Athens Marathon Training: I Can Do Hard Things

9 Nov

Greetings from somewhere over Iceland! I’m attempting to tap this out on a tablet … So let’s just overlook any typos and hope I manage to avoid causing an international incident because I can’t find the caps lock, shall we?

Speaking of caps: IT’S RACE WEEK! I had a couple short runs this week and now all I have to do is keep running for 4ish hours come Sunday to cover a distance I’ve never done before on a course I’ve never run before. No big deal.

With just a few days to go, I’m alternating between heart- swelling excitement and pants-wetting fear. It’s basically starting the ascent of that first rollercoaster hill– as I inch closer, a sense of “who the hell thought this was a good idea?” grows, but eventually I know I’ll get over that crest and the dread will give way to sheer exhilaration… Or I really will pee my pants. But I’m cautiously optimistic because, as my Oiselle teammates like to say, I am an athlete who can do hard things.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I am already incredibly proud of myself and the work I’ve put in to get to this point. A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I could run 22 miles, but it turns out that I can and that those 22 miles would become the best long run I’ve ever had. So I’ve already won, if you ask me.

… But because I am who I am, I still have some other goals, too.
A GOAL: have the time of my life, soak up whatever good stuff the day holds, finish the race feeling strong and proud of myself. Also, to scream “eff yes!” at the finish in tribute to Shalane’s epic bad-assery at the NYC marathon finish last weekend.

B GOAL: finish under 4:20. In life, I am quite sure I have a sub-4 marathon in me, but I have no plans to make myself nuts chasing it on a punishingly-hilly course with rain in the forecast and end-of-race temps projected to get close to 70.

C GOAL: finish under 4:30. Or really, just finish. B

Lots of people have asked if they can track me– you should all, of course, feel free to download the app and  wake up at 1 am EST to watch my little geotag bounce along some 7,000 miles away… Or just check Instagram Sunday morning ( EST) for an update.

Athens Marathon Training: The More Things Change

30 Oct

Yo, man– this marathon is less than two weeks away. I finished my last double-digit run this weekend, and now the most I have to do is all the running around to get ready for race day and a much-needed vacay with MrKef.

Today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to revisit the ghosts of runs and races past. I originally thought this post would be about how much my running has changed over the last 7 years, but it turns out I’m not overturning any old adages this time– the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.

Athens Marathon Training Week 14: The More Things Change

Monday: Yoga Nothing at all exciting to say about this, so let’s throw it back to my very first race: the Capitol Hill Classic 10k. I can’t remember why I signed up for the DC Road Runners CHH10k training group, but I still remember the thrill of finishing my first Saturday Long Run (which was probably only 3.5 miles) and how quickly I fell in love with starting my day with the sound of my own feet on the pavement (and the cheers of my own personal fan club–shout out to North Capitol St of yesteryear!)

Tuesday: Arms & Abs at Solidcore. Here’s something that has definitely changed– I used to be a sporadic (at best) strength trainer and nevvvvvvver did speedwork. Thanks to the good advice of… everyone … I cut that ish out, and am now a weekly speeder and strengthener. Aaaand if you look very closely, you can see some baby abs poking out– excuse ME.

Wednesday: Unintentional rest day. Sadly, there is no amount of speedwork in the world that will help me get a good race picture. Some lowlights, from top to bottom:

1) COTTON pants … in a race … in MAY

2) at a 10k where the photographer caught me changing

3) looking every bit as cold and dead as I felt while waiting for the worst-produced race of all time

4) securing my spot as the poster child for the Mall Walkers of America

Thursday: Run 45. After this lovely run, I ate a lot of blueberries. This, too, seems to have been a pattern since the beginning of my running days.

Friday: 3x 1-mile @ 7:25 plus warmup and cool down. Just because I know speedwork is good for me doesn’t mean I look forward to it. Track workouts get me a little worked up– what if I can’t make the intervals? what if I can’t finish the workout? what if I die right there on the Banneker track and by the time anyone finds my body the smell of fries from the Georgia Ave McDonald’s has seeped so far into my cold, dead tissue that people think Happy Meals are being served at my funeral?

But the thing is- I almost always nail my workouts. And even when I don’t, I dig deep, fight hard, and am getting stronger and tougher just by trying. This week was no exception- I came in way under time (7:10, 7:12, 7:20).

This, too, has been recurrent in my running: I set a goal, face down whatever self doubt bubbles to the surface, and end up surpassing the original intention.

