Chicago Marathon Training: Weeks 1-3

Hello out there! I am sooooo behind in blogging! I have lots to say and share, and believe it or not, most of it is actually good. Things have really improved in my life over the last month or so. There is a lot to update on regarding life, the kids, my separation, etc. but I want this post to be focused on something that is very exciting and bringing me a lot of happiness right now. I started training for the Chicago Marathon!!! I am actually just starting week 4 of training. Oops! Told you I am behind!

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Ever since I started this blog over 5 years ago, I have documented my marathon training week by week. I actually look back at those posts often. I love seeing the progression and improvement over the course of the training cycle and the years. I want to make sure to do the same for this marathon training journey, especially since I have big goals for myself this time around. I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon this fall. That would mean dropping my time from 3:43 (Myrtle Beach in March) to sub 3:35. That’s a pretty big jump, but I’m ready and willing to take on the challenge. I have tons of motivation, I’m feeling strong, and I have an extremely supportive circle of friends and family behind me.

Going into this training cycle, I did write myself a plan but I’ve been shifting days around as I need to and adapting some as I go depending on how my body feels and scheduling. Since this is going to be marathon #11 I feel more confident when it comes to knowing what I need to do and what works for me. My plan includes two harder runs per week (speedwork and tempo run), one long run, a bunch of easy runs, two days of strength training, one day of yoga, one rest day. Every 4th week or so is a cutback week. Before my “official” training started I made sure to ease myself into doing harder workouts by starting to hit the track once a week about a month beforehand. I also started adding to my long runs, making sure to hit 10 miles a few times, and slowly increased my weekly mileage from what I was doing during my off-cycle. I really feel this helped prepare me to hit the ground running (literally!) once my training plan started, feeling strong and ready to take on the more challenging workouts.

In addition, this is the first time I have trained for a marathon as a single mom. That in itself has been a huge challenge. I definitely don’t have the freedom and flexibility that I had before when it comes to running. I miss running in the morning and many times need to run in the middle of the day or evenings, which is tough during the summer. I have to run more with the stroller. I have to ask people for help more often, which I’m not used to having to do. However, I’m making it work so far and I’m proud of that. Best of all, I am feeling great and more like “me” every day.

Since I have 3 weeks to catch up on this post is going to be a long one. I promise to do better at keeping up with it weekly from now on! Here are all the details!

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The black is what I had planned, the purple is what I actually did

Week 1

  • Monday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 4 miles @ 8:19 pace. Mondays have usually been a rest day for me, but during the first two weeks of training I was also finishing the Runner’s World Summer Run Streak (at least a mile a day from Memorial Day to the 4th of July). Because of that I was doing easy runs rather than taking a rest day. On this day I met up with my friends from my Moms Run This Town group. I stayed with two friends for the run, one who was also pushing a double, and we talked the whole time. I barely looked at my watch until I realized toward the end that we were averaging around a 8:20 pace… With the strollers! What?! I couldn’t believe how comfortable it felt, especially because it was pretty warm at that point and I was pushing 55 pounds of kids plus the stroller itself! My splits were 8:27, 8:22, 8:20, 8:09. Felt amazing! The kids had a ton of fun playing together afterwards too. 

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  • Tuesday: Tempo Run – 2 easy, 2 @ 7:25, 2 easy.  My first tempo run since February! The workout was 2 miles easy, 2 miles @ tempo pace, 2 miles easy. I was hoping this baby tempo run would help ease me back into this type of harder run but it still kicked my butt! My goal was to do the two middle miles between 7:20-7:30 pace. I met the MRTT ladies at the track and did my first 2 easy miles with them before heading out to the road for my tempo miles. I managed to hit my goal with splits of 7:26 and 7:24, but it was tough. It didn’t help that it was raining, humid, hot, NOT flat like the track, and 6:00 PM (I really miss my morning runs!)… Lots of factors at play, but I did it. I did need to take a little breather before my cool down miles, but I knew next time would be better.

