Official marathon training

Since I was doing so many half marathons this summer, I didn’t actually start training for my marathon until mid-September. I was going to start increasing my mileage with the Great Smoky Mountain race, but ended up pushing it off another week. 

For this training cycle, I was most concerned about how to train for the super flat Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah marathon course. Looking at the elevation profile, you would think this course has major hills, but if you look closely, the course maxes out at less than 60′. Given all of that, I decided to focus my training runs on the greenway that is closest to my house since I could easily add mileage to extend the 12 miles I actually run on the greenway. 

My first training run was an 18-miler and I continued my walk/run pattern (5 minutes running, 1 minute walking) and mostly just ran by feel, not worrying about my time. I ended up with an average pace of 11:00. My goal for the marathon was to break 5 hours (11:27 pace), so this was definitely a surprise to be able to run it this fast. 
My second training run was a 20-mile run, just a week later and I ran virtually the same course, though I added some hills in the beginning, running through my own neighborhood. This run was much harder and I averaged about a 12:30 pace. I had a lot of technical issues with this run trying to get my watch to work correctly and then switching to my phone app instead, but in general it was just a much harder run than the week before. I think the lesson I learned from this one was that I need at least a week in between my long runs in order to fully recover.  
The good news about the 18 and 20 milers being back-to back is that I was able to get back onto my official plan and space out my remaining long runs with shorter runs in between. On October 3, I did a short 10-mile run on the same flat course again and managed a 10:54 pace. 

The weekend after that, I actually got to do a training run with my friend Beth who was going to be doing the marathon with me. She was in an official training group on Saturdays, so we only managed a couple of runs together. For this run, we were doing the Thunder Road first half preview run and added a few extra miles onto it to get a full 17 in. It was really nice to finally have people to run with and the group of ladies I ran with were awesome! We kept up a 12:00 pace with all the fun hills that Thunder Road has to offer. 
Next up is my last long training run of this cycle combined with my third running of the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon. 

Pittsburgh Marathon by the numbers

One of the really cool things that runners got access to after the race was RunPix, which gave a breakdown of all kinds of stats for the individual runner.

Where was I?
  • When the overall winner finished: between miles 8-9
  • When the female winner finished: close to mile 10
  • When my division winner finished: between miles 10-11
Results compared to:
  • The entire field: 4121st place, 90% of people finished ahead of me, 437 people finished behind me
  • All women: 1558th place, 87% of women finished ahead of me, 237 women finished behind me
  • My division (women 30-34): 265th place, 83% of women finished ahead of me, 52 women finished behind me
  • Men: I finished ahead of about 7% of men runners! 
Kills (number of runners passed)
  • Over the first 20 miles: I passed 152 runners and got passed by 99 people
  • Over the last 6.2 miles: I passed 49 runners and got passed by 15 people
  • Overall kills: 201
  • Net kills: 87
Mile splits – I’m not sure where my Garmin started to get off from the official mile markers, so I included the official splits where they correspond.
  • Mile 1 – 12:31
  • Mile 2 – 11:49
  • Mile 3 – 12:10
  • Mile 4 – 11:55
  • Mile 5 – 10:48
  • Mile 6 – 11:25 (official 10k time: 1:13:40, 11:51 pace)
  • Mile 7 – 11:19
  • Mile 8 – 11:04
  • Mile 9 – 12:40 (bathroom break #1, I took 4-5 bathroom breaks, but I don’t remember when any of the others were)
  • Mile 10 – 11:40
  • Mile 11 – 11:31
  • Mile 12 – 11:38
  • Mile 13 – 12:00 (official half marathon time: 2:37:04, 11:58 pace)
  • Mile 14 – 12:40
  • Mile 15 – 11:30 (official 15.4 miles time: 3:05:30, 12:02 pace)
  • Mile 16 – 12:21 
  • Mile 17 – 11:52
  • Mile 18 – 12:36
  • Mile 19 – 11:52
  • Mile 20 – 15:00 (official 20 mile time: 4:04:55, 12:14 pace)
  • Mile 21 – 14:16
  • Mile 22 – 13:07
  • Mile 23 – 13:14
  • Mile 24 – 12:52
  • Mile 25 – 14:13
  • Mile 26 – 12:56
  • Last .76 – 9:69 (official marathon time: 5:28:33, 12:31 pace)
Overall Garmin pace: 12:17

Lots of numbers to crunch, but I really like all the fun stuff they shared! Have you ever had a race share this much info with you?

