This Runner's Trials

16 (or 18?) week marathon training plan for a sub- 4:00 hour finish

Posted by runnerstrials

I tracked my weekly training for NYCM here, but I said I would share the final plan once I ran the race. I’m really happy with this plan! I felt very prepared for the marathon, never felt over-trained, and met the sub-4:00 goal I set. Well, I achieved my goal but it took two weeks longer than planned.


So, here’s a detailed plan of what I did to earn my sub-4:00 marathon. I think I was ready to run a sub-4:00 after 16 weeks of training, but just had an unlucky day. I don’t think anyone would need to do all 18 weeks of this plan – especially considering that I took it extra easy in the weeks between the marathons.

Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
4.25mi at 8:36; 2.25mi w/stroller at 9:16 45min spin 5mi tempo w/ 3 at 8:03 + lifting 45min spin 9mi at 9:09 3.25mi at 8:27 + spin OFF
4.25mi at 8:22; 3mi at 9:10 w/ double stroller 45min spin 5mi at 8:08, including 5x 800m at 7:30; 20 minutes lifting 45min spin 10mi at 9:20 3mi at 8:11; 45 minute TRX class OFF
4.25 mi at 8:18; 3mi w/ stroller at 9:15 45min spin 5mi at 8:14 with 3 tempo at 7:54 45min spin 11mi at 9:05 OFF 5mi stroller at 8:03
6x 800m at 7:00 (6mi total) 4mi untimed OFF 4.25mi at 8:10 12mi at 9:03 5k race in 26:45 45min spin class + lifting
5mi at 8:45 7x 800m at 6:52 (7mi total) OFF 4mi at 8:43 14mi at 9:07 OFF 45min spin class + lifting
5mi at 8:32 8x 800m at 6:52 (7.5mi) OFF 4.25mi at 8:34 15mi at 9:09 OFF 1 hour spin
5mi at 8:30 + 3mi double stroller at 9:40 45 min Spin 7mi with 5 tempo at 7:32 45min TRX 16mi at 9:12 OFF 3mi at 8:55 + 20min swim
2mi warm-up + 5k race in 22:01 7mi progression run Spin + TRX 7mi at 8:55 OFF 1mi warm-up + 5k race in 21:35 1 hour spin
6mi at 8:49 9x 800m at 6:53 (8mi total) Spin + TRX 4.25mi at 8:55 OFF 18mi at 9:12 OFF
Spin +TRX + 3mi at 8:48 8mi w/ 6mi tempo at 7:45 OFF 7mi at 8:55 OFF 20mi at 9:21 1 hour spin
6.25mi at 8:39 10x 800m at 6:56– 9mi total Spin + TRX OFF 8.75mi at 8:45 16mi at 8:50 pace 1 hour spin
OFF 8mi progression run – 9:55/ 8:52/ 8:37/ 8:20/ 8:14/ 7:50/ 7:40/ 7:32 Spin + TRX 8.5 mi at 9:29 5mi at 8:38 OFF Half marathon in 1:39:55
OFF 7mi at 8:56 8mi at 8:38 7.5mi at 8:53 OFF 20mi at 9:15 OFF
5.25mi at 8:30 8x 800m at 7:00 (7.25mi) OFF

(should have been spin/TRX)

OFF OFF (should have been 12mi) 5mi at 8:55 OFF
5mi at 8:40 6mi including 4mi tempo at 7:40 Spin + TRX 4mi at 8:13 OFF 10mi at 8:27 OFF
30min spin + TRX 4mi at 8:40 3mi at 8:52 OFF 3mi at 8:30 OFF Marathon in 4:34:37
OFF OFF OFF OFF Spin +TRX 8mi at 8:49 4mi at 8:53
OFF 3.5mi at 8:39 pace 3mi w/ double stroller at 9:04 pace 2.5mi w/ stroller at 9:08 pace OFF Marathon in 3:47:50
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Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon 2014 race recap

Posted by runnerstrials

Once I felt better in the medical tent after the New York City Marathon, I turned on my phone. I had over 200 new text messages. Two hundred! I stopped and called my husband at mile 17 and told him to call my parents because I knew they were tracking me and would be worried, but I selfishly never thought about all of the other people tracking me until that moment. All of those people were worried about me. I felt awful that I did that to them.

In that moment, I hated technology and the ability to track people during a marathon. I thought to myself “next time I run a big race, I’m not telling anyone.”

One of those missed texts was from my sister-in-law, Laura. It was along the lines of “Jeff told me. I’m so sorry. Are you planning a redemption marathon?” I’m pretty sure I responded with “no way, I’m never running a marathon again.” Because that’s how I felt at the time. I hated the marathon distance. I was sticking to halves from then on. I was even considering dropping out of the Dopey Challenge.

photo (19)

Marathon retirement.

