Filling The Barn

As I tapered for the Hamptons Marathon last year, many people kept repeating the same phrase to me:

The hay is in the barn.

Personally, I think this phrase is stupid. Hay? Barns? How are these things related to marathon training? And also, WTF are you talking about?

But as always, these seasoned runners, triathletes and Ironpeople knew more than Naive Ali. They were telling me that after 16+ weeks of training, my work was done. It was time to taper, to cut back on my mileage and to let my legs rest, recover and regain all the strength possible to power me through 26.2 miles on Race Day.

They told me to feel confident and to trust my training. I had to believe that the mornings I had spent on the Bridle Path, looping around the Reservoir and doing long runs in NYC and beyond were enough. I couldn’t go out for one more 20 miler “just to make sure I could do it.”

I’m now 15 weeks out from the New York City Marathon.

Now is the time to be filling the barn with the hay.

A question I get from time to time is, “How do you stay motivated to work out every day?”

Well, in general, I enjoy exercise. I don’t run or spin to beat myself up or punish myself. I don’t break a sweat just so I can eat cookies for dinner. I’m going to eat cookies for dinner no matter what. I lace up my pretty little Brooks every day because I really do like getting out there and working hard.

These were my shoes on Thursday. Look how dirty. Look how gross. Look how exceptionally pink those socks are.

But my motivation during marathon training season is different, and I’m more aware of that now than ever.

I’ve only been officially training for a few weeks, but every single time I’ve gone out, I’ve had the same mentality: Do this for November 4. Work hard. Push. Hit your splits. Finish strong. Get your head in the game (High School Musical-style).

I’m working my butt off now so that on November 4, as I’m riding the Staten Island Ferry to the start line and, presumably, freaking the F out, I can wholeheartedly trust my training. I don’t want to look back and say, “I wish I had gone faster during my Tuesday speed sessions,” or “I shouldn’t have slacked so hard on every single tempo effort.”

I want to know that, regardless of what actually happens on Race Day (yes, it’s always capitalized because it is a very formal day), I did everything I could beforehand to be as strong and confident as possible.

So that’s how I’m staying motivated. I have a goal — 3:59:59 — and I know I won’t reach it by shuffling through my workouts or getting high on two-a-days. When I want to do a little extra — tacking on an additional mile to a long run because I feel great or sneaking in a spin class on a rest day — I have November 4 in the forefront of my mind. Will over-exerting myself during Chisel help me run 26.2 miles in the fall? No? Then I will not do it. I can do that stuff when I’ve marathoned and recovered. But not now.

Now is the time for ice packs and fuzzy socks. Some of you sleep in lingerie, but this is more my style.

With all that in mind, can I tell you a little bit about how training has been going?

Awesome, thanks. You’re such a good listener/person who can read.

While the Crohn’s still refuses to leave my body, I managed to have a very solid week of training last week.

Highlights included a runner’s-high-inducing hillish workout on Thursday and an I-only-needed-one-bathroom-stop-OMG 10-miler on Sunday.

Thursday’s route was three clockwise loops up in the Harlem Hills, which is quickly becoming my favorite route. Coach Cane requested that I keep it at marathon goal pace (we’re using 8:45s, folks) for the duration, but accelerate on the downhills instead of using them as a place to recover. I believe his exact words were, “Trample the weak, hurdle the dead.” Duly noted, and awesomely accomplished.

Here are some numbers:

The workout started around mile 3 and ended around where it gets way slower. You can probably figure it out. You're so smart. I love you.

Oh look, those splits are all faster than 8:45. How interesting. Why did that happen?

Probably because I accelerated the shit out of the downhills. On my second lap, I was in the low 7:00s and I felt like I was flying. Truthfully this made it hard to settle back into marathon pace on the uphills, but usually by the time I hit the top of the second hill, I was right back where I was supposed to be.

This run was a huge confidence booster because it felt easy. And I don’t know if you know this, but running, in general, for me, is not really easy.

The other great workout of the week was Sunday’s semi-long run. Coach Cane prescribed 10 miles, down from last week’s 12 — and that’s because I was doing my run the day after a long ride.

I look happy because I like the lighthouse and also because my butt didn't hurt yet.

I rode 55.65 miles Saturday, which was my longest ride ever.

And it felt very, very long. I should have picked a better route, because mine was pretty tedious, and the winds on the West Side Highway were killer. I ended up seeing Brian out on his own post-race ride, so we covered a bunch of miles together.

