And here we are.
I started training for the New Jersey Marathon back in, hmm, let me just scroll through my training log… 1987. Or maybe it just feels that long ago? Actually, my first day of training was January 7, 2019. Which, holy crap, is actually a long time ago. Not even two weeks after Christmas. Remember Christmas?
I did my own “training plan” for the first four weeks, doing speed/tempo workouts with the NY Harriers twice a week, and easy and long runs on my own. I averaged about 35-40 miles a week for those first four weeks, and then began the Harriers’ 12-week marathon training plan on February 4th in which I averaged around 45-55 miles a week.
I pretty much trained on my own, as the Harriers’ weekly workouts eventually differed from their marathon plan (their spring goal race is the Brooklyn Half). Training has gone well. Better than when I trained for NYC last summer and fall. I feel so grateful and lucky that I am healthy enough to not only be alive but train for a gosh darn marathon. And I can’t believe it’s over.
I just finished week 16 of training. Today is Saturday. The race is tomorrow. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a race. Yes, I was pumped to run NYC last November – it was my first marathon, I had raised money for cancer research in honor of my mom, my family was coming out to see me whiz (or trudge) by them on both 1st and 5th Avenue, and I was going to run the streets of my favorite city on the planet. I was ecstatic to run NYC.
But running New Jersey on Sunday feels different. While NYC felt like a party where I was one small cog in a giant wheel of celebratory spirit, NJ feels more intimate. For one, the race is much smaller. The field is about 5% of the size of NYC’s. I have a singular goal of running under a certain time, and that is my sole focus. This isn’t about fundraising, crowd support, or the rush of being part of the world’s craziest parade. It’s a personal mission – a test of what I am capable of as an athlete and as a human who refuses to accept anything less than my very best.
Am I going to win? No. Ah, but will I win my age group? No. But I am going to do my absolute damnedest to run as close to a 3:45 marathon as I can. I’ve known all along this was an ambitious goal for me, but that’s part of what drew me to wanting to achieve it.
I’m sure I’ll get more into this stuff when I write my race recap next week. For now, let’s take a look at what I did in my last week of training.
WEEK 16: April 22 – April 27
Monday I had the day off from running. I did an upper body workout, the same one I did three weeks ago. Since it’s the last taper week, I used slightly lighter weights than I normally do. This was my only strength training workout of the week.
Tuesday was an easy 6.83 miles around Central Park. It was going to be 7 miles, but I stopped at my destination grocery store when I hit 6.83, and figured… okay. This was on the slower side for me, an average 10:20 pace. But I was feeling a little fatigued for some reason so I just went with what felt right.
Wednesday was a short “speed” workout: 2 miles easy, 2 miles at marathon pace (with a 3 minute jog in between) and 2 miles easy. I hit the MP miles in 8:23 and 8:28. After the past several MP tempo runs, this was a piece of cake.
Thursday I went back to easy: just a little over 5 miles in Central Park, mostly on the softer bridle path. Kept it on the moderately slow side at 10:06 pace.
Friday was my last marathon pace mile before race day. Just 4 miles today, with mile 2 at MP (8:25 pace).
Saturday I ran two slow miles plus a few strides at the end. I was focused, thinking about how in less than 24 hours I’d be running at 60 to 90 seconds per mile faster. I tried to stay calm. I ran in my race shoes. I took a selfie (see header photo). Done.
TOTAL MILES: 24.35
Some Noteworthy Things
The last week of training can be tricky. You don’t want to do too much but you don’t want to do too little. I have done my fair share of google searches for “what to eat 3 days before marathon” and “how many vegetables before marathon” even though I’ve read about this dozens of times already. I was more conscious this time around in terms of what I ate in the final week of training. As the week has progressed, I’ve been eating fewer vegetables and slightly more carbs. I’ve kept my protein about the same. A few chocolate chips here and there but no other sweets.
My main concern this week was actually making sure I was going to the bathroom enough. The last thing I want is to feel full the morning of the race. I did take laxative teas a couple of nights this week, only because I felt like I wasn’t going as much as I normally do. I don’t recommend doing this every night and definitely not the night before a race! I ate some prunes. I drank about 10 glasses of water a day, keeping track in a tally on my fridge. Two days ago, I started drinking more electrolyte water, plunking a Nuun tablet into almost every other 16 oz. glass of water I consumed.
I cut down on the prunes a couple days ago, and have cut down on fiber altogether (although not entirely eliminating it). I even decided to switch out my early morning oat bran for a cup of brown rice instead, as the fiber content in rice is much lower than my “high fiber” oat bran. I’ve done that the past two mornings in a row and I think I will do this race morning as well.
Today I’ve kept it pretty simple. My biggest meal was lunch, which I had at a diner with my dad. Shout out to Broadway Restaurant on the upper west side – my first time there and a nice place with a cool old school sign (and, apparently, a filming location for 1998’s Meet Joe Black). I kept it to white bread, potatoes, and two eggs.
This week was also the Week to Take Care of Myself: I got my hair done for the first time since November. I met with both my physical therapist Jason and sports massage therapist Amanda at Finish Line Physical Therapy. I love this place. I just wish they took my insurance. But I see it as an investment in being the healthiest me I can be.
Jason is great and always teaches me new moves to do as part of my warm ups and beyond – mostly ankle and hip rotation type stuff. Jason is a pretty good runner as well as a running coach. (He ran the NJ Marathon last year and came in 8th overall, so, you know, pretty good.)
Also, I just found out that in 2014 Jason ran alongside Deena Kastor in her record-setting Philadelphia Half Marathon, a race I just read about in Deena’s book Let Your Mind Run that I just finished reading this week! Everyone is connected and everything is a circle.
Amanda is a delight: a kind, caring, thoughtful massage therapist who is also a runner! That’s part of what I love about Finish Line – everyone who works there seems to be a runner. Amanda runs similar paces to me and gave me some great advice for a pacing strategy, which I will use.
(If it looks like I have two sandbags under my eyes, apparently that is what happens after being face down on a massage table for the better part of an hour.)
So… that’s it. I am posting this on Saturday afternoon so that the next thing I post can be the race recap itself. My Garmin is fully charged. I am charging my headphones. My playlist is ready to go. My race outfit is already on my dresser. I am going to have a sweet potato in a couple of hours, get into bed with a book, and then I hope go to sleep early.
If all goes well, by the time tomorrow I will be pigging out on some type of food and celebrating. Whether I’ll be celebrating reaching my time goal or just finishing in one piece, either scenario will be okay. I am lucky I get to do this. I am so lucky.