Tag Archives: marathon training

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training, Week 4

I can’t believe I’m already four weeks into this training cycle.  This was an interesting week of training, seriously lacking in strength training, stretching and foam rolling. J and I sanded and re-stained our deck, which turned out to be one of those jobs that you think will take a day or two and takes an entire week, so most of my afternoons were filled with deck work and not strength training. By the time we finished each evening, we were hot, tired, and filthy, and I just wanted a shower, not another workout. Oh well. I got all my running in, at least.


AM: 11 miles. My schedule said 80-90 minutes with the last 20 minutes getting progressively faster. I was cruising a little quicker than 5k pace, 30 seconds from being done with the fast part… and my foot slipped on some mud (or probably on nothing, but mud at least sounds like an excuse) and I fell. Sidewalks are evil.
photo (10)I gimped through enough of a cool-down to make it 11 miles and called it good. I was thankful that my only wound was a knee scab and not any real injury.

PM: 45 minutes of strength training. And thus ended my only double day this week.

9.1 miles easy and a quick core workout

16 x 400m repeats with equal recoveries, 11 miles total with warm-up and cool-down. I did half the repeats on a downhill slope, but I got sick of running up and down the same street, so I moved to the flat. Not the best training decision, probably, but a better sanity decision.

9 miles “easy” that didn’t feel easy at all, quick core work.

Friday: 7 miles slow and easy, then some core work

This was our anniversary (6 years! Hooray!). We wanted to get away for the weekend but didn’t want to spend a bunch of money, so we spent it in Colorado Springs. J’s aunt and uncle live there and are always happy to have us stay, and we hadn’t seen them in quite a while, so visiting them on our anniversary weekend was perfect.

I’d asked Aimee, who lives in Springs, to recommend a downhill run for me so I could start prepping for this marathon. She recommended the Santa Fe Trail, a rail trail that runs parallel to the mountains. It was a fantastic recommendation, as the trail was beautiful and the elevation profile was very similar to the marathon’s. I started way too fast for a long run, so the last few miles were a slog. I know I’m at risk of doing that in the race, too, so I’m hoping I learned my lesson here and will pace myself better next time.My iPhone doesn't come close to doing justice to the beauty of these mountains.

My iPhone doesn’t come close to doing justice to the beauty of these mountains.

J is an awesome husband; he got up super early, drove me to the trailhead at Palmer Lake, killed a couple of hours, and picked up my gross sweatiness 17.3 miles later. That is love, folks.

After my run, I cleaned up in a Panera bathroom (classy, right?), ate some food, and rehydrated, and then we headed to Garden of the Gods. I hadn’t been since I was a kid, and J hadn’t ever been, so it was a new experience for both of us. We had a great time. Garden of the Gods is stunning.

No filter needed for that Colorado sky.
No filter needed for that Colorado sky.

We didn’t want to fight the crowds in the main part of the park for very long, so we ventured off on some side trails — fantastic choice. We saw just a handful of other people but plenty of scenery on our 4.5-mile hike.
photo 3 (5) photo 4 (2) After Garden of the Gods, we grabbed some lunch and spent the afternoon wandering around Old Colorado City (a fun little tourist trap near Garden of the Gods) before heading back to clean up for real (as opposed to Panera-bathroom style) and go out for a nice dinner. And then we went to bed early because I was friggin’ tired. Not a bad way to spend an anniversary!

J’s aunt and I have talked about doing the infamous Manitou Incline together for years, but we had never done it. We decided Sunday was the day, and since J is a good sport, he agreed to do it, too. And then he saw this, and questioned his sanity (and his love for us):
photo (12)

The Incline is that little line going up that mountain: a trail that climbs 2050 feet in .92 miles. The whole trail is made of steps like these:Aunt Jan reaching the summit!

Aunt Jan reaching the summit!

It was definitely a challenge. Some people run the thing, which is insane to me. Today was supposed to be my rest day, so I didn’t even try to run. The view from the top is definitely worth the hike… it’s gorgeous! You can see the entire city.
photo 1 (5)The trail back down is longer but considerably less steep (and less treacherous), but I still didn’t run because of the whole “rest day” thing. The whole hike made for another fun morning in the great outdoors. If I lived in Colorado Springs, I’d definitely be a regular up here… it’s a great challenge, and I’d want to see how fast I could eventually do it.

So the week ended up with 64.4 miles of running, minimal strength training, and a whole lot of outdoor fun. Overall, I’m okay with that, but I definitely need to get my strength training, foam rolling, etc., back on track this week.

