Posts Tagged by taper

Marathon Week: Surviving the Storm

In case you haven’t heard the news, it’s NYCM Week Hurricane Sandy week! So far things have been relatively calm up in Vermont…weather-wise, anyway. I don’t think we’ll be getting hit nearly as hard as all of you down in DC/NYC/NJ. But after the devastating effects of Irene up here last year, I think it’s pretty safe to say that everyone is a little on edge. We’ll see what happens when the wind and rain start picking up later this evening.

I hope those of you who are getting hit right now are staying safe, warm, and dry. Yesterday, we prepared for the hurricane by buying a few essentials.

…or technically I should say Evan went out to buy the essentials.

hurricane essentialsWe won’t be able to cook anything or get water if the power goes out. Since carbs are essential this week, I had to make sure I was able to carbo-load somehow…even if that means drinking them.

…while I ran 9 miles. But considering the huge event that’s coming up this weekend, I’d say that was just as important of a task.

So now my final “long” run has been completed. Our dishes are clean. The laundry is done. We have extra water, carbs, board games and fully charged Kindles. All that’s left to do is relax and ride out the storm.

…both the one caused by mother nature and that which is the result of taper crazies + PMS’ing. (Sorry, TMI?) The {ontherun}house is not the most relaxing place to be this week.

For the rest of the week, I’ll be trying to stay sane and avoid annoying Evan and my sister as much as possible by focusing on a concrete list of marathon “to-dos.”

Things like…

Testing out new marathon gear. {This is the Saucony AM Run Cap in case you’re interested. I want one in every color.}

saucony capI heart sweat…and Ali

Rocking compression like it’s my job.

procompression&miragesPro Compression + brand new Mirage 2s…I may have a small obsession with green running gear.

Officially starting Operation: Leave No Carb Behind. Yesterday we made marinara sauce, homemade bread, and apple crisp, so I think I’m off to a pretty decent start. The plan for the next few days is to gradually increase the amount of carbohydrates I’m eating while still focusing on getting enough protein and healthy fats. As the week goes on, my overall intake of simple carbohydrates will increase while my consumption of fruits/veggies/other high fiber foods goes down.

Shouldn’t be too hard to do, seeing as all my favorite foods are carbs.


Figuring out my race day outfit. Obviously it’ll be heavy on the green and pink, but I still haven’t quite decided what top I’ll be running in yet. I guess we’ll wait and see how Sandy affects things for this weekend before I make the final call. It’s a good thing NYC is within driving distance, because I’m pretty sure I’ll be bringing a suitcase the size of a raft.

Reading race recaps and watching NYCM videos. Ali posted this one the other day and has promised me another showing on the big screen Friday night. If you’re running on Sunday, I highly recommend watching this. It’ll definitely get you excited.

The Road To The Finish from StoryView on Vimeo.

Obsessing over Writing down marathon goals and pacing plans. I plan to actually post about this later in the week, but it’s been difficult for me to actually figure out real goals for the race on Sunday (well, besides: “Don’t trash your legs before Ragnar Vegas”). You know how they say “The hay is in the barn” when you get to the taper period…? Well, my hay may be in there, but that doesn’t mean I feel confident I have enough. Although I’ve completed some great tempo runs and hill workouts, my overall weekly mileage and long run mileage were not really as high as they should’ve been. And I honestly don’t know what that means for the marathon. It sure would be nice if I had a little crystal ball I could look into to tell me my ideal race plan…

Trying not to freak out over marathon nightmares. Last night I dreamt that I finished the race in over 6 hours. I kept thinking “this has to be wrong!” when I looked at the time. Except that it was dark and everyone was gone when I got to the finish line. And then I couldn’t find my way back to Ali’s apartment, so I wandered aimlessly around the city for hours. Very productive race day visualization I’ve got going on over here…

Putting together my list of marathon pump-up songs. I don’t usually listen to my iPod for an entire marathon, but I do like having it to help with focus or motivation when I’m struggling. At this point I’ve been listening to the same old list of songs for every single long run this summer. Changing up my music is one of those never-fail pump up strategies for me.

