chicago marathon training recap: weeks 5-8

if you’re new here, I’m currently training for my second full marathon – Chicago – on October 9, 2016. I am currently in week 10 of 16, and you can read about weeks 1-4 here, about last year’s race here, and all things running related here.

week 5 – july 18-24 / mileage – planned: 39, completed: 39.08

as I mentioned in the last post, things started to really fall into place during week 4 of my training, after vacation, etc., and this more or less continued throughout the second month of training. week 5 brought a tough, 7 mile hill repeat workout (that has reappeared many times since, so it now feels like the new normal), but I accepted the challenge, as smart runners know that hills are really just speedwork in disguise.

this week’s long run was 14 miles – I really liked the route because it was scenic and not a lot of car traffic to deal with, but the back half was insanely hilly, which made doing the last three miles at marathon pace even more difficult.

I got in two good strength workouts this week, plus a core circuit on saturday after the long run. we did a 23-mile bike ride on sunday as cross-training as well…fun at the time, but maybe overdid it a bit.

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week 6 – july 25-31
mileage – planned: 41, completed: 41.10

another solid week. hill repeats again, plus a workout with 4 miles at tempo pace (for me, 7:12-7:30). tempo runs have been in some other plans I’ve used, but admittedly I’ve always avoided them, because they scare me and I didn’t really know how to do them and what paces I should be hitting. one of the main reasons I love having a coach is that our paces are always defined, so every workout or easy run has a purpose and a plan. tempos are really hard, but I’m learning that they’re manageable when executed properly, and the pain is worth it for feeling totally badass afterwards.

long run this week was 16, which to me is about when it starts to truly feel like a marathon long run. the route I planned out didn’t quite work (a side street we needed to take to get onto a trail ended up actually being a dirt road and was FULL of deer early in the morning), so some improvising was needed and it turned out fine, but essentially was a boring out & back. womp womp.

again got in two strength sessions this week, plus the post-long run core circuit. no cross training or bike ride this week, but we were fairly active throughout the weekend, so nbd.

13743560_1763800893865230_2089308300_nweek 7 – august 1-7 / mileage – planned: 44, completed: 44.10

what do you know, hill repeats again. every week I consider finding a new hill to do these on for variety’s sake, but the hill where we do these is the perfect distance away for a warm up/cool down, there’s not much traffic, and it’s just the right steepness. I think I finally wised up this week and brought water for in between sets, which was a great motivator. this week’s other workout was a fartlek ladder, which was hard but a nice break after a couple weeks of tempos.

this week’s 18-miler went really well for me, and started giving me a lot of confidence in my race goals. last 5 miles were at marathon pace, and I felt really strong throughout and like I could have kept going a bit longer — a good feeling. it probably helped that it was finally a cool morning and was even a bit misty outside, but hey, I’ll take progress however it’s given to me.

thanks to some storms I had to move around some runs this week, which involved a double on one day, but was still able to fit in two strength sessions as usual. I failed on the core workout this week, but we did get in a short bike ride to/from the farmer’s market on sunday for some cross training.

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week 8 – august 8-14
 / mileage – planned: 40, completed: 40.10

week 8 was a dropdown week which always sounds nice but for whatever reason, they’re always tough for me. this week I really started to feel the cumulative fatigue of marathon training and really had to force myself through the easy runs. one workout this week entailed 5 miles at tempo pace, which terrified me, but as with everything so far, the workouts have been well placed in my training, have felt aligned with my progress, and are challenging but not impossible.

only 1 strength session this week – just was feel wiped out and like a second one wouldn’t really add anything, and may even hurt, since I was so tired. I can be obsessive about following plans, but I’m – trying – to learn to listen to my body that taking a break every now and then can be just as effective as a hard workout, both mentally and physically.