Case in point–3.5 years ago, PurplePenKef sent me an email with the below subject :

To which I responded:

And — because PPK has always been one of my biggest champions, and because she has often known things about me before I knew them myself, and because one of the main reasons we have stayed friends all these years is so that we have someone to email between 5:08 and 6:32 am — she quipped:

And now here are, less than a fortnight from my first marathon. I really hate it when she’s right.

Saturday: run 90 minutes. I was up in Staten Island visiting family, and this run was pretty close to race conditions- hilly, 68 degrees, sunny with little shade, and long stretches of decidedly-unscenic highway views. I wasn’t feeling it at first but I eventually dialed into a groove and had a great run. The next double-digit mileage I will do is 26.2!!!

Weeks to race day: 2

Total Miles This Week: 20.25

Gains: lots of time

Losses: anything witty left for this portion of recaps

Athens Marathon Training: Signs

23 Oct

I’m running late, tired, and probably going to be hungry for the rest of my life… so here’s this week’s rundown, including Saturday’s AMAZING TWENTY-TWO MILE RUN (!!!!). It is accompanied by random signs I found on the internet, which may or may not be actually related to running. Some other week I may have tried to be wise about the signs– this week, I defer the work to you: find meaning where you see it. 

Athens Marathon Training Week 13: SignsFullSizeRender (41)

Monday: maybe yoga? Can’t remember.

Tuesday: 45 min run + Solidcore Arms & Abs — I have said it before and I will say it again: if you are serious about getting stronger, go to Solidcore.

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Wednesday: 90 minute run. Every now and again I get out there and surprise the hell out of myself. This was one of those times– I ran ten miles under 9:00 without even really thinking about it and loved each and every one of them. Also, that new Kesha song is strangely great for running, especially if you are infuriated by abusers who are protected by the system. Eff all of you.

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Thursday: Rest day

Friday: Run 30. Nothing to say about this except that I love Howard homecoming.

I was a little nervous about this run– my most recent 20-miler had only gone okay, and my darling husband bamboozled me into breaking my usual pre-long-run dinner and routine (8:30 pm: “Don’t run Saturday–go running on Sunday so we can have fun tonight! Have another glass of champagne with me.” 8:37 pm: “Wow, I am so surprised to see you drink 2 glasses of champagne the night before a run. I think I’m gonna call it quits for the night so I can be rested to really go out tomorrow night.”)

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But I decided to just head out there and see if I could enjoy myself, anyway. I picked a pretty hilly course on purpose so I could mimic the race course as much as possible. Amazingly, the miles just flew by and I just felt stronger and stronger as the run went on. The hills didn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought, and I even had plenty of juice left in the tank for the annoying mile-long slog out of Rock Creek Park at the very end. I ended up negative splitting the run, with my last mile coming in at 8:54. Go right ahead, Chef Kef.

I’m saving lots of emotions for the moment I cross that finish line in a few weeks, but I will say that this run made me so very, very proud of myself. I ran 22 well-paced miles, kicked butt on some of RCP’s toughest hills, kept my thoughts positive, and didn’t let my brain get in my body’s way. A year ago I wouldn’t have believed that I could have even run 22 flat miles at a crawling pace. I have worked really hard this training cycle and –even if it all goes to hell come race day (not tempting you, Fate!) — this run reflected that, and I can be really proud of it. So, that’s what I have to say about that.

Lord Jesus–that post run, though. First I didn’t think I could be on my feet for even one moment longer… but then I found out how hard it is to sit DOWN after 22 miles, and THEN I found out how hard it is to get full after 22 miles. I will be tired and hungry for the rest of my life, it appears.


Weeks to Race Day: 3
Total Miles This Week: 40.05 (!!)
Gains: a new personal distance record (long run and weekly milage) + I am now almost 100% sure I can run 26.2 hilly miles 🙂 
all semblance of energy and not being sore for the next week.

Athens Marathon Training: Greece is the Word

16 Oct

Apologies for the blank email/fake link yesterday and thanks to the many of you who told me about it– I really should not be allowed near technology.  Good news for everyone who could not care less about running is that I actually did some cooking over the weekend, so one of these days we will talk about something other than whether all ten of my toenails are going to survive this race.

Turns out, my first marathon is JUST ABOUT ONE MONTH AWAY.  When I was in school and would tell people I had XX months left, I wished a slow and painful death on anyone who responded “Oh, that’ll fly by.” But these couple months really did — guess I like running better than busy work and B.S. tests. Who knew?