I’m definitely getting more comfortable on the bike, so that’s cool. I no longer white-knuckle my way down every downhill as my life flashes before my eyes, and I can finally drink from my water bottle without having to pull over and come to a complete stop. Coordination is not my strong suit, but I’m getting there. I don’t have to think so much about gear shifting, and the streets of NYC can be scary, but they don’t feel like a death trap in the same way they used to.

The Boat Basin. What a lovely view.

Still, I need to learn the rules of the road, and I’m sure the guy I almost T-boned on the West Side Highway would agree. What?! I thought he was turning! I thought you had to turn. Apparently not. I managed to squeeze the heck out of my brakes to avoid really hitting him, and I definitely did not cry a little under my sunglasses when Brian screamed and then politely lectured me on “being careful.”

I finished those 55 miles feeling good and sore in the butt. My pace was unremarkable as far as I can tell, but it was cool to mix up my Saturday morning routine.

And then I ate the best brunch ever, but I don’t have pictures of it because I was busy wolfing it down and being #fatfluential and failing as a food blogger. Sorry.

I did take this picture, though. Brian's drink is the one on the left. So pretty. Mine is the mint lemonade on the right. Not as pretty, but very tasty.

So what made Sunday’s run special?

Well, new shoes.

Don't worry, they're already dirty. It didn't take long.

I’ve been running in Brooks Adrenalines since I started running and they have not failed me. They are the hay to my barn. Or something.

I fully expected the 10 miles to be a slow disaster, and I’m thrilled at how wrong that assumption turned out to be.

I felt pretty tight for the first two miles, but then I felt great. I had to repeatedly slow myself down to stay at long run pace. I cruised through Central Park, I somehow saw no familiar faces (weird) and by the time my watch hit 10 miles, I felt like I’d only been running for 10 minutes. That’s the best, right?

So while my running mileage wasn’t exceptionally high last week because I balanced it with lots of cycling, I feel like it was a strong training week, and I wrapped it up feeling pretty great.

I even got through a sweet little Pilates in the Park (that’s not really what it was called) class post-run yesterday. My new friend Dani is a Pilates instructor and an ambassador for Purely Elizabeth, so she emailed a bunch of local “We like to sweat” type people and asked if we wanted to do a Pilates class Sunday in Central Park.

Question: Who do you think would win the award for Most Awesomely Bright Outfit? I know it's not a real award, but I'm just curious.

At first I was like, “Meh, maybe. It’ll be after a long run, I should probably just rest.”

But then I read the rest of the email, which said, “I will bring treats for afterward,” and my RSVP was sent.

The best part of the class was that we got to lay down the whole time.

Yes, Brian, we can frame this photo in our apartment. I know it's flattering and lovely.

Oh, and also the company. There was good company.

Company willing to trek to the Upper East Side for more treats!

See what happens what I try to be a food blogger? Photo bomb.

I finished the weekend by Skype-ing (or is it just Skyping?) with my favorite little buddy.


He was not very interested in the conversation, though. Evidently he didn’t want to hear about my run.

That’s why I have you.

And now we begin another week of training.

I have my hay.

I think I’m going to need a bigger barn.

(I don’t even know what I mean by that, but in my head it sounded fantastic.)

I hope your weekend was divine.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR TRAINING: How’s it going? How’s your hay? Have you put any in your barn? And how do you stay motivated to get out there every day?



38 Responses

  1. I am about to start ‘filling the barn’ for my october half marathon next week, during olympics week in london, and over a million extra tourists. Yay for super early runs to beat the crowds, hopefully the sportyness of the olympics will keep me motivated!

  2. true story: didn’t know what the saying “toe the line” meant for a while because I thought people were saying “tow the line” and this was confusing to me…I guess it is because I never actually toe a line…I am well behind line in usually the green corral…

    still trying to figure out “drop the hammer”

    1. No, I wish! I’m dying to find good ones like that. I just put ice packs on my knees and wrapped ACE Bandages around my legs to hold them down. Definitely not as trendy or functional.

  3. Ohhh ‘filling the barn’ — haven’t heard this one as it relates to marathon training but I LOVE it. I’m totally going to visualize this on my next long run (15 miles on wed, ack!)

    1. You are doing such a great job with your training. I’m loving following along! Remember when you said you were never going to run a marathon? HAHA YOU WERE WRONG. Look at you go.

  4. I always have more motivation when I’m training for something specific. When I remember that I’m doing what I’m doing so I get to the Berlin start line in one piece, I’m much less likely to hit snooze/whine and complain/have that next beer. (Unless it’s after the run, in which case, I will have that beer, pleaseandthankyou.)

