Recreation! Boston Marathon Training Week 2

Having some fun after running Sycamore Canyon

Week one of training was mostly to get myself mentally in a state to avoid all the tempting treats that accompany the celebration of Christmas. This worked to the point that I ate well for most of the week…but still went a bit crazy at gatherings. The mileage of that first week (December 17-23) was modest.

Mileage in week 2 was also supposed to be modest… and would have been if I’d stuck to the training plan provided to me. But it was a holiday week and I had some fun opportunities.

First, our church had decided to only have one worship service on Christmas Eve (5pm). This freed up the morning and we (family and I) were able to go on a M26 Running Tribe run at Sycamore Canyon. This was a nice and easy 6 miles, non scheduled run and I enjoyed it!

Then on Christmas morning we decided to go for a bike ride. This was my first time riding a bike with my shoes clipped and I was a bit nervous. Thankfully it was easier than I thought it’d be…but when we arrived back home, my daughter was on the porch to greet us, I unclipped my right foot, struggled with the left foot and fell. Oh well, at least falling wasn’t as traumatic as I feared it’d be.

A gift from my daughter! I’m proud of my running family!

We then ate our traditional Christmas breakfast of French toast, bacon, and Mimosa. After opening gifts, we decided to go on a short run…my schedule said to go 4 but I shortened this because of my unscheduled 6 miles on Sunday. By the way – one special gift was my son agreeing to run The San Francisco Marathon. I signed him up! So it’s a gift for him too! Now all 4 of us will run that race together.

At some time on Christmas day, Megan and I decided that a trail run followed by a trip to Universal Studios to see Harry Potter Land would be a nice day after Christmas activity. So we did it! And a friend from the running club joined too!

Tuesday was supposed to be a cross training day! An almost 12 mile trail run works as cross training… right? It was a glorious run with perfect weather and I ran better than I had in any other trail run the past few months, even the runs leading up to and including Ray Miller. So, I am certainly well rested and ready to start some serious Boston training.

I skipped Wednesday’s run and then stuck to my regular plan for the rest of the week.

A great gift from some dear friends.

The awesome part of this week is that many of us struggle to get or stay active when the holidays arrive. We’re too busy, or with the heavy eating we don’t feel like exercising, so we sit (and probably eat more). For my Christmas week I actually did extra mileage! Not as training, but just for fun! As recreation. This is cool!

Next week will be back to normal base building. 15 weeks until race day!

Here’s my training log:

Workouts: 12/24/2017 – 12/30/2017
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Rest Day
8:14 AM Run
Completed: 6 mi ~ 58:35 (9:45 min/mi)
Monday, December 25, 2017
12:03 PM Run – Easy Run
4 Miles Easy
Planned: 4 mi
Completed: 2.27 mi ~ 21:55 (9:39 min/mi)
8:18 AM Bike
Completed: 12.83 mi ~ 1:12:49 (10.6 mph)
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Cross Training
8:16 AM  Run
Completed: 11.67 mi ~ 2:24:51 (12:24 min/mi)
Workout Comments:

Except for the steep climbs this was surprisingly easy. I’ve been completely off plan this week! But it’s cool that I’m fit enough to go off plan by doing more. I will rest tomorrow!
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Planned: 4 mi
Thursday, December 28, 2017
7:17 AM Run – Easy Run
Planned: 5 mi
Completed: 5 mi ~ 49:47 (9:56 min/mi)
Workout Comments:

Run felt nice…even with the extra mileage this week.
Friday, December 29, 2017
Cross Training – did some yoga!
Saturday, December 30, 2017
8:01 AM Run – Long Run
Planned: 10 mi Nice & Easy
Completed: 10 mi ~ 1:37:21 (9:44 min/mi)
Workout Comments:

Because it was only 10 miles and I forgot to replenish my supply of run food (gels, blocks) I decided to try a depletion run and not eat before either. I felt good and didn’t feel hungry until after 7.5. I also tried to run goal marathon pace for the last two miles. That was hard.
Planned Run: 23.00 mi // Completed Run: 34.94 mi ~ 6:12:30
Completed Bike: 12.83 mi ~ 1:12:49

Road & Trail Running Not the Same. Duh! Ray Miller Training Run #5

Sunrise on PCH… a favorite part of this training
Last Saturday (11/11) Megan and I ran the first loop of the 50k we’re running December 2nd. Thankfully there was a group training run the same day so we were out there with many people. Well actually, many people passed us throughout the morning.

