Oops…I did it again!

I’m so sorry for falling off the radar again!  A wise friend once told me that a “but” in an apology smells as bad as your own…but…school has started up again and I have been super busy trying to get ahead, in anticipation of the time consuming high mileage marathon training weeks ahead.

When I last wrote, I discussed my doubts and fears about being able to finish the marathon and my scheduled 18 mile long run after a failed half marathon race.  Thanks to a week and a half of good training runs, I’m happy to report that my confidence level is improving, but I still fear, and am awed by the distance that lays ahead of me.  I started a countdown to marathon day, which caused more anxiety than excitement, so I have since stopped looking at it.  My goal in the next few weeks is to work on the mental aspect of my training.  I need to train my brain to power through, to not give up when the going gets a little tough and to stop worrying about how fast everyone else is running.  I need to keep reminding myself that this is for me, this is my goal…I am not doing this to keep up with anyone or to beat anyone…I’m doing this to prove to myself that I CAN do this…and I WILL do this…even if it takes me 6.5 hours to do it.  Here is how my training runs have gone recently:

Tuesday, September 3rd (Easy Run – 4 Miles):

The first Tuesday of every month is my run club’s monthly meeting and I wasn’t missing this one for anything.  This month, Cary Pinkowski, Executive Race Director for the Chicago Marathon, came to speak with us and answer any questions we might have about the race.  Since this is my first marathon and first time even experiencing the awesomeness that is the Chicago Marathon (or so I’m told, and I tend to believe), I was excited to get a behind the scenes look and learn as much as I could about the race.  Not wanting to fall behind in my training, I decided I would run to the meeting and then run home.  Not exactly a true 4 mile training run, but I figured if I ran each half fast, it would make up for the rest time in between runs.  My run to the meeting was great.  I was surprised at how good I felt coming off of a horrible half marathon experience the day before.  I was expecting to be sore or tired, but surprisingly, I felt great…I’m sure the cooler and drier air helped.  The meeting was great and I left feeling both excited and incredibly nervous about “the big day”.  It might seem crazy, but I’m more nervous about this race than I was about my wedding day!  My run home was also good.  Here are my stats for these runs:

9.3.13

Wednesday, September 4th (Mid-Week Long Run – 9 Miles):

This run went reasonably well, considering my lack of enthusiasm and severe longing to vegetate on the couch instead of run.  By the time I got home from work, I was exhausted and the thought of running 9 miles seemed like the worst idea in the world.  Guilt got me out the door and soon I was looking at the silver lining…at least I didn’t have to do this mid week long run on a treadmill!  🙂  I felt sluggish for the first few miles of this run, but my legs started to wake up a bit into mile 3 and I finished the run feeling strong and accomplished.  Of course, after a quick shower, I went to vegetate on the couch for the rest of the night!  Here are my stats:

9.4.13

Friday, September 6th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

After Tuesday and Wednesday’s confidence building runs, I ended up being really disappointed in this run.  Right from the get go, I knew it was going to be mediocre at best.  Everything felt off.  My breathing was off and my legs were sore and felt like they were made of lead.  After suffering through the first three miles without my legs waking up, I decided it was time to run/walk the remaining distance.  Let’s just chalk this one up to a bad day and move on, shall we?  Here are my stats:

9.6.13

Sunday, September 8th (Long Run – 18 Miles):

My alarm went off at 3am and I rolled out of bed to eat before heading out for my longest run EVER.  While eating and staring blankly at the digital clock on the cable box in my living room, I contemplated the craziness of the situation.  There were days, not so many years ago, that I would just be going to bed after a night out on the town, but now, I was waking up (after going to bed at 9pm the night before) to go run…for several hours, because I WANTED to.  Perhaps my friends were right, maybe I am crazy!

Either way, knowing that this run would take a while, I wanted to get out early to get the bulk of the run in before the sun came up and things heated up.  It was a nice and cool morning, super humid, but at least the temperature was lower.  The first 9 miles of the run were great.  I felt awesome and my legs were cooperating today, unlike a few days ago.  The sun was starting to come up into mile 10 and I could feel it start to heat up.  After my third CLIF shot, I was starting to feel a little twinge of a stomach cramp, but I trudged on.  Things started to get a little harder around mile 11 and I had to give myself a little pep talk (“you can do this…don’t let your mind win…you’re not tired…quitting is not an option”).  Thank goodness it was so early in the morning and nobody was out, I felt crazy enough without having others hear me talking to myself!  I ate my fourth CLIF shot at mile 12 and immediately felt my stomach cramp up.  I was fine on my walk breaks, but as soon as I started running again the cramps were back.  I suffered through the next 3 miles and knew I had to eat another shot.  I pulled it out of my Fuelbelt at mile 15 and barely choked it down.  That’s it, no more Mocha CLIF shots for me.  The thought of them makes me nauseous.

