Pittsburgh Marathon Training – Week 6

The first time I complain this year about the heat, or humidity or sun….smack me. Hard.  It’s cold out there. Really freaking cold.  In fact, it was cold enough that my Weather Channel app even reminded me to put on a hat.

Thanks, Mom.

Thanks, Mom.

I keep our thermostat pretty high because I’m freezing no matter what, and I think the cats are starting to appreciate it.

Heat stealer!

Heat stealer!

They camp out and smush themselves right up against the vents when the heat comes on. It’s horrible for their skin, but it’s not like I can stop them. I’ve lost all control of this house.

Stealing all of the warms

Stealing all of the warms


This could be why I'm always cold. They take it all.

This could be why I’m always cold. They take it all.

I capped week 6 of training off with a 15 mile long run. I was actually really excited about this run (until I saw the conditions at North Park, at least), because to me, it finally feels like I’m marathon training! I also (finally) registered for this weekend’s Spring Thaw out at North Park – I’m running the 10 miler! At first I was going to do the 15 as my long run, but then realized that there was a good possibility that I would finish last in that race so I decided to stick with the 10 and go for a hard effort.  I’ve never raced 10 miles before, so it will be an automatic PR and should  be a good indicator of where I’m at in my training. To be honest, if you had asked me yesterday, I would have told you I’ve got this in the bag. Then I saw the countdown on the race website and, well, now I’m not so sure,

Oh, shit. It's getting close!

Oh, shit. It’s getting close!

Hopefully, Saturday’s race will give me some confidence!

Monday – Rest.

Tuesday – 4 on the treadmill. I added in some hills to at least attempt to mimic outdoor conditions and really picked up the pace for the last three quarter of a mile, or so. I enjoy trying to simulate a fast finish and the treadmill really helps me do that. It was brutal, but I kept telling myself that I was at mile 24.5 of the marathon and tried to picture me still looking strong and passing people and crossing the line with a 4 in front of my time. Sounds cheesy, but it works! 4 miles 44:22 (11:05 pace)



Wednesday – Strength.  You can read all about the new strength program that I’m trying out here.

Thursday – 5 Tempo miles. On the treadmill. HOLLA! I’ve only run 5 miles on the ‘mill one other time, so this was a pretty big deal for me, especially because I was able to successfully incorporate speed too! I started out at a 5.3, and gradually increased the speed as I went. I forgot to keep track of what increments I increased to, but I eventually held it at a comfortably hard pace for a 1.5 miles (it was maybe a 5.7 or 5.8? not sure). Somewhere along the line, I tried to calculate what my overall pace would be and I wasn’t coming out with anything under 11 min/mile and that pissed me off, so I ran the last mile or so at a pretty fast clip…maybe 6.8 or 7. Again, not sure and trying to take a picture when I was going that fast would have ended with a trip to the ER. When I put the numbers into FitSnap I was really pleased to see a 10:39 pace. Daily Mile gave me a 10:40 pace, so naturally I’m picking the faster one. 5 miles 53:20 (10:40 39 pace)

Treadmill runs mean that I don't have to match, can avoid the MINUS FOURTEEN degrees b.s. and Peanut can cheer me on!

Treadmill runs mean that I don’t have to match, can avoid the MINUS FOURTEEN degrees b.s. and Peanut can cheer me on!


Friday – I needed the sleep, so I decided to do my strength after work. And then I didn’t. I came  home and Tall One had made dinner plans, so I didn’t even have time to change let alone pump some iron. I thought about doing it after dinner, but I desperately needed to get to the store before the snow came Saturday. By the time I got home it was close to 9 and I admitted defeat. Lesson learned: just do it in the morning before shit can hit the fan and ruin all of your plans. I’m not too upset, but this is the 2nd week in a row that poor planning on my part has caused me to skip or cut short a workout.  I don’t want this to become a habit so I need to stop this now.

Saturday – 8 miles on the schedule. We were supposed to get 6-8 inches of snow throughout the day, so there really was no good time to head out. I started out and did what has become my “snow route”. It’s a lap through the cemetery, then out and up the side street next to the cemetery and up and down the side streets, back into the cemetery for a lap and repeat until I’ve hit my goal. As I was running, the snow kept falling harder and each time I made a pass through, my old footprints would already be covered.

I tried to take pictures of my footprints getting covered, but it doesn't look like anything.

I tried to take pictures of my footprints getting covered, but it doesn’t look like anything.

My eyelashes had icicles on them! I tried to take a picture, but my phone shut off due to the cold. This is a little frustrating to me; I carry my phone in case of emergency. What good does that do me if it turns off because it’s cold out?? Not OK, Apple!!  The streets were a mess, and it was getting harder and harder to run. It kind of felt like running in quick sand – I ‘m calling this resistance training! It did occur to me that I could’ve waited for the salt truck, but then I would have been running in slush so it was pretty much lose, lose. Oh well! 8 smiles – 1:39 (12:23 pace) I came back inside and since it was a snow day, did a bunch of cleaning and organizing to keep myself busy while Tall One was working.  I was a machine. I also washed my iPod Shuffle when I did some laundry. Luckily, it still seems to be working!

