One step at a time: re-evaluating goals and training

First of all, I just wanted to thank you all for your kind words and encouragement and support throughout all my training and news of injury. It means a lot to me and I really appreciate it :)

I went to the doctor shortly after writing my last update and was diagnosed with peroneal tendinosis (tendon swelling on outside of ankle). It’s actually a rarer runner injury and is brought on by overuse particularly among runners with high arches – not a surprise to me of course since I was training rather aggressively for my BQ goal.

The main treatment to aid in tendon recovery: REST.  And patience – lots of patience. Initially, there’s not much else you can do because I had to stay away from any type of activity that would aggravate my ankle/foot – ie. no biking, no jumping, no leg strength (most exercises put pressure on the ankle). The only thing I was able to do for about 3 weeks was core work and arms. It was frustrating to say the least, but after going through some serious emotional lows, I gained some new insight and perspective on life that I’m thankful for. For instance, I have a lot of running friends now (thanks to my awesome Fueled by Doughnuts run group). When I got injured, so many of them checked in on me – they genuinely cared about how I was doing both physically and mentally and were almost as bummed about me being injured as I was! Since being sidelined, I’ve been able to participate as a volunteer for our fun evening events. We did a scavenger hunt run where I was at one of the destinations with clues and a big huge pizza/doughnut night run recently for which I helped set things up and clean up at the end. It’s been fun to be around everyone even if I’m not crushing my own runs too.

fbd scavenger hunt friends

fbd scavenger hunt

That said, my ankle is very gradually getting better and better. I’ve been doing some light biking since my last follow-up appointment and am gradually increasing resistance to try to get some strength back in my legs. I’m planning on starting to run again this weekend, but it will start as a run/walk with only 1-2 minute run intervals at a time so that I’m not putting too much pressure on my ankle all at once.

My #1 goal now is injury prevention and all other goals for the fall are shelved for the moment. I am not doing the VIA Marathon and I’m not switching to the half either. There’s no point in risking injury as I work my way back to running. I am still registered for the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in December, but I will not follow a training plan for that (I will instead work on letting my body dictate what it wants from me) and am fully prepared to back down to the half if I cannot be ready for the marathon distance by then.

Having been through three different injuries this year, I clearly need to take a step back and try to evaluate what’s not working for me. As much as I’d like to think I’m not overdoing it, I am — at least in some way (so hard to admit when I love it so much!). Last year was a really consistent year for me. I routinely ran 30-45 miles/week and did not have a 50 mile week in training for marathons (and still wound up with a PR). I did Orangetheory classes once a week and went to yoga fairly frequently. So what’s been different about this year? When not injured, I’ve been running 40-50+ miles/week (which in itself shouldn’t be a problem since I worked up to that distance over time), I increased the amount I was running outside and the consistency of outdoor speedwork, I increased my Orangetheory visits to twice a week, and I have not been doing much yoga. That’s a lot of change coming all at the same time and I didn’t realize it until looking back to re-evaluate. The problem is, I was seeing major improvements in my speed as I did this…which made me want to keep doing it. Ultimately, all of that combined activity led to this year of injuries.

That leads me to quite the decision-making process as I figure out what to change in training moving forward. Besides easing back into it (I’ll definitely run only a few times a week at very low mileage for awhile), I think that I need to incorporate yoga into my regular routine again. I always felt the least sore and tight when I was consistently doing it and my tight muscles are definitely contributing to these injuries. Yoga was a great complement to my running and while it didn’t contribute to significant differences in my speed, it helped me remain injury-free so that I could very gradually improve my running. I want to continue to run high mileage outside (when I’m fully recovered of course!!) so I need a good complement for it and I believe that will come from doing more yoga again.