I am starting to get cautiously excited about the race itself, but I am unabashedly enthusiastic about my upcoming time in The Hellenic Republic. So today we’re gonna focus on the nation and people who have given the world everything: Greece!


Athens Marathon Training Week 12: Greece is the Word

Monday: Arms & Abs @ Solidcore. Since revisionary history seems to be the creative trend these days, I am going to pitch a show wherein the Spartans had the megaformer Pilates machines that Solidcore uses– think “Man in the High Castle” meets “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Insane Spartan discipline + side plank crunches = total world domination. The opening sequence would be this group of Greek women pushing each other up the Acropolis in a display of their brute strength:


Tuesday: 60 min run I had to run after work, which is generally not my preference. Despite that, I was smoking the damn sidewalk Tuesday afternoon — not quite sure what got into me, but it was one of my speediest runs in awhile. If I had been in Greece, I would have known that this was a run fueled by the most beautiful part of the day: the afternoon light.


But, instead, I was in DC and was perhaps fueled by my hatred for the new development at the Wharf, which will certainly ensure that the low-income housing left in that part of SW will disappear within the next 5 years.

Wednesday:Hills for breakfast. I lugged myself up and down Capitol Hill  several times. Whenever I thought about stopping, I remembered that this damn marathon is going to be hilly — but if I finish the damn thing and live to tell the tale, my post-run feast will look like this:


I am thinking Pheidippides didn’t really care about telling the Athenians about the outcome of the battle — he was probably running all those miles just to get to his Aunt Lena’s eggplant pie, too.

Thursday: yoga + ST. I don’t have a lot to say about tree poses and lunges, but no post about Greece would ever be complete without what remains my favorite picture of all time:


Friday: rest day, mostly because I was at work until 8:45. That’s bad enough on a Friday, but it also meant I had to push back my weekend runs, which I don’t love.

Saturday: 30 min run. Nothing to say about that.

Sunday: 90 min run. I’m gonna let this training cycle finish, but this was one of my best runs OF ALL TIME. The miles just flew by, they were all paced within a few seconds of each other, and I was feeling so good at the end that I actually opted for the route home with more hills. Praise the sweet Lord baby Jesus.  Speaking of babies, here’s my favorite little moraki, edited for his mother’s privacy concerns:

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Weeks to Race Day: 5
Total Miles This Week: 25
Gains: a new goal: eat all the Spanakopita I can post-marathon 
you know, this week was a lot of wins– let’s just leave t there.


Athens Marathon Training: Other People’s Runs

9 Oct

I’m plum out of even-remotely creative ways to say “I ran a lot and I’m tired.” So this week we’ll intersperse the recap with stories of other people who run a lot and may or may not be tired.

Athens Marathon Training Week 11: Other People’s Runs

Monday: Rest Day after last week’s epic 20-mile trek to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and back. Snuck in some restorative yoga, which is really just napping that ends with “namaste.”

Tuesday: Easy 40 min run. You know who never runs easy because she’s too busy killing it? This woman:


We realized we are basically the same person after about 6 minutes of running together, and I’ve been a huge fan of LifeTwinKef ever since. From 5 am meet ups to Half Priced Wine Nights (and a lot of her waiting on me to get to the damn track in between), she’s the best addition to Georgia Ave since the original Fish in the ‘Hood. She’s speedy and determined, and I’m a better runner for training with her. Plus, we’re snarky about all the same things–and that, folks, is what it’s all about.

Wednesday:  60 min run One of the loveliest runs I’ve had in awhile, even though it was at 8pm or so and I generally hate running at night. You know what I don’t hate? Everything about The Mirnavator.


Teacher, body positive advocate, and amazing ultra runner, Mirna Valerio is pretty much everything I want to be. If this blog goes dark for weeks on end, you’ll know that I am off running all the trails in Western New York hoping to “bump into” Mirna and her XC team.

Thursday: ST and Yoga. Blah Blah Blah.

Friday: 45 minute run, also at night, also lovely. Who knew?


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Do not adjust the settings on your screen– JETSETKEF RAN 26 MILES THAT WERE EACH UNDER 7 MINUTES AND FINISHED THE WHOLE DAMN CHICAGO MARATHON IN LESS THAN 3 HOURS. Is that overkill on the caps? Okay. But I was never a more proud Terror Twin than when this alert came on to my phone (okay, maybe also the time we finished off an entire watermelon before MamaKef even knew we had started it… that was an athletic feat nearly as impressive). You go, JetSet!

