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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

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Dog Days of Summer

It is almost September, and after a week full of hot and humid summer days, I am more than ready for my favorite season (fall) to arrive. I absolutely despise the treadmill (I mean dreadmill), but have been forced to complete several training runs on one during the last week. Back in early July, after a particularly bad hot/humid weather training run (I should say run/walk…but mostly walk), I decided that even though I hate it with a passion, I would suck it up and do training runs on the treadmill when the weather was 90 degrees or more. This week there were three days above 90 degrees! Needless to say, I had to make nice with my nemesis this week, no matter how painful it was. Here is how my training week went:

Wednesday, August 21st (Mid-Week Long Run – 8 Miles):

The high today was 92ºF, the first scorcher of the week. I’m glad I was prepared and brought my gym bag to work with me. This was my third ever run on a treadmill and I was dreading the fact that I had to not only run on the darn thing, but I had to run 8 miles! Every minute on a treadmill seems like an eternity, and I wasn’t looking forward to spending well over an hour staring at the same blah 4 walled scenery. After a nice carb loaded lunch, I was feeling physically well prepared for the run, but just couldn’t get my head into the game. Also, in an effort to increase my endurance and speed, I tried a new vitamin supplement from GNC, the AMP Endurance Vitapak, for the first time today. The sales lady said that even though the box indicated it was “Mega Men Powered”, I would be fine taking it, since it didn’t contain testosterone (or anything male specific). Stupid me for trusting a sales person without doing my own research. I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. My muscles were all twitchy and I seriously felt like I could bench press a Mack truck. In addition to dreading 8 miles on a treadmill, I was a little nervous to get my heart rate up even more by running, but knew I had to buck up and just get it over with. I took the run slow and steady, and felt really good the entire time. My breathing was solid and my legs felt great. I only took a short nature break at the half way point (I drank a TON of water trying to flush those awful vitamins out of my system)…no walking or intervals this time!! 🙂 Here are my stats for the run (this time includes my .25 mile warm-up walk, ~2 min nature break, and .25 mile cool-down walk):

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Thursday, August 22nd (Easy Run – 4 Miles):

Luckily, the weather broke overnight on Wednesday and I awoke to a much cooler and pleasant day. After 8 miles on the treadmill yesterday, I was looking forward to getting outside so I could enjoy the changing scenery. My quads were a little sore today, I’m guessing as a result of 8 miles on a treadmill yesterday. Also, I’m sure I run differently on a treadmill than I do on the road since I didn’t change the elevation or speed, plus the surface is very different. Overall, I felt good for this run and was able to successfully push through the “oh my goodness, is it over yet, I just want to stop” moment(s). Since my sinus infection last week, I have been trying to focus more on feeling good and getting through my runs easily than pushing my limits for faster times. This run was no different and I feel OK about my time. Right now I need to focus on building the mileage, not speed. That will come after the marathon! Here are my stats for the run:

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Saturday, August 24th (Long Run – 16 Miles):

This run was hanging over my head like a dark cloud all week. Thanks to my sinus infection resulting in a week of pure laziness after a stepdown week, I had serious doubts that I would make it through this run at all, let alone feeling strong and confident at the end. After exchanging those horrible vitamins for the Women’s Ultra Mega Active Vitapak (the clerk was shocked that I was sold a product for men and indicated that the yohimbe bark [mainly marketed as an E-D suppliment!!!] was likely the cause of my tweaky [not twerky…lol] reaction) I made sure I carbed up and went to bed early. I made plans to meet my friends for yoga and coffee on Saturday morning at 8:30am. This meant that I had to get my 16 miles in SUPER early to ensure I made it to yoga on time. I was so nervous about this run that I didn’t even wait for the alarm to go off at 4am. Instead, my eyes flew open at 3:30am and I decided I should just get it over with already. I slipped out of bed, ate a cinnamon roll and was out the door a little before 4:30am. It was an absolutely beautiful morning – nice and cool. Not sure if I’d even be able to power through the whole run, I decided to start off slow and stick to my long run interval plan. Running in the dark was awesome. It was so quiet, and nice to not have the sun beating down on me. The first 8 miles flew by and I felt great. Before I knew it I was at mile 10 and I started to feel more confident. I brought 4 energy gels with me and stuck to my every three mile plan…until I started to fade a little around mile 12. I thought that if I took the gel then, I surely would have trouble getting through the last 4 miles, so I waited until mile marker 13 to take my last gel. The last 2 miles were pure torture. By then, the sun was out and it was starting to heat up a bit, plus I was just mentally “done” and wanted nothing more than to be physically done too. I was so unbelievably happy when my watch beeped at mile 16. I was so tired, yet so happy that I had just run 16 miles…the farthest I have ever run, to date!!! Here are my stats for the run:

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Yoga was amazing and really helped me to loosen up my sore and tired muscles. Of course, it’s always nice to be with friends too! 🙂 Going forward, I am going to try to get my long runs in super early to take advantage of the dark/cooler temps and also post run yoga. I’m convinced I would be walking around with a limp of some sort if I hadn’t gone to yoga!

Monday, August 26th (Easy Run – 4 Miles):

Like I said, I think post run yoga was a life saver for me this week. I was only a little sore on Sunday, but was feeling great when I woke up on Monday. Sunday brought the first day of another little Chicago heatwave (actually, most of the Midwest was affected) and when I left for work on Monday (at 7am) it was already 80ºF! Guess what that means…yup, another treadmill training run! Awesome. The only thing that made this training run even remotely “fun” was the fact that my sweet husband joined me to work out in the gym at my office building. The run went well and again, I felt strong. My breathing was in line (actually, it almost felt too easy) and my legs felt solid with no residual tightness or exhaustion from Saturday’s long run. Maybe the treadmill isn’t so bad after all. Here are my stats for the run (this includes my .25 mile warm-up walk – I accidentally hit the emergency stop button during my cool-down walk…oops!):

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Tuesday, August 27th (Mid-Week Long-Run – 8 Miles):

Today was by far the hottest day of the week and there was no way I was going to run outside. By the time I finished with work, the temperature was still 95ºF with a heat index of 99ºF! As much as I wasn’t looking forward to another 8 miles on the treadmill, I was glad I had the option to even use one on day’s like this. I don’t have a treadmill at home, so I count my blessings that my office building has a gym for us to use. If it weren’t for this gym, I would either be suffering through (due to other commitments this week I couldn’t just push it back) or skipping my workout completely. This time, the workout seemed to go much faster. Maybe I’m getting used to it, maybe it’s because I’m in a climate controlled environment, or maybe it’s because I have been feeling so good when running on the treadmill. I don’t know. All I know is this 8 miler felt great. My breathing was nice and even, my legs felt awesome and I didn’t even have to eat an energy gel. Oh yeah, and I didn’t stop running at all…not even for a millisecond! This really has me looking forward to the cooler and crisper fall air that should be arriving fairly soon. I’m keeping my fingers, toes, legs, arms, eyes (and any other cross-able body part) crossed for a beautiful 50º or 60º marathon day. A slight breeze would be an extra treat too! Regardless, here are my stats for the run (aw yeah, a sub-11 minute mile long run!):

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Unfortunately, my training week was cut short when I was randomly hit with vertigo yesterday. I opted to take the night off, instead of running dizzy and risking hurting myself. Tonight is the monthly girls night out with my run club friends and tomorrow I am finally getting my hair done (loooong overdue), so I will be getting up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to run the 5 miles I was supposed to run yesterday, before heading to Hawthorne Race Track for the Hell Run! Sunday will be a rest day in preparation for my next half marathon on Monday (fingers crossed the current forecast [high of 74ºF] is accurate). Stay tuned for those race recaps…they are sure to be fun! Until then, happy running my friends!

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:

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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!):

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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:

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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:

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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!

Chug, chug, chugging along!

Holy smokes…I can’t believe I’m already into week 8 of marathon training!  It feels like just yesterday I was nervously awaiting the start of my training program.  Looking back over the last 7 weeks, I have learned some very important lessons (as long as I follow through and don’t make the mistakes again) and have made some decent progress toward reaching my goal of finishing my very first full marathon.  I’m really looking forward to the next 11 weeks of training, but I know the hardest part is yet to come.  I’m still working on pushing through the negative thoughts and the tough summer heat, but with every completed run my motivation increases and the Negative Nancy in my head retreats to her time out corner.