Buying my ticket to Vegas. I’ll be celebrating my NYCM finish with a 24-hour party…relay style. The only problem is that I haven’t actually gotten myself a flight yet…despite knowing about this race for months now. Have I mentioned that I have a small problem with procrastination?

Putting my feet up. It can be hard to relax when the nerves are kicking in. But no amount of training that I do this week could actually help my marathon performance (in fact, extra running would only hinder it). So even though I have lots of extra nervous energy to run off, I’m focusing on getting 8 hours of sleep and spending more time on the couch.

The one upside to this nasty weather is that it makes it easier to be inside. So if it means I miss a planned run or two, so be it. Bring on the rest. Come Sunday, I want these legs to be rarin’ to go!


Taper Confessions

I have used this marathon training cycle as an excuse to give up on all forms of strength training. I know this is dumb and I really have no excuse (other than laziness, that is). Not only does regular strength training help running, but I’m not even running enough miles per week to justify cutting it out.

These days, the only type of upper body strength exercises I’m doing is carrying my handheld water bottle on long runs (same thing, right…?).


To make up for my pancake flat run last week, for this week’s long run I chose one of the hilliest routes by my house. Just for comparison, last week I started out at 3 feet above sea level and climbed a grand total of 107 feet over the course of 20ish miles. This week I started around 840 feet and climbed 1,236 feet over the course of 14.5 miles.

Second 15ish miles of my run in Florida (I re-started the watch after the first 5.5). Those tiny peaks are bridges…

Florida 20  last 15

vs….. 14.5 miles in Vermont.

Elevation 14 5 miles

On the bright side, it also meant I got to run down over 1,000 feet. Can’t complain about that!

And although those hills seemed to grow in my absence, I stand by what I said before — hills and cool air over flat and humidity any day! Maybe it’s because I’m finally getting used to this particular type of torture. More likely, it’s because the entire run was perfect. High 50s, a mix of sun and clouds, country roads, mountain views, falling leaves…in short, my running paradise.

Alysons Orchard_1Okay, so this isn’t really from my run. But it’s fall in New England…and I like it.

In the past, my love for running and my love for training have always gone hand-in-hand. If one was down, the other would be too. These days, however, my love for running far outweighs my love for actual training. My love for running increased dramatically after the knee injury. My love for training – not so much. Maybe it was too much, too soon. Maybe I’m just burned out on marathons. Regardless, it’s made me re-evaluate many of my running goals for 2013.

Related: I have dreaded my long runs this marathon training cycle. This one is especially tough to admit, since long runs are the building blocks of training. And if you hate doing them, why train for a marathon (great question)?? Unfortunately, for the past several months most of my long runs have been really tough — physically and mentally. Until yesterday’s. It was (by far!) the best long run I’ve had during my entire time of training. I ran completely by feel and felt so strong the entire way. Where has this girl been for the past few months? It was almost enough to make me fall in love with marathons again…almost.

Whenever I hear anything about the hills in the New York City Marathon, there’s this tiny snotty voice in the back of my mind that scoffs and says: “clearly they don’t train in Vermont!” Obviously I have no right to feel this way…seeing as I’ve only lived here for a few months and am still not very good at running up those things. I have a feeling I’m going to regret this attitude in a few weeks. So yes, you all can laugh at me and roll your eyes when I complain about how long the climb up the Queensboro bridge felt…or the endless seeming hills through Central Park. Everything feels harder during a marathon.

This past weekend, the Conkey men invaded Vermont for “Horror Movie Weekend.” We basically did nothing but watch scary movies (including the new Paranormal Activity 4 – go see it!!) for 3 days straight. Which means I’ve gotten about 0 hours of sleep ever since. Not exactly the best preparation for a long run.