Ever fallen like an idiot on a run? Please tell me about it so I know I’m not the only one.

What’s the weirdest place you’ve cleaned up post-workout?

Have you ever (or would you ever) done the Incline?

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 3

Another week of training is in the books! I call this week “The Week of Thunderstorms and Denver Trips.” I am sick of the rain and wishing I-76 was a little shorter, but otherwise, it was not a bad week. Here’s how the training happened:

AM: 12.3 miles of hills. I also made two new friends — a couple of dogs who decided that we were BFFs and should run together. They ran with me for about 4 miles — in spite of my constant, “GO HOME, DOGS!” and the glares from drivers who I’m sure were wondering why the heck “my dogs” weren’t on a leash.
Also, though I’ve had major trail envy lately, this run reminded me that the plains can be pretty, too.
photo (7)

PM: 45 minutes of full-body strength training

AM: 12.5 miles. I should have gotten up just a little bit earlier, as I was supposed to run 14 and ran out of time… although I probably should have just done it, since none of my students feel the need to show up on time. Grumble grumble.

PM: Core, stretching, and foam rolling. Blah.

AM: 4 recovery miles, followed by core, stretching, and foam rolling

PM: The foiled trail run I talked about in Thursday’s post. Whomp whomp.

AM: 10 miles with 5 at tempo. Why are tempo runs always so hard? Theoretically, I was running at half-marathon pace… and yet I felt like death after 5 miles. Explain that, please.

PM: 45 minutes full-body strength, plus a short bike ride with the hubby

AM: 5 recovery miles. My watch was completely dead, so I ran “naked,” and it was kinda nice.  I should do that more often.
photo 1 (4)Later, I did a quick core workout in the midst of cleaning my house. I’m cool.

18 miles. It was supposed to be 18 miles with 10 at goal pace, but I had a tough time hitting the pace. I was not happy.
photo 2 (5)It was hot, but not that hot, and humid, but not that humid (especially compared to what you Southerners/East Coasters deal with), so I don’t know what the deal was. I’m hoping it was just a crummy run, and I’m not ready to adjust my goals just yet… but I hope the next goal pace run gets a little easier!

Also, after six marathons fueled by GU, my stomach has suddenly decided that it hates GU. So I also spent half the run trying to keep the GU down. Not cool, body.

We spent the rest of Saturday walking around the Denver Botanical Gardens with my family. That was considerably less painful and more fun than my run.
photo (6)Holy cow, I look like my mom in that picture.

Rest. I did 35 minutes of yoga to try to loosen up my stupid-tight legs and my workout for the Lyons Share Ab Challenge, but that was it. And I went to Denver again, this time for brunch with my girlfriends. I didn’t take any pictures because I was busy getting caught up on their lives.

Totals: 62.8 miles, 2.5 or so hours strength/stretch

And that’s that. This week is a bit of a cutback, so that should be nice.

How did your week go?

Four Strategies for Downhill Training

I’ve mentioned a few (hundred) times that my quads and I are nervous about running the Colorado Fall Classic Marathon. I’ve run reasonably well on courses with lots of downhill before (Estes and Boston, specifically), but those were rolling courses. This one is all downhill, dropping 2500 feet over its 26.2 miles. And downhill running hurts.

In this article, Matt Fitzgerald explains why running downhill is so painful:   “When your foot strikes the ground, impact forces try to make your knee buckle. Unconsciously, you contract your quadriceps to stabilize your knee and remain upright. But your knee does flex and your quads do stretch a bit when you land, so those muscles are essentially pulled in two directions simultaneously. This strain causes microscopic trauma to the muscle fibers.” The effect of that trauma is twofold: limited performance and substantial soreness.

Obviously, I’d like to avoid both of those effects as much as possible (though post-marathon DOMS is inevitable), so I’m working hard to prepare for that long descent. Recently, I’ve searched all over the Internet, dug through some of my favorite running books, and learned a lot about downhill running.

As an English teacher, I know that one of the best ways to learn about something is not just to read about it, but to synthesize all that information and create a piece of writing. So today, I’m practicing what I preach and compiling some information about how to become the best and strongest downhill runner possible. I hope you learn something from this little synopsis, too!