When I started this process, I wasn’t expecting to experience some of the changes my body has been going through – some good, some not so good – but through research and reading I’m learning more about what to expect and how to “fix” any issues that may arise.  I’ve been reading a lot of articles from Runner’s World and Active.com and have been reading the Runner’s World “Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training” as well as Nancy Clark’s “Food Guide for Marathoners”.  All have given me a good idea of how to train, eat, hydrate and work through any mental barriers that may arise.  Talking to other marathon finishers has been a great help too.  The most important fact that I have learned is that everybody and every BODY is different.  What works for one, may not work for all.  It is important to use this time as a learning opportunity, to test out what works and what doesn’t work for me.  Just like the last 7, this week has provided may learning opportunities or me.  Here is how it went:

Thursday– 7/25/13 (Easy Run – 5.5 Miles):

Another lovely day in Chicago!  The weather was a little bit warmer today than it was on Wednesday, but the humidity was still pretty low, making for great running weather.  As you know, Thursday’s are the day I meet and train with my Beginning Running buddy.  After an incredibly boring day at work (both of my bosses were out of the office), I rushed home in an attempt to get home, grab my bike and get to The Foot before our 6:30pm meet up time.  Of course, the pug had to take her sweet time doing her business (we must smell EVERY blade of grass to find the PERFECT spot, you know) so I was felling a bit rushed.  Luckily, I got the bike out the basement door without injuring myself (not an easy task) and was on my way in no time.  I made it to The Foot and found a “parking” spot for my bike with 5 minutes to spare.  After a great Q&A with a nutritionist, we stretched quickly and headed out.  We were scheduled to do 4 miles today, but since my buddy and only one participant in the 10K and Run/Walk programs showed, we decided to tag along with the 10K pacer and participant.  So, instead of 4 miles, we ended up doing 5.5 miles!  I was so proud of my 5K buddy, she had never run that far before, but was able to easily complete the run.  Heck with a 5K, this girl is ready for a 10K!  She seemed pretty happy about the run too…both the distance she covered, and the speed.  She is doing really, really well – I’m glad she is enjoying herself and is discovering what she is capable of.  Here are the stats for our run, sandwiched between my ride to/from the store:

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Friday – 7/26/13 (Rest Day):

Friday’s are a rest day, and I took full advantage of this rest day.  I was able to take advantage of summer hours and left work a little early, which gave me some time to run a few errands before heading home.  After a quick ride around Oak Park/River Forest in Betty (my husband’s shiny new black Mustang), we enjoyed a nice relaxing evening watching movies.  I went to bed early, knowing I would be getting up early to get my long run in so I could spend the day preparing for guests we were having over Saturday evening.

Saturday – 7/27/13 (The Long Run That Didn’t Happen):

The alarm went off at 4:45am and I groaned as I rolled out of bed.  My stomach was feeling a little upset but I chalked it up to nerves about running the 12 miles I had scheduled for that day.  Things were only getting worse as I attempted to choke down my CLIF bar.  I know I say that I choke down those CLIF bars a lot, but this time I really mean it.  After letting my stomach settle for a half hour or so, I geared up and headed out the door.  I still wasn’t feeling that great when I started out, but just after the one mile marker, I stopped in my tracks (there may even have been a screeching sound…lol) and began contemplating how I could get home…QUICKLY.  I was supposed to do a trail run with my run club today, but canceled last minute because my new hydration belt hadn’t arrived yet and there is only well water on the trail (well water and I don’t get along well, I break out in hives, I think it’s the Sulfur), so at this moment I was really glad I didn’t go!  After a very uncomfortable walk home I decided to go back to bed for a while.  Feeling much better, I got up again around 8am and decided to hit the local farmers market before meeting a friend for a cup of coffee.  Feeling like I needed to get at least some exercise in for the day, I decided I would ride my bike.

The farmers market was awesome…there were so many fresh fruits, veggies, plants and flowers!  I ended up with a gigantic bag of fresh green beans (for $2.50!!!) and a jar of Jalapeno pickled asparagus for my hubby.  I really wanted to get a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers too, but I was sure they wouldn’t hold up well in my backpack.