The other decision I’ve had to make is that I will be giving up Orangetheory. It was a tough decision for me because I’ve truly enjoyed my time there and I believe those workouts contributed to my increased speed and strength – particularly in the shorter 5k and 10k distances. HOWEVER, these are intense workouts and while there’s always the option of ‘taking it easy’ there (the coaches all understood about my marathon training and never pushed me harder than I felt comfortable with), the atmosphere of the class makes it difficult for me to hold myself back when I need to. During my injuries – particularly for this last one when I couldn’t even bike – it’s been difficult to watch others work hard while I’m left barely sweating. Ultimately, marathon training and long distance running is something I want to keep doing…and the intensity of Orangetheory workouts doesn’t fit in with that (at least for me anyway). My body cannot take too many intense workouts in a week and I would rather have a marathon-specific focus to them than the Orangetheory focus which is a better fit for shorter distance racing.

In summary, I’m excited to start running again and see how this new approach serves me. I will still run a BQ one day (patience, Charissa, patience), but there are way more important things in life than running a specific time in a marathon — such as being able to run period :D

VIA Marathon Training Weeks 9-11

Sorry for the late recap. When there’s a lack of updates on my part, that’s probably a bad sign. Short story: I’m injured and really didn’t want to talk about it until I was ready to.

Here’s a recap of the last 3 weeks:

Monday (7/4): 5 miles @ 9:38 pace

I usually take Mondays as a rest day, but there are exceptions to that. Helping a friend on her final 20-miler before her first full Ironman is one of those. I joined her on her final 5 mile loop with two other girls as it was getting quite hot and sunny. But she finished strong and got to start her taper for the big race!

Tuesday (7/5): 8.25 miles @ 7:57 average pace

Workout plan: 2 mile warm-up, 10 x 600m (target: 2:29 – 2:35, aka 6:40-6:55 pace) w/ 1:30 recoveries, 1 mile cooldown

Actual run: It was disgustingly humid out and I had zero motivation to try to knock out speed at the track. So I settled for the treadmill. And I have no regrets. For someone who used to always count on the treadmill for tempo and speed workouts, this is the very first speed workout in this cycle that I’ve decided to use the treadmill for…and it’s week 9. So that’s a huge deal in my book! In any case, taking it to the treadmill was definitely a successful option for me. All my intervals were between 2:29 – 2:33 (6:38-6:48 pace). I did 8 x 600m in my third week of training also, but it doesn’t feel right to compare the two sessions because I do feel that I am able to have a lot more control on the treadmill. Anyway, I still feel like this was a great option for me to get a great workout in and the bonus is that I didn’t feel too drained afterwards because I didn’t deal with the horrible humidity!

Wednesday (7/6): 6 miles @ 9:12 pace + hip exercises + push-ups + 5 min core

My run was really two separate 3 mile runs – first 3 solo, 20-30 min break, 3 miles with Fueled by Doughnuts. Both runs were slow and easy because it was 91 degrees with real feels closer to 100. My ankle bothered me on my solo run, but then was fine for the group run. I didn’t know exactly what the deal was with my ankle but there’s a pressure point that was very sore/tender. Most of the time, there was no pain with running/walking but every once in awhile a small twinge of discomfort would come. I was definitely in the denial stages of injury.

Thursday (7/7): 7.75 miles @ 9:07 average (AM) + 3.15 treadmill miles/strength/rowing at OTF (PM)

I was supposed to do 3 miles at marathon pace (8:00), but I knew right away I’d need to adjust my expectations. At 5:15am when I started, it was already 73 degrees, 88% humidity, and we had an air quality alert. I did two warm-up miles and decided to just put in a hard effort at whatever pace that ended up being. My three middle miles were 8:30, 8:26, 8:33 and I was so drained after that, it was a struggle to just finish my run. Honestly, though the run was absolutely miserable, I was very happy and proud of myself for sticking it through. I did my workout and I adjusted it according to the conditions I was handed for the day. I’m pretty sure if you take all the conditions into consideration, I was actually giving a harder than 8:00 pace effort!

Friday (7/8): 1.5 miles/biking/strength at OTF

I probably should not have attempted to run at all. All day at work, my ankle had been bothering me a bit. I wanted a good workout though and I talked to one of my coaches at OTF about taping my ankle to see if that mitigated any of the issues. I jumped on the treadmill to try it out. It didn’t feel too bad so I got a little cocky and tried doing the speedier intervals (very stupid decision!). That’s when I started having issues. Gradually, the ankle soreness just got worse and wasn’t going away so I switched to the bike, dejected. I went home, took some Advil, and iced my ankle for the rest of the night.

