Working With a Running Coach: Step One

I wrote this last week, before my first real workout with the coach. Post-workout post coming tomorrow!

Despite being cleared to run by my physical therapist, my attempts to return to running have been clumsy and painful. I know I need to change my form and gait to run more efficiently and help prevent injuries in the future, and I know I need someone to help me do it properly. I’ve read tons of articles, watched video tutorials, etc., but nothing compares to being on the track with a professional who can give me personalized feedback and cues.

I Googled my way into finding a local running coach who is certified by the Road Runners Club of America and USA Track & Field, and who was also a professional runner before going into coaching about 20 years ago. He is extremely popular, so I was nervous about getting time with him, but I was able to schedule an initial two-hour session fairly easily.

We spent the majority of that session talking about my history with running and injuries, his coaching method and philosophy, nutrition, hydration and more.

He’s a very matter-of-fact guy; there was definitely nothing like, “You can achieve any goal as long as you work hard enough!” in our conversation. I don’t think he was trying to discourage me, but was just making sure my expectations were in check. I’m not trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials or anything; I just want to run pain-free and eventually qualify for Boston, so I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

As we talked about my running history and I described the training plan I used for Jack & Jill, he wasn’t shocked that I got injured. Running six days a week with higher mileage than I’d ever run before for my first marathon training cycle after having a baby? Never warming up? Rarely cooling down/stretching after runs? Doing almost no cross training? Well, duh.

So I felt very humbled by our talk. Hindsight is 20/20 and he helped me see the reality of what happened. I wonder if a female coach would have been a little gentler with me and given me more encouragement about what I could achieve in the future, but I can appreciate that he’s just not that kind of coach, and I can handle some tough love.

We spent the last 15 minutes or so on the track. First, he watched me walk away from him and toward him several times. Then he inspected the wear pattern on my shoes; I wore the last pair I had trained in for Jack & Jill. Then he watched me run back and forth on the track with varying degrees of effort, and finally filmed me doing so.

He talked me through a laundry list of issues while showing me the video evidence, and it was all plain as day. I hold my arms too high and swing them across my body instead of forward/backward, which is extremely inefficient. He said that would be a relatively easy fix compared to what was happening with my gait.

My hips sit too far back, and I run from my knees down, meaning I don’t make use of my quads and hamstrings like I should. He said, “You’re a strong woman” (why thank you!) “but you’re not using your main sources of power.” Damn.

It’s encouraging that the coach could spot my issues and articulate them so easily. I should be excited to tackle them head-on; I can only improve, right? But I feel discouraged and embarrassed that I’ve been running so wrong for so long. I always thought running was such a natural human action; how could I possible screw it up? I also thought that about breastfeeding before I became a mother, though, and I quickly learned how wrong I was about that!

So my brain and emotions are at odds right now. Logically, I know I can improve if I put in the work. Emotionally, I feel intimidated and lacking in confidence. I’m three months out from my injury and have only run a few miles a handful of times since then. I feel out of shape because—between a week of travel and a horrible cold—I haven’t exercised at all in three weeks. My first workout with the coach is tomorrow. This… will be interesting.

I hope to walk away from the track tomorrow with renewed hope and confidence for my running future. If not, I’ll just need to put in more effort to get it. Despite having been a runner for eight years and having completed five marathons, I feel like a newbie all over again—nervous, insecure and full of self-doubt.

All I can do is move forward the same way I did back in 2010: one step at a time.

Puzzle Pieces

The first time I left my daughter was over Labor Day weekend in 2016, when she was four months old. I didn’t just skip town; I left the country.

One of my closest friends had her bachelorette party in Vancouver, B.C., and I was excited to spend three days celebrating with my girlfriends. Perhaps even more, I was excited to get a few uninterrupted nights of sleep for the first time in what felt like forever.

I was the only mother on the trip, and thus the only one pumping breastmilk in the car as we waited in the interminable line to cross the border into Canada. That kind of set the tone for the trip for me.

For some reason when I think of that trip, I don’t remember so much about the restaurants we visited or the bars we hit. The things that jump out at me are all the places I hid to pump while the other girls played party games and refilled their wine glasses; the careful management of my ice packs and the refrigerator/freezer situation between one hotel room and one Airbnb that were inexplicably located a car ride away from each other; the endless math of figuring out when I’d need to pump next and whether to save the milk or dump it (thanks to my own refilled wine glass).

I also remember the twice-daily FaceTime calls with my husband and Evie, and how my quiet, gentle missing of her suddenly became a gut punch the moment I saw her.

I particularly remember one video call I made to Aaron while pumping. I decided it would be funny to train the camera on my chest when he answered the call, and then I quickly realized my mother-in-law was right there looking over his shoulder. I think I moved the camera quickly enough, but oh man, I sure never did that again!

The other reason I remember that call is because Aaron and Evie were at my in-laws’ house, and Evie was dressed in a new outfit they had given her. Sweet, right? I’m incredibly grateful whenever anyone gives her a gift, but at the time, she suddenly looked like a completely different baby to me. She was wearing an unfamiliar headband, top and pants, and somehow that made her look so much more grown-up. Since I’m her mother and The Organizer of All the Baby Clothes, she had never been dressed in something I hadn’t at least seen ahead of time.

I’m not sure why this affected me so much. It wasn’t about the clothes themselves, but the visual reminder that she was experiencing new things—and thus growing—without me. It was only for a few days, but in the scope of her existence at that point, a few days was not nothing.

I’m pretty sure I confined my tears to wherever I was FaceTiming and didn’t make a big deal about things among the larger group of girls, but I still remember the exact feeling. I felt it again just a few days ago.

