Tag Archives: Philadelphia marathon

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report – Scott’s Story

Scott sent me his race report a few weeks ago and I wanted to share it with you all. This was his first marathon and even more impressive than the fact he finished was that he did it barefoot! Scott tried running years back, but often found himself sidelined with injuries. When he took up the sport of triathlon a few years ago, he decided to forgo shoes in hopes that he would have better luck staying healthy – it has worked! The only injury to date was some tweaks in his knee and it turned out they were, ironically, due to his clip-in bike shoes being misaligned. He runs year round with no shoes, only occasionally donning minimal ones for especially nasty weather or courses (like prickly gravel). Here is how his first bout with 26.2 went…
The night before I had to do a job (ed note: worry not, he is not a Mafioso hit man,  just a professional photographer!), so I got into my hotel at about 11pm (which was earlier than I expected), and got about 6 hours of sleep. I was happy to get that much!  Next morning I got going and stopped at a Wawa around 5:30a  where I got a muffin, banana and tea, plus water.   I didn’t have much of an appetite but I forced the food down then drove into the city (about a 25min drive). I got to the parking lot at 6am and it was full so I had to find another, and by the time I parked and got walking to the start it was about 6:30. Temps were in the mid-30s, low 40s, so it was cold! I had to meet GD to get my race bib (he and Kashi picked it up the day before for me) and also had to use the bathroom. I got on the bathroom line and realized there might be a problem – it took 30 min to get to the front of the line and it was now 7am – start time!  GD and I got our signals crossed as to where to meet and by this point he had checked his bag with his phone in it.  I went looking for the info tent to see if I could do something about the bib…needless to say I was starting to get pretty stressed.  The info guy said they couldn’t help me, and I had a race bag which I couldn’t drop without my bib so I started to panic – I just tried to put aside my anger at missing GD  and keep the race as my focus.  I went to the bag trucks and luckily they had a spare tag someone had left behind so I used that to drop my bag and just figured I’d run without a bib and time myself…I was pretty pissed!  I got into a corral and finally saw GD waiting by the start line with arms raised and my bib in his hands, hoping I would spot him. That was a big relief – I went from hate to love in like one second.  So overall not a great way to start, but a start nonetheless.
I carried 5 gus, 4 chomps, plus had my shoes tied around my waist (ed note:  Scott had never run this course, so he brought the shoes in case the road got rough).  The first couple of miles were slow because of the volume of people, and it was a good basic warmup.  By the 3rd or 4th mile I found a comfortable pace, and it became apparent that it  would be around 10 min/mile, not 9:30.  I was okay with that as long as I could finish barefoot, so I just settled in and made sure to keep eating regularly and keep things smooth.  The road surfaces were pretty good, so I wasn’t having any  trouble, and there were only a couple of patches in the race that were a little rough on my feet (around mile 11-12, and for a couple of miles in the back half around 17).  There were a few hills around 8-10, and they went well. I think that work on the bike may have helped and I found I could climb while maintaining my pace. I just watched my HR, which never really got to be a problem as  it was pretty steady throughout the race.   The downhills were a little harder on my feet, I think just because of the angle of extension, but nothing to worry about.
Mile 13 and the half- marathoners split off so things opened up.  I still wasn’t using headphones/music because I wanted to save them for the hard part!  I stopped briefly to wrap some tape on my big toe – my push-off callous was a little sore from a rock I hit at mile 2, so just wanted to make sure it didn’t get any worse. The tape seemed to help for the rest of the run.  I also made a quick pit stop in the bushes, which I think meant I was hydrating well.  At about 2:45 I was starting to feel the burn a little, but still had a lot left in me – held off on music to about 3 or 3:15, and then went to my playlist…it was a big advantage to have music!  It definitely gave me an extra mental boost, and kept my mind off the suffering of the last miles.  I had a little cup of beer at mile 18 (can’t pass that up!) but other than that I was hitting water at every stop (ed. note: the awesome people of Manayunk give out beer, this wasn’t at an official water stop, lol).
A little suffering kicked in around 19 and then in the early 20s…nothing like those last 8 miles of the 1/2 Ironman tri last year, but definitely some general tiredness/pain and impulses to stop, which of course I ignored.  Mentally getting to the last hour felt good and I was pretty sure I was going to come in at around 4:20.  At that point I just kept thinking I can do anything for 1 hour, and then as I got closer that I could always finish a 5K, then 2 miles, etc.  Feet were a bit sore but nothing really worrying.  I got to the last mile and picked it up, and then really pushed the last 1/2 mile at a fast pace (much of that was uphill). I came sprinting in to the finish – that fast pace actually felt a lot better on my legs than keeping up the steady pace of the last 25 miles.
My average pace was exactly 10:00 min/ mile, and I think I did a good job of keeping my it consistent through the race.  Afterwards I walked the chute and then sat down (not easy!) for a bit. I had my jacket and hat but my teeth were chattering – I will definitely take a space blanket next time.  Being out there in high 40/low 50 for 5 hours chilled me, especially since my clothes were a little damp from sweating. I’ve found Smartwool to be generally good for wicking and drying, but this was the first time it sort of failed on me. It stayed a little damp after the race and wasn’t warming me enough.  Maybe try a synthetic next time?  Or just have warm dry clothes to change into!
I was definitely waddling after the race – my feet were sore, legs hurt, it was hard to walk.  We went and got sandwiches and then drove back to Cape May (about 2 hrs).  Over the next two days I went from waddling, to crippled, to limping. By the third day I was sore but walking, and did a swim which always seems to help.  I did a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, which also was good (although I felt pretty slow!  I didn’t time it but probably 9:30 min miles).
Overall I think it went well despite the trouble at the start, and I was proud of myself to do the whole thing barefoot.  Got a lot of “Oh My Gods!!!” and “Where are your shoes?!?” from people. I only saw two other barefooters the whole race – that was kind of surprising considering it seems to be getting more popular.  In any case it worked, and I was happy with my time even though it wasn’t a 9:30 pace…next year I’ll go for a sub-4!  Got to get down to mid 3s if I’m ever going to get to Kona : )
Not too bad for running 26.2! I've seen worse after a day walking around in the summer!

