Vancouver Marathon Training: Week 10

Officially made it to taper! Except, my taper really started this past week instead. After reading last week’s post, my coach emailed me and asked if I was ready to go ahead and cut back early. I answered with a resounding, “YES” and the rest is history. I’ve talked to him, my PT, my mom’s trainer, and my doctor, and the general consensus is that while I feel normal on a day to day basis, the long term effects of the sepsis are still taking a toll on my performance. Heaviness in my legs and general fatigue on almost every run has been pretty frustrating.

All that said, I really hope I can still run the marathon. I struggled through 12 miles last Saturday and wanted to quit after just 4. My body seems to not want it. And yes, I’m sure I can get through 26.2, but I don’t want to just get through it. I want to race. I run races to race. Just finishing or struggling through for the sake of saying I finished isn’t why I run. I run because I like to compete and because I enjoy competing. I run to push myself and to improve myself and to feel strong, not to feel weak. I’ve considered several options–not running the race, dropping down to the half, and trying to run it, but dropping out if my body can’t handle it. At this point, I’m planning on trying to run it and giving it my all, even if my all right now isn’t representative of my full potential.

Since I cut back early, week 10 looked like this:

Monday: 4 miles easy @8:49 — felt very “meh” on this run
Tuesday: REST
Wednesday: 6 miles with last 5K @7:41-7:43-7:33 — coach said to pick up the last 5K if I felt ok, and I did, so I went for it. I didn’t want to push too hard, but the quicker pace felt comfortable, and that’s what I was hoping for.
Thursday: 4 miles easy (no watch) — felt good
Friday: REST
Saturday: 12 miles @9:06 pace — this was another tough run. As soon as I started, my legs were heavy, and after 4 miles, I wanted to quit. What’s odd is that the conditions were near perfect–none of the cold or crazy headwind I’ve been dealing with on a lot of my long runs–but I still struggled, probably more than I have any other time. Granted, it was a very hilly trail that I ran, and I know that slowed me down, but even so, I shouldn’t feel that sluggish, especially not after 10 weeks of training. I know that my white and red blood cell counts are lower than normal, so I think I’m just not getting as much oxygen to my muscles as I usually do. Still! UGH.
Sunday: REST
Week 11 total: 26 miles

I think cutting down early was definitely the right call. Now I just have to get my body to cooperate on race day.

Vancouver Marathon Training: Weeks 8 & 9

I always try to stay positive about my training. Well, I kind of try to stay positive about most things in life, but especially running. After all, I like running. I choose to run. I want to run marathons. I think.

I’ve struggled much more during this training cycle than any other before. Usually, I can at least see progress, but I feel like I take one step forward and two steps back. So maybe it’s a fluke, and maybe it’s because I had a sort of serious illness, and maybe it’s that I’m just off for no particular reason at all. Yes, it’s bothering me that I can’t figure it out, but I’ve already spent almost 10 weeks training, so I have to trust that it will get me through 26.2 on May 3.

I had a pretty awful long run last weekend–20 miles that I could barely finish, even at a reasonably easy pace. If I had been near my car around mile 15, I definitely would have quit, which is not like me at all. When I did finish, my body hurt much more than it ever has after I’ve run a full 26.2, and even after my ice bath and much quality time with the foam roller, I was still in a lot of pain. I felt a little better yesterday, but was still achy for today’s 4 miles. At least it was a gorgeous day–as was Saturday when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom on the mall.



I’ve made a deal with myself that I will run this race for fun and try to enjoy it. I know from the way my body’s behaving that this probably won’t be a PR race for me–and if it is, I will be very pleasantly surprised. Either way, I’m going to look forward to seeing my family there and know that we’ll have fun and enjoy Vancouver regardless of whether I run a 3:30 or a 4:30 or a 5:30. So there.

I’ve also made a deal with myself that I’m going to get through a couple tough workouts this week and then do some hardcore resting during my taper. I’m also in the phase of my training where I up my protein, reduce sugar, and drink water like it’s my job. What that all means is shooting for 80-100g of protein/day, limiting sweets to the weekend (and only if I want them–once I cut them out, I’m much less interested), and 4 liters of water/day, which actually isn’t hard for me to do at all.