Saturday (7/9): 19 miles @ 8:59 pace

The plan was to wake up and see how running felt. If the ankle felt fine, I’d attempt my long run anyway; if it was any bit painful, I’d back off and rest it a few days. So I got up early and met with my friends. I was relieved when I had no pain. It still didn’t feel perfect, but it clearly wasn’t painful. So I pushed on, doing a few different loops with various people. Around mile 16, I started to feel some little twinges, but at that point all I had to do was run back to where my car was anyway. I made it all 19 miles and was happy I seemed to be in one piece. But a few hours later, I knew I’d overdone it. Now my ankle finally had pain just with walking. I heeded the advice of my research (pretty sure it’s my peroneal tendon that’s bothering me) and employed RICE (aka rest, ice, compression, elevate) the ENTIRE rest of the day and took some Advil.

Sunday (7/10): Biking/strength/core at OTF + Push-ups

Total Week 9 mileage: 50.65 miles

Other workouts: Biking (x2 at OTF), Strength (x3 at OTF), Core (x2 – once at home, once at OTF), push-ups (x2)

Weeks 10 and 11 consisted of zero running. At first, I decided to go to OTF extra times and just bike to try to maintain my cardio fitness. I really didn’t want to lose what I’d gained in training thus far. Biking didn’t aggravate my ankle but one thing was clear – it also wasn’t helping. So as of last Wednesday, I cut biking out of my routine as well and have only been doing core work :/

After making the decision to cut out biking, I was at a really low point last week. Now there’s only 7 weeks left until the marathon and I know that I won’t be at the same level when I get back to running. One week off – fine! Two weeks off – ok, I can probably work with that. Over two weeks off? – Time to adjust your plan and expectations, Charissa.

It’s hard to put into words how I felt the last couple days about all of this. At first, I think I was hopeful that it would just be a week off and I’d be back at it again. When that didn’t happen, I was crushed. I really want that BQ and I had been working my butt off for it! However, I wasn’t just upset/frustrated because my BQ seems out of reach for September now, but because it seems like whenever I work extra hard to achieve something, I’m faced with agonizing defeat. I’ve been wracked with injury after injury this year, each one something new. First my knee gave me issues in February…no problem – stretch more and roll the IT band. Then was my calf strain when I had big goals for my half marathon…ok – go to PT, stretch, ice, and wear compression socks constantly. Now, the ankle. Each time I’ve come back stronger…but it takes a few weeks or months to build up again. And every time I have a breakthrough race or amazing week is when a new issue pops up! It’s so hard when it’s not my mind/motivation holding myself back, but it’s my body refusing to commit to my dreams.

Right now, my confidence in my running/training has taken a serious blow. I’m pretty positive that I will not be running the VIA Marathon in September now (unless I do it as a practice long run?), but I’m also trying to figure out and re-evaluate what I should be doing for future training cycles.  Maybe I should stick to just biking at Orangetheory during marathon training, maybe I should add yoga into my routine again, maybe my body can’t handle both mileage and speed workouts and I need to choose between the two…

It’s all still fresh in my mind and I don’t really know what to do yet. What I do know is that I am also signed up for Rehoboth Beach Marathon in December and I would still like to run that. That race is late enough that it gives me time to ease back into running before training again and figure out how I will tackle that.

I’m not giving up, but am taking things day by day right now. Dreams require patience and I guess I just have to be more patient with myself and with my body.

Anyone dealt with peroneal tendon issues before? Is there anything a doctor or PT could do besides RICE that would improve my situation?

VIA Marathon Training: Week 8

Thank god this week was a recovery week! Since the 5k last week, I’ve been feeling some ankle twinges – not really pain, just some major soreness/tenderness. It doesn’t get worse with running so I’m still doing my thing just making sure to ice after every run these days.

Monday (6/27): Rest

Tuesday (6/28): 5 miles easy @ 9:16 pace

It was so humid out (90%) so me and my friends did our best to really keep the pace easy for once! Haha. I think we succeeded because it wasn’t a struggle running at this pace despite the awful humidity!