Sunday: Army 10 Miler. While JetSet was off torching the pavement, I was busy trying not to get torched by the insane humidity that came back to stink up DC. After that disastrous half marathon last month, I had no interest in making it a goal to PR this race. I had two goals: A) to negative split and/or B) to not lose my shit. My race plan was to try to run miles 1-3 at 8:45, miles 4-5 at 8:30, miles 6-8 at 8:45, and then miles 9-10 with whatever I had left. It became pretty clear pretty quickly that that was not going to be the case:

Miles 1-3: 9:08, 8:46, 9:12
Miles 4-5: 8:45, 8:57
Miles 6-8: 9:04, 9:29, 9:27
Miles 9-10: 9:26, 8:40

Here’s what I’ll say about this: by the time I made it to the finish line, the officials had decided it was so hot/humid that they had to convert the race into a “fun run” (meaning they weren’t keeping track of what place you came in) and that they eventually had to re-route people to shorten the course and get them off the road. Although my paces didn’t go as planned, I stuck to perceived effort, and you better trust and believe when I say it felt like I was negative splitting. The best thing was that I really kept my wits about me and didn’t get into any mental ditches, and I’ll take that over a PR on the day, for sure.

Weeks to Race Day: 5
Total Miles This Week: 25
Gains: ran most of the race in just my sports bra, which felt a lot like this
pretty sure I was an unwilling participant in a cooling-station-turned-wet-tshirt contest at the last water stop. Grown ass men who behave like frat boys give me the damn heebie jeebies.

Athens Marathon Training: 20 All Over Again

2 Oct

For those of you crying over the lack of recap last week, fear not: you missed almost nothing. I was on a dial-back week and only ran ~15 miles total and mostly just did a lot of yoga. But it was also FERRAGOSTO week, which must be recapped. Hopefully I will get to it this week but y’all already know not to have any expectations.

This was a great running week, with lots of fall temps and mornings with low humidity. I had another TWENTY MILE run again over the weekend, and so in honor of the big 2-0, our theme this week will be: things that were cool when I was 20 years old but are definitely not cool now.

Athens Marathon Training Week 10: 20 All Over Again

Monday: Arms & Core @ SweatDC. Fresh off the Ferragosto high, I rolled out of bed and walked a few blocks over to SweatDC. It was a nice way to get the blood pumping. I’ll have to take a few more classes before saying whether I like it or not, but I am pretty sure the instructor was the poster woman for the ultimate fashion trend when I was 20: the Juicy Jumpsuit.

~So trendy~

Tuesday: run 45. I discovered that my new job is RIGHT on an awesome running trail in DC, so I had a wonderful run during lunch. Were I still a 20 year-old sophomore, I probably would have been borrowing my roommate’s iPod Nano and listening to “Don’t Cha” while I ran. In other news, that song was my mother’s ringtone for about 3 years. Seriously.

And in still other news, did everyone else know YouTube was founded in 2005? It’s funny to think of all the cool things I used to use YouTube for in comparison to its main function for me now: watching someone else screw Nut A onto Washer B because any “some assembly required” instructions might as well be written in Japanese. #thisis32

Wednesday: Run 60 Another wonderful trail run in perfect weather, this time before work. I work in a high school where staff can use the locker room showers before class… rather than describe my experience, I will just let you each meander back in time to that particular peculiarity of your teenage years. Woof.

Thursday: Solidcore Arms and Abs. Not. I couldn’t get out of work on time and missed class, which really pissed me off. Here’s something that, somehow, became a thing when I was 20 and will piss me off forever:

Even one is too many.

Friday: Run 30. Fall is the best because EVEN AT 430 PM IT WAS AMAZING RUNNING WEATHER. When I was 20, we easily threw away 30 minutes trying to figure out what.the.hell a Facebook “poke” meant.

Image result for you have been poked

Saturday: Rest day is the best day! Went to see my aunts in PA. I thought for sure I would be able to find a picture of us from one of the many family events in 2005 somewhere on Facebook, but it would appear there was not yet the album function, which makes me feel like I was 20 a really, really long time ago.

Sunday: 3:00-3:15 run. I had hoped to get in 21 miles just so I could keep exploring those unknown miles, but when my watch ticked off the 20th mile at 3:08, I surely did not have another 7 minutes of running left in me. This run was both wonderful and a struggle– the weather was PERFECT and I went off on a new route to the Woodrow Wilson bridge and back, and really had a generally lovely time. The way back was pretty tough– my mind was refusing to stay occupied and I had to make a few stops  just to settle back in and refocus. And I hate to stop on long runs almost as much as I hate starched, layered polos. I am still not 100% certain where these other 6.2 miles are going to come from, but I suppose that’s a question for another day. For today, I am just loving that I ran another 20-miler and lived to tell the tale.

