The Thing About 20 Milers…

For me 20 milers have been the big bad wolf of any marathon training cycle.

Prior to this year, I’ve run 20 miles or more about 4 times in my life. I realize that sounds a little crazy, but 2 of those were my 2 prior marathons. And when you think about it, that’s kind of crazy.

Friends ask me a lot if it makes me nervous to only run 20 miles before a marathon. It doesn’t (anymore). Honestly, it makes me nervous just to run 20 miles!

Yesterday was my second 20 mile long run of this training cycle. It went better than I could have possible hoped.

I’ve been working with a coach since March, and I can’t say enough amazing things about Mollie. Not only is she an amazingly accomplished runner, she’s been a great coach for me. She’s encouraging, and she’s built me a plan that has worked well for me (even while I’ve been working 11p-7a for a majority of my marathon training) If you’re in the market for a coach, I highly recommend checking her out!

In the past, running 20 miles has felt like a struggle. I often feel like the last 5 or so miles are a struggle. I can’t find the energy to do anything afterwards. I feel sore and tired immediately. This wasn’t the case with this 20 miler (or the previous 20 miler although that one was run in 80 degree weather with 90% humidity, so the weather had its effects!). I practiced my race fueling strategy – a bagel with butter before my run and one salted caramel gu every 45 minutes with water during my run. That seems to be the PERFECT strategy for me. I never felt my energy level dip and I was able to maintain a 10:03 average pace per mile. That didn’t feel crazy fast. I didn’t feel exhausted after. I have some slight lower back soreness today, but that’s about it!

To say this 20 miler was a huge confidence boost is an understatement. Being able to run 20 miles and feel like I could have run 10 more, is HUGE. The Chicago Marathon is in 3 weeks. I feel like I will be peaking right at the perfect moment to set a PR. I’ve got a new fire in my belly to run this thing, have fun on the course and just see what I can do out there.

Running is weird. It’s weird when you tell friends that you’re running 20 miles over the weekend, for fun. I have found that there is something oddly spiritual about running. You are out on a trail, appreciating the beauty of the world and your ability to surpass your own expectations.

I am SO looking forward to October 11th!

Leesburg 20K race recap

I realized while running the Leesburg 20K that I really enjoy running a majority of this race. If you are in the DC area and have never been out to Leesburg, it’s beautiful – rolling hills, farms, a beautiful little downtown area (with plenty of great places to eat).

Leesburg 20K Map

Leesburg 20K elevation chart

The course is mostly an out and back on the W&OD. As you can see, it’s a gradual uphill on the way out, and downhill on the way back. There is one section (near the middle) with a moderately intense uphill (one way you’re going up a trail corkscrew, the other you’re going over a humpback overpass). Other than that, it’s definitely not the hilliest course I’ve run. But the race is in August – so by the time you finish, it’s getting hot.

I am gleaming with sweat!
I am gleaming with sweat!

Did I do better than last year? Yes. I ran this course in 1:52:13. That’s about 9:03 per mile. To compare, last year I was running about the same mileage (high 30s, low 40s) and I ran this race in 1:56:17 (9:21 per mile).

I'm thinking "Oh thank goodness for this finish line!"
I’m thinking “Oh thank goodness for this finish line!”


I felt a little more prepared for the race. I knew the course, I knew what to expect,

The first half, I  paced myself really well.

I finished faster than I did last year, and this year I’ve run a bit more mileage wise at this point.

It was hot, but a good part of the race was run in the shade.

The scenery was beautiful.

They had the most delicious chocolate chip cookies at the end of the race. Also the gatorade I drank at the finish line tasted better than any gatorade I’ve ever had.


My stomach felt really unhappy around mile 9

I felt incredibly thirsty at the end.

This was not the pace I had wanted to keep, in fact, it’s a good :30 slower than my half marathon pace.

I also have had a sneaking suspicion that eating gus is becoming harder on my stomach, especially if they contain caffeine. So I might need to do a little more experimenting there.

