Louisiana Marathon Training: Week Two

Last week was hijacked by an illness that I am still fighting. I don’t think I ever had the flu, which has been going around, but I have had a nasty cough and chest congestion since Christmas night that is still nagging me 8 days later.

I haven’t run since Christmas because I don’t want to do anything to aggravate the cold and prolong it. It has already lasted way longer than I anticipated. My hope is that I will be able to at least run double digits this coming Sunday, the last long run before the Louisiana Marathon. So with all that said, this was my one run of the week:

Monday, Christmas – Ran 3 miles

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Easy run: I intended to run 5 miles, but it was hard to get motivated to go out on Christmas morning. I kind of let the day get away from me, so I decided to go out and do my easy run around 4 in the afternoon. I felt awful during the run, and I thought it was because I had eaten so much earlier in the day. But that night I started getting a cough, congestion in my chest, chills, and aches. By the end of the day, I could tell I was just sick.

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Louisiana Marathon Training: Week One

The plan: 

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With four weeks to go until the Louisiana Marathon, I simply went back to my Dallas Marathon training plan and decided to re-do the last four weeks of that schedule.

The only difference is that I am switching the 20-mile week and the 15-mile week so that I’m not running 20 miles the weekend before Christmas. This means I will be running 20 miles only two weeks before the race, but I think it will be fine as long as I take it easy.

Monday, Ran 4 miles/8:56 pace

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Tempo run: Our local running store had a no-frills fun run – the Ugly Christmas Sweater Run – for a measly $5 on Monday evening. The race was simply a non-timed 1.8-mile lap around the block, and they said we could run it as many times as we wanted. I decided to turn this into my tempo run, so I ran the loop twice, plus a little extra until I got to 4 miles. It was very dark, so I bought some blinking light shoe clips at the store prior to the race starting.

The first mile was very congested because we were all trying to run on a sidewalk, so that slowed down my overall pace. Still, I felt pretty winded at the end. I figured it would be interesting to see how my speed run went later in the week.

Tuesday, Rest

Wednesday, Ran 3 miles/8:51 pace

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Easy run: Well, my easy run ended up being faster than my tempo run. I think I ran it faster because it was shorter. Did this after work in the evening, enjoying the neighborhood Christmas lights in the process. I realized that this was the first run I had done that WASN’T a race since before the marathon.

Thursday Ran 5 miles/8:00 pace

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Speed run: I hadn’t done a speed run more than 4 miles in about a month, and I was reminded how tough speed runs are, and how little I like them. But I have no doubt that doing consistent speed runs, that progressively got faster, is what helped me PR in the marathon, so it’s a love-hate thing. I was pleased with my pace for this one considering I was feeling like my conditioning had already degraded a little since the Dallas Marathon.

After this run, we went to a local theater that was screening the 1992 movie “Batman Returns” – it’s basically a Christmas movie, right?! It was very fun, they did trivia beforehand and also showed some 1992 commercials from the marketing that was associated with the movie, like Diet Coke and toys and video games. I loved it.

Friday, Rest and travel

Headed south for Christmas!

Saturday, Ran 15 miles/10:00 pace

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Long run: It rained Saturday morning, so I got a late start, around 8:45. Thankfully the weather started to cool off after the rain was gone, about 68 degrees with a slight breeze. The humidity was still pretty bad though. I felt pretty strong for most of this run — my IT band has been have twinges lately, and it did give me a few problems during the marathon, so I need to give it more TLC over the next few weeks leading up to the Louisiana Marathon.

Sunday, Rest (Christmas Eve)

No cross-training today unless you count climbing the stairs at the Superdome to get to our seats for the Saints game. Merry Christmas!

Two races in three days

After the Dallas Marathon, I rested fully for three straight days, then participated in two local races as a way to ease my way back in to running. Next week I will begin adhering to the last four weeks of my same training plan in order to get ready for the Louisiana Marathon on January 14.

Downtown Christmas Run

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This was the third year in a row we’ve done the Downtown Christmas Run 5K, which is held in the middle of the week in the evening time — it was on a Tuesday the last two years, but this year it was on Thursday. The race offers the chance to run around downtown amid all the Christmas lights. I really enjoy it, so we’ve made a point to do it ever since we moved here.

Two years ago we didn’t register soon enough to get shirts, last year they gave us blankets instead of shirts (which was awesome), but this year, we finally got a shirt! And it’s really cute! Cotton long-sleeved with a cute design.