I left the farmers market and made my way through Oak Park/River Forest to meet my friend, taking the long route to kill some time.  I finally made it to Starbucks and had a nice time chatting with my friend(s) over coffee (iced Green Tea for me) and pastries.  I think I could have done without the pastry though, since my ride home was less than comfortable…I have never wanted a TUMS so badly in all of my life!  After I got home and ate that magical TUMS, I rested on the couch for a little bit before tackling the house cleaning and guest preparations.  Unfortunately, our guests had to cancel at the last minute, but we still enjoyed a nice evening with our neighbors and a fire in the backyard.  Again, I went to bed early knowing I would have to get up early and try my long run again.  Here are the stats for my bike ride(s):

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Sunday – 7/29/13 (12 Mile Long Run – For Real This Time):

After the previous failed attempt at this long run, I just wanted to stay in bed when the alarm went off at 5am today.  Though I felt much better physically, than I did the day before, I wasn’t mentally in the game.  After eating my CLIF bar and taking my sweet time getting ready, I finally got out the door around 6:45am.  The first half of the run was good.  My legs were a little tired and sore from riding my bike the day before (I don’t usually ride my bike so my muscles aren’t used to it), but I was able to push through.  I stopped at mile 4 to refuel with a gel and kept trudging along.  Too little too late, I think.  As I discovered during last weeks long run, my energy level falls off a steep cliff somewhere around mile 4 to 4.5, meaning that I should eat a gel closer to mile 3 or 3.5 – unfortunately, I only had two gels (another online order that hasn’t come in yet) so I had to space them out a little further for this run.  I was still hanging in there when I stopped to refill my water bottle that had been empty for a while near mile 7.  I was running out of juice again but forced myself to keep going for another mile before stopping to eat again at mile 8.  I have no idea what happened, but my Garmin decided it was tired too and it reset itself while I ate.  Luckily, I planned to do an out and back run, so I knew retracing my route would get me to the mileage I needed.  The rest of the run was slow going, I was really running out of gas into mile 10 and started to feel dizzy and exhausted.  The last few miles were pure torture, but I made it through – not giving up!  Unfortunately, I forgot to factor in the detour I made so I could refill my water bottle and ended up running about three quarters of a mile more than I needed!  By the time I got home, my hips and legs were toast.  I chugged a glass of Gatorade and hopped in the shower looking forward to meeting up with another friend and then grabbing some breakfast with my husband.  Oh boy was it slow going for a while after that run.  I fell asleep in the car a few times on the way to breakfast and felt like a 90 year old in desperate need of a hip replacement every time I went to stand up.  My protein and caffeine filled breakfast seemed to help a bit, as I was moving around a little better by early evening.  I wrapped up the day with a really nice steak dinner on the deck with my husband and brother-in-law.  The glass of wine I had ALMOST made me forget about how much that run hurt.  🙂  Here are my stats:

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Monday – 7/29/13 (Easy Run – 3 Miles):

Guess what finally came in the mail today?!  That’s right…my new Amphipod RunLite Hydration belt!  I was so excited when the mailman came, it was like Christmas morning.  I excitedly opened the package and immediately tried it on.  I was impressed with how comfortable it was and the convenience all of the little compartments provided.  In addition to the four 8 oz. bottles, the belt came with a pouch which is perfect size for my phone and keys and an additional expandable pouch (similar to my SPIBelt) which will be perfect for energy gels.

Naturally, I HAD to rush home to take it out for a test run.  I was a little afraid that 4 bottles of water would add a ton of weight and I would have to fight the bounce my entire run, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, the water filled bottles added a noticeable amount of weight (I wish they could come up with some space age weightless hydration supplement) and there was some bounce and ride up, but it was not nearly as bad as my single bottle Nathan belt.  I figured out that placing the bottles closer to my sides helped to reduce the bounce, but the ride up was still really annoying.  What is the key to keeping these hydration belts on your hips?  Overall, I’m very pleased with this belt and am looking forward to the next club trail run.  In the meantime, I plan to wear it at least once a week on shorter runs to get used to it.  My stats for last night’s run are below.  I’m not sure if the “slower” time was due to tired legs after the 12 miler on Sunday, or if it was the added weight from the hydration belt, but my legs definitely felt “heavier” today.

6.29.13

Tuesday – 7/30/13 (Rest Day):

I had no choice but to take a rest day today.  I have to say, I wasn’t really sad about it either, because instead of running 6 miles, I got to watch a Cubs game from an awesome seat at Wrigley Field!  🙂  My husband was lucky enough to score tickets to the game from his office so we enjoyed a nice evening of baseball and junk food.  I felt just a little guilty eating a slice of pizza, nachos and two beers.  By the time we left I was so full it wasn’t even funny!  Unfortunately, the Cubs lost, but we still had a great time.