As for training the last 2 weeks, here’s the rundown:

Week 8
Monday 6 miles easy (@8:28)
Tuesday 5 miles easy (@8:52)
Wednesday 8 mile tempo run–6 miles at tempo (7:24–7:19–7:19–7:19–7:16–7:13) Felt really great during this run. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes.
Thursday HIIT workout ~40 minutes
Friday REST
Saturday 18 miles @8:19 overall pace–was supposed to do 2 sets of 4 miles at tempo pace of @7:34-7:37. It was crazy windy (30 mph, yo), and I struggled through this one. Nothing to be done about bad conditions, but still did nothing for my confidence.
Sunday REST
Week 8 total: 37 miles

Week 9
Monday 6 miles easy (@8:26)
Tuesday HIIT workout ~40 minutes (mostly core and upper body)
Wednesday 8 miles total — I was supposed to do a workout similar to last week’s, but with 6 miles @7:13-7:19, which should have been no problem since I basically did that the week before. Nope. nopenopenopenopenope. My legs felt heavy and the whole run was a struggle. Barely made it through one mile @7:19, then dropped down to half mile repeats. I did 6 @7:19 with half mile jogs in between each one, and I really had to make myself do it. My lungs were burning, and I had chest pain pretty much the whole time. I’m sure my cardiologist would not approve.
Thursday 6 miles easy recovery run (@8:27)
Friday REST
Saturday 20 miles (@8:32) as mentioned above. The worst.
Sunday REST
Week 9 total: 40 miles

Given that I just let out the heaviest sigh known to man, I’d say that’s a pretty good indication of how I’m feeling now. Tomorrow is a rest OR cross training day on my training schedule, and I’m going to rest. I just feel done, you know? Hopefully, that’ll get me primed for a tough workout on Wednesday, and I can rebuild some of my confidence with a successful workout. Here’s hoping!

From Blister to Sepsis

Last fall when I ran the Chicago Marathon, I got a blister on my little toe. The poor guy was pretty mangled and bloody by the time I finished the race, and I got it cleaned up in the medical tent and went on my way. While it hadn’t bothered me during the race, it was enormously painful after. I kept a blister block bandage on it to cushion it a bit, but by the Thursday following the race, it was so painful that it kept me awake at night. Since I had to work that Friday, I figured I’d go to the doctor Saturday morning and get it checked out. I thought it was a simple infection and some antibiotics would clear it right up.

As I was sitting in the doctor’s office that Saturday morning waiting for them to write my prescription, I got very nauseous and cold. I figured I just needed to get home and lie down, so I took my prescription and went on my way. The 5 mile drive home was excruciating. Every time I pressed the clutch with my left foot (where the infected toe was), I cried out in pain. I’m usually pretty tolerant to pain, but this was intolerable. I was also shaking all over–not trembling, but a more jarring shaking–and shivering with cold. I also had shooting pain running through my whole body. Similar to serious muscle soreness–that lactic acid buildup kind of soreness–the pain was everywhere. I somehow made it home and stumbled inside to the couch where I immediately covered myself with a blanket and continued to shake and shiver. I remember that I was freezing and in so much pain that I was moaning aloud (and not for dramatic effect for, well, no one, since I was alone). I called my mom and told her something was wrong. I’m not even sure what I said, but without asking any questions, she told me to hang up and dial 911. She later told me that I was barely coherent.

The firetruck arrived first, where a whole lot of firemen took my vitals until the ambulance arrived. My temperature was 96–almost 3 full degrees lower than usual–and my blood pressure was very low. The ride to the hospital felt endless, and even though the EMT was nice and trying to keep me talking, I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. At one point, I remember hearing the driver talking to the ER and saying we’d be there in 7 minutes. It sounded like a very long time to wait.

In the ER, I was immediately tested for sepsis, and the tests were positive. My lactic acid levels were more than 3 times the normal rate, my body temperature remained low, and I was in excruciating pain. I was given morphine, but after an hour, the pain returned and they gave me a stronger med to help take the edge off. While the pain throughout my body was horrible, my toe was the worst. It felt like it was going to ignite, and at that point, I would have happily had them cut it off just to take away the pain. It was intense and scary.

