More Than a Marathon

26.2.  This is the number that has pushed me out the door.  It’s the number that reminded me of my strength and endurance that I thought I left behind in college. It’s also the number that filled my postpartum days with rhythm, cadence, hope and a sense of purpose.  Don’t get me wrong. Being a mother to Hudson is purpose enough, but training for a marathon gave me something that was just for me. It pushed me to prioritize my own sanity and well-being. It gave me goals. It gave me something beyond changing diapers and making meals.  In many ways, the choice to sign up for the San Francisco Marathon, allowed me to finally feel more like myself.

I get it.  Running a marathon might not be your postpartum remedy.  Maybe for you it looks like going on that yoga retreat that you have been dreaming up.  Or drafting that book idea that has been roaming in your head for years. Or taking up gardening, cooking, knitting.  Whatever it might be, I am convinced that as new mothers, it is essential for us to find something beyond our roles as moms, wives, and workers. Find the thing you are most passionate about and chase after it.  It is so easy to say, I will pursue that passion when the kids are older, when I have more time, when I actually sleep through the night. A few months ago, before I signed up for the marathon, that is exactly what I said.  Running a marathon doesn’t make sense now.  I have a baby, I barely sleep, I will run one later. The more I thought about it, later was not going to be any easier to train for a marathon.  Later, likely means, more kids, more schedules to balance, and even less sleep. I realized that right now, was actually probably the simplest our life will be.  Now was the time for 26.2. Life would not become any less crazy if I waited. Postpartum life is exhausting and draining, and in a lot of ways it might not feel like the best time to pursue that passion project that has been brewing in the back of your mind; however, I am convinced this is exactly the right time.  Pursue that passion. Set personal goals for yourself. And chase after it wholeheartedly. 

The marathon has been much more than just a marathon.  In a lot of ways, it was never really about the marathon.  Not fully. It was about me. It was about that girl I used to be.  The one that was competitive and driven and passionate. It was about running back to her.  It was about getting back some of those traits I seemed to let go of for a bit. It was about re-meeting her, but also about showing her this new woman I have become.  It was getting back some of the fierceness I had let go of, and showing the old me the strength and confidence new motherhood has given her. In a lot of ways, it was a blending of worlds.  It was never about getting back to that girl I was in high school or college. I would never want that! My life now is a million times more full and beautiful; however, it was about grabbing back that thing that drove me and pushed me and made me better.  It was about reaching out back to running and squeezing it to fit back into my current life of diapers and nursing and baby snuggles.

It hit me the most about how different my life is compared to when I used to compete and race, when the couple days before the race, I was concerned not about a sore hamstring or calf, but my chest, specifically my left breast.  My body seemed to just not want to give up on producing milk, so even though I stopped nursing nearly a week before the race, one side was entirely still engorged leading up to the race. And I was freaking out about it. Every time I ran, it hurt.  After prayers and hot showers, it ended up being fine for the race, but this is the perfect picture about how things change. And I love this change. I still can compete and race and train my heart out, but there are realities of my life, like milk supply issues, that keep me grounded and remind me that running is a good thing I can still enjoy and pursue, but it is not the thing. Being a good mother is my focus right now, but that doesn’t mean I need to throw out my other passions. It just will look different.

As I ran the marathon yesterday, I felt very proud. Of course, I was proud to finish it and finish well with a 6th place female finish and a sub-3 hour time, but my pride went far beyond that.  I was proud I stayed committed to the intense training even when my life of less sleep and chasing after a toddler, is not the best training conditions. I was proud that I could run competitively and put myself in the race, but still smile throughout.  I was proud of those countless runs with the jogger that made both my arms and mind stronger. I was proud of those longer tempo runs where I pushed myself into uncomfortable places and was reminded that I still have speed left in these legs of mine. I was proud of those 20 milers completed in Malaga Cove and always hitting the mileage even when my legs wanted to stop.  

In the unpredictability of motherhood, it is nice to have one thing that you can control.  While racing and running can also be unpredictable, you still have control leading up to the race.  You have the control whether you complete the runs or not. You have control of the pace. You have control of the moments you push yourself and the ones you hold back on.  Those first few months postpartum, I was drowning and overwhelmed by the fact that I felt I had lost all control. I could not control when or how he wanted to eat. I could not control when he slept.  I could not control when he decided to cry. This loss of control brought me down on my knees to the bathroom floor. Motherhood has been my very needed lesson and reminder that I am not the one in control, God is.  It showed me how I needed to let go of my very tight grip on things. While my ever-controlling heart learned to let go of things outside of my control through motherhood, running reminded me that there are certain things I can still have control of.  I still have control of my attitude and whether I step outside and push myself or not. Attitude and miles. I have control of that.  

