Pittsburgh Marathon Training Week 4!

Another week down. I try to stay as positive as possible, but, I have been feeling really ‘meh’ these last two weeks and I just need to get it out there. It’s one of the reasons it’s taken me so long to get this post up. I just  I  like I’m regressing in the speed department instead of making progress, and that worries me.  I gained weight in the “off season”, and can’t seem to lose it and that frustrates me.  I look at what other people are doing in their training (which I know is a stoopid thing to do) and feel like I’m not doing enough and that scares me.  I’m tired of running in the cold and dodging ice. I want to blog more, but I don’t feel like I have anything interesting/valuable to contribute. I’m also tired of whining and being in a shitty mood so hopefully something will change soon.  Anyway. Thanks for “listening” to me complain – I hate to do it, but sometimes it’s just necessary.

Monday – You know how I roll – Rest Day!

Tuesday4 miles. I wasn’t sure what the ice situation would be in the cemetery/surrounding roads so I decided to just get it done first thing in the morning, on the treadmill. I’ve said many times before that I really feel like I’m losing my hill mojo. They’re all starting to feel hard again and I don’t like that. So instead of playing around with the speed on the treadmill, I switched up the incline. I had no idea what I was doing, so I’d pump it up to a 2 or 2.5 incline, run that for a minute or two, then lower the incline back down to a .5 . The highest I got up to was a 4%, and my legs were really feeling it by the end so I’m going to say this was a success. I finished this in 44:45 (11:04 pace).

This popped up on my screen during my run. Perfect motivation!

This popped up on my screen during my run. Perfect motivation!

Wednesday – This was supposed to be strength but when I was greeted with a 40 degrees and sunshine leaving work, I knew that I needed to run. I raced home, put on shorts (!!!) and set out for 4 miles of speed. I wasn’t planning on running, so my Garmin wasn’t charged and it shit the bed not long after I started so I was running blind. I tried to use the Outside app on my phone, but it only tracks if the screen is on. Anytime it timed out to the lock screen, it would stop tracking. I used to have a Run Keeper app, but it was nowhere to be found.  By now I had no idea how far I’d gone, and I wasn’t even sure how long I’d been running.  I figured that I started running at about 5, so at 5:45 I wrapped it up. In my mind, if I was going “fast” I would have run  at least 4.1-4.3 ish miles, and if I wasn’t going as “fast” as I thought/hoped then I probably still got about 4 miles in. So, I could have run anywhere from an 11:15 pace (I don’t think it was this slow) to a 10:27 pace (not likely). I’m going to split the difference and hope that I was in the 10:50 range. I tried to keep the intensity up, but without any data it’s so hard to say. Either way, I was just happy to be OUTSIDE and enjoying the tease of spring.  After my run, I went right to the basement to get my weights in. I didn’t want to push it to Thursday because that meant back-to-back days of strength and that’s usually frowned upon.

Thursday – Should have been 4 miles, but since I was hardcore the day before and did both workouts, I got an extra rest day and it was FABULOUS. It was also 9 degrees out, so I was really happy that I didn’t have to go out there and run in that!

Friday Strength training.  This week felt harder than last week on both days, even though it was the exact some workout with the same weights and reps yet…I wasn’t as sore the next day.  I’m not sure what’s up with that – maybe last week  I went above and beyond because I was so excited about my new plan? That or the weights I picked were too heavy, and I should have started lighter. Who knows. I got my two days in and that’s still winning in my book!

Saturday Hills. I tried to come up with a good, hilly route that wasn’t still covered under snow and ice.  I did ok. After hearing Nichole and Jennifer talk about Heart Rate Monitors I wore my HRM for the first time in….years. Except… I had no idea what the numbers meant. They obviously spiked on the hard, hilly sections and leveled out on the flat/downhill parts. I did notice that on my last mile when I was really starting to struggle I had a hard time getting it to go back down.  I feel like this is obvious, though. Of course my heart rate is going to jump  when I’m trying to chug up a hill – I’m working harder. Of course it’s going to spike when I’m struggling….that’s why I’m struggling. Either way, I did 7 miles in 1:19 (11:18 pace) which is about average for me. Overall, I felt OK…I was able to distract myself with the HRM for a good portion of the run so it went by quickly.

