MarathonMaiden's Blog

May 12, 2010

Training For Boston 2010: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — marathonmaiden @ 09:00

A bunch of you have asked for my thoughts on how my training cycle went, what I learned etc.  And I figured that it would be a good thing for me to do. Even if no one else cares anymore or finds this post really boring   😉

It’s been XX days (and since I’m writing this over several days I don’t really know how many days it will have been when you read this but y’all are smart and can figure it out ha) post-Boston so the emotional high and euphoria has waned and I can be more analytical than if you asked me on the 20th of April what my thoughts were.

And be warned, I wasn’t quite sure how to organize my thoughts when I originally sat down to write this so they might jump around a bit. And because most of the questions I got were: what did you learn / what would you do differently there might be a slight emphasis on the negative/bad stuff.  Rest assured that I do consider this training cycle to be a success and I’m way happy with it.  Also, in true MM form it’s long.

The Good: I PR’d and re-BQ’d. Pain free too.  If that’s not good then I don’t know what is 😛

The Bad: Absolutely terrible shin splints that threatened to derail me. And there was a lot of doubt that creeped in on top of the physical woes.

The Ugly:aka what I would change. In general, though, everything that went “bad” I wouldn’t change.  I’m a very inexperienced marathoner / racer in general so no matter what the mistake I made was I needed it.  Cliche to say that but whatever, it’s how life is.  Of course I would have loved everything to fall under the good category but that would be anti-climatic, no?

But here’s a more detailed breakdown…

The training plan:

  • The good: Very aggressive and that was good for me.  After training for my first marathon in early 2009 I felt like I hadn’t reached my full potential.  It was pretty conservative and I wanted something that would really challenge me.  Lots of speedwork was the perfect solution for that. I absolutely loved how much speedwork there was in the plan I picked.  It made me feel…well to state the obvious, fast.
  • The bad: Well I guess the bad thing is that I didn’t follow it.  As in I added lots more miles.  Like way more.  I think the peak my plan had was 75 miles and I definitely hit 112 at one point during Monster Month.  There also weren’t any places to insert hills or lifting so I had to try and figure out where to place that which likely led to more intense sessions than necessary.
  • The ugly: Nothing inherently ugly about the plan except that I was overzealous about getting in the miles — and then some.  This lead to a much more extended taper (remember the sports med doc who said I should start the taper 5 weeks out to counter the damage?) and I’m still feeling the effects of being over-trained.  I probably could have added some XT in there because I trained (pretty much) exclusively with running

Specifics with the training plan:

1. Pacing:

  • The good: In general, pacing was good.  I was slightly faster than McMillian paces for all workouts but I was able to listen to my body for recovery runs which was good and an improvement.  My interval paces were always faster than called for on the plan (oops to following that sucker) but I was able to nail those workouts.  My LR pace was slightly all over the place but it was always within :45 – :75 of GMP (which at the time, and still is, 8:00) and thus was ~60-90 seconds slower than my actual race pace at Boston. Which, according to numerous sources and articles, is where it should have been.
  • The bad: I still cannot for the life of me hit tempos.  It’s so hard and maybe it was a cause of all the mental stuff going on that I get into later but nailing a tempo still eludes me.  Curses.  Another bad thing was how all over the place my paces were for the LR.  Some weeks it was sub-9, some weeks it was 9:30.  And I never felt as though my LRs were improving.  By the end of the cycle I definitely didn’t have my usual kick to the finish.

2. Lifting:

  • The good: I lifted 3x a week for the first 13 weeks of the plan.  Exactly what I wanted to do. For Providence (in May 2009) I lifted 2x a week and cut it out way early.
  • The bad: I did the same routine each session.  So by the end of the cycle I probably wasn’t deriving as much benefit as I could have been.

3. Hills:

  • The good: I was able to incorporate hills into my routine and even got to run the Comm Ave hill once during training.  This allowed me to BEAST Newton.  I never noticed the first of the hills (only after a guy running next to me said 1 down 3 to go) and the rest of them really weren’t bad.  Negative splits anyone? And I ran them at the end of my speedwork sessions semi-mimicking the fact that the hills come so late in the race.
  • The bad: With the exception of going on Comm Ave once (and back in January too) all my hills were on the TM and I couldn’t prep myself for the downhills; let’s be honest here: everyone talks about the Newton Hills but the race is net downhill.  And while I still ran a strong race, with negative splits indicating the Newton Hills didn’t break me, my quads did take a beating.  Unfortunately as much as I would like to go back and change this, in reality I wouldn’t be able to if I could because my area is pancake flat and travel was not an option.