So if you have recently entered postpartum life and are drowning, like I was, I hope this can serve as encouragement to sign up for something! It doesn’t need to be a marathon, but it could be! Sign up for any race distance. Sign up for that retreat I mentioned above.  Sign up for that hip hop class. Sign up for that calligraphy class or that ceramics class or that knitting class. Sign up for something that fills you up and reminds you of your unique giftings.  You are more than a mother. You are more than a wife. You are a daughter of the King and he made you with a great purpose. Live out that purpose. Sometimes to follow that purpose and His will, all it takes is signing-up.  He will take it from there.

10 Things To Do Week Leading Up to the Marathon

This is the week.  Marathon week. As promised, this is the final post in my Marathon Wednesday Series.  This post was originally going to be a compilation of marathon inspiration from interviews I gathered from people who have completed marathons, but life happens and that idea never happened.  So instead, I am sharing a few things I am intentionally incorporating into my week to help with my performance come Sunday. While at this point there is not much more I can do that will change my fitness, there are a few small intentional choices I have made this week to help me feel both physically and mentally ready.  So, if you are gearing up for your fall marathon and have all the weeks of training carefully laid-out, but feel a little less certain about what that final week should look like, this one is for you! Here is a checklist of 10 things you should consider doing the week of your marathon.  

1. Run Less Miles

Depending on who you ask, people will have different opinions of what your mileage should like in that week leading up to the big 26.2.  Most schools of thought can agree that cutting back on mileage is a good and necessary thing; however, there are some that don’t believe in a full-on taper.  The thing with training is that especially after all the major miles and workouts have been put in, the final week is more about your mental state. For some, they might feel better if they don’t cut back a ton in miles.  For others, a significant cutdown helps them mentally feel ready. While I was initially resistant to cutting back a ton on the mileage, I have cut my runs this week down to either 4 or 5 mile runs. This is about 3 miles less per day.  I am also taking the Thursday before the race off. This is putting me at about 21 miles before I race the 26.2. While there is definitely still a temptation to squeeze in a few more miles this week, I know that those miles won’t help. If anything, they could keep me from fully recovering and feeling my freshest in the race.  

2. Run a Workout that Brings Confidence 

While there is no need to run a crazy workout during Marathon Week, a very short and easy workout, is a good thing to incorporate to help give you confidence going into the race.  I ran a workout on my normal workout day, Wednesday. It was just extra short. I ran a 2 mile warm-up, 2 miles at my goal marathon pace, and a mile cool down. This workout was solely for confidence.  I ran the two miles about 10 seconds faster than my goal pace and that was intentionally trying to go really easy and controlled. This was a huge boost in confidence. I finished those 5 miles feeling amazing. I highly suggest creating a light workout, like the one above, to help remind you that even in your tiredness, all those miles and hard work paid off. You are fit.  You are ready.

3. Drink Lots of Water

This is an obvious one, but especially if you are not great when it comes to hydration, this is the week to be extra intentional about it. Carry that bottle everywhere. Have a cup of water by your bedside.  I used to be really great at drinking water, but ever since becoming a mom, I so easily forget to drink water for myself. I am constantly putting Hudson’s sippy cup in front of him, but don’t do the same for myself.  This week, I am all about the water. I just sit and drink whole glasses and actually think about how that water is getting my body ready for the race. 

4. Take an Epsom Salt Bath, Sleep In Compression Socks & Roll

I just wrote a post about the importance of recovery, if you missed it, you can check it out here.  Recovery is essential throughout training, but this week, especially, I have been making sure I dedicate daily time to recovery.  We just had our bathroom remodeled, so we can now take baths! Taking an epsom salt bath is a great way to relax your muscles and allow for blood flow.  Every night this week, I have been sleeping in my compression socks. Again, increased blood flow. While I have not been great at rolling out during this whole training block, I am trying to spend a few minutes rolling out before I go to bed.

5. Listen to Inspiring Marathon Stories

While I typically listen to a variety of different podcasts, this week my ears are being filled with inspiring marathon stories.  While who knows what I will be thinking about during the race, I like to think that I will carry bits and pieces of the motivation and inspiration I have listened to throughout my week.  

