Halloween Hustle 5K Recap

That’s right folks…one Halloween themed race is and never will be enough!  Besides, after my disappointing experience at the Monster Dash and thinking about my upcoming races, I wanted to try my hardest for a shiny new 5K PR before the end of the year.  I have only one or two more timed 5K’s on my race calendar before the end of the year, one being the Hot Chocolate 5K this weekend and possibly a local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day.  The Hot Chocolate is not a good race for PR’s since it is so crowded (last year I ended up spending the first mile running on a sidewalk to get around the crowds) and the local Turkey Trot I’m planning to do is a little “short”.  Since the Halloween Hustle was a CARA circuit race, I knew it wouldn’t turn into a costume parade and would be a good opportunity to push myself for a PR.  Plus, a few of my run club friends would be running so I was guaranteed to have a good time no matter what!

After some hemming and hawing, I finally decided to sign up for the race at the eleventh hour, just barely making it before the online registration window closed Friday afternoon.  Knowing I wouldn’t have time to buy or make a new costume, I pulled out the pumpkin suit again and headed across the street for my block “book club” meeting.  Not wanting to be late for book club, I opted to skip my usual pre-race dinner of Noodles & Company Wisconsin Mac & Cheese, thinking I would find something to munch on there, or worst case, I would find something when I got home.  Oops!  I got caught up in good conversation with my neighbors and didn’t munch on a single thing!  I then lost track of time and before I knew it, it was after 9:30pm.  I knew I had to get up early the next morning so I said my goodbyes, went home, ate a Rice Krispie treat and went to bed.

I was surprised when I woke up the next morning at 5:30am and didn’t have my usual pre-race stomach.  Maybe this skipping dinner thing was a better idea than I thought?  Having laid out my gear the night before, I was ready to go with plenty of time left, so I took my time packing my bag and headed out the door.  I met my run club friends at our usual car pool meet-up spot and we began our trek to Palatine, a roughly 45 minute ride from Oak Park.  We were able to find the race location easily and I was pleased that we were able to park in the parking garage for free.  Packet pick-up was located on the lower level of the parking garage, which was also nice, since it was a bit chilly and the wind seemed to go right though me.  They also offered race day registration, which appeared to be super fast and painless.  Our goodie bag consisted of a nice long sleeve tech tee (unisex), a reusable shopping bag and a few flyers including one for their upcoming Santa Hustle (so sad I won’t be in town for that one this year).


About 10 minutes before start time, we walked to the start line which was conveniently located only a block away from the garage.  The race started on time and before I knew it I was on my way to a potential PR.  I planned to keep the pace around 9:15 or 9:30/per mile and was surprised when my Garmin beeped at mile 1 with an 8:48 mile and I still felt good.  Somewhere around mile 1.5 I started to get a stitch in my side and could feel my breathing being thrown off as I attempted to struggle through it.  That darn stitch stuck with me for the rest of race and I pretty much hated life until I saw the 3 mile marker, but I’m happy to say that I didn’t give up and let Negative Nancy take over.  Thank goodness for my run buddies Jessica and Julie…they really helped me keep focused and pushed me to keep going when I really wanted to dial back the effort, or lets be honest, grind to a screeching halt.  We turned the corner into the final stretch and I dug deep for any remaining energy to sprint it in.

I crossed the finish line feeling elated that I had set a new PR, but the awful “I just raced a 5K and feel like I’m going to get sick” feeling that arrived shortly thereafter wouldn’t allow me to celebrate for too long.  After I finally got myself back together, I looked at my Garmin and realized that not only had a I set a new PR, I had finally blown my old high school cross country time out of the water!!!  Here are my stats:

Halloween Hustle

Overall, I thought this race was great and I will definitely be back next year.  It was well organized, reasonably priced and fun.  Here is a quick review:


  • Cost – $33.28 (day before the race) with a $5 CARA discount. – Great value!
  • Online, fax, mail or in person day of. – Super convenient!

Packet Pick-Up:

  • Several opportunities for those who are local.  Luckily, for those of us who don’t live so close, they also offered race day packet pick-up.
  • Race day packet pick-up was fast and well organized by last name.


  • Reusable shopping bag doubled as our goodie bag.  Participants also received a nice long sleeve tech tee (unisex).
  • Free parking.  – Always a plus!
  • Gear check was scary at first (they used giant boxes), but they found my friends vest very quickly and without issue.