Conkeys_horror movie weekend

But one benefit of being unemployed: there’s no real pressure to fit in a long run over the weekend if the timing doesn’t work out (or if I’m sleep deprived). Yesterday I ran 14.5 miles on a Monday afternoon, just because I could. And it was amazing.

I am convinced that one of our cats has made it his mission in life to suffocate me during the night. I can’t even tell you how many times in the past couple of weeks I’ve woken up to find him lying on my chest (combine that with the horror movie fest above, and you can see why I’ve gotten no sleep lately). When he’s not on my chest, he has taken to sleeping in other super uncomfortable, inconvenient positions.

IMG 1703This is no tiny cat, either…

I hate ice baths. Hate them. Outside of the torture I received in those metal tubs in the trainer’s office during college, I’ve taken maybe 2 ice baths in my entire running career. I can’t say that this is necessarily the best strategy, and I know some of you swear by them. But now that the temperature is dropping, the last thing I want to do after a run is sit in a tub for 20 minutes while freezing and wet. I much prefer recovery methods that involve dry clothes and warmth.

Luckily I get to try out a new type of recovery aid this time around. I’ve had e-stim in the past with great results, but I haven’t actually used the Compex unit enough to be able to say for sure whether it makes a big difference (stay tuned). But I do know that I’ll take twitching muscles over freezing baths any day.

compex procompressionCompex e-stim + Pro Compression + liquid carbs = recovery perfection

I haven’t actually thought much about how it’s going to feel to run Ragnar less than a week after completing NYCM. I mean…I know it’s happening. I just haven’t really let it all sink in. At this point I’m thinking denial is the way to go. I won’t let my legs think about the fact that they have to race again so soon after the marathon until I arrive in Vegas.

I think it is impossible to go into a big race without any goals whatsoever. That being said, my goals for NYCM are more in terms of “Priority A,” “Priority B,” etc, instead of being related to any specific times. 

Although I am excited to run the New York City Marathon, I have to admit that I’m even more excited for the pre/post-race festivities: a sleepover with Emily and Ali and a mini reunion with some of my teammates from HTC. Those things alone are worth going to NYC for.


On that note: Does anyone have any great New York City Marathon posts to share? I want to read about it and get myself pumped up! And if you are running the marathon, you should read this post: Why the New York Marathon Is the Best Marathon in the World. While I can’t really support her claim yet (and not sure if I ever will…Boston has such a big place in my heart), it’s the perfect post to get you excited about NYCM.

Beware the Crazy Marathoner

I would like to have been able to title this post “How to Stay Calm the Week of Your Marathon.” Or at least “How to act like a rational adult when under pressure.” Instead, I need to confess that I’ve done neither of those things this week. Despite the hours I’ve spent trying to convince myself that this marathon is a no-pressure, “just go out there and see what you can do” situation, I’ve been hit with the pre-marathon nerves. And hit hard.

You’d think that after 5 marathons and 27 years of life, I’d be a little more collected. But nope – I’m embarrassed to admit that all it takes is a large, out of town race to reduce me to a 5 year old. I’m sure I’ve been such a joy to be around this week.

So in the spirit of “do as I say, not as I do,” here is how this week in {ontherun} land went.


Wake up and am immediately hit by the fact that in less than a week’s time, I’ll be running the 36th MCM. Heart rate soars. Go to work. Have a mild, public freak-out about my training and the taper. Almost convince myself that the sane and smart thing to do at this point in my training is to go out and run 9 miles that afternoon. You know, because everyone knows you should do one last semi-long run duringmarathon week.

I need somebody to remind me that less is more during marathon week. But I feel like I messed up last wk & am tempted to make that up today

Talk to Twitter and my always wise Father (yep, I still call my dad to calm me before races), and am finally brought to my senses about the stupidity of my plan.

