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chicago marathon training recap: weeks 9-12

if you’re new here, I’m currently training for my second full marathon – Chicago – on October 9, 2016. I am currently in week 13 of 16, and you can read about weeks 1-4 here, weeks 5-8 here, about last year’s race here, and all things running related here.

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week 9 – august 15-21 / mileage – planned: 47, completed: 47.2

after feeling a little blah after week 8 I was pretty determined to nail week 9, particularly because I knew it was an important build-up week and included my first 20-miler of the cycle. this week also marked the first track/speed workout of the cycle, which was 4 x 1600 mand 3 x 200m (with warm up, recoveries, and cool down). I was nervous going into it – I’ve only done mile repeats one other time – but it went well; in fact, I probably went a little too fast. I guess I was excited to get back to the track — or just to have a week off from hills.

I of course had some nerves going into the 20-miler, but nothing like last year — because now I know that I can do it. I had a route planned that I was excited about – I think that’s key – and it was a cool day, and I got started early (like 5:30 or so). I started off slow and then, as the workout called for, did miles 8-12 at marathon pace, which felt surprisingly comfortable. I slowed down after mile 12, but not by much, and was even able to comfortably squeeze in a couple of fast finish miles at the end. I’ve got some tough goals for the marathon, but this run (and week overall) made me feel like they were truly attainable for the first time. #nailedit

this shit was hard, no doubt, but there is nothing better than the high of finishing a run like this, especially when it’s been almost a year since I’ve done it. we went to kansas city for the weekend immediately after finishing our run, and it was one of the best weekends i’ve had in a long time, probably in part because I was so hyped on the long run.

I got in two good strength workouts this week, but no core workout on saturday, and no cross-training, although we had a very active weekend overall.

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week 10 – august 22-28
mileage – planned: 41, completed: 39.7

after 20 miles on saturday, and a very full weekend with basically no rest in kansas city, I woke up on monday feeling wiped. I was experiencing a bit of what I think was extensor tendonitis on my right foot, but I decided to get up and see how it felt while running. I made it about half a mile, and although the pain was definitely manageable, I realized it wasn’t worth hurting it more and decided to turn my 6 mile run into a 3 mile walk. mondays are an easy run day anyways, and this was the first run in a long time that I’d skipped, so I didn’t worry too much over it.

the rest of the week went fine, but not great. it was one of those weeks where I felt like I was going through the motions rather than really processing everything or enjoying the training (which I usually do). hill repeats felt more challenging than usual. an 8-mile run with 5 miles @ tempo pace was pretty miserable, probably because I decided to do it in the evening and it was warm.

long run this week was 14 miles easy, but it felt so hard. it usually takes a few miles for me to get comfortable on a long run, and from there it’s usually smooth sailing, but that never happened on this run. can’t exactly pinpoint why, but likely just cumulative marathon training fatigue. I got it done and tried not to read into it much. I got in two strength workouts plus a good bike ride on sunday this week, and thanks to a little extra rest this week, my foot seemed to mostly heal up on its own.

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week 11 – august 29 – september 4 / mileage – planned: 49, completed: 51.3

I had been simultaneously nervous and excited for week 11 ever since I first looked at Sarah’s training plan for us back in May. the track workout this week was yasso 800s - basically, ten 800m repeats run at goal marathon time, in minutes, with equal recovery times. (for example, if your goal is a 4:00-hour marathon, you’d aim to run each repeat in 4 minutes, then recover for 4 minutes (slow jog/walk), 10 times through). my goal was to do each of these at around 3:20-3:30, and I ended up averaging right in between there. it was a tough workout that ended up being over 10 miles, but felt very manageable and was definitely a confidence booster.

this week’s long run was 22 miles – the longest run for this cycle – with miles 12-16 at marathon pace. i tried to treat this as race practice as much as possible. usually I try to get out the door asap but this week I ate breakfast right after getting up, then waited a while to allow some time for digestion, but still got a fairly early start. I had my camelbak with me and practiced drinking water every 2 miles, and took 2 chews every 6 miles, which worked well. I did feel hungry toward the end, so I know that I need to eat a bit more for breakfast on race day. once I hit my marathon pace miles (that I did a bit too fast), I was in the zone, and although I slowed a bit after mile 16, I still hovered right around marathon pace for the remainder of my miles, and ended up finishing with an average pace of 8:01 – right at my race pace. I wasn’t even watching my watch much, the pace just felt comfortable, which is a great sign!