The Course:

  • Flat and fast looped course.  Pavement was well maintained.  A lot of turns though.
  • For a course entirely within residential streets, there was surprisingly VERY little spectator support.
  • Not one, but TWO aid stations offering water and Gatorade. – Probably a little overkill for a 5K in the fall, but appreciated nonetheless.
  • Start and finish lines conveniently located within a block of the parking garage.
  • Finish line had bottled water, Kind Bars, bananas and soft pretzels.

The Field:

  • Definitely a smaller race for a CARA circuit race.  According to the official results, there were only 911 finishers.
  • Lots of speedy runners and lots of great costumes!

Until next time, happy running and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!  Candy Security is on duty tonight in Oak Park.  Zoe says “No costumes, no candy!”  🙂



Trusting the Taper

What an amazingly inspirational, confidence building and scary week it has been!  When I last wrote I was making a slow recovery from a lovely head cold and upper respiratory infection.  I’m happy to report that as I write this, the head congestion is completely gone, I have my voice back, and my cough has significantly improved.  I was really worried about being sick during this very important week of training and was nervous that if I wasn’t able to run (or made myself even sicker by running through the illness) I wouldn’t be fully prepared come race day.  Thankfully, I was able to complete most of my runs (more on that below).

As much as I have thought about quitting a zillion times during this training, running a marathon has been a lifelong goal of mine, and the thought of failing when I’m this close to realizing my goal makes me want to try even harder to ensure that I am successful.  Through successful runs, this week has given me the boost in confidence I was hoping for.  Yes, I’m still incredibly nervous about “the big day”, but I know I can do it.  I’m going into this with only one goal…to finish.  I don’t care how long it takes me, I just want to run the whole thing (only walking through aid stations) and I want to finish strong.  I don’t know if I will ever run another marathon (or if I’ll even want to), but I will save time goals for the future.  This race is to prove to myself that I can do whatever I set my mind to.

Training for and running a marathon is no easy task.  It takes incredible amounts of mental and physical toughness, dedication, and perseverance.  I never realized how little I knew about running, especially long distances, until I started training for this marathon.  I have learned so much over the last few months.  I have learned what it takes to train for and run long distances, including nutrition, hydration, gear, etc.  I have learned that my body can handle so much more than I ever thought it was capable of.  I have learned that, for me, successfully covering long distances is more of a mental challenge than it is physical.  I have learned the skills needed to quiet the negative Nancy in my head that yells and screams at me, telling me that I’m weak, that I can’t do this, that I should just give up.  This has been an experience of a lifetime and I am forever changed.  I am stronger because of this, both mentally and physically, and I cannot wait to cross that finish line in a just over two short weeks!

Here is how my training has gone this week:

Wednesday, September 18th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

As I drove home from work, it began to rain.  I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to go for a 5 mile run in the rain, given I was still pretty congested and my cough hadn’t improved much, but after walking the dog, it looked like the sun was trying to peak out from behind the clouds and the rain had slowed to a drizzle so I decided to give it a shot.  The goal was to run the entire 5 miles without stopping for a walk break.  As soon as I geared up and walked out the front door, I heard a clap of thunder in the distance.  Looking up at the sky, I thought the storm was far enough North that I would be OK.  I walked to the end of the block and began running.  At the quarter mile mark it started to sprinkle and by the time I got to the half mile mark it was full fledged pouring.  Taking cover under a garage awning, I pulled out my phone and looked at the radar.  The storm that appeared to be so far North, was growing and moving Southeast pretty quickly.  After a quick call to my husband, I decided I should get home as fast as possible and finish my workout on the elliptical (evil machine, as I like to call it).  I have never run so fast in all my life.  The rain continued to come down in buckets and the lightening was getting closer and closer.  After what seemed to be an eternity, I reached my front steps, and just in time.  As soon as I reached the top step I saw a flash and then there was an immediate crack of thunder.  Phew…that was a close one!  My heart was in my throat and I was glad to be home safely.  It was a good thing I didn’t try to wait it out, the storm lasted for quite a while.  All told, I got a mile run in, and ended up doing 4 more miles on the elliptical.  I know the elliptical isn’t exactly the same as running, but it got my heart rate up and my legs moving.  Here are my stats for the 1 miler:


Thursday, September 19th (Mid-Week Long Run – 10 Miles):

I planned to meet a run club friend for some much needed catch-up/girl time after work today, which meant that I had to get up early to get my run in before work.  When the alarm went off at 4:30am I seriously considered staying in bed, but after some hemming and hawing I was successful in guilting myself into getting up, since it was such an important week in my training and all.  After walking the dog, I loaded myself into the car and somehow made it out to Oak Brook through my sleepy “it’s too early” haze.  By the time I got to the office I was awake and ready to spend some quality time with my new bud, the treadmill.  The run went well and I felt really strong, just a little bored the first half of the run, since I couldn’t really hear the TV and I don’t like to read while I’m running (I’m really susceptible to motion sickness from reading while bouncing).  Anyway, I started the run at a nice and easy pace, gradually picking it up the last few miles.  Here are my stats:


Sunday, September 22nd (Long Run – The Big 20!):

I have to admit, I was more than a bit nervous about being able to complete this run, given my bad 18 miler experience, but I really needed this run to be “good” in order to boost my confidence for race day.  At the advice of my runner friends, and looking for a little company to help me through my longest run, I decided I would join the Chicago Area Runner’s Association (CARA) in their annual 20 mile fully supported training run.  For the bargain basement price of $38 (for CARA members) you get a fully supported training run that includes pace group leaders, multiple aid stations (water/Gatorade and one with Power Gel), gear check, a finish area celebration complete with a free beer and a finisher’s technical tee.  This was hands down, the easiest and best decision I have made with regard to marathon training yet.

What an amazingly awesome day this was!  I awoke to an absolutely perfect morning.  Low humidity and temperatures forecast to be in the 50’s and 60’s had me excited to get this run under way.  I arrived on-site with plenty of time to park, get to the race site and check my bag.  I was able to quickly locate my pace group leaders (I went with 12 min/mile since this was a training run and I wanted to prove to myself that I could run the whole thing without using intervals, plus I was unsure of myself after my difficult 18 miler), and we began chatting about the upcoming run and the best way to stay warm while waiting for the start on race day (she suggested a garbage bag or Tyvek painters suit).  Before we knew it, it was time to get started.  We lined up, said hello to other group mates and we were off.  I quickly found a buddy to chat with and we hit it off right away.  We chatted about everything from running to family and before we knew it 6 miles had flown by.  The rest of the run was much the same, slow and steady, I chatted with group members and leaders alike to keep my mind busy and off the miles I had left to run.  We even got a good laugh when we came upon a small two-seater airplane that had performed an emergency landing on Lakeshore Drive earlier that morning (thankfully, nobody was injured!) and about a mile later we saw the Oscar Meyer Wiener vehicle.  It was like we were playing long run bingo.  Oh the things you see!

The bottom line is, I felt great for this entire run.  I never felt winded and my legs were strong the whole way.  I am proud to say that I was able to easily run this 20 miler in its entirety (except quick walks through the aid stations to down a gel or a cup of water) and it was awesome.  I even had enough energy to pick up the pace a bit on the back half of the run and finished by sprinting up a hill and across the finish line…a far cry from the agony and defeat I felt just two weeks earlier at the end of my 18 mile run.  Sure, after “running” for 20 miles and pounding the pavement for almost 4 hours, my legs were tired and sore, I just never felt like I couldn’t go a step farther.  A HUGE confidence booster!  Also, I’m sure it was due to the slower pace, but I only ate 4 gels during this run and never really felt like I was running out of gas, and I didn’t experience the stomach cramping this time either.  Super YAY!  The only “bad” thing about this run was the beating my feet took.  I didn’t realize the extent of the damage until I got home and took my shoes off.  Apparently my sock had slipped below my ankle on my left foot, which lead to some pretty ugly chaffing.  My right foot fared much worse though.  I got my usual blister on my big toe, only this time the blister formed under the callus leading to a beautiful blood blister (can you sense my sarcasm?).  Luckily, the calluses on the top of my second and third toes saved my toenails from too much damage, but they sure were sore for a few days!

Overall, this was a great experience and helped me to get a better idea of what I should do on race day.  I now have a plan for race day, and am really looking forward to experiencing the Chicago Marathon and everything it has to offer.  Here are my stats:


Tuesday, September 24th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

It was another early morning for me today.  Knowing I had a 6pm appointment and wouldn’t get home until late, I decided I would get up early to get my run in before getting ready for work.  Since this run was just an easy 5 miler (hard to believe that just a few months ago, 5 miles was just shy of a long run), I decided to hit the streets of Oak Park instead of heading to work and running on the treadmill.  Luckily, the dog got me up at 4am so I had plenty of time to eat something before heading out.  I tried a PowerBar Performance Energy Blend (Apply Mango Strawberry flavor) for the first time, and I’m in love.  It was delicious and sat well in my stomach, leaving me with a fulfilled but light feeling.  The run went REALLY well, surprisingly well actually.  After running 20 miles just a day and a half before, I thought my legs would be tired and sore for sure.  Surprisingly, they felt great and again, everything just seemed to click.  My breathing was right on and I even managed to run negative splits (and the whole thing without stopping!).  It’s amazing what a good long run can do for breaking down mental barriers!  Here are my stats:


Wednesday, September 25th (Mid-Week Long Run – 8 Miles):

Another solid run in the books!  The weather was great again this week, which is helping me get through runs a lot easier these days.  The low humidity and cooler temperatures really seem to help keep my breathing in line.  I felt pretty good again for this run.  Not nearly as good as I did on Tuesday’s run, but overall pretty decent.  Because this was a longer run, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t go out too fast and run out of gas after a few miles so I kept the pace nice and even at around 10:30 min/mile for a good majority of the run, choosing to pick up the pace for the last three miles if I felt good.  Happily, despite running consistently (no more intervals!) at this pace, I still felt good for the last three miles and ran negative splits for those miles (10:14, 10:12 and 9:45).  My legs were a little on the tired side today though.  Here are my stats:


Friday, September 27th (Easy Run – 4 Miles):

Tonight was another good run for me.  It was a bit warmer today (close to 80°F), but not humid which helped to keep my breathing in line.  I felt pretty good as I set out on this run, a little tired, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  About a mile into the run my legs decided that they were going to rebel and give me trouble.  My quads felt heavy and my shins were sore, causing negative Nancy to make an appearance.  Instead of focusing on my uncooperative legs, I pushed through and forced myself to focus on and enjoy my surroundings instead (the trees are starting to change!).  I was so focused on everything but my legs, I couldn’t tell you when they decided to wake up, but they did!  The last two miles or so of my run felt effortless and I finished with a smile.  Here are my stats:


So this week was the official start of my taper.  They say that it is important to “trust the taper” and your training program.  I’m beginning to get a little stir crazy and as my mileage decreases, and have already worked out my post marathon training plan in anticipation for my next half marathon in January.  I am also getting more and more nervous as the big day approaches.  I got my official participant guide in the mail on Wednesday and just about hyperventilated when I saw it.  downloadThis is becoming very real for me, and I am wavering between confidence and fear of failure as the day draws closer and closer.  Last night was girls night out (GNO) with my run club friends.  It’s always nice to spend time with these ladies, but having an opportunity to express my hopes, fears and share encouraging words with other runners and friends, who have been through this before, helped ease some of my fears a bit.  By the time I left the gathering last night, I felt ready to take this monster goal head on, knowing that I had all of those lovely ladies standing behind me, just as I stand behind them as they strive to reach their goals.  Thank you for all of your support OPRC girls…and to those running Chicago with me, best of luck, you will do great!!!

While running my 20 miler last weekend, I found myself thinking about the movie Spirit of the Marathon.  When I first watched the film many months ago, I found it to be incredibly inspiring.  Being the dork that I am, I found myself tearing up and literally screaming at the computer screen, cheering Deena Kastor to the finish.  I remember thinking that I would surely break down in tears at the finish line, my body crumbling into a heap.  As the day approaches, I wonder what the finish line has in store for me.  Will I break down in tears, or will I cross the finish line the same way I crossed the line of the 20 miler…calm, encouraged, and happy?  Whatever the day has in store for me, I am growing more and more excited.  That being said, I leave you with this great Chicago Marathon inspirational video I found while perusing YouTube today (look at all that spectator support…awesome!!!).

That will be me in a little over two weeks…eeek!!!  Until next time, happy running everyone!

CARA Beginning Running Program and Chicago 10K Race Recap

After a nice weekend of good food and good friends (more on that in my next post), I woke up to a nasty sinus infection on Monday and have finally gotten myself together enough to finally post my recap of the CARA Beginning Running program and the Chicago 10K, as promised.  So without further adieu :)…

CARA Beginning Running Program – Group Leader Recap:

What can I say, the last 8 weeks have been a total blast!  As a group leader for the 5K group, I had a unique opportunity to not only make a new friend, but to help this friend reach an important goal and even surpass her own running related expectations.

When I first met “S” on our first Thursday night group meet-up, I was excited to help someone discover their love for running and honestly, it felt good to “give back”.  At the same time, I was incredibly nervous that I would be holding her back since I’m not even close to being considered a “fast” runner.  I was relieved when “S” indicated she currently ran a 13 min/mile pace, but after our first run together, I knew she had the capability to go MUCH faster than that (we ran a 11:52 min/mile pace that night).  From the first group run, “S” seemed to be excited about running her very first 5K, but not very confident in her natural running abilities.  Over our 8 weeks together, “S” was game to try whatever pace or however many miles we threw at her, always accepting with a smile.  She was very dedicated to the program – we even met up on an extremely hot Tuesday night to run together on a week she knew she wouldn’t be able to make it to the Thursday group run.  I am happy to report that by the end of our 8 weeks together, “S” was able to complete a 6 mile run with ease and improved her pace from 13 min/mile to…drum roll please…10:28 min/miles for a 4 mile run!  She’s a natural!  🙂  For someone who has never run before, this kind of improvement in only 8 weeks is amazing to me!  Not only is “S” ready to run her first 5K, she could easily run a 10K too!  Way to go “S”!!!

