the anatomy of the long run

Wednesday: rest day/kickball

Thursday: 5 mile tempo run

Friday: strength training (at the gym)

Saturday: 12 mile run

In my last post, I said I wanted to talk about hills next, but I need to get a few more hill runs under my belt before I blog about them.

Let’s talk about the long run instead.

Most marathoners would agree it’s the most important run of race training, and it’s the one run of the week that I’m trying not to miss. If I miss a 4- or 5-miler, I can make it up in weight training or a boot camp class. But there’s really nothing that can substitute being on your feet (and in your head) for the couple hours of the long run.

I’ve been trying to break my long runs into quarters:

  1. Warm up – I use the first 2-3 miles of the long run to warm up my legs. I don’t pay attention to my pace, and I try to, well, pretend I’m not really running. I look around at the scenery, create a mental map of where I want to run and just try to relax.
  2. Kick it up – I like to imagine the run really starts here, around mile 3 (or 4 or 5, for even longer runs). Generally I’m allowing myself to run slow and steady for the entire long run, but I do try to take it up a notch after the warmup. At this point, the cobwebs are cleared out of my legs, and I’m trying to get into a good rhythm.
  3. Mix it up – By mile 6 or 7, I’m starting to get fatigued, both physically and mentally. Now’s the time I begin to feel a little tightness in my hip or knee, and while it’s usually something I can address with a small form adjustment, it messes with me mentally. (Uh oh, am I over training? Can I handle today’s run?) So I mix it up in this section of the run: by doing a loop around a park, quickening my pace for a block & then slowing down, changing my playlist. As long as it’s something unplanned and spontaneous (well, as spontaneous as you can be while running), it tends to help these miles go by.
  4. Home free – When I’ve got 2-3 miles left, I tell myself I’m on the home stretch. You can do anything for 20 minutes. If I’ve got energy to spare, I’ll try to race the last couple miles, or at least pick up the pace. I’m finding that every long run feels more and more mentally rewarding. No matter how slow I’ve gone, it just feels good to conquer them.

And it also help to wear neon from head to toe:

long run

Some other important reminders for the long run:

  • Don’t be afraid to stop and stretch. You won’t compromise your endurance if you stop. In fact, you’ll likely hurt yourself if you feel tightness and don’t address it. Use stoplights as stretching points, or plan a couple stretching breaks at different mileage markers.
  • Bring water. I run with this Nathan belt, and I’ve started to realize that it’s not enough water for runs longer than 10 miles. I thinking of getting this hand-held bottle, or maybe even running with my Camelbak that I usually wear for hiking. It’d likely be a little awkward to run with something on my back, but staying hydrated is so, so important. Don’t want to feel nauseous for the rest of the day? Bring water on your run.
  • Eat before and during. I really want to scold folks who say they can’t eat before working out. Look, we’re not talking about polishing off a plate of pancakes and bacon. We’re talking about fuel. Have a 200-300 calorie snack. I like peanut butter on an apple,  a scoop of almond butter and a protein bar, or almonds and dried cranberries. If I’m going to be out for more than 70 minutes, I’ve started bringing jelly beans, Clif shot gels or fruit leathers. I’ll snack just after the midway point. It provides a boost of energy, and it breaks up the run, too.

What about you? Any long run tips & tricks to share?


on setting goals & staying motivated

Monday: 4 miles on the treadmill

Tuesday: 4 miles – a hill workout

Wednesday: rest day (kickball)

Thursday: 4 miles on the treadmill

As you know if you’re one of my 12 readers (thank you, by the way!), I was super pumped after the Helvetia Half Marathon. It was a fun race, exceeded my expectations, and I was overjoyed that my friends woke up early to cheer me on. I took it easy the week after, knowing it was a good idea to rest my legs and take some of the running pressure off.

But, then, eight days later, my body wanted to get back on the running train, but my mind didn’t. I found myself dawdling, wondering … What’s going to make me pumped to run again?

The idea of “staying in shape?”

What does that mean, anyway?

I’ve always cared about being in shape, but never had a super clear idea of what that meant to me. A particular number on the scale? (Not really. I don’t own a scale.) Fitting into my favorite jeans? (No. Most of my jeans are kind of loose.) Being able to hoof up flights of stairs without getting winded? (Maybe.) Looking like an athlete in a bathing suit? (I’ll never be in good enough shape for that.)

So, while the notion of being healthy and in shape motivates me in small part, it’s not enough to get me running consistently — or running more than 20 miles per week.

And, thus, I need a new goal. That brings us to this: I signed up for my first full marathon.

Cue the rapid heart rate and butterflies in the stomach.

I’m nervous. Even though the race is in October.

Can I stick to my training over the summer, while the happy hours and lazy park days call my name? Am I mentally tough enough for 26.2 miles? Are my knees and hips gonna hate me?

For now, I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m following a training schedule that allows me to start small, so I’m back to 4-mile runs during the week instead of 8-mile runs (though that won’t last for long), and I’m mixing in track days and hill runs, to keep my legs guessing.

I’m also thinking about shooting for 4 runs per week plus a weights/yoga day, rather than 5 runs per week. I’m not sure; is that foolish? I don’t really know much about marathon training, and most of the programs suggest 5-6 runs per week. But I do believe my weight lifting days help my running base in a way that just hitting the pavement doesn’t.

Tell me: Have you run a marathon? What are your tips/tricks/suggestions/warnings?

I leave you with this picture of me, an accurate representation of how I’ve been spending my post-run evenings:


Ice packs on each thigh. I know how to party.

takin’ it easy

Since last week’s race, I’ve let myself have a full week of easy workouts and rest days. Between Sunday and Thursday, I did just two short runs (one for 20 minutes, the other for 45 minutes), one short session on the elliptical and two days of rest. The next days looked like this:

Friday: 2 hour hike (lots of uphill)

Saturday: nothing

Sunday: hip hop class

It’s kind of wonderful to take it easy and have a break from running, but I’m itching to push myself again.

My rest week coincided nicely with a short trip to Denver, so of course I found other things to do besides running. Namely, eating & drinking & talking & hiking & being silly with friends.

Some pics from the trip …

with Heather

Heather & I met halfway in Denver (she flew out from Nashville).

group shot

Denver friends, enjoying dinner & wine & Annie’s backyard.


Totally cheesing it up on a slide!


A gorgeous hike in Frisco, CO

hike 2

More pics from the hike

obstacle course

We found an obstacle course for children while at a street fair in Frisco. So, naturally, we had to race each other.

Now, I’m considering training for the Portland Marathon, but I’m hedging for two reasons: 1) Even though I loved the half marathon, 26.2 miles still sounds like an enormous leap from 13.1 and 2) Do I really want to be training in the summer?

Sure, the weather will be lovely, but there are also lots of distractions: barbecues, happy hours, camping trips, out-of-town trips, etc. Can I really keep up a touch training schedule through the summer? I’m not sure.

But I really want a new running challenge to look forward to.

What do you think? Should I go for it? And what about you? Are you training for any summer/early fall races?