Wednesday (6/29): 5.7 miles @ 8:47 pace + 15 minutes corework

Thursday (6/30): 8.55 miles @ 8:38 average pace (workout) + biking/rowing/strength at OTF

Workout plan: 7-8 miles with 10 x 1-min speed & 1-min recoveries

Actual run: I decided to throw the speed portion in at the end of this run rather than the middle like I did in week 2 of training. In week 2, I was just getting back into some speed and managed intervals between 6:35 – 7:13 pace. It was interesting to see how far I’d progressed as this time my intervals were all between 6:15 – 6:48 pace. Wow – what a difference! And…I officially hit 200 miles for the month of June during this run. This was a first for me but I don’t think it will be the last!

Thursday evening, I went to an OTF workout and did some biking since my ankle was feeling a bit wonky and I didn’t want to push it. Then I had a fun rest of the night cheering on some friends in a local 5 mile sunset race. I knew I’d had enough of race effort running lately so I was perfectly content watching.

sunset classic 2016

Runner friends!!

Friday (7/1): 17 miles easy biking

Saturday (7/2): 13.1 miles @ 8:22 average pace

Workout plan: 4 miles easy/comfortable, 5 miles @ long run tempo pace (7:45 – 7:55), 4 miles easy/comfortable

Actual run: 4 miles easy (9:07, 9:07, 8:46, 8:38), 5 miles tempo with no stops (7:45, 7:48, 7:56, 7:54, 7:40), 4.1 miles easy (8:35, 8:20, 8:40, 8:27, 7:30 pace). I specifically mapped out a route that would give me the middle five miles with no stops (long, straight roads and only about 2 or 3 lights to worry about which I didn’t end up having to stop for). This was a really successful run for me and what made it even more of a confidence boost was that I did this run completely solo. There’s something empowering about crushing a run on your own that seemed like such a daunting task ahead of time. One thing I noted on this run though was how I felt rather drained by the cooldown miles. Obviously this is due to putting a lot more effort into my long run than I’m used to, but I also realized I didn’t take any salt tablets on this run which is something I normally do for anything over 13 miles in the summer. Won’t forget that again!

Sunday (7/3): 5 miles @ 8:37 pace + biking/rowing/strength/core at OTF

This was supposed to be a recovery run and I was working a little harder than I should have for my pace. However, being that I’d only run 13 miles rather than the 15+ I’ve been doing most weekends, my legs felt much more peppy than usual. After my run, I had a 90 minute workout planned at OTF. I stuck to the bike again because I’m really not trying to injure myself. Sometimes it sucks being on the bike watching everyone get a great run workout in, but I’m trying to make smart decisions for myself. The workout was pretty amazing anyway. We got a good 10+ minutes of corework and since it was strength day, I lifted heavier weights than usual for most exercises. I was feeling strong!

In the afternoon, I went to a barbecue/pig roast at a family friend’s house. It was a blast. I brought some baked mac & cheese and it was a real hit. That’s one dish I’ve perfected and it’s gluten free :D


Total Week 8 mileage: 37.35 miles

Other workouts: 3x biking (once at home, twice at OTF), 2x strength/rowing (at OTF), 2x corework (once at home, once at OTF)

There’s definitely a time and a place for cutback weeks in marathon training and this recovery week was perfectly timed. I felt like I needed a break both physically and mentally after last week and now that I got it, I’m ready for a couple more big weeks again.

How was your holiday weekend?
Is there a dish you make that you’re particularly proud of?

Fitzgerald’s 5k Lager Run 2016

What an amazing race! It’s been hard enough for me to figure out how to write about it ;)

First off, I’ve heard so many good things about this race from all my running friends, so I finally decided to run it this year. It’s a very PR friendly course (very small inclines/declines and a small net downhill – about 15 ft). However, this is the first evening race I’ve ever participated in and I had no idea how to prepare for it throughout the day. What do I eat to fuel myself for the race but not upset my stomach? I ended up having a late breakfast (got to sleep in for once!) of some oatmeal with fruit, chicken sausage, and coffee. Later in the afternoon, I had some sweet potato and a small smoothie with apples, banana, cinnamon, and almond milk.