Up…up…up…and down and then up for total elevation gain (and loss) of 4100 feet
This run was a week late (schedule wise) because I’ve been slow to recover from the marathon I ran October 22nd (Ventura Marathon Race Recap – How’d that untethering go?). I’m still not sure I’m totally recovered. AND… I was rear-ended a couple weeks ago…no major damage or injuries, but there has been lingering soreness that certainly doesn’t speed up recovery.

This was just before I started feeling tired.
By now you know where I’m going with this. Saturday was way harder than it was supposed to be. After about 8 miles I was tired…very tired. And this was only halfway. I was also hungry… at mile 8 and on and off until I was very hungry as we approached mile 11. This is where we will encounter an aid station on race day, so I was planning to eat at that point. So, feeling ravenous, I ate a Superhero Muffin, from @runfasteatslow. It tasted wonderful, but then I had a horrible stomach ache from eating too much. By the way, I would never do something this dumb while running the roads.

Anyway I had to walk until enough was digested that I didn’t think I would vomit. While walking and feeling like crap I contemplated dropping out of Ray Miller…even thinking to check on their transfer policy (I did check and no bib transfers!).

Once the food entered my system I felt better running. It helped that the rest of the run was downhill at the point. While running the last 3 miles I had one little trip, but no falls! That was a running confidence booster (Quit when it’s hard? No Way!). I will be out there!

I talked to my coach about my struggles and he said I should eat every 20 minutes…50 calories only for 150 an hour. With easy road runs at a usual 10:00 pace, I usually do this when training on roads…calories in the form of liquid, gel, or block every 2 miles. But taking that every two miles plan on to the trails means that with an average 14:41 pace last Saturday I was way behind on calories. No wonder I felt awful.

Now that I’ve figured this out, I’m not as worried about race day… still a bit apprehensive, but not downright terrified. The race is now less than 3 weeks.

For other Ray Miller updates:

Concentration – Training on Trails
Ray Miller Training Run #2
Hell Hill – Ray Miller Training Run #3
O My! – Ray Miller Training Run #4

​I found the video below when looking at photos 12 seconds of accidental scenery.

Lessons from Last Night’s Track Workout

img_4669.jpgMost Wednesday evenings you’ll find me at one of our local high schools grinding through a track workout with my running club. I’ve been going to these for just over 2 years and I’d have to say these workouts have helped tremendously as part of my overall training routine. I love going to track… even though track is incredibly hard.

Usually our coach posts the workouts before we get there. Yesterday he posted it just a couple hours before. When I saw it, I thought, “this is gonna kill me!”

There are three levels of workout. Most of the past couple years I’ve done level two but for the past few weeks my training schedule has indicate level 3. This usually means a bit longer distance. Here is last night’s workout:

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While I love going to track, I’m always nervous when the pace is supposed to be faster than 5k. I’m better at marathons than short fast distances…at least I tell myself this.

So last night, I had to reset my mind. While doing strides as part of the warmup I also did a bit of self talk. It went kind of like this, “I’m gonna die! No I’m not gonna die. Quit saying this! I’m strong and I can do this. I can run hard.” Strides done, I set to it.

We usually go to in pace groups, which we did last night. Mine is the 8:00-9:00 minute mile pace group. There were about 6 of us, but we quickly spread out over the track. I was aiming to run that first 1600 in 8:20, knowing that if I went too fast the latter part of the workout would be a disaster.

So first one down in 8:20 exactly. Not bad!

During the 3 minute rest I walked a bit and then went to get a drink of water and dry off the sweat. I began talking to a new runner who asked me if she’d ever get to be fast. I assured her that she would improve. Started talking about ratio of slow to fast running and looked at my watch and realized that I was out of rest time.

My pace group had already left, so I was on my own. But a group that is faster than me was taking off and I went with them saying, “ha! you’re my new pace group!” I also accidentally hit “stop” on my watch instead of “new lap” so I have no idea how I did on that first 400. I came in about 20 seconds behind the faster group.

When my 90 seconds rest was almost over I told them to go…which became our routine for the rest of the workout. I followed and tried with all my might to keep up and ran the following for the next three 400s: 1:53.8; 1:51.1; 1:51.3.

This was fast for me!

The second 1600 felt easy in comparison to those 400s, at least the first half of it. I caught up with my husband who was running his own 2nd 1600. We ran a lap side-by-side and then I told him to step it up. He’s faster than me so he should be going faster! Usually I start to slow at the later stages of track workouts…just like I do in a 5k race. I’m trying to get better. So I did not want to do this 1600 slower than 8:20. Could I hold on?

