Inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries and The Cut’s Sex Diaries, welcome to The Runner Diaries, where we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages and abilities. We’re asking runners of every level, genre and distance (road vs. trail, endurance vs. speedsters, hobby joggers vs. elites) to share their workouts, training runs and nutritional choices during a seven-day period to get a glimpse into the inner struggles and tribulations of what it means to be a runner. Get The Runner Diaries delivered straight to your inbox every week by clicking here.
This week, we have 26-year-old Erin Nemeth of Astoria, New York, a marketer in the hospitality industry with a recent 1:29:41 half-marathon PR, and a passion for fitness, running and punching things. This week, she attempts balancing training for a BQ in the Salt Lake City Marathon with MMA training, a social life, and a finicky stomach.
- Name: Erin Nemeth
- Age: 26
- Location: Astoria, NY
- Training for: Salt Lake City Marathon — Saturday, April 22, 2017
- Occupation: Marketing & Communications Manager
- Goal: PR (sub-3:26:00), which would also mean a BQ for 2018
- Weeks until race: 9
- Following a training plan?: Yes (loosely based on Hal Higdon Advanced 1)
- How long you’ve been a “runner:” 11 years, on & off (high school cross-country 2006-2008; hiatus for 2 knee surgeries; started again in 2013)
- Goal weekly mileage: 40-50
Salt Lake will be my first major race since the Boston Marathon in 2016, and the 5-month injury that followed. When I started running again in September, Dr. Levine (the most magical chiropractor you’ll meet) had two rules to keep me on track: run slow and not far. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but it got me to an almost-PR at my hometown Turkey Trot 5k, and two half-marathon PRs (2-minute PR in December and another 3-minute, sub-1:30 PR in January).
It’s taught me to be patient and train smarter, something I didn’t do last winter. I listen to my body more — if my knee or ankle hurts to the point of discomfort, I don’t run that day; if I feel exhausted on a run, I go for mileage vs. speed; and most importantly, I make an effort to find balance between running and resting so I don’t end up hating it.
So far, I’d say it’s working out pretty well.
Monday // Day One
7:30a.m. — Wake up and get ready for work. Deliberately snoozed my 7a.m. & 7:15a.m. alarms to trick myself into thinking I’ll get more sleep… which works 60% of the time, including today.
9a.m. — Breakfast
I have an Americano & RXBAR, Chocolate Sea Salt flavor
2p.m. — Lunchtime
I nosh on three pieces of Paleo breaded chicken fingers (leftovers from Sunday night) and a bowl of fresh fruit.
6p.m. — Treadmill run: 7 miles at ~7:51 min/mile pace
Tonight, I head to Mile High Run Club, a treadmill studio, to get my miles in at their signature 60-minute class, ‘The Distance.’ I’ve grown to absolutely love MHRC (especially during this icy/winter weather) and have been attending classes weekly since December as part of my marathon training.
But this run was not fun.
Unfortunately, I came into this run fresh off a terrible weekend, training wise. With friends in town for UFC 208, activity included skipping my long run (13 miles), eating like cr*p, drinking more than I anticipated, and not getting nearly enough sleep. I have a tendency to beat myself up about these kinds of slips, but promise myself I’ll make up the mileage this week and next weekend.
With my “do better” mindset, I go into the class looking to seriously kick my own butt. MHRC pushes you to run between Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 – Level 1 being your recovery pace and Level 4 being 10/10 difficulty (think all-out sprint). Having these different ranges of speed teaches you to push your limits, and tonight I really bump up the intensity for each level. Level 2 went from 7.5 to 7.8 MPH; Level 3 moved from 8.0 to 8.8; and Level 4 was 9.2+.
Tonight’s 60-minute class includes 6 intervals of 3-4 minute efforts simulating rolling hills, steep climbs and a lot of negative split sprints. It averages out to 7 miles at ~7:51 min/mile pace.
