71 & Done

I’m tapering.

Oh thank the sweet running gods (or coaches, or calendars, or whatever), I am tapering.

THANKS, COACH. I get to taper now. That's John, my coach. You're damn right I'm wearing thigh highs.
THANKS, COACH. I get to taper now. That’s John, my coach. You’re damn right I’m wearing thigh highs.

Yeah, my training plan for the Steamtown Marathon is “only” a 12-week plan, but boy has it done me in. My body feels good — no aches, pains, pending injuries, worries beyond the usual stomach stuff — but I am two things 100% of the time: tired and hungry.

All I want to do is eat and sleep and then eat in bed and sleep in bed and never leave my bed except to get more food to eat.

Pretty much, yeah.
Pretty much, yeah.

Last week was my peak training week. I ran 71 miles. I thought I was the world’s ultimate badass when I peaked at 40 miles training for the Hamptons Marathon, and then I hit 50 miles training for the Eugene Marathon (which I didn’t end up running), and 60-something miles last year leading up to the New York City Marathon.

But 71 miles? Seems like an out-of-body type experience. And, somehow, with 71 miles on my legs, I went into my first week of tapering not feeling dead. Just feeling tired. And hungry.

This is the state in which Brian found me when he got back from his ride on Saturday. I am capable of nothing post-long run.
This is the state in which Brian found me when he got back from his ride on Saturday. I am capable of nothing post-long run.

If you’re into it, here’s how the week went down for training…

Monday: I went to yoga, but the instructor had a family emergency, so the rockstar front desk girl/assistant studio manager was adorable and was like, “I’m so so sorry for the inconvenience. I’m a certified Pilates instructor. Do you guys want some Pilates?” Wouldn’t have been my first choice, but sure. It was a mat-based class, so I basically got to lay down the whole time.

That night, I went to a goodbye party for a coworker and drank two mojitos and a glass of wine. Now I’m alcohol-free until after the marathon.

This is the cutest little Miy. She's in Scotland now.
This is the cutest little Miy. She’s in Scotland now.

Tuesday: 11.2 miles, with 5 at tempo pace. I don’t really know what “tempo pace” is, which is why Coworker Paul came and met me in Central Park in the darkness (good guy) to pace me for this workout. We warmed up, and then my plan, as always, was to “hang on.” I did fine, he didn’t let me talk or wave to my friends, and I didn’t start to get tired or cranky until the very end when I finally snapped, “How much further???” and he wouldn’t answer, and I demanded, “One mile or three miles???” and he said, “1/10th of a mile” and we were kicking it, and then we were done. Or I should say I was kicking it. He literally didn’t even break a sweat. Whatever. I’m happy with the paces, especially since we were on the Central Park drive going counterclockwise, meaning we hit up both Cat and Harlem hills. Meow.

If it were just me, I would've done this run on the flattest surface possible. That's why I run with people who challenge me now. Ugh.
If it were just me, I would’ve done this run on the flattest surface possible. That’s why I run with people who challenge me now. Ugh.

Wednesday: 7 morning miles, including a November Project workout, plus 5 evening miles (12 total, if math is hard). A double! I rarely do this, but I had to cut my morning miles a bit short for a post-NP shower party (yup). I planned to only run three miles that evening, but running over to JackRabbit’s Upper West Side store and back came out to five miles. All easy, all casual, with a bit of speed during the NP portion.

The November Project workout involved a deck of cards. Naturally I did this.
The November Project workout involved a deck of cards. Naturally I did this. Sweat is sticky.

Thursday: 11 miles. This was my happiest run of the entire training cycle I think. It was supposed to just be easy running, but I felt high or something. I felt like I was flying, and by the time I looped back up to Engineers’ Gate (coincidentally at the exact same time Brian finished his morning training ride, aw), I was in actual disbelief that my watch was almost at 11 miles. I barely remembered running. My splits were all over the place and super inconsistent, but also faster than I thought I could do on an easy day.