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Hunter and I both work downtown, so it was super easy just to bring my running clothes to work and change in the bathroom before the race. We met up and walked to the start, near the courthouse. A new feature this year was a huge inflatable Santa, under which we would run for the start and finish. I made a special playlist of solely Christmas songs to enjoy during the race.

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Since this was my first run after taking three days off post-marathon, I was planning to take it easy. My quads were also still *slightly* sore after being horribly, terribly sore the previous three days. But, once the race started, the adrenaline got pumping and I inevitably ended up running faster than planned. It was still much slower than my PR, but I finished with a chip time of 27:46, or an 8:56 pace (my Garmin differed slightly).

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Thomas LaValley Memorial Run 

This run is done in memory of a local police officer who was killed in the line of duty two  years ago. The race offered a distance of “12.84” miles, to correspond with his badge number, which was #1284. There was also a 5K distance, but when I signed up for the race last month, I chose 12 miles because I thought it would be a good way to get a longish distance in 6 days after the Dallas Marathon.

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Saturday morning was COLD, and I didn’t sleep well the night before. I was *thisclose* to skipping out on the race, because all I wanted to do was go back to sleep in my warm bed. Instead I got up, got ready, and headed out the door at 6:40 AM for a 7 AM race time. Thankfully the race was very close to my house.

It was 33 degrees, and the grass was all frosted over everywhere, which I believe is the first time I’ve seen that this fall/winter. The sun was coming up when I arrived, and it looked gorgeous.

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Me crossing the start line to the left! (Photo by Shreveport Times)

The race was very simple — no bibs, no mile markers, no chip timing, but there was a clock at the start. For the entire race, we simply ran along the running trail along the Red River. There were water bottles available every two miles, but since it was so cold, I never felt the need for one (and my hands were basically worthless even though I was wearing gloves, so I didn’t much feel like trying to open a water bottle anyway).

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I felt tired, but I still kept a better pace than I really planned or expected. I finished with a time of 2:01:53, and according to my Garmin, the distance amounted to 12.71. It would be really hard to get all the race participants to end up with exactly 12.84 considering the tangents we could all run differently, but it was close.

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Finishers of the 12-mile run got a medal. We also got a really nice sweatshirt with the race logo.

Dallas Marathon Race Recap

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For the past four months I trained in hot weather, cold weather, early in the morning before work, in the evening after a long day at work, on Saturday mornings before rushing to the cat shelter for hours of volunteering, or on Sunday mornings before taking a three-minute shower in order to get to church on time.

There were days I loved it and days I hated it. All the while, I saw myself getting faster. I set a new 5K PR and even won the race as first female. I set out to get a half marathon PR and ended up finishing under 2 hours for the first time.

I didn’t know how the marathon I was training for would go, though. There are so many things that can go wrong during a 4-5 hour run. In my first marathon, I had trained consistently and probably would have done really well, but I had major stomach issues throughout the entire second half of the race. In my second marathon, I ran 19 strong miles until the overly warm temperatures and 100 percent humidity caused me to hit the wall, hard. I finished the race walking for most of  the last 6 miles, hating every second. And then, two years ago, I did a string of marathons where I just hadn’t trained enough and finished with varying mediocre (for me) results, though at least I enjoyed myself most of the time.

So, in going to the Dallas Marathon proclaiming goals and raising my expectations, I was nervous. I agonized over the weather forecast, because I knew I had trouble in warm weather. In my first miles of the race, I over-examined any signs of cramping or stomach discomfort, because I knew if that flared up, it was going to be a long day.

But, when all was said and done, my body held it together, and my diligent training paid off. In the Dallas Marathon, I not only met my goal of breaking 4:30 (which was already 10 minutes faster than my long-standing PR of 4:40:16), I smashed it. I finished with a chip time of 4:14:29, and I did so with a negative split and a smile on my face.

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To go back to the beginning, we made the 3-hour trip to Dallas on Friday evening after getting off from work. My husband is obsessed with Torchy’s Tacos, so I agreed to go there for dinner when we got to town. I had been eating super healthy all week, avoiding processed foods, fast food, soda, and sugar. At Torchy’s I got two healthy-sounding tacos, though I did indulge in some chips and queso.

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We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Dallas, only a half-mile from the race start and finish line. It was the perfect location. On Saturday, we ate brunch at Overeasy, a nice and cute little restaurant in the Statler building downtown. I got avocado toast and scrambled eggs – it was very good!

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Afterwards, we headed to the expo. I picked up my packet, then saw a line forming to meet Shalane Flanagan, who was set to arrive soon. So of course, I had to jump in line and get the chance to take a picture with her. So exciting!