The weird thing was that I felt it when I returned home after five days away. It was the longest I had ever been away from Evie, and I worried beforehand that I would break down into FaceTime tears again and again throughout the trip.

Maybe it’s because we’re no longer tethered by postpartum hormones and milk, or because my trip was busy and her little life is busy—with school, with friends, with endless viewings of Monsters, Inc.—but I was happy to see her on FaceTime and then happy to continue about my day. I was so excited to cover her squishy cheeks with kisses when we were reunited at the airport, but I wasn’t counting down the minutes.

It was only when I saw her then that the tears came. She’s always been the most beautiful thing in the world to me, but somehow she looked even more angelic now: blue eyes, smooth skin, hair curling into perfect chaos.

I told her how happy I was to see her. She asked me for Goldfish.

My in-laws (not the ones I almost flashed) picked me up, so I sat in the backseat with Evie on the way home. I studied her and found so many changes more permanent than a new headband. Her hair was definitely longer. She’ll grow out of those shoes any day now. Her previously broken sentences were more complete; someone who remembers how to diagram all the parts would approve. All this in five days. Five days.

That evening, after dinner and before her bedtime, we had a family snuggle on the couch while watching—what else?—Monsters, Inc. Aaron sat on the far right of the sofa; I squished in as close as I could without being on top of him; and Evie’s body molded to my lap, her head resting on my chest. As nice as it was to get away, sleep a little bit more and have a little bit less responsibility, this… this was the very best.

I didn’t realize I was part of a puzzle until I found myself nestled in with the other pieces.

Telling My STORY

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Last week I attended a creative conference in Nashville called STORY. I’m lucky to work on a creative team that values travel and experiences, and thus sends members of the team on several “creative inspiration” trips each year. Groups have gone to SXSW in Austin; Art Basel in Miami; conferences in Venice, Berlin, Dublin and more. Nashville was my first opportunity to take one of these creative trips, and I was thrilled!

For one thing, STORY is extremely relevant to my work as a copywriter. The goal of the conference is to reawaken wonder, to unlock creativity and to encourage creatives to take the reins of writing the future of our culture.

For another, Nashville has an excellent food scene. Armed with my corporate credit card, I was ready to experience five days’ worth of the city’s best restaurants. Also, it was warm enough there to completely avoid wearing pants (70 to 100 degrees), which is perfect for fully experiencing the food scene. 😉

In addition to seeking inspiration and motivation for my professional creative work, I hoped to find the same for my personal writing. I have lots of ideas for this blog, but haven’t dedicated the time to realize them. I’m a perfectionist when I write and tend to edit myself as I go along, so a writing stint can easily grind to a halt if I find myself stuck on the perfect way to express a thought.

I also tend to write with the intention of publishing the end result on this blog, so any number of doubts can stop me from actually finishing a post: Is anyone even going to care if I write this? What if people do read it, but it’s too ______ (boring, negative, annoying, etc.)? And so something I began writing as a way to express myself becomes weighed down by my concerns about what others will think of it. I toss my ideas into a bag, add a few boulders of self-doubt, push it overboard and watch it sink into oblivion.

The good news is that I did get some inspiration and strategies for doing fearless creative work. And the even better news is that this blog is entirely mine—I’m not beholden to advertisers or sponsors who are concerned with what I should or shouldn’t say—and it really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. That’s hard to remember in this day and age when trolls are everywhere, sharing their unsolicited thoughts on how everyone should live their lives and how they should or shouldn’t share them online, but I’ll try.

The main thing holding me back from writing right now is the fact that I’m not running. I’m frustrated. I’m sad. And I don’t want to be the injured runner who dwells on it and spreads negativity. I don’t want to be ungrateful about the fact that my injuries are not nearly as bad as any number of other people’s injuries.

But still, I can’t deny the way I feel. I know reading about the experiences of an injured runner isn’t nearly as exciting or inspirational as reading about successful training runs and getting faster, but the people who don’t want to read it can skip it. Now more than ever, I need to write.

It’s difficult to sum up everything I learned at STORY—although I’ll have to do just that for a presentation at work—but here are a few nuggets of wisdom that are inspiring me now:

“Don’t be so obsessed with perfecting your craft that you lose your creativity.“ —Brad Montague

"Your worth and value are present right now [as a caterpillar]; don’t wait for a beautiful butterfly transformation.” —CJ Casciotta

“Process > perfection; being real is important and valuable.” —CJ Casciotta

“Don’t talk about it, be about it. There are a lot of talkers and not a lot of doers. Which one are you?” —Kevin Carroll

Follow along in real time @dev.on.running.

Bikini Body Guide: My Review & Results

I first heard about Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide (BBG) in July 2017. My friend who’d had her second child not long before posted on Facebook that she was starting the workout plan to get back into shape, and I was intrigued.

For the longest time, I felt like I was stuck in my postpartum fitness journey and needed something to get me back into gear—a goal, a plan, a commitment. I read the comments on my friend’s post and saw that several other women had experienced great results with BBG.

But I wasn’t ready to go all in just yet. I did plenty of research first, reading various online reviews and looking at lots of before-and-after photos on Instagram. I longed to have an “after” photo, to look and feel more like my old self again. I was sick of stepping on the scale and seeing that the same extra 10 pounds were still there. I was sick of trying on my pre-baby jeans “just in case” and finding that they weren’t even close to slipping over my thighs, let alone buttoning at the waist. I thought back to the hard things I’ve done in my life, like running five marathons and traveling the world alone for three months, and knew it was time to take on something hard again—and that I could succeed. 