6. Try to Conserve as Much Energy as Possible (early to bed/naps)

I like to keep my days full and busy.  While we still have had relatively full days with getting runs in and then going to our church’s Vacation Bible School, I am working really hard at trying to not use up too much energy.  I am letting certain things go this week. I know they will be there for me next week. While this one is harder for me, I am also trying to get more sleep in. We are working on going to bed slightly earlier.  While I am not really a nap taker, I am taking my afternoon rest time seriously this week.

7. Focus on Nutrition (but still eat cookies!)

Since I am really just running for fun right now, I haven’t been going crazy with nutrition, but this week I really am focusing on making sure I get good, healthy calories in.  Lunches are the hardest for me. I always make Hudson a nice, big lunch, but for some reason I always find myself just snacking or eating random leftovers for lunch. This week I am trying to put together more comprehensive lunches for myself.  Our dinner meals are usually pretty healthy, but we are especially focusing on getting in good proteins and healthy carbs. Think salmon, chicken, steak, rice, quinoa, pasta. Like I mentioned in the title, I still am eating sweets! Those cookies are necessary. They won’t ruin a race. 

8. Visualize the Race 

All week there has been a background track in my mind of me racing the course.  I am present, but there is still part of me that has my mind racing. I am playing out different situations. I am imagining feeling super strong. I am thinking of scenarios that could go wrong and how I will respond. I picture running in a pack and holding on when the pace changes.  A healthy dose of visualization, regardless of the type of runner you are is important. Even if time does not matter to you, and the major goal is to get to the finish line, thinking about running through the course, is important. Think of any big, important thing you do. You visualize how it will go, you plan, you prepare.  Running a marathon is a big, important thing. You must visualize. Also, if this will be your first time on the course, I highly recommend finding a YouTube video or resources that takes your through the whole course. We watched the course video a couple months ago, but we will definitely watch again the night or two before the race.

9. Break In Race Shoes 

If you plan on racing in marathon flats, be sure to break them in! My pretty white and pink New Balance flats just came in the mail last week.  Each day this week I have been wearing them. I did one workout in them and the other days, I have just worn them for a few days out on errands. 

10. Do Strides 

Last, but not least, do strides.  These could be longer strides, like a minute or they could be super short, like 20 seconds.  The idea is to give your legs a little feel of moving quicker and getting some turnover in. I also use strides as confidence builders and work on my form.  This week, I have not had a ton of time to do strides after my run, so instead I have used the last portion of my run to incorporate a few strides where I pick up the pace. This is a great sharpening tool. It is the cherry on top to weeks and weeks of hard training. Side note: strides are a great idea to do throughout training, but it hasn’t been something I have been very consistent at during this training block.  

To those running San Francisco this week or to those running a fall marathon, best of luck! Enjoy this final week of training.  As my college coach used to always say, “The hay is in the barn.” It is. You’ve done the work. You’ve got this. Enjoy it. Push yourself. Believe you can. 

5 Ways to Recover When You Aren’t a Pro Runner

One of the things I miss most about college running is having the access to the training room. I took it for granted back then. I could finish a hard workout and then just walk over to the training room and step into the ice bath. Not only was this facility easily accessible to me, it came with a whole team that was also going to the ice bath or rolling or stretching, which further motivated me to do the same. It is one thing when the ice bath is a social event with good friends and an entirely different thing when you have to buy the ice, fill up your own bath tub and painfully enter the cold water all by yourself. I much prefer an ice bath that is already set up for me and comes with friends to chat with. Needless to say, I have done zero ice bathing in this training block. I have done a fair amount of ocean dips. And sure, not the same benefits, but a dip in the relatively cold and salty ocean is better recovery for my legs than not. When you no longer are running in college and are not a professional runner, it can be logistically more challenging to get in proper recovery. Recovery is essential and it matters, but for the non-elite runner, it can feel like too much. For me personally, it feels like enough just to get my runs in. It can feel overwhelming to also figure out a way to spend time recovering post-run. Recovery for the non-elite will look different, it may even involve some ocean dips, but there are small and easy things you can do to help ensure you are still allowing for proper recovery.

1. Bring a Bar

They say the ideal window for allowing your body to recover post-workout is within 30 minutes after completion. If I don’t plan ahead, I will often miss this window and not even eat anything for an hour or so after. This is not good. Bringing a bar with you is a really easy way to allow for recovery. I try to always leave the house with a bar packed in my bag, so I can have easy access to it. If I am home right after a workout, I will typically try to make a smoothie and blend in protein powder. This is the ideal recovery drink, but a bar is definitely always the better option than an empty stomach.