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  • Wednesday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 2 miles @ 9:12 + Upper Fix. I headed out with my boys in the double stroller for two easy miles followed by some playground time. Kevin was not satisfied with my pace and kept telling me to go faster, haha! I tried to keep it easy to save my legs for the next day’s speedwork. Later on while the boys were napping I did Upper Fix. I’m going to be trying very hard to fit in 2 days of strength during this training cycle like I did for Myrtle Beach.

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  • Thursday: Speedwork – 3 x 1600 (6:58, 6:53, 6:53). I was a little disappointed to wake up to thunder, lightning and heavy rain this morning since I had a date with the track. The kids went to daycare for a bit (they are going to go once a week since I’m paying for it anyway and I could use a day of sanity!) I tried to wait out the storm but it wasn’t letting up and I had to be somewhere at 11:00. So I dragged myself to the treadmill to do my mile repeats. 6 miles later my treadmill and myself were both covered in sweat, as you can see in the picture 😅 I did a 1 mile warm up, 3 x 1 mile (6:58, 6:53, 6:53) with half mile recovery between each then a mile cooldown. GOT IT DONE, and it actually didn’t feel terrible! The Pitbull Pandora Station helped 🙂

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  • Friday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 1 mile @ 9:14 + Lower Fix. I love incorporating running into our summer days! Today was simple. We ran to the library, went to story time, picked out some books, walked back and stopped at the playground on the way. Afterwards when the kids took their (very short) naps, I squeezed in Lower Fix for some strength training.

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  • Saturday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 3 miles @ 9:09. On this morning I met up with some MRTT ladies to do a little send-off run with our friend Liz who is moving. I had the boys in the stroller, so I just did a loop on one of our favorite paths in Fredericksburg with the ladies, then we had some playground time.

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  • Sunday: Long Run – 13.1 miles @ 8:25. This morning Kevin offered to stay with the kids so I could run, so I got up super early to do my long run with my friend Steve. He is super fast and has already qualified for Boston (meaning he ran under 3:10!!!!). Needless to say, when we run together he slows WAY down for me. He’s training for a marathon that is a few weeks after mine, so he wanted to run 11 miles, I wanted to run 12, then we overshot our distance and ended up with 13.1! Oops! I was super happy with this run. It was a big loop and not flat at all, yet the pace felt good and I was able to talk the entire time comfortably.

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Week 1 Totals

  • Run: 35.1 miles (10 with stroller – more than I’d like but since I have the kids every other weekend some weeks have to be heavier stroller weeks than others).
  • Strength Training/Cross Training: Upper Fix & Lower Fix

Week 2

  • Monday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 2 miles @ 8:55 pace. Started the week with a couple easy stroller miles with one cute baby and one cranky threenager! Haha!

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  • Tuesday: Speedwork – 4 x 800 (3:15, 3:16, 3:15, 3:17). Conditions were tough at Track Tuesday, but the company was amazing! It was VERY hot and humid, but we all got great workouts in. I had 4 x 800 on my plan with a goal to run them in 3:17 (6:34 pace). After feeling the heat and humidity during my warm-up mile I knew it was going to be tough, but I wanted to give it all that I had. I ended up hitting all my splits, with times of 3:15, 3:16, 3:15, and 3:17! I needed an extra recovery lap between interval #3 and #4 and also took a mini-break before my cool-down mile, but overall I finished feeling very strong and proud. The best part of this weekly meet-up is the support and encouragement we all provide each other, even when we are doing our own things. It feels awesome to have a squad cheering for you every lap. I love these ladies!

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  • Wednesday: Easy Run (with double stroller) – 3 miles @ 9:00 + Upper Fix. Great morning run with the stroller brigade! The cooler temperature and breeze felt awesome and was a nice change from what the weather has been like recently. Afterwards we had some playground time. So sweet to see all the kids playing together (and the little boys practicing their “going potty in the wild” skills!)