I ran hard across the finish line, setting a new lap, and slowed down, huffing and puffing to look at my time. Nice surprise! 8:18 exactly.

Now for the really hard part. Three minutes rest followed by 4 more 400s.

I went out with my new faster than me pace group. Ran hard, crossed the finish while setting a new lap, stopped, looked and was a bit disappointed in myself with a 1:55.6. While this is a good time for me I didn’t want to do my usual and slow down as the workout proceeded. I said, “4 seconds slower.”

90 seconds later, attempt number 2. Run hard! 153.2 Yes!

90 second later, attempt number 3. Can I keep it up? 1:52.7 Yes!

90 seconds later, attempt number 4. I was tired. I tried to keep my eye on the group ahead of me. As my legs felt heavy at the 200 mark, I pushed, thinking of how hard it is to finish a marathon and pushed. I crossed the finish line not sure about my time for this last 400. Nice surprise! 1:53.5

So…instead of this workout killing me. I killed it!

The lesson. When you find yourself daunted by a difficult task, don’t let your self-talk defeat you before you even start. Instead focus on what you can do, as you dig deep for the strength that is within. Then work hard! Don’t give up.

And another lesson. We might think we are running alone…and we often are. But when it comes to track and hard efforts, we do so much better when we help one another. I’m grateful for the encouragement of my faster than me pace group last night. They were always ahead but still pulled me along. And they were always encouraging as I crossed that line.


A Nice Progress Marker – Gratitude 7/3

Today it was me, my husband, and my son. Here we are just before the start.
Five years ago my daughter, husband, and I ran our first 5k races at the Channel Islands Harbor 4th of July 5k and 10k. We’d started running earlier in the year. Megan and I were close together but she had a better kick and beat me at the end. She still has a better kick. We both remember our excitement at completing this first race. My time was 36:16. I’m very proud of that time because it is a marker on a new, fit way of life.

July 4, 2012. I’m so happy we were out there that day…and we all sure look different today
We don’t do the race every year because we sometimes travel for Independence Day, so my next race was in 2015, this time a 10k. I was training for my second marathon at the time and this race was in the middle of a longer run. I was absolutely thrilled with my time of 1:04:44. I remember finding one of the coaches for the training program and excitedly showing her my time.

I didn’t run this race in 2016, but ran a 10k on July 23rd in 55:22. I don’t remember the same level of excitement that day. Maybe it was because I was also running a 5k…and it was hot! But I was certainly pleased with the time.

Today I ran the 10k…just my third 10k. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just started hard running last week, after my recovery from the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon (Recap here). I raced a 5k last Wednesday and was disappointed with how hard it was for me…and for my time. My coach thankfully told me I should be happy that a bad day was better than my best day a year ago.  Ok, I’ll take that!

Then on Saturday I had a nasty fall 1 mile ito a 9 mile run. I’m still battered and bruised…and I completed the run.

A friend took this photo somewhere around mile 5. I gave a thumbs up but not fast enough.
My goal today was to beat my 55:22 from last year…and not crash at the end the way I do in a 5k. I started a bit conservatively, felt good after the first mile, and pushed the pace a bit. Almost every mile felt good, with miles 5-6 being the hardest (as they should be). I got a cramp in my side for part of mile 6 but then it went away. I sprinted the last .2 and finished with a time of 51:56. That’s a 3:26 PR! WhooHoo!

A lesson in all this is that progress happens when you stick with it for the long haul. Another…enjoy the journey along the way.

Today I’m personally thankful for: community races; all the volunteers who were out there this morning; and FREEDOM, may we not squander it.

Happy Independence Day!

Mountains 2 Beach – Race Recap

Way back in October 2015 I set M2B on May 28, 2017 as a goal race. Back then I figured that 18 months was enough time to improve enough to run a Boston Qualifier (I had just run my second marathon with a time of 5:04:36). The closer the date came, the more my goal seemed to be audacious. I needed 4:10 officially but based on last year’s Boston entries I needed a bit faster than 4:08. So I set my goal at 4:05, which is an average pace of 9:21.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 7.32.41 AMMountains to Beach is a mostly downhill course. At first I thought, “sure it’ll be easy to just run downhill for 26.2 miles.” Then I realized that we go up too… Thankfully I was able to do the majority of my long runs on the course so I knew where I’d encounter difficulty.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.38.52 AM
I discovered a website ( that predicts a finishing time by comparing previous marathons and courses. I ran the Carlsbad Marathon in January with a time of 4:14:20. When I plugged this number in for a prediction I thought it’d give me a “good” number. Instead it said 4:12:01. Hmmm…not going to be easier like I thought!

