Boston Training: Peak Week

Less than three weeks. That’s it. In 19 days and 22 hours I’ll be on the starting line in Hopkinton. That’s nothing. Peak week is done, the work is done, and now I just have to be smart and keep it together for another 20 days and 1 hour to make it to the finish line.

Boston will be my seventh marathon in just over three years, but something that continues to amaze me is how my perception of time shifts throughout the training cycle.

I started training 13 weeks ago, and the marathon seemed so far off. How was I going to make it through 16 hard weeks of training? With my schedule in front of me, it seemed overwhelming – especially given the new paces I was planning to push.

Sixteen weeks ago I had 880 miles, 91 runs, 18 workouts, nine Medium Long Runs, six 18+ mile long runs and two tune-up races between me and Boston.

Now, with just under three weeks to go, I only have 99 miles, 13 runs, one workout and one tune-up race left between me and the start line. Crazy, right? Suddenly it feels like the last 13 weeks have just disappeared.

And while I don’t want to jinx it, I feel good about how far I’ve come in the past three months, particularly now that I have peak week in the rear view mirror.

Here’s what the week looked like:

Bos Week 13

As you can see, it’s not a week for the faint of heart, what with two workouts, a 22 mile long run and a new weekly milage record. Oh, and on top of all that, I was traveling for work on Monday and Tuesday.

My week started with a 7 a.m. Amtrak train to Washington, D.C., a day in the office there, and then a trip out to Rockville, Md. for the evening. That meant my workout on Monday evening was literally a race against the sun, because it’s hard enough running in a strange place without doing it after dark.

As soon as I got to my hotel in Rockville, I immediately changed and got out the door. Luckily, over the weekend I had already scoped out a track using Strava Heat Maps. It was about 2.5 miles away, and I was praying that I would actually be able to access it.

Just 2.75 miles later (after only getting mildly lost), I was there and the track was open. That’s the good news. The bad news is the wind was aggressive and my stomach hurt. Apparently Roti was a bad idea for lunch…this is what I get for being mostly a morning runner – I forget that what you eat for lunch actually matters when you run in the evening.

After getting to the track, I decided it was too late to reschedule the workout and that I’d grin and bear it. My goal for the 1,200s was 4:30 – about a 6 min./mile pace. And the first set was okay. The first 200 meters of every lap was a crosswind to slight tailwind, the next 200 meters was a pretty fierce headwind (about 21 mile per hour sustained winds, with 30+ mile per hour gusts), followed by 200 meters of crosswind to slight headwind and a final 200 meters of blissful tailwind.

After that first set, though, it was all downhill. My times kept sliding even though my heart rate was rising:

4:29 – 4:30 – 4:35 – 4:38.

As I started my final set, I decided to call it after two laps. I just couldn’t bring myself to start a third lap into that brutal headwind. I only had 400 meters to go to complete the workout, but my stomach hurt, my heart rate was too high, and I just couldn’t mentally go on. As it turns out, that last 800 came in at 3:02, which would have left me on track for a much better set than the one prior.

My next workout was a couple days later back in New York. Fortunately, after traveling to start the week I was able to work from home on Wednesday. While many people might use that as an opportunity to sleep in – I used it as an opportunity to get out to Central Park for my workout, since the key to that workout was getting in a good amount of time at marathon pace on a hilly course. For anyone who has ever run a race in New York, you’ll know that Central Park is surprisingly hilly.


My heart rate got a little high around Harlem Hill during mile five, and during the few miles immediately after, but it settled in to where it should be at marathon pace (high 160s, low 170s) later in the workout, which is a good sign.

After Wednesday’s workout, my total elevation gain for the first three days of the week was 768 feet…for context that was as much elevation gain as I hard run in the prior two weeks combined. I’m a flatlander, and Maryland (which is surprisingly hilly) and Central Park put me well above pace.

But Boston is hilly, and I needed more hills! To cap off the week, I organized to run my final 22 mile long run (the second of the cycle) in the Palisades. The Palisades are a roughly 20 mile stretch of steep cliffs in New Jersey along the Hudson River. And there is a road and series of trails that run along them that are a mecca for cyclists and the brave runner looking for a challenge.

Palisades Elevation
Palisades Elevation Chart

I honestly didn’t know what pace to expect to hit for this long run, since over 22 miles I would be covering about 2,200 feet of elevation gain and loss, but I was hoping for something faster than 8 minutes per mile.

Well, I ended up surprising myself. I Finished the 22 miles in exactly 2 hours and 44 minutes, which is a 7:27 minute per mile pace, which was 4 seconds per mile faster than my last 22 mile long run a couple weeks ago. All in, it was a great end to a great—but exhausting—week of training.

Total: 67 miles, 2,963 feet of elevation gain


6 thoughts on “Boston Training: Peak Week

  1. Isn’t the beginning of the taper the weirdest sort of relief? As in, you’re relieved you completed peak training but now there’s such a feeling of nervousness. And these three weeks have a way of inching by, just as the previous weeks of training melted away into nothingness.

    Totally excited to run Boston!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! That’s such a great way to describe it. Right now, I’m super excited for the taper because it’s a chance to recover from peak week, but I’m sure by next week it will be driving me crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m really excited to see how Boston goes for you. So glad you managed to get all those workouts in when traveling for work. I don’t travel for work much but honestly, when I do I get lazy and just schedule rest days for those days.

    I am an afternoon runner right now but will transition to mornings more as it gets hotter… I am with you on the food, it is hard to watch what I eat all day for a run. Working at home helps because I don’t really go out for lunch anyway, but when you are at work and have lunches, meetings, etc you can’t always control where you’ll eat!


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