Tag Archives: Marine Corps Marathon

The Long Run

I’ve written about long runs before. But tomorrow, I attempt The Long Run — the only 20-miler I’ll be doing before the Marine Corps Marathon, per my doctor’s instructions, making this kind of a mini climax within my training period.

The first time I ran 20 miles, I remember thinking there was something distinctly different about it. Even when compared to other long runs, 20 is long enough to feel more like a hike or other outdoor excursion than a run. It requires more planning than any other venture during marathon training, and requires you to prep your body as you would for the full marathon. Here are the nitty-gritty details for this one:

Pre-run fuel: Roasted vegetable lasagna, homemade pizzatopped with farm-stand veggies, pumpkin-dark chocolate muffins. (I know … you’ve seen these before. Stick with what works, right?)

Route: Variation of the marathon course.

Tunes: Four-hour playlist almost done (playlist rule: always, always overestimate your finish time!). If someone can tell me how to copy and paste a playlist from iTunes, I can post it, like, yesterday.

Gear: Champion shorts. Ancient Reebok technical T-shirt I soaked in fancy sports detergent to get three years of stank out of it. It’s white, and is the exact replica of the pink one that used to be my lucky, go-to distance-running shirt, but that’s no longer wearable thanks to unremovable stank (seriously — it distracts even me).

Fuel: Water stops at memorials. Double espresso Gu and latte-flavored PowerBar gel obtained. Pre-run Luna bar ready, post-run Odwalla Protein Monster chilling in fridge. I’d make my post-run protein shake, but I’m going to be all the way across town, and want to be able to refuel sooner rather than later.

Weather: Looks. Freaking. Amazing. Overnight lows in the 50s, 60s in the morning. Yes, yes, yes!

Ego-boosts: My three previous runs. On Saturday and Tuesday, my early-morning five-milers in Florida came in under 8-minute miles, making me realize just how far I’ve come since hills ate my quads alive when I first moved back to the land of the seasons and elevation. Then, last night, I ran sub-8-minute miles on a super-hilly 5.5-mile course back home. No matter what pace my 20 ends up coming in at, I feel a serious burst of confidence knowing I can go fast, for me, on a pretty consistent basis.

Wish me luck not going crazy on my off-day leading up to it, and on the run tomorrow! Again, if you’ve got any last-minute playlist suggestions, leave ’em here!


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Another tweak to the training schedule

First, a quick reminder that today is the last day to win a pair of trail-running shoes by sharing your best trail-running story at the bottom of this post. The contest closes at 6 p.m. EST today, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday.

Earlier this week, I applauded myself for being flexible with my training schedule by being willing to shuffle my 20-miler around what seemed like a really crazy, inflexible social schedule, which includes a backpacking trip to West Virginia the intended week of the 20. I solved the Jenga puzzle that was my training calendar by moving the 20-miler to this Saturday morning.

A change in circumstances puts me in Florida this weekend instead. Since I have a firm “I would do anything for running, but I won’t do that” stance on doing my longest run in my training plan in what’s still summertime in the Sunshine State, I’m readjusting again.

My fix: Do whatever I can this weekend, making it a stepback week. Skip the little 10K I hadn’t even signed up for, anyway, and run my 20-miler next weekend, with an 18 the weekend after before I start my taper.

What seemed to hard about that before?

The ultimate simplicity of that rearrangement was a nice reminder that really, going running is a simple venture. Yes, there are energy gels and fluids and routes to be considered as the runs get longer, but when it comes down to it, I can accomplish my training schedule by simply pointing my body out the door and going.

That said, I’m prepped for when I get home. I’ve purchased my gels and sports drink, planned (at least in a general sense) my route, picked my outfit and even stashed a few servings of roasted vegetable lasagna in the freezer for easy carbo-loading once I get home. Piece of cake.

My apologies if my posts are a bit sporadic until next Tuesday. I’ll make sure to let you know about the trail-runners tomorrow!


