A Tale of Two Races

Phew…what a weekend!  Have you ever had a weekend that was both relaxing and exhausting or fun and miserable?  Well, that was this weekend for me.  It all started with a nice 5 mile run on the treadmill and a trip to Joliet after work to get my hair done, which always makes me feel better.  That is until I got a text message from my husband saying that, thanks to a severe thunderstorm that rolled through, we were without power for the second time this summer.  Of course, it had to be one of the hotter days we’ve seen this summer.  Lucky for us, my in-laws live close by and were kind enough to offer us an air conditioned room for the night!   After checking the estimated restore time all night, I decided I would have to get up early to bring the pug to Camp Bow Wow (so she didn’t overheat) before heading out to have some fun at the Hell Run.  I was so relieved when I got a text from ComEd at 1am saying the power was expected to be restored by 4:30am…hooray, I get to sleep in on a Saturday for once!  I got home around 9am (yes, 8:30am is sleeping in for me these days) and had plenty of time to change into my team uniform, eat a little something and head out for the…

Hell Run (Hawthorne Race Course) = Fun!

As I was grabbing my bag to head out the door, I heard a clap of thunder.  Shoot.  I pulled up the radar hoping for a small cell and was happy to see that it was small and seemed to be moving quickly.  As soon as I hit the road, it started to sprinkle and by the time I got most of the way there, it was a torrential downpour.  I hated opening my car window to pay for parking when I arrived ($10, by the way), but then had to laugh at myself…really, I didn’t want to get wet from the rain, but I was going to be jumping into giant mud puddles in an hour?!  I can be really blond sometimes!  After parking my car, I met up with my friends and teammates so we could get our bibs and swag.  Unfortunately, due to lightening in the area, we were directed to take shelter in the Hawthorne grand stand building.  Thankfully, it was nice and warm inside so we didn’t freeze from being drenched head to toe.

Fast forward an hour and a half (apparently that small cell kept growing and growing)…we are still sitting and waiting for the event to be cleared to start.  The race volunteers and directors were all really great.  They provided an update every 15 minutes or so and were very apologetic.  Some participants were throwing a fit and demanding their money back…a lot got tired of waiting and just left.  Obviously, the race directors cannot control the weather, I will never understand why people demand their money back when they are the ones giving up on an event.  Anyway, instead of complaining or giving up, we decided to make the most of the situation by enjoying some conversation and time spent together.  I have to admit, I did get a little bored for a minute and felt compelled to entertain my friends with this scene:

Just call me Super Bather!

Just call me Super Bather!

Finally, after about 2 hours or more of waiting, the event was cleared to begin.  The lines for bib pick-up were surprisingly short and we were ready to go in no time.  Unfortunately, because the rain was so intense, the race directors and volunteers had to re-set-up the swag area and gear check on the pavement, since the infield was so wet and muddy (bonus mud!), so we played the waiting game for a little while longer.  After all of the volunteers were back in place and the course was cleared the race went off in two waves of mud filled fun.  Apparently the course sustained some damage during the severe thunderstorm the night before, but only one obstacle was rendered unsafe – the low crawl in a tunnel.  I wasn’t sad about not getting to do that one at all!  We had a great time and got pretty muddy (more pictures to come soon).  I was happy that I was able to complete all of the obstacles, despite the loss of gripping power in my right hand due to a broken pinky earlier this year that didn’t heal properly.

Though not the most challenging of the obstacle races, overall, this race was a fun one.  This was my second year doing this race and not much changed from the previous year.  Everything was pretty much the same, right down to the t-shirt, cape (fun!) and medal.  The obstacles consisted of several mud pits, barbed wire low crawls, wall climbs, a tire maze, and of course in typical obstacle race fashion, a fire leap at the end.   The obstacles were in the same exact locations as the previous year so I knew what to expect next, there were no surprises which took a little of the fun and excitement out of it for me.  The only obstacle that was missing from the previous year was “heavy metal” (scrap cars you climb over).  They appeared to have replaced “heavy metal” with an additional very lame fire obstacle.  There were flaming logs on top of metal drums spaced very far apart.  You could easily have walked right between them, so to make it more interesting, we weaved our way through them.

Like I said, this isn’t the most challenging of obstacle races, but if you are looking for fun more than a challenge, this race is for you.  I will likely do the race again next year, but I hope to see a bit of a change up in obstacles.  It would also be nice if the medals or at least the t-shirts were a different design next year.  I now have two sets of the exact same medal, t-shirt and cape…adding a year designation would be a nice touch.