Needless to say, after a weekend of debauchery and a light day of eating, I felt the pain of pushing my limits. I managed to just barely hit 7 miles before quitting with 30 seconds still left at Level 4, booking it for the bathroom from nausea/the fear of spewing my lunch. MHRC staff will be happy to know I dry heaved for a bit, but didn’t actually destroy their bathroom with vomit. (You’re welcome.)
8p.m. — “Dinner”
I use quotes for “dinner” because I don’t think ~1 cup of grapes, a few forkfuls of mashed sweet potatoes later followed by 2 Oreo Thins counts as an actual meal.
Unfortunately, it took awhile for my body to return to normal (stomach, breathing, body temperature), so by the time I got home, I was nauseous. I was also starving, but worried about keeping food down. I eased myself into eating with grapes, until I get distracted by a bloody nose (the setbacks keep on coming!). Cue my minor panic attack since I haven’t this issue since 5th grade and didn’t know why it was happening.
After that passed, I shoveled 3-4 heaping forkfuls of leftover mashed sweet potatoes into my mouth before realizing that, indeed, my stomach was STILL too sensitive. Ah, the perks of being an athlete with a finicky stomach. My stomach finally relaxed around 10:30pm, but not wanting to eat a full meal right before bed, I acquired some quick, not-so-healthy calories by way of two Oreo Thins.
Not the nutritional day I wanted, by any means.
12a.m. — Bedtime
I had planned to go to bed earlier, but wound up brainstorming business ideas with my boyfriend. I pass out on the couch for a few hours before he woke me up to go to (our actual) bed at 3a.m.
Today daily mileage: 7.0
Tuesday // Day Two
7:30a.m. — Wake up to get ready for work.
I can’t seem to wake up feeling “refreshed” these days. Sadly, the snooze button has become a dear friend of mine.
9a.m. — Breakfast:1 large coffee with almond milk & Quest Bar.
(Can you tell yet that I’m a creature of habit? I don’t like having a large or hearty breakfast in the morning, so I try to stick with something lighter with low sugar/carbs and high protein.)
1p.m. – Lunch time
I walked around for today’s lunch break with my co-worker, who was on the hunt for a Valentine’s Day gift for her mom & boyfriend. I hadn’t planned ahead, I stopped at Nanoosh on our way back and grabbed a Powerfood Plate with greens, chicken shawa, hummus & Giardiniera.
6:30p.m. — I arrive at my MMA class — a 60-minute Muay Thai/striking session.
I know, I know — you thought you were reading a run diary. Hear me out: I love running, but lately I’ve felt that something is missing in my life that brings a new level of excitement and passion. Six years ago, I dabbled in MMA briefly (more striking, less grappling) and always enjoyed it. So I’ve signed up for 5 trial classes at different MMA facilities over the past 2 weeks in hopes of finding instructors that fit my needs/learning style best.
I worked on moves and combos with an instructor 1:1, interspersed with pushups and squats. It was great to use my muscles in different movements, and even though it was an “intro” class, the workout definitely worked up a sweat.
NB: I enjoyed the class & instructors so much, I committed to a 3-month contract right after.
7:30p.m. – Run (5.58 miles @ 8:06 pace)
I planned ahead and brought my running gear to MMA class with me so I could run home from 36th St. in Manhattan to my apartment in Astoria.
I only feel some soreness from yesterday’s 7-miler in my legs while trucking up the Queensboro Bridge to Astoria, which I’m pleased about. I was more concerned with getting my mileage in vs. pace tonight, so wasn’t too off-put by my low-8:00s pace.
9p.m. – Dinner at Butcher Bar
Shared nachos appetizer; Downeast Cider; 1/4 lb. pulled pork (no sauce) & scallion/onion string beans
Brian (my boyfriend) works from Connecticut on Tuesdays and doesn’t get home until 8:30/9p.m., so we scrap our original plans for dinner in the city and opt for a local, organic butcher’s restaurant in Astoria to celebrate Valentine’s Day instead.
