Monday, January 25, 2016


Last time I alluded to one of the annoying things about a February marathon. Here’s the other, more serious one: the weather. I live in Washington DC, not northern Minnesota, so I can’t complain. Or rather, I shouldn’t. But I’m going to anyway.

Because I had my biggest, most important workout scheduled for the weekend Snowzilla decided to invade the East Coast.

Yea, it's pretty... but it's not all about looks, people.
Where can I train?? 
I rearranged all my workouts, moving my last big workout (a long run with most of the miles at goal marathon pace) from Sunday to Friday (pre-Snowzilla attack). I figured, after my big workout, I’d be content and relieved to be on the treadmill the rest of the weekend, glad to be done with the monster workout before the monster snowstorm.

Except the content feeling never came, because Friday’s workout went terribly.

It was slow—way too slow. I ran a loop I have always hated (Hains Point) because my go to route (Beach Drive) is only open to runners on weekends. The wind seemed brutal, my gels were solid rocks, and my stomach didn’t want to handle anything. But those excuses don’t seem to justify why it went so poorly. I was desperately trying to talk myself back into it, to not be negative, to put the last bad mile behind me and try to get back on a reasonable pace for the next one, but nothing seemed to be working. My legs just would not go faster.

The redeeming quality of multiple Hains Point loops was that Kerry had again offered to help out, and she could jump in for a mile here and there. And once again, I owe her eight zillion thank yous. I wanted to give up. Brutally. Alright, running demons, you win, I’m done. I knew I shouldn’t give up on the workout—even though I was going WAY too slowly—because I needed to get in a workout somehow. There’s no making up this one (we’re too close to the race and now all the roads are covered in snow), so slow was better than nothing. I knew that and kept reminding myself of it, but it didn’t matter. It was Kerry’s presence—and her bright vest coming around the bend like a neon angel—that made me not.

When the struggle fest was over and I finally warmed up inside, it seemed all hope had been sucked out of me, by the wind, by the demons, by my evil watch for telling me splits I didn’t care to see. I wanted to run much faster for this workout; I wanted to prove to myself that my goal pace for the marathon is possible. If I hit it in this workout I’d be ready, just like before CIM. Once again, I needed proof I wasn’t being bat$#*! crazy about my goals. But this was slower than the marathon pace workout I did over Christmas, which I also declared as too slow at the time. And it was slower than this workout pre-CIM.

I started to think I’m being completely nuts. I’ve actually adjusted my outlandish goals from the beginning of the season to be ever so slightly more realistic, and now even those seem entirely delusional. I started thinking about all the people who warned me to just to enjoy the LA race, not put too much pressure on myself, not go for some crazy goal only to end up upset. That approach isn’t me, but during and after this workout, giving in suddenly seemed logical and inevitable. Maybe I shouldn’t be going for a PR; I’m not in shape to anyway. Why stress about it?

Man, the demons know exactly what to say to bring you down. I know my goals aren’t always rational or logical, but going for them anyway is what I love to do. I remember this same workout from last season. It also went poorly, only much, much more so. (In fact, every marathon pace workout from that season was a disaster.) I didn’t have time to complain about it, because I ended up hurt instead, but I do remember the day after that terrible workout I was talking myself back into believing my ridiculous goal was still possible. I had less to go on then. Where did that Teal go? And how do I get her back?

After spending the remainder of Friday in a total I Hate Running Funk, I woke up Saturday and tried to find a glimmer of hope, a small piece of evidence, that I’m not crazy to still chase my ambitious goal.

For starters, I am in better shape than ever before. I can’t base everything on one workout; everyone has bad days. The rest of this season’s workouts (and the half) have been slightly faster than past seasons. So that’s good.

But how much faster? Not enough. I never hit the pace I want to hit on race day in a long workout. I relied heavily on the fact that I had run 16 miles at 6:12 when I attempted to run 26 miles at 6:12 at CIM. I don’t have that this time. How the fudge can I expect to go faster for longer?? But I think—perhaps similarly to not basing everything off one workout—I need to stop comparing everything to one race. CIM was the best race of my life, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that to have another great race everything has to align in exactly the same way, right? (Not necessarily a rhetorical question, as I seem to be having a hard time convincing myself of this.) 

But as I searched through my logs from previous marathons, I found my glimmer:

Before the season I ran CIM, I rarely (i.e. never) hit marathon pace in workouts. I almost always ran faster on race day. (Boston 2014 is the only exception.) Also, my workouts where I tried to hit goal pace used to be shorter than they are now. So I had much farther to go on race day and I still ran faster.

Part of me feels like that was another lifetime ago. That was some other Runner Teal—can I really still do that?