2. Sleep in Compression Socks

When time is the limiting factor, this hack of sleeping in compression socks, allows for increased blood flow to your tired muscles as you do what you need to do every night: sleep! If you’re anything like me, even this act of putting the socks on before you go to bed can be difficult to remember. Set out your compression socks on your bed to help remind you.

3. Incorporate Rolling into Evening Routine

The hardest part of recovery is finding time for it. We find time to brush our teeth every night, so why can’t we prioritize our muscles? Remember, routines do not need to take a large chunk of time. I know I easily have 5-minutes in the evening that I waste on social media that I could put to rolling out before I go to sleep. Make this a routine. Make it something as routine as brushing your teeth. Leave out your roller by your bedside to help make this actually happens. If you don’t have a roller and are serious about recovery, I highly recommend that you get one. Here is the one we have and love.

4. Ask a Friend or Spouse

When you no longer have access to trainers to massage out your tried legs, you ask your husband. At least that’s what I do. Most of us average, everyday runners will not have access to trainers, nor do we want to spend the money on weekly massages or adjustments. The things is, you don’t need to be a professional trainer to help muscles recover. Use the people in your life to help you out.

5. Ocean Dip

As I alluded to in my introduction, oceans can be your ice bath. I can sense the eye rolls, but in all seriousness, spending sometime swimming around in the ocean post-workout, especially if it’s in the winter and extra cold, is a perfect, easy and fun way to allow for recovery. I live near the beach and I understand that this is not possible for everyone, but if you don’t want to go through the hassle of buying ice and making an ice bath, get creative. Take a really cold shower. Put ice packs on your calves. Freeze water bottles and roll out those tired feet. Is this always going to be as effective as those ice baths in training facilities? No, but it is so much better than nothing.

Recovery is just as important for the pro runner as it is for you! It is just going to look a little different and might involve more trips to the ocean. Recovery does not need to be overwhelming or expensive. Make a few small choices that gives your body the recovery it deserves.

Favorite Products for Training

One of the reasons my heart is so fond of running is the simplicity of it all. Compared to a lot of other sports, running does not require much. There is not a lot of equipment or gear required. You don’t really need to drive to a specific arena or location. All you need is to lace up shoes and make that initial step out the door. You, shoes, pavement, some level of commitment; that’s really all that is required. When you begin to start adding the longer miles, this simplicity remains the same, but there have been a few products we have used in this training block that have kept the legs feeling good and our bodies energized. We were fortunate enough for a few companies to send us free products as we trained for this marathon. Some unexpected, like coffee, but let me tell you, even the coffee you drink makes a difference. From coffee brewed at 5 am to protein smoothies post-workout, these little choices matter. The running part only can be done for an hour or two per day. Obviously, that part is largely important, but think of all the other hours in a day. There are so many things you can use and consume in and out of the act of running that will absolutely impact your performance. Here are some of the products and brands that sponsored us that we have really loved.

Photo Courtesy of www.maurten.com

Maurten Gels

Prior to marathon training, the only performance gels I had used were Gu Energy Gels. While I loved the different flavors of Gu, they always left my stomach feeling weird and my mouth feeling dry and dehydrated. Then enters, Maurten. If you haven’t heard of this company, you really should check them out. There is science behind their gels. They are specifically crafted in a way to avoid the GI distress that a lot of other performance gels, packed with sugar and extra flavors, can cause. They are still packed with carbohydrates, but the hydrogel technology of Maurten makes it soft and smooth on your stomach. For all of our long runs over 15 miles, we have been taking these Maurten gels. They give energy when mine begins to fade around that 8th and 12th mile. We really have been loving these gels and excited to use them come race day.

Photo Courtesy of www.primalkitchen.com

Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel

I have finally found a protein powder that I can feel good about. In college, our training room fridge was always stocked with Muscle Milk drinks, so that is what I drank. It was accessible, free, and convenient. I did not particularly love the flavor and I tried to just not look at that long ingredient list that I could not pronounce. Then enters, Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel. I love this protein powder for two main reasons. For one, it is both dairy and soy-free. This is a big deal in the protein world, where it seems like tons of protein powders are milk-based. For most of my training I have needed to be dairy-free. Primal Kitchen’s collagen fuel has been the perfect dairy-free recovery drink. Primal Kitchen’s protein powder is coconut-based, which gives it a really yummy and natural flavor. The simple ingredients and very natural coconut flavor mixes really well in smoothies and even coffee. I usually put the vanilla flavor in my smoothies and it adds a really nice creamy flavor. Secondly, I love that it is collagen-based. If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of collagen, you can read about them here. Collagen is amazing for your hair, skin, nails, but I mostly love the way it makes my joints feel smooth and strong. I typically have issues with my lower back and hips, but the pain literally went away once I began consistently taking the collagen fuel. Everyone’s body is different, but I know that collagen is key for my body, especially when it is under the pressure of a ton of miles.