The closer I got to the race, the more nervous I became, vacillating between “I’m ready” and “what the hell was I thinking” and “it’ll be so embarrassing if I don’t make it” to “I’ve got this!” Helpfully, all my training runs were fabulous (I’ll write about this in another post).

Before the race, my coach gave some excellent advice:

You are ready to rock! Just be patient and relax. On this course I think the second half is a little faster than the first half so do not force anything early. Just like a long training day except you have the greenlight to dip as deep into the well as you can at the end 🙂 

So how’d it go?

First 5K
The race starts with a gradual 3 mile climb. My plan was to run this very conservatively, knowing that I can run downhill fast enough to make up the time lost.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 7.38.44 AM

Taking it easy up that first big hill gave me a big deficit to make up. 

Slow…slow…slow… telling myself, “this is a training run effort right now.” It was challenging not to match the pace of all those who were flying past me. It was even harder when the 4:07 pacer passed me at about 1.5 miles. There was a great temptation to stick with this pace group. My mantra became, “I’m running my own race,” as they pulled away from me. A friend from the running club joined me for a bit.

Miles 4-13.1
Once we turned and headed downhill, I had to be careful not to run too fast. My plan here was easy effort…no heavy breathing! My daughter was running with me at this point and when we approached the 4:07 group at about 5.5 miles, she helpfully reminded me not to increase my speed to get past them. It was a bit challenging because this was a big group.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 7.41.19 AM

Miles 4 up to the half felt very easy…

Mile 6…feeling good!

Once we passed this group the rest of the race was nice in a non-crowded way. I steadily passed runners throughout the entire race. According to the date, I ran a positive split (faster first half), finishing a half marathon in 2:01:51 (this is my third fastest half marathon time!). Throughout the race I wasn’t watching my lap pace, opting to occasionally look at average pace instead. I remember turning onto Baldwin and heading up a small hill when I noticed that for the first time I hit my goal pace of 9:21…as I climbed I lost the pace but didn’t panic because I knew I’d be going downhill again. My mantra was “keep it easy.”

Miles 13-20
This middle section has a nice little climb in it, plus a few rolling hills. Having run it three times in training I was ready for it. I passed people going down and some of them passed me going up.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 7.44.19 AM
I started a slow increase of effort which shows in the avg. pace as we also had a big hill in this portion.

My goal here was to increase the effort on the downhill portions, take it easy going up and make it to the the final 10k without blowing up.

Mile 17…smiling and soaking wet from all the water I’ve dumped on my head.

We encountered a slight head wind in this section, but it wasn’t too strong and it was cool, so actually beneficial. I was also dumping water on my head at every water station in an effort to stay cool. My average pace was around 9:19-9:20.

At one point I thought, “hmmm, maybe I should speed up and try to get to 4 hours.” I felt that good! Good sense prevailed however and I decided that it would be a mistake to get greedy. So I stuck to the plan.

Miles 20-23.2
Time to go! After a brief physical inventory I concluded that I felt good, so from a perceived effort level (remember, I wasn’t watching lap pace) I increased the effort.

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I began passing more and more people. I admit that it was fun to run past all those who sailed past me those first three miles! I knew that the last two miles were going to be hard so I was bracing myself for this, but meanwhile miles 20-23 felt like a wonderful groove where I was just running. I was realizing that I was on pace to qualify for Boston.

Last 5K
I started the last 5K with an average pace of 9:18. This was great because it meant that I had a 3 second cushion for that last hard uphill run. As I ran I told myself, “I have 3 seconds to spare…don’t give it away easily.” This was the hard part…the suffering part…the I’ve got this if I can hold on part.

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This last 5K was a “hold on” effort! I learned that it’s hard to do but much easier to hold on when you know that you’re meeting your goal.

Climbing…”this is hard!”. I encountered a friend who obviously recognized the suffering in my facial expression, gave me a high five (barely had energy for that!) and said, “you’ve got this Nancy! In a block and a half you’ve got a downhill.”

My new mantra was “hold on! hold on! I’m doing it! Just. Hold. On!”

Then with a mile and a half to go…with my quads screaming, my left leg decided that it was done. I felt a heavy, numb sensation all throughout my left leg. Shit! My average pace was now 9:19. There was no way I was giving up now…so dig deep as my coach said and force that leg to work.

