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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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2016 ragnar so cal race recap

last month (april 1-2), kevin and i participated in our first ragnar relay race! if you don’t know, ragnar puts on a series of relay races across the country – teams of 12 spend two days (yes, overnight) each running three legs of an approximately 200 mile point-to-point course. we did the southern california edition, which started in huntington beach and ended on coronado in san diego!

we flew in a couple days before the race started so we could spend a little time with my family. i was so thankful to be able to squeeze this time in to see baby sister after four months apart! my dad also took us to check out a new brewery in redlands – perfect carb loading for the race the next day :)

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everything about ragnar screams crazy, but possibly the craziest part about this experience is that we only knew each other, plus two other teammates. I worked with our friend Johnnie back in Tucson, and when we asked us to be on a team with he and his fiance, Kristin, back in November, we didn’t really think twice about it! the rest of the team was comprised of their friends, all from Arizona. we met up with the team on their way to huntington from tucson on thursday evening, and joined them in the vans we rented for the weekend — here’s team Beer We Come all sunshine and smiles before having to run 200 miles.

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we got down to orange county around dinnertime, checked into our hotel, and went out for a team dinner at a nearby restaurant. kevin and i headed to bed pretty early in hopes of a good last night of rest before the race, but the freeway noise kept us up most of the night. we were up early friday morning to head down to the starting line to check in Van #1 (first 6 runners) and send off our first runner (kevin!). not a bad view to start the morning!

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we were short one runner on our team, so three people from our team filled in and each did a fourth leg as well. kevin filled in and kicked things off by running the first leg, a short 2-miler mostly along the huntington beach bike path. for some reason, I was worried about how much time there would be to pass in between the times that I was running, but I was amazed at how fast the two days went by once we started.

since I was runner 7, my first leg (12 miles) didn’t start until about 1:00pm, which was unfortunately right in the heat of the day, and my route did not have much shade. I was hoping to average around 8:00s, and was able to for the first 8 or so miles, but then had to slow down, and even stop and walk a few times because I was so overheated and dehydrated — definitely should have carried my own water because the course water stops were few and far between. I knew this would be the hardest leg to get through, since it was the longest and hottest, so I just tried to power through as best as I could. it felt amazing being done and passing the baton off to kevin to run next, and I even got a special medal for running the longest leg of the course!

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kevin was up next with about 9.5 miles and had a tough time on his leg as well – it was just so much hotter than we had run in throughout the past few months, and we also aren’t used to running in the middle of the afternoon. plus, his route was pretty hilly! I think we were both pretty relieved to get our longest legs out of the way first – although we got more tired, it still felt much easier for the rest of the time after those first legs!

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after the four other runners in our van finished their legs, we had a few hour break before any of us had to run again (while the other van was running). we headed to a nearby chipotle for a real meal, changed clothes and cleaned up a bit, and then headed to the next exchange point and tried to get some sleep. kevin and I ended up just laying in sleeping bags outside the van for a couple hours, but didn’t really sleep – I’ve never been a good napper, and since I was first up to run once the other van finished, I was worried if I did fall asleep I’d be too groggy and not feel refreshed.

we were all a little nervous about the nighttime legs but for the most part they ended up being really fun! I took off at around 11:30/midnight and my three miles went by super fast. I was worried about getting lost and not seeing any other runners, but thanks to all the reflective gear and lights they make you wear, I was always in eyesight of at least a few others out on the course. we did have one small snafu where we went to the wrong exchange and were waiting and waiting for our runner before realizing we needed to be at the previous exchange. it was a little stressful there for a little while, and probably augmented by how deliriously tired we were at that point, but we got it sorted out and back on track, and finished out our night legs!

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we then headed to our next exchange where we’d meet up with the other van after they’d finished their third legs. we had about 4 hours from when we got there to when it would be my turn to run again. there wasn’t enough room for all of us to sleep in the van, so kevin and I set up camp outside in sleeping bags again. just as we got comfortable, a race volunteer came over and told us we weren’t allowed to sleep in the parking lot for safety reasons, and directed us to a designated sleeping area. it was pretty much pitch black, so we couldn’t really see, and just wandered around until we found a spot that felt good (we were essentially on a beach). we dozed in and out for a couple hours, and woke up to slamming doors to realize that we’d inadvertently slept right near the porta potties, and the lines for the bathrooms had started to form around us. pretty awkward but we laughed it off and got up and got ready for our third legs to begin!