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Photo Courtesy of www.zensah.com

Zensah Compression Socks

Of course the running shoes are important, but you can’t forget about the socks. Good quality socks matter. They are even better if they help promote faster recovery and prevent injuries like shin splints. Prior to this cycle of training, I never wore compression socks much. Now, after trying out Zensah’s compression socks, I am a huge believer in the value of them. There are tons of compression socks on the market, but I really love the quality of Zensah and the super fun designs. They also sent me a pair of race socks with flying pigs on them, which I am pumped to race in. I have really noticed a difference in my legs from wearing these compression socks. I have even done a couple tempo workouts and a long run in them. I actually felt faster wearing them. I love how my legs feel so much more supported. After super hard workouts or the really long runs, I would go to sleep in the compression socks and definitely noticed a difference in the freshness of my legs the next morning.

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Photo Courtesy of www.mrespresso.com

Mr. Espresso Coffee

Dreams really do come true. We are officially coffee sponsored! For the past 3 months of training, 4 bags of free coffee beans have been sent to our house. I will always run if free coffee is on the line. In all seriousness, Lance and I have become huge fans of Mr. Espresso coffee. When getting prepped for marathon training, you might not be thinking about what coffee you are drinking, but all the details matter, and if you are a running, coffee drinker; you know the important role coffee can play pre-run. Let’s just say, coffee is absolutely necessary for any day, but especially prior to runs. It is part of the routine to get ready for a run. I really am not that big of a coffee snob, but quality does matter to me when it comes to coffee. You can taste the quality in Mr. Espresso. We have really enjoyed tasting their variety of flavors. Just by a quick look at their site, you can tell that they take coffee really seriously. They are all about quality and the taste of their beans really sets them apart. Our coffee for the past few months has absolutely been better than our typical Trader Joe’s coffee. Morning routines matter pre-run, find a coffee that can help get you energized and ready for the miles.

Photo Courtesy of www.tracksmith.com

Tracksmith Singlet and Shorts

In high school, it was green and gold. In college, it was crimson and white. These were the colors on my singlets that I raced in. Now, it is Tracksmith. To say I’m excited to race in our beautiful, cream-colored Tracksmith jerseys, is an understatement. If you haven’t heard of this running apparel company, you need to click on that link above and read all about them. Their mission, their high-quality, their unique style, and overall love for the distinct running culture, sets them apart. One of the many reasons I love this brand is how deeply rooted they are in the running culture. This is a brand for runners by runners. As someone who is not an elite runner, but takes running seriously, their brand and mission really speaks to me:

“We honor the Amateur Spirit upon which the sport was founded and champion the Running Class — the non-professional yet competitive runners dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. We offer well-considered and authentic products for training, racing and recovery. In everything we do, we aim to celebrate, support and add to running’s distinct culture.” -Tracksmith

The non-professional, yet competitive runners dedicated to the pursuit of personal excellence. That is me and I love how they put language to my relationship with running. Tracksmith has much more than just racing singlets. They have a wide selection of running gear that all gives off that vintage, running feel. I am obsessed with the style. It is simple and classic. Their products really are beautifully designed and their packaging is top-notch. You feel important as you open their boxes. Every detail is carefully thought out. I could not think of a better brand that I would want to represent in our race.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I love the simplicity of running. You don’t need much. I am all about running and training with a minimalistic mindset. I don’t want to be overloaded with unnecessary products. Every single brand I mentioned above, I believe in and highly value their quality. You don’t need much to run well. Just you, shoes, pavement, commitment. But hey, a good cup of coffee, gels that don’t kill your stomach, well-designed compression socks, dairy-free protein powder, and a beautifully-designed singlet, can’t hurt either.