Not too bad for running 26.2! I’ve seen worse on people after a day walking around in the summer!

Well done, Scott!! His dedication to triathlons and his long-term goal of making it to the World Championships of Ironman at Kona make training with Scott a real pleasure. We have spent many dinners plotting strategy and talking race goals and it was very satisfying to see him check off another item of his endurance sport to-do list! He hopes to one day do an ultramarathon as well, and I hope to be right there with him! Not to mention the trip to Hawaii that I look forward to when I cheer him on at that IM 🙂
Any questions for Scott?


Filed under Uncategorized

Philadelphia Marathon – Race Recaps from CIR!

Read my Philadelphia Marathon Race Report here! Now, picking up at the finish line…

Post-race: I crossed the line and the tidal wave of emotion I have come to expect but am never fully prepared for washed over me. I shuffled in a daze to get my medal and as he placed it over my head, the ugly, heaving tears started. I had done it! I did not get my 3:49, but I had gotten a PR, I had run an evenly split race and I had done it despite this daggone pain in my groin!   Granted, I could barely walk since my quads and groin were so tight, but no matter, I had done it! Just as I was focusing in on the pain and wishing I was with someone I knew, Sherry and Scott found me! We hugged and compared race notes. They’d had a tougher go of it,  and we soothed some of our raw feelings with chicken soup, which can pretty much solve any problem.

Me soaking up the LaBree love! Thanks for the post-race chatting guys!

I was anxious to see GD  but that anxiety did not translate into speed as my legs were flat out refusing to move at anything faster than a shuffle. We started to walk towards where I knew my family was, but only made it halfway before I tried to call Lil Sis to tell her to come to us – we could go no further. As the phone was ringing, I suddenly saw she and Kat walking towards us!! Yay!! Her laughter filled the air and started to revive me! Sherry and Scott headed off to retrieve warm clothes from the bag check and our merry band headed off towards the rest of the family. Laur told me that GD had a GREAT race and my heart soared!! That was all I wanted to for him and it looks like that wish came true too! I came upon him as he was looking for the other Scott, hoping to cheer him in on his final leg, and when he turned around to meet my eyes, his trademark smile was bigger than ever!!

Oh yes, there was no mistaking it,  GD had had a very good day! He regaled me with tales of his race – how he felt better than he expected, how it went by so fast,  how he inexplicably bumped into a childhood friend at Mile 8 that we did not even know was running (what are the chances among 20,000 people of seeing her??) and ran for a few miles with her!

So let’s hear from the other Cape Island Runners (LaBrees I am counting you among our numbers – don’t worry, CIR is only a litttle cultish. Here, rehydrate with this Kool-Aid) about their races! I asked Sherry, Scott, GD, Tiff and Scott for their highlights, lowlights/lessons learned and future race plans. Here is what they had to say:

That’s me and Sherry under that heap of mylar!


Race Highlight:  I have to be completely honest.  The highlight of my race wasn’t the race itself (this wasn’t a great race for me), but rather every single event surrounding the race.  From the pre-race dinner at Kashi’s house, meeting new friends, snuggling up in a Cape May bed & breakfast, living it up in a lux hotel for two nights… and then downing way too many Insomnia cookies post-race.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a better marathon weekend!  Delightful from start to finish!
Lessons Learned:  More is not always better.  I pushed hard during my training cycle and I paid the price on race day.  When I completed my first marathon in 2011 (also Philly), I made note of that fact that I ran a very good first marathon (3:53) on rather low mileage and only one 20-mile run.  I ran 5 days per week during that cycle and included a weekly medium-long run and just a touch of pace work.  I felt fresh and ready to go at the start of that race and ran very strong all the way through to the finish line.  For my second marathon (Wisconsin 2012), I stuck with the lower training volume, but upped the intensity just a bit by incorporating more pace work and ran my way to my current marathon PR.  This training cycle, I upped the ante… all around.  Six days per week, more mileage, more long runs, more threshold work, more pace work… more everything.  When I toed the line, I was tired.  I felt like I needed another week of taper.  There is this notion in “pure” running circles, that you can’t run a good marathon unless you are putting in a lot of volume.  For me, this doesn’t hold true. I’ve learned that with both the marathon and with long-course triathlon, I actually seem to perform better when I utilize a more low to moderate volume approach and add in intensity.
FutureRace Plans:  I’m taking on Disney’s Goofy Challenge in January 2012 as a fun, no-pressure event (ed note: this is a half-marathon on a Saturday, marathon on a Sunday – and not a Sunday far in the future, but literally 24 hours later!).  After that, it’s all about Ironman Florida 2013.  I’ve taken almost a 2 year break from long course triathlon and I’m excited to get back to it.  I’ll probably do a half marathon sometime in February and then a few low-priority triathlons during my Ironman build.  I plan to revisit the marathon distance in 2014 with a trip to the “Florida friendly” Chicago Marathon.
Obvi not from the race. I stole this from FB because it shows what great shape he is in, but also because you can tell how nice he is from that smile!

Obvi not from the race. I stole this from FB because it shows what great shape he is in, but also because you can tell how nice he is from that smile!

Race Highlight: Course PR!  I also really enjoyed hanging out with everyone before and after the race.

Lessons Learned: Don’t stop and pee!  That course PR could have been a half-marathon PR.
Future Race Plans: I’ll be doing the Goofy Challenge in January and then I’ll move into training for Ironman Florida.  The wife is thinking about doing the Chicago Marathon in 2014 and I think I might jump onboard for that one.


Race Highlight – My answer to that would be the whole thing in that I felt great the entire time and obviously I just loved the cheering, the music, the 20 people in costumes and cross-dressed. And of course seeing Emily and her friend Kari at Mile 8!

Lesson Learned: Don’t drink too much Gatorade! (ed note: GD *might* have puked a bit at the finish and the official race pics *might* have captured some of this – and I would add that Nip Guards really work, nary a bloody nipple in sight!)

Future Race Plans:  Yeah, run a marathon next year (ed note: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I have no questions for you today, I am too busy being insanely excited that GD wants to tackle to the marathon!!!!! Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PS Stay tuned for Tiff’s report on Monday – I asked her the same questions and she sent me back a fully formed race report that I think deserves it’s own post – you’ll love the blow-by-blow from a newbie!