I was all proud of these splits because they're faster than normal. I showed them to Coworker Paul expecting a gleeful reaction. Instead he said, "Wow, you're really inconsistent." Tough love. I hate it.
I was all proud of these splits because they’re faster than normal. I showed them to Coworker Paul expecting a gleeful reaction. Instead he said, “Wow, you’re really inconsistent.” Tough love. I hate it.

That night, I got a sports massage and you might already know this, but wow, real sports massages are way different than, say, the “sports massage” option at a fancy spa. I very very highly recommend Isang Smith if you want a sports massage. She’s so legit. She worked out some serious stuff in my body, and she’s an awesome runner (hello, 5:07 mile, and she’s coached by Coach Cane!) and she works with me, so obviously she’s cool. Hit her up. Your body will thank you.

The poor Dairy Queen Blizzard is having such a hard time lately in his little suit. Sad :(
The poor Dairy Queen Blizzard is having such a hard time lately in his little suit. Sad 🙁

Friday: 10 miles. I ran for a bit in the park, met at The Met for the funnest November Project workout, and then ran a bit more to get to 10 miles.

Yes, hi, I'll have a stack of planks for breakfast, please.
Yes, hi, I’ll have a stack of planks for breakfast, please.

The workout involved zig-zagging through trees, push-ups, walking lunges, grapevines, and Pictionary. Ridiculous fun. Childlike fun.

Demanding attention. Being obnoxious. As I do.
Demanding attention. Being obnoxious. As I do.

Saturday: 23 miles. 23 miles! I was actually pretty nervous for this run, since I wanted it to go really well as my last long training run. My 21-miler two weeks ago wasn’t awesome (it was that obnoxiously humid day and I died), so I put the pressure on for this one.

The never-ending route. Except that it did end, eventually, at mile 23.
The never-ending route. Except that it did end, eventually, at mile 23.

I broke this run into three parts: 10 miles on my own in Central Park, 5 miles with Meggie down the West Side Highway, then the final 8 miles with Coworker Paul. What a difference that made! The first 10 miles were a breeze, and the five miles with Meggie went by in a flash.

Dr. Meggie! Pretty sure the five miles I cruised with her were the fast five of the day. Thanks, smartypants!
Dr. Meggie! Pretty sure the five miles with her were the fastest of the day. Thanks, smartypants!

Then I got to the final 8 miles. I had eaten a bagel and Nutella before I ran (nutrition! nailed it), and brought Honey Stinger Fruit Smoothie Chews to eat mid-run at some point.

I didn’t even attempt to eat them until mile 15, and I ate three and couldn’t stomach the rest, so I ditched them and carried on. I do prefer running on an empty stomach as much as possible, but I definitely needed more.

Because as soon as I started running with Paul, I felt myself knocking on death’s door. We were on the West Side Highway running path and it was so crowded. More crowded than I’ve ever seen any running path ever (during non-race times, of course). I started feeling anxious about all the people all over the place, and soon I said we had to turn around and head back north to try and ditch the crowds.

But that was pretty impossible, and I started to feel craaaanky. Like the kind of cranky no one should ever witness, let alone someone you work with in a semi-professional setting. Yikes.

THIS IS ME AT WORK. Labeling bins.
THIS IS ME AT WORK. Labeling bins.

So in an attempt to distract myself from the oncoming bitch mode, I told Paul I was plugging in and tuning out to try and maintain sanity. I blasted my rage music and tried to power on.

Then mile 21.5 came, and I got dizzy and lightheaded and couldn’t catch my breath and told Paul I “needed water,” but really I needed to barf or lay down or something. I started panicking a little and I felt drunk. I grabbed some water from a fountain in the ferry station (or whatever that is on the west side north of the Javits Center) and just stood on the sidewalk for a bit trying to collect myself and also trying not to cry. It was a very strange feeling.