Hills 7 2-7

Good climb going right into mile 4!



But what’s it mean?!


SundayLong Run with Jennifer! I was so excited to have my running partner back! It was also really nice out, so I threw on some shorts. I forgot that it’s normally colder at North Park, but I was still pretty comfortable and was much happier than I would have been in pants.  We did the first 6 together, and ran the lake loop backwards which was a nice change of pace. I wore my HRM again, but I still have no idea what it means. I was also reminded why I don’t wear it – after a while it gets very uncomfortable and starts to hurt. I don’t think I’m wearing it too high…it’s about flush with my sports bra strap. I was already over it by 3 or 4 miles and I spent the rest of my run cursing that thing. I think it’s safe to say I’ll probably be leaving it at home from now on. Of course, the first 6 flew by as we chatted and we passed Shaun and Kim who were both zooming around the lake! We parted ways after 6 miles and it started to wear on me. I turned on my music to give me a little boost, and it did for a mile or two, but overall I just struggled mentally.  My paces were right on, but my mind wasn’t in the best place. It just wanted to be done! I also saw Nichole zip past me on my second loop! It was great to see so many other runners/bloggers out and about! 12 miles 2:19 (11:39 pace).

So, that was my week. On the positive side, I got all 4 of my runs in! There is soooo much to improve on – I just need to focus on one thing at a time and take it from there. There’s plenty of time left before May 3rd (81 days, but who’s counting?!), and everything will be A-OK. And because we need a smile and I didn’t have many pictures this week, here’s a few cat pictures.

I got up for a cup of tea, and when I came back...my spot was gone.

I got up for a cup of tea, and when I came back…my spot was gone.

#whereswilbur ??

#whereswilbur ??

The cats have learned how to play on the iPad and they're hooked!

The cats have learned how to play on the iPad and they’re hooked!


Pittsburgh Marathon Training Week 3

Boy, oh boy! Old Man Winter finally woke up and joined the game, and he is a miserable SOB!! I’m being perfectly honest – this week was TOUGH! The snow was a challenge, but the ice seriously kicked my ass! I’ve been kind of pouting about this week (which is why I’m so late in posting), but I’m ready to move on!

Monday – Rest. This was pretty much the highlight of my week 😉 !

Tuesday3 miles 35:00 (11:47 pace). There was SO much ice out there, and I’m pretty sure anyone who saw me out probably thought I was practicing my figure skating routine, rather than marathon training. I made sure to take it verrrrrry easy so I wouldn’t fall.

Ice, Ice, Baby

Ice, Ice, Baby

Wednesday Strength! I’m doing a really good job of sticking to the twice a week plan, but I don’t feel like I’m getting anything out of it. I did some research and started a new plan this week. It really encourages you to lift heavier, and gives you a solid plan to follow. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to weightlifting so I’m excited to try this out and hopefully there will be some noticeable results as well! My legs and arms were really feeling it the next day so I hope it’s working!

Thursday – This was supposed to be a 4 mile tempo run, but didn’t even come close! My legs were seriously sore from Wednesday’s workout, and I wasn’t sure how well the tempo would go so I figured even a progression run would be OK. It had been raining for most of the afternoon so I thought the snow and ice would pretty much be gone. It kind of was…almost like a slushie, sno-cone consistency, but still patchy in some places. I got to try out some ice spikes that my dad sent to me, and they were a huge help!


Even with those, I still had to be careful and watch my step and my pace was all over the place. I finished the 4 miles in 45:10 (11:18 pace), so not even a little speedy but…it’s 4 miles in the books.

Friday Strength. Still using the new program; still loving it! I know that it’s still new but I’m really enjoying this.