I switched things up this week for strength and did two of kevin’s workouts – one was a burpee/deadlift ladder workout, and the other was a circuit of burpees, pushups, mountain climbers, jump squats, and planks. both were very challenging but rewarding. I got through 1 round of a core workout after my long run but didn’t have energy for the second round. no cross-training this week.

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week 12 – september 5-11 / mileage – planned: 40, completed: 

much like week 10 after my 20-miler, this week left me feeling kind of tired. I slogged through monday’s easy run, and almost gave up on tuesday’s run (5 x 1600m repeats), but decided to push through it and I ended up feeling much better once I got started, and I hit all my splits just fine. I didn’t learn my lesson from a couple weeks ago and decided to do thursday’s tempo run at night which again, was fairly miserable. it wasn’t ungodly hot but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either, and I just felt like I could not get my legs to turn over. I made it through and was happy to have it done, but felt like crap afterwards. running at night always makes me feel strange and I have no appetite, but I know I need to eat, but I always wait too long and then feel worse. every time this happens I remind myself that I need to just get it done in the morning, especially if it’s a workout day.

this week’s long run was back down to 14 miles. I totally get the concept of drop-down weeks and I think they’re essential for staying healthy and avoiding burnout, but once you’re up to 20 or 22 miles, running 14 can just be hard to get excited about. so on friday night, we decided that on saturday morning, we would sign up for and run the peak 2 peak 10-mile race (after doing a few warm-up miles to get to our 14). thankfully there were still spots available – it was so fun to be in a race environment and of course, not have to worry about wearing our camelbaks and all that. I did end up racing the race — it was too hard not to! ended up 4th female overall and 1st in my age group, not too shabby for my first 10-mile race and for signing up on a whim! the post-race food was great, and we got a shirt, gym bag, and medal, all for $40!

I skipped a strength session this week but still got in a barre workout on thursday, and we did a leisurely (but hilly!) group bike ride on sunday for some cross-training.

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as I write this, there’s only about 3.5 weeks until race day — I can’t believe how fast this training cycle has gone by. right now, I’m feeling confident and excited, but still really nervous. I know that [most of] the hard work is done, but I’m also anxious about the taper period and of course, executing on race day. for now, all I can do is get in these last few weeks of training, stay rested and healthy, and trust my training! 

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chicago marathon training recap: weeks 5-8

if you’re new here, I’m currently training for my second full marathon – Chicago – on October 9, 2016. I am currently in week 10 of 16, and you can read about weeks 1-4 here, about last year’s race here, and all things running related here.

week 5 – july 18-24 / mileage – planned: 39, completed: 39.08

as I mentioned in the last post, things started to really fall into place during week 4 of my training, after vacation, etc., and this more or less continued throughout the second month of training. week 5 brought a tough, 7 mile hill repeat workout (that has reappeared many times since, so it now feels like the new normal), but I accepted the challenge, as smart runners know that hills are really just speedwork in disguise.

this week’s long run was 14 miles – I really liked the route because it was scenic and not a lot of car traffic to deal with, but the back half was insanely hilly, which made doing the last three miles at marathon pace even more difficult.

I got in two good strength workouts this week, plus a core circuit on saturday after the long run. we did a 23-mile bike ride on sunday as cross-training as well…fun at the time, but maybe overdid it a bit.