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After that, we left and went to the Sixth Floor Museum, which is in the former Texas School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald is said to have shot JFK as he rode by on the road below. The museum was dedicated entirely to JFK’s trip to Dallas and his assassination. We also walked around Dealey Plaza and the “grassy knoll.”

 

Dinner was at Sapa House, where I had fresh coconut juice straight from a coconut, plus pho. I think pho is my favorite pre-marathon meal. The combo of the broth to settle my stomach, plus the noodles, meat and greens, just seems like the right choice.

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After dinner, we went back to the hotel and I got everything together for the following morning. I slept pretty well, waking up on my own around 5:45 AM. The race wasn’t until 8:10, but I wanted to wake up with plenty of time to drink my coffee, eat my breakfast, let everything digest, use the bathroom, etc.

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It’s a good thing I gave myself so much time, because at some point I went to eat the bagel and peanut butter I’d brought from home, and realized the bagel had gone bad. It just tasted disgusting! I grabbed some cash and went down to the lobby, where there was supposed to be a 24-hour “pantry,” but I couldn’t find it. So instead, I remembered there was a 7-Eleven right around the corner from our hotel, so I went out into the dark cold and ended up buying a loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter! I had to be resourceful – there was no way I could just go without eating anything before the race!

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Finally, it was time to leave the hotel and walk the half-mile to the start. So, the weather forecast had race start temperatures at 40 degrees and race finish temperatures at 65 degrees. Therefore, I decided to wear shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt. It was mostly cold at the start because of the wind, and downtown between all the tall buildings, it was like a wind tunnel. So it was rough, but I still knew I had made the right wardrobe choice for the overall race, even as I stood shivering in my corral. The race had a wave start, so my corral didn’t start until about 8:25.

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I don’t remember too much happening for the first 8 miles or so. I didn’t want to go out too fast, but I also thought maybe I should run the best pace I could while it was still cold. A 4:30 marathon, which was my goal, equaled a 10:18 pace. I mostly just ran what felt comfortable, while making sure it was under that pace. After a while, I was ready to split from the half marathoners. I felt like once we split from them, I would mentally feel like progress had been made and I was that much closer to finishing.

The race course was varied and interesting – we spent several miles in downtown, then went to Highland Park, where the ritzy and expensive houses were. After splitting from the half marathoners, we made our way to White Rock Lake Park. The temperatures did get noticeably warmer, but the breeze off the water felt good, and there were many shaded parts. The toughest part of the course were the various hills we had to climb – I ended up walking up hills at two points, because I felt trying to run them would only be to my detriment and make me slower in the long run.

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I resisted stopping to use a porta-potty for awhile, because I refused to wait in line for one and waste precious time. Finally, at around mile 16, I saw some that didn’t have a wait, so I made the quickest pit stop ever. I was impressed with how fast I was.

Water stops were pretty much every two miles or so. I was running in my Saints Nike Dri-Fit shirt, and a volunteer wearing a Saints sweatshirt at one water stop gave me a “Who dat!” I was really impressed with the course support for this race. I thought the supporters might disappear once we split from the half runners, or that they might be gone when I got to the final miles, but there were onlookers throughout the entire race, and many of them called out to me by my name, which was on my bib.

I was curious to see how I’d feel at mile 20, which is where I hit the wall in previous races. My right IT band started getting tight, so I had to stop and stretch it for a moment a few times. But otherwise, I still felt strong at mile 20 and beyond. My breathing was a little challenged, my legs started to hurt, and my stomach felt kind of tight as well, but nothing I couldn’t overcome. The closer I got to the finish, the more motivated I was to hang on to my pace. I realized at some point that I was definitely going to break 4:30, and then I realized I could very possibly break 4:20 too. I wasn’t sure if I could break 4:15 or not, but breaking 4:20 was going to be good enough and I decided to run hard enough to make sure that happened.

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As I turned the corner with less than 400 meters to go, I saw my husband in the finish chute taking pictures of me. Thanks to the runner tracking app he knew to be there, even though I was finishing about 15 minutes earlier than what I had told him was the best case scenario.

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As I approached the finish line, I saw that my Garmin was at 4:14:00, so I trucked it to make sure I broke 4:15. I finished with a chip time of 4:14:29. I choked up after crossing the finish, but I also couldn’t breathe, so I had to gulp in some air and I think that saved me from crying in front of a bunch of strangers.

After finishing, we were given a heat sheet, medal, and snack box. Then there was a station to get your additional finishers shirt, which is a nice long-sleeved technical T-shirt.