Four Strategies For A Solid Downhill Race

1. Run downhill. A lot.

Duh. Fitzgerald says that “a single downhill run that is extreme enough to cause significant soreness provides a protective effect that lasts up to two months.” Of course that doesn’t mean that just one downhill run will entirely prepare me for this race, but it does mean that every downhill run I can get in will be beneficial. I don’t live near any long hills, but I’m hoping to get in at least two long, all-downhill runs. Even without long hills at my disposal, research suggests that I’ll be able to reap similar benefits from running downhill repeats. Here are some examples of killer downhill-repeat workouts from this article by Jason Karp:

  • 4 x ½ mile downhill (2-3% grade) at 5K race pace effort
  • 3 x 1 mile downhill (2-3% grade) at 10K race pace effort
  • 5 x 100 to 200 meters downhill (6-8% grade) at 5K race pace effort with walk back up hill as recovery

I’ll also be running most tempo and interval runs on a decline, even if they’re on my gym’s incline trainer.

A word of caution: Just like you would with any new stimulus (speedwork, increased distance, etc.), add downhills gradually. Going from zero downhill running to five days a week of downhills is a recipe for injury. Start with one downhill workout every week or two and build from there.

2. Run uphill, too. Running downhill exclusively will strengthen your quads, sure. But you’ll be neglecting your hamstrings, glutes, calves, etc., as Pete Rea explains in this article. Running uphill will develop those back-body muscles, giving your body better balance and the strength to push through that long downhill course. Ian Torrence explains, “Any short hill sprint or long ascent workout develops power and endurance, two necessary attributes when descending tricky slopes.”

(image source)

3. Find the downhill running form that works best for you, then keep it consistent. Running form in general is fairly individualized, and downhill running is no different. In his book You, Only Faster, Greg McMillan explains that the “best” form varies from runner to runner, so experimenting is the only way to find the form that is truly best for you (p. 217). There are some form guidelines that all runners should follow, though. In Advanced Marathoning, Pete Pfitzinger discusses those guidelines: “On downhills, try not to brake. Keep your center of gravity perpendicular to the hill” (p. 147).

I did some major braking the other weekend when I ran at Green Mountain... mainly because I was afraid of breaking my face.
I did some major braking the other weekend when I ran at Green Mountain… mainly because I was afraid of breaking my face.

This article from Competitor has some great downhill form advice, including using your arms for balance and looking ahead down the hill, and everything I read emphasized the importance of avoiding overstriding. Keep your feet under your center of gravity, just like you (should) do on the flats.

4. Do downhill-specific strength training. Certain strength exercises can help prepare a runner’s legs for the brutality of downhill running. Along with basic strength exercises like squats and lunges, Torrence suggests this quad strengthening movement:

(it’s apparently called “quadruped eccentric quad strengthening, but I call it “shifty downward dog”) and box jump-downs with a  small hop. Bobby McGee, quoted in this Runner’s World article, encourages other plyometric-type exercises that include “hopping and bounding” so your muscles get used that that pounding.

A strong core is also essential for all running, but especially downhill running, as your core is what keeps you upright and balanced. Planks (front and side), v-ups, metronomes, Jane Fondas, leg lifts, hip bridges, etc., are all making regular appearances in my strength routine.

5. Eat a lot of cereal. Just kidding. That one is in preparation for my all-night trail relay with the ladies of team Cereal Killers. But really, it can’t hurt.

Downhill running provides some unique challenges, that is certain. By following these tips, I’ll be ready (I hope) to tackle 26.2 downhill miles three months from now — and you’ll be better able to approach whatever declines your next runs send your way.

Any downhill running tips I missed?

What’s the most challenging race you’ve ever done?

Favorite cereal?

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 2

So, June is halfway over. Let that sink in for a minute. That means school starts again in less than two months. Summer is going crazy-fast, but at least it’s been enjoyable so far!

Training went well this week. We’ve had some cooler weather for mid-June — I was actually a little chilly on a few runs — which makes for great training weather. Here’s how the training went this week:


AM: 9 miles easy
PM: 45 minutes full-body strength, including the core work from Megan’s The Lyons Share Ab Challenge mixed with some of the moves from Greg McMillan’s core workout. Every time I say “core work” for the next month, it’s probably safe to assume that I’m doing some combination of these moves.


AM: 10.2 miles easy
PM: 30 minutes core work and stretching while watching The Bachelorette. Since I only watch 30 minutes at a time, I’m way behind, so don’t spoil it for me. 🙂 Here’s a way-too-close photo of my plank face. I get bored planking.
photo 3 (1)

AM: 6.1 recovery miles. Sometimes I am as proud of myself for keeping recovery miles slow as I am for hitting my speedwork paces. And I took a picture of my feet post-run, because that’s what running bloggers do.
photo 2 (1)
PM: The same as Tuesday: core and stretching and Bachelorette-ing.