Saturday Long Run! Based on the “oh my god! Snow is coming! The end is near!” forecasts, I moved my 12 miler to Saturday. I needed to get an early start, so Jennifer and I weren’t able to meet up. That was a major disappointment – we’ve done almost every single long run together since just after Christmas, and I really look forward to them. Jennifer is also the responsible one, and makes sure we stick to our long run paces.  This is key. Typically when I do long runs on my own, the same thing happens: I start out waaaaay too fast (like, faster than race pace) and the second half of my run becomes more of a death march/battle to survive. The overall pace looks OK, but the point is that I’m barely finishing them. When I run with Jennifer, not only do I finish but I finish strong. It’s amazing what happens when you do these runs properly. Seriously.  I was a little nervous that I would revert back to my old ways and I decided that the main goal would be to stick to an 11:30ish pace. No worries about negative splits etc….just run smart and don’t go out too fast.  It was FREEZING cold out at North Park – around 7 degrees, and I thought I was dressed properly, but I could have used an extra layer on my legs. At one point, I literally thought I froze my ass off. The backs of my legs and butt were SO cold, they hurt. I wondered if it was possible to get frostbite even if your skin wasn’t exposed (still don’t know the answer to this). I stopped at my car, and gave a quick check to ensure that my legs weren’t  discolored or looking strange. Everything seemed to be OK, and for a brief minute I debated cutting the run short, going home and doing my long run on Sunday. I was already out there so I pushed that thought out of my mind and kept going. And made a mental note to wear an extra pair of pants when it’s that cold!  I usually hate staring at my watch while I’m running (it’s so stressful!), but I kept a close eye on it to make sure I wasn’t going too fast.  Luckily, Jennifer is rubbing off on me and I was able to maintain a decent pace.

Nailed it. Kind of.

Nailed it. Kind of.

Admittedly, it wasn’t perfect and I was a little faster than I wanted but I accomplished my main goal: run smart and don’t go out too fast. I finished strong and overall was really happy with this run. This was undoubtedly my best run all week. 12 miles 2:15:57 (11:20 pace)

Sunday – This run. Ohhhhhh, this run.  I do a lot of my running in a cemetery. It’s super close to my home, safe (minus the turkeys), and has a good mix of short hills and longer inclines…basically it’s perfect. In theory, anyway. In reality, there was maybe a quarter mile stretch of road in the cemetery that wasn’t buried under a solid sheet of ice. I tried to walk on parts of it, but after I fell I decided I shouldn’t risk it. So I had do to a little more running on the side streets than I wanted, but I still did it. And it was HARD. I don’t know if my legs were tired from my long run and the new strength program, or I was afraid of falling again, but I just could NOT get my legs moving. 7 miles 1:23:41 (11:57 pace).

2-1 hills

You get a picture of the hills, because I’m not posting my splits. They were awful.

My pace ended up being over 30 seconds slower per mile than my long run. It sucked and that’s all I have to say about that. Well, just one more thing: even though this run was awful, I LOVE running in the snow (when there’s no ice). It’s sooo peaceful, and pretty and compared to the day before it almost felt warm 🙂

The elements really kicked my ass this week, but I need to shake that off and refocus for this upcoming week of training.  It’s not like I’m the only person out there who is dealing with shitty conditions…we all are.  Big deal. It’s January (technically February since I’m late posting this), in Pittsburgh. Of course there is going to be snow and ice to deal with, and if everyone else can make it work then so can I! Suck it up, Buttercup!!

Pittsburgh Marathon Training – Week 2

Another training week completed! It’s only Week 2, so very early in the training cycle but I’m feeling REALLY good! I know not every day or week will be perfect, so I will definitely take it while I can! We have been dealing with the cold temps off and on all winter, but this is the first time since real training started that I had to deal with the other side of winter – SNOW!  After realizing last week that I’m losing some of my hill fitness, I made it a point to make sure all of my runs were outside this week, and…Mission Accomplished! Running in the snow/slush/ice is definitely an adventure.  I finished with 23 miles for the week…still on the lower side, but I’m steadily increasing and feeling stronger every week!

Monday – Rest. After Monday being my rest day every day for almost the last 2 years, the Tall One has finally stopped asking me “Are you running today?”. I think he gets it. Maybe.  I worked on this week’s training schedule and on my blog post…Peanut supervised:

Keep working, slacker.

Keep working, slacker.

Tuesday – It has almost become habit to run my easy/recovery days first thing Tuesday morning on the treadmill. I decided to break that and run after work, outside, in the elements. It was beautiful outside – not too cold, with snow lightly falling…it just really made me happy to be out in the fresh air, doing something I love! The snow definitely makes you adjust your stride a bit, and I could feel my legs burning in spots that they usually don’t.  This would have been the perfect opportunity to try out Shaun’s trick of winterizing your running shoes. Except I don’t have an old pair that has enough miles left on them  – I try to get my money’s worth and run those bad boys  into the ground (literally) before getting new ones. 3 miles 33:26 (11:08 pace).