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I found Hunter at the family reunion area, and he took my picture and helped me get all my stuff together. We didn’t hang around too long – as soon as I stopped running, my legs were KILLING me. As usual, I wasn’t hungry for real food after the race because my stomach couldn’t handle it. I did get some ice cream before we headed out of town, but I could only eat a little bit.

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We drove the 3 hours back to Shreveport with me still in my running clothes and my legs feeling very tired. Another bit of a blessing – we’d heard that I-20 was going to close completely at some point between Terrell, TX and Tyler, TX on Sunday, and we were anticipating having to take a detour and sitting in delayed traffic. Well, it looked like police and construction workers were setting up cones and signs as they were getting ready to close the interstate when we passed through, but it wasn’t closed yet! So we avoided that potential nightmare and got home in the normal amount of time. Thank goodness!

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So, I am home with a new PR that I am very proud of, knowing all the training I did really paid off. I am going to rest completely over the next three days. We have an easy 3-mile Christmas race on Thursday night, then I have a 13-mile race on Saturday. I will probably also take that pretty easy. The Louisiana Marathon is in five weeks – at this time, I plan to run for pleasure and not a PR 🙂

As for the Dallas Marathon, I highly recommend it. It’s perfectly sized, everything was top-notch quality, it’s well organized, support was great, and the course was fun. 10/10, would do it again.

Full mile splits:

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Mile 16 = bathroom break. Mile 21 = hill climbing.

Favorite race signs:

  • Run as if Matt Lauer/Harvey Weinstein is chasing you
  • Just don’t suck!
  • Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

November Recap

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My mileage went down a little this month as my taper started at the end of an 18-week marathon training cycle. I started feeling a little burned out, so the decrease was probably much needed!

I was proud of myself this month, though, because I knocked out two 20-mile long runs, both which were mentally daunting.

Miles run: 127

Races run: 1 – the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot

Trips: 1 – at the very beginning of the month we went down to visit family in New Orleans, where I ran 12 miles and went to a Saints game.

I am anxiously checking the weather for this weekend in Dallas. To my horror, the high temperature keeps rising. Right now it is forecasting a high of 69 and a low of 42. Ugh. Running in warm weather is not something I tend to handle well. :-/

Dallas Marathon Training: Week Seventeen

The plan:

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Monday, Arm and ab workouts

Tuesday, Ran 3 miles/8:20 pace

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Tempo run: Meh. I kind of expected to do better since it was a shorter distance, but I did it after work and was tired, and this was honestly the best I could do.

Wednesday, Ran 4 miles/8:02 pace

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Speed run: Terrible. This was completed before work, and I just felt so out of breath and sluggish. I was congested, which may have contributed to the run being crappy, but I was surprised to feel so weak during this run. Especially after I had had several very strong speed runs for a few weeks prior.

Thursday, Rest

Friday, Rest

Saturday, Ran 4 miles/9:14 pace

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Easy run: I kept putting this run off until finally, my choices were to either do it after a long day of volunteering at the cat shelter, or skip it all together. I chose to do it, and I was very glad I did.

Sunday, Ran 10 miles/9:49 pace

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Long run: Can’t believe I just did my last long run before the Dallas Marathon. I might have gotten more sentimental or introspective or whatever about the past few months of training, but I’ll be right back training again after I recover from Dallas, in order to run the Louisiana Marathon 5 weeks later.

This run felt pretty easy, and it was such a mental relief to only have 10 miles. I definitely was getting to a burned-out stage with training, so this taper time was really needed to be at my best for the race.

Dallas Marathon Training: Week Sixteen

The plan:

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Monday, Rest

Tuesday, Rest

I didn’t really plan for this to be a rest day, but things came up at work and I didn’t get home until almost 10 PM. So rest it was.

Wednesday, Ran 5 miles/7:53 pace (!)

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Speed run: This run was done late after 2 hours of grocery shopping for last-minute Thanksgiving ingredients. It was my last 5-mile speed run before the marathon (next week goes down to 4), and it was the fastest yet! I was amazed at my pace when I finished.

Thursday, Ran 3 miles/9:01 pace (Turkey Trot 5K)

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Easy run: My husband and I ran this together, and I decided to do it as my easy run for the week. He hasn’t really run much at all, so this pace was pushing it for him 🙂 I made a point to stick with him and just enjoy the run. I think over 1,600 people turned out for this 5K. I love this race – it’s fun to be out with everyone on a holiday, there’s a feeling of celebration in the air.

Friday, Arm workouts and sit-ups

Saturday, Ran 4 miles/8:10 pace

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Tempo run: Got up and got this done before volunteering at the cat shelter for the day. I didn’t feel my best during this one, but I was very pleased with my pace. I was also happy to be doing a shorter tempo run than normal.

