Marathon training – week 1 review

So, after a particularly rough first run (more on that coming up) my coach gave me an idea. “Learn from every run. Figure out what works, what doesn’t work, and move on.” He might have mentioned something  about writing everything down too. At first I thought, “I’ll keep a log!!” And then it dawned on me, I have a blog. There might be other people who have similar issues, or those who are just curious. Or maybe there are others who can’t have dairy (it’s the devil, but I only think that because it either makes me want to hurl, crawl into the fetal position, or makes my throat close up.) or gluten that gives me some wicked headaches, and generally makes me hate life. So, here’s a little wrap up from week 1 of this marathon cycle (fair warning it might not be little. That just sounded nice :))

Tuesday’s run:

Plan: nice easy 1 hour 20 minute zone 2 run (heart rate 153 – 163) with surges every 20 minutes into zone 3

goal: base building

Thoughts: I had a really awesome run the Saturday before this, and figured “it’s an easy zone 2 run.” This started off really nice. The first 2 miles were nice and relaxed, and I settled in for a nice little run. And then I noticed my heart rate was hanging out around 170 a lot. From there I spiraled lower. My legs felt heavy, my arms were still sore from Monday’s strength workout, I was having trouble breathing, and could I possibly sweat more than I was. I reacted, and my brain took me spiraling down. I started walking a bit on, and off to keep my heart rate down. Average pace: 10:21 :/

Conclusions: I don’t think I hydrated enough before this run, and while my nutrition is usually pretty good I don’t think I did as well as I should have on Monday. Food is fuel! My main meals were good, but my snacks weren’t the best. Moral, don’t grocery shop while hungry, and settle for a protein bar over real food.

Thursday’s run:

Plan: easy 1 hour 20 minute run in zone 2 with surges into zone 3 every 20 minutes

Goal: base building

Thoughts: I woke up with a start realizing that I hadn’t frozen my water bottle over night like I usually do in the summer. Fortunately I was able to get some ice out of the semi-frozen ice maker without making too much noise. The humidity was down to 80% this morning, and while it was still warm I could definitely feel a difference. This was a much better run than Tuesday! I felt lighter, more efficient, and my head and throat were not as stopped up as Tuesday. Even my splits were consistent. Got one honk from some nice boys in a truck too. Average pace: 10:03

Conclusions: Fueling, and hydrating went much better Wednesday. I admit vacuuming the whole house maybe wasn’t the best idea for the legs, but my sinuses seem much happier. There was also a lot of foam rolling, and stretching after my strength workout. And I’m sure wearing my compression capris most of Wednesday probably didn’t hurt either. Took 2 endurolyte tablets before the run, 2 more after breakfast, and 2 more in the afternoon.

Saturday’s Run:

Plan: 14 mile run in zone 2 with surges to zone 3 every 20 minutes

Goal: base building

Thoughts: I went out on my typical route through downtown Atlanta. While it was still in the mid 70s the humidity was lower, which was a nice break. I can’t say that I was really excited to get out of the door. Staying up to watch the Olympic opening ceremony was maybe not the best idea. The snooze button got a little action before I rolled out of bed, but I had everything laid out and ready to go, and had even remembered to freeze my water bottle. I took what I had learned about my form on Thursday’s run, and was able to apply it fairly easily for the first 13 miles. The first 6 miles were mostly uphill, and I knew if I could just get to Centiennial Park I would get a break. So, I hit the downhills in the sun, and started singing God save the Queen. The hardest part was running past my street knowing I wasn’t done, but if I could go one mile all I had to do was turn around, and run just 1 mile home and I was done. Somehow the last mile is always the most challenging. It probably wasn’t that bad, but after 8 miles in full sun I was fading a lot, and very much ready to be done. Average pace: 9:57

Conclusions: Everything seemed to be working right today. Definitely a breakthrough run considering how things had gone earlier in the week. Things are starting to click with my form. My legs felt really good with very little fatigue till the last mile, and I was definitely running much more efficiently while easily keeping my heart rate down in zone 2. Took 2 endurolytes before, 2 more 1:20 into the run, and 2 more after.