Anyway, the last 3 miles of the run were a battle between my mind and muscles.  It was sheer determination that got me through.  The bottom line is, I didn’t quit, I just ran REALLY slowly those last few miles.  When my Garmin beeped at mile 18, I wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry because I was so happy that I had completed the 18 miles and that I hadn’t given up.  I wanted to cry because my body physically hurt so bad (my hips and quads were screaming).  I wanted to cry because I was mentally exhausted.  I wanted to cry because negative Nancy reared her ugly head yelling, “if 18 hurt that bad and was that hard, how in the HECK am I going to be able run another 8 miles”?!  But I didn’t cry.  I just flung my Fuelbelt off and walked limped the quarter mile back to my house where I promptly took a hot shower and collapsed into a heap on the couch for the rest of the day.  Looking back, I think I started out way to too fast for this type of mileage.  I need to start off much slower than I’m used to so I don’t burn out on the back half.  My strategy for the 20 miler and for marathon day is to stick with a much slower pace group for the first half of the race.  If I’m feeling good at the half way point, I can consistently pick up the pace a little for each remaining mile.  Here are my stats for my longest run yet (this includes traffic stops and “fueling” stops.  I wanted to get a better idea of how I would do on simulated race timing):

9.8.13

Wednesday, September 11th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

It was another hot day in Chicago (high of 93°F with a heat index well over 100°F), which meant I would be spending some quality time with my friend the treadmill again.  The run went surprisingly quickly and I felt good for the last three miles.  My legs were a little tired and sore for the first two miles, mainly my shins, but that could have been a result of the surface change.  Either way, it worked itself out and the rest of the run felt good.  Here are my stats:

9.11.13

Thursday, September 12th (Mid-Week Long Run – 9 Miles):

The weather was finally starting to cool off a bit, and the fact that I got a later start than usual helped quite a bit.  There is just something about running at dusk and in the dark that makes it seem so much easier for me.  I’m sure it has to do with the lack of sun beating down on me, helping to keep me cooler.  Also, for some reason, running in the dark makes me feel like I’m running super fast (even if I’m really not).  I have no idea why this is, but I’ll take it.  Of course there are downsides to running in the dark too.  Obviously, it isn’t the safest thing in the world for a woman to do, especially by herself; and if you’re a klutz like me, extra caution has to be taken to ensure those darn sidewalks don’t jump up and bite you.  🙂  Anyway, this run was great.  I felt good from start to finish and even managed to stomach another Mocha CLIF shot.  Here are my stats:

9.12.13

Friday, September 13th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

What an absolutely perfect evening for a run!  The hot and humid weather had finally broken.  By the time I got home from work, it was a beautiful 60 degree evening with a slight breeze.  I knew I had to hit the grocery store in preparation for a mini road trip to cheer some friends on at The North Face Endurance Challenge at Kettle Moraine State Park in WI on Saturday, so I made a deal with my husband – I would run to the grocery store and meet him there so we could get our shopping done and he could give me a lift back home.  Since I started running to my in-laws house earlier this year, I find that I end up feeling like a slug if I drive to any store (unless I’m doing some serious damage) or meeting in town, instead of running or riding my bike.  Why waste gas when I can kill two birds with one stone – get to where I need to go and get some miles logged too!  The run went well, surprisingly well, actually.  This was the first 5 mile run I have completed outdoors, in what feels like months, that didn’t require at least a few short walk breaks.  Everything just seemed to click and I was almost sad when the 5 miles was up.  I felt like I could have gone on forever…another confidence boosting run.  Score!  Here are my stats:

9.13.13

Sunday (Long Run – 14 Miles):

Well, as much as I feel guilty for missing a “long” run, there was no way this run was going to happen.  After spending a fun day with friends in WI, I thought my allergies were really kicking up.  I had a tickle in the back of my throat all day, but I figured it was nothing that a Claritin couldn’t fix.  Hours after I took said Claritin, my throat was killing me, the tickle was still there…and I had no voice.  Yup…I managed to go and get myself sick again, and of course, it would have to be on arguably the most important week of my marathon training (boo, hiss)!  I’m not really surprised though.  I tend to get sick easily when my body is run down and the high(er) mileage I have been putting in these last few weeks surely has my body begging for mercy.  Add crazy Chicago temperature swings to the mix (upper 90’s to mid 60’s in two days) and…BAM…I’m sidelined with a lovely head/chest cold.  Hoping for a miraculous recovery, I opted to skip my 14 mile long run and rest Monday night.

Tuesday, September 17th (Easy Run – 5 Miles):

It is now Tuesday and I’m still congested, my voice is making only a slight comeback and my cough is enough to make someone cringe.  Since most of my symptoms are above my neck (above the neck = run;  below = no running), and not wanting to let a little cold derail my training, I decided I would do my 5 miler tonight, but keep it nice and easy, and reassess my training for the week depending on how I felt afterward.  The run went surprisingly well.  Again, everything just seemed to click.  Even though I’m sick, I still managed to comfortably hold a nice pace, took no walk breaks and finished feeling really strong.  I didn’t cough at all during my run, but as soon as I stopped…oh boy, I didn’t think I would ever stop.  About 15 minutes after I used my inhaler the fit finally ended.  I have a 10 miler on tap for tomorrow so we’ll see how I feel in the morning.  Here are my stats for the run:

9.17.13

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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!

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!

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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.

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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)!

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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!

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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

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#RWRUNSTREAK Update:

Miles to Date: 75.33

Consecutive Days:  29

Miles to Goal:  54.67

Days Remaining:  10