But when I woke up the next morning, I felt OK which is weird for the day after a marathon. I was still freezing and my legs hurt, but they weren’t nearly as sore as they were after Charlotte Racefest in 2012 – what was my PR 1/2 marathon up until last month. That prompted me to start thinking about all of the wonderful races that I’ve run in my adopted hometown and I remembered that the Thunder Road Marathon was less than two weeks away.

There was a marathon. In my hometown. On a course I knew. In 12 days. And registration was still open.

thunder road full map

I could try to redeem myself…

But how stupid would that be to run a marathon 13 days after just finishing one? Even though I walked a good 6 miles during NYCM and kept the pace pretty slow up until that point, there was no way I would recover in time.

I took my thoughts to Instagram and most people agreed – running Thunder Road would be stupid. But there were some people who encouraged me to try to run the race, a few running friends, my brother-in-law Dan, Laura, and my husband – the people who knew me best.

I decided to wait and see how I recovered – and to see what the weather forecast would be. Thunder Road accepted registrations until the expo closed, 11 hours before the start of the race.

My legs felt fine a few days after NYCM, but it took me a long time to shake the chills. The last thing I wanted to do was run another marathon in freezing weather. As the race drew closer, my desire to run it grew – but the race day weather kept looking colder and colder. I didn’t know what to do. Then my husband gave me an early Christmas present that I’d been eyeing -- the New Balance Windblocker Jacket, perfect for cold weather running.

The day before the race, I still didn’t know if I should sign up. The convincing factor was the fact that Thunder Road also includes a half marathon (that I’ve run in 2008 and 2010). The full and the half start together and only split 0.2 miles from the finish line, so I could finish at the half if I needed to. If nothing else, I would get in my first long run for Dopey.

Still, I was nervous about running a marathon again after my demise at mile 17 during NYCM. But my family said they would be there for me along the course to make sure that wouldn’t happen again at Thunder Road. My husband and kids, Dan, and Laura planned to stagger themselves along the second half of the course to help me. They had extra clothes and food in case I needed it. Dan and Laura planned to jump in and run a mile or two with me if I looked like I needed a boost.

And I had a game plan for this race. I was so concerned about the pumping situation at NYCM that I never thought of a race strategy ( <--- huge mistake). My race plan for Thunder Road? Hold an 8:30 pace through 20 miles and then blow up. Because I know me, I cannot negative split a marathon. I knew I’d blow up during the last 10k anyway, so I may as well run as hard as I could until then.

I registered for the Thunder Road Marathon at 5:30 p.m. the day before the race, and I only told a handful of people.


Saturday morning came and it was even colder than forecasted. I bundled up and drove to the start.

photo 1

Thumbs way down.

I absolutely love how easy this race is logistically. I parked within 100 yards of the finish line! I also loved the new course. It starts and finishes by the new BB&T Ballpark uptown. I walked into the ballpark, pumped in the ridiculously clean bathroom, walked out, and sat in my warm car until 10 minutes before the start. I’m not going to lie, I called my husband and told him I was freezing and didn’t want to run. His words to me, “just try. I bet you surprise yourself.”

I walked to the start and planned on lining up with the 3:45 pacer. Except there was only a 3:40 and 4:00 pacer. I chatted with the 3:40 pacer and told him my game plan. Shockingly, he supported it. There was something about him that put me at ease. So even thought his 8:23 pace was faster than I planned on running, I wanted to try to stick with him anyway.

Once the race started, I immediately warmed up. I cannot say enough great things about that jacket – I wasn’t cold at all.

By mile 2, when we were running out of uptown, I knew this was my day. I felt on. The pacer had picked up the pace significantly in the second mile – 7:38 – but I felt strong and had no desire to back off. There was no wind. I was running on familiar roads. I would see my family after the half. I would get to nurse my baby after the race. Today was a great day to run and I was so happy with my decision to run Thunder Road.

On mile 4, I passed the pacer. He was still ahead of pace, but my legs felt stronger so I decided to listen to them instead of some arbitrary pace that I thought made sense. The hills of Charlotte that I used to curse when I first moved here 5.5 years ago now felt wonderful on my legs. Rolling hills are what I run during training, so of course I’d have an advantage on this course.

thunder road elevation 14

I also tried something new. I usually stop at every fluid station, but that day I ran with my own squirt bottle of Gatorade. Not stopping every mile was a huge success and I plan on carrying my own Gatorade from now on.

I kept feeling stronger and stronger during the first half of the course. At one point I cursed myself for not doing the half because it really felt like a PR day. I told myself to shake those thoughts. Today still would be a PR day, just in the full. I was feeling awesome and was confident I could do it.


