KDF Marathon Training Weeks 16-18 (Taper!)

By the time I finished my 20-miler at the end of week 15, came home, rinsed the caked-on mud and sweat off of me, collapsed in my bed, woke up, and begrudgingly laced up for 8 more miles. Sore and exhausted, I told myself that covering 20 miles was all that stands between me and sweet, sweet taper.

Week 16

(Once taper was finally here, I had to keep reminding myself that taper != end of training, and I have to actually keep running.)

James's birthday came, and to celebrate we spent four days at the Full Frame Documentary Festival. Ten documentaries sounds like more than any one person might want to see in that time span, so I was surprised to find that I woke up every morning psyched about going to see more, and wishing we had more time to discuss them (some of them were so, so good) in between screenings. A few that I couldn't stop thinking about were The Hand That FeedsL'anneau, White Earth, Stevie, and 112 Weddings. Some friends, one of whom worked on one of the films, came down from Chicago and stayed with us, and it was cool to get to tag along with them to various parties, and to get meet some of the documentary subjects.

So between that and work, I didn't run much but I didn't care because ?? Taper!

Week 17

I took advantage of the weather to go riding again, finally. I hadn't ridden Hudson in almost two weeks, thanks to tons of work at the office, rain, Hudson throwing shoes left and right, and so on. I did a bunch of barn chores I'd neglected and curried Hudson for almost a whole hour, since he had shed out his winter coat since I'd last seen him and hadn't been groomed since. James came since we planned to go to a show in Saxapahaw right after, and he snapped a few photos of me riding which horrified me when I saw them. I feel like I'm nearly back to where I used to be, but photos tell another story. My heel is up, my legs swing, and my arms flop. It was a good reminder of what I need to work on this summer.

On Friday we headed over to the Shinleaf area in Falls Lake because we wanted to get away and we had heard the camping there is decent and very easy (it's only about 20 minutes from home). I made one of my best fires to date and we left the rain fly off so we could sleep under the stars. Still, I'll always prefer backcountry camping when I can find it.

Running-wise, I had been feeling healthy except for some tightness in my calves (probably residual soreness from sliding around on the MST) but uneasy about my race. My right quad had a huge knot it in so I dusted off my foam roller, which I had neglected all cycle, and did my best to roll it out. I thought about getting a massage but decided to cross my fingers and hope for the best instead (dumb). 

Morning swim

Morning swim

Woke up with a dog in my sleeping bag.

Woke up with a dog in my sleeping bag.

Week 18 - Race Week!

I continued to feel uncertain about the race and my strategy was, again, to just not think about it.  Of course, that wasn't completely successful: It comes as naturally for me to set goals (which has probably served me well) as it does for me to feel guilty about not giving 110% to meet those goals (a maladaptive trait when it comes to things that literally do not matter, like my marathon-running.) 

My "all or nothing" approach to sports was difficult this cycle: I knew I couldn't prioritize this marathon enough to give it my "all," but I had to fight the impulse to give it my "nothing" and abandon it completely. I do care about my running and I want to improve, so I often feel guilty about things that are completely normal for a recreational runner, like skipping runs and letting training get derailed by fun things or work obligations. 

I wrote briefly about race week and I'll recap the marathon itself soon, so I won't dwell too much on week 18 here. I ran just a little bit on Tuesday and Wednesday, mostly to clear my head and figure out whether the big knot had loosened from my right quad (it had.) Ready or not, it was time to run a marathon.

Mountains-to-Sea Trail 12M Recap

There's nothing like Marathon Monday to get me excited about running and racing. After watching Rita Jeptoo's course record, Meb Keflezighi's big win, and ShalanFlanagan's PR, I was tempted to click Register for yet another marathon, but it seemed wise to step back and channel that enthusiasm somewhere else. So I'll be catching up on a bunch of updates I meant to post here, rather than registering for another marathon (for now...)


I'm not a morning person; races are among the few things that can get me out of bed before 9 on a weekend morning. Still, on race morning of the Mountains-to-Sea trail 12-miler, I was really not feeling it. It was cold and raining, and I had planned to get to the start in time to do 8 miles before the race so I could hit 20 for the day. This was going to be my last 20-miler before taper.

Back when I registered for this race (which was a no-brainer: it's a trail I hadn't run before, it's put on by Bull City Running, and the money goes to the Friends of the MST), I wrote a note to myself in which I described in detail my plan to get in my prescribed 20 miles. "I have mapped out a route for you. You need to arrive in Raleigh at 6 with your gels, water, etc. You are going to do an out-and-back (4 miles each way) to cover 8 miles before the start. At the end of the race there is supposedly great food so just get them done first and you'll be way happier."

Map for proposed pre-race miles.

Map for proposed pre-race miles.

Despite this attempt at planning, I misread the instructions about the start line and didn't factor in that there was no parking at the start, and I had to meet the shuttle at a parking lot. That was no big deal, but the shuttles didn't leave for another 45 minutes and it was cold, and pouring rain. My mistake plus the whole "running while completely soaked for 8 miles before the race even starts," led me to just nix the whole plan,  bargaining with myself that it would be much better to just sit quietly in a warm shuttle, run the race, and then figure out how to add 8 miles afterward.