Several hours later, as they were getting ready to discharge me and send me home, I finally got up to go to the bathroom. It was only 10 feet away, but I was dizzy and incredibly nauseous just from the short walk. When I told the doctor, he threw away my discharge papers and told me I would be admitted–probably just for a night or two–to be monitored. My blood pressure was too low for them to take me to a room right away, so they kept giving me IV fluids until it came up enough to be considered stable.

I wound up staying in the oncology unit (because there’s no infectious diseases unit . . . ) for the next 5 nights. I was given a high volume of IV fluids to keep my blood pressure up and wound up getting fluid in my lungs from all the excess which resulted in pneumonia. I also had a lot of antibiotics and dilaudid (a narcotic) for my pain. It made me extremely itchy and between that and the infection in my blood, I developed an uncomfortable rash all over my abdomen and back. I was also in a really awesome <sarcasm> bed to prevent bedsores that moved on its own every 55 seconds. Every 55 seconds for 5 whole days. Not conducive to resting at all.

That’s the reader’s digest version so if it’s TL;DR for you, no worries. I’m sure the 4 of you who are interested enough in reading this blog will deal ;) But I needed to recount this to remind myself that I was really sick. The mortality rate for septic shock is 40-60%. There was a serious chance I was going to lose my toe. I had to have a cannula because I couldn’t get enough oxygen on my own, and when I went to a cardiologist for my follow up appointment, he was shocked that I hadn’t been in intensive care. I tend to diminish things, but looking back on this objectively, I can see that it was very serious, and I need to recognize that training hard for another marathon just 3 months later might not have been in my best interest.

Can I run a marathon now? I’m sure I can. Will it be a PR and a representation of me at my strongest and best? Maybe not. Once you’ve had sepsis, your chances for death, even in the years that follow your recovery, are higher because of the toll it takes on your immune system. So for me to think that I’d be back at 100% within 3 months was probably a bit ambitious. But now I know, and I’ll try to go a little easier on myself. I’m still going to continue training (which went fine last week) and try my hardest, but I’m also going to be realistic and honest with myself about what my body can do. It’s just a race, and being healthy is more important than any race ever will be.

Vancouver Marathon Training: Week 7

I want to want this race. I want to be excited about it. But I’m just not. I don’t know if it’s the fact that this has been the longest winter ever or that I felt like I was overtraining or what. It’s been a frustrating training cycle, to say the least.

I think the thing that stands out to me the most is that I feel tired and weak more often than not. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have good runs here and there when I feel really strong and push myself. But those have be the exception rather than the rule. I’m not especially motivated, even for my easy runs, and the workouts I enjoy most are cross training. Not the best.

Apple fritters in the car after a long run console me.

Apple fritters in the car after a long run console me.

I’m afraid I might have a bit of a mental block as well. I read plenty of running blogs and threads, and I know that really successful (read: FAST) marathoners run a lot more miles than I do. Their weekly mileage tops out anywhere from 55-70+ miles, and mine is nowhere near that. So while I began this training cycle with big goals for myself, the realization that my body isn’t cut out for that kind of training has me doubting myself, big time. And really, I know I should be happy with a sub 3:30 marathon and that everything beyond this should be gravy, but it’s not. I want to be better. I want to run faster. I think I can run faster, too. Can I do it with a much lower weekly mileage than most? Guess we’ll find out May 3.

Week 7

What I was supposed to do: 5 miles, easy @8:35-9:00
What actually happened: 5 miles @8:26
Legs felt heavy for the first part of this, but after I warmed up, I felt ok.

What I was supposed to do:
XT or rest
What actually happened: 4 miles @8:32; physical therapy appointment
This will come as a shock to no one, but I decided to run this day because I either had time to work out or walk the dog, and I am a slave to her. It was breezy and mild, and I think we both enjoyed getting out for a few miles.

I will own you and you will like it.

I will own you and you will like it.

What I was supposed to do: 
7 miles total with 1/2 mile repeats–6 x 1/2 mile @ 6:40 – 6:43 per mile pace. 2-3 min jog in between
What actually happened: 7 miles total–1 mile warm up–7 x 800 m repeats with 400 m rest for each; 1 mile cool down
Yep, threw in an extra one for good measure. This was my good, strong workout for the week. I loved it so much that I ran faster than I needed to AND added an extra interval. If only they could all be this good! 