I got to the race and did a quick 1.5 mile warm-up. The sun was out in full force and I was already sweating even running at an easy pace – yikes! It was 84 degrees out (lower humidity though). Even though I’d just run 18 miles the day before, my legs felt pretty good and ready to hit some speed.

At 6:15pm, I lined up with over 1000 other runners to start. The only gripe I have about this race is the same one I have for every other race that doesn’t have start corrals. The announcers tell everyone at the start that if you’re not in the 5-6 min/mile range, you should NOT be up front. This means if you run 8-10 min/mile for a 5k, you still shouldn’t be right behind the leaders! That should be common sense. In big races like this, I typically start a few rows back because I know I won’t be one of the leaders, but I also know not to sell myself short – I am getting faster :)

When the race started, I had to maneuver around so many people just to get to the pace I felt comfortable at. I didn’t look at my watch till about a half mile in because I knew it’d be all over the place from the beginning dodging. When I first looked at it and saw a 7:01 pace, my jaw dropped. It seemed like I was going fast, but it wasn’t super uncomfortable yet. Despite my surprise, I just decided to maintain my momentum. I wasn’t going to speed up because I knew that the pace would feel harder very soon. The first mile was pretty flat with some very minor inclines and declines. My watch beeped. Mile 1: 7:01. I’d maintained my pace all the way through that mile and didn’t feel like I was dying…yet.

I let myself slow down just a little bit in the second mile as it had a more of a gradual uphill – nothing major but just enough where you could tell the difference in grade. The pace was definitely getting harder to hold but as I passed the 5k mark, still running around a 7:15 pace, my confidence started building. You know that feeling when you’re mind and heart just decide you can do something that seemed impossible before? That’s what happened here for me. I pushed on and somehow maintained my pace. Mile 2: 7:11.

Most of mile 3 is a gradual descent – you really don’t notice it because it’s a very small grade and in a 5k once you’re in mile three, running just seems hard. It was all heart and soul running at that point. I knew a huge PR was coming if I could just hold on. That thought drove me and my legs to keep up the pace. I rounded the last corner onto the track where the race would finish and hit the final 300 meters. Mile 3 beeped: 7:05.

My friend, Colleen, who I ran Steamtown Marathon with last year, caught me for the last stretch around the track. My legs and lungs were SCREAMING at me to stop at that point and I have her to thank for pushing me to keep going to end. Final 0.1 miles: 6:42 pace.

Official chip time: 22:04/7:05 pace

I placed 200th overall, 37th female, and 9th in my age group (20-29). I was well within the time I needed to get myself a beer glass for finishing in the top 100.


As you can tell from my stats, not only is this a big race, but it’s also a really competitive one that draws tons of local professional runners. The top male and female times were 15:20 and 16:37 respectively and 78 people posted sub-20 gun times for this 5k.

I’m still in awe that I pulled off this kind of pace for a 5k – especially on a hot, sunny day. I couldn’t even do mile repeats at this pace earlier in the week; there’s something about the race atmosphere that makes you dig a lot deeper. Also, I think something that helped make a big difference was that the course was very well shaded. I will definitely be doing this race again!

Here are some fun pictures with friends from the race:


My lifesaver/angel!  She held my things for me while I raced and cheered everyone on.

Fueled by Doughnuts runners!

Fueled by Doughnuts runners!


OTF buddies


Fueled by Doughnuts and race buddies!

Question: Have you ever run a night/evening race?

VIA Marathon Training Week 7

I had sooo much going on this week. It started off as a rough week but the tide turned and it ended up being one of my best training weeks yet!

Monday (6/20): Rest – 10 min core workout

Tuesday (6/21): 5 treadmill miles @ 9:07 average pace

The day did not go as planned. I was supposed to do mile repeats in the morning and had a plan to start as early as possible because it was going to be HOT all day. And then I overslept. Well maybe it’s for the better that I overslept because it was 72 degrees and super humid already (I think over 80%) and I probably would’ve bailed after the first repeat anyway. Since I didn’t feel like going out in the heat/humidity, I stuck to the treadmill and swapped my original plan for Wednesday’s easy run. For a small challenge, I threw in a few 3 minute inclines to break up the treadmill monotony.