I looked through the details of the 12-week plan and felt pretty intimidated. At the time, I couldn’t do a single pushup, let alone all the variations of pushups that the plan calls for in the later weeks.

But the workouts were only 28 minutes long—four blocks of 7-minute efforts. The idea of completing three workouts a week for 12 weeks sounded like a huge effort, but thinking of it as just one 28-minute workout at a time? That felt doable.

I tried the very first workout one evening and thought I was going to die. I think it was the burpees.

But I had no doubt it was an awesome, effective workout. I was sweaty and breathless during, and sore after. I was finally all in.

We went on vacation at the end of July, and then started the plan for real in August, when Evie was 16 months old. Aaron decided to do it with me, which really helped me stay motivated and committed. There were so many times when I wanted to flake on a workout, but didn’t because he was there, ready to go. And I’m sure I coerced him into completing a few of the workouts that he didn’t really want to do, either. We worked out in our home office/gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just like the plan prescribes, after Evie went to sleep for the night. I think I only missed three workouts out of 36, due to illness.

That’s not to say I did all the exercises perfectly. Some exercises were too hard for me to do at all (like triceps dips with legs up on a chair), so I modified them as needed (regular triceps dips with feet on the floor). I certainly did a lot of pushups on my knees. Better to do modified exercises than not do them at all! “Perfect” is the enemy of “good"—and "good” will still get you results.

You can easily do BBG at a gym if you belong to one, or at home like we did with some basic equipment.

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1. Jump rope: I had to buy one, since I hadn’t jumped rope since my school days, but there are so many for $10 or less! This one has great reviews.

2. Free weights: we have this set, and I set them to 10 pounds each. Any weights, like these, will work.

3. Weight bench: an essential for any home gym! This one is a reasonable price. You could also just use a sturdy regular bench or ottoman (you’ll be both lying down and stepping up on it for different exercises).

4. Step: I have this one. Evie loves jumping off it, so it doubles as toddler amusement.

5. Medicine ball: I borrowed an 8-pound ball from a friend to complete the first round of BBG, then got this 15-pound ball for Christmas. It’s almost a little TOO heavy! 10-12 pounds seems like a happy medium.

The guide also calls for a second weight bench (who has an extra one lying around, really?) and a Bosu ball, but I just made do without those. I used a sturdy chair instead of the second bench, and just did the moves that called for a Bosu ball… without a Bosu ball. 🙂

Of course, you also need the Bikini Body Guide itself. Kayla Itsines offers the eBook version for about $50 USD, which I think is totally worth it—especially when you compare that price to 12 weeks of classes at a gym, or 36 sessions with a personal trainer. (It’s worth noting that rather than 36 different workouts, BBG is made up of 18 workouts repeated twice: the workouts in week one are repeated in week three, weeks two and four are the same, etc.).

Of course, you don’t get the inherent motivation that a class or personal trainer provides—that has to come from you. I suggest recruiting a friend or partner to commit to the plan with you so you can keep each other motivated.

Kayla also has an app called Sweat that offers a short free trial, then charges $19.99 per month for continued use. If you want access to a lot more workouts, instructional videos, etc., this may be the route for you. I haven’t tried it myself, as the original BBG plan is more than adequate for my needs.

Back to that: BBG also calls for two to five days per week of low-intensity steady-state cardio, like walking, but I ran two to three times per week when I completed the plan last year. Since I’m currently unable to run, I’m now walking.

There’s also a separate 12-week eating plan ($50), but I had no interest in it. I’ve learned over the years that sticking fairly close to a Paleo way of eating works for me in terms of shedding extra pounds and feeling my best, so last year I did that Monday through Friday and was more lenient (but didn’t go nuts) on the weekends. I also tracked all my food using the free My Fitness Pal app, as I needed help adjusting my portion sizes and snacking habits since I was no longer pregnant or nursing. Two years of “eating for two,” plus several years of training for marathons, had gotten me in the habit of eating quite a bit more than a person should if they’re trying to lose a few pounds.

Tracking my food was certainly eye-opening and key to jumpstarting my weight loss after being stagnant for so long. I was not super-restrictive with calories, though, and always made sure to eat if I was hungry—even if that meant going over my allotted calories for the day.

After 12 weeks of BBG workouts and watching what I ate, I lost 7.5 pounds, gained visible muscle tone and finally fit into my pre-baby jeans! Most importantly, I felt so much stronger and like I was in control of my body again. When I looked in the mirror, I recognized myself—not as the exact same person as I was before I had Evie, but as a person who went through many changes to bring a new little person into the world, and then worked her way back to fitness.

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Finally, I had my “after” photos, and I shared them with the world via Instagram, even though my “after” certainly wasn’t (and will never be) perfect. But I was proud of my progress, and wanted to share it—and maybe inspire others who were thinking about working on their fitness, too. 

A few weeks later, I woke up to a bunch of Instagram notifications and realized Kayla had shared my progress photos on her official account, which had somewhere around 8 million followers at the time. If I was a little nervous to share my photos with a few hundred followers on my account, imagine how I felt when I knew MILLIONS of people would see them! I steeled myself for nasty comments galore. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of them were positive, and the only one that wasn’t was just kind of neutral (“I don’t see a difference” or something like that—and someone called that person out, ha!). So, yay for a supportive BBG community!

I was so pumped about my results that I wanted to start BBG all over again, as many people do. Some women I follow on Instagram have done BBG back-to-back for YEARS. But as 2018 rolled around, I realized three days of BBG per week just wasn’t compatible with the amount of running I needed to do to train for the Orcas Island 25K and other races I had on my calendar. For a while, I dropped down to two days of BBG (arms and abs only, to save my legs for running), and then just tried to fit it in whenever I could as I ramped up with marathon training.

