Marathon Monday: Week 15

Wow, I literally cannot believe that I am already done with Week 15 of my training plan. I am now less than 3 weeks away from my marathon! 😮 If you haven’t been following along, check out previous week wrap-ups here: Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4,Week 5,Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10Week 11, Week 12, Week 13/14.

Monday was a cross training day, but I didn’t actively do any cross training. I did make a point to stretch while I was studying, so I guess that counts? I am not sure. 🙂 I guess I can count the fact that I biked to campus? Plus it gave me an interesting story, because I had a very strange thing occur. I went to Chipotle for lunch, and chained my bike up outside. When I got back out, I put my key in the lock, but it wouldn’t turn. 😐 I looked closely and saw that the lock had actually broken! I had to leave my bike there, take the bus home, and we went back later with a hack saw and cut the lock off. I was so nervous that the police were going to see us and think we were stealing a bike. haha!

Never had this happen before!

Tuesday had 5 miles on the schedule. I had an exam in the morning, so I didn’t sleep much on Monday night, and there was no chance I was running before the exam. I was so stressed out that I actually left our back door wide open when I went to campus.

Stressed-out Denise is not very responsible

After I got home, I was definitely ready for a run to get the energy out of my system. There is a nice trail system near our house that I love to run on. I haven’t been running on it too much during marathon training because 1) I feel very slow on trails, and 2) it’s only easy to get about 2 miles on these trails, so including the run to/from the trailhead, it’s not a particularly convenient route for more than 4 miles. However, I ignored the reasons for not running on the trails, and just did it anyway. I’m glad I did, because trail running is quite lovely. You’re surrounded by the trees, the ground is soft, I often see wildlife, there is a bog next to the trails–views are usually pretty great. My time was slower than normal for a 5 mile run (11:21 avg. pace), but I enjoyed it a lot, and that was a great feeling. 🙂

On Wednesday I had to run 8 miles. I hardly ever get up early enough to run longish runs before I go to campus, and this week was no exception. That leaves me running at night, trying to beat the sunset. 🙂 Also, I realized right as I was about to go for my run that I had a video call with my Ragnar team (I will post about this soon!) at 9 pm. I left around 7:40, and knew that it’d be hard for me to get 8 miles in and still make the call on time. Instead, I ran a 7 mile loop that I like near our house. I jumped on the call when I got home, then afterwards, grabbed Nova and ran a mile around the neighborhood. Maybe not the ideal way to get 8 miles in, but I got it done.

Thursday I was scheduled for 5 miles, but I wasn’t feeling it at all, so I decided I would instead do it Friday morning. I have been rather strict this training cycle about not moving runs around, but I figured this small change was ok.

Friday morning I woke up and ran my 5 miles. Nothing too exciting about this run to report. I ran a very standard 5 mile route and finished with a 10:37 pace. I did get a treat on Friday afternoon: one of the professors on my committee is from New York and is in love with Black and White cookies from William Greenberg’s on Madison Avenue. A few times a year, he actually orders them from Greenberg’s in New York and has them shipped here for us to enjoy. Friday was one of those lucky occasions. 🙂

Very yummy cookie!

Saturday had 5 pace miles on the schedule. Dustin suggested we run to Einstein’s for breakfast, and since we almost never run together, I happily agreed. That was 1.5 miles at 9:50 pace. I ate my bagel, and worked for about an hour, then went out for the rest of my miles. Again, I know it’s not ideal to split up runs, but that’s just what happened. 🙂 I ran the next 3.5 miles at 9:35 pace. One thing I’m really looking forward to after the marathon is running fast again. I know that running too fast elevates your heart rate a lot, and so isn’t ideal for increasing aerobic capacity…but it’s just so enjoyable! I love running hard, and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards can’t be beat. 🙂

Sunday was my last long run before the marathon. Another 20 miler! I think I mentioned in my last post that I was considering cutting this run a little short. I have read that many coaches believe that running for longer than 3 hours has more drawbacks than benefits; mostly they are concerned that the risk of injury goes up, and the extra benefit from running past 3 hours isn’t very dramatic. Being the type A person that I am though, I couldn’t ignore the fact that my training plan said 20 miles, so I should run 20 miles. I talked to several runners about it, and it seemed like I should just pay attention to my body during the run and decide at that point: if I felt fine, it can be mentally beneficial to have completed two 20 runs, but if I felt like my body wasn’t agreeing with the run, to just stop at 3 hours.