We’re opposites in a lot of ways, but one thing we have in common is our love for nachos. Even though we’ve been making an effort to eat healthy more often lately (last weekend aside), we sacrificed it to share an appetizer of nachos. For dinner, we stuck to just one drink and “carvery” meats with some vegetable sides vs. going the burgers/mac & cheese route.
10p.m. – Dessert
Two pieces of chocolate. Because when you get free chocolate for Valentine’s Day, you eat it.
12a.m. – Bedtime
Another unintentionally late night that reminds me I really need to start trying harder to get to bed early.
Daily total mileage: 5.58
Wednesday // Day Three
7:45a.m. – Wake up & get ready for work.
I’m usually not this lazy, and start questioning what’s wrong with me. Why I can’t seem to get up? I slept through my morning plans to run, again, and begin the day in a bad, annoyed mood.
9a.m. – Breakfast.
1 large coffee with almond milk; 1/4 cup almonds & 1 apple
2:30p.m. – Lunch: 1 Quest bar.
Let me be clear: I do not recommend days like this, where there’s so much time between meals and so little for a lunch (especially if followed by a smaller breakfast). This was not my intention, nor am I happy with my lack of ability to eat today.
I’m in the process of job hunting and having an interview during my “lunch break” meant not being able to eat in the office (as I told my coworkers I was meeting a friend for lunch). When the interview ran longer than I thought, I have to rush back to the office to avoid suspicion, which also meant a) not coming back with food to eat, and, b) not having time to sit down somewhere and eat.
I didn’t plan ahead for this kind of situation and I’m not sure in hindsight what I could have done for a replacement lunch, but I’m at least glad I got to the interview.
I also choose to walk to/from the interview, which wound up totaling 1.5 miles.
4p.m. — The day is flying by, and I have dinner plans with a friend that I’m really looking forward to. I have to decide between my two options: meet for dinner at 6:30p.m. as planned (and not workout today), or push her off until 7p.m., find a day pass for a gym near work, leave work a little early, squeeze in a treadmill run, shower, and then meet her for dinner.
In addition to my knee being sore all day – most likely due to the flats I was wearing that are cute, but have zero support – the stress of having to rush from work to the gym to dinner wasn’t sitting well with me. (We typically catch up at our apartments and cook for each other but since we planned to talk about our live-in boyfriends, we couldn’t very well swing that in front of them.) So I decided to cut my losses, avoid the stress, and skip the gym.
7p.m. — Dinner at The Thirsty Koala
Shared calamari appetizer; glass of Sauvignon Blanc; Cauliflower & Quinoa salad with chicken, avocado & sriracha.
The restaurant we choose has local, organic and gluten-free options so I’m not worried about keeping things healthy. I’m starving from having eaten so little, but refrain from going wild. We split a grilled calamari appetizer, avoid the table bread, and I opt for a salad while my friend treats herself to a burger.
(PC: @TheThirsty Koala, because I’m too lazy to take photos of my food.)
8:30p.m. — Since at this point I’m not going to be running, I continue the “walk as much as possible” trend and walk just over a mile home from the restaurant.
11pm – Bedtime.
I’m in bed by 11p.m., daunted by the thought of not waking up for my 7:30a.m. MHRC class tomorrow.
Daily Total Mileage*: 3 miles (walking)
*What helped ease my mind a bit is that even though I didn’t work out, I walked quite a bit (to the subway, interview, dinner, home) and my brisk walking ended adding up to at least 3.0 miles. Now, this were not miles that were “run,” but definitely kept me active.
Thursday // Day Four
6:15a.m. — Wake up & get ready for Mile High Run Club class.
After waking up at 4:30a.m. for no reason, I dozed on & off until my alarm. It wasn’t exactly a sound sleep, but I felt relatively awake and alert. (Partially because I was terrified of getting docked the $18 “no show” fee on my account.)