What I was supposed to do: 
4 miles EASY
What actually happened: 48 minutes HIIT training
I’ve been missing my strength workouts, and since I didn’t need fresh legs for Friday, this seemed like a good time to squeeze in some muscle work. Just what the doctor ordered.

What I was supposed to do: 
rest or XT
What actually happened: REST
4 hours in the car and a long day of meetings. Rest, indeed.

What I was supposed to do: 
20 miles @8:25-8:45
What actually happened: 20 miles @8:31 average pace
The worst. Yet again. It was 17* with the windchill on Saturday morning, and even though I was bundled up, my hands were swollen, numb, and painful by the time I stopped at my car for Gu after 9.5 miles. I spent 10 very painful minutes waiting for the feeling to return to my hands. Damn Raynaud’s! Since I like having 10 fingers, I drove home, changed and went to the gym to finish on the treadmill. It was the worst. If I never run on a treadmill again, it will be too soon. My body felt fine, but I would’ve been much happier if I were able to do the whole run outside.

I refuse to get up! You cant make me!

I won’t get up! You can’t make me!

What I was supposed to do: 
rest or XT
What actually happened: 45ish minutes of HIIT training
The world is a cruel, cruel place, so I woke up at 6 am on Sunday even though I had absolutely nowhere to be. Since Roo wasn’t about to get out of bed, and Trader Joe’s doesn’t open until 8, I killed time with a workout. My legs felt surprisingly fine after 20 miles the day before, and I finished with a fair amount of core work that I sort of loved.

Total for the week: 36 miles
vancouver marathon week 7

Vancouver Marathon Training: Week 6

Redemption! Kinda. This week was better than last week, for sure. I tell you what, though–having an off week really messes with your head. I know I’ve overtrained in the past, so I knew the signs, but it’s hard to get back to a place of confidence and strength in your running after you get to that place where you’re just completely burnt out. BUT, my speed workout and my long run went well, so I think I’m back on track.

My coach also adjusted my training plan, so I’m running 4 days/week instead of 5, which I think works better for me. I’ll still cross train one day, and then probably take 2 rest days. That’s what’s worked well for me in the past. I envy runners who can run 50+ mile weeks and take fewer days off, but I’m not one of them. Which is fine.

The other thing I know I need to work on is all the maintenance work–things like stretching, foam rolling, core work, and hip/glute exercises. I am HORRIBLE at keeping up with them. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the couch watching TV, and I think about doing them. But Roo is so snuggly, and foam rolling is painful so I stay on the couch. So much lazy.

Don't blame me, lady!

Don’t blame me, lady!

Week 6

What I was supposed to do: 4 miles easy
What actually happened: REST
I wasn’t ready to run yet. Still felt completely exhausted, so I listened to the ol’ body and rested.

What I was supposed to do: 
rest or XT
What actually happened: 4 miles easy @8:52 pace
Eased back in with some very relaxed miles. This felt ok, but I definitely didn’t want to run any faster.

What I was supposed to do: 
8 mile progression run–start easy and work up to last 5K @7:02-7:08 pace
What actually happened:
 8 mile progression run– 8:31, 8:17, 8:04, 7:50, 7:41, 7:24, 7:08, 7:08
This felt really good. The rest served me well, and my legs were ready to go for this run. The last 5K was definitely challenging, and I had to really push myself both mentally and physically, but I was able to get those last 2 miles at pace so I felt good about that. I really needed a boost, and this run did it.

What I was supposed to do: 
4 miles easy
What actually happened: 4 miles @9:15 pace
My right foot was bugging me a bit on this run, and there was no way I could’ve gone any quicker than this. Luckily, the foot pain didn’t linger, but I have been babying it a bit, just in case!

What I was supposed to do: 
rest or XT
What actually happened: REST
Had some quality time on the foam roller and lacrosse ball. Let me tell you, a lacrosse ball in a tight, knotted TFL is no joke. I’d rather be dry needled any day, but I had a conference for work, and I had to miss PT. Can’t wait to get needled next time!