I went out around 6:40. I originally set my alarm for 5:30 and then proceeded to fall back asleep and dream that I was running. I thought I had finished 3 miles, and I was trying to look at my watch, when I realized, “Dang it, I’m definitely still sleeping.” haha. I then actually woke up around 6:15. I ate some oatmeal, drank some water, and off I went. I tried to keep the same mentality as last time, which was to focus on the mile I was in. The run went really great. I kept evaluating how I was feeling, and I felt completely fine. Around mile 17 I definitely started to feel tired, but I decided that I could finish the 20 miles without a problem. I even sped up towards the end because I was still feeling good.

Nova stared at me with her Frisbee while I stretched on the back porch

Overall, I had a 10:42 pace, which was quite a bit faster than the 10:59 pace of my last 20 miler. I kept my heart rate below 155 for the first 12 miles or so, and then below 160 until mile 15. After that, I didn’t worry about it too much, especially once I started speeding up, but ended with an average heart rate of 155 which I was happy with for my overall pace. I am glad I went ahead and did the whole 20 miles, because now I feel much more confident for the marathon. 🙂 Now my longest run until the marathon is 8 miles, what a breeze. 🙂 🙂

Question for all of you: How do you decide your pace for the marathon? Putting my half marathon time of 2:02:40 into running calculators suggests I could run a 4:15:25 (9:44 pace) marathon. This seems insane to me, considering all of my long runs have been between 10:30 and 11 minutes/mile. I know that you run faster in the race, but I’m very scared of going too fast at the beginning and running out of energy before I get to the end. I would be really happy with 10 minutes/mile, which would translate to a 4:22 marathon, but I am not sure how to know if I can actually accomplish that or not! Help!


6 thoughts on “Marathon Monday: Week 15

  1. Awwwww Nora 🙂 I hope you threw the Frisbee for her!

    I am really impressed with your ability to keep your heart rate in check during the long run. That's definitely something I am trying to work on!

    When I was working with a coach a couple of years ago she always had me structure my races as progression runs. That's how I achieved my current half marathon PR. I ran the first 4 miles of the race much slower than goal pace, the next 4 miles at about goal pace, the next 4 miles faster than goal pace and the final mile as fast as I could go.

    Maybe you could try a similar strategy for the marathon. Start the first 8 miles a little slower than goal pace, the next 8 miles at goal pace, the next 8 a little faster than goal pace and then go for it in the final couple of miles! That way you won't have to worry about burning out the first half.


  2. Personally, I would caution against using race prediction calculators to decide goal times/paces. The purpose of them is to give you an idea of what you *could* run with ALL else being equal – like, you trained just as hard for each one, your health is the same, the course conditions and weather are the same, etc. It's a ballpark figure – it could be too aggressive OR it could be too soft. I think a better idea is to go based on your training paces. Most people, by the end of a training cycle, have a pretty could general idea of what they can run. Since you feel so confident about a 4:22, I would aim for that. Start at that 10:00 pace and stick to it for the majority of the race. They say a marathon is a 20 mile training run with a 10K race at the end, and I think that's a good rule of thumb. Stick with your 10:00 pace until 20 miles and then, if you're feeling good, gradually start to accelerate.

    In the end, it's really hard to say “I'm going to run 10 miles at X pace, then 8 at Y pace, etc” because marathons are unpredictable, a lot can happen, and you have to be willing to adjust as you go. That's why, for me personally, it makes more sense to stick with one pace for the majority of the race then try to hit different paces on a random schedule when I have no idea how I'll be feeling or what the course will send my way.

    Have you thought about running with a pace group? If they have a 10:00 pace group sticking with them might help keep your energy in check in the beginning and stay at a consistent pace.

    It's always tricky, but I have no doubt on race day your body will come through for you and you'll crush it.


  3. Congrats on finishing 20 miles! That is a great accomplishment and I'm sure it made you feel pretty confident for race day. I'm a big fan of listening to your body, and I think that helped me avoid injury and fatigue when I was training for my tri. I'm excited for you that your race is quickly approaching!


  4. ha I am not sure why I wrote 'Nora', her name is Nova! 🙂 But we definitely did spend some time throwing the Frisbee–she is too cute for me to ignore her haha. I think starting at a conservative pace and speeding up is probably the best route; I typically have a hard time slowing down at the beginning of races though, so I'm not sure if I can actually do it. 🙂 I might go with Hanna's suggestion and try to find a pace group to run with. I almost never run with other people, so it might be a nice boost for me!


  5. Ah I know that race prediction calculators aren't necessarily going to reflect your time, but I like someone telling me what pace to run so I don't have to come up with a solution. 🙂 I think you're right that I should try to find a pace group to run with. I am not sure how they do pace groups in Chicago, but I'll look into it–I put 4:30 as my predicted time, and we're in corrals, so hopefully most people will be trying to target a similar pace as me. 🙂


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