Race #6: Pittsburgh Marathon

There are so many things to write about my first marathon experience and I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around everything. I have lots of pictures from the first half of the race and a couple from the second half (my focus was clearly elsewhere!) as well as a few that my mom was able to get of me while I was running. 

Overall, I’ll say that this run was worse than any of my training runs – I had some digestive issues during the race, so I ended up eating all of my peanut butter crackers pretty early and didn’t use as many GU packets as I normally do. There were lots of on-course food options, but since I didn’t train with PowerBars, I didn’t want to risk trying them for the first time when I was already nauseous. I did grab a pretzel that someone was handing out somewhere after 20 miles, but it tasted sweet, which is not what I was expecting, so I only ate about a bite of it. 

There were almost 20,000 people running the half marathon and the marathon on Sunday, so it took about 35 minutes from the actual start of the race before I was able to cross the starting line. It was overcast and started to sprinkle a little bit while we were waiting, but the temperature was in the 50’s, so it really was perfect running weather. I lined up near the 12:00 / mile sign, but since there were so many people (and I was in the last corral), I knew that the first couple of miles would be crowded. I adjusted my run walk ratio (2 minutes running, 1 minute walking) slightly at the beginning just to be able to get around people and not stop in front of a bunch of people who were trying to run past me, but I kept it within 30 seconds of what I was supposed to be doing and I figured the crowds would help keep me from going out too fast.

The reason I wanted to do this race as my first marathon was two-fold. One, I loved going across all of the bridges last year in the half marathon and I wanted to take some time to get pictures of the great views of the city as I ran it this time (bonus reason to do a walk-run ratio!). Even though it was overcast, I was still able to get some great pictures of the city and you can really get a perspective of how far you’ve run when you look back towards downtown. The finish line party was held near the fountain that’s in the two bottom pictures.

The second reason I wanted to do the marathon is because the marathon course takes you through part of the University of Pittsburgh’s campus and since I spent 4 years there, I really wanted to run through my old stomping grounds. The bad news is that the worst hill of the entire race is leading up into Oakland!

But, as you crest the hill, you can see Pitt’s iconic Cathedral of Learning and you know that (for the most part) the hills are done and you’ll have a pretty flat course until starting the decent back to downtown.

I was still feeling pretty good when I hit Oakland and started towards Squirrel Hill, but I started to feel some twinges in my left knee because of my IT band and I was still fighting with nausea. I did get a boost from one of my high school friends who came out to cheer me on between miles 14-15, but after that is when the doubt started to creep in. I tried to keep my 2:1 ratio, though there were definitely a few more walk breaks thrown into some of the miles. After looking at my splits, I didn’t break down as early as I thought I had. As I was running the race, I felt like I had started to slow down a lot around mile 14 or 15, but my splits don’t tell the same story. I kept up my pace (though it varied quite a bit between 11:30 and 12:30) until mile 20. Miles 20 – 25, the wheels really fell off and I only had 1 mile that was less than a 13:00 pace, but as I got through the major downhill section to get back to the flatter downtown portion, I knew I only had a couple miles left and I finally started to feel good and no longer nauseous. 

I completely missed the 23 mile marker sign, but I knew based on my Garmin that I had passed it and I think after I saw the 24 mile marker (and verified that’s actually what it said), I knew I only had a couple of miles to go and that I could finish the race! For some reason, my Garmin was quite a bit off of the mile markers (my Garmin said I went 26.76 miles total), but somewhere between the 24-25 mile marker, I decided I would just run as long as I could and then take a walk break as needed. At that point, my left hip was really sore (but no more pain from my IT band near my knee) and my right hamstring decided it was going to try to seize up every 5 minutes or so. I also heard a pacer behind me yelling about coming in under the 5:30 mark and I definitely didn’t want them to pass me, so I just ran until I thought my hamstring was going to cramp, then I’d stop for a few seconds to stretch it out and start running again. 

