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Modesto Marathon training update – the final bit!

Modesto Marathon training update – the final bit!

You know, back in the day, I don’t think I appreciated or valued the taper for what it was or for the function it serves during the marathon training process. I feel like I was one of those runners who gets especially antsy, thinking and rethinking everything that I’ve done (or haven’t done) during the training and, consequently, second-guessing my ability to cover the marathon distance or my ability to deliver on a goal that I (probably somewhat arbitrarily) set for myself.

These days, I’m quite the opposite. By the time taper arrives, I’m ready for it. Maybe it’s a product of accumulated years of marathon training cycles, racing, and mileage, or maybe it’s just a byproduct of chasing after two small children at home; eh, it’s probably both. At any rate, I dig the taper. I respect its role in the process.


W, 2/24 – 13 miles with miles 4-7 @ tempo + 8×1 @ 10k RP with 2′ jog rests. Actual: 13.04 @ 7:58 average

This week necessitated a bit of Life Tetris-ing with my runs because we were leaving early Sunday morning for a Disneyland trip (yay, paternity leave), which meant that if I wanted to do both my LR and my speed stuff, I’d have to do something midweek. I ran this after the kids were in bed (around 9pm), kinda dreaded it all day long, probably emotionally ate to compensate, and my legs (and belly) felt heavy for all of it. In actuality, my posted splits were where they should have been (for once) – 7, 6:58, 6:52 and 6:25, 6:13, 6:47 (oops), 6:31, 6:53 (oops), 6:36, 6:22, 6:29for the 10k. On paper, everything was fine, but I felt like I was dragging ass for the most part. It happens.

The bigger issue on this run was that a creeper appeared out of seemingly nowhere when I was on my second or third 10k repeat, it scared the beejezus out of me, and I promptly grabbed my jacket (#priorities) then hightailed it off the unlit, cinder track and into a nearby neighborhood to finish my run. I run by myself often, I have no qualms about running in the dark (so long as I wear my headlamp, which I was), so the fact that I felt uneasy about this random person was alarming. Always, always, always trust your gut. Always.

Sa, 2/21 – 21 miles. Actual: 21.11 miles @ 8:31

Running is so humbling. My previous two 20 milers were without bowel consequence, and apparently, I had to make up for it. I spent the first 10.5 miles having GI catastrophe after GI catastrophe (you’re welcome), making me wonder if I should even try to finish the run, which was frustrating because my legs (and the rest of me) felt fine. Eventually, things turned around, and I had a lovely negative split to show for my efforts. For some reason, I kept gravitating toward the hills in and near my neighborhood, giving me about 700′ of climbing, so I had fun with mixing up the effort throughout the run, as well. Again, just one of those days, I guess.

Sa, 3/5 – 13 miles with miles 4-7 @ tempo + 8×1′ @ 10k with 2′ jog rests. Actual: zilch.

We were in Anaheim from 2/22 through 3/5, and running there is super tough due to logistics (and especially now that we have the baby). It’s doable, but it’s not easy, and my experience has been that when we go there and I don’t run, I lose virtually no fitness because we’re on our feet all day, every day. On this trip, I ended up running only twice while we were there, in part because of the logistical nonsense and because I eventually waved the white flag to the strep throat that I had apparently been harboring since 2/24. Ick. I was bummed to miss my last major speed sesh of training, but trying to power through it while sick (even if I felt decent, save for a total inability to swallow or generally turn my neck, as well as a total absence of my voice) would do me no favors. No go.

the Snow White ride broke down shortly after we boarded. It was moderately creepy.

Sun, 3/6 – 18 miles with final 5 @ GMP. Actual: zilch.

See the strep throat commentary above. We got back from Anaheim Saturday night, I spent two hours in a clinic waiting to get some antiobiotics (and a strep diagnosis), so I ultimately put myself in “fun timeout” on Sunday and forbade myself from running the last major workout of training (and San Jose’s 408k race, my fav race here). Again: bummed I had to skip this one, but I definitely know I made the right decision. Long term gains > short term gains.

Sa, 3/12 – 10 miles with miles 4-5 @ tempo + 8×2′ at 10kRP with 90” jog. Actual: 12.02 @ 7:43 avg

Apparently I have become quite consistent in my propensity to overestimate distance when completing speed sessions on the track. I overshot what should have been 10 miles to 12, and during the 8 rounds of 2 minutes at 10k race pace, I managed to screw up my intervals twice: once by hitting the wrong button on my watch and not realizing it for a good 300 meters and then, later, by running my interval for 30 seconds longer than I needed to. Derpy derp derp. My 3:30am baby-induced wakeup and apparent insufficient caffeine fueling made itself clear, evidently. My many derp moments aside, this went well. My legs felt a bit heavy, and the last bit got tiring and windy – is it a freaking law of nature that it is always windy on tracks?! – but no complaints. The stats: tempo at 6:45; 10k 2 minute repeats at 6:31, the screw up, 6:46, 6:33, 6:39, 6:54 for 2’30” (derp), 6:42, 6:33.

windy morning for sure, but damn, it was pre-tay!