Now that I’m sidelined from running, I’m five weeks into another round of BBG and feeling good—definitely getting stronger again! I haven’t been as diligent with healthy eating as I should to see major results, but I’m fine with that since I’m still at a happy weight where I fit comfortably into my clothes. Once things start feeling too tight, then I know I need to pay more attention to my eating. I’ve definitely had to adjust the kinds of things I’m eating and my portion sizes now that I’m not marathon training or running at all. I do miss the food freedom I enjoyed when I just automatically burned everything off thanks to my training schedule! I’m looking forward to that again someday. 🙂

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful if you’ve been thinking about trying BBG! I’m not the greatest at sticking to workout programs, but I think this one is really worthwhile and effective if you give it your best shot. 

P.S. I have no affiliation with BBG, but the links to gym equipment are Amazon affiliate links.

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

The Injury Diaries

When I began training for the Jack & Jill Marathon, I was certain there would be one of three outcomes: I would finish but not PR (maybe); I would PR (probably); I would qualify for Boston (hopefully).

I never once considered a fourth outcome—the one that actually happened—that I would never even make it to the start line.

My training was going so well—better than I ever could have hoped. I was hitting my goal paces, feeling great during speed workouts and long runs, and not having any issues with a much more rigorous training schedule and higher mileage than I’d ever attempted before.

That is, until the end of week 14.

I ended week 13 (one of my peak weeks, with 56 miles of running) feeling awesome and looking forward to the lower mileage of week 14 (just 43 miles). I cranked out a handful of easy runs Monday through Wednesday, then nailed my 9 x 800m speed workout on Thursday. Aiming for 3:30 intervals, I ran them all between 3:21 and 3:29. I felt on top of the world.

Then on Saturday, after an easy 6-mile run, I noticed my hips felt a little tight. We had Hallie and her husband Patrick over for drinks that night, and I asked her about stretches to help relieve the tightness (she’s a personal trainer and fitness instructor). My 12-mile long run on Sunday went fine, but I had the same tight feeling after that one. I started stretching, foam rolling and trying to release my piriformis with a hard ball like crazy.

Week 15 was meant to be my final peak week, ending with my third 20-miler on Sunday. I felt a little off as I began each run that week, but then felt fine after I got warmed up. The hip tightness and a strange feeling of weakness in my left glute plagued me every night. I continued stretching and cursed myself for previously not being more diligent about stretching after every run, and for not doing any hip- or glute-strengthening exercises throughout my training.

We drove up to Whistler, B.C. on Wednesday, the 4th of July. It was a 4.5-hour drive. (I later learned that my injury is exacerbated by long periods of sitting). My run on Thursday did NOT go well, but I thought that was because it was meant to be a tempo run and I accidentally did it on a very hilly trail.

Saturday was supposed to be my final 10-mile run at marathon goal pace (8:00 average). I shook off the weird tight/weak feelings in the first few miles and had a great run nearly on pace for the first four miles or so. The path then turned into rolling hills and I started feeling discomfort in my lower back, just above my left glute. At mile 5, I stopped to stretch. By mile 5.4, I was in a LOT of pain and knew I shouldn’t run another step. 

I was five miles away from our condo, so I called Aaron and asked him to come pick me up. It was raining. I waited inside the vestibule of a grocery store and tried stretching some more. When I realized stretching did nothing to help the pain, I started crying. I didn’t want to believe it, but somehow I knew my race was probably over.

I Googled like crazy to try to figure out what my injury was, and anything I found with symptoms similar to mine came with a recommendation to stop running for 4-6 weeks. The marathon was three weeks away. More tears.

We drove home from Whistler that day, and it was the most uncomfortable car ride of my life (other than the car ride to the hospital to give birth, but that was only about 5 minutes long!). This one took 5+ hours, thanks to the looooong line we had to wait in at the border to get back into the U.S. Sitting felt horrible, so I constantly squirmed around trying to find a better position. Putting a small, hard ball under my left glute felt somewhat better, but still not great.

The next few days were quite painful, especially in the mornings. I was super stiff and tight, and even something as simple as getting into the car brought me to the brink of tears. Bending over to pick up Evie was excruciating. Sitting for any longer than 10-15 minutes was uncomfortable, so I ditched my desk at work and took my laptop into the kitchen so I could work standing up at a tall counter. (I did that every day for a month or so until I finally got a standing desk.)

First I went to my chiropractor to see if he could figure out what was wrong with me, but I quickly realized I needed to see a physical therapist. I had my first appointment on July 11, during which the PT diagnosed hypermobility of my left sacroiliac (SI) joint going into anterior rotation, so that when I run and my left leg extends behind me, it forces my pelvis into an anterior rotation beyond the normal limits of the joint.

He recommended no running for 6-8 weeks and weekly physical therapy (along with daily exercises at home) through August, but he also said that since I’d been injured for a short amount of time (one week), there was a chance the issue could resolve in a short amount of time and I’d be able to run soon. Did that mean running a marathon on July 28 was a good idea? I didn’t know for sure, but probably not. I tried to stay positive and keep an open mind. I had come too far in my training to give up just yet.

My glute and lower back felt better every day as I continued my physical therapy. I was wary to even attempt to run until the day I woke up completely pain-free, in fear of ruining the progress I’d made, so I just walked in the evenings or used the elliptical or adaptive motion trainer in my office gym at lunchtime to try to keep up my fitness.