After work, see that the shoes that I finally got around to ordering last week (oops) have been delivered. Take them out for a test run. Decide that’s a good enough test to declare the shoes marathon worthy.


Wear my brand new running shoes to work in an effort to break them in as quickly as possible. Notice that my quads seem to be experiencing mysterious muscle aches. And that dang knee pain hasn’t gone away. Take the day off running and ice instead.

After work, head to the store because I’ve managed to convince myself that I absolutely need a pair of green shorts for the race. Find myself slightly disappointed in the store’s small selection of shorts (I guess winter is coming or something), but settle on a pair of Nike tempos.

They’re not green and pink, but they will do.


Proceed to have a minor meltdown that night because of a bad stomachache. As if stomach pains are the first sign that everything is falling apart.


Wake up congested. Convince myself that I am suddenly coming down with some horrible disease whose impacts are far more serious than those of seasonal allergies. Proceed to drink enough water and nuun during the day to warrant a trip to the bathroom every half hour.

After work, go for a short, easy run to test out the new shorts. They hold up great for 4 miles – decide this must mean that they’re marathon worthy. Meet Lizzy and Beckyfor a carb-filled pizza dinner. Go to bed feeling calm.


Wake up congested again. Apparently that rare disease I’ve just contracted hasn’t gone away over night. Take an allergy pill on the off-chance that I’m actually just suffering from seasonal allergies, and not a condition that is likely to result in severe injury or death.

Head to work. Proceed to tell everyone that I won’t be in on Friday because I’m running a marathon. To which they reply, “Again?!” Not quite the response I was going for… Manage to make it through the day feeling relatively calm.

After work, go for a really easy 3 mile run in the cold rain. It’s like a 25 minute ice bath for my legs and I love it. Until the last half mile when I suddenly feel an odd, yet painful tweak in my left quad. Stop to walk and rub it out. Try to rationalize it’s just a cold muscle…and not a pulled one.

Get home from the run and head out to complete a few last minute errands. Suddenly all the calm I had been feeling during the day melts away and everything seems to be going wrong all at once. Proceed to have the biggest meltdown yet. By this point, EC is looking for the nearest escape route – and beginning to have serious doubts about being stuck on a plane with me the next morning.

Finally talk to my parents and get an awesome MCM email from Dorothy. All is right with the world again. Set my alarm for a super early wake up call.

Friday (today)

Wake up as soon as the alarm goes off feeling groggy but excited. I’m going to DC today!! Gather up a few remaining things and my carry-on suitcase (not taking any chances this time). Head out to the car and am shocked to find it coated in layer of ice (in October!!). Despite that minor setback, everything goes smoothly. I get to the airport with EC in plenty of time, board the flight, and get myself to DC.

Now I’m hanging out with my wonderful sister, who greeted me with a huge gift bag filled with pre-marathon goodies (dark chocolate, granola, and bananas – what else could I girl want?). We’ll be heading to the expo in a little bit, and I’m surprised that I feel calmer now than I have all week. Maybe I just had to get all the freak-outs out of the way early…

Good luck to everyone running this weekend!

There’s still time to enter my Team Sparkle Skirt Giveaway! Entries are accepted until November 1st!

What I’m Loving Now: MCM Taper Edition

There are only 8 more days until I’m standing on the starting line of the 36th Marine Corps Marathon; 5 until I’m on a plane heading south to VA. As the race draws closer, I’m spending less time running and more time thinking – reflecting over my training and my goals for marathon day.

Translation: the taper crazies are currently ramped up to an all time high.

I don’t know why I always think that marathons will suddenly become less intimidating. While nothing will ever be as nerve-wracking as my first, the truth remains – a marathon is a very long race. A race that you put a lot of time and energy into training for. And no matter what your training has looked like, anything can happen on race day.

In case you were wondering, heavy thoughts and a restless body aren’t exactly the greatest combination.

