Happy August! Every year I say the summer flies by and this year is no exception - I think the only exception ever has been when I'm pregnant during the summer, and that just drags by. Last month I wrapped up my second month of training for Twin Cities Marathon and I feel like I grew so much. From trying out new gear to figuring out my nutrition, this month was a lot of trial and error but it helped me so much.
In this post I'll share with you how my training is going, what I've learned and tried over the months, what's worked well and not so well and more.
Table of Contents
Background and Training Plan
Before I get too far - if you're new to these recaps or want to check out last month's, you can click here. In short, I'm training for the Twin Cities Marathon on October 2nd, 2022 and it will be my first marathon postpartum and my 5th ever. My last marathon was TC Marathon in 2017 and this is my first real jump back into running since having kids over the past 5 years.
My last TC Marathon I had what I thought was a great training cycle, but fell short on race day (it also ended up being pretty bad weather). Looking back my greatest mistakes were not putting in enough base miles during the week - I only ran 3 times a week, with a training group, not properly fueling and not working on mental training.
I finished July with 145.5 miles, and am now averaging about 40-45 miles a week (with the occasional down week every 3-4 weeks). In addition, I do 2 30-45 minute strength workouts a week on the Tempo.
Generally my weeks look like:
Monday: Easy Run
Tuesday: Speed Workout + Strength Training
Wednesday: Easy Run
Thursday: Progression Run + Strength Training
Friday: Easy Long Run
How's It Going
So...how is training going? I'm really happy to say it's going really well! Most of the runs in my week are made up of easy runs, where I focus on keeping my heart rate under 155bpm -which has been about a 10:30-11:30 minute mile. I'll admit it was hard at first to start running slow but now I feel like I'm in the groove and it's become easy to do.
I'm also a huge believer now in this approach. At first I was nervous that running slow would make me naturally run slow, but I now have 2 races under my belt and can say it's helped me improve my speed. In addition to my speed increasing, I've noticed my heart rate isn't as high as it used to be. When I used to race my heart rate would spike into the 170s-180s instantly, but the past few weeks it hasn't. It's been a slower and more gradual increase, which has helped me sustain faster paces for longer!
It's also been nice to not be wiped out after running. Since I'm running easy 80% of the time, I'm not drained the rest of the day. Long runs still make me sore afterwards, but I don't have that post-run exhaustion like I used to.
This month was all about trying new things. I try to read reviews online, or watch videos on YouTube but I've found I really need to test it out to see if something's going to work for me. My goal is to nail down my race day and training gear this month so that I'll be able to continue to use throughout this training (and beyond). Here's what I've tried and what I love (and a few misses)
I was fitted into Brooks Launch at the beginning of the season, when I was training for the Hot Dash 10 Mile. I love these shoes, but was becoming concerned after listening to a few podcasts that they're more of a speed shoe vs. something for distance. I went back to my running store and was fitted into Brooks Glycerin, a similar shoe but with slightly more cushion, for my long runs. I'm now alternating between Brooks Launch and Glycerins - usually if a run is under 7 miles, I'll wear my Launch and anything longer I'll use my Glycerins. This has been working well so far!
I'm more of a minimalist runner and will sometimes run with a water bottle (I've been using this handheld Nathan water bottle for years), but with the heat and miles ramping up, I knew I needed something more. I had tried running belts in the past and absolutely hated how the water would bounce so decided I wanted to look more into a vest. While they look super bulky and hot, I always heard they were super comfortable, breathable and runners swore by them.
I didn't want to spend a lot on a vest so I picked up a $30 knock off one on Amazon. It looked similar to the one I was eyeing at my running store, but at ⅓ of the price it seemed like a good deal. Wrong. I went out on my 14 mile run with it and didn't even last .5 miles with it. The vest kept bouncing around and moving into an area of my arm that it'd make me chafe if I went any further with it. I turned around and dropped off that vest and returned it that evening.
The next day I was on my running store's website and noticed they were having a big sale on hydration vests, and the Nathan Pinnacle I was eyeing was 70% off. I ended up picking one up and testing it out on my next 15 mile run and it actually was a complete game changer. This vest came with a bladder - which I had never run with - but found it so convenient! It did bounce a little but was not as annoying as the running belts I had tried in the past were. Drinking from it was super easy and somehow the water stayed cool the entire time. The vest also has a crazy amount of pockets (and even some pockets inside pockets haha) so I was able to fit all my gels and phone really easily. I also started carrying a little water bottle/flask of Tailwind and it fit perfectly. I've now used my vest a few times and now understand the hype. I don't feel like it weighs me down at all and it's super comfortable! I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to run with it race day or not, but until then this has become my go to for long runs (I still use my handheld for shorter distances).
Related Post: Bix 7 Race Recap
An unexpected but needed gear change was my headphones. I had been running with my AirPod Pros and while I love them for the most part, I was getting so annoyed some mornings when I'd wake up and only 1 AirPod would be charged. Or my phone would show they'd be fully charged and then I'd be halfway through my workout and one would die. Ugh! I also had a few close encounters with cyclists on the trails so wanted something not as noise cancelling.
I had heard about AfterShokz on a few running podcasts and ended up getting a pair on Prime Day. I've been using them for a few weeks and love them so much! I have no idea how the bone conduction technology works (you can read about it on their site here), but it really does work. I'm able to hear my podcast or music so clearly as well as hear my surroundings. I tested them out with my husband and I was able to her my music perfectly but he couldn't hear a thing. The only downside is that they did take me a few runs to get used to - I found that when I wore them for like the first week they'd make my ears a little sore if I wore them longer than an hour. Now that I've gotten used to them I'm able to wear them for 3 hours on my long runs.
