Tag Archives: marathon training

USATF Cross Country Specialist Course

I am officially a USA Track and Field Cross Country Specialist!  Even though I don’t coach a cross country team, I found the course incredibly valuable and it was a honor to learn from Dr. Joe Vigil, who coaches two of my favorite runners, Brenda Martinez and Deena Kastor.

The course was spread out over two days, a Friday afternoon-evening session and Saturday morning-afternoon sessions.  There were 129 other coaches there with me, all of whom were equally as excited.  We covered cross countryeverything from team dynamics to hill workouts as well as lab sessions on the track and a short but tough cross country course on the Villanova campus.  Coaches Vigil and Scott Christensen were amazing.  Their combined knowledge was mind boggling and there was certainly no shortage of stories after so many championships, Olympics and runners.

During dinner the first evening I spent time with my phone plugged into one of the classroom’s few outlets.  It also provided me a little bit of bonus time with Coach Vigil.  I was honored by his feedback and surprised to hear him say how much he loved the marathon.  While I’m not sure I share the same sentiment as a runner, I definitely agreed with him as a coach.  To really be successful at the marathon, you must change your life.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you give everything you’ve got to training.cross country

I can’t wait to employ some of the training and coaching techniques I learned.  As many of my runners prepare for fall marathons we’ll definitely have some cross country inspired fun.  If you coach, just want to become a better runner or learn from the best, I highly recommend taking this class.  I am definitely a better coach because of it.

Coach Meredith

Have you ever run cross country?  What do you like most about it?

Big Wish 5k Win + Marathon Week

It’s Marathon Week!  I’m ready to run and have had some solid workouts through my two week taper, including a great Big Wish 5k.  Currently the One City weather is looking less than ideal with temperatures in the high 30s, 20 mph winds and an 80% chance of 1-3 inches of snow.  Ugh.  I’m really hoping that changes as the forecast so often does around Hampton Roads and I’ll stay dry.  If not, oh well, there’s nothing I can do anyway.

My training is behind me.  It went extremely well and I feel 100% ready for race day after two weeks of taper.  I wrapped Taper Week 2 with a easy eight mile long run Friday then stepped the intensity up with the Big Wish 5k Saturday morning.  It was a brisk and breezy but sunnyBig Wish 5k morning.  My plan was to to keep my legs firing without taking too much off the table for this weekend’s marathon.  During my two mile warm-up I felt really good.  We went off right on time as I focused on not getting swept up with the fast starters.

I expected to run comfortably around half marathon pace (7:15/mile) but settled in faster.  The first mile ran by in 6:58.  Slow down, I told myself.  My legs and lungs both felt great as I made the u-turn at halfway.  Mile 2 registered as a 6:56.  Since I was feeling so good and picked it up a hair for Mile 3 in 6:45.  I crossed the finish line in 21:19 as first female.

I was bummed I hadn’t looked at the time on my watch after my warm up.  If I had, I would have known coming through those last few hundred meters I was only 5 seconds away from a new 5k PR.  A faster 5k is definitely in my near future and I look forward to seeing what I can do.

The rest of Marathon Week includes yesterday’s 12 x 400M, another short workout Wednesday and a 20 minute shake out Saturday.


What does your Marathon Week look like?

Last Long Run, Race + Ready

My last long run before next week’s One City Marathon is in the can.  It was 8 miles of fun with 10k at marathon pace.  It felt short for a long run but refreshing at the same time.  I like to do my last one eight to ten days out from race day and opted for this morning for a few reasons.  One was that I didn’t want to push it to Sunday.  The second was that I didn’t want to tack it on to another workout. 

The third is that In my infinite wisdom I also opted run a 5k this weekend.  I’ll be ‘racing’ the Big Wish 5k Saturday morning with no goal other than something to keep the intensity up heading into marathon week.  It definitely won’t be a PR but that’s fine with me.  I’ve saving it for next weekend.  Plus, with all this tapering, it’ll be nice to get out there with some other runners for a little laughter.

I do have a a little worry sneaking in that with three pure rest days and one shake out day I might go a stir crazy next week.  Recently I’ve used my Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook to fill some last long runof my non-running hours with great success.  These Superhero Muffins are delicious!  I guess my next move is to put some extra reading time and maybe a nap or two on the schedule.