On July 20, my PT had me do a test run on the treadmill, and I ran ¾ of a mile with no pain. I was very hopeful. But then on July 22—the Sunday before the marathon—I attempted a run outside and didn’t even make it two miles before I felt the familiar ache of my SI joint and knew I should stop.

The funny thing was that I stopped my run right at the finish line of the actual marathon course. I looked at the empty trail that would soon be filled with timing mats, spectators and an announcer shouting out the names of finishers and Boston qualifiers. They would all be there—but not for me.

I let go of my dreams for this race knowing that I had given it my all. I gave it my all in training and I gave it my all in attempted recovery. Whether you make it onto the race course or not, that’s all you can do in a marathon. The rest just is what it is.

I’m tearing up as I write this, even though it’s now September and this all happened more than a month ago. I had hoped to be running again by now. I had hoped to be training for a December marathon by now. But it looks like I have to let go of that one, too, and put in more work before I can set another big goal.

My PT cleared me to run a few miles at a time starting in mid-August, and he gave me some cues to correct my running form and hopefully avoid future injuries. But either I’m doing something wrong or it will take time for my body to adjust because I started feeling pain along the inside of both shins that my PT says is posterior tibial tendonitis.

So now my SI joint feels fine, but here’s this new thing holding me back. I’ve added a new exercise to my PT routine to help with it, and tried to run through it a few times, but now I’m just done. I’m taking time off from running, focusing on walking, continuing physical therapy and doing the Bikini Body Guide over again. I’m planning to work with a running coach on my eventual return.

It’s frustrating to still be sidelined, but it doesn’t feel good trying to force my body to do something it apparently doesn’t want to do, either. I’ll stick with what feels good, which—for now—is not running.

I’m fortunate that I’ve been running since 2010 and am only now dealing with injuries, and I’m thankful that they’re not so bad in the grand scheme of things. I believe pain-free running is ahead for me. I just need more time—and more help—to make it happen.

Thanks for following along and for your encouragement. I still like to see other runners out there killing it. It makes me happy, and gives me hope.

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 13: It’s Getting Real Now

Note: Week 13 was June 18-24. I did not run the marathon on July 28 due to an injury suffered in week 15 of training, but I want to post these training recaps I had written for posterity—this is the last one! Next, I’ll share all about my injury and what I’ve been doing to fix it (spoiler alert: lots of physical therapy). In the meantime, you can get up to speed on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Welcome to peak week two of three! The marathon is FIVE. WEEKS. AWAY. Suddenly it seems so soon. Maybe because I’m suddenly in the middle of these high-mileage weeks that I stared at for so long on my plan, and they feel like they’re going by quickly. Before I know it, I’ll be tapering, then toeing the line.

It’s also nearly time to start getting really disciplined with my nutrition. Usually about a month out from a big race, I stop drinking alcohol, cut out most sweets, focus on eating lots of high-quality protein and veggies, etc. I want to feel like I’ve done everything I can to help my body feel and perform its very best on race day. I wish I were disciplined enough to do this throughout the entire training cycle, but… no. I gotta live! So the final month it is. My last hurrah will be the 4th of July, and then it’s all optimal fueling from there.

MONDAY: 5.3-mile easy run at 9:12 average pace.

It was 84 degrees. The sweat was real.

TUESDAY: 10.5-mile easy run at 9:08 average pace.

Another weeknight 10-miler. (The extra half-mile was me running to Hallie’s house before and then back to my house after!) Thank goodness I had Hallie to share the miles and gross bug encounters with. She got a huge bug in her mouth, and I got little gnats smashed up in both of my eyes. The body count is high on the road to the marathon.

WEDNESDAY: BBG arms & abs, plus 4-mile easy run at 9:13 average pace.

I started the evening with a BBG workout so I wouldn’t be able to talk myself out of It after my run, which is what I so often do! I miss the strength I once had from doing BBG three times a week, and it’s so humbling every time I do a workout from week one or two of the program that seemed easy not too long ago; it definitely does not feel easy now!

The Ali on the Run Show featured an interview with BBG creator Kayla Itsines this week, so I listened on my run! It was great to discover that she is super nice and genuine on top of being beautiful, fit and successful. Go have a listen!

THURSDAY: 5.5-mile tempo run at 8:08 average pace.

They can’t all be great runs. This wasn’t a bad run per se, but it wasn’t smooth and effortless like my tempo run two weeks ago. It was… effortful? I ran a 9:12 warmup mile, then 7:52, 7:34, 7:38 and 7:47 with a half-mile cooldown at 9:10 pace. That’s perfectly fine on paper. It just didn’t feel awesome, which left me a little unsettled.

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 10-mile marathon goal pace run at 7:56 average pace.

This run eased any worries I had after that tempo. It wasn’t too long ago that I really had to bust my butt to hang in the low 8s for these goal-pace runs, but now I’m finding I can run high 7s without feeling like I’m pushing too hard. I did this run on a fairly flat trail, so I’m excited to see what I can do on the downhill course come race day.

SUNDAY: 21-mile long run at 8:55 average pace.

Thank goodness Hallie and I ran our second 21-miler together—not just because it went by so much faster with a friend to chat with, but because we crossed paths with a bear! Hallie spotted it on the trail ahead and stopped us immediately; I just saw the tail end of it as it slowly ambled into the brush. We waited about five minutes, hoping it would continue on its way away from the trail, then made a bunch of noise to make it known that we were coming through. We continued on slowly (still yelling), and luckily it seemed to be long gone by the time we passed the spot where we had seen it. Phew! That was my first bear sighting, and hopefully my last for a long time.

