Grandma’s Marathon Training: Week 4

Super proud of my girl Lizzy, who showed that gnarly heat who’s boss and ROCKED the LA Marathon this weekend with a super impressive sub-4:00! 

Also, congrats to Amanda @ Slimplify Life who, on the other side of the country in DC, completed her first marathon this weekend! Way to go Amanda!

And finally – I just realized that I am now less than 3 weeks away from my first big race of the season, the South Shore Half Marathon. Even though I just did Icebreaker in January, it feels like ages since I’ve run a half marathon. Now that South Shore is so close, I’m starting to think about it more. But we can talk about that later 🙂


Tuesday, 3/10

Workout: Strength Training, aka OMFG YOU GUYS I FINALLY DID IT
Location: Home 🙂
Duration: 30 mins

No fancy workout here. It was already after 9:00 and I was this close to just skipping the workout, so I knew if I was going to do it at all I needed to just wing it and do it quickly. I did a bunch of planks, wall sits, bridges and squats and it actually was a good workout, if Weds and Thurs’ DOMS is any indication


Wednesday, 3/11

Workout: None

No yoga. I got stuck at work late (gotta make sure everything gets done so I can go into that 4 day weekend with peace of mind), so I had to miss class.


Thursday, 3/12

Workout: Speed work – 4x1mi
Location: Y indoor track
Total Miles (with w/u and c/d): 8
Mile repeat times: 7:28, 7:32, 7:36, 7:38; avg – 7:34

My first mile repeats workout was a success! The only negative I can pinpoint is that as you can see, I slowed down with every mile.

But I’m trying this new thing now where I try to give more weight to the positives, because overall this was a really good workout. Despite slowing down, I still stayed pretty consistent (positive 1!). Each interval was challenging, but not all-out, and I was able to maintain a pretty steady pace throughout (positive 2!). I also realized that my average for those four miles is around the same pace I’ve been running my 800s lately. So this means that I am really getting better at holding fast paces for longer distances (positive 3!). And finally: after the workout I felt strong and energized, not wiped. I once heard that you should always be in control of speed intervals; if you go so hard that you can’t finish or feel demolished at the end, then you’re overtraining. I’m sure not everyone will agree, but it makes a lot of sense to me, so the fact that I felt so good after this long workout means I did it efficiently (hooray! Postive 4!)


Friday, 3/13

Workout: Recovery run
Location: Roads
Total Miles: 5
Average Pace: 9:30

This run was a sloppy mess. It was pretty warm out today, even in the AM, but I had the brilliant idea to do this run in sweat pants and a hoodie! Wtf? I never even wear those things on a run in cold weather! Sigh. So I was really hot and thirsty and sluggish the whole time, even after I finally ditched the hoodie.

All in all it was okay but just felt pretty gross.  Damn you Friday the 13th.


Saturday, 3/14

Workout: Easy Run
Location: Roads
Total Miles: 5
Average Pace: 8:58

This was a decent run, I guess. Did it in the afternoon after being out during the day, so I was tired and a little dehydrated. The burrito I had at brunch wasn’t totally agreeing with me.


Sunday, 3/15

Workout: Long run w/ MP miles
Location: Roads
Total Miles: 10
Average Pace: 8:48

Since 10 miles is not really that long, I decided to use this run to get in some MP practice instead of just plodding along. My plan was to spend the first 2-3 miles easing into it and then try to do the middle 6 at MP. My legs were tired right off the bat so I knew I was in for a challenge.

In retrospect I can see that my big mistake was not taking my first 3 warm up miles slow enough, and that I should have listened to my body and waited another mile before trying to crank it up.

After the first 3 miles I felt like I was really pushing it the entire time, but what felt like the same effort sometimes yielded an 8:27 mile and other times yielded an 8:50. Miles 4-6 were frustrating because it felt like I was pushing hard, but when my Garmin beeped I saw 8:50, 8:42, 8:50. I didn’t understand how I could be busting my butt and still running that slow.

And then I actually started to get really frustrated…and discouraged. I was mad at my stupid tired legs and the fact that my perceived effort just never seems to match my actual effort which is REALLY annoying, and for the first time I found myself thinking: maybe I can’t do this. Maybe my goal is just too hard. If I have to fight to maintain this pace in a 10 mile run, how can I hold it in a freakin MARATHON?