If I had a conversation with Paul, I don’t remember it. I put my current favorite jam on repeat and told myself it was just a mile and a half to go.

So we did that. I thought we slowed down a ton, but my splits indicate otherwise.

I heard the beautiful beep of my watch and bam, 23 miles in the bag.

8:44 average for 23 miles? I don't hate that.
8:44 average for 23 miles? I don’t hate that.

And then it took half an hour to walk from the West Side Highway back to Sixth Avenue, because I was stumbling and laughing hysterically and basically a mess. I can’t decide if I’m glad I had company so I didn’t accidentally wander into traffic, or if I’m a bit mortified that someone witnessed me in that state.

Wrapped up in my towel. Because I have a towel at work? And we ended the run where we work. And then I wore the towel home, on the subway. Whatever. It's style.
Wrapped up in my towel. Because I have a towel at work? And we ended the run where we work. And then I wore the towel home, on the subway. Whatever. It’s style.

Lesson: More fuel. Obviously. An easy fix that I can now plan for on race day. (When I got home and talked to Brian later that day, I explained how I felt, and he just said so matter-of-factly, “Yeah, you bonked.” Like it was so obvious. Apparently it’s happened to him on the bike before. More fuel, Feller! More snacks!)

Then I showered, napped, got a haircut, went shopping, and ordered a double cheeseburger and fries before going to bed at 8 PM.


Sunday: 3.8 miles + SoulCycle. I only make it to spinning about once a month these days, and it was so nice to just be in there with someone telling me what to do. I did a little run-shuffle afterward and now here we are, firmly in taper week.

Of course, this first week of taper hardly feels like it’s going to be easy or relaxing. I leave Friday at 5 AM to run the Ragnar Relay Adirondacks with my work crew. Even though I have the shortest cumulative legs and therefore the fewest number of miles to run, I’ll still rack up 14 miles and probably not much sleep.

The real-life sunset last Sunday night. Un-stinkin-real.
The real-life sunset last Sunday night. Un-stinkin-real.

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Overall training thoughts: I don’t know. I don’t know what marathon pace is/should be, and I don’t know what a reasonable goal time is. As much as I’d love to PR, I don’t know if that’s in the cards. (My current marathon PR, 3:51:something, is from the 2012 Manchester City Marathon.) I’m super proud of the hard work I’ve put in throughout training. I didn’t miss any runs, I took good care of my body along the way, and I never feel I gave up or didn’t try hard enough during a workout.

However, I also know that even with these weeks of good training behind me, my body has still had a rough year, so I don’t want to get too caught up in numbers and paces and goals. I want to be ambitious, but I also want to keep myself in check, remembering that I’ve been though a lot this year (and last year…and the year before), and that my body isn’t invincible. Something like that.

Aside from the effort, aside from the numbers, I can truly say that I enjoyed every run I got to go on throughout my 12-week plan. There were definitely days when 4:30 AM showed up way too quickly, but the feeling of “I am so happy to be doing this” never actually wavered. It felt like something I was lucky to get to do every day. Such a sap. But two years of living in a shitstorm will do that to you, I guess. (Worst analogy ever? Yup.)

I LOVE EVERYTHING! Really, though. Except hairless cats and Stonehenge.
I LOVE EVERYTHING! Really, though. Except hairless cats and Stonehenge.

And as for taper: I used to hate it. Now I’m embracing it because I really feel like I need it in order to go into race day “like a caged animal,” as Coach Cane taught me. Last year, I used my taper time before NYCM to build a lot of furniture. I was productive. This time around, I plan to sleep more. Four months of still-dark-out wakeups every darn day has taken its toll.

My phone is 50% Tyler and Abby photos, 45% pretty sunrises, and 5% dogs I see on the street and take pictures of without their owners knowing it.
My phone is 50% Tyler and Abby photos, 45% pretty sunrises, and 5% dogs I see on the street and take pictures of without their owners knowing it. This particular sunrise, as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge, was during a 4 AM run to BK for a November Project workout. The things we’ll do for the things we love, right?