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Recipe: The perfect post-run protein shake

With 39 days to go until the Marine Corps Marathon, I’m starting to take my preparations seriously.

For the past couple weeks, that’s meant preparing for my long runs like they’re rocket launches, and adding some speedwork to my schedule of tempo runs, long runs and whatever-I-feel-like runs.

This week, that also means focusing on my pre-race nutrition, which I was a little too lax about before my 17-miler last week. I know not to eat burritos the night before; now, I know Mexican is also a poor choice two nights out. So I started the week by shopping for ingredients for roasted vegetable lasagna and homemade pizza, plus Mountain Berry Blast PowerAde, which is apparently going to be served on the MCM course.

I also bought ingredients for what’s become my standard post-long-run protein shake. I’ve been tweaking the formula since April, when I posted a call for new protein-shake ideas on this blog (check out a long list of great ideas here). It moved over to the “tried and true” category when I ran it by a few sports dietitians I talked to for a Running Times story earlier this summer. One proclaimed it “pretty much the perfect post-run snack.” Done!

Here’s my favorite recipe, which attempts to reach the magic 4:1 carb-protein ratio, with roughly as many grams of good, complex carbohydrates as my weight divided by two (try this easy formula to figure out your post-long-run carb needs, too!). For me, that’s about 62.5 grams of carbohydrates. If we stick with the 4:1 ratio, that’s 15 grams of protein.

1/2 c nonfat Greek yogurt

1/2 c milk

1-2 frozen bananas

Splash of vanilla

1/4 c Hershey’s cocoa powder

Sweetener of choice (I use a dash of Splenda)

1 TBSP peanut butter

Hershey’s syrup to taste

Blend in food processor or blender. Slurp frantically as you sink into an ice bath.


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Back on track with Yasso 800s

After getting a weird flareup of an old hip injury earlier this summer, my awesome running doc had a few marching orders about how to resume my Marine Corps Marathon training. The main one: no long runs or speedwork until August.

I started my long runs in August, and have been chugging along with those ever since, with a successful 17-miler last week and a 20-miler in the near future. But I sort of forgot about the whole speedwork thing. See, the weather’s been nice here — like, really really nice — and on my three days of running per week, the last thing I want to do is be stuck on a track or treadmill. I’ve done some hill repeats on the trails, and thrown in some strides, but Sunday, I decided to head over to my closest high-school track and get my speed groove back.

Usually, in an attempt to get through speedwork in the quickest and most efficient manner possible, I do mile repeats. But Sunday, I mixed things up and did some Yasso 800s, or 800s run in the same minutes:seconds as your goal marathon time in hours:minutes. Since I’m looking to run somewhere around a four-hour marathon, that meant I’d have to run somewhere around 4 minutes for the 800s. My 5K pace is something like 7:30-minute miles, I hoped this would be a piece of cake.

Praise the running gods, it was! Each of my six 800s was 10 to 20 seconds below the four-minute mark, with most of them falling right around 3:45. I’m not sayin’ I’m gonna change my marathon goal, just that it’s nice to get some affirmation that my goal is very, very realistic. Plus, the 800s were kind of fun! They reminded me a little of one of my favorite swim sets, 5X200 freestyle: It’s a short enough distance to push yourself to go fast, but not so short that you have to do a whole mess of them to get any good distance.

Here’s the really awesome thing: I really meant to jog there and back. And I felt like I was jogging along the rolling hills on Colesville Road. But I was doing 8:20-minute miles on the 2.5-mile “jog” there, and did 9-minute miles on the way home only when I specifically told myself to pull back.

I rewarded myself with a long bath with lavender oil and epsom salt, which I’m convinced is better than the fanciest bath salts around for making things all fizzy and relaxing.

In other news: I can’t even tell you how much fun it’s been reading all the awesome, hilarious, touching and overall smart and well-written trail-running stories posted for the chance to win some Saucony ProGrid Xodus Trail-Running Shoes! The contest runs til the end of the day Thursday, which means there’s plenty of time to enter by posting a comment sharing your best trail-running story at the bottom of this post by the end of next week.