So the journey to the Chicago Marathon continues. I’ve got a half marathon coming up on September 13th. I’m hoping that will give me another good idea, perhaps with even cooler weather, of what I am capable of for this marathon. That’s another one that has some hills, but I am hoping that all of these hills (aka “speedwork in disguise”) pay off for Chicago!

Trail Time

I didn’t post a summary of last week’s workouts, which is a bummer. To make a long story short – last week turned out to be an off week. I was off my sleep game. I was off my mental game. I was off my running game. On my long run (16 miles) I felt sick, I was tired, I was doubting my abilities, I was questioning whether I had made a huge mistake signing up for another marathon. I dropped a lot of f bombs.

This week? I got over all of that. I turned myself around with a 6 mile run on Tuesday and a gorgeous 5 mile run on Wednesday. J loves to run around Teddy Roosevelt Island in DC. He always talks about doing laps around the island. I didn’t get it for the longest time. Trails make me slower, there are little hills, it felt swampy. 

But something clicked with me this year and I’ve been loving this island lately.


Teddy Roosevelt
The loop I ran was beautiful, blissful and it felt effortless. 

I did one quick lap and ran back up the hill home and straight to bed. It was perfect.

Last night I had 6 miles plus 10X100m strides. My coach has gotten me into running strides on a weekly basis, and it’s been awesome. Running miles and then pounding out some strides is a total recipe for feeling like a badass. Try it!

Work this week has been a challenge – lots of little things coming up that, when piled together, test my patience. I don’t think I am the most patient person. Running has helped a lot in teaching me to be a more patient person, but I still have my moments. One of the best pieces of advice an old boss ever gave me was “Assume good intent.” It is a real mindset game changer when it comes to some of these things that bug me.

This weekend I’m racing the Leesburg 20K. It’s my second time running it. I’m hoping for a course PR and 20K PR … not because I want to conquer the 20K, but rather because I want to see that the work I’ve put in so far, aimed at my fall marathon, is working. As runners, we crave that validation. We hope that the goals we set are reasonable. We run because we want to be better than we were the last time we raced. I’ll give a full race report soonest!

Another Run

I had another not so great run today. I had 8 easy miles on my schedule, and my legs just felt like they were full of lead. 

It could be my fast run yesterday. It could be lack of proper fueling before the run. It could be the five hours of sleep I got yesterday. It could be all of it. All I know is that it didn’t feel great. That’s okay. I have a day off tomorrow and I am planning on sleeping and doing some yoga. 

I’m looking forward to the Leesburg 20K next weekend. It should give me a good idea of a reasonable goal to set for Chicago. 

Friends and colleagues have been asking me if I have a goal for Chicago. I usually say I want break 4 hours. My dream though is to get in around 3:45. My PR is from 2012, and its 4:12:09, when I ran Steamtown. I have no idea if 3:45 is realistic. My heart tells me yes, it’s just a matter of whether I can let my mind say yes too. 

Somedays you fly, others you trudge

Tuesday I got a bit of a late start on my run. I probably didn’t head out the door until around 8:30am and it was already in the 80s. For some reason I decided I would run a hilly route. (For DC folks I’m talking about the Custis Trail)

A cute pond along the way

I should have known as I trudged up the first hill that it wasn’t going to be a stellar run, but I just went with it.


Look at this light and this traill!
At the turn around point, I hit up the water fountain, and instead of focusing on how slow I felt and how hot it was, I just decided to try to be grateful for the day and being able to run. Instant attitude adjustment.


This tree was an instant attitude adjustment reminder
And the reward for all that positive thinking came on today’s run. I have zero pictures because that’s how awesome I felt. I didn’t want to stop. Instead of running 10 minute miles, I was running an average of 9:09 with a few sub-9 min miles in there. (The last mile which is up the big hill of doom, really messed with my average). I felt like a champion. I felt redeemed from my slow day.