PPS I have not heard from the other Scott yet but will add his if I do! And can we take a minute to enjoy the Mars vs Venus thing we are rocking here – all the girls gave super long, detailed answers and the boys were short and sweet!


Filed under Race Reports

Race Report – Philadelphia Marathon 2012

Disclaimer: I know this shiz is long, but I write these more for myself than anyone else so I can refer to them in the future to help me remember what worked and what didn’t. Apologies for the length, feel free to just check out this post  if you prefer short and sweet. Then again, if you are a marathoner, you probably don’t – so here’s the long and dirty version!

Pre-Race: I woke up Saturday morning with an ominous pain in my upper right groin.  Chalking it up to phantom race pains I went about my day, but this little poltergeist made itself at home, unpacked its bags and set up shop. It was clear by day’s end it was here to stay. I had a mini-meltdown in our hotel room that night, but pulled myself out of it through a combination of pep talks from Lil Sis and GD and by remembering that one of my race goals was a well-executed race, to “assess the situation and move on despite whatever obstacle is thrown in my way”. So I treated it like an obstacle and made a plan to get up and over it. This included a good meal (pasta with chicken and red sauce at Maggiano’s, a hot bath and good night’s sleep at Sofitel, highly recommend this hotel) and an attitude adjustment from “oh, no!” to “oh, yes!”.

Toasty warm at the start with Sherry and Tiff!

Pre-Gun: Woke up bright and early and started getting ready – this included a trip to Sherry’s hotel room for some Tylenol and Voltaren gel , eating a bagel, taking a shower and running around like a chicken about to run a marathon with GD – this was the first time we were both getting ready for a race and it added a new level of chaos that I was not expecting. We finally got our bibs and GUs and throwaway clothes and Garmins and extra toilet paper and last minute snacks and tumbled out into the pre-dawn air. Due to said chicken running and extra layers, I was downright hot on the way to the start line, no need for chemical hand and foot warmers today. It wasn’t too cold, it wasn’t windy, it was clear and it was perfect! We chatted nervously and followed the sea of humanity to the mouth of the river – the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Upon arriving, we all needed to tend to our own pre-race tasks and split up. Saying good-bye to your compatriots right before a race is akin to going off to war (well, more like video game war since no one is in any actual danger)– you send them off with high hopes and steal yourself for your own battle. It’s suddenly just you and the clock and when you walk alone to your corral, the whole thing starts to feel very, very real.

Miles 1-5: I was in the green corral, which went off 12-ish minutes after gun time. We shuffled to the start line (as is always the case in large races – no room to run yet!) and crossed the mat among a cacophony of Garmin beeps. I was scanning the sidelines for my parents – my dad saw me but I was not so lucky to see him. Once we got up near Willy Penn, I knew that I would not be seeing them ‘til Chestnut and turned my attention to the task at hand – running this mother! I am a slow starter and that is pretty much what everyone is in Mile 1 of a marathon is, but my goal this time was to run a more evenly paced race. When I saw 9:17 for the first mile, I was pleasantly surprised since Mile 1 is usually closer to 10:00 for me. Although I had aways to go to get to race pace (I was hoping for 8:45s), I also had aways to make it happen! I used these early miles to dial into my pace and get into the right head space. I also paid my respects, as I am apt to do during a race, to all these other people who were all out here for their own reasons but sharing my same goal of completing a marathon on this bright, beautiful morning. Go, strangers!

Thank you Canada, I mean Kat, for your support! Kat, I hoped you also high-fived the girl in blue behind me, she looks like she wishes she had some friendly blue gloves to slap.

Miles 6-10: This is one of my favorite stretches of any race, ever. The beginning is along Chestnut Street, which is jam packed with spectators. It was here I saw my favorite race sign: “Nate Silver predicts you have a 100% chance of kicking this race’s ass”. I gave lots of high fives and just like clockwork saw my family + Kat at Mile 6.5, where they always are. It is great to have this kind of history with the race – I always know where to find them even without coordinating beforehand. Seeing them gave me a boost (ran that mile 7 seconds faster than the two that bookended it) but there was one noticeable difference– no GD! Today he was out there running his own race and I got a little choked up thinking about him, fighting his own battle. I made do with the “ghost of races past GD” and pictured him running down the sidewalk yelling “Go, Kashi!!” as he is wont to do, which made me smile as much as always.  I also noticed that since I was working harder than usual, the crowds in the narrow streets and tight turns bothered me more than when I am just cruising. I thought “Move it, people! Kashi train coming through!” wayyy more than normal (where normal =  never)! The rest of this section included an awesome drum circle near the zoo bridge, the big hill at mile 9 and the big downhill after 🙂 I enjoyed this section immensely, I thought about GD a lot, everything in Kashiland was solid and I was pretty happy with my splits. I felt like I was on track for at least doing a stronger first half than usual.

The amazing cheer zone at Mile 11! (source)

Miles 11-15: Mile 11 brought my favorite cheer zone, which is the group dressed in crazy, tight, colorful costumes dancing to songs like “2 Legit 2 Quit” . I love these guys and look forward to them every year. This year there seemed to be more kids in their contingent than usual, so am wondering if they are indoctrinating as the next generation of Philly spectators – yeah, Philly 2022!!

One thing marathons have taught me is that the good times don’t last forever and by Mile 12, I started having some serious groin pain. I think the hills and the cambered roads took their toll – it was funny because it seemed that one minute I was barely aware of it and the next it was all I could feel.  I used Scott Jurek’s 4-step checklist (more on this in a later post) and allowed myself a mini-pity party before moving on and assessing what the situation was and what could be done about it. I thought to myself “ the situation is that my groin FUCKING HURTS AND THIS SUCKS!” This made me laugh and then I thought “Ok, but what can I do about it?”. I decided that I would keep going, consider stopping if it got (much) worse and would reward myself with some Tylenol at Mile 16, assuming I made it that far (ok, let’s be honest – I was finishing this sucker come hell or high water so it was more a matter of how I would finish – running or dragging my sorry self across the line ). I got through the halfway point at 1:57:25. At Chicago in 2009, I ran through the half in 2:02:54 so I consoled myself that even if the wheels came off now, I managed to accomplish my goal of running a faster first half. This thought propelled me through the next few miles, which are hard mentally because you have so much to go and if you run at my pace, you are already seeing the elites come back with mere minutes until their pain ends. I cheered as they passed and plowed on.