I was dreading this week’s long run, even though it was “only” 14 again. we were in des moines and had been at the state fair the day before, so were tired from walking around, and didn’t eat great (duh). but running in new places is always enjoyable, and the trails in the area are awesome, so it turned out to be a great run and I felt proud for pushing through it. no cross training this week, but we did get in quite a bit of walking the rest of the weekend, exploring des moines breweries – that counts, right?

almost skipped the core circuit this week, but got inspired while watching the olympic women’s marathon on sunday and decided to get it in while we watched. gold medal for me, please!

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strength training

I thought I’d briefly mention what I’ve been doing for strength training. For the past several months leading into marathon training (and all throughout my half training in the spring), I was going to barre classes about 3x/week. I’ve never ever liked group fitness classes but really grew to love barre and noticed a difference in my running strength as a result of going consistently. I planned to continue with barre during marathon training, but (1) it’s expensive, and (2) the class schedule doesn’t fit with getting my strength workout in on tues/thurs mornings. I told myself I’d try doing something on my own for a few weeks, and if I couldn’t stick with it, I’d fit barre back into my budget and schedule.

happy to report I’ve been exclusively using Fitness Blender videos and it’s working out great. it’s a free website with a huge range of workouts available – different types (strength, HIIT, barre/yoga/pilates, cardio, toning, etc.), lengths, difficulty level, impact, required equipment, etc. I’ve experimented with quite a few of the videos but have landed on a few favorites:

Total Body Barre (40 minutes) – I love this workout because it includes a lot of similar moves from barre classes, so it helps fill that void. it’s two rounds of 14 different exercises, plus a short stretch/cool down (another thing I like, because I won’t do it on my own), and the only equipment you need are low-weight dumbbells and a chair or countertop.

Squats & Deadlifts Workout (33 minutes) – Probably my other favorite workout. Typically I’ll do this one day, and barre another day, for the week. Whereas barre is more low weight, high reps, this workout is higher weight (if you so choose), fewer reps, and I like doing both in my program to work all different muscles. this workout is an AB/AB format, so you’ll do two exercises twice through, and then move on to the next group, for a total of 6 groups.

Pilates Abs Burner (10 minutes) – favorite ab/core workout. if you’ve done any pilates, you know it’s challenging, but I like that it’s lower impact, not too many crunches (always makes my neck hurt), and is fast, so can easily be added on to another workout or squeezed in if you’re short on time.

Bodyweight Workout (25 minutes) – sometimes I feel like I need a break from squats and deadlifts, or a shorter workout, so on those days I’ll do this one. I don’t like it as much (so many pushups), but it’s my go-to backup workout. no equipment required, which is always nice!

nutrition & fuel

there are so many fuel sources out there — I’m always curious what people use and like! I can’t say I’ve ever loved any of them, but taking in some calories is sort of a necessary evil of marathon training, at least during long runs. last year while training for chicago, I started using gatorade endurance chews, since that’s what is on the race course, and they’re my favorite thing I’ve had so far. you can pretty much only get them on amazon, and they’re not as inexpensive as other things, but when you find what works for you, it’s worth it. I bring these on long runs and usually have 2 chews every 5-7 miles, with water.

I wish I could be one of those people that can run on an empty stomach, but I’m just not. for morning weekday runs (up to 8 miles), I’ll have a banana (or maybe just half) before heading out. that seems to give me enough energy/sugar to get it done without upsetting my stomach. for long runs, I’ll usually eat a banana plus a bagel or toast with peanut butter beforehand – pretty standard.

probably the best decision I’ve made around fueling was to get a camelbak hydration pack. in the past, I’ve run without water, relying on gas stations/drinking foundations/pre-placed water bottles, and have also used a small handheld bottle, and none of it really worked great. I really wish a water fairy could just appear every 2 miles, but alas, I have yet to see this happen, but a camelbak is the next best thing. it took a few weeks to get adjusted to running with it, but now I hardly notice it and can have a sip of water whenever I need, and can easily refill (though I’m yet to need to on a run).

that’s all for this time! weeks 9-12 will feature both a 20 and 22-miler, plus the start of track workouts, so stop back in a couple of weeks to hear how things are going!