So other than worrying about going taper bonkers, I’m feeling ready.  My legs are itching for a longer workout and my brain is ready for some discomfort.  This has been a successful training cycle no matter what and I can’t complain.  I learned a lot, pushed myself to more miles than ever before and stayed injury free.  All I can ask for now is some really nice weather on race day.


How long is your last long run before a marathon or half?  Does it ever change?

Fit Friday: Taper Madness

I thought I might be able to avoid it but I was wrong.  I’m barely a week into my One City Marathon taper and the lack of miles has done it.  Taper madness is here.  With 15 days to go, I feel ready to race though I know more time to let my body rest will only be a benefit.  Here are a few of my go-to taper madness ‘Do’s and Don’ts’.taper madness

Start reading.
  Take all those non-running hours and grab a book.  Or a tablet or an e-reader.  Even if you’re not actually running, you can get your fill of running excitement from any number of books.  One of my favorites is Eat & Run, home to a great story and some tasty recipes.

Meditate.  Practice relaxing.  That hour you’d be running is the perfect time to meditate and visualize yourself yourself crossing that finish line.  Get all the details from who’s standing near the finish line to what it reads on clock then remember if you’re not starting in Corral 1 to adjust it for your expected finish, not the gun time!  Visualization can be incredibly powerful and the more you see it happening, the more likely it is.

Plan.  Study the course map to create a game plan for hydration, find out what food is on the course and decide if you’ll be packing your own.  Figure out what your pacing strategy is.  Then come up with a few alternatives because we all know nothing ever goes just as we planned it.  Learn how you’ll get to the start and home from the finish area.  What’s the deal with gear check?  Read the race’s FAQ page to help you develop a bulletproof plan for success on marathon day.

Be a Weather Monster.  Yes, the weather is a big concern for a 26+ mile event when you’re out there for hours and hours.  No, you can’t do anything about it.  Checking it every hour for three weeks will just stress you out and that’s no good at all.  Get a ballpark idea of what the race location’s weather is typically like that time of year, use your plan and make an educated guess.  The truth is it’ll probably change anyway.taper madness

Change.  Whatever you’ve been doing for the last 13 weeks, keep doing it for the next three.  Your body is repairing, healing and getting ready.  If your taper madness boredom leads to happy hour, you’re wrecking those weeks of hard work with poor sleep and dehydrated muscles.  Stick with the diet, nutrition and sleep patterns that have successfully carried you through your training.

Get nervous.  Something always goes wrong but that’s OK.  You trained then you planned and you’re going to show up.  There’s only so much you can control so don’t worry about anything else.  Bad weather, misplaced water stations and potholes all happen but with a solid plan you’ll be just fine.  Trust your training and yourself.


What are your favorite ways to tackle taper madness?

Taper Time + A Strong Finish

It’s here!  Taper time!  My final long long run is in the books and marathon day is less than three weeks away.  I’ll be sharing my race plan for the One City Marathon later but for right now I’m looking forward to a little time to heal up.

Don’t take that the wrong way, I’m far from injured.  It’s just the usual aches or hints of stiffness that sneak in after weeks of heavy mileages.  My left foot is a little grumpy for my first few steps every time I get up and some extra ab work has probably pushed them a little far.  Taper time is exactly what I need both physically and mentally.  I’m definitely ready to tackle 26.2 but need these three weeks to let my body get in the best position it can to help me succeed.taper time

I had a strong finish to my heavy training and will work to keep it going right through the finish line.  This week’s last long long run was 21 miles.  My goal was to run 8 easy miles, 10 at marathon pace and 3 more easy.  It didn’t go quite as planned.  It went better!  The easy 8 went off without a hitch and when I went to pick it up 15 seconds a mile, I couldn’t.  Instead of settling in at my goal marathon pace, 7:55, I found 7:45.  I was very comfortable there despite telling myself to slow down every ten seconds.

When one of my half mile splits around Mile 16 was 7:36 I thought I was done for.  I felt good but was waiting for things to turn south.  They never did!  I cruised through those 10 miles at a hair too fast a pace but had a strong finish and felt great.  Maybe my marathon pace isn’t 7:55 after all.  I’ve struggled to find it throughout training, instead finding a slightly faster or little bit slower pace more comfortable.