Miles 16-20: I dreaded these miles when envisioning the race beforehand, thinking they would be the hardest of the lot. You still have many miles ahead of you, yet plenty already completed so that if you are giving an honest effort, the fatigue is beginning to set in. Plus, you know it is only going to hurt more from here on out. But a funny thing happened on the way to my S&M party – it never got that bad! This is where I think the ultra training really came in handy. I knew when I got to mile 19, we would be in Manayunk and there would be eye candy galore. So I really only had to get through 5 hard miles (14-19) and honestly, that did not seem too bad! My groin continued to make a fool of itself by hooting and hollering and causing all manner of ruckus in my body, but importantly, it was not getting worse. I popped Tylenol in Mile 18 (just before a nasty climb in this weird extension of the course), paused my music to listen to the Rocky theme they were blaring and pressed on.  Manayunk provided just the atmosphere I needed and I enjoyed it as always – the beer guys, the drummer guy and the party it always is buoyed my already high spirits. At the turnaround, I thought back to when Lis Sis and I ran this race in 2005 and at this same spot she looked at me and said “Let’s go home!”. She said it to me again in my mind’s eye and I thought “Yes, let’s!”.

Almosssst there!!

Miles 21-26.2:  Still waiting for that Tylenol to kick in! Nope, no such luck, did not notice any improvement. I tried to tell myself, “well, imagine how much worse it would feel if you did not take it!” but that thought brought no relief, so I abandoned it 🙂 I was distracted briefly by seeing Lisa as I was leaving Manayunk , which was super exciting! My body was feeling tired, but oddly all my pain was in my groin and quads. Usually by this point my hammies, ankles and feet are crying uncle, but they stayed Jersey Strong the whole race. I decided this was a plus to running with an injury – you are so focused on it that you don’t feel anything else. During this stretch  you start seeing carnage on the side of the road – people crying, people stretching, people cajoling their various body parts, making all sorts of promises they won’t keep to convince their bodies to solider on.  I silently sent good vibes to them and moved on, clicking off the miles on my fingers. Throughout the race, I had been looking for the runners I knew, scanning the faces of the people running in the opposite direction of me. It was in this section that I ran out of energy to even do that. Instead I channeled Lisa and thought of how she tells us to “look straight ahead and run your line”. I did just that, locked inside my own world while surrounded by thousands of others.

I watched as my pace slowed and it is this point in the race that I am really proud of. I am used to negative splitting, so the late miles are often my fastest. Watching my splits go in the wrong direction was tough, but instead of beating myself up about it, I just told myself not to give up. I was running as hard as I was capable of and decided that as long as I was doing that, I’d call it a success. I told myself that I was running slower than usual because I ran a faster than normal first half and that it was a good thing. I hit Mile 25, always my nemesis mile, and felt good. Buuut about halfway through it I started feeling terrible, which my split shows! Damn you, Mile 25! Moving past that, I could see the art museum and again marveled at how one little mile can feel so incredibly long. The crowds began to thicken and usually I’d hit pause on the music to listen to their cheering,  but I kept my laser focus straight ahead and let Mumford and Sons lead me home. Every muscle in my quads was begging for me to stop and the rest of my body was starting to agree that this would be a very, very good idea. I turned up my music even louder and drowned out these thoughts, concentrating only on putting one foot in front of the other. Coming down the last stretch, I heard my family yelling for me, which was the sweetest sound in the world! I had the mental acuity to notice that Mayor Nutter was handing out high-fives and made my way over to him to claim my prize! Yes, Mayor Nutter, I did just PR by 4 minutes, I did just run an evenly split race and I did not give up!!! I will take that high-five, thank you very much!!!

Post-race: This monster of a post is already too long, so I am saving this section for another day 🙂

Nutrition: Nailed it! Pre-race I ate a cinnamon raisin bagel and sipped about 11 ounces of water. During the race I had 3 GUs (PB, Lemon Sublime and Mint Chocolate), taken on the :45 and :05 of each hour (1/2 packet each time), just as I’d practiced. I drank a full cup of water at every other water stop and had 3 cups of Gatorade in there as well (1 in first half, 2 in second). My stomach mostly accepted the Gatorade with little grumbling, which was a plus.  In the finisher’s chute, I had a cup of Gatorade which made my stomach grouchy and a cup of chicken broth (which continues its reign of best post-race food EVER!) which calmed it back down. About 3 hours later I had a turkey sandwich. It takes my tummy some time to get back to normal after a long run and I wasn’t really hungry the rest of the day, but I made myself eat just the same. Thanks Whole Foods!


First Half –       9:17, 8:40, 8:43, 8:51, 8:48, 8:41, 8:48, 8:51, 8:36, 8:44, 8:52, 8:44, 8:51

Second Half – 8:50, 8:36, 8:47, 8:50, 9:15, 8:47, 8:58, 8:45, 8:49, 8:50, 8:46, 9:03, 8:56

.51 – 8:21 (pace, time was 4:13)

Chip Time: 3:54:05 for 26.2, 8:55 pace

Garmy Time: 3:51:xx for 26.2, 3:54:03 for 26.51,8:49 pace

Final thoughts:  Although I did not get my 3:49 (that was my super duper time goal), I did manage to get everything else right, which means this day was a winner! Nutrition and hydration were perfect, I got close to my goal pace and I ran a smart, even race. I pushed through the groin injury, mentally and physically. Is it the smartest thing to run on a pulled/strained muscle? No. Am I saying you should do the same? Nope. Am I saying it was the right decision for me that day, given how much races mean to me and how depressed I would be with a DNS versus the downtime I would need to recover from it? Absolutely.

When thinking ahead to future marathons (which started for me the minute I high-fived the Mayor), I think I might try a tougher plan. While I enjoyed the Runner’s World Intermediate Plan and feel it had me well prepared for what I did, I know I can do more. I am ready to do more. So bring it on!

How cute are these guys? Go Cape Island Runners!