What I was supposed to do: 17 miles–first 13 easy, last 4 @7:21-7:25
What actually happened: 17 miles–first 12 easy, 1 ramping up to fast finish (@7:49), last 4: 7:16, 7:18, 7:19, 7:23. My knees were a little sore during this run. I took a freezing 20 minute bath with 24 lbs. of ice while watching the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, and that seemed to help.
The fast miles on this run were challenging, and I had to do a fair amount of zig-zagging and people dodging since I was in downtown DC. Even early on Saturday morning, people need to see the monuments! I also tried to avoid stopping by turning whichever way the crosswalks were green, so I was a little bit all over the place. The last mile I was pretty dead, but after 17 miles, I’m ok with that.

What I was supposed to do: 
rest or XT
What actually happened: REST

Vancouver Marathon Training: Week 5

There’s no getting around it: this week in training was bad. So bad, in fact, that I considered forgoing the race altogether. Not seriously considered, mind you, but it did cross my mind.

Here’s how it went down: I did my Monday run, nice and easy. Tuesday, I had a little cross training time. Wednesday, I woke up feeling so sick to my stomach that I wound up calling in sick. I never call in sick. Ever. Even after I was in the hospital last fall for a week, my boss had to tell me to take more time off to recover.

I slept most of the morning and felt better in the afternoon, so I decided to go ahead and do my speed work, which involved an 8 mile run with 5 miles at (really fast for me) tempo paces of 7:21-7:25 alternating with @6:51-6:55. That didn’t work out well at all. I know I was probably still fighting off the stomach bug, but it was one of the worst runs I’ve had in a long time. Even with the speed workout the week before, I was able to fight through, and I felt stronger for it. Not so this time around. And while there were plenty of reasons (ahem, excuses) that the run didn’t go well, it’s discouraging to have those runs go poorly week after week.

By Thursday, I was ready for a rest day, so I did my 4 recovery miles at a very easy pace, and told myself after a rest day on Friday, I’d be ready for an 18 mile long run on Saturday.

Saturday morning came, and it was cold, windy, and pouring down rain. Still, I wanted to get the long run in, so I headed out, thinking I’d do a 5 mile out and back on a paved trail for the first part of the run, then finish up around the city for the last 8. It was so rainy that my Garmin couldn’t find the satellites at first, so it was a ton of fun to stand out in the pouring rain and try to get it to reset and work properly. Then, the first half mile of the trail was essentially a giant mud puddle. Then, the rain was absolutely pouring and the wind was blowing, and it was completely miserable. At 3 miles in, I wanted to quit. And for the next 7 miles, all I could think about was how much I hated what I was doing, didn’t want to continue, and didn’t care about pace or distance. I just wanted to go home. So I did. I quit even though I was supposed to run 8 miles more. Just like I never call in sick, I never cut a run short. But I did this time. I just didn’t want it. And the thing is, I didn’t even feel bad about it. While the feeling of failure was there, the relief at not having to continue was bigger.

I’ve talked to my coach about it, and he’s cut down my mileage a bit for this week. I hope it helps. I feel like I’m overtraining, and I don’t want that. I love running, and I want to be able to continue to love it and run for a long time, and I know I won’t be able to do that if I push my body further than it can handle. I’ve always done better with shorter training cycles and fewer miles.

I’m still exhausted today, but I think that’s as much because I haven’t been sleeping well as it is because of the overtraining. I’m going to give it a go this week and see how I do. But if it still feels like too much, I’m going to take a week off. Maybe Vancouver isn’t my next PR race, and I’m ok with that. I’d rather enjoy it than feel miserable and frustrated. Time to reset.

Vancouver Marathon Training: Week 4

I have to start by confessing that every single time I type the word “marathon,” I accidentally (?) type “marathong.” Every.single.time. This brain of mine. I tell ya.


I’ve been dialing up the intensity in week 4, and I’m having fun trying some challenging workouts and really dedicating myself to my training. This week went pretty well all around, but my speedwork day was flat out HARD. I’m really glad I have a coach because he was super helpful. I always want to know WHY and how to fix it, but sometimes, it’s just a bad workout. And really, if I look at it in perspective, just because I didn’t hit mile repeats at a sub-7 minute pace doesn’t mean I had a bad workout. Let’s get to it–

Get on with it, lady!

Get on with it, lady!

What was supposed to happen: 6 miles @8:37-8:59
What actually happened: 6 miles @8:40
Completely unremarkable recovery run on the treadmill.