That’s one of the things about running – one day you can feel completely off, but the next you might feel like a million bucks. It’s taken me almost 5 years to figure that lesson out, but finally learning to be at peace with bad runs or a bad workout is one of the most amazing feelings. It’s helped me in my non-running life too. I highly recommend not being like me and learning this lesson early on.

Long Run 15 Miles + Week 4 of Chicago Marathon Training

I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to get a 15 mile long run in. (Why is it that 15 miles mentally feels so much longer than 13 miles? I don’t know!)

I decided to run along the C&O Canal which is both beautiful and so nice on my joints. DC runners, if you haven’t made running along the C&O canal a part of your regular running route, I highly recommend it!

I wasn’t aiming to hit a particular pace, just to go out and have a good run. I felt great the first 11 miles, and then things kind of fell apart a bit. It started getting warmer, but I don’t want to make excuses ;)

The scenery was obviously beautiful along the way.

After my run I refueled at Ray’s Hell Burger. This place is epic and delicious. I had the Big Punisher Burger and tots. The burger has pepper jack cheese, grilled jalepenos, heck sauce, grilled onions and piranha sauce. It’s a delicious post-run treat.

 Here’s what my week looked like running-wise:

Monday – Day off, but I did 45 mins of yoga at home. It felt GREAT and actually helped me catch a few extra hours of sleep.

Tuesday – 9 miles total, 2 warm up, 5 @ HMGP and 2 cool down.

I did the 2 warm up and the 5 @ HMGP, but felt so wobbly that I called it quits after the 5 that were actually :30 off my HMGP. This wasn’t a stellar workout for me, but I hadn’t gotten great sleep.

Wednesday – 5 miles easy.

I actually did 6, so that I could make up for some of my slacking from Tuesday. I felt a lot better.

Thursday – 7 + 10×100 m strides

I ran 8 (including the strides) to make up for the mile I was missing. This run felt GREAT.


Friday was waffle night at work!
FRIDAY – rest

I was so exhausted from the week (it was a tough one at work) so I got double digit sleep. I managed to eat well which helped me with my run on Saturday.

SATURDAY – 15 miles


SUNDAY – 5 miles easy

I was definitely feeling those 15 from the day before. I felt tired, but good tired.

TOTAL: 41 miles! It was my first week in the 40s. It surely won’t be my last! 

Week 3 of Chicago Marathon Training + 4 of Overnight

So I always find that there comes a time on the overnight where I can’t sleep. That’s this week. I’ve been averaging about 5 hours over the past three days. Someone at work said that I’ve got a “newborn” schedule…except for the fact that I don’t get to put anyone in cute outfits. I am super lucky though because J is just about the best partner one could ask for. He helps with laundry and my whiny butt.


someone told me I looked tired

Hi! I had a rest day yesterday which I took to do some yoga at home. (We had some serious thunderstorms yesterday so Finn was officially glued to my side). Currently he’s guarding our apartment from everyone. 

Today I was to run a 2 mile warm up, 5 miles at half marathon goal pace and 2 cool down. After sleeping 5 hrs I got on the treadmill and was feeling like my warm up was the workout! I know, there are days like that! When I dialed it up to half marathon goal pace my body did a big “No way” which I listened to. I dialed back about :20 per mile for a little faster than marathon pace. I am okay with it. I walked around a bit, didn’t get those 2 mile cool down miles in. I’ll pick those up later in the week.

I’m trying to give myself a break this week. It’s tough. Work can be stressful. Life throws things at you. It is important to not add to it. I am trying to teach myself this lesson. So hard!

One thing I am loving lately? 


Legs up in the air, on my foam roller after a run. This is one of my favorite parts of yoga. So refreshing!

Also loving:

My Granola Products pouch (I use it for my iPad mini at the gym) and my Picky Bars Hydroflask. Cool water for hours and hours? Yes please.  
Now I’m off to nap before my next night shift!