I am slowly starting marathon training again. Probably gonna try a 16 wk plan rather than a 13 wk one I did for CT last year, to allow for bad training. Hope to start blogging more again in February too.

    • Thanks! I’m not looking forward to Heartbreak! It seems that 12 weeks is reasonable, and even with Chicago, I think the first several weeks were mostly base-building, so I was probably at about this point 12 weeks in anyway but seeing everyone in full swing is making me question it. At least I’m less likely to burn out! (I hope…)

  7. I love that you are so nonchalant about your training plan…4 days of weight lifting and 6 days of core work…holy crap…it was at this point in reading your post that I realized we have gone completely different ways in our running lives. You went nuts and I either stayed sane or became extremely lazy. You should add a #8 to your list…become Mrs Fitness USA. But seriously, I sense a PR and a sub 3:30 at Boston with that training routine and I look forward to being inspired!

    • Well, I figured this is the most beneficial time to go for those bucket list 4-pack abs! I really lost a lot of muscle/gained a few pounds during the last marathon training, so I’m hoping that by writing weight lifting, core work, and diet into the plan, I’ll prevent some of that this time around. Plus, even Hal said that successfully dealing with the downhill/uphill course requires strength training. I guess we’ll find out if it works!

      • Yeah! I couldn’t remember who else had AB’s on their “to-do” list. Well you definitely have the plan to get there! Strength training will definitely help you destroy that puny hill, you got, not problem. I started my marathon training program over a few weeks ago for RAGNAR in April…I am doing more cross-training things like Yoga, Bar Method and tons of stairs /hills but I definitely need to add weights to my routine because the last cycle destroyed my arms and chest muscles. IT WILL WORK, no doubt.

  8. Congratulations on the PR! I was wishing all weekend that I was running in Phoenix like I did last year. Oh well, you killed it, so I’ll live vicariously through your PR!

    I hear you on Heartbreak Hill (along with the other Boston concerns). Lately every hill I’ve been running up I think of Heartbreak Hill and how the more I do now, hopefully the easier it will feel come race day. Except yesterday, when I was doing a trail run in High Desert and face planted while attempting to run up a little hill. I completely ate dirt! I will need to strike this memory for future hill work, or I’ll be picturing myself falling on Heartbreak Hill, who does that?!

    • Thank you! I was thinking about you this weekend actually. I do think everything happens for a reason though, so maybe if you HAD gone, you would have face planted and injured yourself!

      Aaron has fallen pretty hard in High Desert before. I will keep my fingers crossed that you pass through Heartbreak without any major incident!

  9. Hi Amy!! So I just saw your comment on my blog post and came over to your blog!
    Ummmm, pretty sure we are the same person 🙂 I would LOVE to run a 3:30 (my goal for the NYC marathon this fall was to break 3:30). BUT after such a long training cycle this fall, and experiencing the grumpiness, pressure, etc (all things you just talked about), I am just not sure it is in the cards for me. I keep going back on train hard or have fun. If I go with the have fun route, I will still train, but not focus nearly as much on the mile repeats and speed workouts.

    Can’t wait to follow you through this process!!! And congratulations on your PR!! Seriously, what is better than a PR???

    • HI Ali! Thank you for stopping by! Marathon training is such a beast. I can’t imagine training that hard only have your marathon cancelled! I think that’s one of the reasons I don’t like training so seriously…your kind of giving up your life for 4 months and it might not even be worth it!

      Crazy that you have a westie. I love my dog! That breed is so quirky!

  10. Ooh, I’m so excited for your Boston training! 3:30 sounds like a very reasonable goal to me… you’re definitely lucky you have hills to train on! And I love your weights/core/cross training emphasis, I really think that makes such a difference in a training cycle.

    • I agree…it’s all of the non-running training that makes a huge difference! I tried to do all of the weights/core/cross training last time around, but I didn’t have an organized approach, so I didn’t follow through very often!

  11. I love the support that Aaron is giving you! I can’t wait to read how everything goes – it looks like you’ve got a really good plan going in. Here’s to a healthy and speedy training cycle!!

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