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my third and final leg was just under 10 miles and was the leg I was least prepared for. I didn’t review the map or elevation much, or really have a time goal. my legs were pretty sore at this point and our team was actually doing really well on time, so we all decided to take it pretty easy for our last legs. I knew mine would be along the coast, so I ended up stopping quite a few times to capture the breathtaking views! the leg turned out to be much hillier than I expected, and had road, path, dirt trail, and stairs, so I never got used to the terrain. regardless, I still really enjoyed this leg, but of course, it felt pretty amazing to pass the baton one last time to kevin and then be done for good!

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the rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent relaxing and cheering on the rest of the runners in our van. the other van had finished at this point and met up with us at some of the remaining exchange points, and we swapped stories from the previous couple days, since we hadn’t seen them much. once our last runner started, we began making our way to the finish line area, where we planned to run into the finish line together as a team. we made it there and parked with just a few minutes to spare — there was so much traffic! we spotted danny and all ran in to the finish line together – a pretty cool moment!

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the finish line was right on the beach at coronado, so we hung out there for awhile and enjoyed pizza and beers in the beautiful weather, before heading back to our hotel and going out for a proper dinner (which all of us were basically too tired to eat).

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we all crashed pretty early, and woke up the next morning sore but ready to continue the celebrations. before many of us had to go our separate ways, the whole team met for a delicious brunch full of ridiculous bloody mary’s. (mine had a grilled cheese sandwich on it!)

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then, a few of us who had more time to spend in san diego headed to stone brewery, which was conveniently very close to the airport, so we pretty much hung out there for the afternoon sampling beers and recapping the weekend.

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all in all, we are SO GLAD we said yes to our crazy friend johnnie back in november when he asked us to be a part of their team. it was so great getting to see him and his fiancé kristin, and to make a few new friends as well. we’ll definitely be back for another ragnar someday, and it’s an experience I highly recommend for every runner/adventurer if you get the chance!

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beer & bagel squatchy challenge

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Last weekend we participated in our first multi-race weekend: the Beer & Bagel Squatchy Challenge at Quarry Oaks Golf Course in Ashland, NE. This challenge consisted of a half(ish) marathon on Saturday followed by a 4-ish miler on Sunday. On hilly trails.

Having heard great things about Beer & Bagel in the past, we had started looking into doing the 4-miler a couple of weeks before the Chicago Marathon. We figured it would be a fun way to close out racing season, and even though trail races are more challenging than road races, 4 miles is a manageable distance. When we went to register, however, we discovered that they were also offering a halfish marathon distance, and that doing both races, or the “Squatchy Challenge,” qualified you for a special finisher’s medal. That was an easy choice. We like medals.

After Chicago I thought that I might have to skip out on these races thinking that they might be a bit too risky for my leg, but I’ve continued to take it fairly easy since the marathon and things seem to be healing up well (going purely off of feel here) so just as with Chicago and the Good Life Halfsy, I felt confident towing the starting line, taking it easy, and backing off if and when I felt necessary. I’m so happy that I was healthy enough to participate because this weekend of races turned out to be SO MUCH FUN.

SATURDAY (HALFISH MARATHON)
Ashland is about a 30-minute drive from our house, so we left around 7:15 for a 9:00am race time. Since this was the inaugural year of the halfish, the race field was pretty small (just over 200 runners), so we were able to park quickly and fairly close to the start line. We stayed in our car for a few extra minutes (it was chilly – just under 40 degrees), had our breakfast (mini bagel with peanut butter, and a banana), put on our arm warmers (old socks with the ends cut off), and then headed up to the start line area to hang out at around 8:20. One thing that I love about smaller races is that it’s usually a much calmer atmosphere. They had a few sets of corn hole/bags set up so we did that for a while, stretched a bit, and made our way over the start line a few minutes before 9:00am. We lined up near the front since the race was not chip timed (not that either of us were super concerned with time). And then we were off!