The program itself was fantastic from start to finish.  We had a bit of a slow start due to lack of enrollment, and we had a few weeks “off” due to crazy Chicago weather (severe thunderstorm one week and extreme heat another) and a holiday (4th of July), but our group runs were typically very well attended and the guest speakers were wonderful.  During the program, we were given presentations on proper pre- and post-run stretching and injury prevention, nutrition and hydration, gear (running shoes, socks, etc.) and even had an opportunity to test “drive” new versions of the most popular Saucony running shoes before they even hit store shelves.  The information conveyed was very valuable for beginning runners and a great reminder for those of us who may have become complacent (ah hem…yeah, that would be me).  We were also treated to a very yummy post-run dinner treat from Noodles and Company along with some coupons for free meals…bonus!!!

I really wish I had known about this program when I began running again 2 years ago.  The information conveyed was very helpful and the training program they provided was fantastic.  The 5K training program was similar to many of the other 5K training programs out there, but much more advanced than the C25K program I used, with only one week of run/walk workouts as opposed to several weeks in C25K.  Overall, I think this training program is great, but I would not suggest it for someone who has not engaged in cardiovascular exercise recently.  Luckily, under the Beginning Running program umbrella, CARA also provides two levels of run/walk training which would be a great starting point (and almost exactly like the C25K program I used) in addition to the 5K and 10K options.

The bottom line is, I would HIGHLY recommend this program to any runner (or potential runner) that is looking to get started, run a faster 5K, train for a 10K or even run a faster 10K).  The price is reasonable at $52 for CARA members or $76 for non-members.  I know I am seriously considering using a CARA program as I strive to reach my next running related goal.  Lastly, if you are considering membership in CARA, stop considering and just do it!  Membership comes with so many perks that the yearly fee practically pays for itself!  Perks include race discounts, a free subscription to Runner’s World magazine, discounts at local retailers and service providers and so much more.

Chicago 10K Race Recap:

As a general rule of thumb, I tend to stay away from summer racing, mainly because I overheat very easily and as a result, my times are usually much slower than my spring/fall/winter races, making for a lovely string of PW’s from late June to mid-September.  However, I am trying to do at least one “real” race every month this year.  I blew that goal out of the water pretty early in the year when I came down with Mono in February, but I am determined to keep going through the remainder of the year and have been successful every month since.  I was already registered to do the Hell Run on August 31st, but needed a real race for August and when I saw a few of my run club friends and one of the CARA Beginning Running 10K participants were registered for the Chicago 10K, I thought I would give it a shot, despite the chance of a sweltering summer day race.

The registration process was great – super fast and easy, a little on the pricier side, but that is my fault for waiting until the last minute to register.  When registering, they also gave you the option to choose either a free cotton shirt or pay an extra $5 for a gender specific tech tee.  The shirt design wasn’t too bad so I opted for the tech tee, but now I wish I hadn’t.  The material is more like the silky unbreathable, stick to your skin when you sweat tees than a true breathable wicking tech tee.  Oh well, at least I have a new loud (black with fluorescent green lettering) shirt to wear on the weekend!  🙂  The design is pretty cool though, with the Hancock building making an appearance in the lettering on the front and a bright fluorescent green “FINISHER” scrawled across the back.

Moving on to race day, the weather was forecast to be a typical Chicago summer day – mid-80’s, semi-humid and a little bit of a breeze.  When I arrived at the “L” station at 6am to meet my run club friends, the weather was perfect…not too hot and not too humid.  By the time we got downtown it was starting to heat up a bit and I began to wonder why they chose an 8am start time for a summer race along the Chicago Lakefront path.  As many of you know, I have a love/hate relationship with the Lakefront path.  I love it in the spring, fall and winter, but I HATE it in the summer.  It’s not the amount of non-racing people on the path that bothers me (though the cyclists could stand to take a chill pill and stop screaming at us racers who paid good money to be running on the path…a simple “on your left” or “excuse me” would be sufficient), it is more the total lack of shade that throws me for a loop in the summer.  That being said, the view is beautiful and the lake breeze can help a bit, at least for part of the race, but in the summer, I would really like to see a much earlier start time, more like 6:30am or 7am depending on the length of the race.  In this case, I think a 7am start would have been perfect.