Wednesday – 7/31/13 (Mid-Week Long Run – 6 Miles):

After Tuesday’s late night, I struggled through the day today but made it through thanks to my little friend, caffeine.  By the time I got home from work, all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch some TV.  But alas, the training must go on!  Since I skipped my scheduled training run on Tuesday for the Cubs game I had to make it up, which meant no Wednesday night speed work…again.  That’s three weeks in a row now…ugh, I’m never going to get faster if I keep slacking on the speed work.  Darn Tuesday night commitments!  I’m thinking about substituting my weekend cross training day with speed work on the weeks I can’t make it on Wednesday nights.

Anyway, this run was pretty awful.  Not only was I exhausted from lack of sleep and a crazy busy day at work, but like an idiot I decided it was OK to consume several sugary pieces of candy late in the afternoon.  I’m not sure if it was the sugar crash or my junk food choices the night before, but I definitely felt sluggish and my stomach ached something fierce for the first few miles.  I wasn’t sure I would make it through 2 miles, let alone 6, but I pushed through and finished the run.  I am not too pleased with my pace for this run, considering I did the same run last week at a sub 10 minute pace, but as I’ve said before, we all have bad days and clearly yesterday was a bad day, full of bad nutrition choices.  Lesson learned…I will be keeping my hands out of that candy bowl from now on!  Here are my stats for the run:

6.31.13

Playing Catch-Up

Well friends, it’s back to reality after my little staycation.  I don’t know if it was the busy week I had last week or just pure staycation induced laziness, but it seems I have quite a bit of catch-up to do here…so here we go!

Wednesday

Wednesday was my first time back to speed work with the club after a few weeks off and oh boy did it kick my butt!  I arrived a bit late and decided to skip drills, fearing that any lateral drills would bring back the leg pain I struggled with a few weeks ago.  Instead, I ran a few warm up laps and then joined everyone for stretching and stiders.  This week we did 4 stiders and moved on to a modified fartlek workout.  The goal was to run a consecutive 30 minutes – alternating 3 minutes fast, 1 minute slow until the workout was complete.  Well, all I can say is…epic fail.  I went out way too fast for the first two sets (sub 9 minute pace even with the slow jogs) and by the third set I was walking the 1 minute slow.  It kept going downhill from there resulting in a complete stop to use my inhaler (like a dummy, I didn’t puff up before the workout) and another complete stop to fix the bandaid on my giant blister (it was coming off and causing more damage).  After that, I finished the workout.  I can’t say I finished strong, but at least I didn’t give up.  By the end of the warm-up (2 laps) and workout I had logged 3.25 miles…not too shabby, I guess.  Because I took a “rest” day on Monday, my marathon training runs were pushed back a day so that meant I had to get 4 miles in for the day on Wednesday.  To finish up my mileage for the day, I jogged another .75 mile barefoot on the turf and went home with my tail between my legs.

6.26.13

Wednesday’s track workout stats.

Thursday

After Wednesday’s speed work I was looking forward to resting my legs with an easy two miler with my CARA Beginning Running program participant.  Unfortunately, the weather got the best of all of us and the program was canceled for the day.  What a crazy storm!  It didn’t seem too bad to me as I was driving.  Sure, it was a torrential downpour and it was a bit windy, but not a storm I would consider to be “severe” by any stretch…until I drove North of Lake Street.  Somewhere between Chicago Ave. and Augusta I came across my first huge tree branch laying across the road and as I continued North to my house I came across flooded streets, huge tree limbs and even whole trees down.  I wove my way home, admiring the beautiful double rainbow that had formed, to find a lot of tree damage and the power out.  All of my neighbors were in the street surveying the damage and helping to clean up the street.  Since the sun was out and the radar looked clear, I visited with my neighbors for a minute, took the dog out and went for a run.  Why not, right?  I had to get my marathon training run in for the day and the power was out so there wasn’t much else to do.  The devastation was unreal.  I was dodging huge tree limbs and whole trees just about every other block.  I was shocked at the extent of the damage and that it seemed to be in such a concentrated area.  After my run I returned home, cleaned up and sat in my car trying to cool off and charge my phone since we were still sans power.  After a restless (and hot) sleep, I was awakened at 4am by the sound of loud voices, diesel trucks and chainsaws directly outside my bedroom window, as the ComEd guys worked to restore our power by removing the tree limb that had fallen on our power lines.  Generally speaking, I would be complaining about all of the noise, but if the noise meant that air conditioning was in my near future, I was all for it!  🙂

6.27.13

Thursday’s sweaty run in post storm humidity.