Wednesday (6/22): 8 miles @ 8:24 average (AM) + 3.05 treadmill miles/6:20 plank PR/strength at OTF (PM)

Workout plan: 2 miles warm-up, 4 x 1 mile (target pace: 7:05 – 7:20) w/ 2:30 recoveries, 1-2 mile cooldown

Actual run: 2 miles warm-up (9:32, 9:14), 4 x 1 mile (7:29, 7:20, 7:25, 7:29), recoveries between 9:45-10:20 pace, 1.25 mile cooldown (9:00, 8:31 pace). Thank god the morning was a little cooler than the previous day (still humid though!), but I think it was just one of those runs where my legs and lungs don’t seem to get the picture – I just could NOT pick up the pace. These times frustrated me because I know that I should be able to do faster repeats. I did do these on the road and not the track which definitely had some hills, but I still feel like I should have had a better showing. Hopefully it’s just the summer running impacting my pace but I can’t help but feel a little like a failure with these paces. I think this workout along with the other tempos I’ve done that have all been a little bit off target pace are starting to frustrate me now.

Orangetheory workout: This week was Peak Performance week (PPW) at OTF and I decided to do the plank challenge day. I knew I wouldn’t win the challenge or anything (apparently some people in my studio can hold a 15+ minute plank!), but this was one of the lower impact challenges and I was hoping the challenge would give me an extra push to hold my longest plank yet. I was right! I managed to hold out for 6 minutes and 20 seconds (5 min was my longest previously). It honestly made me feel much better about myself after the semi-failed morning mile repeats.

Thursday (6/23): 7.1 miles @ 8:59 pace

Friday (6/24): 5.35 miles total (outside + OTF) + strength at OTF

This wasn’t really on my “plan” but being that it was PPW at OTF and I missed the first running challenge, I really really really wanted to do the mile challenge. I knew not to expect too much since I was feeling really fatigued (both from working late a few days and all the running lately), but figured I’d try my best. I also wasn’t feeling particularly confident after my poor mile repeats showing. Before going to class, I did an easy 2 mile warm-up with some strides. In class, I got about another 1/2 mile w/u before starting the mile challenge. I pushed hard and finished with a solid 6:30. Not bad at all! In fact, I’ve only done a mile faster once before so to do my second fastest mile in the midst of marathon training – well that boosted my confidence a little bit :)

Friday night was my OTF studio’s one year anniversary party too so I decided to go and have a fun time even though I had a long run coming up the next day. The theme of the party was “casino night” and it was a blast! I played roulette for the first time and actually had fun losing since we didn’t play with real money :D

My OTF ladies <3

My OTF ladies <3

With two of our trainers - the lighting is all orange of course!

With two of our trainers – the lighting is all orange of course!

And another! Love my OTF family :)

Love my OTF family :)

Saturday (6/25): 18 miles @ 8:58 pace

After a late night out, I missed my alarm again! Luckily, I woke up not too long after I was supposed to anyway and rushed to eat a little bit and get out. I felt so exhausted, but I knew there was no way I could delay this run because 1) it was going to get hot, and 2) I couldn’t swap this run for Sunday because I was planning on racing a 5k!

So I got out there and started nice and easy. I met up with my friends for another loop around town. Then I ran home again and hit my 18. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, honestly. It was a pretty steady, consistent run and even though the temperature got warmer, the humidity level lowered as we ran so it almost felt a little better the later it got.

Our group has gotten so big!!

After the run, I took a nice long epsom salt bath to speed up recovery for my 5k the following evening.

Sunday (6/26):  1.5 mile w/u + 5k race. Recap to come!

Total Week 7 mileage: 51.1 miles.
Other workouts: Strength (2x at OTF), Core (2x – once at home, one long plank at OTF)

Clearly, this week was a tough one as training goes, but I’ve got a recovery week to look forward to now and it really comes at the perfect time! I need a little break now to keep me going.