AM: I needed to run cruise intervals, which means longish intervals fairly fast with short recoveries. I also wanted to run the interval portions downhill to prep for this downhill race. I debated my options: Drive out to the hills (but I was short on time since my summer course started this week), run on a long-enough-but-not-steep decline closer to home (but I’d have to have equal recoveries so the intervals could be all downhill), or use the incline trainer at the gym (which only goes to -3% decline, but would allow for appropriately short recoveries). I chose the incline trainer, so I ran to the gym as a warm-up, did 7.5 miles of downhill cruise intervals, and ran home as a cool-down for a total of 10 miles. I could definitely feel the decline’s effect in my quads the next day, which I’m taking as a good sign.

PM: Back to the gym for 45 minutes of strength training.


AM: 5.2 recovery miles

PM: Again with the core and stretching. I also spent some QT with the foam roller. I did not like it. Ouch.



18-mile long run. I ran the hilliest route I can run from my house… which is clearly not that hilly compared to what I’d like to be running, but sometimes you’ve just got to do the best you can with what you have.
18milerelevationI enjoyed this run quite a bit. It was nice out — actually getting hot by the time I finished, but the sun felt good!


Rest day. I did Megan’s Five Minutes to Flat Abs workout as part of the abs challenge, and that was it. We went to a wedding last night and I was up way past my usual bedtime, so I didn’t mind taking a rest day today. I also did not take any pictures of J and me all dressed up, so you’ll just have to take my word that I do occasionally wear a dress and make-up despite what the pictures on this blog suggest.

Totals: 58.6 miles running, 3ish hours strength/stretching

Now that the second week of training is in the books, I feel like I’m getting my marathon mojo back. I realize how dumb that sounds, but I don’t really care. Have a great week, friends!

How was your week?

Been to any cool weddings lately?

Colorado Fall Classic Marathon Training: Week 1 (Actually)

The week before we left on vacation, I titled my weekly workout recap post “Week 1 (Sorta),” because I didn’t want to “officially” start training until after vacation, so this one is “Week 1 (Actually).” It was a tough week — the first time I’ve topped 60 miles since October — but a great one. I had some solid training runs and some beautiful training runs with pretty flowers, so it was a win, all around.
photo 5


AM: 11. miles easy

PM: 45ish minutes full-body strength, along with Greg McMillan’s Runner’s Core workout. I was at the gym for more than an hour, but I spent at least 15 minutes jabbering and not working out, since I’d been on gym hiatus for couple of months and had people to catch up with.


AM: 13.1-mile hill run…although it’s four miles from my house to the hills, so it was more like a 5-mile hill run sandwiched between 8 miles of flat. I’m going to have to start driving or biking out there for hill runs. It was a beautiful morning, either way, and the top of my favorite/least favorite hill has a pretty view:
photo (3)I need to find out who owns this property so I can get permission to run out there.

PM: 30ish minutes of core and stretching. Having The Bachelorette back makes it easier to make myself do these things. I tell myself I can only watch trashy TV if I’m also stretching and/or doing core.

Wednesday (National Running Day)

AM: 5.2 recovery miles. J rode his bike as I ran, which I loved. We need to find a better route, though; this isn’t exactly a bike-friendly town, so I think we’ll have to stick to the park when he comes along.
photo 1PM: Basically the exact same as Tuesday.


AM: 9 miles with 4 at tempo. Tempo runs are always hard for me, and I was tired, sore (still, from Monday… clearly it had been a while since I’d lifted), and hot. I told myself to run what felt like tempo pace and not focus on the actual pace. I was pleased, when I did check, to see that I was hitting the right pace. So that was good.

PM: 45 minutes of full-body strength and McMillan core again.


Friday was my favorite running day ever. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. J had meetings in Denver (he’s kind of a big deal), and we figured there was no sense in letting the other half of his paid-for king-size hotel bed go to waste. So I left home bright and early and drove down to Green Mountain in Lakewood. I wonder why they named it that.
photo 3I got in some solid trail running, which I desperately need before the Chase the Moon relay in July, and some good downhill training to prep for my marathon in September. I wanted to just go forever, but I made myself stop at 6.2 so I wouldn’t be too sore for Saturday’s long run. And I took a selfie, because that’s what bloggers do, right?
photo 4

Then, I found J and borrowed his hotel key, cleaned up, and went to Athleta and bought some new shorts with a gift card I’d had since Christmas. It was pretty much the best day ever.


