Lessons Learned

Well friends, no surprise – it was another busy week/weekend!  This seems to be the trend lately and I’m finding myself longing for a weekend with no plans, no races and no projects to complete.  I feel like I need a break…a day to do absolutely nothing but put my feet up and relax (preferably on a beach somewhere).  Luckily, I’m taking a few days off for a stay-cation this week.  Unfortunately, there will not be a trip to the beach, but I am looking forward to making at least one of the days a “me day”.

Through all of the craziness lately, I have had a great opportunity to learn some very important lessons and for that, I am grateful.  I believe that there is a lesson to be learned in every day…whether that lesson is big or small, it is still a lesson.  Here are a few of the lessons I have learned in the last few days…

Thursday – Lessons #1 and #2:

As I mentioned in my last post, I volunteered to help pace the CARA Beginning Running 5K program and the first meeting was on Thursday.  After a busy day at work getting my boss ready for his many trips this week, I headed over to “The Foot” to meet up with the group.  Since I changed at work I thought I would be able to get there and park with plenty of time to spare.  Oh boy was I wrong!  I had completely forgotten that in the summer, Oak Park hosts a super fun event every Thursday night (“Thursday Night Out“).  It’s a very cool event and I love that the village hosts awesome events like this, but I do not love the fact that The Foot is located right in the middle of all the action which can make finding parking a challenge.  After driving in circles for 15-20 minutes, I finally found a parking spot a few blocks away and made it to The Foot with about 10 minutes to spare.

The meeting/workout was great, there were about 7-8 beginning runners, who all seemed really excited about the program and reaching their goals.  As the 5K pace leader, I had one runner to pace.  When we first met I asked her what pace she liked/felt comfortable running and she said “about 13 min/mile”.  Phew!  I was really worried that I would be holding her back with my slow (relative to my friends in the club) pace.  The workout for Thursday was 6 x .5 miles with a 1 minute walk rest between intervals.  We began the workout at a nice and easy pace, talking and getting to know each other.  We both got lost in conversation and before we knew it the workout was over and we were back at the store.  I wasn’t really paying much attention to the pace/mile feature on my Garmin, focusing instead on the mileage and lap time features to be sure we stayed on track.  After the workout was over and we did a few cool down stretches, I looked at my watch and happily reported that she had just completed 3.48 miles at an average pace of 12:18/mile!  She seemed really excited that this was her fastest run yet.  I really hope that excitement lasts and she continues to the end of the program.  She is a much better/faster runner than she thinks…she was able to easily hold a conversation with me during the workout which means that she can run much faster than even the 12:18/mile we ran together.  The lessons I learned here are:  1) I should leave work a little earlier to get home and ride my bike to The Foot on Thursdays so I don’t have to fight for parking.  2) Running with others allows us to see and reach our full potential as runners.  The power of distraction is amazing and the “talk test” is much easier to do if you actually have someone to talk to!


Stat’s for Thursday’s CARA Beginning Running Workout

Friday – Lesson #3

Friday was a pretty quiet day at work and I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to take advantage of summer hours and leave at 3:30pm.  I left work and headed to Old Town (a 10 mile drive from my house) to pick-up my race packet for the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good way to get there from my office or even from home for that matter.  I could take the highway, but I would inevitably get stuck in traffic and it would take over an hour to get there; or I could take North Avenue and run into the same problem.  I was hoping that since it was “early” I would be able to beat the rush.  Wrong!  It took me 1.5 hours to get there and another 1.5 hours to get home.  That’s right folks…1.5 hours to drive 10 miles!!!  Good thing I had some decent tunes to listen to in the car!  After getting my packet, I finally made it home and headed out for a quick one miler.  I felt good and was glad to be running instead of sitting in the car!  My lesson for Friday was:  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Sitting in traffic is annoying, but getting frustrated and anxious isn’t going to solve the problem.  It’s best to just crank the tunes and have a positive attitude…it makes it so much more enjoyable.


Stat’s for Friday Night’s Streak Run

Saturday – Lessons #4, #5 and #6

Even though I didn’t have a race, Saturday was an early morning for me.  My Mother-In-Law and I were planning to get into some trouble together!  Every year the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair comes to town and every year my Mother-In-Law takes a few classes and learns some great new crafting techniques.  This year, I decided to join her for more than just shopping.  Our first class was scheduled to begin at 10am and the festival is held about an hour North of where we live, so I planned to meet her at 8am so we could ride up together.  After some kitten play time we hit the road and arrived with a few minutes to spare so we checked out some of the goodies for sale before heading to class.  Our first class was a polymer clay class.  We learned how to design and make fun handles for silverware, crochet hooks, knitting needles, etc.  Here is a picture of my finished products (the black one was my last attempt – I finally figured out how to keep the pattern from distorting when rolling out the clay)!