I saw the sign for the 1/2 mile to go marker and tried to pick up the pace a bit, but I quickly realized that 1/2 mile wasn’t even close! I don’t know exactly how much farther the finish line was, but it took quite awhile to even see the 26 mile marker. I’m pretty confident that the sign wasn’t in the right spot, but considering my Garmin had me finishing at 26.76 miles, who knows! I finished that last .76 miles in under 10 minutes, accepted my Runner of Steel medal and headed through the finisher’s chute to get some food and check out the finish line party. 
I was very impressed at the amount of food that was left when I arrived – the finish line party was supposed to go until 2:00 but there was a ton of bananas, water, bagels and, of course, Smiley cookies. I will say that I was disappointed that a lot of the vendors were already gone by the time I made it to the finish line party (even though it was only 1:30 and there were lots of people still running the race when I finished). Luckily, the medal engravers were still there and I was able to get my name and official time put on the back of my medal. 

My official time was 5:28:34, which is slower than I had hoped to finish, but I finished and was very happy to beat the 5:30 pacer after I heard him coming up from behind me with a little less than 2 miles to go. Even though it wasn’t how I had hoped (or expected) my day to go, it was a great experience and I haven’t completely written off doing another one in the future, though I’m definitely not ready to sign up yet either!

Check back tomorrow for a recap of the marathon by the numbers.

Weekly training update

This was my last full training week before the marathon, so my goal was again between 15-19 miles and I ended up hitting 22.34 miles with some extra soccer thrown in on Thursday night. 

Sunday – pick-up soccer, 5.15 miles. 

Monday – off

Tuesday – 7 v 7 soccer, 3.44 miles. Our games this season is split between turf and grass fields and this week was our first game on the grass field. The field is bigger than the turf field we normally use, so they moved the goal up to the 6 yard line to reduce the length of the field… but about half of the end line doesn’t have any actual lines, so it’s really just up to the discretion of the players / referee as to whether or not the ball went out. There was also a giant puddle in one of the corners which would completely stop the ball if it happened over that way (extra defender!). It was a tough-fought game and we ended up winning 1-0.

Wednesday – off

Thursday – 11 v 11 soccer, 6.95 miles. My team had the late game this week, so I headed to the other field to pick up some paperwork and one of the teams was only going to have 10 players, so they asked me to stay for the first half. I felt a little out of sorts trying to play with that team because we started with only 7 players on the field and had to add people as they arrived which meant trying to move people around into different positions while the game was going on. At halftime, I headed over to the other field to play with my team. My team ended up losing 4-1, but I think it was a good game and the other team had some really great shots.

Friday – off

Saturday – long run, 6.8 miles (11:18 pace).

How did your week go? Did you hit your goals?

Last long run

It’s official, I’ve done my last long run before the marathon next weekend. I went out early this morning to do 5-7 miles and this time I actually stuck within that range! Last week, I was planning to do the same, but I ended up doing closer to 10 miles. Today, I headed to the greenway uptown to take advantage of the great weather and some flatter roads, but I did incorporate a pretty good hill about halfway through my run so that it wasn’t completely flat, but still pretty close.

As I was running on the greenway, part of it went through an art & craft festival and farther on there was some type of festival featuring food and crafts from around the world. The first group was set up close to uptown, street side and the second group was in a local park with the vendors set up around a lake.

  • Mile 1 – 12:10

  • Mile 2 – 10:54
  • Mile 3 – 11:59 <– GU & removing some layers
  • Mile 4 – 11:04
  • Mile 5 – 11:13
  • Mile 6 – 10:34
  • Last .8 – 11:10 <– picture time!

How was your Saturday? Did you get a long run in?

Weekly training update

I took more days off this week than I was planning to, but I made up for it on the days that I did get my running in. I was targeting 15-19 miles and came in at 18.94 miles, so I’m happy with that, but I’ll definitely have to keep an eye on my miles during these last 2 weeks before the marathon – I don’t want to slack off too much and now that playoff hockey has started, I have to make sure to fit in my runs before the games start! 