Friday

After an air conditioned morning nap (I went back to sleep after the power was restored), I dragged myself out of bed and spent the morning being lazy.  My Mother-In-Law picked me up close to Noon and we took the “L” downtown for a fun girls day filled with lunch at Berghoff’s and a visit to the Art Institute to see the new Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibition (very cool by the way!).  It was a great day and I had a ton of fun.  It’s always nice to spend time with my Mother-In-Law.  I know I’ve said it before, but I really lucked out in the in-law department!  It was also fun to feel the excitement in the air, since the Blackhawks rally was also being held downtown on Friday.  When we got off the “L” there was a sea of red as people made their way from the rally that had just ended in Grant Park.  It seemed like we were surrounded by Blackhawks fans all day…it was really neat.  After our fun outing I returned home and squeezed in a quick one miler.  I felt really good, but was glad I only had to log one mile since my feet were killing me from being on them and wearing flip flops all day.

6.28.13

Friday night streak run.

Saturday

I felt like I lost my Saturday in a black hole.  Looking back, it seems like I got a whole lot of nothing accomplished and it took me all day to do it.  I woke up relatively early and managed to get sucked into a movie while I ate breakfast.  I knew I had a few errands that I had to run so after the movie I peeled myself off the couch and geared up for my long run.  This week was a step back week so I only had to get in 5 miles, but I was feeling really lazy and not into it at all.  The first 2 miles were easy and I felt really good, but I started to fade in mile 3.  I suspect the energy bonk was due to the fact that I didn’t eat lunch before heading out and I wasn’t really hydrated enough.  I seem to have trouble with keeping myself hydrated at home.  I think I’m going to set an alarm on my phone to remind myself to drink water during the day when I am at home.  How do you remind yourself to stay hydrated on the weekends or when you are at home?

6.29.13

Saturday’s “Long” Run

After my run I got ready for the day and set out to get all of my errands done.  First, I had to stop at The Runner’s Soul in Elmhurst to pick up packet’s for Thursday’s Elmhurst 4 on the 4th race, then I had to stop and return a suit I bought that was too big and finally I had to get a pair of black shorts to complete my club uniform for the race.  The weather was gorgeous so I took my time driving with the sunroof open and I didn’t even mind that I had to park at the opposite end of the strip mall (the lot was PACKED) and walk to the store to make my return.  In fact, I was even happy to walk down to DSW in search of a new pair of colorful and fun shoes to wear with the white eyelet dress I found buried in the back of my closet a few weeks ago.  I then had the bright idea to try and find a new pair of running shoes since my current pair has about 300 miles on them, so over to Sports Authority Elite I went.  I found an awesome pair of black running shorts and spent some time talking to a clerk about which shoes would be right for me.  After checking my arch and watching me run, he recommended the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13 since it provided support for my “normal” arch and my slight pronation.  I was starving by the time I left the store with my shorts and brand new kicks in a fun dark purple/lime green combo.  In high school I only wore Nike, but since I started running again two years ago, I have been a loyal Saucony fan.  I felt guilty buying this pair of Brooks and honestly, haven’t even taken them out of the box since I brought them home.  I’ve even been debating returning them and am finding myself making up excuses to return them (i.e. they feel heavier, the toe box feels really big, they are kinda dark for my taste, etc.).  Do you have a favorite brand of running shoes?

Sunday

Since I was on a mini staycation, I decided Sunday would be a good day to do a deep clean of my house.  Working full time, going to school and running has really limited the amount of “free” time I have to do things like cook, clean and finish household and/or craft projects.  Taking the summer off has allowed for a bit more free time, but after months of spot cleaning, the house was in need of a serious clean.  After eating a bit of breakfast, I rolled up my sleeves and dug in.  After scrubbing, dusting, mopping, and vacuuming the majority of the day, I finally gave up when the first and second floor of the house were sparkling.  After a quick shower, I geared up and headed out for a quick one mile streak run.  Despite feeling tired from working all day, I felt pretty good and was happy to see a faster pace for this run.  It must have been the beautiful weather!