6:30a.m. — Coffee.
When my day starts with a morning workout, I wind up drinking coffee 3 times a day (usually). There’s a Dunkin Donuts on my way to the subway where I stop on Thursday mornings for a small, black coffee.
7:30a.m. — Run (5.5 miles @ ~7:38 pace).
Another workout with Mile High Run Club, this time at their HIGH45 (45-min) treadmill class. Fortunately, this was a good run. I don’t know if it was that inadvertent rest yesterday or what, but I felt good. I hopped on the treadmill a few minutes before class started to get some extra miles in before the class kicked off, and covered 3x hill intervals and 4x speed intervals.
We played around with our Level 3 effort at 4.0 inclines (while maintaining the same speed between hill simulations)… and since it surprisingly felt easier than I anticipated, I got to increase my speed during those intervals and continue to push my limits. With three sprints at Level 4 (max) effort, I hit higher numbers than I had before for both the :60s and :30s efforts, which left me in jolly spirits all day.
The 5.5 miles were covered in 42 minutes since I had to duck out a bit early — the line for showers get really long really quick if you’re not careful!
9a.m. — Breakfast
1 small coffee & 1 Quest bar. (Again, not big on breakfast especially after a hard run that leaves my stomach a bit grumpy.)
2p.m. — Lunch
I use my lunch break to go back to MHRC, since I left my shoes in the locker room this morning. (Oops.) While I’m in the area, I pop into the nearby Nike store, just to check if they had anything that caught my eye (and by “caught my eye,” I mean on sale). Nothing did.
I make a pit stop at Whole Foods on my way back to the office for food. I get a hodge-podge from the salad bar (spinach, carrots, red peppers, broccoli, chicken & hummus with some roasted sweet potatoes). My hunger from the workout had kicked in and BOY, was I ready to eat.
8:30p.m. — Dinner
Pan-seared chicken breast (lightly seasoned); roasted cauliflower and broccoli (tossed with coconut oil, honey, ginger and cayenne pepper).
I see my therapist/life coach/savior on Thursdays after work and don’t get home until 8p.m. Between the early wake up for MHRC and this, these days end up feeling very long. So I nix the small voice in my head that wanted to go to the gym tonight for a double, deciding that foam rolling at home and saving my energy for a good run/lift tomorrow would be more beneficial.
Instead, I stop at the grocery store on my way home to grab some chicken and vegetables to throw together for dinner and called it a night.
11:15p.m. – Bedtime
Brian and I are headed to our friend Kevin’s in Connecticut on a 6:30p.m. train Friday night, so I know I have to work out in the morning if I wanted to at all. I make sure I got to bed early so that I actually wake up to my 5:45a.m. alarm.
Total Daily Mileage: 5.5
Friday // Day Five
6a.m. — Wake up & get ready for the gym
6:20a.m. — Run (3.1 miles @ 7:45 pace) & 15-min Core/Lift
It’s a little bit too cold and dark for my liking, so I resign myself to a quick 5k on the treadmill. After a cool down and some light foam rolling comes one of my favorite 15-minute core routines.
I don’t have enough time by this point for the full lift I had in mind, but put together a quick upper body circuit of pushups, lateral pull-downs, bicep curls and 1-arm rows.
Going gorillas over my gym’s Kettlebells.
9a.m. – Breakfast
1 large coffee & 1 Quest bar.
1:30pm — Lunch
I use my lunch break to take a quick trip to Trader Joe’s for some healthy snacks for the weekend. I buy dried mango slices, baked sweet potato chips and edamame, among others.
I stop at Nanoosh (yes, again) on the way back to the office because I know it’s quick, convenient, and cheap. This time I grab a Powerfood Plate with greens, chicken shawa, hummus, and lentil salad. Delightful.
Taken at Nannoosh. Yes, I’m on a hummus kick. No, I don’t care.