Sunday – pick-up soccer, 6.63 miles. I actually played a lot of soccer that I wasn’t expecting to again. I went out for my normal pick-up game on Sunday afternoon and then later in the evening, I had to pick up some paperwork from another player from the women’s league and was asked to play for their 7 v 7 game. The convinced me to play goalie! I didn’t do too bad, but the 3 goals they did score were over my head into the corner, so definitely a good shot by their players. The team I was on ended up winning 5-3 and after the 7 v 7 game, we played pick-up for 30 minutes. Lots of soccer the day after my 23.5 mile run, so I was very sore once I sat down for awhile.

Monday – off

Tuesday – 7 v 7 soccer, 2.61 miles. We won the game and it was a good start to the season. We’re still having some issues with people showing up on time to start the games, but we’ll see if that trend continues this week since we have added a couple of new players who (hopefully) will show up on time! 

Wednesday – off

Thursday – off. We didn’t have any women’s games this week because of spring break and lots of people planning to be out of town, so instead we held a social at one of our sponsors. It was nice to get to talk with everyone from the different teams, especially since we all recognized one another, but we hardly ever get the chance to just sit and talk with one another during the season. 

Friday – off

Saturday – long run, 9.7 miles (11:33 pace).

How did your week go? Did you hit your goals?

Rain, rain, go away…

I had planned to spend this weekend working in the yard again, but it’s been raining since yesterday evening, so I knew I wasn’t going to get any yard work done. Luckily, it looks like tomorrow will be beautiful and all of the flowers I planted last weekend are surviving the thorough watering they’ve received this week, so tomorrow will be all about planting in the garden.

The good news is that the temperature has jumped significantly since the middle of last week, so even though it rained all day, it was still warm enough for me to be able to get in a good long run. I was hoping for around 7 miles, but since I didn’t really map out my route and I had to turn around due to some flooding, I ended up going a little longer than that. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone on my run since it was rainy, but I got passed around mile 3 (not too far onto the trail portion of my run) by a man and his dog – the dog was just trotting along behind him and was very disciplined, didn’t even look my way when he passed me. I wish my dogs were that well-trained! There are several sections of the greenway that are on boardwalks over swampy areas and the first one I went on was fine, but a little after mile 5 I ran into a completely flooded area (bottom right picture), so that’s when I had to turn around and figure out a different route home. 

  • Mile 1 – 11:11
  • Mile 2 – 11:38
  • Mile 3 – 11:26
  • Mile 4 – 11:48
  • Mile 5 – 11:35
  • Mile 6 – 12:05 <– includes time looking at the map to figure out the fastest way back home
  • Mile 7 – 10:50 <– good portion of downhill
  • Mile 8 – 11:50 <– long wait for 2 stoplights
  • MIle 9 – 10:31
  • Last .7 – 12:57 <– IT band pain requiring extra walk breaks
Overall pace: 11:33

One thing that I realized after the Kentucky half marathon is that I have more IT band pain when I run faster and when my legs are cold. After having to stop for several minutes waiting for stoplights near the end of mile 8, I definitely started to get a chill from the rainy weather, so I wasn’t really surprised at the IT band pain. I think the biggest take-away is to try to figure out a way to keep my legs warm when I run. I’m hoping this won’t be an issue for the marathon (I’m actually more concerned that the weather will be too warm for me), but I’ll just have to pack lots of options for race day.

Are you running this weekend?

Weekly training update

This week was my highest mileage week for my marathon training and only the second time I exceeded my goal mileage. I was aiming for 33 – 37 miles and ended up with 37.4 miles, though I am still getting my weekly short runs in during soccer games and not actually with just runs, but so far so good and I’ll just try to stay safe while I’m on the field!

Sunday – pick-up soccer, 3.5 miles

Monday – 7 v 7 soccer, 2.81 miles. I randomly got asked by one of my friends to sub for her since she was sick and we ended up playing against my old team. There were a lot of “traitor” taunts coming from the sidelines while I was on the field, but it was fun to play against my old teammates – it was just like our Sunday pick-up soccer games, but this time the goals actually counted for something.

Tuesday – off

Wednesday – off

Thursday – 11 v 11 soccer, 7.58 miles. One of our teams was down to 6 players and asked me to help them out on Thursday, so I ended up playing 2 full games Thursday night. Both teams that I played with won 1-0, so it was a good night!

Friday – off

Saturday – long run – RaceFest half marathon, 23.51 miles, 11:32 pace. 

How did your week go? Did you hit your goals?