No matter what, it’s taper time and I have three weeks to nail down my pacing plan.  I can’t wait for race day to see what I can do.


What do you do at taper time?  What if you’re running ‘too fast’ but feel good?

Fit Friday: Love Your Treadmill

I’m not sure why so many runners dread the treadmill.  More affectionately known as the dreadmill, this is one piece of equipment I can 100% get behind.  While it does have its downfalls, the treadmill is a great friend to a runner and I wish it didn’t get such a bad rap.  Even though I stare at a wall when I’m on mine, here are treadmillfour great reasons to give running in place a little more love.

It’s always there.  No matter what’s going on outside the treadmill is ready.  Whether you’re facing 30 mile an hour winds and sub freezing temps like I avoided this week or 100 degree days with 90% humidity, it’s ready to go.  Feeling less than motivated?  Walking across the room is much easier than dressing up to go outside.  In a rush?  Not waiting for satellites definitely saves time.

Steady does it.  Set the pace and go.  It won’t change unless you tell it to.  Unlike running outside where crossing streets or catching sight of a pretty bird can distract and slow us down, the treadmill keeps us clicking along.  It’s easy to come off pace when we leave it to ourselves.  Not the case on the old ‘mill.  Use this training tool to practice pacing and have more success on race day.

Variety.  The treadmill can handle just about anything you throw at it.  From a long run to speed work, the only limit is your imagination.  It’s especially useful for those of us who live in the flatlands and want to hit some hills.

Rock out.  There are lots of safety issues outside.  From traffic and cyclists to dogs and potholes, the great outdoors can get dodgy quick.  Running with music is iffy at best and depends heavily on your location.  At home?  Turn that jam up.  You won’t have to worry about anything crashing into you, getting bitten or tripping on a root.


What kind of relationship do you have with the treadmill?

Polar Plunge 4 Miler + Last Big Week

Saturday I ran the Polar Plunge 4 Miler.  It’s part of the Virginia Beach Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics and always a good time.  The morning features 4 mile and 1 mile races with an option to jump in an above ground pool afterwards while the afternoon is 100% plunge time.  Thousands of people dress up, party hard and dive head first into the chilly ocean.  I am not one of them.  The dryer and warmer the better for me.

I woke up and was really motivated to run.  Even though it was a scheduled day off, my legs felt good and I was ready for some nice easy miles.  Since the start was only 1.5 miles from, I suited up for the (feels like) 19 degree morning with 16 mile an hour winds and jogged down to packet pick-up.  The wind was strong out of the north and I knew I’d be running those last two Polar Plunge miles right into it.polar plunge 4 miler

After stretching out a bit, I made for the start.  The sturdy tailwind made for a quicker than intended first mile.  Mile 2 was also a bit faster than desired but I knew the headwind wouldn’t help on the way back.  I hit the halfway mark in 14:52.

The monstrous headwind slowed me down as expected after the out-and-back course’s turnaround.  Miles 3 and 4 were inconsistent with the gutsy wind but I kept my feet moving.  I crossed the finish line at 31:44.  My pace had averaged right where I wanted though my splits weren’t even close.  I finished second female over all, receiving a race medal and Polar Plunge Beachwear hat as my award.  It was a fun race at a new and different distance.  My morning wrapped up with a cool down jog home.

Now I’m in my last big week of marathon training.  There are five weeks to go before I toe the One City line and I’m looking forward to it.  A full load this week lightens up next then leads right into taper time (eek!).  I’m running more miles each week than ever before and am slightly concerned about going taper crazy.  Hopefully between now and then I’ll figure out something to do with all that extra time!


Have you ever done a Polar Plunge?  How do you prep for taper?

Yasso 800s + Super Long Run

There are less than 50 days until my spring marathon and this week was a tough one.  I kicked it off with a full round of Yasso 800s Monday and threw my long run in two days early for the sake of better weather on Thursday.  Both workouts were tough but surprisingly fun.