Sunday, Run 15 miles/10-minute pace

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Long run: Not much to say about this one. I felt pretty good, and mentally it was a relief to “only” have 15 on the schedule after two weeks of 20-milers. The taper starts now, and I do feel like my body needs it. My knees feel a little more “creaky” than usual, and I definitely feel like less mileage, extra rest will help me out.

My plan for these next two weeks is to do more yoga, foam rolling and stretching, take more vitamins, drink more water, and hopefully be full of energy by the time race weekend comes.

Turkey Trot 2017 Race Recap

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Man, I love Thanksgiving Day races. I don’t think anyone fools themselves into believing that running 3 miles makes up for the insane amount of calories you end up eating the rest of the day, but there’s something so fun about getting out early and being around a bunch of people who are all celebrating the same holiday.

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Hunter hasn’t really run much lately, so I figured this would just be my easy run for the week, and we’d take it at a pace that he could manage. The race is not chip-timed, and participants got a cute long-sleeved cotton T-shirt. I loved the shirt design!

It was like 35 degrees that morning, so I dressed for warmth. They said something like 1,600 people were out to do the run, and it was the largest race ever for them.

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The race left the Stoner Boat Launch, went down about 1.5 miles along Clyde Fant Parkway, then we cut through the grass to the running trail along the river and returned to the boat launch. Afterward they had lots of waters, cookies, jambalaya and more available. The weather was just beautiful, and I enjoyed it very much.

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We finished with a 9:01 pace, which was great for my easy run. My husband was also pleased considering he hasn’t run in a long time. Great race! Want to do it every chance we get.

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After the race, we cleaned up and had a great day with family. I made “decadent macaroni and cheese,” bacon-wrapped asparagus and honey-roasted sweet potatoes, and they all turned out great, if I do say so myself 😉

Dallas Marathon Training: Week Fifteen

The plan – identical to last week:

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Monday, Rest

Tuesday, Rest 

I felt so tired after work, and my right quad was still really sore from the 20-miler, so I took another rest day. I am definitely ready for the taper to begin.

Wednesday, Ran 3 miles/8:57 pace3e

Easy run: I intended to do my 5-mile speed run, but I still just lacked energy! I got up before work, and whereas usually I have no problem getting into my ‘speed’ pace, I felt sluggish and slow. I decided to just to do my 3-mile easy run, and try to figure out a way to reclaim some energy for the next few days. I took my B-complex vitamin when I got home, which I’ve been neglecting to do lately, and I tried to drink more water and eat better throughout the day. I’d been eating kind of bad the previous few days, which surely doesn’t help contribute to energy and activity.

Thursday, Ran 5 miles/7:59 pace

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Speed run: My coworkers and I agreed we were all feeling extra tired this week. Maybe it’s the weather? Still adjusting to DST? Whatever the case, I was still tired Thursday morning when I got up to do my speed run, and I felt myself running out of gas near the end. But, somehow, I still managed to do my fastest pace for a 5-miler ever. Pretty sure I’d never run 5 miles at a sub-8:00 pace before. I’m constantly amazed that after several lackluster and sometimes downright awful running years, I’m now the fastest I’ve ever been.

Friday, Ran 5 miles/8:40 pace

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Tempo run: I couldn’t muster up the motivation to do this run before work, and I even considered pushing it back to Saturday morning. But I got out and did this run Friday evening instead, and I felt okay but not great. My pace was slower than last week. 😦 Verrry sweaty afterward too. This is November. Sigh.

Saturday, Arm workouts

Sunday, Ran 20 miles/9:58 pace

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Long run: Just like last week, I super procrastinated getting out the door to start this run. It’s just so mentally daunting sometimes. But the run went by rather quickly once I got going. The weather was really nice, in the high 40s to high 50s, breezy, sunshine. I listened to episodes of Dateline and Hollywood Crime Scene podcast, and those really kept my mind off the task at hand.

I also focused on trying not to glance at my Garmin too much, so that I wouldn’t be constantly checking how far I had gone. As a result, my pace was usually too fast. I did make conscious efforts to try and slow down at points, but it never stuck.

Mileage starts coming down next week, and I am relieved. I think the combination of weather changes making me sick, adjusting (or not adjusting, as the case may be) to Daylight Saving Time, on top of work, volunteering, and marathon training, has all started to catch up with me. I will focus these next three weeks before the race on trying to get as much rest as I can, taking my vitamins, eating well, drinking water, and hopefully being at peak health on race day.