What helps to turn your bad week around?
Do you ever sleep through your alarm? – I think sleep needs to be a priority for me this week so that doesn’t keep happening!

Valerie Fund 5k – June 11th, 2016

This race will forever be a bit special to me because it’s the first 5k that I trained for and ran back in 2011 – five whole years ago!! I haven’t run it every year due to other race conflicts, but I try to run it when I can. (In 2012 I was running all the NYRR races to get into the NYC Marathon and last year, I was not about to race this the week before Grandma’s Marathon.) It’s also sponsored by JAG Physical Therapy where I’ve gone for treatment whenever I’ve been injured so I love to give the extra support and participation to this race!

This race still holds my 5k race PR (23:20) from 2014 (read about my 2014 experience here!), though I have run faster a few times – just not officially.

I really didn’t know what to expect from myself this year though. I know I should be faster than a 23:20 now (I ran a 22:40 during my 10k in April!), but I was not going into this preparing to race my best for a 5k. I’m in the midst of marathon training and had a 13 mile long run scheduled with a 3 mile fast finish. I’m really not that competitive against other people (aka I don’t care about winning/placing in my age group – that’s always a bonus but that’s not why I run) so I didn’t mind making the race portion into a fast finish long run. Even so, I kind of had in mind that I’d like to be able to finish the 5k at my last 10k race pace (aka 7:20 min/mile). Maybe that could’ve been possible on a flat course, but I think I tend to forget how hard this 5k course actually is.

I got a preview of it again TWICE during my pre-race long run. I parked near the race start so I’d be able to stash my water bottle between the long run and race portion. I started at 6:30 and ran the first 2 miles of the course. Luckily it was a cool morning – though a bit humid for my liking – but running up the hill in the first mile of the course at an “easier” pace gave me all kinds of doubts about racing up it later. Hello there 80 ft of elevation gain over about 1/4 mile! Yeah, it’s a pretty awful steep hill that is not followed immediately by a downhill for recovery. Instead it’s another mile of some gradual rollers, followed by the steep short downhill. After that I veered off course and ran up a long gradual incline to meet a friend who joined me for the rest of my pre-race miles. We ran around town together, up and down hills we couldn’t avoid, making our legs work hard for the day. We planned to make the race course the end of our long run too so as we headed back to the start, we ran up the race course hill again and along the course and back down to finish in the park. Oof! Challenging pre-race run that’s for sure: 9.9 miles @ 8:56 pace and over 400 ft of elevation gain.

Before the race, I took a Vanilla Honey Stinger gel and stashed my water bottle and phone. I made sure to stretch while waiting. I timed my long run so that I only had 15-20 minutes between the run and the race, but it wound up being closer to 30 minutes due to a late start.

The race

We started off and I let people sprint past me. I’ve run enough 5ks to know that most people tend to shoot out wayyyy faster than they should. I settled into a pretty even 7:15-7:20 pace from the start and tried to stay there. The first half mile is pretty flat so it felt good. Then we hit the steep quarter mile hill. I passed a lot of people here and didn’t worry when my pace dropped. With the steep incline, it’s impossible to keep the same kind of pace. Still, I was pretty amazed when I crested the hill and was seeing just over a 7:30 pace on my watch. The rest of the mile is pretty flat and I hit the mile mark at 7:31. Pretty perfect in my book. The hardest part was done! Now I should be able to negative split right?? However, being that there’s no recovery after the uphill, mile 2 just felt hard trying to keep a 7:30 pace going out and back. My legs and lungs were starting to feel the fatigue. I knew I’d gone up that hill just a little too hard. When I made it to the downhill, I wanted to push the pace there. Mile 2 chimed at 7:30 and through the rest of the downhill I felt like I was working so hard and not seeing my pace drop. I hit the flat section from the beginning again and got a cramp in my side from pushing too hard down the hill. Yikes! I slowed down a little and took in a few deep breaths that eased the cramp a bit. It was a struggle but I kept going. After another shorter uphill portion, I hit mile 3 in 7:34 and knew that I was close to my previous PR on this course. My legs didn’t have their usual 5k finishing kick in them, but I was able to squeak out the last 0.1 at a 6:42 pace and clocked an official time of 23:18 for a two second official PR!