HR

HRM

After a very long shower, I spent the rest of my Saturday enjoying conversation and delicious food at my neighbors annual pulled pork party.  Have I mentioned how lucky I am to live on a block with such awesome neighbors?!  Sunday I spent the day being lazy, lounging around the house and watching a marathon of Breaking Bad on Netflix, my husband’s new obsession.  I managed to get the laundry done in between episodes and mainly hid from the heat and humidity outside.  Of course, in preparation for my next race, I ventured out for my usual pre-race carbo-load meal of Wisconsin Mac & Cheese from Noodles & Co.  I went to bed pretty early, in anticipation of my next half-marathon, the…

Oak Brook Half-Marathon (aka the REAL Hell Run)

I woke up at 5am on Monday hopeful that I would have a good race.  The weather was forecast to be much cooler than it had been in the last two weeks, so I hoped that I could finally have a good half marathon.  I picked up my packet on Thursday after work (it was a breeze…I was in and out in 5 minutes and most of that time was spent talking to a run club member who was volunteering) and I had gathered my gear, bib, goo, etc. the night before so I was thankful for the extra few minutes of sleep that afforded me.  The race also offered day of packet pick-up, which was nice, but I feel so much more “prepared” for a race when I have everything ahead of time.  Anyway, I made my way out to Oak Brook, which was a breeze at 5:45am on a holiday.  I think it took me a grand total of 20 minutes, the majority of the time was spent getting through Oak Park to the Ike.  I work very close to the start of the race, which was part of the appeal.  Since I’m familiar with the area and have run on part of the course before, I thought I knew what to expect.  Oh boy was I wrong.  I’m telling you, half marathons are my kryptonite.  I have yet to have a “good” one, but that is more my problem, than a reflection of the race itself.  The race was very well organized and the course was beautiful, I just can’t seem to run a half marathon without feeling like total crap.  Instead of bashing this race because my failures, I will take a step back and review it objectively before getting into why I failed.  Here is the breakdown:

Price:

After learning about the race last year (I was training for a 10K then), I was on the fence about this race mainly because of the time of year and Chicago’s fickle weather.  Plus, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend $65 to run a half marathon (since they have historically been my worst races), but a run club friend sealed the deal for me when she passed along a discount code.  Imagine my surprise when I went to register and was able to use an additional CARA discount code!  All said and done, the race was very reasonable at $53.18 (with taxes and fees).

What I Got for the Money:

For a mere $53.18 I got a nice gender specific technical shirt, a bag full of goodies (that included a tennis ball, Chapstick and several flyers for future races), free parking, a well planned and executed chip timed race (B-Tag), a beautiful and challenging course, great on-course support (water, Gatorade and Energy Gels), super nice and energetic volunteers, a medal at the finish and a nice finish line festival.

OB

Packet Pick-Up:

As I said above, packet pick-up was a breeze for those who chose to pick-up ahead of time.  Day of packet pick-up was offered and the upon arriving to the race site 45 minutes prior to race start, there did not appear to be a line at all.

Course:

The course was absolutely beautiful and quite a challenge for those of us not used to running hills.  Having run part of this course before, I was aware that there would be a few rolling hills, but I was not prepared for the “mountains” that I met on Spring Road and in the Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve (miles 6 through 10).  I firmly believe that the combination of these hills and the rainforest like humidity that I met in the forest preserve were my downfall.  More on that later though.  The course was a good combination of street, paved bike path/sidewalk and crushed limestone.  There was also a good balance of sun and shade, which is always nice.  The scenery was mostly forest preserve complete with nice views of Salt Creek, but there was a nice mix of residential neighborhood and the McDonald’s Hamburger University campus to break it up a bit too.

Overall Opinion:

Overall, this was a great race.  It was well organized and had a lot to offer racers of every ability.  That being said, I will never, ever run this race again…even if I were given a free entry!  I know it seems silly to give a race a positive review and in the next breath say that I will never run it again, but you have to understand just how much of an epic failure this race was for me (again, totally my problem and not the race’s fault at all).

Growing up and running in upstate NY, I have run my fair share of hills (the type of hills even your car has trouble getting to the top of), but I’m not 16 anymore and I haven’t lived (or run) those hills in a VERY long time.  I’m weak and hills can make my already 1/2 or 1/4 full tank drop below “E”.  Add in rainforest like humidity (you know, the kind where you can actually see the moisture rolling off the roofs of the pavilions in the woods, or heck, even the breath of the runners in front of you) a forgotten inhaler and a calorie deficit (yeah, I thought I was a genius and was trying to lose weight by cutting 750-1000 calories a day – not smart when you’re training for a marathon…duh) and you have a recipe for disaster.  After suffering a minor humidity induced asthma attack somewhere around mile marker 7 or 8, I was more than ready to give up and take my very first DNF.  Thank goodness for my run club friend, Ann, who ran the race with me (I use “ran” loosely, as I had to walk a lot for the last half of the race).  Annie, you got me through this race, as painfully slow as it was.  I would not have finished without your encouragement.  Thank you so much for sticking with me!!!  For anyone unfortunate enough to be running near me, I sincerely apologize for the many F-bombs that I’m sure slipped out of my mouth in those hilly mountainous woods.