Stick a chocolate melting cake-topped fork in me. I’m done.

PS I recently discovered string cheese. I can’t get over it. I like to pull the strings and not bite into the stick like a chunk. Isn’t that why it’s called string cheese? Anyway, it’s so delicious and it’s my current favorite snack, and I eat more than one string cheeses every day. Sometimes more than two string cheeses a day. #raceweight





41 Responses

  1. I just discovered string cheese too! And I can NOT bite it; must pull stringies to truly enjoy. Congrats and WOW on all of your training! I am impressed and happy for you. How are your symptoms? I’m guessing your feeling CD-free! Hooray 🙂

  2. Good luck at Steamtown! I just started reading your blog recently and actually live a few miles from the start line & plan to try and watch some parts of the race

  3. 71 miles is crazy a lot. I’m so jealous of your strength to be able to power through like that. But I’m SO glad you are so strong this year. And hello, don’t pick on you for that nearly 8 minute mile? Whatever. Some of us are actually…um…slow. 🙂

  4. I live in Saratoga and have pretty much the cutest 13 week old black lab puppy in town. We literally get stopped 5 times on every block for her to get adored by strangers. I know how you feel about puppies. She would probably give you super powers during your run. Unfortunately I have to be at work Friday AM 🙁 Have fun during the relay and good luck in the marathon!!!

      1. I’m actually really sad we can’t make it to the start. Aberdeen the puppy has become a race spectator pro. Any other time you’re in Saratoga and want to play with the cutest dog in town or if you find yourself with spare time in the morning you’re welcome to play!!

  5. oh my gosh, girl, that’s a ridic amount of miles for one week! killing it. i’m wicked jealous as i’m barely able to run at all without crazy pain lately (sucks and no clue why), but you’re running enough for all of us in NYC, i do believe. 🙂

  6. Sounds like your training has gone awesome. You will do great at your race!! And I thought I was badass hitting a 62 mile week, you rock! I have to tell you – I kept reading your marathon recap (2012 Manchester City) for inspiration on my last marathon. It helped… it was my 7th marathon and I finally got the BQ I have been chasing for a few years now! I’ll be running Boston 2015. I’m so excited!!! I hope your race is equally successful for you 🙂

  7. I know you are feeling well and healthy, but I am really shocked that you take zero rest days. It is necessary to go to Soul Cycle and November Project multiple times a week?!? I know you enjoy it but it just seems incredibly dangerous, especially for someone who spent a very long time not feeling well. I would have to see you have a setback in your health because you don’t seem to take any time to recover. I feel sad reading your blog. You seem to have a very unhealthy relationship with exercise.

    1. I typically take one rest day per week when I’m training. Last week was an exception, and the Pilates class was very very low key. Still not a rest day, but certainly not strenuous. This is just a sample of one week of training out of 12. I also haven’t been doing SoulCycle in addition to running, this was also a one-time thing that I got to take advantage of, and I took the class niiiice and easy.

      I can assure you that now, more than at any other time in my life, I have a very healthy and positive relationship with both my body and exercise. 71 miles is a LOT to run in one week (for me, at least), but I am not doing it out of obsession, compulsion, or as a way to punish myself. I, too, would hate to see a setback in my health, but I am confident that I am taking good care of myself, recovering as needed, and keeping my doctor in the loop with my training (I see him every four weeks; he’s a runner, too, which I love).

      If reading my blog makes you sad, I will miss you, but I encourage you to stop reading. Running and exercise are personal, and this is just me sharing what I choose to do with my hobby. I would hate for that to have a negative effect on anyone.

      1. I think passion/loving something/being over the moon to be able to run and train again is completely different than an unhealthy obsession. Keep up the good work, Ali! You are inspiring the majority of your readers and I am definitely one of them!