Luckily, this taper hasn’t been all bad. There are a few good things that have gotten me through the week, and distracted me from those heavy marathon thoughts about performance, goals, and whether these achy knees of mine are going to hold up for 3+ hours. So in the spirit of my 6th marathon, here are 6 things I’m loving:

1.) Operation Leave No Carb Behind. The gradual upping of carbohydrates in preparation of race day is in full swing. While I do happen to consider myself a bit of a pro at this already, I’ve been more conscious than usual about the types of foods I’m eating from now until the marathon. Candy corn and alcohol are out. Whole grains, healthy fats, and proteins are in.



2.) Followed closely by Operation Hydration. Particularly in the form of Bananaberry Nuun. Half a tablet of banana + half a tablet of tri-berry = my newest obsession. And the greatest flavor of nuun that has yet to be created.


Good thing I’m pretty well stocked at the moment.


3.) Long runs that are “only” 10 miles. Tomorrow morning I’ll be doing my last long run of this training cycle. It’s a strange, but wonderful thing to think I’ll be running for less than an hour and a half. And then it’s all about resting until race day.

4.) Real time race tracking

I'm tweeting Marine Corps Marathon times for LAUREN BUCKEL in real time on race day. Courtesy of Nissan

Actually, I’m not really sure I love this yet. Knowing that your times will be automatically tweeted whether you’re running well or not adds a little element of pressure, I think. But I know I like stalking tracking other people’s times on race day to see how they’re doing. So now you can stalk me too.


5.) Sparkly Soul Headbands. I somehow won Dorothy’s giveaway for one of these headbands and I’m excited to sport one during MCM next week.


A perfect accessory for my #teamwatermelon race wear…and for keeping back hair that still doesn’t quite fit into a ponytail on its own.



6.) The end of Marine Corps Marathon Training. There comes a point in every training cycle when I just get tired of the act of training. And during today’s short uneventful run, I realized – I’m at that point. I wasn’t running fast or going far, but yet I felt tired…just from simply being out there. I’m tired of having MCM in the back of every single one of my thoughts and as the end goal for every single one of my workouts. And I’m tired of this taper – of making sure I get enough rest to be ready on race day. I need this week to speed up and get me to the starting line already!

While at the same time, I’m hoping it drags out forever…

Taper Reflections

Last Tuesday I ran 20 miles. Then yesterday I ran 15. It was technically my first week of the taper for MCM.

While I know two double digit long runs within a week doesn’t exactly sound like your typical taper schedule, given my training over the past 4 months, it was actually pretty fitting. My mileage this time around has been all over the place. I’ve had a series of mini tapers and recovery weeks, I’ve run long runs wherever I could fit them in, and have pretty much just made things up as I went along.

I didn’t start off the training cycle planning for it to be this way. I was going to stick to a strict plan, build up mileage the traditional way, and prepare for this marathon as best as I could. But if you click on my training page, you’ll notice that plan was never created. Sure, I sat down a couple of times and roughly sketched out the progression of long runs to see what I had to do to build up to 20 miles, but then I just went about stumbling through marathon training, one week at a time.

Why would I ever do this?? Well after a few weeks of training this summer, it became pretty clear that I needed to do something different. I was having a hard time adjusting, and was struggling with my mental attitude. So partially by design and partially because of circumstance, this summer I conducted a plan-less training experiment. And I don’t mean the type of “non-plan” that meant I would sit down at the beginning of each week and outline the type of workouts I needed to fit in. I mean that beyond knowing when my races were and when I’d have to run my first 20-miler in order to fit in 2 – 3 of them, I literally had no plan.

I know what most of you are thinking already, so before you object that this is not the way you do things when training for such a big race, let me just say: I know. I don’t think this is a good idea for first time marathoners and I’m not actually advocating for others to do the same. But I’d like to think that I’ve been training long enough to know what I need to do to prepare for a marathon. By this point, I don’t really need a day by day schedule to tell me what to run. I understand the amount of miles I should put in, the speed work I should do, and the types of cross training (like lifting) that can make me a better runner. In theory, I should be fine just making things up as I go.