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A great long run, a tweak to my training schedule?

I’ve only trained for a full marathon once before, and for my runs of 15 miles or longer, I found I could only be comfortable with

An awesome long run on Thursday has let me consider the rest of my training schedule, which has highlighted some conflicts ...

An awesome long run on Thursday has let me consider the rest of my training schedule, which has highlighted some scheduling conundrums ...

a pace that meant I was doing more shuffling than walking.

That was in Florida in March and April of 2007, before the Nashville Country Music Marathon. I finished that marathon in 4:34 — roughly 10:30-minute miles — feeling fabulous, but with the sinking feeling that perhaps I was feeling a little *too* fabulous, and should have pushed myself harder somewhere along the line. To be fair, I ran and trained for the race in true southern heat — sometimes the blistering, soul-sucking kind. But still …

I’m happy to report that things are coming along a bit differently this time. Thursday marked my third long run during which I’ve managed a 9:30-minute-mile pace, quite comfortably, with negative splits at the end. Negative splits! Me! Who woulda thunk?

I mention this because my success on my 17-miler on Thursday has allowed me, for the first time since an old hip injury flared up this spring, to start seriously planning to run this marathon. This, in turn, has highlighted some weird scheduling conundrums I need your advice about.

My training plan calls for the following long runs: 18 miles on Sept. 20, 10 miles on Sept. 27, 20 miles on Oct. 4, 13 miles on Oct. 11, eight to 10 miles on Oct. 18, marathon on Oct. 25.

My life calls for a road-trip to see a University of Colorado football game in West Virginia Oct. 1, followed by a backpacking trip immediately after, which is really, really not conducive to a successful 20-miler. The weekend before, there’s a 10K I’d really like to run on Sept. 26, the Clarendon Day 10K. I feel comfortable running up to 17 miles on a weekday morning before work, since I make my own schedule, but 20 is enough to basically ruin any chance of productivity for the rest of the day.

So: How do we feel about me swapping my 18-miler and 20-miler? It would be nice to do the 20-miler exactly three weeks out. But it would also be nice to, you know, have a life. Plus, my husband’s helping a friend move the morning of Sept. 19, making it the ideal Saturday morning for a life-consuming long run. And a glance at my running log from 2007 indicates that I did my sole 20-miler that year five weeks out rather than three (thanks to a wicked case of food poisoning, but whatever).

What do we think? Would all hell break loose if I timed my only 20-miler a bit earlier than my plan calls for, or is this swap OK? Please, please weigh in on this — I need some affirmation!

In other news: After fears of rain nearly led me to postpone the aforementioned 17-mile run, it turned out to be dry, gorgeous, ego-boosting and uplifting — in short, everything I hoped for and more. I ran 17.15 miles in 2:43 — 9:30 minute-mile pace, with an 8:30 or two thrown in at the end. I went on Sligo Creek Trail again, creature of habit I am, with a few hills thrown in to avoid getting *too* much of an ego boost. I also tried a few new things, with varying effects:

  • Champion shorts from Target are my new true love. They cost $15. They don’t chafe, even on the longest, sweatiest of runs. Truly, my shirt chafed before my shorts. Buy these NOW.
  • Mocha Clif gel and I will have to go on another date to see how things go. The gels contain 50mg of caffeine a pop, which I’m a total sucker for (I dream of a day when gels will all contain carbs, caffeine and a wee bit of acetaminophen), and taste like Hershey’s syrup with a little bit of espresso. I like that they’re all-natural, but I might just like the texture of my tried-and-true latte-flavored PowerBar gels better. Jury’s still out.
  • Big bowls of frozen berries and my stomach are, from this point forward, forbidden to have contact the night before a long run. Seriously. My stomach isn’t even accepting calls from berries anymore. I told myself fruit was light enough to balance the high fiber content. Yesterday morning, my stomach informed me I should shut up and stick to the pizza, please.