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  • Thursday: Tempo Run – 1 easy, 5 @ 7:34, 1 easy. Beautiful and peaceful solo tempo run through the Fredericksburg Battlefield, thanks to the kids being at daycare. I did 1 mile easy, 5 tempo, 1 easy. What a difference it made running earlier in the morning. I got progressively faster with each tempo mile (7:42, 7:41, 7:36, 7:30, 7:25) and ended with an average pace of 7:34 for my middle 5. Originally I planned to go for 7:45 to 8:00 pace for my middle miles, but I felt great so I went with it. I have really missed my AM runs and I am so thankful for this one today! It really made me feel like ME!

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  • Friday: Easy Run – 3 miles @ 8:50 + Lower Fix. I was headed home to Pennsylvania solo for the long holiday weekend on this day, and before I left I squeezed in the Lower Fix workout. Then on my drive north I pulled over to get a run in too. I went to a park that I used to run in all the time when I lived in this town a few years ago. The views are pretty and it was a nice change of scenery!

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  • Saturday: Long Run – 10 miles @ 8:56. Since I was home in Pennsylvania without my kids I had more time/freedom than usual, so I decided to do my long run on Kelly Drive and run into Philadelphia. I ran down the Schuykill River Trail to the Art Museum and back. It brought back amazing memories of my first half and full marathons here, which are the two that got me hooked back in 2007 and 2008. My tattoo on my ankle is even from the Philadelphia Marathon logo design. I sure have come a long way since then! I did 10 nice and easy miles- not the 14 I wanted due to having WAY too much fun and a late night out with friends, but that’s okay. It was totally worth it.

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  • Sunday: Easy Run – 4 miles @ 8:55 + Yoga. I called this run “Tour de OCNJ.” I went to Ocean City, New Jersey with my family for the day and couldn’t resist going for a run while we were there. I got to see a little of everything, including the bench we bought for my mom (she passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2004 and this was her favorite place), the new pedestrian walkway on the bridge, the boardwalk and finished on the beach. So many amazing memories of this place growing up. It felt special coming back and running there! I also did yoga that evening once we got home and it felt so good.

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Week 2 Totals

  • Run: 34 miles (5 with the stroller)
  • Strength Training/Cross Training: Upper Fix, Lower Fix, Yoga

Week 3

  • Monday: Firecracker 5K – 3.1 miles @ 6:51 pace + 2 mile warm-up @ 8:55. I started week 3 by celebrating the 4th of July with a 5K in my hometown! I still have to write a full recap of this race and once I do I’ll link it here, but spoiler alert – I broke my old PR from two years ago by 40 seconds. I tried hard to pace myself to not start too fast and be patient, and ended up running a smart race with each mile faster than the last. Those fast finish workouts are paying off! I finished in 21:14 officially, which is an average pace of 6:51. WHAT!!!! I was so excited! I loved running in my hometown, and really loved the Philadelphia post-race refreshments of soft pretzels and water ice. My dad even surprised me by coming out to cheer for me.

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  • Tuesday: Easy Run – 3 miles @ 9:23. Quick, rainy and humid recovery run before I got my boys back from their dad. I missed them so much! I officially finished the Runner’s World Summer Run Streak the day before (Memorial Day to the 4th of July), but I wanted to squeeze another morning run in while I could.

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  • Wednesday: Rest Day. Finally a rest day! And it felt amazing! My sister came to visit the boys before she moves across the country to Oregon. We did about 3+ miles of walking but that’s it.
  • Thursday: Easy Run – 4 miles @ 8:45. OMG. So hot. It felt like 96 degrees here at 8 AM. I was dripping when I finished this run! But I’m very thankful for my sister who offered to stay with the boys before she left to go back home. It would have felt 100x worse with the stroller, and it helped me get through the rest of the day which was a tough one with the kids.