But I kept pushing, and my splits started to improve. Miles 7-10 were: 8:38, 8:27, 8:40, 8:34. Still jumping all over the place but, with the exception of that weird 8:27, I am still in the ballpark and holding on.

Remember I said I’m trying this new thing where I’m trying to be more positive? Well, after the last 4 miles went better and the run was over, I was feeling better and the positive thoughts started to take over the negative.  I reminded myself that instead of thinking “it’s too hard, I can’t do this,” I can think “it just wasn’t my day,” or, my new favorite: “it’s okay – my body is still learning.

And I have to keep in mind that this is the whole point of cumulative fatigue training, this is what it’s supposed to be like. What’s frustrating now will be invaluable experience on race day. Running at your goal pace after 4 straight days of running (sidenote, I think this is the first time I’ve ever run 4 days in a row), during a long run, isn’t supposed to be easy, because it’s not going to be easy in the last 10 miles of the marathon.

The whole idea behind MP practice is to get your body accustomed to what it feels like at various levels of fatigue, not just when you feel fresh and rested. Practicing it when you’re tired is just as important as – actually probably more important than – the practice you get in that 5 mile run early in the week.

So with that in mind, today’s workout was actually very valuable to me. Some will say I should have just taken it slow and easy since it’s still a long run. But I’m glad my body had an opportunity to learn what my goal pace will feel like on tired legs.





Week 4 Grade: A-

On paper, this week should be an A. I had a great speed workout, I finally did some strength training, I took my easy runs easy, and I turned an initially frustrating run into a good learning experience.

But despite the fact that the workouts went well, I just feel “meh” about this week. I don’t really know why. It doesn’t seem like anything to write home about, just another ordinary week. Nothing stands out, it was all just…okay.

It deserves better than a B but I just don’t have it in my to give it an A. So I’ll split the difference between my attitude and my results and give it a solid A-.



Looking Ahead: Week 5

Monday 3/16 – rest
Tuesday 3/17 – rest
Wednesday 3/18 – 6 mile tempo run
Thursday 3/19 – 5 miles recovery
Friday 3/20 – 6 miles easy
Saturday 3/21 – 7 miles MP practice
Sunday 3/22 – 16 miles LSD
TOTAL planned mileage: 40

Some notes:

Eeek – we’re hitting the big 4-0 this week! It’s kinda crazy that I’m already up to 40 miles after only 5 weeks of training.

At first this kind of freaked me out, like am I doing too much too soon? Last time, I don’t think I got up to 40 miles until I was already 2/3 of the way through. But then when I consider how much of my weekly mileage gets counted in things like warm-up and cool down miles and the recovery intervals of speed work, it’s really not so bad. In fact, it’s only a 15% increase from my pre-cutback week total of 35, which is right in the ballpark for the rule of thumb about how much you should increase per week while you’re building up.

I’m planning to do this week’s tempo run outside. The high is 46 and the forecast is partly cloudy, which sounds like perfect weather for a solid hard effort outside. I’m not sure if I’ll try a Hanna Tempo or just a straight up tempo, we’ll see. What I do know is that I’m going to do my tempo miles by feel instead of pace. I want to aim for an effort that’s hard but sustainable and let my body instead of my watch be the guide.

It’s not on the schedule, but I’ll be squeezing in more strength training this week too. I’m hoping to start doing some stair repeats on my lunch hour, and adding some body weight exercises to my easy run days.

This will be my first week of 5 days in a row of running. 5 days in a row, 40 miles in a week, ending in a 16 mile long run = this will be my first real test of energy management and pacing myself through the week. Let’s stay tuned to see how it goes!


Looking forward to a GREAT Week 5!


18 thoughts on “Grandma’s Marathon Training: Week 4

  1. Your speed workout was AWESOME! I think your splits were close enough, not to worry about it. I think the thing to remember is with the marathon training so much of it is on tired legs–it is easy to feel discouraged. I remember coming back from every long run and feeling discouraged, wondering how I was going to be able to keep up that pace (or faster) for “x” more miles!
    I think you approach strength training the same way I do… 🙂

    1. It’s insane how a pace that feels so hard in training can feel so easy on race day! It’s always hard to imagine that we’ll somehow be able to run 26 miles faster than in training yet it happens!

  2. Have you heard the concept that you should finish your last speed interval feeling like you could do one more but no more than that? Similar to what you said, that you pushed it, but aren’t dying. You nailed it. And the MP during the long run… it’s not supposed to be easy. You’re doing the hard work now so it will be easier come marathon. Why would that pace feel easy after running 4 days in a row? If it did, you should probably run faster, right? It looks like you’ll have the same practice with it this week, being your fourth day, too 🙂 It’ll be good for you (the fatigue!).