Wednesday – Strength. I switched up my routine a little and wasn’t really happy with a lot of the moves I selected. It would have been really easy for me to say “eff it. I don’t like this, I’ll rework the plan and try again on Friday”, but…I didn’t. That is a major win in my book.

Thursday – Speed Day!! Unless there is some kind of major weather event, I will always do my speed work (and long runs) outside – I just perform better out there.  The plan was a 4 mile progression run. As I made my way home, I took a peak outside and it looked like most of the slush and ice had melted. What that really meant is that it was all black ice. Yee-haw. 

Not bad. Not great either.

Not bad. Not great either.

This was definitely not my best work, and if I’m going just by my perceived effort, I could/should have done much more. BUT. I stayed upright the whole time (there were a few close calls) and finished with my body/face intact so I consider that a win. I vented a bit on Daily Mile and Nichole gave some great perspective.

Sometimes, you just need some perspective.

Sometimes, you just need some perspective.

Friday – Strength. I went with the same routine as Wednesday, and instead of whining about it I tried to keep a positive attitude, focus on my form, etc and ended up (almost) enjoying it. My arms were jello by the end and I had a hard time even picking up my hairbrush after so you know it was a good one!

Saturday – Long Run. 10 miles 1:55 (11:28 pace) I usually spend Saturdays hiking up and down the mountains hills in my neighborhood, but the threat of snow on Sunday prompted to me email Jennifer Friday afternoon to see if we could switch days around. I don’t mind cutting a 6 miler short (or attempting it on the treadmill), but I will not sacrifice the long run. I think that’s a Marathon Training Commandment, or something.  Luckily, Jennifer was fine with the switch and we met out at North Park for 6.5 miles for her and 10 for me.  It snowed a little overnight, so there were some slush puddles and snowy spots to deal with so we slowed down a bit to accommodate those. Overall, this was great – the first 6.5 flew right by and I set off for 4 (technically 3.5) on my own. I managed a good negative split over the last bit and that is exactly what I was looking for.  In a perfect world, the Race Day Plan is to run with Jennifer for the first 10 miles of the race until the Half/Full split at around 11:00 min miles, and after the split (and climb into Oakland) try to start chipping away at that pace to get into the 10:50’s. I don’t know how well this will work, but that’s the plan and the more comfortable I get with running progressions I think the better off I will be.  Theoretically, at least.

Everything looks so pretty covered in snow!

Everything looks so pretty covered in snow!

Sunday – Man, I totally botched this! When I looked on Friday, the forecast said 1-3 inches of snow Sunday morning and another 1-3 that afternoon/evening. Well…throughout the day Saturday those times kept getting pushed back. First it was supposed to start early, then around 11, then 1, then 4….etc.  Total Fail Whale on my part, but it can be tough to predict that kind of stuff so far in advance.

Fail. Whale.

Fail. Whale.

It was a perfect winter morning for a run – not too cold and windy just a nice brisk day. I tackled 6 miles worth of hills in 1:08 (11:15 pace) and was pretty pleased with this. I wasn’t sure what to expect since my legs were a little tired from the day before, but I figured this would simulate the later miles of the marathon really well so I tried to keep my form, and breathing even and controlled on the uphill and use the flat and downhill to recover and that’s exactly what I did. Winning!  There were still a few icy/slushy spots to deal with, and I had to stop a few times for cars to pass, but nothing to complain about!

This elevation profile always reminds me of the Jack Rabbit at Kennywood!

This elevation profile always reminds me of the Jack Rabbit at Kennywood!


How’s your training going?

What’s your favorite ride at Kennywood? I LOVE all of the roller coasters, and really miss The Pitt Fall! I loved those few seconds at the top, depending on what side you sat on, you got some spectacular views!

Pittsburgh Marathon Training – Week 1!

The first week of training is in the books! This was a pretty great week; all things considered, the weather was pretty mild (cold, of course, but no snow or ice!) and I had no problem getting all of my workouts in!

Monday – I love kicking a training plan off with a rest day. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I nailed it.


