Marathon Reflection Monday: 1 WEEK!

(First, I MISSED NATIONAL BEER DAY! I mean, not really since we enjoyed some locally brewed La Cumbre Malapais stout yesterday, but I didn’t celebrate with purpose).  

Holy cow! We are SEVEN days until GO time.  Not quite close enough to determine race day weather with any certainty (looking like high 50’s with a chance of rain), but not quite enough time to “cram study” my way to a passing grade (at this point of every year, I start having nightmares about passing finals even though my college career is long over…for now…).


While I haven’t been doing a lot of “blog” marathon reflecting this time around, I have been thinking a lot about what mistakes I’ve made, what I would do differently, and at what point everything changed from “on track for a super PR” to “not so much.”  Basically, I’m giving myself this one last whine fest, and then starting tomorrow, we are transforming to the intense mental workout that will hopefully carry me from Hopkinton to Newton and on into Boylston Street. Preferably on my own two feet as opposed to in an ambulance.

I made no secret over the fact that I didn’t love marathon training during Chicago.  Crossing the finish line to my first marathon was amazing, but I was re-reading my race recap, and I state very clearly that I didn’t want to make marathons a habit.

But I figured since I got the chance to run the marathon of all marathons, that I should probably soak up the experience and push for a very respectable PR time.  And I started training for marathon #2 in January.

I  had pretty high hopes going into this race.  For one, at the beginning of last training in June, I was at a 1:47 half.  At the beginning of this training, I was at a 1:41 half, meaning I was starting stronger and faster.  My first official run was 7 miles at marathon pace (about 8:10).  My first official run of last training cycle was a 7 mile long run that felt absolutely terrible.  And, there would be none of those dreaded 96 degree temperatures.

But my mindset going in was a bit different.  For one, I didn’t have the goal to re-qualify because I already have a 2014 qualifier (not that it guarantees anything), so the drive to accomplish a specific time goal was significantly less.

And as much as I complained about training in the heat of summer, as it turns out, I’m a much bigger wimp when it comes to cold weather.  During the winter I had to either run at night (dark and scary), or run in 10 degree temperatures in the morning, and a lot of times I just hung out on the treadmill.  And when winter gave way to spring, my allergies took over (they still are) making breathing feel much harder than it should.  And, when the time changed and there was daylight and warmth…well, let’s just say patio happy hour felt far more appealing than running. But then I would feel bad and try and run after happy hour. And running hard after happy hour doesn’t feel as good.

But all of that was easy overcomable.

Unfortunately, I made 3 sabotaging mistakes this training cycle that hindered my success:

1) Not letting myself completely heal after Chicago.  During my last 20 miler in September, my calf suddenly started bothering me to the point that I barely ran in the 2 weeks leading up to Chicago.  During the race, I was fine, but within hours after finishing, that little calf issue turned into a big problem.  I couldn’t run for 3 weeks post marathon.

The calf issue was kind of annoying through RnR Arizona half training  but nothing too bad, and I jumped into marathon training, even though it wasn’t completely pain free.  Three weeks ago, it got to the point where running was impossible.  And it hasn’t gotten better despite desperate efforts to fix it (I have session #2 with the sports chiro dude, so I’m hoping for good things).  I run one day and have to take the next couple of days off, which hasn’t lined up with the training plan very well.  I have lost speed and I have lost endurance.  I am not in as good of shape as I was before Chicago.

2) 12 Week Training Cycle.  For Chicago, I did 16 weeks, and it worked fine.  I chose the 12 week cycle because Hal Higdon’s “Boston Bound” plan said it was ok, and because I wanted to finish the RnR Arizona half before I started training, BUT I also thought that I would have a stronger base built at that point.  In the end, I ramped up faster than I was ready, probably not helping the calf issue.

3) Getting caught up in the mileage envy.  Right at the beginning of training, I started secretly reading Boston training blogs and they all had one thing in common: significantly more mileage than I was doing.  I panicked and started doing more weekly mileage than my plan (which worked PERFECTLY for Chicago) called for (see also, ramping up too fast above).  This bombed fast.  I don’t think I ever got a complete week in.  I was either hurting or burned out.