Here are my stats for the race, and a picture of the medal I so do not deserve:

Capture OBM

Here’s to hoping the marathon goes better.  After this disaster of a race, I’m not feeling too confident though.  I’m really nervous to see how my 18 and 20 mile runs go too.  I know I can’t quit this close to the finish line (and I won’t), but I’m feeling incredibly unprepared.  The thought that the big day is only 37 days away sends me into a panic attack.  Fingers crossed that my 18 miler goes well this weekend and I’m able to keep negative Nancy in my head at bay!

Advertisements

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:

Image

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!):

Image

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:

Image

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:

Image

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!

Image

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.

Image

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)!

Image

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!

Image

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

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

#RWRUNSTREAK Update:

Miles to Date: 75.33

Consecutive Days:  29

Miles to Goal:  54.67

Days Remaining:  10

 

Oh the humidity!

Today was my first training day in about two weeks and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought I went to sleep in Chicago and woke up in Florida today. The humidity was high all day as was the temperature. I really didn’t want to go for a run tonight, but I successfully guilted myself into running three miles to ensure I was prepared for this weekend’s 5K and my next half marathon in late June. Also, marathon training doesn’t begin until June 10th, but that doesn’t give me license to be lazy for the next two weeks, right?!

Tonight’s run was a sweaty one…3 miles + 75 degrees + 75% humidity = mandatory shower! The run went well, considering I really haven’t run much since the half marathon just over a week ago. I was happy that my pace was comfortable and right on target with my previous 3 milers in April and May. Here are my stats for tonight’s run:

Image

I am still adjusting to running in the warmer weather, but I’m getting there. I’m sure the run streak will help, since I will be running every day – hot or cold, rain or shine! Tomorrow promises to be just as humid as today, but much hotter (85 degrees!). I will have to focus on hydration in preparation for speed work tomorrow night. Let’s see if I can also get a handle on nutrition for speed work days too. Stay tuned!

Half-Marathon…Take 2!

Image

Well, today I finished my second half-marathon!  I wasn’t sure if I would ever run another half after my first in January this year, but a friend mentioned she wanted to run one and I volunteered to help her train and get across the finish line.  It was a beautiful morning in downtown Chicago.  A little on the muggy side, but the sun on my face and the lake breeze felt awesome.  After a full fledged carbo-load yesterday I was feeling great.  I had my usual pre-race Wisconsin Mac and Cheese from Noodles and Co. for lunch, and the most delicious gnocchi I have ever tasted at a fun birthday dinner with my in-laws – for the record, A Tavola (http://atavolachicago.com/) is fabulous!!  For breakfast I had my usual can of Diet Coke and a Blueberry CLIF bar – breakfast of champions!  🙂  This combo always works well for my races, anything heavier and I risk a sloshing stomach, anything less and I tend to bonk pretty quickly. 

The race got under way at 7am and I felt great through mile 4 when we stopped for a nature break.  I took this as an opportunity to eat a CLIF Shot and fuel up for the next third of the race.  We got back under way and kept a nice and steady pace through the turn around to about mile 7 – the farthest my friend has ever run!  We finished up the race on a run/walk plan – but I’m happy to say, we finished!  Back in January I had a friend help me through my first half, and I was glad I had an opportunity to pay the favor forward.  Today was not about time for me, it was about helping another runner and friend achieve a lifelong goal.  I am so incredibly proud of her for having the guts and determination to set out in achieving this goal and for not giving up no matter how much she may have wanted to.  I don’t know if it’s the runner’s high talking or if I’m just “half crazy”, but today has inspired me to want to run another half…and soon!  I’m thinking about the Chicago Women’s Half in June…we’ll see!

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I know I shouldn’t complain, but I have been spoiled by the beautiful weather lately.  This morning and early afternoon were pretty nice, but as soon as I left work it started to sprinkle.  Of course it would rain – today was a mid-distance day.  Technically, Wednesday’s are supposed to be my mid-distance day (increasing from 3 to 5 miles over the course of my half-marathon training program), with Tuesday and Thursday being easy days (3 miles) and Saturday the long run.  Since I will now be doing speed work on Wednesday’s I have decided to push the mid-distance run to Thursday and skip the second easy day.  Though running in the rain isn’t the worst thing in the world, it is certainly not the most enjoyable either.  I usually run with music, even though I couldn’t really tell you what songs I heard…I mainly use it for background noise and the beat helps me keep pace without staring at my Garmin every two seconds.  Unfortunately, on rainy days, I have to leave my phone at home, to ensure it doesn’t get wet (I would be LOST without my phone!).  No phone = no music!

Despite the lack of tunes and the annoying drizzle in my face/eyes, the run went pretty well. I felt pretty good and kept a decent pace that was well within my suggested training paces.  Here are my stats for today:

Image

Tomorrow is a rest day in preparation for this weekend’s 5K race.  Finger’s crossed for a sub-30 time or at least a new PR!

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!