Two other changes I’ll make for future long runs. First, I really do need to start my pre-run diet two days beforehand, eating roasted vegetable lasagna and homemade pizza rather than, say, burritos and bean dip two days out (true story). Also, I need to find a new lucky long-run shirt that doesn’t chafe on long runs. The one I wore in 2007 has a permanent stench after many, many miles and many, many races.

Don’t forget to enter my very first contest for a pair of Saucony ProGrid Xodus Trail-Running Shoes! All you have to do is post a comment sharing your best trail-running story at the bottom of this post by the end of next week.


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Prepping for a long run in the rain

I’ve prided myself in being extremely flexible with my Marine Corps Marathon training so far.

I'm running tomorrow, even if it looks like this when I wake up (but let's hope it doesn't!).

I'm running tomorrow, even if it looks like this when I wake up (but let's hope it doesn't!).

Not only did I start my long-run schedule late to accommodate a flareup of an old hip injury in May, I’ve been tackling long runs on weekday mornings to avoid pulling my husband and friends into the juggernaut that is a marathon-training schedule. Not that my life has been completely unaltered by my training: I’ve lobbied for shorter hikes on backpacking trips, like our jaunt through the Shenandoah last weekend. I’m trying to pull off a superhuman feat of fitting a tune-up half-marathon into my life before the race. And I’m planning to tackle my 20-miler for a Saturday, because I just can’t imagine rebounding from that in a way that leads to a productive work day after.

Everything’s been holding up pretty well. Then, along came this week, with the promise of rain into the weekend.

I’ve been planning my 17-miler for tomorrow morning for a couple weeks, with an off-day built in today, a pizza dinner planned for tonight and a massage booked for Friday to work out the kinks that are inevitable after sandwiching a backpacking trip in between a 15-miler and a 17-miler.

So rain or no rain, I’m going tomorrow morning. My Clif gels are out. My route is planned. My massage is booked, and I plan to earn that appointment.

I know: It’s just RAIN. If it rains on race day, I’m not going to skip the race. And really, I’d rather do a long run through a fall drizzle in D.C. than 90-degree heat in Florida, as I did when I trained for the Nashville Country Music Marathon in 2007.

And you know what? If things get really ugly, I can always do my last five-mile loop on the (gulp) treadmill.

As usual, wish me luck!

In other training news: Steve and I got to run with our Pacers Silver Spring running group for the first time since our month of travel in August. It was one of our old standard courses, a 5.6-mile version of the Alaska out-and back route (make it longer by retracing your steps on your way back) but it’s been so long since we’ve gone with the group, it still felt like a novelty. I ran it in just under 45 minutes, which works out to be about eight-minute miles — not what I expected in the least on my sore calves and quads from backpacking! It made me think of a quote that cracked me up recently: “A run is like a relationship; you don’t know how it’s going to go until you get a little bit into it.”


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A long run done right

Last time I trained for a marathon, I got used to a one-week-on, one-week-off schedule for long runs. Meaning,

A little planning — including a mid-run energy gel — made for a great long run.

A little planning — including a mid-run energy gel — made for a great long run.

one week, I’d feel on, capable of pushing my body to its limits, thrilled by my own (relative) speed. The next week, I could count on cramps, exhaustion, joint pain that made me wonder if something was broken, and a constant stream of internal reminders that walkers cross the finish line, too.

This training cycle, I hadn’t had an “on” week yet. Even though some of my runs have been speedy (again, relatively — we’re talking nine-minute miles here) in the end, I hadn’t had a single one that felt fabulous and ego-boosting. That one came this morning.

I ran 15 miles on Sligo Creek Trail in 2:22. That’s 9:23-minute miles, and includes some truly quad-eating hills I worked in at the end to get me ready for the big hill that apparently comes at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon course. I’m thrilled with this pace, especially considering I was cranking out 8:30-minute miles before those hills (does that still count as negative splits?), but I’m even more thrilled that I planned and executed this run well — the success was no accident.