Stay tuned for a post-race entry to find our how Sherry, Scott, GD, Scott and Tiff made out!

How was your fall race?

What are some lessons you have learned during races?


Filed under Race Reports

Eve of the Eve

‘Twas the night before marathon weekend and all through the house,

Carbs were being loaded, compliments of my insanely adorable cooking spouse.

I admit that I don’t get the same thrill from Christmas as I did as a child, but I still experience those same sensations of December 25ths of days gone by on marathon weekend. This one is especially exciting since I am sharing the experience with a fantastic group of friends and my husband. Tonight we came together under the benevolent eye of the lighthouse and spent a few hours in the way that only runners before a big race can – by stuffing our bellies with stupid good food, sharing stories of races gone by and fears for the one to come.

We feasted on this beautiful pre-race meal – roasted acorn squash stuffed with black beans and veggies, topped with a poblano sauce and chipolte adobo pulled chicken. And yes, it was as amazing as it sounds! Ice cream, ginger cookies and chickpea blondies for dessert, accompanied by some bubbly, beer and Gatorade 🙂

We popped the race map up on our tv and geeked out to all things course, gear and clothing related.

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” Oh, Girl Scouts, how right you were! A runnerific night bringing together some of my favorites.

We spent the night celebrating the runners we are (and have become!!) and when we said good-bye to our friends, I felt just as I had many times as a child on Christmas Eve… wrapped in a warm cocoon of happiness and love, contentment in this moment mixed with unbridled excitement for what is to come. Now, if I could only figure out the marathon equivalent of laying on my back and staring up into a starlit tree.

What are some of your pre-race meals?

Do you still feel the same about Christmas/Hanukkah/holidays as you used to?


Filed under Uncategorized

Taperworm Diaries – Entry #1

Some people have the deep misfortune to be struck with tapeworms in the brain. But there are those of us that are a lot luckier and only have to deal with taperworms. No one really knows how they get infected, but it is almost a guarantee that symptoms will begin 2-3 weeks before race day. The worm starts small – maybe you feel some butterflies when you think of the start line or casually wonder what you will wear for the run. As the days tick by, symptoms often get worse. The following is a diary entry from a patient with full-blown taperworm madness. Note that during the later stages, the victim will start bonding with her captor, Stockholm syndrome style.

Dear Diary,

My brain is not my own. I have found myself doing the following over the last week:

1. Checking the AccuWeather extended forecast daily and letting the temperatures dictate my mood-  the upper 40s and warmer with sun= elated Kashi while cloudy with upper 30s to low 40s = nail-biting Kashi.

2. Looking forward to 11/9 when I could FINALLY see the 10-day forecast on no less than three weather websites.

3. Staring idly at this hypnotic wind map and wondering what Aeolus has in store for us. To be fair, staring idly at this map is something I do even when not infected with taperworms, but the difference is that I don’t usually look for hidden messages about how the race will go in its mesmerizing rivers of air.

4. Crying at anything even remotely emotional, including but not limited to, thinking about the NYC marathoners who will get the chance to run in Philly, scenes from Cloud Atlas, Sandy destruction, love I have for my sister, frustration during commutes and thinking that I was getting a cold (I was not -buuuut I probably just jinxed myself. Damn!).

5. Eating everything in sight, despite the fact I am running less. The taperworms need nutrition and I am happy to oblige but I am not sure my pants are on-board with this plan. However, the pants don’t wear the pants around here, so I continue to munch.

A starting line horn is the only known antidote so I just have to hold on for 9 more days. There is no escaping the taperworms, and truth be told I kinda like them. They remind me that despite the fact that this race means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, it means an awful lot in my little scheme of things. So the taperworms and I will be strange bedfellowing it for the next week –  we’ll have movie night (paging Spirit of the Marathon!) while we chow like queens on carbs and worry endlessly about weather and imaginary injuries.


How are your taperworms treating you?

What do you do in the days leading up to a race?


Filed under Uncategorized

Runner’s World Review – Tapering!

I’m an avid Runner’s World reader and have been for many years. Each month  I will pick one article from the magazine (suggestions welcome!) to discuss and we can kick around thoughts, opinions and reflections. We’ll stay one issue behind the most current so that non-subscriber’s can read along on the RW website.  It’ll be like a book club, except less Jane Austen and more sweat.  So grab a cup of Joe or tea (see, it is just like a book club!) and jump into the fray!

October 2012 – Tapering? Wrap It Up With A Burst

I was super tempted to pick the article about pancakes this month since they are one of my favorite meals (I somehow managed to convince GD to eat them once a week for dinner for a glorious stretch in 2009, but he eventually got pancaked-out. This was a period where I really questioned whether we were meant to be or not).  BUT since the Philly marathon is 16 days away (freak out: ohmygoditcantbehereyetiamnotreadyineedmorespeedworkandhillsandGULP!) and I am smack dab in the middle of taper, this really appealed to me and my obsession with all things marathon right now (not to be confused by my regular obsession with all things marathon – this one is more specific to just my race and Philly versus a more broad one. It’s like specialist versus generalist species– normally any old plant will do, but right now I need eucalyptus and only eucalyptus!).

Anywho, for those that are not in the throes of tapering and have no idea what I am talking about, it is the period before a race when you reduce mileage in an effort to rest your body and mind for the big day. The longer the race, the longer the taper. For a marathon, it usually begins 3 weeks before the run. The first week you usually run 80-90% of your normal weekly mileage, second week do 60-70% and the final week about 30-50%.

It’s a tough period for most runners because at this point in training you have gotten really used to long, hard weeks. You reduce mileage and think it will feel great to rest – but instead you often just feel restless. The closer you get to race day, and therefore the less you run, the more you convince yourself that you are an out of shape mess destined to blow up on the course and barely be able to finish, much less  reach any of your goals.  And this is where the article comes in to save the day!

In my first marathon and even in Chicago, I was under the impression that tapering meant less miles at a slow pace. This did lead to me feeling lethargic during taper. A few years ago (while training for the Philly Half 2010) I read that tapering should be a reduction in volume, but not intensity (I find this especially true for me in weeks 1 and 2 of taper). This article reinforces that idea and I have found that still doing some speedwork and marathon pace workouts REALLY help me keep my shit together during these “tough” weeks.

