Poppy’s 3 week Steamtown Marathon training log (9.19-10.09.16)

When I last left you, I had just run a very humid Rock n Roll Philadelphia 1/2 Marathon and was not sure where I wanted to go next.  I wasn’t quite ready to end my racing season because I felt underwhelmed by my 1/2 marathon.   In the days that followed that race, I hashed out some options with my husband-coach.  I gave some thought to doing a marathon, but did not want to extend my training all the way 9 more weeks to the Philadelphia Marathon.

I had been doing pretty hard training since July and felt that nine more weeks would be tough both physically and mentally.  I also considered doing the 1/2 marathon in Philadelphia in 9 weeks, but knew trying to maintain peak 1/2 marathon fitness another two months would be challenging as well.  Taking down time and trying to gear up again for November would also be tough because there wasn’t a ton of time.  That left me with trying to find something in October.

None of the 1/2 marathons that were logistically easy for us made sense, either because of timing or lack of competition.  I half-jokingly tossed out the idea of jumping into the Steamtown Marathon three weeks post-RnR Philly and running it off of my summer 1/2 marathon training.   The reason why I gave Steamtown thought was two fold.  First, a friend and Team T-bone (athletes coached by  my hubs) teammate, Caitlin Phillips, was planning to run.  Hubs and I had planned to go up to watch and support her.  Second, I am from north of Scranton.  More specifically, I am from Forest City, which is where the Steamtown Marathon starts.  It starts at the school I went to, runs by my childhood home, and follows a route that I drove many times growing up in that area.

I did Steamtown last year as a workout in preparation for CIM, so I was familiar with the course and knew that it was a really nice event.  A few added bonuses to doing this race are that my dad is part of the race committee and is very proud and involved with the evolution of the race and my mom lives about ten minutes from the finish line.   Not having to travel far, not having to pay for a hotel, having hometown support along the course, and having a built-in babysitter makes Steamtown very appealing for us.  I knew that I had been training specifically for a 1/2 marathon and that I was not fully prepared to race a marathon, but I was interested in just taking a fun little gamble and jumping in the race and seeing what I could do off of 1/2 marathon fitness.  A good friend said last year, “life is too short for high stakes all time”. As crazy as it was to decide on a marathon a week out (I fully committed exactly a week before), this sounded more fun to me than stretching things out until November.

So, I ran a marathon.  In the three weeks between RnR Philly and Steamtown, my hubs did a good job of tailoring my training so that I could recover from the 1/2 and also do a few long runs and workouts to see if my body would at least be up for running the marathon distance.   Below is what I did for those three weeks, including the marathon itself. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend jumping into a marathon last minute and running it off not-marathon training, I would recommend running a marathon with a low-key low-expectations approach.  It was a really enjoyable experience, despite how trashed my legs were the last 5-6 miles.

Week of 9.19-9.25

This was mostly an active recovery week.  I did a bunch of short runs and two long runs to see how my body handled running 2 and a 1/2 hours since I hadn’t done a 20 miler since February and haven’t run over 20 since last December.

Monday: 4 miles w/ the family.  Hubs pushed the kids the first half on his warm-up to the track and I pushed them the second half on the way back home.  Oof!  I felt terrible from the 1/2 the day before.  Think I ran 9:00 pace (maybe slower) the whole way.

Tuesday: 4 miles w/ the family in the morning (I pushed the double for half).  4 miles solo in the afternoon.  Felt much better than yesterday.

Wednesday: 6 miles w/ the family.

Thursday: 19 miles.  Wide range of options for length of this run. Husband-coach said to plan on 90 min and suggested doing it on the trail. When I got to 45 min, if I felt good, I could keep going out to an hour and then turn around. If I got to 1:50 (right about where I’d turn off the trail to head home) and still felt good, I could extend out to 2:30. I had to be honest with myself in how I felt.  Ended up feeling pretty good the whole run. I think there was still some race in my legs as I didn’t feel super peppy, but I felt good running easy and it was a really nice morning to be out for a long run.I felt no different at 2:30 than I did at 1:30-1:40. In fact, I felt even better in the final half hour than I did from 1:30-2:00. Energy was totally fine throughout, even with only having a cup of coffee and no food before heading out.

Friday: 4 miles in the morning w/ the family.  6 solo in the afternoon.

Saturday: 4 miles in the morning w/ E in the single w/ 8×20 sec strides.  4 solo in the afternoon.

Sunday: 20 miles.  Same rules applied to today as Thursday’s long run.  Felt even better and covered a little more mileage in the same time.

75 miles for the week

Week of 9.26-10.2

This week we added in a couple of workouts.  One was a longer, marathon-specific workout and the other was a short, speedier session.  It was on Sunday of this week that I decided 100% that I was going to run Steamtown.

Monday: 6 miles in the morning w/ the kids in the double.  4 miles solo in the afternoon.

Tuesday: 6 miles in the morning w/ the kids in the double.  4 miles solo in the afternoon, w/ 8x20sec strides.

Wednesday: 15 miles w/ workout.  Plan: “3 x 3m (or 3 x ~3m if on linntown loop).  recovery is very roughly half mile at whatever pace you need to recover and hit next target.  1st 3m @ 615-620 pace (that is per mile pace, linntown loop slower of course), 2nd 3m either same or if feel good then 610-620 per mile pace, 3rd 3m either same or if feel good then 605-610 per mile pace. 1-2 Gus if you are up for taking them (whenever suits you)”.  Felt pretty good on this, though rusty on longer MP-like workouts. Legs felt good from the start, but just felt like I may have lost a tad of fitness over the past few weeks. Part of that feeling could just be from rustiness of working out on this loop (it’s a bit hilly).