7p.m. — Snack
Getting to the middle of Connecticut is a very annoying process by train. We have to leave at 6:30pm for a 1.5-hour train ride to Bridgeport before transferring to a rickety local train for another hour of travel.
I consider the 2.5 hour ride ahead of me, the fact that I bought snacks to share with my friends upon arrival, and the fact that we’ll probably have a late dinner, and decide to buy a Lara Bar (Peanut Butter & Chocolate) and Vitamin Water Zero (Lemonade) to hold me over.
10:15p.m. — Late-night Dinner & Snacking
I don’t love eating late, but I was so hungry at this point that I didn’t care, but hearing that the only place with delivery after 10p.m. here is a Chinese fast food place makes me miss Seamless. I wind up ordering chicken and broccoli with brown rice and an egg roll.
We stay up until 2a.m., which means that at some point between Chinese food and sleep, I snack on a decent chunk of Trader Joe’s White Cheddar Puffs.
2a.m. — Bedtime
Figuring out where to put 4 people in a house that has about 3 sleeping options is … fun. I was ready to hit the sheets well before then, but it was enjoyable to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for a few months.
Sorting out who was sleeping where, changing, brushing teeth, etc. takes awhile, but once I lay down – my god, was I out.
Daily Total Mileage: 3.1
Saturday // Day Six
11a.m. – Wake up & lollygag
Usually I hate sleeping in, but I wasn’t mad at all about the 8 hours I got, even if it meant sleeping half the day away.
12p.m. – Breakfast at Rick’s Grille
Coffee & 3-egg omelet with broccoli, green peppers, ham; whole-wheat toast; bowl of fresh fruit
We hit the local diner for breakfast because our friends don’t keep their fridge stocked. I knew it wouldn’t be as healthy as I’d like, what with diners’ universal love of over-oiling every entrée imaginable, so I stick to an omelet and indulge in some buttered whole-wheat toast (yet definitely do better at staying on track than some of the others in our group!).
3p.m. — Run (5 miles @ 8:14 pace)
I was really looking forward to running outside today with the 50-degree weather, but had to backtrack on that plan due to logistics.
Kevin nixed our planned run to play basketball, which meant figuring out a running route solo. Since I’m not familiar with the town and wasn’t keen on running along the narrow roads (made more narrow due to the giant snow banks), I tagged along to the local YMCA and found myself doing treadmill miles once again.
These were no Woodway treadmills (shocking! – not), so I took it a bit easier on the pace to save my knees from the side effects of a thinner belt. It was doable, but not enjoyable. The pace felt fine (I played with the speed and sprinkled in some sprints) but I was disgruntled that my outside run didn’t happen.
5:30p.m. – Dinner #1
Turkey chili & shared serving of baked sweet potato fries.
After we got back, showered and packed our bags, it was time to convince Kevin to drive an extra 20 minutes out of his way to drop us off at a train more directly on the Metro North line.
We stopped at a well-known spot in town for a bite to eat because not only did we have time to kill before our train, but we owed Kevin a thank you/remittance for gas money. In addition to my turkey chili, I got sweet potato fries – then felt guilty about indulging a little too much, so made Brian split them with me. (I really had to twist his arm on that one.)
9p.m. – Dinner #2
Chicken breast (seasoned); roasted broccoli and cauliflower (tossed in coconut oil, salt, pepper, garlic).
By the time we got home to the city, I was hungry. Again. Brian wasn’t hungry, so I grab my go-to from the grocery store: chicken breast, broccoli and cauliflower.
I snack on carrots and hummus as I cook, which I eat about half of and save the rest for tomorrow (which Brian then ate later that night…).
11:30p.m. – Bedtime
I’m tired, and know I need a good night of sleep before tomorrow’s long run.
Total Daily Mileage: 5 miles
Sunday // Day Seven
8a.m. — Wake up & get ready for the week’s long run
Waking up at 8a.m. on a Sunday wasn’t great but wasn’t terrible. I set my alarm early enough so I had time to lay in bed and scroll through the news, make coffee, eat a banana… and take one final pre-long run #2.
