Chicago Marathon training: 5 weeks to go!

267 miles! 

That’s how many miles I logged in August! 

I’ve always considered myself to be a lower mileage marathon runner. For years, I’ve followed other runners on Instagram who regularly run 60, 70, 80 mile weeks when marathon training. I, on the other hand, usually peak in the 50s. Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon training plan had me peaking at 53, and I think there were maybe two or three other weeks where I hit 50 miles on that plan – most of the weeks were in the 45-mile range. And that worked for me– I qualified for Boston three times following it. 

Then last fall, I had a goal to finish a marathon in 3:30 or faster, and I decided to switch up my training. I got Pete Pfitzinger’s book, Advanced Marathoning, and followed his 12/55 plan. While my peak wasn’t much higher than Hal’s plan, I ran more 50+ mile weeks and many, many more mid-week double digit runs. The end result was a 3:26:00 at the Coastal Delaware Marathon. Then I ran a 3:27:52 at Boston the following spring

Seeing some success with higher mileage, I decided to bump up my training for the Chicago Marathon and have been following a modified version of Pfitzinger’s 12/70 program, so I am peaking at 70 miles over 12 weeks. I say modified because I was supposed to hit 70 miles per week in my sixth week of training, but I was a little nervous since I’ve never run that kind of mileage before. So far, my weekly mileage has been 55 for week 1, 59 for week 2, 55 for week 3, 64 for week 4, 59 for week 5, and 62 for week 6. I just finished week 7 and ran 66 miles. This week, I’ll enjoy a cutback week with 61 miles, and then I’ll hit 70 the week after that before easing into the taper. There were also some days where I had 13-15 miles on the agenda on a weekday, and I broke those into doubles (usually, 10 in the morning and 3-5 in the evening, depending on the daily mileage. That’s just an awful lot to run all at once on a workday.) So far, I am feeling pretty decent. Just tired and hungry all of the time! 

Since I started training, I’ve run two races, and both have gone great – so I am feeling pretty content with this plan! Here’s a quick recap of the two races I just ran! 

The Annapolis Ten Mile Run

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know this is my favorite race. But I’ve had some great A10s and some really bad ones. The race was canceled the last two years due to COVID, and I really missed it. I was quite excited when I learned it would return in 2022 and signed up for it the day registration opened. The 2022 A10 fell at the end of week 6 of training, and I didn’t quite know what to expect. My legs were obviously going to be tired, and the weather was typical of August in Maryland – hot and humid. The night before the race, I asked my husband Micah if he thought I could run 1:10 and he outright laughed at me! I reminded him I ran the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in 1:08:03, and he countered that that was on a cool day. (It was also on a flat course – the A10 is hilly.) No matter – I decided to line up just behind the 1:10 pacer and see if I could hold on. 

And it paid off! 

This was my 8th time running this race, so I pretty much know the course like the back of my hand and it always seems to go by so fast, no matter what pace I am running. And I felt like that was the case this time. The first three miles, around the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, down Rowe Boulevard and Main Street, zipped by, in 7:08, 6:55 and 7:05. The 1:10 group was a little bit in front of me, but I was able to keep them in my sight. Then we were going up and down the Naval Academy Bridge (7:07 for mile 4) and into Pendennis Mount. When I crossed the timing mat at mile 5 (another 7:07) a volunteer told me I was the 20th female! Pretty good for a big race like the A10.

Then it was up and down B&A Boulevard for mile 6 (7:09) and 7 (7:06) and back toward the bridge. I picked up a lot of speed in the last three miles, which I was happy about! I ran mile 8 in 6:53 and mile 9 in 6:55 – special thanks to the mid who sprayed me with a hose at the mile 9 water stop! (Did I mention it was hot and humid AF out?!) 

My final mile was 6:57 and just as I was turning the last corner to go up to the finish at the stadium, I heard a “Go Allison!” Micah had pulled up on his motorcycle just in time to see me finish. The announcer called out my time as 1:11, but I later learned that my chip time was actually 1:10:40, so I was quite happy to prove Micah wrong! 

While not a PR, this was a huge course PR. My previous fastest A10 was 1:15, set five years ago. I also won my age group, which was a first. The A10 is pretty competitive, but I am in a new age group (hello Masters runner!) Check out this great mug I won, created by Annapolis Pottery! 

Can’t wait for the 2023 race! 

Mike Sterling 10K

This little race takes place every Labor Day weekend in Crisfield, Maryland, a town on the Chesapeake Bay that sits at the southernmost point in Maryland. I hadn’t initially been planning to race a 10K over Labor Day, but I saw Vanessa of She Runs By the Seashore post about it on Instagram. That week, I was supposed to run a 12 miler with 7 miles at 15K to half marathon pace. Truth be told, I don’t love long solo speed workouts and would much rather just run a race. Hmmm, this 10K sounds fun, I thought. I figured if I could find a cheap enough Airbnb, then I would travel for the race over two hours away from my house (further than I realized at first!) I did find a great Airbnb for less than $100 in town and Micah and I drove down to the Eastern Shore after work on Friday of Labor Day weekend. 

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from this race, either. My 10K PR is going to be a tough one to beat, ever – 39:33 at the Bay Bridge Run in 2021. But I knew this course was flat and fast, so I thought I could run it in maybe 42 minutes. 

I actually finished in 40:52 and was first overall female! So excited about that – and most thrilled with how I paced it and how I was able to stay consistent when the last two miles got tough. 

The race began at 7:30 right at the Crisfield City Dock, and it was definitely warm and humid, but nowhere near as bad as the A10 was. I lined up at the front and went out the gate at a sub-7 pace. I ran mile 1 6:33 and mile 2 in 6:35. Somewhere in mile 2, I think, the woman who came in second place passed me and I didn’t think I’d be able to catch her, but then I did during mile 3 (6:37). I ran mile 4 in 6:39 and that’s when I started to feel really gassed. But I wasn’t going to give up and instead focused on the man who was running about 50 yards ahead of me. Just follow him, I told myself. And it worked! I ran both miles 5 and 6 in 6:35. It may not have been a PR, but this was easily the best pacing job I have ever done in a 10K. Maybe in any race, ever! 

As top female, I was awarded a handmade anchor crafted by a local artist. Unfortunately, as I was putting stuff in my car after the race, I absentmindedly put the award on top of my car and freaking drove off without it! I was absolutely devastated. But! I emailed the race director and the race crew found it! They are going to mail it to me. I’m so happy! It was such a special prize. 

This was a nice local race and it was worth the drive to do it. My only regret is that I did not get a Smith Island Cake while I was there. (Yes, I know you can get them all over Maryland – but we were so close to Smith Island! I still need to make a trip there some time.)  

Week 8 of training begins tomorrow – I’m so close to taper I can taste it. I can’t wait to run the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 and hopefully finish around 3 hours and 20 minutes. And then I’m running the Philly Marathon on Nov. 20. Still haven’t decided exactly how I am going to approach training for that. Chicago is definitely my “A” race, so I’ll probably just work on maintaining my fitness after that’s over. It would be nice to run a BQ time at both and I feel pretty confident I can do that. Really, I just want a PR in Chicago! 

Have you ever run marathons close together like that – and if so, how did you approach them? Let me know!

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