In the shuttle I met a woman here from out of town and eyed a number of other people I was too shy to talk to. They looked like real trail runners to me and all I could think of to say was, "It is raining so much...", so I stayed quiet.

The start was as cold and as wet as it looked from the inside of that warm shuttle. (I had worn a tank top but hastily grabbed a tshirt and rain jacket on my way out the door, and I would keep and be grateful for all of those layers during the race.) Still, I tried to get excited. I talked to a few really nice people and told them it was my first time running MST. We shared what information we had about the trail and talked about our upcoming races. I was grateful to be out there, despite everything.

The main thing I want to convey about my race is that the trail was really, really muddy. 95% of my attention was focused on navigating mud. My shoes were soaked in the first mile. I tried to carefully control my slips and slides in the mud without going down, though I did, once. I caught myself with my hands and avoided rolling around in the slop. But soon I was in the swing of things. I had warmed up and gotten used to having wet shoes. Other runners, grown adults (!) were giggling and splashing around in the mud, and the fun was contagious.

I thought the course was wonderful: The hills were rolling but not steep and the course was technical-ish (to me, but what do I know) but didn't seem like it was trying to break my ankles with its roots and rocks. 

Obligatory (?) muddy shoes photo.

Obligatory (?) muddy shoes photo.

I wound up finishing in 2:09:07. I can't say too much about my time except that, like Little River, I was 95% sure I was running at about half-marathon pace, only to look down at my watch halfway through and see some surprising numbers. My average pace was 10:49, which shocked my vain, road runner self, but I guess that's trail running for you. (?) I ran strong, passed a lot of people, and powered up the hills. And, I was third in my age group, so I'm happy! A thing I'm growing to appreciate about trail running is that it has expanded my understanding of what a "good race" means beyond just my time at the finish line.

After the race I did finally get in those 8 miles....after a stop for coffee and a bagel, and a shower, and a nap. I felt pretty gross and the whole thing wasn't ideal as a last long run of marathon training, but I would definitely do it again. And hey, at least I spent a lot of time on my feet!

KDF Marathon: Race Week!

Whoa! How is it race week already?

I spent the early part of this week in deep denial that I'm actually running a marathon this weekend. Then I started stress-googling about the course. The elevation chart on the Kentucky Derby Festival website looks like this:



Which, obviously, worried me a little. But then I noticed that the x-axis looked really wonky (the course is only 26.0 miles long?) and is notched every 2.9 miles, and suddenly I realized that what looks like a nearly vertical incline can't possibly be so. (This week in y-axis tomfoolery, this went viral for inverting the y-axis, therefore inverting the whole meaning of the graph.)

Anyway, I wanted to know just how bad that hill was going to be, so I used the "marathon time conversion" feature on findmymarathon to compare the NYCM course to the course I'll be running on Saturday. What was previously a horrible, terrifying hill at mile 12 now looks about as intimidating as the Queensboro bridge.

The course looks mostly flat, but the calculator predicts I'll run Kentucky about 7 minutes slower. Whatever, I feel pretty decent about my PR potential on Saturday.

The weather looks good, too.

The weather looks good, too.

Outside of this, I haven't done much this week to prepare for the race. It's kind of funny how wired I was about NYCM, compared to how relaxed (possibly too relaxed) I feel about this one. Kathryn compared the difference between your first & second marathons to having a second child, and I completely get it -- I've done it before, so I'm probably fine. Right?

I've spent the past few weeks distracted by work and life issues and not very focused on running or my marathon goals. I walked around the house just before bed last night gathering various race-day objects and noticing how little prep I've done: My watch wasn't charged, my clothes weren't clean, and everything was a big mess. Still, I know my tendency to get weird about my gear is a coping thing I do when I'm anxious, so I should take my disinterest in these things as a good sign. In any case, I am looking forward to getting a little bit more focused about this race before I line up on Saturday morning.

My motley crew of marathon spectators is hitting the road at about 3:30 today to get into Louisville by midnight tonight. We are armed with music, podcasts, and lots of snacks. Tomorrow I want to get in a quick shakeout run around Louisville, go to the expo, and eat as much as I can.

Eating: For my first marathon, I ate most not-carbs for a few days before carbo-loading (explained by Hollie here). I have no idea if it worked for me; my race went really well and I never came close to hitting the wall, but I felt gross before the race and maybe over-did it on the carbs in the 2-3 days before the race (I was craving salad, vegetables, and eggs.) This time I'm eating pretty normally, though I had pasta for dinner last night and lunch this morning and plan to eat a carb-centric lunch tomorrow afternoon. 

Race day outfit?

Race day outfit?

I also have a bunch of half-finished posts in my drafts folder about my entire taper, the Mountains-to-Sea 12 miler, and goals for race day, so I'll do my best to get caught up and check in here again before race day.