I usually prefer to take it super easy during that last week – my body does respond really well to rest and slow/no runs in the few days before a race and I probably won’t mess with that too much on this training cycle. However, I am planning on trying a few short intervals/striders on my Tuesday workout of race week. I also came across this video on Competitor.com (great website, I am a fan) that talks about carb loading and a quickie Saturday (day before the race) 3-minute workout that supposedly makes the most of your glycogen orgy. I am not sure if I am going to try it – anyone out there have experience with this or is it voodoo marathon madness?

How do you taper?

What does your race week training look like?

Leave a comment

Filed under Runner's World Reviews

Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 5-8

Instead of recapping my marathon training on a daily or weekly basis, I am going for the corporate-style quarterly update. I am hoping to provide some business style charts, a la:

Since there are 16 weeks of training there will be 4 updates. Each one will be comprised of the quarterly report (like in business, but with less corruption and pantyhose. oh, and no bogus bonuses) and a topic germane to marathon training. So check out how I have been making out and then let us all know how your training is going (marathon or any other distance/race)!

Miss Update 1 – Weeks 1-4? Read it here!

Update 2 – Weeks 5-8

Quarterly Report

Summary: The good vibes of the first quarter continued and were joined by the new sensation of really sinking my teeth into this training cycle. These weeks are probably analogous to what I hear the the second trimester of pregnancy is like – the reality has set in, you are feeling like things are progressing, but it’s not too uncomfortable yet. Long runs ranged from 11-16 miles,which are lovely distances – not so far as to be intimidating, but most more than half the big day and that is great for confidence. The weather in September was nothing short of spectacular, which gave many of the runs a utopian quality.  Hill work was the name of the game this quarter, which can be hard to come by in these parts. But I did the best I could, running up and down many of our coastal bridges. Also started with more tempo work, which gave me some anxiety. I ran less with friends this quarter and after so many group runs through the summer, I really missed it. During a training cycle I have a tendency to get wrapped up in my plan and found myself declining invitations to run with others because it did not fit perfectly with what I was planning for the day. This is something I am going to work on for Q’s 3 & 4 – flexibility (gasp!!).  Overall, though, a solid quarter that prepared me well for my monster month (running lingo for the peak training period of a marathon, characterized by high volume, high intensity and lots of wondering why you are doing this to yourself in the first place).

Tweaks and twinges: Happy to report that my plantar fasciitis is on the mend! I spent the last 4 weeks stretching, rolling and icing the hell out of it. It really is amazing what you can do with problems like PF with a little consistency. Tight hammies and butt muscles continued to do well – never perfect, but also not getting worse (as was the case when I trained for Chicago). Again, it is the constant rolling and icing I have to thank for that, and will continue to do both for Q’s 3 & 4. One of these days I am going to get my gait analyzed and see what’s doing. Until then, it’s me and my foam roller against the world!

Mental Runitude: Remains high! As mentioned in the summary, I battled some anxiety but that is to do with worrying about hitting my goal times and not about with motivation or anticipation for the race. There are about 8 of us doing either the half or full this year, and plans are already in place for a group dinner and other pre-race fun. Knowing that these folks are also out there, grinding out their workouts and dreaming of PR’s, has really kept me excited this quarter.

Topic du Quarter – MENTAL TRAINING

You often hear that “running is a mental sport”. While I think my legs and heart would beg to differ, I have to agree that an awful lot of what happens between the start and finish line is determined by what goes on up in your own little grey globe. I have learned along the way, however, that you must train your mind just as you train your body. You cannot simply assume on race morning that your brain is capable of  getting you through dark periods when the rest of your body is screaming, “for the love of god please let it be over!” if you have not properly prepared it. Just as you systematically log long runs and intervals, you so must get your mind ready for the task you set before it. The following are the ways I prepare my grey matter. I use all these techniques throughout the training cycle, not just in the days or weeks leading up to the race, to ensure they are good and ingrained in my brain (I might even be doing some right now!).

Visualizations – It’s time to get new age-y and bust out some visualizations. You can pick whatever you like – one that I often gravitate towards is to picture the race clock flashing the number that is my goal time. I like to picture myself running towards the finish line, seeing the clock and realizing I am going to make my goal and letting myself imagine how amazing that is going to feel.

Fake Outs, or if this were 1992 SIKE! – I also like to trick myself mileage wise – for example, if I am runing an 18 miler, instead of thinking at mile 13, “only 5 to go!” I think, “halfway!!”. At mile 18 instead of  “this is my last mile!” it is “only 8 more to go, hang in there!”. This helps me wrap my brain around the idea that 26 is the goal and to work out what each of those miles will feel like as I am out there running them and what I will say to myself to plow through them.

Mantras – Back to our hippie selves… again, you will hear runners tell you to pick a mantra to use during the race when you need something to help you refocus or to help pull you out of a painful period. These work well, but again, you must practice them during training, or it will just be a meaningless phrase that makes you think “mantras are for suckers, this is not working at all!!” I prefer a variety pack of mantras and use them in different situations. I also like to use different ones for each training cycle so that it feels fresh and personal to that race. For Philly 2012, I have been using these: “dig deep” (whilst picturing a shovel in soil, love me some visualizations!) when I am feeling tired, “dial it in” when I am working on marathon pace runs and “good girl” when I hit a split or if I get back on a pace I fell off of. Since I will have been saying these things to myself for 4 months by the time 11/18 rolls around, my mind will be plenty used to what I mean when I say each one.

Positive Reinforcement – From a very young age, my dad introduced me to the concept that you really only have yourself to rely on.  I can remember even from the time I was in elementary school him saying things like “you are born alone and you die alone” (this was sandwiched in between quizzes about percentages and American history. There is no one on this planet quite like the Franksters and I would not have it any other way!). Far from being morbid or depressing, these on-going conversations left me with a strong sense of self and the feeling that if I wanted something out of life, it was up to me to make it happen. The love and support of family and friends are crucial, he taught me, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the donuts.  This can be easier said than done, especially when facing a challenge as daunting as a marathon. I often give myself pep talks (out loud) during training cycles. I was also struck by the advice Sherry’s coach gave her when working on making her feel like a runner and am planning to steal some of the ideas. Get ready for post-it notes telling me “You can do it!” all over the house, GD!