Marathon Training Tips

So you want to run a marathon, but you have no idea where to start? Then, you are in the right place. I am going to break down my training to give you some tips and inspiration when creating your own plan. The idea of 26.2 miles can feel very daunting, even for someone that has been a runner for over 10 years. The key is to start small and build from there. Especially if you do not regularly run, you cannot just jump into high mileage and workouts. You need to slowly acclimate your body to the mileage. There are tons of training programs you can access online. A popular one is the Hal Higdon training programs, which I am linking here. There are different plans based on the type of runner you are. I think these plans can be a great starting point, but I also think it is important to craft the plan to your specific body and life. Don’t be afraid to get a plan and then make the proper adjustments that make sense for you. Don’t be afraid to change around days or to increase mileage on certain days and take days off when you are struggling. I am not training with the same intensity I did in college; therefore, I am not in as good of shape. However, this is one of the first times where my body feels genuinely good and strong. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I am in charge of my own training. The truth is, you know your body best. If you are disciplined, there is no better coach to have than yourself. Who knows your body better? With that said, no one should train for a marathon alone and isolated. Even if you are largely making decisions on your training, you should still absolutely consult with someone else to make sure you are on the right track. Marathon training is hard work, if possible, find a tribe that helps keep you motivated and consistent.

If you are postpartum and beginning to train for a marathon, you can go back and read my specific tips for postpartum marathon training, here.

Today, I want to give more specific training tips for marathon training. I am not a coach or by any means a marathon expert. This is my first ever marathon! So, I get it, maybe not the most credible, but there is this quotation that makes me feel a bit more credible when it comes to marathons:

“To run your best marathon you have to be in your best 10K shape. To be in your best 10K shape you have to be in your best 5K shape.” -Randy Thomas, Women’s XC Head Coach at Boston College

I have lots of experience when it comes to training for fast 5Ks. This is really the base of good marathon training, but of course the mileage and longer steady states must be added. So this might be my first time training for a marathon, but I have years of 5K training under my belt. I also believe a huge aspect to good marathon training is patience. You can’t jump into that 20 mile long run. You have to build and build and patiently await the 26th mile. It will come, and you will be ready.

These tips are definitely more geared to the busy person that is trying to squeeze marathon training into an already hectic schedule. This is for those that love running, but running is not everything. This is for those that want to hit their goal, whatever that might be (BQ, sub-fill-in-the blank hours, or just crossing that finish line), but do not want training to take over their lives. So if you’re still with me, and saying yes, yes, yes, that is me, then here are 5 tips to consider when beginning to marathon train:

Start Where You Are

There are tons and tons of training plans to choose from, but I think one of the best ways to create a training plan that works for your body, is starting exactly where you are and slowly building from there. I am not going to get into the technicalities of the training plan because there is so much variation based on running background, but I think a general rule of thumb is to start with what you have been doing. So for example, if before you decided to run a marathon, you were running 4 miles, 4 times a week. So, 16 miles per week. Start that as week 1 of training. In terms of start date, that will also vary based on running experience, but as long as you aren’t going from zero running, 4 months out is plenty of time to build. If you are going from literally not running at all, I would give yourself an extra month to just work on getting used to running occasionally. Back to my example. If you start with week 1 at 4 days of running per week, averaging about 16 miles, then each week, you will want to slowly increase by no more than about 4 miles. Again, this is a very basic way of thinking of it, but that number 4 was a helpful tool to help me build. I also started at running 4 days a week. I naturally increased this to 5 and then to 6 days a week. You will reach a point where it is easier to increase weekly mileage by having a really easy 4-5 mile run on one of the days you typically took off. You will also want to choose the maximum volume you wish to hit. There is definitely a point where more miles is not necessarily the answer to a faster marathon time. This is known as the law of diminishing returns. Choose your number and try to not go over it. This is again very much based on experience and your personal body, but for me, I am finding that 60 is a good number. Again, I have built to this type of mileage and I have only hit 60 for the first time about 6 weeks out from the marathon. I am staying at 60 for about a month of training and then will taper (cut back on mileage) last 2 weeks before the race. While this is definitely not crazy high mileage for a marathon, I know my body, I know my life, and right now 60 is what makes sense.

Designate a Day for Tempo Runs and Long Runs

And stay consistent! Every Wednesday is my workout days. I am at the point that I don’t even think about it. I just know that Wednesdays I need to push myself. I also then know that Thursdays and Fridays, I recover and just run based off of effort. That leads to the big long run days, which I choose to run on Saturdays. I treat Saturdays with extra care and importance. To me, these are the most important days of training. I think it is essential to have this type of training rhythm. Our bodies are smart and I believe they respond well to the same patterns over and over again.