  5. I recently discovered your blog and am enjoying following your NY Marathon Training. I am running NY also, marathon #8 and I finally got in! I am going for a sub-4 also, but my main goal is to soak in the whole experience. One of my college roommates has Crohns also. I give you tons of credit for how you don’t let it derail your goals. Good luck with training. I look forward to hearing about all the hay you are puttin’ in the barn.

    1. High five for sub-4 in NYC! Good luck with training — keep me posted on how it’s going! Woo!

  6. Yeah, I’m a little petrified about the hay that is gonna be in my barn on Oct. 7 (my first 1/2 marathon). I do like that analogy though, and hopefully it will help keep me on track for the next 11 weeks.

    I hit all my “hard” runs last week: interval, tempo, long. However, I was also supposed to do 3 tiny recovery runs that I… ignored. Whoops! This week I’m hoping to do a bit better hitting every run.

    Wish me luck!

  7. Oh Ali. You are ADORABLE. I seriously love your blog.

    So glad you had a great workout week and it sounds like the 10miler was a huge success!

    I had a tough week of feeling like crap but realized that my workouts are what make me feel BETTER and they motivate themselves. On the days where working out doesn’t sound appealing, I think about miles 8, 9, and 10 of my upcoming half where I imagine I’ll really be glad I baled all that…hay….what an awkward metaphor.

  8. Week 4 of marathon training – done! 55 mile week – longest ever! Much better than week 3, which included two days of moaning in bed from back spasms (not fun). It was a good week, although still have assorted pains. BUT – I started off today with a massage, so I think that things will get better.

  9. I am training as well, but for half the distance you are! My first half marathon was pretty much a disaster so I have decided to train the right way this time. Training is going well so far, although I am still in the first few weeks. I plan on putting much more hay in the barn over the coming weeks. Woo!

  10. Oh my gosh, I totally love the “filling the barn” thing. I take the Bar exam tomorrow and Wednesday (sob) and I have to trust that I have filled the barn and what I need is in there already. I’ve been feeling on the verge of panic the last week, but I’ve worked so hard the last couple of months leading up to this that it just has to be enough. Anyway, thanks for the visual/thought – it helps (even though this has nothing to do with running – sorry about that).

    1. Bar exam! GOOD LUCK! What you’re doing seems significantly more difficult than trying to do mile repeats, so good for you, Kim! I hope this means that when I have to go to court because I ran someone over with my bike, you can come defend me.

  11. FAB post…loved it all!! I’m itching to get back on my bike!! But my hay is all in the barn now…the San Francisco Half is this Sunday!! I ran most of the route on Saturday to check out the hills and I’m EXCITED!!! I’m aiming for 1:59:59 but I think 2:05 is more likely!!!!! Now to decide what to wear!!

    1. So exciting!!! I’m pumped for you and feel confident that you’re going to kick ass out there. GOOD LUCK and please report back!

  12. Awesome weekend, yay you! HM training week no. 2? Epic fail thanks to calcaneal spur. But got in 30-mile bike ride instead. I hear you on getting your confidence up while cycling on busy roads (and on wanting to cry when being told off by hubby for crossing the road while a car [gasp] was approaching at snail pace – they do see me, no?!). Enjoy filling that barn! 🙂

    1. Ouch! I don’t even know what calcaneal means, but it sounds painful and scary. Take good care of yourself and recover quickly!

    1. Nice job — with the mileage, of course, but also the foam rolling. I need to be more like you.

  13. I stay motivated because I love to workout and anticipate my workouts everyday. I look forward to it. Training is going well. But, I am training for an endurance mountain bike race right now, not running. Although I throw in a few days of running. Mostly time in the saddle though.

  14. I’ve never heard that hay and barn thing and I am from the midwest! Well Minneapolis…so a big city in the midwest. But still I come from a long line of farmers and haven’t heard that! I kinda like the image though with my marathon training.

  15. My half marathon training is on hold for right now because of an injury. I’ll find out on Wednesday if I can resume. But I know that resting now will help my hay in the barn, or whatever that phrase is, come Race Day. That doesn’t make it any easier, but hopefully it will be worth it!

  16. Despite being the slowest ever, my 10k was significantly easier than expected, so that makes my barn sturdier? my hay stronger? (I can’t remember which part of this analogy is what…) But, as always, I appreciate the high school musical reference, and I now must get my own head in the game. (we’re all in this together?!)

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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