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week 6 – july 25-31
mileage – planned: 41, completed: 41.10

another solid week. hill repeats again, plus a workout with 4 miles at tempo pace (for me, 7:12-7:30). tempo runs have been in some other plans I’ve used, but admittedly I’ve always avoided them, because they scare me and I didn’t really know how to do them and what paces I should be hitting. one of the main reasons I love having a coach is that our paces are always defined, so every workout or easy run has a purpose and a plan. tempos are really hard, but I’m learning that they’re manageable when executed properly, and the pain is worth it for feeling totally badass afterwards.

long run this week was 16, which to me is about when it starts to truly feel like a marathon long run. the route I planned out didn’t quite work (a side street we needed to take to get onto a trail ended up actually being a dirt road and was FULL of deer early in the morning), so some improvising was needed and it turned out fine, but essentially was a boring out & back. womp womp.

again got in two strength sessions this week, plus the post-long run core circuit. no cross training or bike ride this week, but we were fairly active throughout the weekend, so nbd.

13743560_1763800893865230_2089308300_nweek 7 – august 1-7 / mileage – planned: 44, completed: 44.10

what do you know, hill repeats again. every week I consider finding a new hill to do these on for variety’s sake, but the hill where we do these is the perfect distance away for a warm up/cool down, there’s not much traffic, and it’s just the right steepness. I think I finally wised up this week and brought water for in between sets, which was a great motivator. this week’s other workout was a fartlek ladder, which was hard but a nice break after a couple weeks of tempos.

this week’s 18-miler went really well for me, and started giving me a lot of confidence in my race goals. last 5 miles were at marathon pace, and I felt really strong throughout and like I could have kept going a bit longer — a good feeling. it probably helped that it was finally a cool morning and was even a bit misty outside, but hey, I’ll take progress however it’s given to me.

thanks to some storms I had to move around some runs this week, which involved a double on one day, but was still able to fit in two strength sessions as usual. I failed on the core workout this week, but we did get in a short bike ride to/from the farmer’s market on sunday for some cross training.

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week 8 – august 8-14
 / mileage – planned: 40, completed: 40.10

week 8 was a dropdown week which always sounds nice but for whatever reason, they’re always tough for me. this week I really started to feel the cumulative fatigue of marathon training and really had to force myself through the easy runs. one workout this week entailed 5 miles at tempo pace, which terrified me, but as with everything so far, the workouts have been well placed in my training, have felt aligned with my progress, and are challenging but not impossible.

only 1 strength session this week – just was feel wiped out and like a second one wouldn’t really add anything, and may even hurt, since I was so tired. I can be obsessive about following plans, but I’m – trying – to learn to listen to my body that taking a break every now and then can be just as effective as a hard workout, both mentally and physically.

I was dreading this week’s long run, even though it was “only” 14 again. we were in des moines and had been at the state fair the day before, so were tired from walking around, and didn’t eat great (duh). but running in new places is always enjoyable, and the trails in the area are awesome, so it turned out to be a great run and I felt proud for pushing through it. no cross training this week, but we did get in quite a bit of walking the rest of the weekend, exploring des moines breweries – that counts, right?

almost skipped the core circuit this week, but got inspired while watching the olympic women’s marathon on sunday and decided to get it in while we watched. gold medal for me, please!

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strength training

I thought I’d briefly mention what I’ve been doing for strength training. For the past several months leading into marathon training (and all throughout my half training in the spring), I was going to barre classes about 3x/week. I’ve never ever liked group fitness classes but really grew to love barre and noticed a difference in my running strength as a result of going consistently. I planned to continue with barre during marathon training, but (1) it’s expensive, and (2) the class schedule doesn’t fit with getting my strength workout in on tues/thurs mornings. I told myself I’d try doing something on my own for a few weeks, and if I couldn’t stick with it, I’d fit barre back into my budget and schedule.

happy to report I’ve been exclusively using Fitness Blender videos and it’s working out great. it’s a free website with a huge range of workouts available – different types (strength, HIIT, barre/yoga/pilates, cardio, toning, etc.), lengths, difficulty level, impact, required equipment, etc. I’ve experimented with quite a few of the videos but have landed on a few favorites:

Total Body Barre (40 minutes) – I love this workout because it includes a lot of similar moves from barre classes, so it helps fill that void. it’s two rounds of 14 different exercises, plus a short stretch/cool down (another thing I like, because I won’t do it on my own), and the only equipment you need are low-weight dumbbells and a chair or countertop.

