Twas the Night Before the Marathon

Holy cow, I can’t believe the big day is finally here!  In just about 11 hours I will be making my way into my start corral to begin the biggest challenge of my life so far.  I am a ball of nerves and excitement, and just cannot wait to experience everything that is the great Chicago Marathon! 

The last two weeks have been interesting, to say the least.  My mind has been in overdrive, alternating between confidence and trust in my training, to fear and doubt.  Since I did my homework, I knew in the back of my mind that I must be experiencing a bit of taper madness, and this was all very normal.  Knowing that running extra miles wouldn’t help, and could potentially hurt my chances of a successful finish, I kept to the training program.  Because the runs were shorter and my endurance has improved so much over the last few months (especially since it has gotten cooler) I found a faster pace to be much easier, and had to keep reminding myself that I should be taking it easy and resting my legs for the main event.  Here are my stats for the last two weeks:

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In final preparation for the race, I have laid out my clothes, gathered the rest of my gear including gels, ear buds, post race flip flops, compression socks and anything else I could possibly want or need tomorrow.  I feel as though I am prepared and am looking forward to a great day.  The weather is forecast to be perfect…high’s in the mid to upper 60’s, lows in the mid to upper 40’s, low humidity, no rain and a light breeze.  As I have said before, since this is my first marathon I’m not worried about meeting a time goal, I just want to get out there, have fun and finish feeling proud of my accomplishment.  That being said, after weeks of research, trail and error and practice, I feel like I have a solid pacing, hydrating and fueling plan that will hopefully get me across the finish line feeling good. 

Well friends, the next time I write, I hope to be able to count myself in the very, very small percentage of the U.S. population that has finished a marathon!  Until then, good luck to all of my fellow Chicago Marathon runners and happy running!

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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:

9.27.13

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!

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

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!

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!

CARA Beginning Running Program and Chicago 10K Race Recap

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

CARA Beginning Running Program – Group Leader Recap:

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

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

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

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

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

Chicago 10K Race Recap:

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

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

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

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

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

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

1)  Earlier Start Time

2)  GATORADE!!!

3)  Salty Snack at the Finish

Chicago 10K

The “Flavor Flav” Finisher’s Medal!

Halfway There

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

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

Now…here is how my training went this week:

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

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

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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!