Here’s how my plan went down:
I started my carbolicious eating two days out, making roasted vegetable lasagna on Monday to enjoy all week, then eating just two reasonably sized pieces of homemade pizza the night before.

I took the day before totally and completely off. I’d been swimming before my long ones, but once I got to 13 miles, my body informed me, in so many words, that it would like some rest before I do THAT crap again, please.

I parked my car at my starting point, despite being totally able to run there. This let me stock the car with two huge Nalgene bottles full of water, plus a Power Bar double latte energy gel, to refuel. I needed to do this for the 13-miler, too, considering I did it in the summer heat. The baby water bottle (maybe eight ounces?) I stashed on my route seems pathetic, knowing how much better I feel today.

I ran five miles out to a water fountain, five miles back to my car for more water and energy gel, then ran five miles split between the trail and some killer hills in the neighborhood. Breaking the run into five-mile sections is SO important to me mentally! Sure, I could do the same thing with a point-to-point course, but literally being able to turn around at every five-mile mark made the run SO much easier to take!

Oh — and the perfect fall-like weather didn’t hurt, either. The unusually cool temperatures helped me appreciate the beauty around me: The creek gushing over rocks, the sky being almost unnaturally blue, the tree canopies seeming to take on a glittery green glow in the sunlight. That, in turn, helped me appreciate the usual suspects on Sligo Creek Trail — or any paved creekside trail for that matter: The other runners, the dog walkers, the bike commuters, the tai-chi guy on the tennis court, the painter-lady with her easel.

I came home and executed one constant in my long-run plan: A protein shake and an ice bath. Excruciating cold has never felt so warm and fuzzy!

Stay tuned: Recipes for my homemade pizza and new, improved protein recovery shake are on the way!


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It’s that time again … already

Pre-run homemade-pizza dinner? Check. Leftover roasted-veggie lasagna for lunch? Check. New Champion shorts, National Half-Marathon shirt, blister-prevention socks, energy gels, laid out? Check. And my long-run route, a 15-miler this week, is carefully mapped in preparation for tomorrow’s journey.

Wait. Weren’t we just here?

Yes, it’s long-run time again. I’d initially planned to run with Pacers Silver Spring tonight and tackle my long run Thursday morning again to accommodate the weekend’s camping trip. The business that is my life has moved my long run up yet another day, and I took today off to prep my legs for tomorrow.

Despite the change in schedule, I’m a little better prepared this week than I was last week. For one thing, there’s the day off today — something I think is becoming necessary to avoid using up a precious drop of glycogen. Then, there’s the route itself: start at my car. Run five miles out to a water fountain/bathroom. Run five miles back to the car to obtain water (big, glorious Nalgene bottles full of it!), energy gel. Run 2.5 out, 2.5 back to the car. Pick up ice on the way home. The last part is the best — I typically just stop by the Giant across the street, then carry two 16-pound bags of ice home, about a five-minute walk. Is it bad that the lack of a five-minute walk juggling 32 pounds of ice makes my long run seem easy?

No matter. I’m heading out early tomorrow on what I’m sure will be one of the nicest running days of the year. Wish me luck!


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When should you run again after an injury?

For a month now, I’ve been gloomily telling people I’m laying low, with no

I ran my first "long" run to prep for the Marine Corps Marathon this morning. But I'm keeping my goals flexible.

I ran my first “long” run to prep for the Marine Corps Marathon this morning. But I’m keeping my goals flexible.

long runs or speedwork, until August. This is per my doctor’s suggestions to let my sore IT band heal after a flareup in May.

“August?” asked one of my running buddies the other night. “Like, next week?”

Apparently, time flies when you’re running three times a week, no more than 6 miles per run, and stretching and doing core work like your life depends on it!

So last night, for the first time since my awesome running doc and I formulated a plan that would let me at least try to still run the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 25 this year, I pulled out my FIRST training plan to confirm that this is do-able. Long story short: It is. And though it’s not technically August for another two days, it’s time to test the theory.