Local races = fun with friends!

Local races = fun with friends!

On paper, a two-second improvement over 2 years doesn’t look too good. But there aren’t too many people who can say they’ve raced a 5k after running 10 miles beforehand! My legs were definitely not fresh going into this and I’m choosing to see my time as a celebration. I’m a distance runner training for a marathon and as much as I would like a 5k time to match my potential in the distance, I’ll have to wait for an opportunity to actually race a 5k on fresher legs – which won’t come for awhile!

VIA Marathon Training: Week 6

I had a super busy, successful week of training! I think it helped that it was slightly cooler and less humid for most of this past week :)

Monday (Jun 13): Rest

Tuesday (Jun 14): 9.2 miles @ 8:35 average + 20 minutes core work

Workout plan: 1 mile w/u, 3 x 2 mile tempo (target: 7:25-7:40pace) w/ 3 min recoveries, 1 mile c/d

Actual run: 1.5 mile warm-up (9:37 average), 3 x 2 mile tempo – sets: {7:46, 7:43}{7:53, 7:37}{7:45, 7:46} w/ 5 and 3 minute recoveries between (recoveries included 1 min walk followed by jogging), 1 mile cool-down (9:46). This run was challenging. I did this tempo on a flatter route and it was tough to hit these paces. I needed a little extra recovery after the first set because it ended near a hill that I decided not to struggle up during my tempo. I took each set mile by mile and tried not to think about the next set until I was in recovery mode. My legs felt like lead after this workout, but I was so happy to complete it at least close to target pace.

Wednesday (Jun 15): 10 miles biking + 10 minutes core (AM) + 5.25 easy miles @ 9:10 pace (PM)

Thursday (Jun 16): 8 miles @ 8:18 average pace

Workout plan: 2 miles easy, 3 miles @ MGP (marathon goal pace = 8:00), 2 miles easy

Actual run: 2 miles easy (8:48, 8:29), 3 miles a touch faster than MGP (7:52, 7:55, 7:46), 3 miles cooldown (8:36, 8:24, 8:31). The MGP miles ended up being a little faster than I wanted because there was a guy running behind me who I swear was trying to “race” me. I was trying to do my own thing but the sound of him huffing and puffing behind me was a real nuisance and when I tried to speed up, he tried to hold on to my pace. I didn’t want to slow down to let him pass though because I knew he was struggling and wouldn’t be able to hold the pace. About a mile and half into those MGP miles, I finally felt like I could lose him so I sped up just enough to where he’d fade. I wasn’t trying to be mean or anything, but he was messing with my mojo! I was feeling great about my run effort – the pace didn’t feel easy by any means but it didn’t feel as challenging as my tempo run on Tuesday and these miles weren’t much slower!

Friday (Jun 17): 4.25 miles @ 8:57 pace + 20 min core work

Saturday (Jun 18): 17 miles @ 8:34 pace (AM) + 2 mile walk (PM)

I got so lucky for my long run this week! When I started at 5:30am, it was 55 degrees out and the humidity wasn’t outrageous. I ran about 4 miles from my apartment to meet up with my run group and proceeded to run some pretty speedy miles for a long run. I was a little afraid I was going too fast, but surprisingly managed to keep the pace pretty consistent throughout the run. Aside from the Steamtown Marathon last year (which consisted of a lot of downhill in those early miles), this was my fastest ever 15+ mile run. Definitely a good confidence boost!

Sunday (Jun 19): 3.5 treadmill miles/strength/rowing @ OTF + 1.8 extra easy treadmill miles

Total Week 6 mileage: 49 miles
Other workouts: 1x biking, 1x walking, 3x core, 1x strength/rowing (OTF)

This week showed me that my fitness level is finally starting to come back and with it, I’m also building a ton of endurance. I’ve also transitioned to doing a lot of my harder workouts alone now. In a way it’s easier because it allows me to not get caught up in trying to keep up with other runners who may be slightly faster than me. It’s also extremely gratifying when I complete a workout all on my own :D

What disrupts your running mojo?