I've been having a huge issue with chafing this training cycle. I'm not sure if it's because I'm still trying to lose some of the baby weight, or if things are just fitting me differently, but my old go to lululemon shorts just weren't cutting it anymore. After some trial and error, I found the Brooks Chaser 5 2 in 1 Short and the chafing has finally stopped! These shorts look like regular running shorts, but they also have a compression short liner underneath that prevents chafing. I've tested them out on a few runs and can confirm they actually do work (I still use anti chafe powder on my legs to be safe but could probably get away without any). The only downside to these shorts are that they are expensive! They run $65-$70 a pair, which is way more than I usually would spend on shorts but they've been worth it to not deal with chafing.
Chest Heart Rate Monitor
I'm using heart rate as a main metric for my training so having an accurate heart rate reading is important to me. I had heard that the wrist based heart rate monitors weren't completely accurate, so I decided to get a Garmin chest strap. I've found the chest strap is more accurate - my heart rate is about 5-10 beats lower with the chest strap, and it's been really comfortable. I actually end up forgetting half the time I'm even wearing it! The nice thing is that it's ANT+ so it'll also work with my Peloton bike and tread and Tempo.
Nutrition and Fueling
This was a fun month for nutrition! I had time this month to read and picked up Matt Fitzgerald's New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition and feel like I learned a lot. The biggest takeaway I had was that I needed a more carb heavy breakfast before my long workouts and runs (they were more protein packed) as well as I needed to fuel more during my workouts. Previously I'd have a gel maybe every hour, if I felt like I needed it. Matt recommends 40g-60g carbs every hour so I've been moving towards that goal and have noticed I'm not as sluggish towards the end of the workouts - nor am I crazy hungry. If you're trying to figure out fueling strategy I highly recommend checking out that book.
I did also try some new gels this month! I'm still using my Ucan before my long runs, but I've switched from Ucan Edge during my runs to Maurten Gel 100. I was curious about using caffeinated gels so while at my running store I grabbed a few of these. While I like Ucan Edge, I just didn't notice it really doing anything so wanted to use this time to try out something different. I'm also lucky and have a pretty solid stomach and can usually try anything with minimal GI distress (with the exception of Huma gels - those were not nice to my stomach).
I'll be honest - I have no idea if the Maurten Gels did anything different, but when I tried them on a 15 miler I ended up having one of my best long runs ever. It could've been because I was using my new hydration vest, increased fueling, or even my mindset being right. No idea - all I know if that I used Maurten Gels every 45 minutes in addition to sipping on Tailwind and it felt great! I finished that run the strongest I had ever finished a run so I'm going to be sticking to this combo for the ret of training.
I've shared in the past that one of the hardest parts of marathon training for me is the mental side. I tend to get bored after a certain point and that usually leads me to wanting to end a run short.
I've found through trial and error that I can't use music during my easy runs - music makes me run too fast subconsciously, so I've been avoiding that. I try to listen to Peloton outdoor classes but those also were making me go out too fast so I've completely switched to listening to podcasts on easy days and long runs.
A few favorite podcasts while running I've found are: Ali on the Run, The Running Public and Ten Junk Miles. I've found that I need to listen to kind of running podcasts - anything super technical and its too much for me while running (or if it's something about injury or something negative I'll have to change it).
I've learned that for long runs I like more casual conversations - like I'm running and having a conversation with a running friend. I accidentally found Ten Junk Miles from Reddit and it's been one of my favorites to listen to because it's more of an Ultra Running Podcast. I have no desire to run Ultras at all, but mentally it helps me so much to hear them talk about the crazy 50 and 100 mile races and think to myself I'm "only" doing 26.2. This little mental trick has gotten me through quite a few of my long runs this month.
For training and running tips in general, I've been listening to a lot of of Run4PRs podcast. This has helped me understand so much about my training and understand the benefits of the different runs my coach has me do.
Strength Training has also been a big part of my training this month! My coach has me doing 2 30-45 minute strength training workouts a week, which I've been doing on the Tempo. In addition to strength training, I've also been using my Tempo for focused mobility work and guided foam rolling sessions. I dread foam rolling and stretching (as I think most runners do) but by doing a class it makes me slow down and spend the time doing it. Plus I feel so good afterwards!
I've been focusing on most of my strength training to upper body, and I like with Tempo I can see the moves in every class before I commit to one. I'm still dealing with some diastsis recti from my 2nd baby so I need to be mindful of workouts I do - especially core ones.
If you follow me on instagram then you know in my free time I also like to crochet! I had a crazy idea to make a crochet blanket based on my marathon training and it's coming out so nicely! I've only been crocheting for a few months now and this has quickly become one of my favorite projects. The idea is that for every workout I do, it gets assigned a color on the blanket (similar to a temperature or mood blanket).
For my color coding, I'm using TC Marathon's colors as a base and have assigned:
Red - Easy Runs
Orange - Speed or Workout Runs (anything that isn't easy - including Long Runs)
White - Strength Training
Black - Month End
Here's a look at how it's coming out so far:
Once the marathon is complete, I'm thinking of putting a black border around the entire blanket to balance it out.
In general, I'm feeling pretty good with my training so far! I've been able to stay injury free and have been slowly increasing my mileage. I'm feeling strong and am looking forward to race day! I'm excited to see what the next month has in store! I hope that this post was helpful in sharing my experience so far and what's been working (and not) for me.
Are you also training for a fall marathon? How's your training going? Let me know in the comments below!