  8. Wow…I would never run 71 miles in a week (my peak was last week too and I covered about 34 miles) it just seems like so many miles and I have no idea when I’d get it all in! I’d probably fall asleep on the couch too…

    As for “tempo pace” and not knowing what it is, does your coach literally write “x miles at tempo pace”? My coach gave me a plan with actual paces to follow, like 1 mile warm up, 7 miles at 9:20, 1 mile cool down. It just stood out to me as odd.

    Anyways, hope your Ragnar was/is a fun time and break a leg at your upcoming races!

    1. Yay peak week! Yes, my training plan gives me exact paces to run, though it’s based off my most recent half-marathon (Fairfield Half, not super trained for it and not an all-out effort), so I’m always trying to gauge if I can go a little faster than my prescribed paces. Trying to find that balance between realistic, optimistic, and delusional. But yes, I get exact paces to hit (or usually a range, like 9:15–9:32).

  9. I love everything about this post – so happy and excited for you! And totally inspired and amazed by 71 miles – good job! I’m three weeks shy of my FIRST marathon (Denver Rock n Roll) and have hit 50 miles a few times which is shocking and amazing and so fun to me… hunger, tiredness, and some tears (20 miles – what? that’s so far. tears for sure at the end of that one!)…. check, check, check.

  10. Cant believe you hit 71 miles!!! I thought I was going to die at 40. Go Ali! You’re going to do great at Steamtown! And Runners World! Make sure you hit Vegan Treats for your post race snack. Tastes so much better than you would ever think anything vegan could. Its my go too. See you in Bethlehem also!

  11. This is my final week before my taper before my full marathon on Oct. 18th, so I loved reading your post! It inspired me to get after it this week so I can fully enjoy three weeks of tapering! Good luck to you! 🙂

  12. HOLY SHI TBALLS. My jaw is still on the floor from the 71 miles. You’re incredible and I love seeing you all hopped up on life and loving every second of training. And the pre-run nutella ? Brilliant. I’ve never peaked anywhere CLOSE to 71 miles (mainly because I’m liek where the hell would I get the time to run that much??) but I’m always more than ready for the taper!

    1. A lot? Yes. Excessive? No, not for me right now. I feel good and I’m really enjoying it, so I don’t think it’s excessive. I also typically take rest days every Monday. Last week was an exception because I wanted to do yoga after a weekend of traveling. The reason I have a coach this time around is so my training doesn’t get excessive, and so my weeks are balanced (the week before last was a really light stepback week, for example, before I peaked) and I don’t get injured or burnt out. 71 miles is a ton for me (and the NP workouts are included in that mileage; the workouts are running-focused), but I like it, and I’m taking advantage of feeling good for a nice change.

  13. Wait what? You ran 60 mile weeks preparing for NYC last year? It read on the blog like you barely trained. Weren’t you mid one of your really bad flares??

    1. Yes, I was mid-flare last year, and my “training” was just trying to get through some long-ish runs in the weeks leading up to the race. I am fairly sure there was one week during training that I hit 60 miles, though now I’m questioning whether that was last year or the year before when I was training for NYCM (and then it got canceled because of Hurricane Sandy). Either way, I know at some point, either last year or the year before, I hit 60 miles in a week and was so excited. As for the barely training last year, that’s true. I got the miles in as best I could, but I never did speedwork, intervals, hills, etc. Just easy miles.

      1. That’s really nice to hear actually. I was under the impression you were quite sick. I’m glad to know you weren’t really laid up on the couch.

        Good luck on your marathon!

  14. yay! happy taper! excited for you!! also, the day after tomorrow is Thursday and you seem all happy and appreciative and stuff…can we be thankful again?

  15. I can’t get over the “71 miles”… whoa! Anyway, everything went well during your training. You are ready for your marathon. I am sure it will go well 🙂 Enjoy tapering and good luck for the relay! 🙂

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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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