Squats & Deadlifts Workout (33 minutes) – Probably my other favorite workout. Typically I’ll do this one day, and barre another day, for the week. Whereas barre is more low weight, high reps, this workout is higher weight (if you so choose), fewer reps, and I like doing both in my program to work all different muscles. this workout is an AB/AB format, so you’ll do two exercises twice through, and then move on to the next group, for a total of 6 groups.

Pilates Abs Burner (10 minutes) – favorite ab/core workout. if you’ve done any pilates, you know it’s challenging, but I like that it’s lower impact, not too many crunches (always makes my neck hurt), and is fast, so can easily be added on to another workout or squeezed in if you’re short on time.

Bodyweight Workout (25 minutes) – sometimes I feel like I need a break from squats and deadlifts, or a shorter workout, so on those days I’ll do this one. I don’t like it as much (so many pushups), but it’s my go-to backup workout. no equipment required, which is always nice!

nutrition & fuel

there are so many fuel sources out there — I’m always curious what people use and like! I can’t say I’ve ever loved any of them, but taking in some calories is sort of a necessary evil of marathon training, at least during long runs. last year while training for chicago, I started using gatorade endurance chews, since that’s what is on the race course, and they’re my favorite thing I’ve had so far. you can pretty much only get them on amazon, and they’re not as inexpensive as other things, but when you find what works for you, it’s worth it. I bring these on long runs and usually have 2 chews every 5-7 miles, with water.

I wish I could be one of those people that can run on an empty stomach, but I’m just not. for morning weekday runs (up to 8 miles), I’ll have a banana (or maybe just half) before heading out. that seems to give me enough energy/sugar to get it done without upsetting my stomach. for long runs, I’ll usually eat a banana plus a bagel or toast with peanut butter beforehand – pretty standard.

probably the best decision I’ve made around fueling was to get a camelbak hydration pack. in the past, I’ve run without water, relying on gas stations/drinking foundations/pre-placed water bottles, and have also used a small handheld bottle, and none of it really worked great. I really wish a water fairy could just appear every 2 miles, but alas, I have yet to see this happen, but a camelbak is the next best thing. it took a few weeks to get adjusted to running with it, but now I hardly notice it and can have a sip of water whenever I need, and can easily refill (though I’m yet to need to on a run).

that’s all for this time! weeks 9-12 will feature both a 20 and 22-miler, plus the start of track workouts, so stop back in a couple of weeks to hear how things are going!

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chicago marathon training recap: weeks 1-4

as many of you know, kevin and I are both training for the Chicago Marathon on October 9. this will be our second full marathon (I did chicago last year, and k did des moines), but our first time working with a coach! after such a positive experience with the red dirt running company lincoln half marathon training program, we decided to hire the coach, sarah madsen, to write us a marathon plan and work with us throughout the training period.


we met to discuss our goals and go over what we wanted in a plan. for our first marathon, we both just wanted to finish (and I was hurt going into mine, so I didn’t even know if that would happen), but this year, we’re both hoping to improve our times significantly. we followed an 18-week training plan fairly closely last year, but i’ll admit, even though I almost always put in the mileage, I didn’t always do the workouts (especially tempo runs, etc.) as prescribed. i’m a pretty dedicated runner and occasionally enjoy nerding out over planning workouts, but generally speaking, i more like the idea of someone else planning them for me (especially knowing they are aware of my goals) and checking in with me along the way to keep me accountable and to make sure it’s not too easy or too hard.

sarah recommended and prepared a 16-week plan, which we were comfortable with since we’d kept up with running a few times a week after our half marathon in may, and continued to do strength training and generally stay active. we also got a 4-week pre-training plan, which was a great way to get back into a routine and reintroduce speedwork and other workouts after a few weeks off. we did quite a few of the workouts during this period, but didn’t stress over it, and attended lots of fun runs, rode our bikes a lot, rested when we felt like it, and got our minds and bodies ready for what’s to come.

i won’t be posting the whole plan here (but I highly recommend considering sarah if you’re interested in a customized plan!), or all the runs i’ve completed, but thought i’d share some overall thoughts, favorite workouts, hard moments, and the like. we’re in week 6 of the program now, so i’ll share on weeks 1-4 for now, then 5-8 in another couple of weeks, etc., etc.