Heading down the last hill I opted to skip the last water station because I was afraid that if I slowed down my leg would take that as a sign that it could quit. Thankfully I was now on very familiar running territory…I just had to hold on to the end.

As we turned on to Harbor Blvd, two different people commented, “you’re doing great!” I responded to one of them, “If I can hold on, I’m going to Boston!” Average pace was now 9:20.

Mountain 2 Beach Marathon & Half
I did it! And I can honestly say I gave it all I had!

I had told my family that this part of the course was going to be either happy-hard or miserable-hard, depending on how the rest of the race had gone. The happy was the only thing that kept that left leg moving. One mile to go, “hold on… Boston… hold on… Boston… hold on… OMG Boston…HOLD ON” With less than half a mile, my average pace hit 9:21. Dig a bit more because at this point 9:22 is not acceptable!

My husband, son, and some friends were cheering at the finish shoot…I didn’t see or hear them. All I could focus on was making it to that finish line.

I finished at 4:04:49! According to Garmin, my average pace was 9:21. According to the official race results it was 9:20. According to both…I’m going to Boston!

I had trouble getting up on the box because my quads were fried!

30 Pounds – Gratitude 4/11

This is me finishing my most recent race…I was actually using it as a training run.


This morning I participated in a group exercise class at #M26Fitness. This isn’t new, as I usually try to get in two classes a week. But this was a new day /time /instructor for me. I enjoyed the very hard work of this class and will have to fit some of these into my weekly schedule.

The purpose of writing about it today is the big reminder that it gave me. As part of our lower body workout we had to do 30 second sets of walking lunges while holding kettle bells in each hand. I chose 15 pound weights, thus lunging across the room holding an extra 30 pounds. Towards the end of each 30 seconds, and then for most of the last set this extra 30 pounds while lunging was heavier and heavier.

With my husband, after a 5k and the beginning of this running journey.

Then I remembered that I am 80 pounds (plus or minus) lighter than I was five years ago…50 pounds lighter than three years ago…30 pounds lighter than two years ago…and so on. Today I can’t imagine how I functioned with that extra weight!

Now sometimes we want to lose weight and we want to lose it quickly. That’s been me for much of my life. But what worked for me was to not focus so much on weight, but rather on fitness and healthy eating. When I did this the pounds SLOWLY came off. At the beginning one could say, “5+ years to lose 80 pounds! No way! That takes too long.”

But the real benefit is in being able to look back and say, I’ve become a runner…actually a marathoner and the weight loss is an added benefit. My advice to anyone wanting to work on fitness is to try something… commit to it long enough that you really can do it…and have fun. Then, one day you will be able to look back and say, “wow!”

Today I’m personally thankful for: the mental and physical health benefits of running (and other hard work); beautiful Ventura County where it’s easy to run and play; and life!

Just Go! Gratitude 2/18

Ventura Pier after the storm. Photo by Matt Switzler

Today’s long run was 11 miles…and I was looking forward to it! But yesterday’s storm wasn’t quite done with us, so we woke to a nice steady rain ( thankfully not the downpour and wind of yesterday). As we left the house (Matt and Megan ran with me) the rain continued, and our normal route was detoured due to flooding. Joy! We parked in downtown Ventura and did our warmup in the parking garage to delay the inevitable soaking.

Photo by Matt Switzler
We’re not used to seeing water in this river. Photo by Matt Switzler

Then we were off! We had a light rain for about a mile then nothing. The normally dry river was flowing strongly and we discovered the RV park next to it was evacuated and flooded.

We continued on and shortly encountered mud…it was at the 2-mile mark. We slowly waded through…. ran… encountered more mud… ran…mud…ran…and then experienced the worse mud as the Emma Wood trail encountered the highway. The highway was also buried in mud. Because he was only running 6 miles, Matt had already turned back. Megan and I had just under 8 miles more to run.

This wasn’t the worse of the mud! Photo by Matt Switzler

Those next miles were wonderful…beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, beautiful running! Megan and I decided to run the next 8 here so as not to return through the mud. Thankfully Scott agreed to pick us up on the Rincon (and he arrived just as we hit 11 miles).

All this is a reminder that even when something doesn’t look promising, just go. You just might be pleasantly surprised! And if the workout (or task) isn’t pleasant, you still accomplished it!

Today I’m personally thankful for: my kids who are also training partners (I even kept up with Megan today!); the photos that Matt took of today’s sites; and for successfully completing week 2 of Mountains2Beach training (30.9 miles).