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chicago marathon training recap: weeks 1-4

as many of you know, kevin and I are both training for the Chicago Marathon on October 9. this will be our second full marathon (I did chicago last year, and k did des moines), but our first time working with a coach! after such a positive experience with the red dirt running company lincoln half marathon training program, we decided to hire the coach, sarah madsen, to write us a marathon plan and work with us throughout the training period.


we met to discuss our goals and go over what we wanted in a plan. for our first marathon, we both just wanted to finish (and I was hurt going into mine, so I didn’t even know if that would happen), but this year, we’re both hoping to improve our times significantly. we followed an 18-week training plan fairly closely last year, but i’ll admit, even though I almost always put in the mileage, I didn’t always do the workouts (especially tempo runs, etc.) as prescribed. i’m a pretty dedicated runner and occasionally enjoy nerding out over planning workouts, but generally speaking, i more like the idea of someone else planning them for me (especially knowing they are aware of my goals) and checking in with me along the way to keep me accountable and to make sure it’s not too easy or too hard.

sarah recommended and prepared a 16-week plan, which we were comfortable with since we’d kept up with running a few times a week after our half marathon in may, and continued to do strength training and generally stay active. we also got a 4-week pre-training plan, which was a great way to get back into a routine and reintroduce speedwork and other workouts after a few weeks off. we did quite a few of the workouts during this period, but didn’t stress over it, and attended lots of fun runs, rode our bikes a lot, rested when we felt like it, and got our minds and bodies ready for what’s to come.

i won’t be posting the whole plan here (but I highly recommend considering sarah if you’re interested in a customized plan!), or all the runs i’ve completed, but thought i’d share some overall thoughts, favorite workouts, hard moments, and the like. we’re in week 6 of the program now, so i’ll share on weeks 1-4 for now, then 5-8 in another couple of weeks, etc., etc.

generally speaking, our plan follows this structure:
monday – easy w/strides
tuesday – hill repeats or track workout + strength training
wednesday – recovery run (super easy pace)
thursday – tempo/interval/pace workout + strength training
friday – rest
saturday – long run + core workout
sunday – rest or cross-train

week 1 – june 20-26 / mileage – planned: 32, completed: 30.66

the first week of training went great! i liked getting into the routine of what most of our weeks will look like – 5 days of running (monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, and saturday) with strength training on workout days (tuesday, thursday). i completed all the weekday runs (6, 5, 5, and 6 miles), and got in two good strength training sessions (I’m using fitness blender videos primarily).

I was particularly worried about the “steady state” run scheduled for this week (2 mi w/u, 2 mi @ steady state – 7:30-7:50, 2 mi c/d) because it had been awhile since i’d run “fast” (even though my half marathon pace was in that range). the run was challenging, but not impossible, and i hit my paces just fine, giving me the confidence to succeed in the harder tempo workouts to come.

our long run this week was scheduled as 10 miles, but we had a 10k race that morning, so i ran the race, then cooled down for another couple miles to bring my mileage up a bit, but since i’d raced hard, didn’t worry about getting to 10.

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week 2 – june 27-july 3 / mileage – planned: 35, completed: uh, 6?

week 2 was a bit of a wash, running wise, but we knew that going in. we were on vacation in colorado this week, so we planned to do some running, but didn’t want to miss out on hiking opportunities, biking around fort collins, and generally enjoying time with our family.

we ended up only getting in one 6-mile run, but we also did two fairly strenuous 9-mile hikes, biked almost 25 miles one day around fort collins, strength trained a couple of times, plus took countless short walks, so we hardly felt guilty over it. (ok, I might have felt slightly guilty, but I can get obsessive about training plans). considering how active we were on vacation, and that we did all of that at elevation, i don’t think we lost much, if any, fitness — plus, it was early on in our training.

running at elevation (we were in winter park – 9,500 ft!) is no joke, but i’d take that fresh, dry mountain air any day over our summer humidity here!