In other news, Hallie and I both forgot to bring headlamps, so we used the flashlights on our phones to light our way through the tunnel. We won’t make that mistake on race day! The weather throughout our run was cloudless and warm—very different from the rain showers I ran through last time. I have a feeling the weather on race day will be similar, and full sun/heat brings its own challenges. The race starts at 6:30 a.m., and I’m planning to wear my hydration vest so I’ll always have water available, so I’m hoping potentially high temps won’t have too big an impact on my race.

Total weekly mileage: 56.3

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 12: Step Back & Relax

Note: Week 12 was June 11-17. I did not run the marathon due to an injury suffered in week 15 of training, but I want to post these training recaps I had written for posterity. Once I catch up, I’ll share all about my injury and what’s next. In the meantime, you can get up to speed on Instagram @dev.on.running.

After running nearly 56 miles last week, it felt good to have a step-back week where I only ran about 40. My easy runs felt nice, and my two speedy runs went really, really well. I hate to say that my confidence keeps increasing week by week because I feel like that’s asking for something bad to happen (Ed. note: guess I saw it coming!!!), but it’s the truth.

I’ve been so in the groove of marathon training these past three months, so focused on the current week’s training and nothing else, that I haven’t really thought about what I would do after the marathon. Of course, if I’m lucky enough to qualify and register for Boston, I’ll have to start training for that sometime in December. But what would I do until then?

For one thing, I’d like to run some shorter races and update my 5K and 10K PRs. They’re from years and years ago—a whole other life, it feels like—and I’d like to see what I can do with my post-marathon fitness level.

I’d also like to refocus on strength training and possibly complete another 12-week round of Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide. I’ve written a long post about my great experience with it last summer; I just need to fine-tune a couple of parts and add photos to it! I’ll share it soon. I’ve never felt stronger in my life than I did after completing the program, and I’d like to get some of that feeling back. Plus, strength training can only improve my running, so if I can strike a good balance after this marathon, I’ll be in great shape to tackle whichever big goal comes next.

MONDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:42 average pace.

Evie has been asking to run with me, so I happily loaded her up in the stroller for a suuuuper easy post-20-mile run. We chatted, sang “Old MacDonald” and stopped at a playground about three miles in for some playtime. I hadn’t run with Evie in a while, and it’s much nicer now that she’s a little bit older and not constantly taking off her shoes, throwing her water bottle on the ground, etc.!

TUESDAY: 6.2-mile easy run at 9:09 average pace.

WEDNESDAY: 5-mile easy run at 9:03 average pace.

Stephanie and I ran under some pretty dark, threatening clouds, but luckily managed to finish with only a few raindrops on our heads! The skies opened up not long after; love it when we manage to outrun the storm. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, I’m sure.

THURSDAY: 8 x 800m speed intervals (7.5 miles total) at 8:36 average pace.

I was all fired up over a landscaping snafu, so this workout went really well! I don’t get angry very often, but when I do, I guess I should run intervals. ☺

Targeting 3:30, I ran 3:27, 3:26, 3:23, 3:28, 3:27, 3:33, 3:28 and 3:28. The one time I didn’t hit 3:30 was when I spaced out and accidentally veered off my intended path. I doubled back once I realized my mistake, but it cost me a few seconds to turn around. No matter! I’m sure I could have hit 3:30 or below if it weren’t for that mistake, and that’s what counts.

This was the first time I actually hit the goal time for (almost) all of my intervals! Usually I hover in the mid to high 3:30s, hitting 3:30 or below just a few times. One big difference this time was that I ran on a straight path through a park vs. my usual round loop around a different park. I switched because my usual park is now host to a lot of summertime activities that make it very crowded and not ideal for running fast. I don’t know if the straight vs. circular path was what made all the difference—I’m sure my angry energy helped, too—but I’ll take it!

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 6-mile marathon goal pace run at 7:54 average pace.

I spent the late morning/early afternoon with girlfriends sipping champagne, eating brunch and catching up, so I wasn’t sure how this run would go. It was also hot (low 80s, I think?), and high temps tend to throw me off my game.

Seeking as much shade as possible, I chose a tree-lined out-and-back route that went uphill near the midway point. It was a bit challenging to hold close to 8:00 pace, but not too bad. When I turned around to head back, I realized my next mile was essentially the last mile of the marathon. I tried to run what I thought felt like an 8:00/mile effort; thanks to the downhill, it turned out to be 7:35. Here’s hoping I can summon that sort of speed when I’m running it as mile 26 rather than mile 4!

For the last mile, which was relatively flat (14 feet of elevation loss), I again tried to run 8:00 pace and hit 8:00 on the nose. It felt good to know what my goal pace feels like!

SUNDAY: 12-mile long run at 9:19 average pace.

12 miles seems like nothing compared to last week’s 21, but it felt long since I ran it alone and was just counting down every mile until I could be done. There’s a lot to be said for running with friends. Listening to podcasts helps pass the time, but not as much as actually interacting with other people! This run was slow, steady and uneventful—nothing exciting, but the perfect end to a rejuvenating step-back week.

Total weekly mileage: 40.7

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 11: Now & Then

Note: Week 11 was June 4-10.

I recently remembered that I wrote weekly recaps while training for my first marathon back in 2011, and I pulled up the week 11 post to compare it to the training I just did in week 11 of training for my sixth marathon, seven years later. Here’s what week 11 looked like back in the day:

  • Monday: Strength training
  • Tuesday: 7-mile run
  • Wednesday: 3-mile run + strength training
  • Thursday: Rest (skipped a 4-mile run)
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 10-mile run
  • Sunday: Rest

Total weekly mileage: 20

!!!