generally speaking, our plan follows this structure:
monday – easy w/strides
tuesday – hill repeats or track workout + strength training
wednesday – recovery run (super easy pace)
thursday – tempo/interval/pace workout + strength training
friday – rest
saturday – long run + core workout
sunday – rest or cross-train

week 1 – june 20-26 / mileage – planned: 32, completed: 30.66

the first week of training went great! i liked getting into the routine of what most of our weeks will look like – 5 days of running (monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, and saturday) with strength training on workout days (tuesday, thursday). i completed all the weekday runs (6, 5, 5, and 6 miles), and got in two good strength training sessions (I’m using fitness blender videos primarily).

I was particularly worried about the “steady state” run scheduled for this week (2 mi w/u, 2 mi @ steady state – 7:30-7:50, 2 mi c/d) because it had been awhile since i’d run “fast” (even though my half marathon pace was in that range). the run was challenging, but not impossible, and i hit my paces just fine, giving me the confidence to succeed in the harder tempo workouts to come.

our long run this week was scheduled as 10 miles, but we had a 10k race that morning, so i ran the race, then cooled down for another couple miles to bring my mileage up a bit, but since i’d raced hard, didn’t worry about getting to 10.

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week 2 – june 27-july 3 / mileage – planned: 35, completed: uh, 6?

week 2 was a bit of a wash, running wise, but we knew that going in. we were on vacation in colorado this week, so we planned to do some running, but didn’t want to miss out on hiking opportunities, biking around fort collins, and generally enjoying time with our family.

we ended up only getting in one 6-mile run, but we also did two fairly strenuous 9-mile hikes, biked almost 25 miles one day around fort collins, strength trained a couple of times, plus took countless short walks, so we hardly felt guilty over it. (ok, I might have felt slightly guilty, but I can get obsessive about training plans). considering how active we were on vacation, and that we did all of that at elevation, i don’t think we lost much, if any, fitness — plus, it was early on in our training.

running at elevation (we were in winter park – 9,500 ft!) is no joke, but i’d take that fresh, dry mountain air any day over our summer humidity here!

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week 3 – july 4-10 / mileage – planned: 38, completed: 33.5

we got back from vacation on july 4, and missed a run that morning, but otherwise, i was mostly back on track for this week. I didn’t get in as much strength training as i normally shoot for, but did get in both workouts (strides and a short tempo), and even fit it in the schedule to run at the weekly scriptown run that we’d missed the last couple of weeks.

this week’s long run was scheduled for 14 miles, but we did the 12-mile angry cow heifer hustle trail race on this day, so were a couple of miles short (the course ended up being around 11 miles, so i got in around 12.5 with a cool down). again, since it was fairly early on in our training, and since trail running tends to be harder than road running, i wasn’t too worried about coming in a few miles short this week, but was looking forward to getting totally back on track for week 4. we got in a 8 mile bike ride as cross training the day after our trail race, too!

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week 4 – july 11-17 / mileage – planned: 38, completed: 38.17!

week 4 it all fell into place again, and i completed the planned mileage, plus strength training on tuesday and thursday. i was nervous about being able to get in strength training after my runs on these days, but so far, i’ve been able to get in a 25-40 minute video (or two short videos) twice a week. conceivably i could do it in the evenings, but i know i’m less likely to do it then, and it’s nice having it out of the way in the mornings, and it hasn’t affected me getting to work on time. (mostly it just means not hitting snooze when the alarm goes off).

our long run for week 4 was again 14 miles, with miles 5-9 at marathon pace. we normally do long runs on saturdays, but opted to do it friday this week since friday was my birthday and we had a late night planned. although it was challenging after four days of running in a row, especially with thursday being a workout day – i’m so glad i got up early (4am…) and powered through so i could enjoy my birthday stress-free. saturday we were pretty lazy, but we got in a 15 mile bike ride on sunday as cross-training.

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if you’d like to follow along, check back in a few weeks for my weeks 5-8 update. i’ll also talk a bit more about my strength training, nutrition, etc. then as well!