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week 3 – july 4-10 / mileage – planned: 38, completed: 33.5

we got back from vacation on july 4, and missed a run that morning, but otherwise, i was mostly back on track for this week. I didn’t get in as much strength training as i normally shoot for, but did get in both workouts (strides and a short tempo), and even fit it in the schedule to run at the weekly scriptown run that we’d missed the last couple of weeks.

this week’s long run was scheduled for 14 miles, but we did the 12-mile angry cow heifer hustle trail race on this day, so were a couple of miles short (the course ended up being around 11 miles, so i got in around 12.5 with a cool down). again, since it was fairly early on in our training, and since trail running tends to be harder than road running, i wasn’t too worried about coming in a few miles short this week, but was looking forward to getting totally back on track for week 4. we got in a 8 mile bike ride as cross training the day after our trail race, too!

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week 4 – july 11-17 / mileage – planned: 38, completed: 38.17!

week 4 it all fell into place again, and i completed the planned mileage, plus strength training on tuesday and thursday. i was nervous about being able to get in strength training after my runs on these days, but so far, i’ve been able to get in a 25-40 minute video (or two short videos) twice a week. conceivably i could do it in the evenings, but i know i’m less likely to do it then, and it’s nice having it out of the way in the mornings, and it hasn’t affected me getting to work on time. (mostly it just means not hitting snooze when the alarm goes off).

our long run for week 4 was again 14 miles, with miles 5-9 at marathon pace. we normally do long runs on saturdays, but opted to do it friday this week since friday was my birthday and we had a late night planned. although it was challenging after four days of running in a row, especially with thursday being a workout day – i’m so glad i got up early (4am…) and powered through so i could enjoy my birthday stress-free. saturday we were pretty lazy, but we got in a 15 mile bike ride on sunday as cross-training.

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if you’d like to follow along, check back in a few weeks for my weeks 5-8 update. i’ll also talk a bit more about my strength training, nutrition, etc. then as well!

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lake manawa

it’s been an extremely hot and humid summer in omaha this year, and one weekend back in june particularly miserable – we decided the only was it would be tolerable would be to be in the water. we looked into a couple of local pools, but ultimately, decided to make the 15 minute drive to lake manawa over in council bluffs, IA. we picked up some sandwiches on our way, packed a cooler full of beer, brought along some reading material, and were on our way!

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i’d been to the lake one other time back in college, so didn’t remember it much. i think we paid $3/each to get in for the day, and although it was fairly busy, we didn’t have any trouble finding a place to set up on the beach, and still had some privacy from other groups. we spent most of the afternoon just laying out in the sun, drinking, and of course, some good old-fashioned people watching. after awhile, we kept seeing people with various tubes and floaties, and were wishing we’d picked one up on our way there, but then realized they sold them there. we thought they’d be pretty pricy on-site, but we actually scored a double-seater tube with a small cooler in the middle for $30! SOLD. we spent the rest of the afternoon floating around on the lake in our tube like the rest of the cool kids.

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a super fun afternoon – it’s not the fanciest lake and doesn’t have many amenities, but it’s nice that it’s so close and we can just pop in the car on a whim and head over there for a few hours. looking forward to taking our floatie out for another spin soon!

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memorial day weekend

this is so belated, but it’s been such a wonderful summer (which is why I’m behind), and I want to make sure to document all of our adventures! back around memorial day, we had just bought a bunch of new camping equipment for our june trip to colorado, and were hoping to test it out. we waited a bit too long to book something, though, and most of the nearby state recreation areas were full. we contemplated a walk-up site, but then there was rain in the forecast, and we had second thoughts, so decided to stay home. of course, after all that, it ended up being perfect weather and we were bummed we’d missed out on the camping opportunity…so we decided to post up in our own backyard!