In comparison, I ran 55.7 miles this week. My long run was 21 miles—farther than I ran in a cumulative week seven years ago.

Okay, maybe that week wasn’t the best example since it included a trip to NYC, where I did a lot of walking and sightseeing rather than running, but still—I skipped a 4-mile run for no good reason?? My long run was only 10 miles??

But here’s another example: My peak week in that 18-week training cycle was week 16, when I didn’t run at all for three days, did a 20-mile long run and ran 40 miles overall.

To be fair, it was my first marathon and I followed a beginner training plan. I was still a new runner, so I didn’t yet have the experience or grit to push through unideal circumstances and make time for every run. And my goal was to run a 4:15 marathon, which I did, down to the minute. So there was nothing wrong at all with my training back then.

But I’ve had this mentality for a long time that I’m a 4:15 marathoner at my core. Prior to getting pregnant, my goal was to gradually chip away at 4:15 to get to sub 4:00, which I did at the Chicago Marathon in 2013 with a 3:59. I never believed I could progress much further than that.

Now I realize I can be any kind of marathoner I want to be if I put in the work. The training I’m doing now is on a whole other level from the training I did back then. I was a 4:15 marathoner because I trained to be a 4:15 marathoner. I’m now training to be a sub-3:35 marathoner. Time will tell if I will be, but I believe it will happen—maybe this time, maybe next time, but it will happen.

MONDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:32 average pace.

I didn’t post on Instagram about this run, but I titled it “Sausage Legs” on Strava, so my legs must have felt heavy and swollen from Sunday’s long run. Ha!

TUESDAY: 10-mile easy run at 9:14 average pace.

10 miles on a weeknight will never not seem like the longest run ever, but I ran with Hallie and that made it totally bearable. What would I do without running buddies?!

WEDNESDAY: 5-mile easy run at 9:05 average pace.

THURSDAY: 5.6-mile tempo run at 7:56 average pace.

I went to bed late every night this week, and it all caught up to me on Thursday; I felt wayyy too tired to do a successful tempo run. I snuggled with Evie in her crib for a few minutes before she went to sleep, and it took all of my willpower to not fall asleep myself! But I got up, got out there and ran my tempo miles in 7:35, 7:35, 7:36 and 7:32. I was amazed that the pace felt manageable and consistent. A major win over the Thursday-night sleepies!

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 10-mile easy run at 8:51 average pace.

I ran this one a little fast because (a) I got caught in two downpours and just wanted to get the run over with, and (b) I saw a coyote! It ran out onto the trail, saw me coming, then ran back into the woods, thank goodness. I’m very lucky to live in a beautiful forested/mountainous area, but it’s also home to wild animals who may not like me running through their backyard. The trails I run are frequented by humans and close to suburban neighborhoods, but this was a good reminder that animals are always around and I need to be cautious.

SUNDAY: 21-mile long run at 8:54 average pace.

I run the last 7ish miles of the marathon course all the time, but to get some experience with the earlier part of the course, I had my husband drop me off at the Hyak parking lot (just past Snoqualmie Pass) and started my long run at the actual start line.

The coolest part of the course is right at the beginning: the Snoqualmie Tunnel, which is 2.25 miles long and pitch black. I wore my headlamp (as I will during the race) and braved it alone. It was FREAKY. I really had to concentrate on the little patch of light my headlamp created in front of me and not look around too much or imagine what might be in front of or behind me. I could see how a claustrophobic person would NOT have fun in there because it felt like the darkness was pressing in around my body. But it should be fine on race day, with lots of other runners’ headlamps to brighten things up a bit!

The other notable feature of the course is its gentle downhill pitch. The word “gentle” sounds very nice, but after 20 miles, it doesn’t feel so gentle anymore. I struggled to keep my pace above 9-minute miles even though I was running at about my usual long-run effort, which ranges from 9:15-9:30 pace. So even though my 8:54 average pace seems too fast for a long run, I swear I was taking it easy.

This is great news for race day; it means I won’t have to put in as much effort to keep up my goal pace. I will have to be careful not to go out too fast, though. I’ve made that mistake before and paid the price in the back half of the race. My favorite marathon advice—which leads to success when I actually follow it—is: “It’s a 20-mile warmup for a 6.2-mile race!”

Total weekly mileage: 55.7

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 10: No Vacation from Training

Note: Week 10 was May 29-June 3. Finally all caught up!

My weekly mileage jumped above 50 this week, which may be the most I’ve ever run in a week! My previous marathon training plans were not nearly as aggressive, so I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been nervous about these higher mileage weeks, but so far, so good (knock on wood).

Since many of our birthdays are in April and May, Aaron’s dad Dwight and stepmom Maggie proposed we take a little family vacation to celebrate. We spent a wonderful three-day weekend in Leavenworth—a small Bavarian-themed town just east of the mountains—where we ate delicious meals, strolled around town and spent fun time together in our rented condo. Oh, and I also ran… a lot.

Marathon training doesn’t take a vacation. I ran 9 miles at marathon goal pace on Saturday and 19 easy miles on Sunday. Fortunately, Dwight and Maggie love babysitting and were more than happy to watch Evie while I ran and Aaron rode his bike in the mornings.

I’ve actually run on vacation in Leavenworth before; I did 6-mile and 17-mile runs there while training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon in 2013. I already knew where I could go to run long, uninterrupted loops of rural road, and it wasn’t a big deal at all. I’m proud I got it done so I could enjoy spending time with family with a clear conscience—and basically eat whatever I wanted at Leavenworth’s great restaurants, too. ☺

MONDAY: 4.1-mile easy run at 9:11 average pace.