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2015 chicago marathon race recap

It still hasn’t really sunk in that I ran a marathon. Most runners would tell you that running is about so much more than just running, and that’s true for a marathon x100. Whether I never run another one of these again, or run 100 more, as cheesy as it sounds, October 11, 2015, is a day I always want to remember. You only get one first marathon, and I’m so glad this was mine.

A little context for anyone who stumbled across the post and doesn’t know me personally: 10 days before this race (after a couple days of shin pain after running) I was diagnosed with a stress reaction (potential precursor to stress fracture) in my tibia, and was recommended not to run. I spent a few days resting and coming to terms with all that that meant, and then, in a moment of clarity, gathered some other opinions and based on that decided that unless my pain significantly progressed, I’d at least give the race a go (but at a slower pace if needed). In the week before the race I only ran a couple miles and otherwise tried to rest and ice as much as possible, which I ultimately think contributed to having healed “enough” to get through the race healthy and sans broken bones.

FRIDAY (Expo)

We got into Chicago on Friday morning via Megabus and after a quick breakfast and dropping off our bags at the hotel, we made our way to the expo at McCormick Place. I wanted to get to the expo as early as possible (Friday vs. Saturday) to avoid crowds and have everything in hand for race day, which I knew would help calm my nerves.

The expo was overwhelmingly huge, but there was tons of signage for the different stations and plenty of volunteers around to redirect you if you got lost (we did). I got all of the essentials first – race packet and bib, t-shirt – and then we made our way to a few booths that we had decided ahead of time we wanted to visit for different reasons (Brooks, Grandma’s Marathon, Goose Island, KT Tape, etc.). I highly suggest using this strategy because it can be easy to get sucked in and spend hours there, which is likely too much time on your feet right before race day. There were plenty of photo opps, which we took advantage of. This is also where my plans to not drink for the week leading up to the race went out the window. #yolo

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We stopped by the Runner’s World booth with our friend Vanessa and got to meet and get a photo with Bart Yasso! Pretty neat.

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My friend Teresa from work arrived at the expo a little while after us, so we met up for a picture and walked around a bit together. After talking about this race nearly every day at work for the last six months (sorry coworkers!), it was so surreal to finally be in Chicago together. I’m so grateful to have been on this journey with Teresa.

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We visited a few more booths at the expo — Although there was tons of stuff I loved, I was feeling weird about buying any marathon-specific apparel in case I didn’t start or finish the race. I got a couple of things that were more generic, including the softest hoodie ever, that just says “RUN” on the front, and told myself I’d buy something special if I did finish. I also picked up a 4:00-hour pace tattoo from the Nike Pace Team booth, and had Kevin grab a 4:30 (they were only allowing you to take one). I wasn’t sure if I’d be shooting for either of those times or if I’d even wear one, but wanted to have it just in case. Spoiler alert: glad I did.

Once we were done at the expo it was mid-afternoon, so we headed back toward our hotel, picked up a late lunch along the way, and pretty much hung out in our hotel/at the hotel bar for the rest of the evening. We got to bed super early as I know the night before the night before the race is the most important night of sleep, and we hadn’t slept much the night before on the overnight bus.

SATURDAY

We had originally planned to go to a Runner’s World shakeout run where Bart Yasso, Deena Kastor, and Sara Hall would be, but we made the decision in the morning to skip it and instead give my leg an extra day of rest, icing, etc.

We went to an early breakfast, came back to relax for awhile in our hotel, and then spent lunchtime and most of the afternoon with our friends Jolie and T who were visiting T’s family for the weekend and also watching the race! Jolie and T ran Chicago last year, so it was great to talk to them more about it, which helped me feel more prepared and less anxious.

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After a fun afternoon, we ended up back at our hotel around 5 and decided to forgo our dinner reservations and stay in and order a pizza instead. I wasn’t super hungry but knew I needed to eat something substantial the night before. We ordered a thin crust pizza from Lou Malnati’s and had it delivered, which was much less stressful than trying to go out to eat on a Saturday night in downtown Chicago. The pizza was delicious, and I finally was starting to feel pretty calm about the race and was able to eat a good amount.