What was supposed to happen: 
What actually happened: 45 minutes of arc trainering plus 15 minutes of ab work
I’ve come to really enjoy my XT days. It’s a nice break, and I don’t feel any of the pressure to run a certain pace or distance, which is nice. I usually get close to 3 miles in 45 minutes. Then, I did an ab workout that I pinned a million years ago. It was a good one!
Also, I ordered myself this hoodie from Lululemon on Tuesday, and I am very happy with my purchase.
lululemon hoodieYou might not be able to see, but the zipper is silver AND gold, and I really love the detail. Sometimes retail therapy is necessary and makes me very happy.

What was supposed to happen:
 Groove repeats–7 miles with 4 x 1 mile @6:51-6:55 with 3:00 jog recovery
What actually happened: 7 miles total; 2 x 1 mile @6:53 with 3:00 recovery jogs; 1 mile @7:03 with 3:30 recovery; 2 x 0.5 mile @7:03 with 4:00 recovery
So. I really had to fight through this one. Physically and mentally, I felt ready–ready to work and ready for a tough, focused run. But. As soon as I began the first mile repeat, it felt TOUGH. Too fast for me. Almost like a dead out sprint. I got through 2 repeats at the targeted pace, but my lungs were on fire. I didn’t want to slow my pace, but I wanted to get through the workout somehow, so I slowed a little. The third mile still felt hard, but I got through it. I knew, though, that there was no way I was going to be able to do a full 4th mile. I went into that last “repeat” knowing that I was going to split it up. It worked out, but I think it was just an off day.
After, I emailed my coach, and he said that it’s ok to slow the pace a little, but that I should’ve gone ahead and slowed up for the first couple of repeats and tried to finish a bit stronger, which makes sense to me. Since I did well with last week’s tempo run, I know I don’t need to worry about it. Honestly, I was kind of bummed during and afterward, but I’m over it now. Hopefully it makes me stronger for race day, which is what really counts!

Drinks on drinks on drinks

Drinks on drinks on drinks

What I was supposed to do: 5 miles recovery, no faster than 9:05
What actually happened: 5 miles recovery @9:03
Easy miles on the treadmill. My legs felt good, if not a little tight in the hip flexors. I think I may have also done some ab work, but I didn’t write it down, and Thursday just seems like such a long time ago, doesn’t it?

What I was supposed to do: REST
What actually happened: REST!! I also had PT on Friday and did a bunch of hip/glute strengthening work. Plus, I had my hip flexors and TFLs dry needled. Necessary. He also suggested that I do my strengthening exercises after my long runs to help train my glutes to fire when they’re tired. Since they don’t like to fire when they’re fresh, I thought this was a good idea and tried it on Saturday. Not exactly what I wanted to do after 15 miles, but I know it will make me stronger.

What I was supposed to do:
15 mile long run @8:25-8:30 pace with 2 x 3 miles in the middle @7:38
What actually happened: 15 mile long run @8:27ish pace with 2 x 3 miles @7:35 (for all 3 miles in the first set) and @7:38-@7:30-@7:30
This is (I hope) my last long run on the treadmill for this training cycle. I broke it up into 5 mile stretches so I could mentally tackle it a little easier. I did the first 3 mile repeats for miles 6-9 and felt good, but was more than ready for a gu at mile 9. I did one easy mile to recover, then finished the second 3 mile set feeling really strong–strong enough to push the pace.
Finished with post-run stretches, single leg star taps (3 sets of 5 on each leg), and 30 bounds on each leg.

What was supposed to happen: 
5 miles easy recovery no faster than 9:05
What actually happened: 5.44 miles easy recovery OUTSIDE! (finally) @8:21
I really did try to go slower, but Roo and I were both excited to get outside for a run after so many freezing, windy, snowy days. Even though we lost that hour of sleep, the weather today made up for it.

Mileage for the week: 38 miles

vancouver marathon week 4

All in all, a good week. Otherwise, I’ve been working on getting plenty of protein, hydration, and lots of maintenance work. I’m trying to stretch before and after every run, foam roll, lacrosse ball my hip flexors (YOWSA that hurts), and do all of my strengthening exercises regularly. Sometimes, I want to do it, but I sit on the couch instead. I’m admitting that so that I can report back next week that I’ve followed through and actually done more of this. We shall see ;)