Sunday – My technical difficulties continued when I left my Garmin at home. WHO DOES THAT?! I walked out the door to meet Jennifer at North Park and left the Garmin sitting on my desk. I realized what I had done on the way out there, but didn’t want to turn around and hold up our run. I decided I would have to use the Run Keeper app on my phone.  As I drove out to North Park, I had hoped that the running lanes/paths would be clear and I was sorely disappointed to see nothing but slop around the lake. We got started; I had 15 on the schedule and Jennifer 7. Right away we knew this would be another tough “resistance run” due to the conditions. It was SO bad – people were running in the road (which makes me SO nervous, especially with my back to traffic), but you really didn’t have a choice in some spots.  We were slipping and sliding allll over the place, but we made the best of it! When I do these long runs, I always try to negative split the parts I do alone to hopefully mimic race day as best I can. I’m pretty sure I did that on Sunday, but I wouldn’t know for sure because MY PHONE DIED AGAIN!!! At mile 14.54. I muttered a few choice words and then I nearly chucked that f*cker into the lake.  Luckily, the data was saved despite the shut down and I had been monitoring my pace after Jennifer and I parted ways so I’m  sure I pulled off the negative split, but I don’t know what my final pace was. I’m giving myself an even 12 min pace just because I can, and because I was a 12:03 pace with a half mile to go and I was starting to pick it up for a fast finish. So. 15 miles 3:00 (12:00 pace).   This was the first time I used the RunKeeper app and I really liked it! I’ll do a small separate post on it, because it’s definitely a good app to the keep on your phone for the days when your Garmin dies….or you just plain forget it! No pictures from this run because, you know, phone died. Jag-off.

So, there it is. Another week down!  How are you handling the weather?? Are you running the Spring Thaw this weekend?


My New Strength Program – The New Rules of Lifting for Women

I’ve mentioned my new strength training program a few times without actually talking about it. I did that for a few reasons, but mainly because I wanted to give it a few weeks to make sure I liked it, would stick with it, etc. I was also kind of hoping to have some results (lost inches, or pounds) to brag about, but that hasn’t happened yet. I’ll get into why I think I haven’t in a little bit.

When it comes to strength training, weight lifting, whatever you want to call it, I am a total moron.  I don’t know or understand how to devise a plan: how many sets, reps, how much weight to use, how long to do it for? Do I add in cardio? WHAT DO I DOOOOO?! Basically, I just want someone to tell me exactly what I should be doing. 

For several years, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about The New Rules of Lifting for Woman  by Lou Schuler, but I always ignored it because I thought that it may be too extensive, or I would have to join a gym…and the excuses went on.  I Googled the book, found a bunch of reviews, decided to go for it and ordered it off of Amazon.  If I read the book and ended up not finding it to be a good fit, or I didn’t stick with it then..…let’s just say it wouldn’t be the first time I spent money on a diet/exercise book only to have it collecting dust a few months later 😉 .  But, because I had done a lot of research beforehand I had a pretty good idea of the principles of the book, and the workouts they had you doing; so as soon as the book arrived I wasted no time in getting started.


Gizmo approves


The premise:

As I’m sure we’ve all heard by now, women can and should be lifting heavy. No pink Barbie weights, although, I am seriously embarrassed to admit I do in fact own a set of pink 2 lb dumbbells! 

You thought I was joking, didn't you??

You thought I was joking, didn’t you??

Not only should we be lifting heavy but we also need to be eating a lot more in order to support this kind of program. You are provided with a formula to calculate your caloric needs, but I found a much easier way online – this spreadsheet is fantastic! Just plug your numbers in and the calculations are done for you! My math hating brain was happy! Along with the daily calories, it also breaks down the macros for you so you know how many grams of each macro you should (try) to consume *.  There are also sample meal plans and recipes to help you out, if needed.  Or course, protein is listed at the most important/largest macro in order to help you build up the muscles, and a post workout protein shake is required (which I haven’t been doing).  You are encourage to take before/after pictures (I never got around to that, but I’m thinking I’m still going to. And keeping them locked away to never see the light of day) and measurements to help you measure progress. because you may not lose numbers on the scale, but will still lose inches.  I did take those, but to be honest, I’m hesitant to share. Mostly because I’m so self conscious and am just not sure how I feel about putting it out there. Maybe at the end of the whole program…maybe.  I’ve also been tracking the weights that I use each time so that I remember and so I can see that progress as well. That is hugely motivating because that is absolutely progress I can SEE. That I will definitely be sharing as I complete the stages.