For our final throw back, here’s a trend I was TOTALLY INTO– the dress-and-jeans thing. Somewhere is a picture of me dancing on my brother’s Village A coffee table with almost this exact outfit, which is mercifully absent from Facebook:

so let’s just all be glad that I write a food/running blog not a fashion blog.

Weeks to Race Day: 6 (WAIT CAN THAT REALLY BE RIGHT???)
Total Miles This Week: 35
Gains: several new running routes
Losses: any pretense that what I did/wore/listened to in college were stand the test of time.




Athens Marathon Training: Birthdays

18 Sep

Per usual, I’m running late for life, so this post is gonna be a rush job. This week brought the birth of my ανιψιός (nephew) AND punched my ticket for another trip around the sun– so while I’m short on time, I’m long on love.

Athens Marathon Training Week 8: Birthdays


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Monday: the usual, yoga, tennis.

Tuesday: 75 minute run. My legs were still feeling it from Saturday’s 20 miles + Sunday’s epic birth, but it felt great to shake it all out.

Wednesday: legs were killing me, I was exhausted, fell asleep at 830 and loved every second of it. If this were an SAT question on How Chrissy Spends Her Birthday Week, it would go something like this:
Q– Bed before 9 : ChefKef as…
A– Attention: Kardashians

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Thursday: 6x800s, with a return to slower goal paces (woooo!). 339/336/338/336/337/337. not too much to say about this one.

Friday: Yin Yoga, which is basically the same as laying around on pillows for an hour.

Sat: International Peace Half Marathon

Lordylou,this race did not go as I thought it would. I had a big-but-very reasonable goal of 1:48:40ish, which is about 8:15/mile. I was pretty sure I could get this done without having to kill myself– and wouldn’t a shiny new PR be such a great birthday gift?  Several things went wrong with this estimation:

1) Two weeks of fall running somehow fooled me into thinking that 75F at the start of the race wouldn’t be that hot. Wrong. I made the fool hardy choice of bringing my small water bottle, which was not enough to get me to even the 10k mark without feeling really thirsty. It was a hot and dehydrated decline from that point on.

2) As I have mentioned for the last 3 weeks or so, my watch GPS has been acting up and I couldn’t make sense of the mile splits I was getting in relationship to the bizarre differences between the course mile markers and the distance my watch was showing. If you’ve ever kind of blanked out while driving on the highway and then spent a mile or two desperately searching for a sign to see whether you missed your exit, then you know the bewildering panic I felt trying to figure out where I was located in the time-space continuum.

3) As an answer to the watch issues, I opted to try for an evenly-paced race (13 x 8:15) rather than start slow and negative split the damn thing — do not ask me what I was thinking. I ran the first 6 miles happily at pace, and mainted pace (but not happiness) for miles 7 and 8. Somewhere around mile 9, the remaining 4 miles started to seem insurmountable. In the span of about 0.1 miles I went from, “Oh terrif, I am right on pace,” to “OH EFFING MOTHER EFFER, I AM RUNNING RIGHT AT THE GOAL TIME SO I HAVE NO WIGGLE ROOM THIS IS A DISASTER.” It got so bad that I finally had to make a choice: let the goal go and finish the race or cling to the arbitrary objective and never finish the race because I drowned myself in the C&O Canal out of sheer agony. I chose the former and just stopped running right there in mile 9 and walked somewhere around 0.4 of a mile. I have never walked in a race before. This was both liberating (“go ‘head, Kef–look at you being all zen and throwing away pace expectations”) and friggin infuriating (“if one more of these effing mother effers says, ‘you’ve got this!’ as they run by, I will drown them in the canal.”) But, after a few minutes of deep breaths and a mental reset, I felt ready to run again.

I finally finished, feeling depleted and defeated, in 1:59:28. The whole thing left me in a less-than-festive mood along the lines of:

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I was all ready to blast “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” on rapid repeat for the rest of the day, but then I got up to BabyKef’s house and got to cuddle with MYFAVORITENEPHEWEVERKef, and things were looking up:


Weeks to race day: 8
Total Miles This Week: 25? No clue, my watch is playing with my sense of self.
Gains: My new favorite reason to try and get good at selfies: THEO.
Losses: the ability to say truthfully that I am 31 years old


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