Other stuff…

1. Nutrition

  • The good: Well I ate really healthy and made sure that I was getting a wide variety of nutrients by eating variety in each individual meal as well as meal -to- meal.  I even upped my salt intake so that I could retain more water to push through those tough workouts as well as the antibiotics I was on over the Easter break.
  • The bad: I ended up losing a bit of weight which tells me that I wasn’t eating enough overall.  I’m a pretty small person girth wise so I think that if I had been able to keep on that weight then maybe I would have been able to run faster / harder. (Note: This is why I haven’t yet — and likely won’t ever– do another fueling post, I’m trying to figure things out for myself and see what works.  Again: inexperience here!) Another thing that was BAD was my lack of water intake.  Sure, overall I drink a lot of fluids but the daily breakdown looks like this: ~32oz milk, ~20 oz diet coke, ~16 oz ice tea, ~20 oz water.  So out of 88oz liquids consumed only 22% is water. Obviously an area where I can improve drastically.
  • The ugly: Save for one long run I didn’t take in fuel during the long runs.  And I never took in any water or fluid (that goes for marathon day too although I did eat two mini-luna bars).  I don’t really know why this happened as during the my first marathon cycle in 2009 I readily ate during runs (never drinking things though).  This, in conjunction with overtraining, probably led to some of those lethargic runs toward the end of the cycle.  Hard to tell which was the larger source but they both played a role I’m sure.

2. Sleep

  • The good: Ummmmm…I did make it a point to sleep A LOT the week before race day but it probably was just a drop in the bucket at that point because…
  • The bad: Well I’m a college student.  Suffice it to say that I probably sleep a lot more than the average college student and I only got about 6 hours a night.  Not nearly enough when logging mega miles.  Part of it was work: those assignments certainly aren’t asexual! Part of it was social: It’s senior year and I want to see my friends. Part of it was likely overtraining.  But I wouldn’t change anything here even though sleep deprivation sucks hardcore.

3. GI Issues

  • The good: I didn’t have to stop to go the bathroom during the race!
  • The bad: It was awful to have bladder issues during my LRs.  Absolutely awful. Not really quite sure how to fix it though.  I tried a number of things and nothing worked.  Maybe it was mostly mental.  Wicked frustrating as I *never* had this problem training for Providence 2009.

4. Psychological / Mental stuff

  • The good: I was mentally prepped to go into this race because I was expecting it to be a disaster with everything bad that happened.  Aka: I was expecting to just enjoy the race so it took the pressure off. I think what helped me the most gut out the hard miles at the end of the race was that I was doing so much at the time.
  • The bad:I was mentally very tired by the end of the training cycle: finishing up Senior year, training while juggling all my classes, doing job searches, setting up things so I can apply to med schools, being social.  And then on top of that training a billion miles a week.  That’s just the “regular stuff”.  Throw in the toe issue that happened on Easter as well as the shin splints which really put a lot of doubt into my mind and it’s a wonder I made it to the starting line not in a straight jacket. There really isn’t, however, a way to reduce all that mental stress.  It’s just my life.

Well there you have it.  Again, everything went as well as it could.  Yes I could have done lots of stuff differently to produce a “better” race but it went down how it went down. I’m sure I could write more on the topic buttttt this sucker is long enough as it is.

P.S. The Boston Jacket is *still* being rocked 😀



  1. You’re a better person than me for enjoying speedwork.

    And I think you may have to dry clean that jacket soon. 😉

    Comment by Amy @ Second City Randomness — May 12, 2010 @ 10:46

  2. I loved reading all these good and bad things about your experience. I think that doing a marathon prepares you for so many other things in life…because (forgive the ridiculous cliche) isn’t life one giant marathon? Or at least mine is…I just can’t figure out what the finish line is! Getting Maya to write her numbers correctly maybe?

    I can dream, right?

    Comment by Ameena — May 12, 2010 @ 10:52

    • Sometimes I think there is no finish line! haha. And so true about life being one big marathon, the “older” I get the more I realize this and need to tell myself to enjoy the journey 🙂

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 20:44

  3. What a great analysis! Well, you know I still can’t believe you ran like 400 miles that one month, but other than that the two things that stood out to me are: 1) not fueling during long runs- there ARE some people that suggest that it’s good to “practice” glycogen deprivation, which I suppose makes sense, but for me taking in just 100-200 calories (and water) about 2/3 of the way through makes a HUGE difference in whether or not my pace falls apart at the end. and of course now that summer’s coming you’ll have to start drinking, just not safe not to. and 2) 6 hours of sleep a night is a lot? That was NOT typical for me in college… if I didn’t get 8 hours at night, I’d end up napping after turning in assignments. One of the pluses of going to a big athletics school was that there were always plenty of other people trying to keep normal schedules. Unfortunately, I can’t say that sleeping is entirely the solution to avoiding mental stress 😉

    Comment by kristinschleicher — May 12, 2010 @ 11:25

    • I’m going to number my reply like you did with the comment 🙂 1) I totally should have fueled during my LRs. It was silly of me not too because during my last cycle I felt so much better during them. 2) I used to be religious about getting 8+ hours of sleep but unfortunately senior year hit and 6 hours became the norm. So sad because my body is happiest at 9

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 20:46

  4. A great and very informative post!! You really are an animal, more than I realized!!

    Comment by ShutupandRun — May 12, 2010 @ 11:30

  5. One of your best posts … and nearly all are outstanding. You should bookmark this one some folks can find it easily. I, for one, will definitely reference it as I get ready in the fall.