But part of the reason I was super bummed after Friday’s workout was that it drained some of the Trials excitement out of me. Listen, I’m a running super nerd: I am so excited to line up with my idols, I can’t wait to see the men speed by me, or to get a live account of the women’s race as we do our out and backs on Figueroa St. I am still beyond thrilled to be invited. BUT I’m also excited to race myself—literally, to race against myself—and to try to get this big PR I’ve been dreaming of. When I think it might not be possible or that I shouldn’t go for it, I get really bummed and it steals some excitement from the whole enterprise. Because no matter what those demons are trying to tell me, I really do want to go for it.

Snowzilla dumped its snow and moved on, up the East Coast. Yet it continues in my head. I got walloped with two feet worth of cold reality this weekend, and I still feel like I’m sitting in a blizzard of negativity and reasons to give up. But I have a little morsel of hope, providing just a little light and warmth: I’ve run faster in races than in practice before. It’s years old and fading fast… but I’m clinging to it, as the storm rages on.
Trudging forward. 
Dream big,

P.S.- Gratitude update: I’m still healthy. At this point last time I was dealing with a season-ending injury, but so far I've made it through, into the taper, in one piece. And that is HUGE. So no matter my mental demons, I’m incredibly grateful for that.


  1. It would have been extremely difficult for anyone to hit several miles at marathon pace with only 1 day recovery after a workout (although the Friday long run was probably your best option). That just doesn't happen. If I can do 10 miles about 5 seconds faster than marathon pace, 2 weeks out, with 3 recovery days beforehand (with the day before either off, or really light) that is telling for me. The taper is key. Making it was the goal! Don't sell yourself short of the experience.

  2. Last note - you've run super workouts and race PR's this season. You're in the best shape of your life, and their ain't no better shape than that. Taper up and go get 'em.

    1. Thanks, Sarah!! You're right: no better shape than that :)

  3. I hear you about people telling you to "just enjoy" the trials! I was told the same about Boston: "it's the experience of a lifetime, just take it all in, who cares about PRs!" While that is certainly true, it is still a race and, therefore, we want to RACE it and get what we trained for out of it.

    My suggestion to you (something I have been trying to do myself to be honest) is to stop comparing this current training cycle to your past ones or you'll end up driving yourself completely nuts! I, too, find myself obsessively checking my training logs from the past and saying things lke: "oh look, I ran my tune-up half just 9sec/mile faster than what I ended up running my goal marathon at! So if I end up with x:xx:xx at the half in March, I'll be able to run a x:xx:xx in Boston!" Truth is, it's much more complicated than that and there are no guarantees. It makes no sense for me to keep going back to compare. Keep looking forward, not backward, and let the trials surprise you!

    PS: I made the mistake of reading your Boston 2014 recap for the 1000th time... I was already freaking out about the warm weather... Now I'm officially terrified!

    1. Ahh yes, I clearly obsessively compare training logs. Thanks for reminding me not to get too caught up in that!!

      And don't worry about the heat in Boston!! It's so rarely hot, and I suffered because I was so not prepared for it and didn't hydrate adequately. Learn from my mistakes, but don't worry about the weather yet!!

  4. You are awesome and so inspirational, really. I am nowhere near your level but I have found myself doing similar things, overthinking workouts and paces. It has gotten me nowhere. Even if you had a rough workout, it may not be because of your fitness. Obviously from Jacksonville half you are in amazing shape. You had a lot of strikes against you, having to change your workout location, move the date, an impending snowstorm, etc. I know as runners, we try to zone out and not let things like that affect us but sometimes it just happens. And being healthy is ALWAYS a plus! Even a really crappy run beats one you had to miss due to sickness or injury.

    I bet you will do great at the trials and I can't wait to watch and see how you do. I am running a local race that day and will hope to channel some of your positivity, too.

    1. Thanks, Amy!! We definitely all overanalyze things!! Thanks for reassuring me that it was just a bad situation and not evidence of not being ready. I really appreciate it!! And I definitely think you'll feel a little extra fire racing on Trials Day :)

  5. I've been thinking about this post for days. Mostly because, boy, I can relate to how the wind can be taken out of your sails after you fail to nail the paces you want/expect for a "key" workout. But great seasons don't hinge on ONE workout. It's all of the work you've done over the past many seasons that has gotten you to this point: in the best shape of your life, ready to race the Trials. You must have faith that you can do it - even when (and especially when) there may not be proof you should have any. Choose to be confident, and focus on the things you can control leading up to the race, and let the rest go. I believe in you, and I believe on race day all of the building blocks of workouts, races, and seasons past will come together and you'll be able to capitalize on all of your hard work. Don't give up those race goals yet - keep dreaming big, Teal! And go get 'em!

    1. Thanks Jenn!! I'm seriously going to read through all these encouraging comments again before the race. I really appreciate all your belief and support!