I then got everything laid out for the morning. The week before, when I didn’t think I’d be running, I was so bummed for lots of reasons, among them the fact that I had spent a lot of time and money picking out my perfect outfit for the race. I ended up being really happy with everything I wore and used – in case you’re wondering, it’s these Athleta capris (large outer pockets on both sides – I carried chews on one side and my phone, in a ziploc, on the other side), this Lululemon top (really good at wicking moisture), a new pair of Brooks Glycerin 12s that I’d run about 25-30 miles in, and a basic Nike hat and sports bra. I even pinned my bib on ahead of time so I’d have one less thing to worry about in the morning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rely on my Garmin for accurate distance, and therefore, pace, so I changed the screen to just show elapsed time.

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We watched a little bit of TV (always helps me get sleepy) and I think I was asleep by 9:15. I slept fairly soundly until about 3:00, and then woke up and fell back asleep on and off until my alarm went off. Normally I get really anxious when I wake up the night before a race and can’t sleep, but I felt really calm and just tried to keep resting and not stare at the clock. Not the best night of sleep ever, but certainly not the worst.

SUNDAY (RACE DAY!)

We set about 10 different alarms between the two of us, and also got a hotel wake-up call, but I ended up waking up a few minutes before the first alarm at 4:45. I got up, stretched a little bit, and much to my surprise, realized that my leg didn’t hurt AT ALL for the first time in over 10 days. WEIRD, but I’ll take it.

I got ready fairly quickly, made sure I had everything I needed, and started eating my plain bagel (purchased the day beforehand at Dunkin’ Donuts) with peanut butter as we walked to the train station. Our hotel was only about a mile or so from the start line, but I wanted to keep resting my legs as much as possible so we opted to take the train and get a bit closer. I’m glad we got to the train early, because they weren’t running as frequently as we thought they’d be and we had to wait over 15 minutes for the next one.

I got to the race area just before 6, and wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Kevin yet, so we popped into a corner coffee shop. I happened to see that there were only two other people in line for their bathroom, so I was able to use the restroom there, which is approximately one million times better than the porta potties. I wasn’t sure how much time I would need to get through security and what the lines would be like to get into my corral, so we parted ways a few minutes past 6 and I made my way through Gate 1 toward Corral D.

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There weren’t many runners around when I got to my area, so I stretched a bit, sat and rested and talked to a few other people, and had a banana and some water. Once I noticed it starting to get a little busier, I got in line for the bathrooms. I didn’t end up really needing to go again, but you never know, so for about half an hour or so I would stand in line, try to go, come out, and immediately get back in line. A much better strategy than waiting until race time when the lines are long and the corrals are closing. I went into my corral around 7:10, 10 minutes before it closed.

I took some time to take a few pictures (I wasn’t planning to have my phone, but ended up wanting to in case my leg acted up along the way and I had to DNF and find Kevin) and just soak it all in. It was an absolutely beautiful morning. I was a little chilly so I wore a cheap throwaway shirt until about 5 minutes before my corral started.

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I was feeling really good and confident that morning so I decided I’d put on the 4:00-hour pace tattoo and see how long I could stick with it if things kept feeling good. I wasn’t putting a ton of pressure on myself but I wanted to have it just in case, since I knew my Garmin wouldn’t be reliable. On my other arm, I wrote the mantra I’ve been using a lot this training cycle: “I can do hard things.”

Photo Oct 20, 9 14 56 AM

Photo Oct 20, 9 14 57 AM

I typically am a ball of nerves leading up to race starts, but I was surprisingly calm standing and waiting in the sea of runners. I was so happy that I had decided to come to the start line and just so grateful to be a participant in this amazing event, no matter what happened. Deep down, I knew that I was really prepared for this and it was time to trust my training.