    Are you going to keep up with the strength training this week?

    1. I actually had never heard that concept. I mean, I’ve heard you should end with enough in the tank that you can go about the rest of your day like a normal person, but I like that guideline!

      Speed work – yes ma’am! Often times instead of doing it in one big workout, I like to do bits and pieces throughout the week. Some weeks, that’s just an easier way to make sure I at least get it done. For example, last night before bed I threw in a couple planks, some sideways leg lifts and some negative calf raises. Today I’m aiming to do some stair repeats on my lunch break. On one of my easy run days I’ll probably do a handful of other exercises, etc. Keeps it fun!

    1. Thanks! I actually created my own plan that is a hybrid of Hal Higdon and the Hansons plan. The Hansons plan is built specifically around cumulative fatigue, but I didn’t find out about it until I already had a plan and I didn’t want to commit to running 6 days a week and only doing 16 miles for my longest run, so I moved stuff around in my plan to make it more like a Hansons plan. The Higdon plan emphasizes running on tired legs for the long run but I wouldn’t say the whole plan is based on that principle.

  3. Five days in a row of running is super intense! I think fatiguing your legs (intelligently, not recklessly) will be great training for the marathon. I give you an A for this week! Really impressive mile repeat times!

  4. Girl you are wayyy too hard on yourself! Those times you are putting up are awesome especially for running on fatigued legs. I think when marathon day comes around you’ll surprise yourself with what you can do on fresh legs and adrenaline. I give you an A++ for this week!

    1. Thanks much! You’re right, we always surprise ourselves on race day yet it is still so hard to believe on hard training days we can pull it off! Ahh the conundrums of being a runner LOL

  5. I think the “it’s ok – my body is still learning” is a great way of thinking about it. Especially when you’re getting into cumulative fatigue training in a serious way for the first time.

    Do you have any idea what your peak mileage on this plan will be? I agree that 40 seems like a lot at week 5, but it also sounds like you are ready for it. You’re doing so well with your speedwork!

    Thanks for the kind words!

    1. My mileage will peak at around 56. When I think about it more, it seems less daunting. Of the 13 remaining weeks, 5 of those are either cutback weeks or taper/race week, which means I only have 8 more weeks of buildup. 16 miles over 8 weeks means I’m only increasing roughly 2 miles a week from here on out.

      I think hitting 40 in Week 5 does seem severe at first, but that’s because I jumped from 30 to 35 a couple weeks ago and now from 35 to 40 (which is still only about 15%). But from here on out my increases will be much more conservative. And I do feel ready for it. I’ve responded so well to training so far that I know if I take it easy and be smart this week, it should be smooth sailing.

      CONGRATS again! I hope you’re recovering well 🙂

  6. Another great week, Hanna! I think it sounds like you nailed your 4×1 mile intervals. I know you mentioned that you slowed down over the course of them, but I don’t think 10 seconds is a problem at all. What are you doing between each of your intervals? Walking or jogging? For time or distance? Just curious 🙂

    I’ll be stealing your “It’s okay – my body is still learning” phrase for the rest of my 5k training period. Even though I run a 5k basically every time I go for a run, my training plan is so new and different that I often feel like I am not sure what I am doing or if I am doing my workouts correctly.

    1. Thanks! I actually do my recovery intervals in distance, simply because that’s the only way I can really track how many miles I ran at the end of the workout. I usually do the recovery intervals at 1/2 the distance of the speed intervals: for 800s I do 400 recovery, for miles I do 800 recovery, etc. I do the recovery intervals at a slow jog and sometimes pause for a few seconds to drink some water.

      Please do steal it! Your 5K training involves a lot of valuable but new stuff and there will certainly be a learning curve. I think we all have to remember sometimes: we train to race, we don’t race to train! Training=LEARNING!

  7. It sounds like you had a great week! Your speed work is really great. Mile repeats sound like a pretty crazy workout. 40 miles is a lot, but it sounds like you’ve got it under control. Good luck with this week and continue your goal of staying positive!

  8. I am the queen of strength training after 9 pm in your living room. But it actually works! I do planks, squats, crunches, wall sits and push ups while watching TV. Watching real housewives makes wall sits fly by…

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