Boom.   I also spy a Wilbur Tail (#whereswilbur)

Tuesday – First run of the week/training cycle! 3 easy miles (33:14/11:05 pace)on the treadmill . I always start out slow on the treadmill and try to finish fast (to simulate a fast finish in a race), so my pace looks normal for me but in reality, it’s usually an all-out sprint at the end!

Wednesday – Strength Training!

Thursday – My first speed session and I decided to take this one outside. Paces always feel so different to me outside than they do on the treadmill. I’m pretty sure I would have a much harder time pulling these splits off on a treadmill, if I could do them at all. Since this is the first week, I eased into it with 3 great progression miles.

Like lightning!

Like lightning!

I really love progression runs and hoping they will help me to stay disciplined to start the first few miles of the marathon slower and gradually increase my pace as the race goes on.

Friday – Strength Training, again! Since the New Year, I’ve been really good about hitting the weights 2x per week. I don’t have a lot of equipment since I work out in my basement, but am trying to get the most out of what I have. I’d like to see a few muscles out of this! 🙂

Saturday – Hills. In my downtime, I wasn’t as consistent with hill training as I had been. Couple that with more treadmill runs than I think I’ve ever done in my life and I could see a noticeable decrease in my hill fitness.

saturday 4 hills

I’m not worried though – I’m sure I will bounce back fairly quickly. Just by looking at the numbers, it doesn’t look like I lost a lot but it took some serious effort to sustain that!  From now on, anytime I need to run on the treadmill I’m going to start changing the incline around, instead of just the speed. That won’t totally make up for what I’m missing out on, but it should help. I’m also hoping that I will be able to limit my treadmill runs to just once a week on my easy day. I know that won’t always be the case but I can hope! 4 Miles (45:50/11:27 pace)

Sunday – I met Jennifer at North Park for our long run.  We were scheduled for 9 miles (me) and 6 miles (Jennifer) so we tossed a few route ideas around, that would accommodate us both and decided on the Frigid Five Miler course. Rather than try to do mid-run math and find a spot to turn around at, I decided to add on one more mile and make it an even 10.  The Weather Channel App said it was 42 degrees, so I used the opportunity to grace the other runners of North Park with my pasty, neon white legs and wear shorts.

You need sunglasses for those bad boys

You need sunglasses for those bad boys

The first 5 miles was great – I will never believe how fast the miles go when you have someone to talk to. As we tackled the little rollers of the course, I was reminded how remote that section of North Park is…and I started to get a little nervous about running another 5 by myself.  We passed our cars right before we started our second climb up the mountain and I grabbed my cell phone; I told Jennifer that way you guys could use the GPS tracker on it to find my body when I go missing up there. You think I’m kidding but let me refer you to cases 1 & 2 and tell me how crazy I am. Seriously though, safety first. We reached the top of the hill at the Lodge, and it was time to say goodbye to Jennifer (who crushed the hill both times!) so I could start my last 4 miles solo. I also reminded her of my description – grey and purple shorts, grey and purple shirt, ponytail, aviators….just in case.  I ran the last 4 miles a smidge faster than the first time – it was getting cold and rainy and suddenly the shorts seemed like a really stupid idea. I saw a few people here and there, but for the most part it was empty and I kind of really liked it (minus the whole being afraid of a mountain man stealing me and making me his child bride thing, that is).  I made it back to my car unscathed, except for a few frozen fingers that took a few minutes to come back to life.

I think it's obvious where the hills were!

I think it’s obvious where the hills were!

My overall pace was right on target, but my mile splits were kind of all over the place. As many other have said though, that is a really tough course to plan for! I tried to monitor my effort – I was able to truck up the biiiiig hill both times with no stopping or walking, and I was also able to use the level and downhill sections to get my breathing and form under control.

So pretty up there!

So pretty up there!

I finished the week with 20 miles (1 more than I planned for), and I’m feeling really good! Hopefully the momentum carries into next week.  In the coming weeks I want to continue to work on my strength training (that spare tire around my middle seriously needs to go!!), and focus on my nutrition to make sure I’m fueling my workouts!


How was your week of training?

Help me out – what are your favorite things to incorporate into your strength workouts? I’ve started doing single leg dead lifts with just a 10lb dumbbell and WOW! I can always feel it the next day!