Another thing that really surprised me about this race was the lack of Gatorade or a similar sport drink.  When I got to the first aid station I was surprised to see that there was no Gatorade.  Given that this was not only a “longer” race but a late starting summer race, I thought that, for sure, Gatorade would be offered at the aid stations.  When I didn’t see any at the first aid station I assumed it was to save on costs and expected to see it at the mid-point station at least.  Imagine my surprise when the next two aid stations didn’t have Gatorade either.  I was even more surprised when I finally crossed the finish line, legs cramping up from sweating out so much salt, to find out that there was again, no Gatorade!  Really, not even at the finish of a 6 mile race?!  The finish line area consisted of a bottle of water, the biggest finisher medal I have even seen (more on that in a minute), granola bars, fruit snack packets and bananas.  I was pretty disappointed, but at least the bananas weren’t cut in half!  Though I cannot speak for anyone but myself, I think a lot of other runners had a similar reaction to the heat and sun exposure, as there was a whole lot of run/walking going on around me, and considering I finished in the middle of the pack with close to a PW time, which is pretty unusual for a well attended (2,612 finishers) Chicago race.  All whining aside, I have to commend the volunteers, they did a fantastic job keeping everything moving smoothly (from packet pick-up to the finish line) and provided a lot of encouraging words along the way.  Way to go volunteers!!

Now, lets discuss the finisher’s medal.  There are some who believe finisher’s medals should be reserved for “harder” races, like the half-marathon, marathon, ultra marathon, etc.  It seems like in the last year finisher’s medals have become so popular they are almost expected at every race of any distance…almost like the little league “everyone gets a trophy, even if your team didn’t win” mentality of late.  I have to agree, to some extent.  Sure, getting a finisher’s medal is fun and like a little kid, I want to wear it home so everyone can see it as I wear my “that’s right, I just ran a race…and finished” smile…except sometimes when I hang up a 5K finisher’s medal next to a half marathon finisher’s medal it feels like I cheated…like it’s not worthy enough to be hung up with the rest of the “big” ones.  I worked so hard to get that half marathon finisher’s medal, but barely broke a sweat in the 5K and I am rewarded with a medal?  It just feels like cheating sometimes.  Anyway, I’m fairly confident that the bulk of the registration fee for this race went to the awesome Flavor Flav like finisher’s medal.  This has got to be the BIGGEST medal I have EVER seen!!!  Seriously, it is twice the size of a “normal” medal and weighs about twice as much too!  Even though I was disappointed with the start time, lack of Gatorade, selection of post-race treats and most of all, my time (obviously not their fault); I was pretty impressed with this medal.  It is a bit over the top, but it is really fun and the Chicago references (“L” car etched behind the 10K) are awesome.  I just wish I had a better time to go along with it so I didn’t feel like a cheater again.  Once again I have been rewarded for a mediocre performance, but I guess the medal is right…I did finish…and for that I should be proud and thankful!

In summary, I think this race could easily be one of my favorites, with a few small tweaks:

1)  Earlier Start Time


3)  Salty Snack at the Finish

Chicago 10K

The “Flavor Flav” Finisher’s Medal!

Halfway There

Well friends, I have made it to the half way point of my training schedule!  As the mileage keeps increasing, I am getting more and more nervous and excited for “the big day”, but I am also becoming more confident that I will be able to complete the distance. 

Unfortunately, this week was a rough week for me and I stumbled a bit yesterday, allowing an opportunity for Negative Nancy to come out of her corner yelling and screaming that “I’m crazy, I can’t do this…I’m so slow, I should just give up…I’m crafty, not athletic – I should just stick to running (jogging) for fitness and stay away from races”.  Thank goodness for my awesome husband, he was able to talk some sense into me and make me realize that it’s not about how fast and how far others go, it’s about bettering MYSELF and achieving the goals I set for myself.  Occasionally I need to step back and focus more on the progress I have made in the last two years and stop comparing myself and my abilities to others.  The bottom line is this…like a Greyhound, I was born to be a sprinter not an endurance runner.  I have never been “fast” when it comes to running long distances (my old high school 5K PR is 27:46…just 10 seconds faster than my current 5K PR) and I have overcome bad habits and a serious injury to get where I am today.  The fact that I have gone from not running at all to tackling a marathon (something only 0.5% of the US population has done [Source]) in only two years is something to be proud of.  I also have a passion for running, I really do love it.  Through running I have been able to shake off a bad day, make awesome new friends, live a healthier life and give back to the communities I am a part of.  Just because others are faster than me or can run farther without needing a walk break doesn’t mean I should quit.  In fact, I have so many more reasons to keep going than I do for quitting…so staying the course is what I will do, for as long as I can, for as fast as I can, and for as far as I can!

