By the numbers
Weeks of training: 13
Total distance: 281.6 miles
Total elevation gain: 21,752 ft
Average pace: 11:32 min/mile
Longest run: 13.5 miles
What a typical training week looks like
My typical week includes 5-6 days of exercise and 1-2 days of rest. My runs include 1 long run, 2 workouts, and an easy recovery run or two. Plus, I go out for a mountain bike ride once a week on a non-running day.
Saturday: long run. Example: 10 miles at ~12:00 pace.
My long runs help sharpen my mental game. It’s always intimidating to know I have a couple hours of running ahead of me, and it takes a lot of internal work to quiet the whiny voice in my head that wants to know if it’s over yet. These are the days I get the most practice at letting go of resistance and embracing the process.
Sunday: mountain bike ride. Example: 10 miles with ~500 ft elevation gain.
Monday: intervals. Example: 4x 1 mile on at ~10:00 pace/1 mile off at ~12:00 pace.
I LOVE running intervals. Even on my most sluggish days, I’m surprised by how quickly my body gets into gear. Sometimes these workouts get high in mileage, but they always go by quickly. These are the workouts where I almost always have the most fun.
Tuesday and Wednesday: one rest day, one recovery run.
Thursday: tempo run. Example: 6 miles at ~10:30 pace.
A tempo run means I try to sustain a “comfortably hard” pace consistently for 4-6 miles. In stark contrast to intervals, tempo runs are my nemesis. I’ve completely bombed a couple of these workouts, and even the best tempo runs frankly kind of suck. The funny thing is that my overall average pace is close to my interval workouts, but despite similar overall times, the two types of runs feel completely different.
Friday: recovery run or rest
What I’m doing differently this year
Consistent, structured workouts. In addition to the prescribed work (e.g., “5 mile tempo”), all of my workouts start with a warmup jog, drills (dynamic stretches and accessory movements), and strides (10-second sprints), followed by the workout itself and a cool-down jog. These workouts add intensity and variety that’s been really important for my development as a runner. Plus, I enjoy having the extra structure.
Joint supplementing. A lot of miles with a lot of elevation change means a lot of impact. I decided to give my joints a little help with some goodies like glucosamine and chondroitin. I’m currently taking Hammer’s tissue rejuvenator every day to try to keep my joints happy. In spite of high miles and some hard runs, I have not had any joint issues so far this season. As a scientist, I hate not really being able to know whether the supplement is effective or if I’m just flushing money down the toilet, but I’m just glad the joints are behaving themselves.
Double digit runs. Last year, I only had one long run in the double digits before my goal race, and frankly it didn’t go that well, which left my confidence a bit shaky. This year, I’ve already had quite a few runs over the 10-mile mark, plus plenty of mid-week runs in the 8-9 mile range. Overall, I have a ton more experience in high mileage territory this year.
Watching my recovery. Since I’m running harder, longer, and more often, I have to pay more attention to how I recover. After my high effort days, I make sure I get some sort of recovery nutrition as soon as possible after my workout. I do leg drains frequently, and stretch or foam roll when I feel like my body needs it. Epsom salt baths are another regular activity when I’m really feeling it.
Learning to switch gears. Last year, I basically had two speeds: running and not running. I had no real sense of how to control my pace and effort, so my runs ended up being all over the map. This year, I’ve learned a lot about how it feels to hold different paces and how to monitor my effort over time. I’m starting to understand the different gears in my repertoire.
So how are things going?
Overall, this season of running has, for lack of a better term, gotten really real. I’m working with a coach who is really giving me a run for my money–pun might be intended–but we seem to be working quite well together.
Last year’s running regimen feels like child’s play compared to this year. My plan is more serious and I’m also more serious about following it. I haven’t missed a single workout since April, when I was traveling. I’m really proud of myself for how well I’ve managed to diligently stick with my plan. But as a result, I feel like I’m running all the time. 30+ mile weeks are no joke!! Even my lower-volume recovery weeks are a lot of work.
One of the biggest challenges this year is dealing with forest land closures. Right before Memorial Day, the forest service closed almost the entire forest to all users due to extreme fire danger. Almost all trails are off-limits. It’s so frustrating that I’m currently in the peak of my training but only have a small handful of courses to choose from. This makes it harder to find the right mix of miles and elevation change, plus just gets extremely boring. Not to mention, getting to run in nature in our beautifully mild summer weather is one of the best things about living here, and I’m crushed to be missing a huge chunk of that window.
On a less tangible note, I’ve felt my mindset shift considerably. These last 8 weeks or so have felt transformative. As an example, I went out for what I expected to be a casual mid-week run a few weeks ago around the neighborhood up and down a long hill. Something clicked for me that day and I was flying, so I just went with it. I ran the entire 4-mile course, including the hill, at an 8:53 average pace, demolishing my previous best pace of 10:00. When I got home, I was so overwhelmed I stood in my yard and cried.
Although it sounds contrived, I feel like the last few weeks have hinted at how much potential I truly had no idea I had. Previously, my approach to running (and most athletic endeavors) was basically: “hmm, I hope I can slog my way through this in a remotely passable fashion.” Although that was transformative in its own right, that doesn’t feel like where I am now. Instead, I feel incredibly humbled and motivated at accidentally unearthing this huge source of power I didn’t know was there. I have so much gratitude and excitement for experiencing my body’s evolution through this process.
With that said, I have just under 7 weeks to go until my goal half marathon race (August 11th!), and it’s safe to say I’m feeling pretty good. I still don’t have a goal time set, but I’m almost afraid to ask! I don’t want the goal to be too low and feel disappointing, but I also don’t want to psych myself out if the goal seems too fast. Instead, I’m focusing on trusting the process and not worrying about my race until it gets a little closer.
P.S. Some current favorite running gear
Osprey Dyna 1.5 hydration vest. I finally broke down and bought a lighter hydration vest instead of using my massive 9-liter Osprey day pack for long runs. Oh man am I glad I did! I use it non-stop. Plus, it comes with a 1.5-liter hydration reservoir you can switch to any other pack you have.
V Fuel endurance gel. I discovered this brand just a couple months ago and so far I’m really liking it. Tastes delicious and is chock full of good stuff for endurance.
Garmin Fenix 5s. I bought this watch during the winter, but couldn’t use it much for a while due to injury. I have since learned that a running watch is pretty indispensable. I can’t imagine trying to manage my workouts just with my phone like I did last year. It’s gigantic, but good grief is it useful.
Lululemon time to sweat bra. This is my current favorite running bra right now for sure. It’s just the right amount of support and coverage for me. I always reach for one of these first!
wow, amazing! You’ve put in so much work, and it’s great to see you making such progress. Are you doing any lifting or yoga these days?
Also, when I used to run as much as you are running now, I SWORE by ROMWOD, (range of motion workout of the day.)
I tend to have IT band issues and some plantar fasciitis, and doing this range of motion programming daily (or most days, ha!), kept me feeling loose and not achy.
Suzanne | Agent Athletica says
Way late to the game here, but thanks for the suggestion! As the weeks have gone by I’ve accumulated a fair amount of tension here and there (especially in my lower legs, yikes), and massage isn’t always the most economically viable option, sadly! It’s too bad ROMWOD is $$, but it’s not too expensive so it might be worth a shot. :)