Be Particular About Pace

Depending on your goals, pace will play a different role into your training, but regardless if you are going for the Boston Qualifier time or want to hit sub- 4 hours, pace is important. Again, lots of theories on how to pace, but based on my college training I am used to using VDOT pacing. Here is the link to the best VDOT calculator. I love this method of training because it makes pacing very straightforward. Even if you have not run a race recently, you can put your goal marathon time in and it will calculate your pace for the race, but if you click on the “Training” tab next to the “Race Paces” tab, it will give you the mile pace for easy/recovery runs, T-pace (threshold or tempo pace), I-pace (interval pace, so think mile repeats), and R-pace (repetition pace, so think hard and painful). If you get anything from this whole piece, this should be the takeaway. This is a great to make sure you are on target to hit your goal pace. Final thing on pacing, pay attention to it on workout and long run days, but really try to go off of effort on the other training days. On my easy runs I rarely look down at my pace. There is something to having runs where pace is not the focus, just feeling good and getting in the miles.

Train on Terrain Similar to Course

Know the course you are running ahead of time. Each course is different, so do your research to find out what type of course you will be dealing with (flat, hilly, rolling, down hill). Based on the course, make sure you are getting in runs that expose you to those elements. If you are running a really hilly course, it doesn’t make sense to only run on flat surfaces. Find the hills in your area and incorporate them into your runs. You can also incorporate hill workouts by doing harder effort hill repeats. The best situation of course, is to get to train on the course, but for most of us, this is not always possible. Even if the race will be your first time on the course, try to replicate it as best you can on training runs.

Take Days Off!

Your body needs rest. It is easy to fall into the more is better trap, especially when you are training for 26 miles, but your body needs proper rest to be able to absorb training. I am the type of person that sometimes struggles with rest days, especially when I am anxious about hitting my goal time. It really helps me when I think about taking days off from running as a way to get better and help my body absorb the training. Changing your perspective on rest and days off make it so much easier to allow your body the rest it needs. I often think about how an extra 8 miles will not do me that much more good, but it can definitely cause injury or burnout.

I hope these tips can help as you start your marathon training! If you do have a marathon on the calendar, I would love to hear which one and how training is going. Leave a comment below!

Marathon Wednesday Series

Happy July! July over here in the Capel household is a big month. It is marathon month. We are just 25 days out from our first marathon. In just a few weeks, we will be flying to San Francisco, leaving Hudson for the first time (more on this on this to come), and celebrating our 4th anniversary the best way we know how (running 26.2 miles together!). Every Wednesday, for the month of July, I will be posting all things running and marathon training related. This will be a 4-part series that will cover the following topics:

  1. Marathon Training Tips
  2. Best Products for Training
  3. Recovery (this will be specifically geared towards the non-elite runner that does not have same access to recovery facilities that a pro runner has).
  4. Marathon Motivation (this will be a special post filled with responses from people I surveyed about what motivates them to get to that 26th mile).

If you are beginning to train for a fall marathon (Chicago, New York), I hope this series can be a helpful resource for you! I think this will be a fun month filled with (hopefully) helpful information, but also just filled with stories and inspiration that can help get you out the door and lacing up your shoes.

Marathons are not everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. Even as a runner, training for this marathon has been pretty brutal. It take a lot of time and a consistent effort. So, I get why not everyone has the desire to run a marathon. However, I really hope that this series can somehow inspire you to put something on the calendar a few months out. Put something on the calendar that will require you to work on a consistent basis. Create a goal and a plan. This could be a 5k race, it could be a local triathlon, it could be a challenge you make up for yourself (choose a distance and a mode of travel). Whatever it is, put it on your calendar and take it seriously. I cannot emphasize enough how impactful and important it has been to me, especially as a new mother, to have this marathon as a goal. It has been an outlet. More than an outlet, it has given me a purpose outside of changing diapers and making snacks. It has reminded me of my deep love of running. It has given me back a confidence I forgot I lost.

So with that, happy July and happy marathon month! I will see you back here tomorrow for all my best tips for marathon training.