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  • Friday: Speedwork – 1600, 1200, 800, 400 (6:54, 5:03, 3:20, 1:36). Since I raced on Monday, I counted that as my ‘tempo’ run and gave myself a few days of easy running/rest afterwards. I knew I was doing my long run on Sunday, so I decided to do my speedwork on Friday to make sure I spaced the harder efforts out enough. The kids went to daycare, so I went to the track and did a mile cutdown workout. It was pretty hot so I just tried to make each interval faster as they got shorter rather than go for specific paces, but then they almost all ended up within my goal ranges anyway. Woo hoo! I did a 1 mile warmup, then 1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m with a short rest break then 400m slow running between each one. Finished with a .75 mile cooldown. I even did the second half of the workout in my sports bra which is a first for me! Usually I only do that on the treadmill. Also, please note the map and the detour I had to take to the porta potty. Mommy bladder can’t hang (especially during speedwork)! Just keeping it real 🙂 Later that evening I actually did Upper Fix as well, which was a little much in addition to the speedwork, but I had to get it in since I hadn’t done any strength training yet this week.

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  • Saturday: Recovery Run – 3 miles @ 9:17 + Lower Fix. After a really great couple of weeks, I started feeling kinda down for a few days due to the current events in the country, hormones (so much worse after two babies), sleep deprivation, some family stuff and a bad summer cold/allergies… Just a really terrible combination! On this day, Kyler got me up this morning before 5 AM and I wanted to cry. Instead, I put on some bright neon clothes, pounded some coffee and got busy. I got in Lower Fix, with the help of Kyler who was biting my shirt since he woke up from his nap halfway through (as you can see in the picture). Then my boys went to see their grandparents who are in town, and I went for a nice shady run on one of my favorite paths. Someone went out and wrote inspirational messages of peace and love along the entire 3 mile loop. It was amazing! I felt so much better now and ready to tackle whatever life throws at me. A three hour nap helped too!

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  • Sunday: Long Run – 14 miles @ 8:38. My kids were still visiting family, so I was able to run 14 morning miles at one of my favorite places here in Virginia. It’s where I go when I want a quiet place to just run and think. It was one of those runs where you start with a ton on your mind, feeling heavy and stressed, and then as the miles tick by it all gets released. Thoughts get sorted through, problems get solved, worries lifted. Those are the best kinds of runs. I finished feeling happy and free and light, and my pace the last 3 miles reflected that. I was able to finish with my fastest miles – 8:25, 7:56 and 7:32. It was a beautiful, quiet, peaceful morning and I felt very strong. Now I am SO ready for my cutback week!

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Week 3 Totals

  • Run: 34.1 miles (0 with the stroller! That’s a miracle, haha!)
  • Strength Training/Cross Training: Upper Fix & Lower Fix. I missed yoga this week, but did it the following day to kick off week 4).

My successes this week were getting my runs in with a smile on my face (mostly). Seriously, looking at these three weeks of training and all the photos makes me so happy. How lucky am I?! I was able to do what I love (run) with so many people that I love, in places that I love, feeling strong and great. What an awesome way to kick off my training. My challenges over these last few weeks were sleep and nutrition – two factors that are so, SO important and that I need to make more of a priority. These are definitely my goals for the weeks to come because I know I won’t get very far without them.

My thought of the week is a lesson I am still learning even with 10 marathons under my belt. The body truly does achieve what the mind believes, and I continue to surprise myself every day with what I can accomplish!

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And that sums up my training so far! I’m so excited to see where the next 13 weeks take me. But first, a glorious cutback week. Ahhh, love it!

PS. I try to post daily updates on my runs on my blog’s Facebook page, so follow me there if you want updates in “real” time 🙂

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6 responses to “Chicago Marathon Training: Weeks 1-3

  1. Pingback: Chicago Marathon Training: Week 4 | Run Inspired

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  5. Pingback: Chicago Marathon Training: Week 8 | Run Inspired

  6. Pingback: Chicago Marathon Training: Weeks 8 & 9 | Run Inspired

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