Race #5: Charlotte RaceFest half marathon

Today was the big day that I was worried about when I first started this training plan. The plan was to run 5-7 miles before the race then complete the half marathon and finish up with a 3-5 mile run home. Last night I checked out the potential routes and the fastest route home was about 3.5 miles, so I knew I needed to get in about 6.5 miles before the race started. I decided to get up around 5:00 in order to get out of the house by 5:30 – that gave me 1.5 hours to get my miles in before meeting up with the rest of the team and get to the start line by 7:30. 

Side note – the dogs stayed in doggie daycare Thursday morning to Friday afternoon and were dead to the world Friday night. I let them outside this morning when I got up and as soon as they came inside, they went straight back to bed!

My route took me 6.5 miles from my house to the start line, then through the half marathon course, and finally 4 miles back home. I knew the route would be hilly, but the half marathon course was tough (miles 6.5 – about mile 20 below)! 

Mile 1 – 11:40
Mile 2 – 11:26
Mile 3 – 11:25
Mile 4 – 11:42
Mile 5 – 11:05
Mile 6 – 11:19

Average pace 11:26

The first mile was pretty rough, but then I got into the groove of things. It was really nice  out and there wasn’t much traffic on the road, so I put on some music and just jammed out while running down the road in the dark! By the time I got to the start of the race, the sun was starting to come up and there were some beautiful pinks highlighting the sky.
Mile 7 – 12:25
Mile 8 – 11:28
Mile 9 – 11:36
Mile 10 – 11:18
Mile 11 – 10:47
Mile 12 – 10:37

Average pace 11:22

The start of the race was really crowded, so my first mile was slower than I had hoped, but I really just ran by feel again, so as I started to do the math in my head about how fast I was running, I was really surprised to be so much faster than my expected 12 minute  per mile pace.

Mile 13 – 11:08
Mile 14 – 11:43
Mile 15 – 10:36
Mile 16 – 11:02
Mile 17 – 11:53
Mile 18 – 11:34

Average pace 11:19

I finished the half marathon right around mile 20 and while I didn’t spend too much time at the post-race party, I definitely felt my legs tighten up from even that little bit of stopping to talk with a friend. I also had to spend a little bit of time waiting for stoplights once I started my trek back home. During one of my breaks, I stretched out my calves and that stopped them from completely cramping up. 

Mile 19 – 11:25
Mile 20 – 11:20
Mile 21 – 11:24
Mile 22 – 13:08
Mile 23 – 13:04
Last .51 – 11:54

Average pace 12:02

Official time: 2:28:11
Overall pace 11:32

I crossed the finish line with the clock showing just around 2:30, so I knew I had run much faster than my half marathon 2 weeks ago. I definitely wasn’t expecting to run that fast, and I paid for it the last few miles with cramping and IT band issues. The lesson learned from this is that I shouldn’t stop for any amount of time during my marathon and that I really need to be aware of my speed during the first half of the race even if I’m feeling good. 

Did you race this weekend? 

Weekly training update

This was the first beautiful weather week of the spring in Charlotte and I couldn’t resist playing in my yard, so my mileage wasn’t quite as high as I would have liked, but I definitely got some good exercise in during my “off” days building a fire pit, a raised garden bed and planting lots of flowers. I ended up running 13.66 miles this week, so not too far off the goal of 15-19 miles.

Sunday – off

Monday – off

Tuesday – off

Wednesday – 7 v 7 soccer, 2.64 miles. I wasn’t planning to play, but the team I used to play for needed a sub, so I went to help them out. We ended up winning 9-3 and had a great game.

Thursday – 11 v 11 soccer, 3.99 miles. Our team played without subs and we had a pretty good game, but the other team had some great shots and we ended up losing 3-1.

Friday – off

Saturday – long run, 7.03 miles, 11:20 pace. I spent most of the day working in the yard, so I didn’t get started on my long run until the evening, but it was nice to run the neighborhood in such great weather!

  • Mile 1 – 11:09
  • Mile 2 – 11:27
  • Mile 3 – 10:57
  • Mile 4 – 11:54
  • Mile 5 – 11:59
  • Mile 6 -11:00
  • Mile 7 -10:55
How did your week go? Did you hit your goals?