Sunday night streak run.

Sunday night streak run.

Monday

Monday was the last day of my mini staycation and I still had a ton of “to dos” left on my list.  I was excited that my husband would be returning from his Canadian fly-in fishing trip after a week and a half of zero communication (in the 5 years we have been together, we have not gone a single day without at least talking on the phone), but I promised I would work on making a set of roman shades for our kitchen while he was gone and I hadn’t even thought about starting them!  So I got up early, ate some breakfast and decided to get my run in early so I could get to work on my to do list.  I wasn’t really feeling into running when I left the house, but after a mile and a half I got into the zone and felt good.  My legs have been feeling a little tired lately so it’s been hard to maintain a faster pace on runs longer than 2 miles.  I find myself slowing down and am disappointed with my slower average paces, but I have to remind myself to listen to my body.  If my body is telling me to slow down, it must be for a reason.  Also, I keep telling myself that the slower pace is OK, since it is well within the suggested easy run training pace for my goal 5K time (10:30-11:22).

7.1.13

Monday Easy Run

After my run I mowed the lawn, showered and ventured out to JoAnn Fabrics and Home Depot for supplies so I could finally get started on the roman shades.  I returned home with supplies in hand (and flowers for the front of the house too) and got to work cutting the fabric.  I did a good job cutting the length but was too busy singing and dancing (if you can even call it that…lol) to my recently rediscovered Ray LaMontagne Pandora station and cut the width to size instead of adding the required 4 inches for the hem.  Ooops…good thing we got the fabric on super clearance and ended up buying the rest of the roll so there is plenty left over even after my silly mistake!  Anyway, after I regained my focus, I successfully cut both panels and even got the hems sewed on one.  I’m looking forward to finishing them this weekend…I think they are going to look awesome!

Tuesday

After a busy first day back to work after my mini staycation, I rushed home to get my training run in so I could spend some quality time with the hubs.  The weather was awesome and I felt great the entire run.  My legs still felt a little tired so I took it easy, focusing on continual movement instead of a faster pace.  I knew I could have pushed it and run faster, but I also wanted to take it easy in the hopes my legs would “wake up” for tomorrow’s (Thursday) race.  After my run, I settled in with my husband to catch-up on some shows we missed while he was playing in the Canadian wilderness.

7.2.13

Tuesday night training run.

Wednesday

My office closed a little early today so we could get a head start on our holiday weekend, so I was able to get home about an hour earlier than usual which was nice since I had a bit of preparation to do for tomorrow’s race and run club gathering.  After taking the dog for a short walk I geared up and went out for an easy one mile streak run.  Because of tomorrow’s race, I didn’t want to push too hard and basically used the run only to keep the streak alive.  I felt good and wasn’t winded at all so I guess I was successful in meeting my goal for the day.  After my run I started on making the cinnamon coffee cake muffins for tomorrow’s run club gathering after the race and ate my usual pre-race Noodles & Co. Wisconsin Mac and Cheese.  Now the challenge will be to keep my hands off the muffins until after the race tomorrow…they smell so GOOD!

Wednesday's streak run.

Wednesday’s streak run.

Stay tuned for a race recap tomorrow!  🙂

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#RWRUNSTREAK Update:

Miles to Date: 100.34

Consecutive Days:  38

Miles to Goal:  29.66 (this is so not going to happen :()

Days Remaining:  1

Tuesday Easy Run

What a beautiful day it was today!  We reached a high of 79 degrees with bright and beautiful sunshine.  I couldn’t wait to get home from work to enjoy the summer-like weather with an easy Tuesday night run.  

Though my marathon training plan doesn’t technically start until June 10th, I am working on finishing up a half marathon training program in preparation for a race on May 19th.  I’m looking forward to having another half under my belt…hopefully it will help me feel a little better about my ability to run a full! 

Here are my stats for today:

5.7.13

 I felt pretty good despite rushing out the door and forgetting my inhaler.  I remembered somewhere around mile 2 when the elephant made an appearance, but I pushed through and focused on finishing the workout strong.  I’m slowly getting used to running in warmer weather, and noticed that the heat isn’t bothering me quite as much as it was a week or two ago.

Tomorrow is the first day of Wednesday night speed work hosted by my running club.  I’m hoping to gain some speed and finally run a sub-30 5K at this weekend’s race.  Fingers crossed!