Now…here is how my training went this week:

Thursday – 8/1/13 (Easy Run – 6 Miles):

We are nearing the end of the CARA Beginning Running program and I couldn’t be prouder of my 5K running buddy.  She is gaining confidence in her abilities and is happy to push the envelope with every run.  After last week’s 5.5 mile run, I was hoping I didn’t push her too far too fast and that she would recover quickly.  I was happy to hear that she wasn’t sore at all and was willing to try a 6 mile run tonight!  The 5.5 miles we ran last week was the farthest she has ever run, so she was a little unsure of herself and her ability to run 6 miles, but was able to complete the run easily.  We kept to a nice and easy pace and finished the run strong.  It was pretty hot and humid, but carrying a water bottle helped us to stay hydrated and the slower pace helped me to get through without expending all of my energy and bonking after mile 4.  The stats for our run are sandwiched between my bike ride to and from The Foot below:


Friday – 8/2/13 (Rest):

In an attempt to prepare for my scheduled long run the following day, I took full advantage of my rest day today and made sure I carbed up!  For lunch, I ordered a pizza to share with some coworkers and even indulged in an ice cream sandwich for my late afternoon snack.  After work, I had the pleasure of visiting with my favorite furry babies (my in-law’s kittens) and on the way home I stopped for my favorite carbo loading meal – Noodles & Co. Wisconsin Mac & Cheese with Rice Krispie Treat for dessert.  Overall, it was a day full of rest, indulgence and calories, but I didn’t feel too guilty knowing what was in store for me the next day!

Saturday – 8/3/13 (Long Run – 13 Miles):

Ah, the dreaded long run.  Lately, I have been feeling anxious before my long runs, but after last week’s failed Saturday attempt I was especially anxious.  When the alarm went off at 4:45am I groaned and seriously considered just going back to sleep, but knew that I wouldn’t have the luxury of a fallback run on Sunday because we already had plans.  I rolled out of bed, ate my CLIF bar and promptly passed out on the couch.  When I finally woke up at 6:30am, I panicked, got dressed, gathered my gear and was out the door in record time. 

The run itself went well.  I finally received my box of energy gels so I made sure I was armed with 4 gels this time, along with 2 bottles of Gatorade and my handheld full of regular water.  I felt great through the first 10 miles of the run, stopping to eat my gels at mile markers 3, 6 and 9.  By mile 11 I felt fine, but was just mentally spent and just wanted to get the rest of the run over with, so I ate another gel and moved forward.  Because I have been doing my long runs under my interval plan, I set up a workout on my Garmin, figuring 23 reps would be enough.  Wrong!  My Garmin started singing me a happy song indicating that my workout was complete at 12.89 miles, but I wasn’t so happy…I still had a bit to go!  I reset my watch and decided to give it another quarter mile, just to see what my half marathon time (and subsequently full marathon time) would be if I ran a race like this.  Under 2:30:00 for the half…another goal achieved!  I’m hoping to be able to just finish the marathon, but I have a “goal” time of 5:30:00 in mind, which I should be able to achieve if I keep training at this pace.  I’m keeping my expectations low to avoid disappointment in case I hit “the wall” hard, suffer a mental roadblock, the weather is hot/humid, or some other variable derails my race.  Anyway, I was happy with this run and didn’t feel nearly as sore afterward as I did last week.  Here are my stats (the calories burned is off because I had my Garmin set to cycling and had to manually change it to running after uploading the data…I burned WAY more than that!):


Sunday – 8/4/13 (60 Mins of Cross-training):

Yeah, I did absolutely NO cross-training today (unless a brief panicked swim to catch my camera before it floated downstream counts), but I did have a lot of fun!  Today I went on a really fun Living Social Adventure, the BYOB River Tubing and Taco Bar, with my husband, brother-in-law and a few friends from work.  What a blast!!  We did this adventure last year too, but that is a really long and funny story for another time (there was a torrential downpour and a redneck wedding – horses included), but this year was a thousand times better.  The weather was perfect and the company was even better!  I can’t wait for next summer to do it again…without Living Social and the internal eye rolling it induces though.  The only plus to doing this through Living Social is that transportation to/from is included, which makes the BYOB part a little more enjoyable (unless someone on your bus decides that drinking champagne in the sun and then eating tacos is a good idea…yeah, not so much).  Oh, and next year I will wear sunscreen (ouchie)!