The course was 3 loops of about 4.3 miles, alternating directions every loop. We ran together for most of the first loop, and then I split off to complete the rest of the race by myself. (I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I do not run well with others – at least in races). The course was really beautiful with lots of different terrain that kept it interesting (and challenging) – part paved road, part golf course/grass, part dirt trail, plus three creek crossings of varying difficulty including one that you needed a rope to get across. There weren’t many flat areas which meant you were either going uphill or downhill at pretty much all times – both really hard in different ways. I thought I would hate having to do three loops of the same thing, but since this wasn’t an area where I normally run, I never got bored and the alternating directions made it interesting (and Kevin and I got to pass and see each other a couple times). I didn’t really have a time goal in mind for two reasons: (1) even though I always want to put out a good effort during a race, I was mostly running this for fun, and (2) trails are a whole different ball game and I have no concept of what a “good” trail pace would be for myself. I tried to view these races as a way to celebrate the end of our racing season, break in our new trail shoes, and start getting more comfortable running on trails (we want to do more of it this winter). I finished in 2:19 and then waited for Kevin to come in (at 2:55) – instant PRs since this was our first trail half!

This was the Beer & Bagel run, after all, so after finishing we headed to the beer tent and were pleased to find several local craft beer options awaiting us! There were bagels, of course, but they were also grilling up burgers, so we opted for those instead. The post-race atmosphere was so fun – everyone brought chairs and blankets and set up camp to enjoy beers, food, and the awards ceremony. (Note to self to come more prepared next year). We hung out for awhile afterwards, took some photobooth pics, and headed home – after all, we had to do this all over again the next morning!

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SUNDAY (4-ISH MILER)

Sunday we left our house a bit earlier – around 6:45 for the 9:00 start – since we knew Sunday’s race was larger and didn’t want to have to park far away. We got a good parking spot and once again hung out in our car for a bit, ate breakfast, and then headed to the start area. We forgot chairs, but happened to have a blanket in our trunk so we found a sunny spot and set our blanket up so we’d have a place to hang out post-race. We found our friend Teresa just before the race and of course had to take a pre-race group selfie!

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Doing this course for the second time was much easier, since it was only one loop and because we knew what to expect. The course was almost identical to Saturday’s, with the exception of the last 1/3 of a mile where they slightly modified the finish. It was also A LOT more crowded and there were several bottleneck areas. Even though I wasn’t trying to sprint through this, I did want to try to run the whole time, but it was pretty much impossible because there were so many groups of walkers spread across the entire width of the trail. I don’t mind when people walk in races – I do, too – but race etiquette and common sense would tell you to stay single file and move to the right if you are going to go slower. It was a bit frustrating but I tried to run in the areas where I could remind myself this was just for fun, and now I know what to expect for next year. On Sunday, I also ran through the creek crossings instead of using the ropes/stones to get across – that was fun (and I definitely, literally got cold feet)! I finished the 4.2 (ish) mile course in just under 43 minutes, grabbed a beer, and stayed near the finish line to wait for Kevin and Teresa, who came in together at just under an hour. They grabbed beers and we took a post-race pic!

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We hung out after the race for quite a while – had more beers (when I went up for the second time, the guy insisted on giving me two – YOLO!), food (chili and bagels – totally hit the spot), and got our special Squatchy medals! For early November, the weather was amazing – chilly at the start both days, but warmed up to about 60 by the end of the races and was super sunny – perfect for being outside! Both races were very well organized, with simple packet pickup, a great t-shirt (“drinker with a running problem”), and an amazing race director, who personally thanked us for participating in both days of the race. I’m so glad it worked out for us to do these races, and I think they’ll definitely be a regular installment for us moving forward. I don’t think I could ever give up traditional road running and races, but we definitely want to incorporate more trails into our training to build strength and mix things up a bit. We’ve got some exciting stuff planned for 2016!

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