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cheesy, yes, but it was actually a great, low-stress way to practice putting up our tent, trying out our sleeping bags, and figuring out what other gear we might still need. this was actually my first time ever camping in a tent, so i appreciated being close to home in case we got too hot/cold/out of drinks.

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we spent most of the evening poring over colorado maps planning out a few hikes and places we wanted to see during our winter park trip. and of course, drank some beer – i was super happy to find evil twin’s ‘ryan & the gosling’ at our local bottle shop (beertopia); aside from having the best beer name ever, it was also very good.

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other than that, we just spent some time reading and talking and generally enjoying life under the twinkly lights. i’m sure we must have looked totally ridiculous to our neighbors, but it was such a fun experience and i’m so glad we did it!

the next morning (sunday), we woke up to another beautiful day and wanted to do something outside. at this point, we were on a little break from a running plan before starting marathon training, so decided to go for a bike ride. i mapped out a ride that was about 17 miles – across the south omaha bridge, along the trails in iowa for a bit, then back over to omaha on the pedestrian bridge, and home.

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once we got going, though, we were loving being on the iowa trails and started seeing signs for a few other destinations on the trail, so we decided to keep going. our first stop was big lake park in crescent, just a few miles north past the pedestrian bridge turnoff. the lake is small, but really pretty!

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on our way to big lake park, we started to see signs for the lewis & clark monument and park – we’d heard of it before, knew it existed, but wasn’t sure exactly where it was or how to get there. it was just a few more miles past big lake park, so we decided to trudge on and see if we could make it there. the next few miles getting there were beautiful and super scenic, but basically all uphill – our quads were definitely not prepared for that kind of climbing, but we eventually made it! the views were more than worth it – it was a super clear today and we could practically see the whole city from up there. definitely looking forward to riding (or maybe driving…) up there again sometime soon.

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we’d brought a few snacks along for the ride, but were working up quite an appetite at this point, so once we got back over the pedestrian bridge and into downtown, decided to stop at local for a beer and some brunch. we’d gone about 25 miles at this point, and figured that if we went back the long way (back over the bridge and along the trails in iowa), we might be able to get close to 40 miles for the day.

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we did it, but those last few miles up L street were kind of a strugglefest. all in all, it was a great three-day weekend…and i’m already dreaming of cooler weather so we can camp in the backyard and go for long bike rides again!

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sunday funday in the loess hills

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we’ve had so many fun adventures lately, and i’m so behind on blogging! a few weeks ago we bought our first ever brand new car, a 2016 subaru forester, who we have named susie. the next day, we were itching to take susie on her first adventure somewhere, so we decided to head out to hitchcock nature center, because being outdoorsy is just what you do once you own a subaru. it’s a non-negotiable.

hitchcock is awesome because it’s only about a 20 minute drive from omaha but feels like a whole other world. it’s full of great trails that range from easy to difficult (just steep, not technical). we set out to hike for about 2 hours and ended up going around 7 miles (we mixed in a few minutes of trial running), stopping for lots of pictures, water (in our new camelbaks!), and snacks, obvs.

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iowa is so green and gorgeous in the springtime.

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we had tentatively planned on visiting a nearby winery after our hike, but decided we probably needed some lunch beforehand. we drove a few miles back into town (crescent, IA) and found a great diner called Henry’s, where we enjoyed some delicious breakfast food.

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after our stop at Henry’s we headed just a few doors down to loess hills winery. nebraska/iowa wines are typically nothing to write home about, but we like trying new places and supporting local businesses, so we gave it a go. we tasted a few different wines and landed on a “dry” red called the sbr, which we got a bottle of to enjoy outside. we grabbed a blanket out of our car and spent the afternoon laying on the winery lawn!

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all around, a lovely day in the loess hills area and a great first adventure with susie the subaru! if you’re looking for a quick getaway from omaha sometime, we highly recommend hitchcok nature center, henry’s diner, and the loess hills winery!

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