Monday – 8/5/13 (Rest Day):

According to my training plan, Monday’s are supposed to be a rest day so I wasn’t too upset when I realized I had an appointment after work, meaning I wouldn’t have time to run when I got home.  The only downside to not running today was that I was guaranteed to miss yet another week of speed work at the track with my run club.  😦  At least I’m not going to miss my actual training runs, I guess!

Tuesday – 8/6/13 (Easy Run – 3 Miles):

Oh boy, I don’t know if it was due to Saturday’s long run, the beer and junk food on Sunday or the extended “rest” I had by not running on Monday, but this run was absolutely horrible.  My legs were tight, tired, sore and it felt like I had two cement blocks strapped to my feet.  It took everything I had in me to get through this run.  I tried stopping a few times to stretch out my legs but nothing helped.  I ached from my toes to my hips, and oddly enough, my shoulders were sore too.  The time wasn’t too terribly bad (I’ve run a lot slower), but the effort it took to go this slow made me feel like an absolute failure.  I think my disappointment in this run was a huge factor in my Negative Nancy episode on Wednesday.  Here are my stats:


Wednesday – 8/7/13 (Mid Week Long Run – 7 Miles):

After Tuesday’s failure of a run and my Negative Nancy episode Wednesday morning, I was looking for ANY excuse to skip my training run and give up on training all together.  When the rain clouds rolled in during my lunch hour, I secretly prayed they would turn to thunderstorms by the time I got home from work.  No such luck…they burned off by mid-afternoon and I turned my attention to the heat and humidity for excuses.  The high for the day was in the 90’s and the heat index was 96 at 4pm…surely it was too hot to run.  I mean, if I did, it was sure to end up like the epic failure of a run during the heatwave a few weeks ago, right?!  Luckily, my husband saved the day again.  His encouragement, along with the encouragement of a co-worker armed me with the confidence I needed to face this run, no matter how slow I might go.  I started the run feeling pretty good, but knew I was in trouble when I wanted to quit as I rounded the corner to Washington Boulevard at the 2 mile marker.  I ate an energy gel at mile 3.5 and knew I had to push through, and push through I did.  It may have been slow, and it may have been ugly, but I did it.  Here are my stats:


Tonight is the last night of the CARA Beginning Running program and I have a 10K coming up this weekend.  Stay tuned for some recaps and more training tales in the days to come.  Have a great week, everyone!

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


Getting Creative

Even though I’m only one week into marathon training, I’ve already found that it takes a lot of dedication and fine tuned time management skills to keep on my training schedule when “life happens”. 

I knew I wouldn’t be able to join my run club for speed work at the track last night because we were celebrating my awesome Mother-In-Law’s 60th birthday over dinner, but I had to get my workout in for the day.  I should have gotten up early but, as usual, I just couldn’t do it.  I know I said no excuses, but we were up later than normal the night before, thanks to my late night trip to the grocery store for some much needed supplies and besides, I’m terrible about getting up earlier than is absolutely necessary anyway.  Instead, I went with my back-up plan and decided that I would once again run to my in-law’s house.  After all, why drive 2.5 miles when I could easily run or bike there?!

I made sure to leave work on time so that I would have plenty of time to get home, change, recreate the scheduled track workout (2-3 x 1 mile at 5K pace with a 2-3 minute rest between repeats) and still get to my in-law’s house by 6:30pm for dinner.  I’m happy to report that I was only 3 minutes late!  🙂 

The repeats went really well – I felt good and legs felt really strong.  I only paused for a moment twice to catch the lights at Oak Park Avenue and Harlem, but still managed to run 2 sub-9 minute miles!  I opted for a 3 minute rest between repeats, but hindsight being 20/20, I really should have gone with the 2 minute option.  It almost felt like 3 minutes was too long, as I had my breathing well under control by 2 minutes.  Regardless, I felt good about the workout despite missing the track session with my friends.  Here are my stats for the first and second mile repeats:


Mile 1



Mile 2

Tonight I am looking forward to getting my training run in by helping others discover their love for running.  I will be helping to lead the 5K training portion of CARA’s (Chicago Area Runners Association) Beginning Running Program in Oak Park tonight and will be pacing a participant hoping to complete a 5K this summer.  So far, there is only one registrant for the 5K section, but that’s OK, it’s still nice to be able to help someone achieve a goal and it will be great fun – I just hope I don’t hold them back with my snails pace.  :-/



Miles to Date: 55.6

Consecutive Days:  24

Miles to Goal:  74.4

Days Remaining:  15