Sun, 3/13 – 9 miles with final 6 @ GMP. Actual: 5.02 @ 7:23 average

I woke up Sunday morning, an hour less of sleep than usual (DST), and I think the sleep deficit, combined with the darkness, the relentless rain, some fatigue from Saturday’s dozen, and perhaps my still-getting-over-this-strep-stuff all seemed to coalesce, making me eventually get up, get dressed, get ready to go out … and then promptly go back to sleep for a while. I so rarely do stuff like this, so I chalked it up not so much to “lack of motivation” as to “I need to listen to my body so I can fire on all cylinders at my marathon in a week.” I eventually got out for this around 8pm, after I got the littlest in bed. Practically on my way out the door, I realized that if I did the workout as prescribed, I’d be way over my prescribed mileage for the week – not something I want to do a week before my race – so in the interest of “less is more,” I cut this down to 5. I figured I’d do a warm-up then 4 GMP, but I got into it right outta the gate, probably because GMP make me anxious for some reason, so I was keyed up on adrenaline right away. I was shooting for 7:35, probably (maybe? perhaps?) what I’ll go for on Sunday, and went 7:28, 7:28, 7:12, 7:21, 7:25 and felt great. Plus, I only had to stop once, at 0.3, for a stoplight. That’s a victory in and of itself. Stoplights are the bane of my running existence here in SJ.


getting comfortable with failing

getting comfortable with failing

By no means am I an expert at, well, necessarily anything, depending on your definition of what expert or expertise entails, but the least I can tell you–or probably safer still, promise you–is that consistency will take you pretty far… as will a sense of fearlessness and a relative comfort in failing.

At the end of this week, I hope to be comfortably collapsed on a piece of furniture, with my young daughter and husband probably dogpiled on top of me, as I stretch out my super-fatigued muscles, addaday-ing them away, while deeply and gratifyingly exhaling… taaaaaaaaaaaaaaper.

When I began my marathoning endeavors back in 2007, and really, probably until sometime after my first few marathons postpartum, tapering was the worst part of training for me. It was as though there were some crazy disconnect going on in my life as suddenly, I was re-handing to myself hours and hours of my life that I would normally be spending on the (Chicago) roads, churning, churning, churning, working for whatever probably-arbitrary goal I had set for myself.

Suddenly, my training volume and intensity decreased, and all I had to do was wait.

and not think.

and think about not thinking about the race that I probably shouldn’t be thinking about.

As you can surely glean, things got messy in the space between my ears, and come race day, I shit you not, I would be damn near SHAKING, literally, friends, as I toed the line because of all the self-inflicted anxiety and second-guessing I had thrown at myself during the taper… thinking that made me think that suddenly, all the preceding weeks and months of ass-kicking training, the sexy (mileage) and unsexy (crosstraining, flexibility, strength work, all the prehab stuff… basically everything but running) stuff no longer mattered or were somehow magically insufficient now.

As I look back on things, I think one of the biggest changes that came to my training and races from my prepartum days to those postpartum is that over time, I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea that, while I might fail to reach my A or B goal for the day, chances are, the race isn’t going to be a complete bust because I’ve gotten a lot of consistent years of training behind me by now. That’s not to say shit can’t happen during a race, because it most certainly can, but by and large, chances are that everything will be a-okay.


It might not be pretty, there might not be unicorns, but barring absolute, absolute, absolute catastrophe, I will finish vertically instead of horizontally.

Failing, and the idea of being comfortable with failing, is something that has been on my mind a lot these days because as I alluded to earlier, this week is my final peak week before I begin tapering down my mileage and intensity in preparation for my first 50k on December 14.

The nice thing about doing an event for the first time is that it’s your first time, so there’s really no standard to worry about or any metric against which you can measure yourself. I’ve never run 31 miles and change before, so the mere fact that I will simply focus on finishing the event before the time cut-off is worthy of celebration in and of itself (in other words: instant PR, baby!).

The bad thing about doing an event for the first time, though, is precisely that– it’s your first time, and no matter how much you’ve read, studied, damn near interviewed people more experienced and wiser than you, you still have no idea of what you don’t know. You think you know everything, that you’ve got it all figured out, but really… you have no fuckin’ clue, my friend (sorry, but the truth can hurt sometimes). I felt this way going into my first marathon in ’07, and I felt this way before giving birth in ’11; some things you simply have to do, or experience, for yourself. No amount of studying or interviewing or anything but the straight-up experience, itself, will suffice.

To be sure, there’s a decent chance that I’ll fail on the day of the 50k. Maybe it’ll be my first DNF or hell, a DNS; anything can happen. Maybe I’ll get mauled by a random mountain lion who decides to hang out along the 50k route and go after ginger ultramarathon novices. Or good grief, maybe I’ll get lost and have to somehow rapel my way down the hills days afterward because a search party can’t find me because I’ve gotten myself *that* lost.

follow the pretty lines
perhaps the mountain lions won’t be able to follow orange or yellow lines…

While some of these scenarios are probably at least a bit more unlikely than others, I guess what matters most is that before we do anything–in terms of our running, in terms of our career aspirations, or hell, in terms of our relationships or families or whatever–there’s always that chance, that crazy possibility that something will go so profoundly and catastrophically wrong that it’ll make make us regret and resent the initial decision we made however long ago to go outside our comfort zone and try something new. Fear of failing is real, and profound, and scary, people.

To that chance though, to that chance that I might fail, or DNF, or DNS, or GMBAML (get mauled by a mountain lion, obvs), I say: fuck it. Life’s far too short and far too precious to stay comfortable and to grow complacent. It’s not until we get so far above and beyond and through (all the prepositions!) our comfort zones that we grow: as people, as members of society, as runners, as whatever. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we only learn by experiencing… by growing… and by exploring.

lots of ascending with @8hasin to get this high... something unattainable from my comfort zone down far below (cred: SB)
lots of ascending with @8hasin to get this high… something unattainable from my comfort zone down far below (cred: SB)

There’s always that chance of failing, but seriously, there’s always that chance of succeeding, too.

Besides, you never know what you’re going to find along the way.

like bliss.
like bliss.

all my love to our upcoming racers in Philly, Dallas, and CIM, as well to everyone else who’s finally saying ‘eff it’ and going after those crazy-ass goals… fear of failure be damned.