2015 Frigid Five Miler – Race RECAP!

This was a last minute race – Jennifer and I had planned to run 8ish miles on Sunday at North Park to begin with and when we saw the race was going on at the same time we figured “why not?”. I also heard that there were pancakes and hot chocolate at the end…how do you say no to that?! That’s right. You don’t! We registered on Friday, and came up with a strategy for the race: make this a progression run at race pace. Start in the 11:10ish range and work our way down to a 10:50 pace. I am horrible with my pacing during races and it normally always comes back to bite me in the ass, so I wanted to practice starting out conservatively. This race definitely lived up to the “frigid” part – 17 degrees at the start with a wind chill of 9! Then again, compared to yesterday….it was almost pleasant. Almost.

Pre-race hashbrown selfie!

Pre-race hashbrown selfie!

The race starts and ends at the Lodge on North Ridge Road at North Park, and a pre-race email warned that there was limited parking up there so we parked at the skating rink and walked up the hill to the start. Realizing that we would later have to RUN back UP that beast was a little unsettling. After some warm up stretching, we made our way to the start line and found the 11:00 pacer. We were pretty excited to see that pacers were available and thought that it would be a good idea to stick with him for a bit. I’m pretty certain that I will be using a pacer at the marathon, so I wanted to try running with one today.  Our pacer said that he was going to bank some time early so that when we hit the monster hill at the end we would be OK. After seeing that hill, I figured that was probably a wise strategy.

The elevation profile:

Hold me closer, Tony Danza.

Hold me closer, Tony Danza.

The first mile of this course is pretty level; a few up and downs but nothing major. We stuck with the pacer* for the first mile, but then started to pull away from the pace group, but only by a few steps. I was feeling good as we started down a slight downhill just before the second mile, and we were still ahead of the pacer. Our pace was still in the mid 10’s, and I was feeling good but I kept thinking about the hill at the end and wanted to save something for that. Somewhere in the second or third mile there was a water table set up, but….no one was there! There were containers and cups, but no one manning the station. I joked that it must be self serve, but it was definitely strange. Maybe they didn’t have as many volunteers as they originally planned on and decided that this was a non-essential stop?

The miles ticked by, as they always seem to when you have good company, and we kept up a really speedy pace for the first 3 miles but it was starting to take it’s toll. Conversation wasn’t flowing as much and we started to focus more on our breathing and form. I started to feel awful because, once again, I didn’t stick to the plan, threw the paces out the window and it was going to cost us. The pacer was still behind us but was inching closer and closer. The last water stop was right at the start of North Ridge Road, just after mile 4, so we walked through that and started the climb. This hill was wicked, and was almost like you were running in place. We went with a run/walk to get ourselves up to the top and about halfway up the 11:00 min pacer finally passed us. We kept him in our sights though, and  seemed to get a second wind as we rounded the last turn, kicked it up a notch (passed a few people!!) and sprinted across the line in 55:15/ 11:02 pace. SOOOOO close to our 11:00 goal! When I realized how close we were to our goal, I didn’t feel as bad but I still couldn’t help but think that if we had held back somewhere else on the course, we would have had juuuuuust a little more to give at the end. That is something that will ALWAYS be a struggle for me, and something that I really need to get under control before the marathon. I can (sort of) get away with that in a shorter race, but that will (and has!) come back to haunt me in the half and full distances.

frigid pace

Not too shabby!

After the race, we went into the lodge to warm up and I grabbed some pancakes and hot chocolate!

Delicious. Also, Garmin gave me an 11:02 pace, vs the 11:03 FitSnap gave me so I'm gonna take the 1 second back ;-)

Delicious. Also, Garmin gave me an 11:02 pace, vs the 11:03 FitSnap (and Daily Mile) gave me so I’m gonna take the 1 second back 😉

All things considered, I am really happy with this race. I definitely still need to work on pacing myself but that will always be a work in progress ;-). I am really proud of Jennifer for gutting it out at the end and really grateful that she didn’t get mad when I nearly ruined it for us! This was a solid effort all around, we were only 3 seconds off of our goal pace, and this was a great way to kick off marathon training for me, and half marathon training for her!

*I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but I was not happy with this pacer.  I’ll talk about it tomorrow in my weekly recap….maybe I’m just way too sensitive about being a slow poke, but there were some comments made that really rubbed me the wrong way.