That is until we reached the point in the course where the half and full split. I was beginning to doubt myself. My hamstrings and IT bands were starting to tighten up – of course I wasn’t fully recovered from NYCM. I was so close to calling it a day and finishing with the half marathoners. My time would have been 1:46:xx. No where near a PR but a strong long run nonetheless.

The only reason that I took the left turn and continued on with the full marathoners was because of The Road Not Taken by Robert frost. I have no idea why that poem popped into my head but all I heard was, “two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Finishing with the half would be the easy way out for me. But today I had the courage to run a full marathon as hard as I could and I was going to do it. I had nothing to lose. Thank you, Mr. Frost, for giving me a much needed push.

The next couple of miles were more of the same. I still felt fairly strong, and was shocked that I kept seeing a low 8:00 minute pace flash across my Garmin every mile. The wind starting picking up and I remember only being cold in my face.

A little after mile 16, I saw Dan! He was in the middle of a 15 mile run, and jumped in to run with me a bit. I remember telling him that my face was cold, but that I was otherwise OK. It was a nice pick-me-up having him around, and he even opened a pack of Shot Blocks for me.


As far as fueling for this marathon, I’m very happy with how things went. I ran with a 20oz Gatorade bottle that I sipped until mile 20. I took two Gus – one at mile 7 and one at the half mark. Then I started taking the chomps at mile 18 and had one every mile until they were gone. I also grabbed water at every fluid station after mile 20.

At mile 19, the best thing ever happened – I saw my kiddos on the course! It was a huge highlight. I think I started screaming and jumping like a crazy person when I saw their little faces in the stroller. I ran right over to them and gave three smooches and “I love yous” and was on my way.


Then Laura joined me for a little bit! Somewhere between miles 19-20 is where I started fading. I knew I met my sub 8:30 for 20 miles goal, but I was losing steam. I told Laura that my goal was to run until mile 22 but then I’d likely start needing walk breaks.

This is when the hills of Charlotte started getting to me. I knew I was well within my goal so I kept telling myself to keep pushing, that I could do anything for a few more miles, but the hills were slowing me down big time. I took a 2-3 minute walk break right after mile 23, hoping it’d re-energize me, but it didn’t. I started getting cramps in my inner thighs, so I played with my pace a bit. I was freaking out that I’d get a major cramp and blow my race, so I told myself I wasn’t allowed to pick up the pace too much if I started to feel better.


That’s Laura on the left. I have no idea who our other running buddy is.

Once I hit mile 24, I knew I had it. I could see the city’s skyline and I knew I was so, so close. I’d be running on the greenway, and was literally only 2 miles away from the finish, meeting my goal, and hugging my babies. I remembered doing the math in my head and realized I could run 15 minute miles from here on out and still go sub-4. Heck, I could walk it in if I wanted to. But why walk when I could still run?

My legs were on fire by now and it took everything in me to keep them running. I took a second walk break at mile 25 and told myself I was only allowed to walk for one minute. Then that was it. I wasn’t only going sub-4, I was also likely going sub-3:50, and possibly even hit 3:45:xx if I booked it. This was my day. My race. Everything had gone so right. I just wanted to soak up that last mile. I high-fived spectators and was smiling like a fool those last few minutes.

Then I made the final right turn and I saw the finish line about a quarter mile away. I teared up because I was so happy. I did it. All of those runs in the darkness, those killer Yasso 800s, those long runs in 75 degrees and 100% humidity – all of it was for something. I was about to meet my goals. I finally ran a marathon where I felt strong and I broke 4:00.

Then it happened. That moment was already one of my proudest race moments to date, but it became the absolute best running moment of my life. I looked to the side, right at the 13 mile marker (for the half course), and I saw my family. I ran over to them just planning on giving hugs and kisses, but Wyatt looked up at me and said, “Mommy, can I run with you?”

I grabbed him without thinking twice, and he ran with me. That final 0.1 mile was the best part. The spectators started going crazy when they saw him running with me and the smile on his face was just too much. My heart was bursting.

That moment is why NYCM went horribly wrong. My goal marathon was always meant to end this way, on this course, holding this little boy’s hand. That moment was actually four years in the making. The last race I ran before deciding to give up distance running due to infertility was the Thunder Road half marathon in 2010. I remember that day so vividly. I had a great race, but I felt like I was surrounded by “Go Mommy!” signs and it stung so, so badly. It was during that race that I decided it was time to put running on hold and only focus on getting pregnant.


Official finish time: 3:47:50 – a 30 minute PR and 47 minutes faster than NYCM.

Here I was four years later – finally running a strong marathon, finishing with my son at my side, and with my daughter and husband waiting for us. Everything worked out exactly like it was supposed to. It was a total full-circle moment and I could not be happier. Wyatt tired out before the finish and we actually ended up walking across the finish line. That was a first for me, but I did not care. I knew that this was one of those moments that I’d treasure for the rest of my life. I felt like I had won the marathon.