Up 24:06 w/ strides, down 19:21
19:20 via loop splits of 6:33, 6:26, 6:21 (this was about 6:14 avg pace for the interval)
18:59 via 6:20, 6:21, 6:17 (~6:07 avg for interval)
18:39 via 6:15, 6:15, 6:08 (~6:01 avg for interval)

This put me at ~10.13 continuous miles at 6:21 avg.

Thursday: 6 miles solo.

Friday: 10 miles w/ light workout.  Plan was 12×200 at 45 working down to 42, easy 200 in between.  Ended up starting too fast (42.x) so basically just kept it there for the rest of the 200s, minus the last few that got a little quicker.

Up 34:34, down 24:50
42.93 (59r)
42.85 (58r)
42.57 (58r)
42.08 (59r)
42.00 (60r)
41.48 (59r)
42.38 (58r)
42.37 (59r)
41.68 (58r)
41.89 (53r)
41.31 (52r)
40.89 (48r)

Saturday: 13 miles in Allentown (in town for a friend’s wedding) w/ the hubs and two friends (former BAA teammates) Dave Chorney and Liz Hankinson.

Sunday: 6 solo miles.

74 miles for the week

Week of 10.3-10.9

Steamtown race week!  We didn’t quite do a typical marathon race week.  I did a slightly harder workout than I would normally do and I ran a little more as well.  I also tried not to overthink things and question the craziness of doing a marathon in a slightly unprepared position.

Monday: 4 miles in the morning w/ the family.  4 miles solo in the afternoon w/ 8x20sec strides.

Tuesday: 11 w/ workout.  Plan: “1 x 1600 + 4-5 x 800 [ lap jog between everything, its okay to be in reverse ], 6:15 (though fine to split it 3:10/3:05), 800s – if tired can either all stay around 300-304 OR if feeling fluid then can progress via:
2:52-56 (5th one is optional)”

Felt pretty good. The 800s felt better than the 1600. Perhaps that is from just needing to warm up a bit or perhaps it’s because the pace of the 800s was more of what my body was used to running the past few months.

Up 33:02 (w/ strides), down 22:37
6:11.74 (2:02r)
2:58.95 (2:02r)
2:54.12 (2:00r)
2:53.97 (1:58r)
2:49.99 (1:59r)

Wednesday:  6 miles w/ the family.

Thursday: 6 miles w/ the family.

Friday: 5 miles solo.

Saturday: 4 miles w/ the hubs, 4x20sec pick ups at marathon effort.

Sunday: Steamtown Marathon!  I thought I might be able to run something in the mid to high 2:40s on a good day and if my body totally blew up I might be closer to 3:00.  I ended up running 2:52:41 and finished 3rd female and 25th overall.  My legs were a little flat throughout, but I still felt strong.  Around 22 everything cramped and my legs not-so-kindly reminded me that I had done nothing longer than 20 in almost a year and very little in the way of long, sustained marathon pace workouts.  I was on ~2:49 pace until 22-23 and then lost a bunch of time in the final miles due to a combo of extremely cramped legs and three big uphills in miles 23-26 of the course.

This is how I ran most of the race – with a smile on my face. My legs definitely hated me later on, but I really did have a good time.

A fun side note: last year when I ran this as a prep for CIM, I ran a 2:52:46, finished 3rd female and 26th overall.  I am consistent, if nothing else.  My friend Caitlin ended up winning the race (!) and she ran a PR of 2:41:34.  I was so happy for her.  All in all, I was glad to test out this little experiment.  I had fun and while I didn’t run as fast as I thought I could given my 1/2 marathon fitness, I am still happy with my performance as things could have been a lot uglier given my lack of preparation.  One of the best parts of the race was crossing the finish line and my dad being right there to greet me and give me my mylar blanket.  My legs felt AWFUL when I finished so I got a much needed massage (the lady that worked on me was awesome), which my dad helped me hobble to.  After the race I found out that two other Team T-bone teammates ran big PRs of 2:38 at Chicago and a gal I’ve been coaching ran a three minute PR of 3:00:17 there as well.   It was a really great morning.  Now I’m taking some much needed downtime!

66.5 miles for the week

My dad was the first one I was greeted by when I crossed the finish line.


The Steamtown contingent of Team T-bone: me, Mr. Poppy (aka husband-coach), and the champ Caitlin Phillips.

I'm a licensed massage therapist with a background in biochemistry and also a mother of two. After almost two years of focusing on shorter race distances, I am back on the marathon training horse. My next goal race is the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. I write mostly about health and science as they relate to running as well as being part of a running family.

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    1. Thanks! I definitely didn’t go by the book with respect to this marathon, but that was sort of intentional. I needed to shake things up a bit.

  1. Wow!! Congrats. I’ve been following your story on Salty Running and I saw you mentioned coaching in this post. Do you offer coaching services? Do you have a website or place to email you for more information? Thanks!

    1. Thanks! I do some coaching on the side with a few people. I don’t have a website, but if you are interested you can shoot me a direct message. Does my email address pop up under my profile? If not, it’s cegraytock at gmail dot com.

    1. Thanks! It was challenging for sure, but fun. I think after this I’ll be ready to train all-in for a marathon next fall. I’ve been enjoying doing shorter stuff this year.

  2. Amazing! Way to run a marathon without training specifically for it. Love seeing your workouts and paces. Enjoy your downtime.

  3. Congrats on a really impressive race with such truncated training! And thanks for sharing this interesting experiment 🙂 Enjoy your down time!