I was excited to do my long run in Denver and get a change of scenery. Since J needed to check out of the hotel before his meeting started (i.e. before I was done running), I drove to my brother’s house and ran from there. He lives by a lake, so I did a couple of lake laps, then hopped on the Platte River Trail, which goes through downtown Denver. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too lazy to dig my phone of its pocket on my Camelback. I am a good blogger, remember?  You can go look at Amy’s blog; she lives near my brother and runs around that lake all the time. And she is a better blogger than I am, so she has pictures. Too bad she was running Ragnar Snowmass this weekend, or we could’ve run together.

Anyway, I ran 17 miles (it was supposed to be 16, but math is hard), then went to brunch with my brother, which was nice. I’m not sure why, but that 17-miler really took it out of me. I was beat. I guess it was a combo of the high-mileage week, the trails and mediocre sleep Friday, and the slowness of the brunch restaurant, which made me miss that 45-minute refueling window by a long shot (but they comped one of our meals, so it wasn’t all bad).


30 minutes easy yoga. It felt amazing on my tight hips.

Totals: 61.6 miles running, 3ish hours strength/stretch/yoga

So overall, not a bad week at all. It feels good to be training hard again!

How was your week? Are you training for anything right now?

Do you ever get to tag along with your spouse on work-related trips? What do you do while he/she is working?

Weekly Recap: Marathon Training Week 1 (Sorta)

I usually post my training recaps on Sundays, but last Sunday was graduation, and between getting ready for it, sitting through it, and racing around from party to party, I was exhausted by the time we got home Sunday night. So you get a delayed recap.

In case you hadn’t gathered from my Twitter, Instagram, and recent blog posts, last week was the students’ last this year. Along with the usual last week of school craziness, our server crashed, adding an extra amount of stress. The good news is, though, that I got in a solid week of training.

Even though I won’t “officially” start training until after vacation, I followed Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning 18/70 plan for the week, since it was 18 weeks out from the race. My “real” training plan is a hybrid of this one and one from Greg McMillan’s You, Only Faster, but I wanted a more focused plan for last week.

The best part about the week was that it contained zero treadmill runs. I love my treadmill and all, but not as much as outdoor runs! I’m excited to take a little break from the ‘mill for the next few months.

I also finished the four-week Nike program I’d been doing. I liked it, and it was really convenient to do strength work in my basement during these super-busy last few weeks. … But I’m actually ready to get back into the gym to lift.  I know. I can’t believe it either. Rachel would be so proud.

Anyway, now that I’ve rambled on and on, here’s the recap:

Monday: Rest from running; 30-minute Nike Training Club full body workout plus some extra core work

Tuesday: AM: 45-minute NTC yoga workout
PM: 9.1 miles with 4 at tempo. I hadn’t done a tempo run since October. Holy cow am I out of tempo shape. This run hurt.

Wednesday: AM: 1-hour NTC full-body strength workout
PM: 5-mile recovery run. Nice and slow after Tuesday’s tempo.

Thursday: AM: 45-minute NTC full-body strength
PM: 11 miles easy

Friday: 7-mile fartlek run. It was finally light enough to get in my whole run outside before school. It was also the last day of school.Hello, sunrise runs. I've missed you.

Hello, sunrise runs. I’ve missed you.

Saturday: AM: 5-mile recovery run
PM: 45-minute NTC workout

Sunday: 17-mile pre-graduation long run. When I told J that I was exhausted at 8:30 that night, he pointed out that I had been going nonstop since 5:30 a.m. Oh. Good point, husband.

Totals: 54.1 miles run, 3ish hours strength/yoga

In other news, teachers had to go back to school yesterday and today, but now my desk looks like this:
photo 2 (6)which means I am done until August 8. Let’s ignore the fact that I brought home two boxes and two totes full of stuff to do over the summer. And the fact that I’m teaching a summer class at the community college. The important thing is that I’m done with school and leaving for vacation in TWO DAYS!

I’ll try to get a post up on Thursday, but if that doesn’t happen, rest assured that I have awesome guest posts scheduled for while I’m away. I’m super excited about them, so make sure you check back next week!

What was your week/weekend like? I’ve missed a lot of blog posts lately!