So there you have it – a few simple things you can and should be doing in the months leading up to race day. You may have other techniques that work (if so, please post below!) but the important thing is that you do something to prepare your mind. It is easy to be self-deprecating and negative about your race (“I’m not fast enough”, “I’ll never make it, it’s too far”, “My training is going terribly”etc.) but I am here to tell you that it is okay to believe in yourself, to work hard for results and to lay it all on the line. What do you have to lose? So gooo, you! And me! And all the other nutters out there for whom 26.2 miles on a Sunday morning is just the right amount of crazy!

How is your training cycle treating you?

What are your mental tricks?


Filed under Uncategorized

Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 1-4

Instead of recapping my marathon training on a daily or weekly basis, I am going for the corporate-style quarterly update. I am hoping to provide some business style charts, a la:

This chart depicts my utopian training cycle where blue = pain and red = speed

Since there are 16 weeks of training there will be 4 updates. Each one will be comprised of the quarterly report (like in business, but with less corruption and pantyhose. oh, and no bogus bonuses) and a topic germane to marathon training. So check out how I have been making out and then let us all know how your training is going (marathon or any other distance/race)!

Update 1 – Weeks 1-4

Quarterly Report

Summary: Feeling really good to be back in the swing of a training plan! I incorporated some speed and tempo work this month, which was pretty great considering I had not been doing any in over a year. I am sure by the end of this cycle I will resume my normal love/hate relationship with tempo runs. But for now, it is honeymoon central! My long runs this month seemed, uh, not really long. Weeks 1 & 2 were 9-milers, week 3 was bumped because I was on vacation and it got split over 2 days and Week 4 was 11 miles, run while I was combating jet lag.  So this month’s long runs? Meh. On the plus side, my average pace is already faster than during ultra training, which helped stymie my fear that I would never run my normal pace again (yeah, I know that is dumb! the paranoid mind of a runner, what can you do?) and the runs only get longer from here, so I am looking forward to that!

Tweaks and twinges : I am in a constant battle to keep my upper hammies/butt muscles loose, which means I am always stretching, icing and foam rolling. As long as I am good about that, they stay happy. Since around our Rhode Island trip, I have also noticed some plantar fasciitis creeping in, which is something that comes and goes with me since around my college years. However, this time I am feeling pain in my heel instead of arch, so that is something new. I have been lazy about it so far, but am committing to stretching to get it sorted out (I even booked marked a stretching exercise page in my iPhone, so you know I am serious!).

Mental Runitude: Excellent! Feeling highly motivated and ready to work. This month has been pretty easy, so no sign  fatigue yet.

from go.liverfoundation.org

Topic du Quarter – NUTRITION

Nutrition is something many runners struggle with that takes a lot of time to figure out. There is so much to say about this topic and since brevity (ahem) is not my strong suit, I am going to limit my comments to long run nutrition and what works for me. For me, long runs at this point are anything over 10 or so miles. Feel free to leave questions about all aspects of nutrition in the comments section, though, as this is a tough nut to crack!

Night before: As with many thing in my running life (ok, life period) I am a creature of habit and ritual. The night before a long run almost always means a bowl of whole grain pasta, red sauce, broccoli and some sort of protein (sometimes chicken, but more and more often a soy-based one).  I eat enough so that I feel a little fuller than normal. I have a sensitive stomach and can’t handle eating too much right before I run, so I have found it easier on my digestion system to front-load rather than cramming  in calories the morning of. I also leave a glass of water on my nightstand and drink every time I wake up through the night.

Morning of:  I am jealous of the people who do the banana or bagel with honey and PB combo, as that is delicious! However, through trial and error I have realized that nuts and long runs are not BFF’s when partying it up in my duodenum. I have to stick to really bland, easy stuff. I often do my long runs first thing, and on a run of ~10-13 miles, I will eat a few large handfuls of dry cereal and maybe a ShotBlok or two beforehand.  I love me some GU Chomps and ShotBloks, but I find their chewiness hard to deal with as I run, so I rely on them pre- and post-workout.  For runs longer than 13-14 miles, I eat the cereal as well as a piece of toast or an English Muffin doused in honey and cinnamon. I drink a few sips of water, but not too much.

During Run: Depending on the run and how my stomach is feeling, I vacillate on how/what I eat and drink while I run. A quick note here – it does not matter too much what you eat (GUs, chomps, homemade gels, candy, etc.) but it is very important that you eat on these longer runs. Yes, your body has lots of energy stored, but not all of it is easily accessible and as you get into runs that are hours long, your body will greatly appreciate the calories/carbs/electrolytes that you provide to it. I know some people like to tough it out sans food, but don’t be a hero here.  Food is fuel and you will have a much better run with a properly filled tank. With ultra training, I would often wait until I felt like I wanted food (sometime around the 1.5 hr mark) and eat as needed. With marathon training, though, I am actually pushing my body a little harder pace-wise and I do better on a schedule. For me that means 1/2 a GU on the 45 min mark, the second half on the 65 min mark and repeat as many times as hours I run. I am not a fan of carrying my own water on my person on long runs, so I stash it the night before on my course. Every 5 miles, there is a bottle of water waiting for me and I drink as needed (I go back and pick them up after). I have long learned that a set amount of water is silly for me – what I need varies widely depending on weather and how grouchy my stomach is that day so I just drink by feel.

Post-run: I immediately grab a large glass of ice water and add a Nuun tablet to it. I find this reduces any chance of a headache later in the day, which used to be something I would regularly have after a long run. My stomach takes awhile to settle, so I will typically spend time stretching, icing and foam rolling and then take a shower. By about an hour after I run I am ready for food, and my go-to is almost always a large bowl of cereal ( 3 types mixed together ideal!). Throughout the day, I try to drink quite a bit and eat a protein heavy dinner to help with the micro tears in my muscles.

Foods that work for me before/during runs: Any type of gel (GU just happens to be my favorite), animal crackers, watermelon with salt sprinkled on it, pretzels, Honey Stinger waffles, hard candies (including ginger flavored when nausea hits), straight shots of honey, water, diluted Gatorade.