I burned myself out on running and managed to get hurt as wel, which are really inconvenient ways to enter into a marathon.

I don’t want to get completely down because who knows what will happen on April 15th.  I believe in the power of confidence and positive thinking, and I still somewhat believe I can will myself to a decent race time.  And truly, even though I’m not in PR shape, I should still finish in about 3:45, which isn’t a terrible time by any stretch of the imagination.

I’m comforted by the number of people who emphasize that Boston is a “victory lap” and shouldn’t be used to PR. Stressing out over a time goal or an unsuccessful training schedule is counterproductive to the experience.  Also, Meb dropped out last week due to a lingering calf injury which is a reminder that even elites have bad training cycles.

And on the upside of all of this, I have been much less stressed this time around.  I haven’t been having marathon nightmares, and taper has been much more relaxing.

So, now that my marathon sadness session is over, we can transform to the mental workout and CHEERLEADING! Time to prepare for the pain and resolve to push through it!

Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

23 thoughts on “Marathon Reflection Monday: 1 WEEK!

    • Thank you! Just based on my experience on a flat course followed by a very tiny uphill at the end, I can’t even imagine what a 5 mile stretch is going to feel like! I certainly can’t imagine it feels like PR victory.

  1. 3:45 would still be an awesome! Maybe go out without a time goal and just see how you feel. If your calf starts bothering you, there’s little you can do about it… at this point, it’s probably not worth injuring it even more just to cut 10-15 minutes from your finish time. Good luck with the mental prep! You can do it!!

    • I’m actually working on my pacing strategy and time goals right now. And yeah, I’m glad I kind of burned out a few weeks ago, because I was able to focus on recovery as opposed to continuing to run even though I couldn’t. I realized that being able to run again is probably better than injuring myself so bad that I can’t run for another few months.

  2. There are so many tales – some familiar, others apocryphal – of people who had an amazing training season just to eat it hard on race day. On the other side though there are just as many whose training was plagued with issues that went on to run confidently and with grace.

    Which sucks. I’d like to think that race day results are a direct product of training, a predictable 1-to-1 consequence. But alas, it isn’t. There are so many external factors that we can’t control, too many chaotic X factors to keep in line. And as the eminent MedalSlut above noted, sometimes the difficulties end up working in your favor.

    A running friend of mine ( is also running Boston and ITBS kept his training to a minimum. But he’s going into the race with the “victory lap” mentality — have fun, enjoy the course, bask in its historical significance and then go to town on some Harpoons afterward.

    Good luck!

    • I’ve definitely had my share of races where I did way better than I should have, and I’m definitely holding out hope that it will happen this time around! And it really is frustrating to know that you can go into a race completely prepared only to be handed bad weather or food poisoning or whatever. That’s why I never let training get in the way of life because in the end it just might not be worth it !

      And absolutely looking forward to some Harpoons! Thanks!

  3. It sounds like you are in the right state of mind. Boston will be amazing and however you decide to approach the run I am sure it will be a great memory! Good luck and HAVE FUN!

  4. We missed national beer day too! How do these things happen! Boston is an incredible opportunity and will be such a great adventure. Be so proud of all of your hard work and training over the past year! It’s the journey…

  5. Dang it! I missed National Beer Day too. I’ll claim an early celebration.

    It sounds like whatever misadventures you have had during training with the calf and mileage envy that you are in a great mindset now. I hope the last few days of your taper are relaxing and that you have an amazing time in Boston!

    • Haha! STILL trying to relax. I was ok, but now I’m starting to have some of the taper crazies. Luckily, it is too cold here to do anything too counterproductive!

  6. i’m excited to hear all about it! Hope you can enjoy the experience, regardless of the outcome. And you were smart to write out these reflections and think about what you’ve learned. I always get envious of higher mileage plans too… but I know my body needs to build up to that so, so carefully. Fingers crossed that your calf is 100% for race day!

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