Yasso 800s are a famous workout that can be varied all training cycle long.  This was my peak week with a full dose of 10 repeats and they went well.  Used as a reasonably close predictor of marathon finishing times, each repeat features 800M of work and an easy jog of the same duration for recovery.  Since the prediction tends to be about 5 minutes off of actual finish times, I was aiming for each 800 to be at a 6:50 pace.  This would theoretically get me across the line in 3:25 and an adjusted 3:30, my goal time.yasso 800s

I had a great time getting back into action after a down week with this one.  My goal was to run each repeat in 3:25, 6:50 pace, on fresher than usual legs to simulate somewhat of a taper.  It worked!  I was contending with some headwind and benefiting from a tailwind at different points but my repeats were 3:22, 22, 18, 23, 18, 18, 17, 22, 16, 16.  The session left me feeling really excited for race day.

The week rolled on with some 400M repeats Wednesday and my longest training run of the cycle on Thursday.  It was a test with lots of marathon pace miles early then a few faster ones at the end.  I started this 5-4-3-2-1 run with a one mile warm up then 5 miles at marathon pace.  The next two segments, 4 miles and 3 miles, were each separated by an easy mile.  The two mile section was at half marathon pace.  After a painful easy mile 18, I rocked Mile 19 at 10k pace, finishing with a nice easy cool down.  It was definitely a challenging but enjoyable workout.


What are your favorite marathon training workouts?  Do you like Yasso 800s?

Midweek Move + 6 Weeks to Go!

Starting tomorrow I’m launching a brand new feature on East Coast Run Project‘s social media pages.  Called the Midweek Move it will be posted Wednesday mornings and feature a drill, running specific strength move, stretch or nutrition tip designed to help you become a better midweek moverunner.  You can check out the video and give our Facebook page a ‘like’ right here.  If you prefer Instagram or Twitter, it’ll be going out there, too.  The first clip demonstrates one of my favorite mobility exercises, couch stretch.  It’s a must do for anyone with tight hip flexors and a good choice for everyone else.

While I’m planning future posts and working on my video skills, I’m also less than 50 days from the One City Marathon.  My training is still going really well and I’m back in action with 60 miles this week.  I feel good, my legs are strong and fresh.  I’m mentally right where I need to be and it’s a huge improvement over where I was last year. 

The biggest (only!) concern I currently have for race day is what shoes to race in.  I really like both my Saucony Pro-Ride 9s and my Nike Lunar Fly Knits right now.  I’ve had a good 20 miler in the Sauconys but a great 18 miler in the Nikes and it’s a hard choice.  The Saucony pair has more cushioning but they are also heavier than the Nike shoes with a higher drop (8mm vs 4mm).  The drop isn’t too important since I’m training heavily in 4mm shows so I’m leaning toward the lighter, softer Nikes.  I don’t want the chance to blame a less than perfect race on heavy shoes!


What would you like to see in a Midweek Move clip?  How do you pick race day shoes?

30 Day Yoga Challenge + Down Week

I started a 30 Day Yoga Challenge a few days after 2017 began.  Part of my Unbeatable Mind training, the challenge comes complete with daily instructional videos and support videos.  For several months now I’ve been doing short morning and longer evening yoga practices apart from this challenge.  So why add more?  It’s nice to take a step back.

I’m currently on Day 11 and have done a good job of keeping up with each day’s lesson.  Most of the concepts that have been covered so far are familiar but it’s a nice refresher.  Another yoga challengedifference between the yoga challenge material and my regular practice is timing.  I put the challenge on my daily to-do list rather than the bookmark I use my morning and evening routines for.  Taking a few minutes in the middle of the day to focus and relax has been great, I’ve even noticed a difference in my energy level the last few afternoons.

I’ve even had help from Jordy watching videos.  He preferred to rest in laying dog position instead of down dog pose.

The additional time spent doing yoga exercises each day has come in handy so far this week because it’s a down week.  After four straight weeks of heavy for me mileage (55, 55, 60, 61), this week’s 25-28 leave me lots of free time.  It’s only Tuesday but I’m not facing the taste of taper madness I thought I would.  It helps that with 47 days until marathon day I’m feeling really good about my training.  Every workout last week was very solid.  My body feels strong and fresh.  I’m eating, sleeping and training well.  Overall I’m positive about where I am heading into the final training stretch.  Bring on race day!


Have you ever done a yoga challenge?  What do you do during a down week?