In the next class I learned how to make a beaded wrap bracelet, but didn’t have time to finish it.  I will post a picture when I finish!  The process is super easy, but it does require patience.  After a little shopping we returned to our neck of the woods and I hurried home to carbo load for Sunday’s race, get my streak run in and visit with my neighbors at our block party.  I stopped and picked-up my usual pre-race Noodles & Co. Wisconsin Mac and Cheese complete with Rice Crispy Treat dessert and raced home in an attempt to take the dog out and run a mile before my food got cold.  I’m happy to report that I was successful and even got to eat with my neighbors at the block party (even though I couldn’t try any of the yummy pot luck food).  The run felt really good and even though I intended on making it a slow one due to the race in the morning, I surprised myself and pulled off a relatively quick mile with no problem at all.  I guess I was motivated to get back to my food and the party.  However, since the race was slated to begin at 6:30am, I couldn’t stay at the block party long, but it was nice to visit with everyone for an hour or two.  Lessons I learned on Saturday include:  1)  Polymer clay is super easy to work with and can be used for so many fun projects!  2)  Why pay crazy amounts of money for trendy jewelry when I can make it myself?!  3)  I am incredibly lucky to live on a block with such amazing neighbors!


Since this is a blog about my training, I have to include my stat’s for Saturday’s quick one miler.

Sunday – Lessons #7, #8, #9 and #10

I wanted to die when the alarm went off at 4am on Sunday.  We all know how bad I am about getting up in the morning and Sunday was no exception.  The only thing that got me out of bed was the fact that I needed to be out of the house no later than 5:15am to make it downtown, park and get over to the starting line of the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon before the gun went off at 6:30am.  Even though I hate getting up super early for races, this was one of the few times I was thankful for such an early start time.  After monitoring the weather for a week, I wasn’t looking forward to running my next half marathon at all.  As much as I hoped and prayed for “the perfect racing conditions” it looked like I was going to be joining thousands of my fellow runners in misery as we ran 13.1 miles on one of the hottest and muggiest days of the summer to date.  All week the weather forecast threatened high temperatures and high humidity.  I knew it was going to be bad when I received an email from the race directors indicating that the EAS (Event Alert System) status was at Red (potentially dangerous conditions) and that they recommended participants slow down and make sure we stayed well hydrated.  I was feeling hopeful and optimistic when I arrived downtown to an overcast sky, a nice lake breeze and a comfortable 70 degrees.  Even though it was really humid, I was praying that the clouds would stick around so we wouldn’t have to deal with the 90% direct sun exposure I was afraid of, since I knew the course offered very little in the way of shade.  I really wasn’t expecting much since I knew the heat and humidity would make it hard for me (I tend to overheat VERY easily), but I was hoping for at least a 2:30:00 finish.  I also decided that as long as I ran 7 miles (marathon training long run for the weekend) I could run/walk the rest if I had to.

The race started promptly at 6:30am and I felt great through mile one.  I tried to hold back and keep my pace at a nice and easy 11:20-11:30/mile, and was surprised when my watch indicated my first mile was a 9:42 (shoot!).  I lost satellite signal for a little bit as we ran through the tunnel on Columbus to Wacker so I wasn’t sure how fast/slow I was going until it was too late.  I immediately slowed it down a bit and still felt really good well into mile five (despite the clouds burning off somewhere around mile two), still struggling to slowing my pace at each split until I finally got to the magical 11:15/mi in mile five.  By then I was starting to get really hot and could feel my singlet sticking to my back from all of the sweat dripping off of me.  I was also starting to notice a stinging pain coming from my armpit area.  Oh no…it couldn’t be the dreaded chaffing I’ve heard so much about but have been lucky enough to never experience!  It most certainly was…and I wasn’t looking forward to what would become of my pit over the next 7 miles.  I also started to feel a twinge from the big toe on my right foot.  The same spot that a huge blister developed on during my last half marathon (double shoot!).  There was really nothing I could do, so I tried to ignore it the best I could and move on.

Mile 6 was a little slower (12:47) since I stopped to walk while I ate an energy gel, and wash it down with some Gatorade and water, but my 10K split was still a respectable 1:10:16 (11:19/mi pace).  By the time I made it to the turn around in mile 7 I was starting to fade fast.  The breeze that was helping me through the first half of the race was now at my back and I couldn’t really feel it anymore, plus it seemed like every cloud in the sky had disappeared.  The sun was beating on me and the elephant was starting to sit on my chest so I took a puff off of my inhaler and shuffled along.  In an attempt to motivate myself, I decided to give the 8 mile marker a “high five” as I passed it…5 miles to go…ugh.  Shortly after that I felt my first heat goosebumps appear.  Luckily, I have only experienced this phenomenon twice before – once while running a 5K race in May last year during a heat wave (it was 80 degrees with direct sunlight the entire race) and once while training for a 10K in the middle of summer under a heat advisory (I think it was one of those crazy 100 degree days last summer).  Either way, I knew it wasn’t good and it was a sign of impending danger.  Since I was already run/walking I decided to lengthen my walk breaks.  The new plan was to walk a quarter mile and jog the remaining 3/4 mile for each split.  That plan worked well for all of about 2 miles when the goosebumps got really bad and I noticed that I wasn’t sweating anymore.  Instead, my skin was dry with a thin layer of salt…no bueno.  Even though I had downed a water and a Gatorade at each aid station I had managed to become dehydrated.