Strength & Cross Training:

An important part of training is strength training. So, Monday and Wednesday I went through coach’s new strength workout, which needs a little modification because it’s a little challenging, and I wasn’t able to move my arms much afterwards. That’s a bit of a problem when you have a major audition in 4 weeks. Friday I did an hour Pilates workout with Laura for my core workout, and we also went through the new strength workout so she could check and make sure it worked well for me. Sunday I finished up the week with an hour bike ride. Week’s total mileage = 48 miles (31 running, 17 biking)

Week 2 looks familiar doesn’t it? Makes me think of an old camp song. Week 2, same as the first. A little bit louder, and a little bit worse. Okay maybe not worse, but at least I know I can already do everything 🙂

Friday Fun – favorites

Hey, it’s Friday! It’s the day of non-stop practicing, and Pilates. So, for a little fun here are a few things I love right now:

1. French Broad Chocolates!! Located in Asheville, NC these guys know how to make really yummy chocolates! A friend picked up a few gluten/dairy free treats for me the last time she was up there. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad to see an empty box before. They just melt in your mouth, and your halfway through a box before you know it. I’m also pretty sure they have magic powers for running too. No really, magic powers. 🙂 Maybe I should make sure to have some the week before my marathon…

2. Picky Bars. These are my pre-long run obsession. Like, have them auto delivered to my house every month obsession (I’m a proud card-carrying member of the picky club). Oh, heck, who am I kidding. I eat them all of the time. Sometimes I want to eat more than one in a day, but so far I’ve been really good. The brain child of elite runner Lauren Fleshman they are “freaking science dude.” All of the bars are gluten & dairy free (ah, rice protein powder you are my friend!), and you can even get a nut free bar as well. It happens to be my favorite.

3. Acure ultra-hydrating body lotion. So, not only do I have food allergies, but I have really sensitive skin. Like don’t touch me with a drop of alcohol or it might burn my skin, or make me break out in hives kind of skin. Seriously, I should just live in a bubble. For years I’ve had to shell out the big bucks to find body lotions with no alcohol. Even naturally derived plant-based alcohol drives my skin nuts. So, one day I was in Whole Foods, and found Acure. It’s all natural, fair trade, alcohol-free, and only $10. Be still my heart! I’ve been using it for a week, and love it. It’s nice and light, and not a bit greasy. I’m also obsessed with their argan oil, but that’s a whole different story.

4. Cardamom Hill. My friend Beth and I like to lunch. Yes, we are southern, therefore we are ladies who lunch. This month we mixed it up a bit, and tried a restaurant that I had been dying to try, especially after they announced they would be making their fried chicken gluten-free. Must. Go. Now! The food is not only beautiful to look at, but absolutely delicious. For lunch they do these wonderful “boxes” that have a salad, curry soup, tomato rice, and your choice of vegetable, meat, or fried chicken. And this isn’t your mama’s fried chicken either. This is Indian fried chicken! I would eat lunch there every day, but I would either need to win the lottery or run many more miles.

Don’t go on auto pilot

“So, did you like the sound? Was it in tune?” I ask

“I don’t know,” the student replied

“Why don’t you? Weren’t you listening?”


I don’t know is the most common answer I get in my studio. So often we go on to auto pilot without even realizing it. I should know, I played that way for a very long time. I would pay attention to somethings when I practiced, but not everything. By the time I would get in front of one of my teachers to play I wouldn’t think about anything, and then I couldn’t understand why things were going wrong. You have to be present, you have to focus. It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s harder than you think.

I didn’t learn until my 30s that I was doing a lot of mindless playing. In grad school we would compare the number of hours we each practiced thinking that the more you practiced the better off you would be. In reality it just meant we spent a lot of hours playing the violin, which in itself is not a bad thing, but I have learned that the thing that is more important than quantity is quality. Looking back at all of those hours I know I wasn’t doing the highest quality practicing. Once the lightbulb went off it’s like a whole new world opened up to me. Oh, and I started getting better really fast. It’s amazing what you can do when you simply listen to what you’re doing.

So, how do you avoid going on auto pilot?

  1. Listen. It’s both simple, and hard at the same time. You have to be present enough in what you’re doing to listen to the sound coming out of the instrument. Are you playing in tune? Is the musical idea you’re trying to convey coming across? Do you like the sound? None of these questions can be answered if you don’t know what is going on.
  2. Focus on one skill. A lot of times I have students role a dice to see how many times they are going to play what we’re working on, but I make sure that they know what they need to listen or watch for. It can be as simple as making sure the bow stays straight all the way to more complex phrasing. The goal is to be consistent, and achieve the same out come with each repetition.
  3. record or videotape. Now, I admit that I tend to shy away from videotaping myself, and the reason is silly. It’s honest. Really, really honest, but you can learn so much more by stepping away for a brief second, and either watching or listening to yourself. Sometimes I don’t always hear the same things that others do. By recording yourself you know exactly what you did, and you exactly if you like it or don’t. It’s a big part of my audition prep right now. Not only does it help me understand exactly what I’m doing, but it also makes me a little nervous so I have an idea of how I may react at the audition.
  4. Hear what your going to play in your head either before or while your playing. This is particularly helpful with memorizing, but also works well with shifting, double stops, scales, and more. If you know what it sounds like then you know what to listen for.

So, here’s to many hours of auto pilot free practicing. You can put your seats up, and tray tables away, but don’t get too comfortable. You still need to know what’s going on 🙂