On Memorial Day, I enjoyed a sunny recovery run with Aaron and Evie by my side on the bike. Later, we went to Stephanie and Kevin’s house for a BBQ and lots of fun playtime with their son Connor (who is five months younger than Evie and the object of her obsession) and other neighborhood friends.

TUESDAY: 9-mile easy run at 9:07 average pace.

Nine miles feels like a lot on a weeknight, but running with a friend makes it much more bearable! Hallie and I hit the trail for an easy run in perfect twilight weather.

WEDNESDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:06 average pace.

This run felt like a bit of a struggle, but I guess short, easy runs just feel like that sometimes because they’re boring.

THURSDAY: 7 x 800 speed intervals (7.3 miles total) at 8:44 average pace.

Targeting 3:30, I ran these 800s in: 3:38, 3:40, 3:34, 3:30, 3:27, 3:30 and 3:29. As you can see, the first few intervals weren’t so great, and then I nailed the last four. Here’s what happened:

  • It was raining when I started, so I wore a jacket for my warmup mile and first two intervals. I ditched it once it stopped raining and I felt like I could move so much better.
  • I made an, uhh, urgent bathroom stop after the second interval and felt much better afterward.
  • I started really focusing on my form and pumping my arms. I never looked at my watch.
  • I thought relentlessly positive thoughts (and started to believe them): “Of course I can hit that time! No problem.”
  • I started running my recovery quarter-miles very slowly—like 11:00 pace. By the time I started sprinting again, I had the energy to hit the time I wanted.
  • I pretended that each interval was the last half-mile of the marathon and I had a BQ time in sight and I needed to give it my all to bring it home.

So yeah, never count out a workout that starts out crappy (figuratively and literally). I kept grinding and finished feeling like a badass. I look forward to my next interval run in two weeks (8 x 800) to see if I can do it again!

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 9-mile marathon goal pace run at 8:02 average pace.

Despite enjoying several glasses of wine the night before and getting a terrible night of sleep (we tried to share a room with Evie in Leavenworth—big mistake), this run went really well. I started conservatively with an 8:27 warmup mile and then sped up to finish with six sub-8:00 miles and two just a little above 8:00. I’ll never not be amazed to see a mile that starts with a 7 on my watch.

SUNDAY: 19-mile long run at 9:16 average pace.

19 miles is a long damn way to run. Luckily, Aaron let me use his wireless headphones since I forgot to bring mine. I passed the time by listening to the two most recent episodes of the Ali on the Run Show, then some relaxing Gregory Alan Isakov and energizing Taylor Swift. I stopped once at a McDonald’s about halfway through to pee, but other than that, it was steady, uneventful and not even as painful as I expected (other than my knees, which didn’t love three hours of pounding on asphalt when they’re used to soft gravel). Maybe this marathon training thing is working after all!

Total weekly mileage: 52.4

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.

Jack & Jill Marathon Training Week 9: Turning 31

Note: Week 9 was May 21-28.

This week kicked off with my birthday! I have approximately zero feelings about turning 31. 30 was exciting; 31 was just another Monday.

My birthday falls near the end of a string of birthdays in my family—my brother, Aaron, Evie, my mom and Aaron’s stepmom (plus Mother’s Day is in there, too)—so by the time we get to me, everyone is exhausted and sick of cake.

Plus, after planning and hosting Evie’s birthday party at the end of April, I had no desire to plan anything for myself aside from the usual casual dinners with family. I celebrated my birthday for 30 years and now I’m done. I just want to sleep in and not go to work.

Which is exactly what I did! I took the day off, went for a run, went out for beer and pizza and burgers with Aaron (yes, all in one lunch) and got a massage. It was the perfect birthday, if you ask me. Plus, Hallie and I saw Taylor Swift the following day! I missed one shorter run this week, but I think I made up for it with all the walking and dancing we did at the concert. Oh man, it was exhausting. I’m not 21 anymore!

MONDAY: 9-mile easy run at 8:52 average pace.

image

A nice run to kick off 31.

TUESDAY: Rest.

Hallie and I shook it off at the Taylor Swift concert! It was amazing, duh.

WEDNESDAY: 4-mile easy run at 9:03 average pace.

I had one too many beers the night before. I did my best.

THURSDAY: 45-minute tempo run (5.6 miles total) at 8:04 average pace.

Despite drinking quite a bit Tuesday night and eating pretty much straight garbage, I felt super strong during this run. I did a 10-minute warmup, 30 minutes at tempo pace (4-ish miles: 7:53, 7:43, 7:39, 7:39) and a 5-minute cooldown. Confidence = boosted.

FRIDAY: Rest.

SATURDAY: 8.2-mile easy run at 8:44 average pace.

image

I ran with Hallie and it was a bit faster that I’d normally go for an easy run, but I did lots of recovery (legs up the wall, stretching, foam rolling) to get my legs feeling good for Sunday’s long run.

SUNDAY: 17-mile long run at 9:08 average pace.

image

We got the whole marathon crew together—Kelli, Hallie and me—and ran 8.5 miles up the marathon course, then 8.5 miles back down. Again, this was faster than I usually do my long runs, and I tried to slow it down at times, but when you’re chatting with friends for two and a half hours, it’s easy to get caught up in the convo and lose track of pace. Kelli and Hallie both ran Jack & Jill last year, so they gave me lots of insight into their experiences and pointed out the exact spots where the race started to get really hard! At this point, I can only imagine what multiple hours of downhill at 8:00 pace feels like…

Total weekly mileage: 43.8

Follow along in real time on Instagram @dev.on.running.