    I still think your performance was amazing for what you had to deal with going into it. The fact that you basically had no exposure to hills and still re-BQ’d is awesome. Fully healthy and rectifying some of the “bad” you describe above, I see you in the 3:15 range easily. Yes, easily. You clearly have a talent so it’s just a matter of tweaking a couple of things. The fact that you are so honest about the good and bad, means that you already learned and will be diligent about incorporating change (where needed) into your next 26.2.

    Again, great post, great race.

    Comment by a marathoner — May 12, 2010 @ 14:07

    • Wow you are too kind! 3:15?! I can only dream of that, right now I just want to shave off 5 mins 🙂 Thanks for the super compliment!

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 20:48

  6. Interesting analysis. Seems like you learned a lot that you will use to run bigger, better marathons in the future. One thing you didn’t mention was: what was the source of your training plan? You probably posted it earlier, but I didn’t see it in this post.

    Comment by Chelsea — May 12, 2010 @ 14:10

    • Oops. Silly me to forget to include it on this post too! But it was the “Veteran’s Plan” on the BAA website.

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 20:49

  7. This is really interesting and I’m sure it was helpful for you to think about it this much.

    Comment by Jess — May 12, 2010 @ 14:34

  8. Great post, really good to break it down like this and use it for next time. About not hitting the tempos, that might be related to the monster weeks. You can’t really do everything together, seems like it’s either do amazing mileage or do fast stuff but I’m not sure they can coexist unless you’re an elite. Looking forward to see how your next few months shape up. Do you think you’ll for mega-mileage again? What do you think would be your sweet spot?

    Comment by devson46 — May 12, 2010 @ 16:05

  9. Great post, really good to break it down like this and use it for next time. About not hitting the tempos, that might be related to the monster weeks. You can’t really do everything together, seems like it’s either do amazing mileage or do fast stuff but I’m not sure they can coexist unless you’re an elite. Looking forward to see how your next few months shape up. Do you think you’ll for mega-mileage again? What do you think would be your sweet spot?

    BTW, delete that previous post please, it was on a different username.

    Comment by Flo — May 12, 2010 @ 16:06

    • I don’t think I’d do mega-miles, as in 100+, but I think my body would be happiest around a peak of 80. Then again that’s just an educated guess as I’ve only run 2 marathons, the first had a peak of 70 and this time around I had a mileage high of 112 one week. Trial and error I guess but if I had to wager I’d say my sweet spot is around 80-85.

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 20:51

  10. This is an interesting post. I had two completely different responses to it.
    #1 – I think looking back on your training, which was definitely AGGRO STYLE, is a very useful thing to do. All the components you break out are integral to running, and examining each will help you in the future.
    #2 – I wonder when reflection turns into overthinking? This was only your second marathon, and you are only in your 20s. When I finish a race, I tend to categorize it as good, bad, or neutral, and move on. Not that that’s perfect by any means! I guess my question is, did doing this help you at all? Haha. Nonsense comment to the xtreme! My apologies.

    Comment by sarah — May 12, 2010 @ 16:07

    • I probably am over thinking it haha. But I wanted to break it down so that when I run another one I’d be able to analytically point to stuff that I can tinker with in the future. But don’t get me wrong my race was WAY good and I basked in that. I also figured that 3+ weeks out was a good time to go back and review after riding that high.

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 20:53

  11. Great post! Keep rocking that jacket 😀

    Comment by Laura — May 12, 2010 @ 16:28

  12. Oh man- I love this post! I think it is so great to break down a race/training cycle and think through what you learned from it. Especially as your second marathon. I hear ya on the fueling during LRs- I never have done it until very recently! When I ran my PR, I didn’t eat or drink anything during the marathon. I do think it is important to do though, so I’ve tried doing it more in training now, but it takes practice!
    Re: my milage and 19 mile day- you are crazy to think that i’m hard core- you did that practically every day it seemed like! I can only hope to even come close to matching your training! My dad is doing Bayshore as well. I’m hoping to be done and run back to finish with him, but that involves me actually running a decent time! 😛

    Comment by tmart — May 12, 2010 @ 16:48

    • Man I think it’s so awesome that youre going to be running Bayshore with your dad! Good luck to both of you!

