Month 3 of Marathon Training: It’s Getting Serious

Last week I ran a total of 36 miles.

I’ve been dreading March since I started training. The mid week runs are 5-8-5 miles. That means that now my mid week tempo run of 8 miles is longer that my first “long run”. The long runs themselves are stretching to obnoxious lengths of 17-20 miles through the month.

Of course the highest mileage week of our training also fell on a challenging week for me personally and a hectic week at work. I knew this would happen at some point in my training.  It did and I made it through. A significant part of training is overcoming the mental hurdles of the tough weeks. You come out exhausted, but stronger on the other side. The next time you look ahead to a week that seems insurmountable, you can look back at previous victories and know that you can make it.

Our naive enthusiasm has been replaced with a confident determination. With each additional long run we check off the list, that little voice inside us that says “You CAN do this” grows a little bit louder.

Lessons Learned by Running 17 Miles:

1. The Crocket Park Greenways are Gorgeous


I’ve taken my kids to Crockett Park in Brentwood to ride bikes, but I never realized that the trail system was so extensive. Though a little hilly, the trail was beautiful as it passed alongside a small river, by gorgeous neighborhoods and through a wooded area. I probably would not feel comfortable running alone there (Brentwood is known for its gang activity*), but it was an awesome group run.

2. Kids today are silly


I’d heard that teenagers go “all out” thee days asking their sweethearts to prom, but we saw the adorable evidence of this on our run. As we came to a fork in the trail, a boy had asked a girl to prom with sidewalk chalk, with one direction marked yes and the other marker no. I just hope she chose the path marked yes, just as Abby did as we reinacted the scene.

3. People do strange things to their dogs


We passed a random couple with a dog that was carrying a sign that said “wide load”. That was our inspiration to keep running, so no one would need a sign like that for us.

4. You can’t “scare” away a side stitch

Shannon, Abby and Me

At about mile 10 Abby got a side stitch. After she failed to get relief with the usual tricks I decided with all my advanced medical learnin’ that perhaps I could “scare away” her side stitch. I know that hiccups are spasms of the diaphragm muscle and we don’t really know what causes side stitches but they are near the diaphragm, so perhaps they could be physiologically related (this was my medical reasoning after running for 2 hours). I randomly just stopped and screamed at Abby and scared the crap out of her. She then she nearly punched me, which could have easily lead to my second assault charge. Luckily there was no violence, only a failed experiment  and some minor comic relief.

5. 17 miles is EXHAUSTING

Christina relaxing in the grass after our run

The first 2 hours weren’t bad but by hour three my legs were tired. I figure this is normal. Nothing “hurt” and by nothing I mean pretty much everything ached but I could still move so I assumed I was OK. By hydrating, stretching and making friends with my foam roller on my long run days, I haven’t been too sore afterwards.

*Not really. It has the lowest crime rate in the state, but it was a very secluded trail at points.

The Marathon is about 6 weeks away. I think if we can survive March, then we should be home free for our April taper. However, that 20 miler is still looming ominously around the corner.


Hot Chocolate 15k Nashville

Shannon. me and Abby "winning" the Hot Chocolate 15 K
Shannon. me and Abby “winning” the Hot Chocolate 15k

Our training schedule called for a race in February, so when we heard about the Hot Chocolate 15k it seemed like a great idea. the race boasts an adorable hoodie for swag and hot chocolate with fondue at the finish. Chocolate, running and hoodies? Sign us up.

I could hardly contain my excitement for Friday’s prerace expo. With all the chocolate hype, I was expecting the exhibit hall to look something like an 80’s Dairy Queen commercial. On arrival it was only a small room with a couple vendors. The promised chocolate was a single puny square. {Insert sad trombone.} The tables were well organized and picking up the packets was easy but my marathon training appetite was hoping for something more like this:

The morning of the race, the temperature was a bone chilling 5 degrees. Granted, we are accustomed now to running in this weather, but we are not accustomed for waiting around for an hour in the cold before we start running.

Waiting for the race. (Most of the 5,000 participants are huddled in the merchandising tents attempting to avoid frostbite)
Waiting for the race. Most of the 5,000 participants are huddled in the merchandising tents attempting to avoid frostbite.

When we finally started the race, my hands and feet were completely numb. It was the craziest sensation. It felt like I was running with 2 concrete blocks attached to the bottom of my legs.

The course started at the bicentennial mall in downtown and took Broadway down to the Parthenon. The course was hilly, but again cold and hilly is pretty much our specialty.

After about 3 miles, I finally warmed up enough to feel my extremities. All things being equal, it does help to be able to feel your feet while you are running. You may want to tweet that fine bit of running wisdom.

Overall the race was fun, enough people where running to get your adrenaline going, but it wasn’t crowded enough to effect your pace. The event was well organized, and I was floored by the number of volunteers who showed up in the cold to cheer us on and staff the ice water stops. There were 2 “chocolate stations” on the route where they were handing out the chocolate squares, however the idea of eating chocolate at mile 6 of a race was not very appetizing.

The last mile of the race was downhill and we finished strong. I set a PR of 1:21 and we all three placed in the top 20 in our ages groups. At the finish, my “land of Dairy Queen” dreams finally came true. After hydrating with water, we headed to the chocolate tent. Despite the crowds, the lines went quickly and the hot chocolate and fondue was every bit as delicious as promised. The hot chocolate was super rich. The chocolate fondue came with a banana, pretzels, rice crispy and cookies for dipping. It was truly a perfect ending to the race.

Gorging ourselves on delectable chocolate after the race
Gorging ourselves on delectable chocolate after the race

Overall, the Hot Chocolate 15k was a great race. The race course was well organized and the hoodie was stylin’. Despite the absence of chocolate rivers at the expo, I would definitely run this race again next year.