Foods that have my stomach screaming bloody murder before/during runs: dairy products (esp yogurt), nuts, anything heavy or spicy, anything with too much fiber, sushi (that’s a “before”, not a “during”, lol), chewy candy (like Swedish fish. I had high hopes for candy as I love it so, but during runs it just makes me feel ick – but lots of people find that gummy worms, etc, work well!), salt tabs  (wanted to like these b/c they offer easy electrolytes but they give me heartburn).

If you also suffer from a persnickety stomach that has you wondering what its damage is (yup, that’s a Heathers reference), this link will help you figure out hydration and electrolytes. Scroll down and look at the  table at the bottom to help you zone in on what your issue is and how to solve it.

I could yammer on forever about this stuff, but as it is this post will take you almost as long to read as it did for me to complete Weeks 1-4, so I will shut up now 🙂

How is your training cycle treating you?

What foods do and don’t work on your runs (of any distance)?


Filed under Uncategorized

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan – Fall Marathon Training

CIR Program note: Join me live here on the blog during the early morning broadcast of the women’s Olympic marathon 6 am ET, Sunday, August 5th. I’ll be live blogging through the event and you can live comment through it and that way we can feel like we are watching it together but no one has to get out of their PJ’s. GO TEAM USA!!!!!!

Marathon training started this week! Yahoo! I am signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon , set for Sunday, November 18th. As previously noted, this is race is a favorite of mine for a number of reasons. In the spirit of my Lizzie, here is a list why:

1.  Mid-November is usually prime running weather in the Northeast. Many years have been near perfect conditions – bright sunny skies, high temps in the 50s or 60s.

2. The course is fantastic – plenty of eye candy to keep your mind occupied (Center City, Fairmount Park, Kelly Drive, Manayunk) and not too hilly, which suits this flatlander just fine (all my hill work is completed on Ocean Drive bridges. Not ideal, but it’s what I have to work with!).

3. The crowds are great. There are also quiet parts of the course, but I like that. I don’t mind slipping inside myself for periods of time and when you do once again hit a wall of spectators, it feels even more exciting. There is something wonderfully human about marathon spectating – the people who are willing to spend their day cheering on a loved one for few seconds and then hours of cheering on strangers speaks volumes of what our species is capable of. Philly does not disappoint as there is usually a group of people in the Park that dress up in 80s workout clothes and dance to songs like “Let’s Get Physical”, there are the hootin’ and hollerin’ frat boys and sorority sisters, and the people in Manayunk party like it’s 1999, despite the fact that it is 9 am.

4. The race has become more popular in the years that I have been participating (almost doubling in size!) but the race director has done a really good job of growing it smartly. It is very well organized, from the bib pick-up, to the bag drop in UPS trucks, to the corral start (hurray for running with people at your same pace and not being hemmed in!), to the finish line, where despite there being tens of thousands of people, you don’t feel like you have to walk forever to reunite with yours (I’m looking at you, Chicago).

But to enjoy all those things, I first have to make it to the start line.  This can be easier said than done – most marathon training plans are ~16 weeks and an awful lot can happen to derail your plans in 4 months. Family emergencies, injuries, unexpected life events and sometime just a lack of motivation can all conspire against you.  I am among the runners of the world that is very goal driven and wild horses couldn’t drag me away from a plan once I have committed to it. It’s a blessing and a curse (just ask  GD or Lil Sis what a joy I can be because it’s not just race plans that I have a hard time of letting go of once I have my mind set on something!), but for marathon training it’s a blessing. Unless I lose a limb, I’ll be there… and even that is questionable, cause I am kinda a little in love with the Flex-Foot Cheetah and would definitely hop on that carbon fiber train.

I thumbed through a fair number of training plans trying to decide which to try this time around. I want to PR so I needed a plan to help me achieve that. My current PR is 3:57:59 (Garmy said I hit 26.2 at 3:55:xx but that’s not official). This number drives me crazy. Crawl the walls, strap me in a straightjacket and videotape me crying about leaving Britney Spears alone bat-shit crazy! Yes, I am proud of it and worked hard for it… but according to running calculators like this one, my times at other distances would suggest a much faster marathon.  These potential marathon times that the calculator so casually presents to me are the digits I obsess over. “What if, what if, what if?” each footfall during training seems to say.

I will be using the intermediate plan (see below) I found in Runner’s World a few months ago, with some Kashi tweaks. I will try to do as much hill training as South Jersey allows and round it out with more speedwork than is called for to make up the difference. I prefer to have Mondays and Fridays off,  so I will follow a Tuesday (speedwork or hills), Wednesday (easy), Thursday (tempo or some MP mixed with easy), Saturday (long run) and Sunday (easy) schedule.  I will add more tempo work to Thursday workouts than is called for, since I really feel it was the tortuous tempo runs that helped me run my fastest half-marathon.  I will probably add a few more miles in the early weeks, since I am regularly running more than 30 miles right now and I hate going backwards (but I will do this by feel since the speedwork and tempos I will be doing incorporates faster paces than I have run in some time, so it will be critical to make sure my body feels fresh and lower mileage may be the answer to that).  I really love that this plan has multiple 20 (or 22) milers, I think that is going to be perfect for building for mental toughness and confidence. I am also excited to see how the foundation I laid during ultra-running training will translate to this cycle.

Among the many running rituals I engage in is this one – I must have a handwritten plan that hangs on my fridge (I then log the outcomes of all these runs in Excel. Sounds obsessive, but it is an incredible training tool that most running nuts use – whether it is in Excel, on Training Peaks, or through their Garmins, those numbers are the key to cracking your running code). I like standing in front of it, looking at the weeks of running to come and picturing what those long runs are going to be like (as much as I appreciate what tempo runs do for me, nothing will ever touch my love of going  long).

I have much more to say about marathon training, but for Pete’s sake, we have 4 months! I’ll shut my trap for now and just look forward to all the training tales we will share as we enter the fall race season together!

What training plans do you follow?

Do you change them up, or follow to the tee?

What is your favorite part of training?

See ya Sunday!! Go Desi (provided she starts, hoping so!), Shalane and Kara!


Filed under Uncategorized