So this morning, when I headed out for a rare early trail run, I was already thinking: Is this the day I’ll try my first “long” run, an 8-miler that aims to test my not-so-sore-anymore hip?

This was basically a microcosm of the bigger questions I’m dealing with: How will I know if I can run the marathon without sidelining myself for months again? And, writ even larger, when is it OK to run again after an injury?

My friend Kaveh, who’s also signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon, is dealing with the same dilemmas. He skipped his long run on Saturday because, as he describes it, “my shin was killing me with every walking step.”

He asked my opinion about how you know when you’re ready to train again: “Specifically, when you’re training for a marathon and every run seems crucial.”

This is so hard, and so personal, and depends on each individual’s body and goals.

As I learned by watching people literally limp over the finish line with the help of kind, possibly crazy volunteers at the Nashville Country Music Marathon in 2007, it’s certainly possible to run a marathon with a pretty terrible injury. If you’re cool with the risk of a stress fracture or worse leaving you unable to run at ALL for months following the marathon, then push on.

I’m not going to be that person. Kaveh and I both have the luxury of having finished a marathon before, so we don’t have that to prove to ourselves. As much as I feel a desperate urge to test myself again, proving to myself I can run a marathon quickly, being able to run on regular basis means more to me than any finisher’s medal.

I personally find it vital to have a doctor — one who understands and appreciates my running goals — give me the OK to proceed. But my doctor doesn’t exactly hang around the house, waiting for me to ask his opinion on a daily basis, leaving much of the decision-making up to me.

A couple rules of thumb, from various doctors, physical therapists and, you know, afternoons spent procrastinating on runnersworld.com:

  • Don’t run if you’re limping. Once your form goes, you can injure more than just the site of the pain.
  • Don’t run if it’s a sharp pain (as opposed to a dull ache) that gets worse as you run. This could mean a stress fracture, and if you run on this, it could get exponentially worse.
  • It’s better to be 10 percent undertrained than 1 percent overtrained, i.e., injured. Err on the side of caution, big time.

There may come a time in my training when erring on the side of caution means giving up on the MCM dream for this year (with a new immediate goal of deferring until 2010). But for now, I’m taking it one week at a time, increasing my mileage slowly, listening to my body and being prepared to be flexible.

So this morning, I did one trail loop of about five miles — about a mile each way to get to and from Rock Creek Park, with three miles of actual trails. Then, I really tuned in to how my body felt. My hip felt loose. My form felt strong. I reversed the loop and did it again for a total of about eight miles. First long run, done!

That’s not to say I’m getting cocky. On my way back, I bought a huge bag of ice from the Giant. That’s right — I took an ice bath after an 8-miler, an uncomfortable tactic usually reserved for only the longest runs. I’ll take one after my longest run every week, continue with my plan to build the strongest core this side of Rock Creek … and just continue to see how it goes.


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Looking for a good pre-MCM half

I know it’s far away, but with the weather getting ready to heat up around here, I’m starting to focus my distance-running attention to the fall, when I’m running the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 25.

I’m looking for a good half-marathon to run as a pre-marathon tune-up. Something flat, fast and fun (read: ego-boosting) would be ideal. In the running (ha!) right now: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on Sept. 6 and the Philadelphia Distance Run on Sept. 20. I’d been set on the race in Philly after reading in Running Times that it’s one of the fastest halves in the country. But after participating in the 10-mile Broad Street Run on Sunday, which felt like a party at which I just happened to be running, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half is starting to sound pretty good.

Any thoughts on either one? Any other suggestions? Help me decide by posting a comment below!

If you’re looking for a half to run sooner than September, check out the Pacers Running Festival this Sunday. It’s been on my race calendar for a while, but I think I’m going to skip — partially because I can’t afford the $55 registration fee, partially because running a 10-mile race or longer three weekends in a row is a little much even for me.


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