And then I was quickly brought back to reality when Wyatt ran to the banana table and tried climbing it. I felt how stiff my legs were and realized what poor planning it was bringing my crazy toddler into the finishers-only area. Thankfully, Jeff saw my panic because he positioned himself right in front of the only exit and called Wyatt over to him.

I grabbed a granola bar and Gatorade and headed over to my family. I gave hugs and kisses, had my snack, took a picture, and told Jeff I was ready to go home.

thunder road 14 finish line

Wyatt wasn’t interested in the family picture because he was binge eating bananas.

I finished well before Hadley’s next nursing session, and made it home in time to feed her and put her down for her nap on schedule. I put Wyatt down, too, and then showered and ate lunch. It basically felt like every other long run Saturday by this point, which I couldn’t be happier about.

I learned a lot of things over these past few weeks, and I’ll share more thoughts soon. But the biggie for me is that I’ve learned that I should focus on local races for awhile. I have several more big destination races on my bucket list and I’ll cross them off one day. I’ll continue to do runDisney races for fun, but it makes sense for me to do Charlotte races when I want to PR.

best medals ever

I love my city – unpredictable weather, hills, and all. I love having my family there to support me. And I love coming home and picking up life right where I left off without worrying about travel or pumping logistics. Life is pretty hectic right now, and simplifying racing just makes sense for the near future.

photo 3 (10)

As for Thunder Road, I am so in love with this race. My only complaints in previous years were the weather and the hills, and now that I’ve made peace with that, I only have great things to say. The race is so well executed, the volunteers and spectators are wonderful, and the course is scenic and challenging. I’ll be back next year for sure. Only time will tell if I do the half or take the road less traveled again. Because this time I know there will be more marathons…

Stats from the race:

Mile 1


Mile 8


Mile 15


Mile 22


Mile 2


Mile 9


Mile 16


Mile 23


Mile 3


Mile 10


Mile 17


Mile 24


Mile 4


Mile 11


Mile 18


Mile 25


Mile 5


Mile 12


Mile 19


Mile 26


Mile 6


Mile 13


Mile 20




Mile 7


Mile 14


Mile 21



3:47:50/ 8:42 pace


Odds and ends

Posted by runnerstrials

1) I’ve been a bad blogger lately. I picked up an extra freelance project a month ago, and it’s been hogging my time. I turned it in yesterday and now I’m questioning everything again. Everything being the whole stay-at-home vs. part-time work-at-home vs. full-time work-outside-of-the-home decision that I seem to squabble with every few months. I cut back on work a lot after Hadley was born, and it felt really good to delve back into medical writing for the past few weeks. So, I’m at a crossroads again and don’t know where to go from here.

photo 4 (6)

I love being home with my kids, but I also love working. I achieved a great balance last year, but once another kiddo was added to the mix, things got thrown off again. I think I’ll always feel this way, though. I’m always impressed by the people who know they were meant to stay at home or work outside of the home.

2) That being said, I have a feeling I’ll just keep up this part-time work-at-home thing until both of my kids are in school, because it will take me that long to make a decision. It’s not the wisest financial move for my family, but oh my goodness, time is going so fast! This little girl turned 7 months old today…

photo 3 (9)

She doesn’t know what to think about the slide.

…and this not-so-little boy will be THREE next weekend. How?!

photo 2 (13)


3) I thought I’d be training for Dopey by now. Right before NYCM, I put together a training plan based on Jeff Galloway’s Dopey training plan. Pam and Christine used his plan last year and had great success, so I wanted to give it a go. Then the disaster of NYCM happened, and now I feel “meh” towards running. I think the disappointing performance coupled with the upcoming holiday season just make me not want to devote a ton of time towards training over the next eight weeks. I’m enjoying sleeping in a bit and doing short, easy runs. I’m hoping I get the urge to run fast and long again over the next week or so, or else I’ll be miserable at Dopey!

4) Speaking of the holidays, I wanted to share a Rodan + Fields offer with you guys that’s good for the rest of the year.

holiday bundle

I cannot speak about the Macro Exfoliator highly enough. I had my make-up professionally done last month for my brother’s wedding, and the make-up artist complimented my skin and asked how often I get facials. Umm never! It’s just due to the amazing Rodan + Fields REVERSE regimen plus the Macro. She didn’t apply any foundation or cover-up on my skin which is just crazy to me. I never thought I’d be the girl with great skin.

photo 1 (15)

My natural skin and my very unnatural eyelashes. My mom uses R+F products, too! Doesn’t she look great?

Email me at jenilee (at) myrandf (dot) com to learn more about the deal. Until the end of November, I can also sign you up as a preferred customer free of charge – preferred customers get 10% off and free shipping on one order a month.

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