The race felt like four main parts to me so that’s how I’ve broken down the recap…

Miles 1-11
I was really surprised how fast we got started running after the 7:30 gun time – within 10 minutes. I felt really, really good for the first 10-11 miles, and was surprised how easy it felt to be running below my goal marathon pace (9:09). In the back of my mind I knew it was probably a little fast for my original race plan (to negative split), but I also knew my leg might start hurting and I’d need some time built in to get me through the back half and especially last few miles of the course. During the first 11 miles I got to see Jolie & T twice (mile 1, mile 6) and Kevin and our friend PJ twice (mile 4, mile 11) which was amazing and kept me really motivated. Here I am in the bottom left corner waving to Jolie & T!

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Miles 12-17
These were undoubtedly (and surprisingly) the hardest miles of the race for me. I started to have pain in both of my ankles, and in my arches, and wasn’t sure if it was related to my tibia issue or not. I also got a massive cramp in my right quad. I slowed down but tried to keep moving because I knew it would be so hard to start up again once I stopped. I ended up pulling off to the side to stretch a couple times in hopes of loosening things up, which helped a bit. I was expecting to see friends twice during this stretch, but we ended up missing each other both times. I got pretty lonely (despite the 2 million people cheering) and just tried to focus on getting to Chinatown where I knew I’d at least see Kevin again.

Miles 18-24
Once I hit the 17-18 mile area and was well into single-digit territory, I got a second wind (I was still running slower than the first half, but felt much better mentally). This was probably my favorite part of the race because my mood had improved, I was paying closer attention to and really enjoying the neighborhoods, especially Pilsen and Chinatown, and I knew I’d see people I knew again. I started walking through aid stations and taking Gatorade at nearly every one, as it was getting warmer. Seeing Kevin, PJ, Jolie & T in Chinatown around mile 20 was amazing and a huge motivator, and was when I first felt for sure that I’d be able to finish the race (just wasn’t sure in what time). I tried hard to look happy (I was happy!) for all the pictures despite the fact that nearly everything in my body was starting to ache!

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Around mile 23 someone was handing out small dixie cups of beer, and I wasn’t about to pass that up! The carbonation actually tasted pretty good and it was a fun thing to be able to say I’d done. Just before mile 24 I took an Otter Pop from someone which totally hit the spot and gave me a nice sugar boost!

Miles 24-26.2
All throughout the race I’d been manually hitting the lap button on my watch at every mile marker, and comparing where I was against the pace tattoo. I’d been under every mile so far but had gone from about 6 minutes under earlier in the race to 2-3 minutes under up to this point. At mile 24 I realized I had about 23 minutes left to finish under 4 hours and knew I could do that if I just kept moving forward. The last couple miles are a long stretch but I loved every part of it because I knew I was going to finish, and meet my time goal too! I saw Kevin and PJ at mile 25, and Jolie at 25.5 or so, and somehow managed to still be smiling and looking strong!

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I didn’t have much of a sprint in me for the end, but I did try to pick up the pace in the last 400m or so once I realized I could break 3:58. Crossing that finish line was an incredible feeling of pride and accomplishment, and I’ll never forget it.

Official time: 3:57:34

Photo Oct 20, 9 14 51 AM

POST-RACE

One of my goals was to feel good enough after the race to drink the free Goose Island beer they give you pretty much immediately after finishing. Mission accomplished.

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It took me quite awhile to make my way through the finish area and find Kevin in the reunite area, which made me really glad I’d brought my phone so we could communicate along the way and find a meeting spot. I had a protein recovery shake and some pretzels, and we (slowly) made our way to the train to try to catch our friend Vanessa at mile 25. We made it with about 30 seconds to spare, and it was so fun to cheer her on to a strong finish for her second year in Chicago!

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After seeing Vanessa we headed over to Chinatown – at which point walking was becoming increasingly challenging – to see Teresa. We waited here for a bit and got to cheer on a ton of other runners, hold up our very popular “Beer misses you too” sign, and eventually spotted Teresa and chatted for a minute! It was so great to see her and encourage her in a pretty difficult part of the race. (She did amazing!)

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Once Teresa passed we took the train back to our hotel, I took the best shower of my life, and rested for a few hours before dinner and drinks with Jolie and T for the rest of the evening. It’s still sinking in and I’m still feeling all the feels from this experience, and especially being able to share it with some of the most important people in my life.

I can do hard things, and I’m a marathoner.

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