The last few miles were pure torture.  I have never wanted to give up on something so bad in all of my life.  Between the goosebumps, the nausea from the heat combined with Gatorade/water/energy gel slosh stomach and the new chafing situation going on thanks to the seam on the shorts under my run skirt, I wanted to find a nice shady spot to curl up in and take a nap.  Even though I wanted to give up, I trudged forward and finished the race in 2:43:09…not the time I was hoping for, but at least I finished.  I was one of the lucky ones.  Toward the end of the race I noticed that participants were starting to drop like flies.  Several were even taken away by ambulance…I hope they are all OK!

I have to say that this race was the absolute hardest race I have run in my life to date.  Even though my time was awful, I am still happy that I saw it through to the end and I feel so blessed that I CAN run.  The lessons I learned during this race are:  1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  2)  Listen to your body.  I thought goosebumps in the warm weather was odd and probably a warning sign, but I didn’t realize how serious it was until I got home and looked it up.  I really should have stopped running altogether when I got the goosebumps and realized I wasn’t sweating anymore.  I’m very lucky I didn’t end up with heat stroke and in serious trouble.  3) Thanks to my first ever chafing experience, I know where I will need to apply Body Glide before long runs and the big race.  4)  It is important to recognize and celebrate achievements, even if they fall short of our expectations.  We are our toughest critics and I really need to work on seeing and celebrating the positives instead of focusing on the negative (i.e. celebrate the fact that I finished a half marathon on a crazy hot and humid day and not focus on the missed 2:30:00 finish time).

Chicago Women's Half Marathon Stats

Chicago Women’s Half Marathon Stats

Monday – Lessons #11 and #12

Today was just your ordinary work day…except half the office was either traveling on business or taking some well deserved personal time.  Given the fact that I was absolutely wiped out after the race yesterday, and the fact that my lovely pup decided it was time to go for a walk at 4:45am this morning, the quiet office made it hard to focus.  Thanks to several caffeinated beverages I was able to be a relatively productive employee today, but was glad when 5pm finally rolled around.  I left the office and sped home in the hopes of beating the severe thunderstorm that was quickly approaching.  I got within 3 miles of home and the sky opened up.  The wind was so strong…it reminded me of the tropical storm and hurricane remnants I experienced while living in Florida.  I just prayed that I would be able to get home without a tree branch crashing down on my car.  Luckily, I made it home without incident, but a car parked two doors down didn’t weather the storm too well.  A tree branch fell from the tree above and went straight through the driver’s side of the windshield.  Good thing the owner’s were not waiting out the storm in the car!!!

Shortly after I arrived home and took the dog for her walk, my Mother-In-Law arrived so we could go pay our respects to my neighbors (she also knows them) who both lost their mother’s on Friday.  We walked down to the house, gave our condolences and stayed through a short service.  Afterward we said our goodbyes and I prepared for a short run that served no purpose other than to keep the streak alive.  Between the giant blister on my big toe, the lingering headache from yesterday, my chaffed inner thighs and a sore hammie, I was less than motivated to run quickly.  Since I ran a half marathon yesterday, today really should have been a rest day, so I don’t feel bad about one slow mile nor will I feel bad about slower training runs this week.  I put a lot of stress on my body yesterday, and it deserves a little bit of a break to heal.  The lessons I learned today are:  1) Tell the people you love that you love them, and tell them often.  2) It’s important to rest and give your body an opportunity to heal properly even if that means keeping a slower pace for a few days.

Tonight's Streak Mile

Tonight’s Streak Mile



Miles to Date: 75.33

Consecutive Days:  29

Miles to Goal:  54.67

Days Remaining:  10



5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. For some reason my feed reader isn’t showing your posts anymore! I wonder why not. I’ll have to investigate. ANYWAY, I had a very similar experience to your half at the Chicago Marathon in 2010. When I saw Geri at the mile 18 aid station with the Club she noticed my goosebumps, handed me water, and told me to get going but take it easy. You did play it smart by taking longer walk breaks. Are you a salty sweater? If so, maybe you should experiment with salt tabs. It’s something I keep meaning to do and then forgetting.

    • Strange…I’ve been missing some posts in my feed reader too. I must be a salty sweater, I never really noticed before Sunday though. I was pretty “gritty” when I noticed I wasn’t sweating anymore. I will pick up some salt tabs when I go pick up my packet for the 4 on the 4th tomorrow. Are you planning on running that one?

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