The plan. Ideally. :

You are given workouts that should take you the course of 6 month from start to finish, and can take a little longer depending on how you approach the program. He tells you 3 days is ideal (with a rest day in between workouts, which is why I’m always so hesitant to double up on days when I move workouts around) 2 will work and 1 isn’t enough. Because my main focus right now is marathon training, I opted for 2 days so that I can keep my Monday rest days…you know how much I love them! Right now, in Stage 1 there are 2 workouts A & B (clever, right?).  You alternate back and forth between those workouts; if you do 3 days a week (A, B, A) it will take you six weeks to complete and if you do twice a week it will take you 8 weeks. As you work your way through Stage 1, you decrease the number of reps and then increase the number of sets. As you move through the program, the idea is that your weights should be increasing too*, as well as your rest time between sets. Right now my rest time is 60 seconds and that feel like just enough; I’ve flipped through the other stages and the rest time can get up to 120 seconds.

The plan, in reality:

This is where  my asterisks come into play. The short version is, I’m following the plan…but I’m really not. In the very last couple of pages of the book, the author sneak this line in “Don’t try to train for a marathon and complete this program at the same time“. Ooops. To be fair, he’s kind of right. To build the kind of muscles he’s talking about, and to see big results, you need a fair amount of protein which by default (and necessity) lowers the amount of carbohydrates you consume. To train for a marathon, you need to eating a large amount (50-60+ % depending on your viewpoints) of healthy carbohydrates which aren’t going to build muscles, but will certainly fuel your runs.  The reason stated in the book is “There’s just no point in trying to make your body smaller and more effecient at the same time you’re trying to make it stronger and rev up your metabolism”. Having said all of that, I also think that in the weightlifting community in general, there is a bit of disdain for endurance running. They aren’t fans of it, and some people have no problem letting you know that. That’s fine, bro. You do you. Most runners though, know that they need to be incorporating SOME kind of strength training into their plans. I’m already typing out a novel, so here, here, and here are some handy dandy links that remind us why strength is a crucial aspect to running. One of my goals this year is to stay injury free, and I know that strength training will play a huge role in that. So I’m not following the nutrition plan closely, which I know means I won’t see the best results possible, and I know that and am fine with it. 

The other aspect is the heavy lifting part. I’m definitely lifting heavier than I think I ever have, but I’m still not lifting heavy enough and there are 2 reasons for that. The first reason is due to a combination of lacking some equipment and being concerned for my safety. I do all of the workouts in my basement with whatever equipment I have and I’m missing some things. My dumbbell/weight plate collection isn’t very expansive; so sometimes I could probably go heavier, but can’t because I don’t have a heavier weight. I’m slowly adding to that – buying sets as I need them but seriously cannot purchase a set of cast iron 12 lb dumbbells if my life depended on it. Every time I go to Dick’s, they are out.  I also worry about my form for things like deadlifts so I will play it safe with a lighter weight to ensure that I don’t hurt myself.  I do my workouts alone and my only supervision is a fat cat.

I'm sure you're jealous of my mauve remnant carpet in my basement. Back off. You can't have it.

I’m sure you’re jealous of my mauve remnant carpet in my basement. Back off. You can’t have it.

He lacks the opposable thumbs to assist me in getting a heavy barbell + weight plates on my back for squats, and is a terrible spotter so I play it safe and increase the weights sloooooowly.

The 2nd big reason is that when I do my A workout on Wednesday, I have a speed day on Thursday so I don’t want my legs to be totally trashed for that; likewise, my B Days are Fridays and I am heading into a high volume (for me) weekend with long runs and mid distance hill work. Right now, getting those runs in is so much more important to me than being able to deadlift an extra 15 lbs.

So, all in all, I’m seeing results…but I’m not, and I knew that was going to happen.  I’m increasing weights, but not at the best rate and I am a little disappointed that the most physical change I can see is a that I finally have a smidge of definition in my biceps, but oh well. Once the marathon in over in May, I’ll be able to commit to the recommended 3 days per week, and the nutrition plan much better than I can now. Hopefully by doing that I will start to SEE the muscles!

So…why do it then?

If you’ve stuck with my this far, first, THANKS – you deserve a damn medal! And second, you’re probably wondering why in the hell I even bothered with this program if I’m not really going to follow it. Excellent question. The big reason is that I just needed a plan to follow. I honestly was having so much trouble trying to figure it out on my own, and was getting frustrated. At least with this, all of the guess work has been taken out. I’m also hilariously weak, so I wanted to ease into the program to get me used to the moves and making sure I have good form before I follow the program to a T and lift all of the heavy things.  And as I mentioned before, but it was 8,645 words ago so you may have forgotten, the other biggie is injury prevention. Strength training absolutely helps with that and I want to get to this start line 100% healthy and strong. At the end of my training for Nittany Valley, I was starting to experiencing some knee pain that I’m pretty sure was related to some very weak hips. Since I’ve started NROLFW, I’ve noticed that pain  is *knock on wood* practically gone! That alone makes this program 100% worth it.

So. There it is! The strength plan I’m kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really following for the Pittsburgh Marathon. What do you think? Am I nuts? Is this a bad plan?   This post is already longer than War and Peace, so I’ll lay out Stage 1 in detail in the next post.

What strength plan do you follow?