But what I discovered after my 16(ish) week experiment? I like having structure.

I like having the plan spelled out before me in black and white. I like looking at this week and all the weeks after that to see what I need to accomplish and what it will lead to. I like seeing how each training run builds on the one before that, and just how far I’ve come to get to that point. Structure isn’t something that I feel weighed down or stressed out by – structure actually helps me thrive.

I know I’m not alone in this. There’s a reason people spend hours researching training styles and writing up training plans; or spend money to hire an experienced coach to guide them through training. Lots of runners thrive on structure – on numbers and data and a general order.

That wasn’t me this summer, however. For whatever reason, I didn’t really want all that feedback and guidance. I wanted to do what I wanted, when I wanted. And although typing it out this way makes me sound like the spoiled runner-child, the reality is – it worked out okay. …or at least I think it did. My only real worry every week was getting in my long run, and I sort of enjoyed the break. My mileage wasn’t as high as it has been in the past (as it probably should have been) and I didn’t go through that normal progression of buiding up to a peak before cutting back gradually during the taper. But I made it. Sort of. Here I am, two weeks out from my marathon, feeling ready to race. I may not be in any shape to run a PR time, but I know I’ll be able to do finish.

watermelon_sweating shirt

So why am I rambling on about all this? Because now that I’ve made it to the taper phase, I’m kind of lost. Since my mileage was all over the place and my last 20-miler was on a Tuesday of the following week, my weekly mileage never peaked at a certain number. Which means I can’t really follow the standard formulas – reducing your peak mileage by 20% the first week, then by 40% – 50% the following week, and finally cutting back enough the week of your marathon so that leading up to the race, you only run about 1/3 of your peak mileage (source: here and here). All I can do at this point, I suppose, is focus on the basics. As with the rest of my training, I know what long runs I need to do to lead up to the marathon. And I know the other taper “rules” I should be following, like:

    • Run easy – Besides one short marathon pace workout in the middle of the week and some 100 meter striders following my runs, I plan on (trying) to keep my runs slow and easy. This means no going out and averaging 7:45’s during my weekday runs even if I’m feeling awesome. The focus should be on recovery.
    • Get lots of sleep – Getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night is not one of my strong points. So the goal for the next two weeks is to rest up.
    • Prepare my mental game – I’ve struggled with my mental attitude more than anything this training cycle. It’s gotten better in the past couple of weeks, but I know it still isn’t where it needs to be if I want to tackle 26.2 at the end of the month. I have two more weeks to psyche myself up for this race.

believe bracelet

    • Hydrate – Even though yesterday’s weather was cool and not at all humid, I could tell I was dehyrdated a couple of miles into the run. When you plan on running for 2 hours, this is not a good way to start. For the next two weeks, I need to focus on being hydrated every single day.
    • Ice – As much as I love my pink and green racing flats, I have to admit that my knees haven’t been the same since I tore down the side of a mountain in Oregon while wearing them. For the past month and a half, I’ve been struggling on and off with knee pain. I plan to spend extra time icing this week and next, to make sure that pain doesn’t get in the way of MCM.

ice cups

  • Carbo-loading – You can’t just shovel in a bunch of carbs the night before a big race and think that your glycogen stores will be topped off. It’s better to start increasing the amount of carbs gradually (as well as focusing on eating healthy fats and proteins a couple of weeks before the race). Fortunately, that’s one thing I’m pretty good at already.

I know we’ve all heard it said 1,000 times before – trust the taper. But whenever I get to this phase of marathon training, I find that it’s easier said than done. I get antsy and nervous, and all I can think about is running my stress away. This time, I’m finding that trusting the taper is even harder than ever. I know my training is what it is – I can’t change it now. All I can do is focus on getting rest, and hope that I’ve done enough.

I guess we’ll find out in 13 days…

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