9a.m. – Sunday Runday (18 miles @ 7:47 pace)
This was the longest run of my training cycle so far. I’ve done a few 15s and 16s so far and felt a little twinge of, “Oh boy” in my stomach before this one for some reason.
I did what you can more or less call an out & back. I wound a path from Astoria through Queens, over the Queensboro Bridge to Central Park and did the outer path (including Harlem Hills, twice) before working my way back to Astoria.
Overall, the run felt (and went) better than I thought. I felt more tired throughout the entire run than I have in previous 16-milers, but that can likely be attributed to a lack of sleep/nutrition in the past week.
The hardest part of the run was after crossing the Queensboro a second time – and when I started thinking, “I’m so close to being done, why does this final stretch feel so far away?”
Final time on the clock: 2:20:10.
12p.m. – Almond milk latte
I should be used to it by now but lately my stomach has felt so twisted and rattled post-intense runs that I haven’t been able to eat (see also: Monday of this week).
The only thing on my agenda today besides the long run was meeting a friend to plan our trip to the Canadian Rockies. Thankfully, she was willing to come to Astoria from Brooklyn so I had time to shower, stretch and whine about my sore calves.
We met for coffee and I treated myself to an almond milk latte. NB: this was the first thing I was consuming since the run (besides water).
3p.m. – Snack? Lunch?
Large Energizer Monkey protein shake (spinach, kale, banana, almond milk, peanut butter, protein powder)
After seeing my friend off, I decide it’s time to eat. I’m definitely hungry at this point and want to give my body something nutritious, but digestible. I stop by a neighborhood café that has a great variety of food and drink, and settle on my favorite green-based smoothie.
7:30p.m. — Dinner
Paleo pizza with a sweet potato/cauliflower crust, hummus, ground chicken and grilled onions.
Brian spent half the day at a trade show and has dinner plans tonight, so I have the kitchen to myself. I’m usually impatient with cooking – if it takes more than 45 minutes, I don’t bother. But tonight, I patiently go through the hour-long process of making a gluten-free pizza crust. (Steam vegetables, blend, mold, bake.)
It’s really not hard, but I have yet to make a pizza that looks pretty.
11:30p.m. – Bedtime
In bed, and ready to enjoy tomorrow off from work for President’s Day.
Total Daily Mileage: 18 miles
TOTAL WEEKLY MILEAGE*: 46.68
This week was fine. That’s all. Not the most ideal, but not awful. Two takeaways worth noting, though.
First: balancing marathon training with a social life can be tricky. (Parents who are runners reading this right now, I don’t know how you do it.) I want to be dedicated to my training, but I also don’t want to say no to a fun weekend with friends. I’ve learned to try and balance both, but always understand there are consequences/sacrifices. Case in point: I can manage to make time to run during a weekend with friends in another state… it just might be on a shitty treadmill.
Second: it’s easier when you ease up on yourself. Two years ago, I would have beaten myself up for taking a day off because of a twinge in my knee, or choosing dinner with a friend over running. Not only would I have argued with myself to make more time the day, I also would have been “that guy” who went to dinner post-workout without showering, as long as it meant doing both…
I don’t regret making time for friends or taking care of my body this week. I’m dedicated to running, but I’m also flexible. I want to get my miles in, but I won’t abuse my body when it needs a break or refuse to have a social life. At the end of the day, my PR is for me, and I’m quite alright with that.
About Erin Nemeth
Erin Nemeth is a marketing strategist in the hospitality/travel world who accidentally fell in love with running ten years ago. In addition to chasing faster times ( 3:26:44 marathon PR, 1:29:41 half-marathon PR) and maintaining her sanity with running, she is a coffee-drinking, travel-planning enthusiast who excels at eating chocolate chip cookies and collecting puns.