To Believe She Can

This mama needs to believe she can.  I have always struggled with self-doubt.  I am not pretty enough, fast enough, smart enough, bold enough.  I can’t run that fast— I am not strong enough.  I can’t possibly get that job position—I am not qualified enough.  The not enoughs and cannots have been running through my inner dialogue for years now.  In some ways this inner voice of self-doubt has created a character of humility (at times, but of course I also am not humble enough).  But in a lot of ways this internal voice of mine has really beaten myself up.  It seems to show up the most when it comes to running.  In high school, I really loved running.  I had a coach I looked up to and teammates that pushed and encouraged me.  I was on a really great team and for most of my time in high school, I was anywhere from the 7th to 4th runner.  In a lot of ways, I thrived in this position.  In cross-country, 7 make a team and 5 score.  One of the things I loved most about the sport is that your 5th runner was just as important as your top runner because even if your top runner won the race, as a team it would be difficult to win if runner number 5 was high in place.  That is why it is so important to have a small gap between runner 1 and 5.  I work best in a runner number 5 position.  On the course and off.  I don’t like the pressure or the responsibility of being the best, but I crave to make a difference and impact.  As a number 5 runner I could do this.  I could still help my team without being the one that everyone had their eyes on at the front.  Something changed when I went to college.  Maybe it was the coach.  Maybe it was a newfound pressure I didn’t have in high school.  Maybe it was me.  The sport I loved slowly became an arena of self-doubt.  I ended high school, on a high.  I no longer was the 5th runner, I was the first.  It turned out I also could be a number one type of runner.  I gained a lot of confidence my senior year as I was running the fastest I ever have.  This confidence for some reason did not seem to translate over when I began running for an NCAA Division I team.  I suddenly felt lost in the fastness, in the talent.  They were so much faster than me.  This self-doubt carried itself over to racing as before races that voice was its loudest. You feel tired.  You feel sore.  You aren’t mentally or physically ready to run that pace.  You can’t hang on to that front pack- they are All-Americans, you are not.  While I still had moments of confidence where I ran well and even surprised myself, each race was an internal battle.  My coach used to always tell me I was not mean enough.  As if my ability to be super competitive in races depended on having to be mean. Throw a few elbow jabs.  Cut a few runners off.  Glare down the competition. This has never been me and I hope it never will be.  It was never a matter of meanness, but more so a need to have a stronger and more firm belief in myself. I had to believe I was fast enough, talented enough, determined enough.

All this to say, I still am not quite there yet. Self-doubt still very much creeps in to my daily dialogue to myself.  As I was running today, I was hit with the all-familiar feelings and nerves I was met with before races.  It feels funny to even say but I am nervous for tomorrow’s turkey trot.  For the past 2 months I have been training with the turkey trot as a goal. By training, I really mean running 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes at a pace much, much slower than I ran a few years ago.  No workouts, just squeezing in runs when I could. Whether that be early in the morning before Hudson woke up and Lance left for work or during nap times when Hudson was with his grandparents.  The first few weeks were hard.  I had to quickly come to turns that my body was not the same.  I could no longer roll out of bed and run an 8 miler with ease.  I needed more time, more coffee, more sports bra support.  Things were different now.  But I ran.  It started with running a couple times a week for 2 miles (it felt like 12).  Slowly, very slowly, with each new mile I felt a little stronger.  It was in this place of running not for a coach or really for any particular reason at all, that I have begun to mend my broken relationship with running.  This took weeks, but these past couple weeks, I have enjoyed my runs.  Like actually enjoyed them and craved to be out running again.  My body missed the miles, the steady rhythm, the fresh air.  So just as I am getting into this healthy place with running, I found my brain wandering on my run.  You shouldn’t even get towards the front of the start line.  You are going to go out too fast and blow up.  You haven’t done any true workouts.  You won’t be able to maintain a fast pace.  The voice is back.  All of this sounds and even feels a little silly because it is not like I am running at Nationals tomorrow.  I am running a local turkey trot.  But all this to show, that it doesn’t matter the situation, the voice of self-doubt is real.  But, there is a voice that is greater. Jesus.  This voice of self-doubt I have been referring to is most definitely planted by Satan.  He loves my self-doubt.  Why?  It pulls me away from the truth.  It pulls me away from seeing myself the way Jesus sees me.  It also makes me focus more on myself and less on Jesus.

I need so much grace in this area.  I need grace to fill all these holes of my not enoughs and cannots.  I daily need His grace to remind me that it is not about me. No one cares how I run the turkey trot tomorrow except for maybe Lance.  So tomorrow, I hope to run with confidence. Confidence not in my own abilities or training, but confidence in Him.

UPDATE: Turkey trot ended up being a lot of fun! Did I win? Not even close. Did I die in last mile? Yes.  But, I hit my goal of at least being under 20 minutes. The photo above is our little family post-turkey trot. Even Hudson raced!