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 22:03

  13. Hey beautiful run sis!!
    LOVE this overview! (i am working on catching up w/ all your posts…sorry ive missed u!!!) I think that overall you had a great plan with the LR’s & tempo’s…and I like that you looked back so next time you can add the hills/ cross training/ variation in lifting! commmeeeee train with me and we can pump out some great tempo’s together! hehe!
    I do not fuel while running either!…Ive tried so many times to eat dried fruit (little things) but I am usually pushing hard/killing any sense of appetite! my goal for june is to try and drink during longer runs, then hopefully by july ill be able to sneak in little bites of gels/shot blocks…(sneak peak to my goals! hehe!)
    I hope youve been having a great week!…umm you need to email me and let me know just how GREAT it’s going?!? 😉

    Comment by lizzyj1305 — May 12, 2010 @ 17:42

    • I need to start training my gut to handle water during longer runs. It’ll definitely be clutch during the summer. And I’ll try to shoot off a life-update email soon, hopefully life settles down a bit soon for me and I can get in touch sooner rather than later!

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 22:05

  14. Awesome to read!! And trust me, you will be rocking that jacket looong into the future. 🙂

    Comment by Erika @ Dr.TriRunner — May 12, 2010 @ 21:20

  15. You? A newbie? Ha! To me, you ARE an experienced marathoner. I don’t even know how you juggle school with all that running! And how much DO an average college student sleep? I wonder…bc sometimes all my roommate seems to do is sleep! And then on other days, she like NEVER sleeps.

    Comment by sophia — May 13, 2010 @ 00:44

  16. Great analysis! You had a great race because you did the vast majority of things right! If you can nail speedwork and pile on the miles plus get to the starting line in one piece, an outstanding outcome is in the cards. Can you find a treadmill that does downhill? That’s how I trained downhills for my first Boston.

    Comment by Marcia — May 13, 2010 @ 07:51

    • I probably could find a TM somewhere that goes downhill but there aren’t any in the campus fitness center and I’d rather not pay to join a gym if I don’t have to. Hopefully by the time Boston comes around again I’ll be living somewhere where I can train on real hills!

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 22:07

  17. I still cannot believe all the miles you ran per week! You ran more miles in one week than I ran all month!! But i did love doing the speedwork that you did. Totally awesome. it had to be my favorite part of your training for Boston!! I am sure as you become a more experienced racer you will learn more and perfect your training plan but there will always be new things! Thats what makes it exciting!

    Comment by J — May 13, 2010 @ 20:26

    • Yeah speedwork is pretty awesome. I mean I complained about it like no other but it was always such a high when I finished a workout

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 13, 2010 @ 20:42

  18. Hey, junior! A few thoughts that haven’t been mentioned above.

    1. I used to not fuel. I do now and I have seen a GREAT improvement in the final miles of my LR, and more importantly, in my recovery. When you deplete your stores, your body takes longer to recover. When doing mega-miles, you need to recover quickly. Find something that works for you. Practice taking it, and get used to it. We can talk about that more in detail over email, if you want.

    2. Sleep. I don’t think it’s “ideal” to sleep only 6 hours, but I think a lot of people overreact to that b/c they like to sleep more! LOL. Look up and read about Tera (or Tara) Moody. She is an elite runner that has serious sleep issues. An article was written about her in RW awhile ago. Try to sleep more, but if you can’t, don’t sweat it.

    3. Nutrition. You seem to be so level-headed about eating and fueling during your regular meals. I’ve noticed this in other posts, too. Your attitude about food is great.

    4. It sometimes takes more than one cycle at high mileage to see improvements. One cycle is a total adjustment, then you can really benefit off a following cycle (after you are recovered, of course). I’m not saying start hammering out 100+ weeks again, but if you ever wanted to try it, or even like 90s, I think you would see HUGE gains.

    5. You are so young and have sooooo much potential and so many years to work on these goals. I just encourage you to do what makes you happy with running. All this advice is great and dandy, but in the end- please yourself with your own decisions.

    I’m proud of you!

    Comment by Rebecca — May 14, 2010 @ 04:34

    • Solid words of advice. I’m definitely printing this out and filing into my marathon training folder (because yes I do have one ha!) I love that I’m your junior. Such a huge compliment so thanks a bunch 🙂

      Comment by marathonmaiden — May 14, 2010 @ 21:08

  19. You are so balanced for some one SO YOUNG. Life is not about what lies behind or lies ahead, but what lies inside. That makes all the difference. Your tendency to reflect, to bend towards gratitude, to lean into challenge, to strive to relax. I am so amazed.
    That said…sleep is part of the trifecta of health, along with movement and nutrition. People who sleep 7-9 have improved IQs, skin vitality, memory/concentration, less accidents, a sense of fulfillment. REST, girl!

    Comment by specialkphd — May 14, 2010 @ 12:21

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