Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 Inaugural Naperville Marathon

I finished #10.
And it wasn't easy.

But then again, I didn't really think it would be.

Marathons have never been my race distance of choice, and likely never will be. I've always struggled with this distance, mostly because I'm impatient and find that the uncomfortably-comfortable pace for 26.2 miles leaves me itchy and often over-zealous too early on. I'm maybe a once-a-year kinda marathoner where the wounds of the most recent have long healed and been forgotten before even dreaming up another. Yet, I wanted to toe the line of the Inaugural Naperville Marathon anyhow. Even with all the bullshit that went on before the race where numerous runners lashed out via every single social media site possible against the planning committee regarding the race fee (where things actually got fairly nasty and I felt extremely embarrassed for several ridiculously childish adults), I wanted to be there. 

Naperville is now the town that I call home.

The trails and neighborhoods that this course was slotted to tour through are the ones that I trek through everyday. I know nearly every limestone trail, every hill, and every tree. I felt like this was my marathon, my chance to go after that behemoth of a marathon goal I've had hovering over me for some time. 

So I bit the bullet, setting those boats on fire, and dove in head first.

Mr. Chicago Runner Girl & myself at the start
When the training for this marathon started, I wasn't really sure that my 3:05 goal was reasonably within my reach but was willing to give it a go anyhow. Coming off of 2012 with a few bumps and bruises, I knew that I had to be a heck of a lot more sensible about this thing. There wasn't really a doubt in my mind that my legs had a PR in them, it was just a matter of what that PR would be come race day.

My approach for this race was entirely different than practically every marathon I had prepared for in the past.

Less mileage, more quality work, and a heck of a lot more life balance.
Running wasn't trumping my life commitments, instead life was at the sacrifice of running.

I gave myself flexibility in the ending point for a variety of reasons, reasons which I don't regret and glad I honored.

Xaarlin, Ken, Erin, and Mr. CRG keeping warm indoors before the race
Erin's pic
In the months leading up to the race, I was a workhorse with that GMP. Slowly burning that race day pace into the legs with hopes that they would work steadily like a metronome from miles 1-26.2 without any question. Knowing myself and the way I work, I knew this would be the most difficult task for me come race day. For me, there seems to be a severe disconnect between my mind and the rest of my body during marathons. Knowing that those early miles are supposed to feel pathetically slow is extremely challenging for me and my impatient spirit. My legs say "move" while the head has to repeat  "steady control" on an exhausting nonstop reel.

Some of my most favorite runners
Xaar & Kim
K's pic
The plan going out of the gate was to hold steady behind the 3:15 pacer until mile 5 and to not move any quicker than 7:30ish pace, once into the Springbrook Prairie after the mile 5 incline to begin settling into that 7:10 pace holding steady through the ups and downs, then take advantage of the downhill coming out of Greene Valley from 21-23 all the while taking fuels and fluids as needed.
Like always, no concrete race day fueling plan.

The reality played out quite differently.
And here is where mistakes #1 & 2 for the day occurred. 

As soon as the gun went off, the 3:15 pacer had quite a group with him. I snuck in behind the group running by feel and didn't peak in on my Garmin until the mile 3 marker, which was a 6:57 clip. Yikes. Way too fast for me in a marathon, so I let them go a bit where the pacer continued to let his pace vary a bit too much for my liking. But like the plan, I cruised up the limestone incline at 5 and slowly moved past the group. My plan of going out easy didn't exactly happen, but I was feeling very comfortable with my pace in the low 7's so I kept with it. Took a salt tablet around 5 for the first time in my life, which went down easy and was fine on the tummy.

Leaving the start line with a giant pocket full of fuels that I barely used
Pic via K's hubby

As we passed through mile 8, I felt like I was really on my game for the day. Relaxed, focused, and maintaining that steady control I needed for a solid finish. There was a steady flow of family and friends throughout this mile where plenty of smiles and side 5's were dished out. 

The race split just before 10, and all seemed calm and quiet on the course. This is when I knew the work was going to have to start as the course cruised up a steady and slow several mile incline and was headed into another limestone trail that would be host to a doozy of a hill. While this race was small, I never seemed to find myself entirely alone. Felt like it was just the right mix of peace and madness for my mind. Crossed the half way mark just under 1:35, right where I wanted to be and took some chews shortly before.

It was until just before heading into Greene Valley that I had my first thoughts about the swirling winds for the day and started to think about that hill at the 20ish mile. 

Photo via Kim's hubby

While this course was host to quite a few ups and downs, I hadn't really noticed them much until the miles were in the teens. 

As I was making my way through those Greene Valley miles, my head begun to feel a bit fuzzy and I became even more impatient. The fact that I wasn't sweating and my breath was entirely under control was starting to irritate me, so my impatient self begun to push the pace a bit. Still lingering in the low 7's, I just felt like I should have been working harder as this was a race. That feeling held through about mile 20 when I hit that last incline, just after catching a glimpse of these lovely ladies a few miles behind.

Then it happened.

My body just after cresting that last incline said "thanks for coming to the party, but we're done here and are going to close up shop." In the blink of an eye my comfortable pace and steady focus were replaced with tunnel vision and thoughts of calling it a day right there at 21, my body just had enough. 

I hit that damn wall.
And I hit it hard.

Thoughts became difficult to process at that point where the only thing keeping me moving was knowing a great friend of mine was waiting just after 21 for me.

Originally we talked about how she was going to push me during those last few, not letting me ease up, helping me seal the deal on a solid marathon performance for the day. But the only thought crossing my mind in the moments leading up to our meeting was this is where I pull the plug for the day. 20 good solid miles was enough for me, and I lost the desire to push through that last 10k.

But, she wasn't letting me quit.
And became the only reason I finished.

Those last 6+ miles were almost like a death march for me. My vision became more and more limited with each step and my head just couldn't process the situation. At this point my legs weren't in pain, I just have no idea how they were still moving. It felt like I was floating outside of my body where the limited vision begun to make me severely nauseous.

Honestly, if it weren't for my gal-pal I wouldn't have finished. I would have pulled out along the road and probably laid myself out on a random strangers grass until my head decided to rejoin the party. A finish became unimportant to me as my body was asking me to stop. So we slowed the pace as she cracked the whip on me telling me to keep my eyes up and screw the watch. And screw the watch I did. The pace in those last few miles slipped from low 7's to a nearly 9 minute truffle-shuffle.

Brother-in-law snapped this pic just after the 23 mile marker

We passed my husbands family around mile 23 where they hooted and hollered and I dished out a few more side 5's. At that point it was taking everything inside of me to hold it together as the 3:15 group passed and all hope of finishing sub 3:10 had been abandoned miles ago. Those last few miles seemed to go on forever where I my vision almost entirely disappeared while climbing that last bastard of a hill at 26.

Things got extremely odd there for the last few minutes of the race where I could barely make out the road and tripped in the finishers chute. Apparently there was an orange painted speed bump right there in the last 100 feet or so that I didn't see (the same speed bump K's husband took a snapshot of me cruising over on the way out). As I tried my best to not eat the pavement in those last few seconds of the race, the crowd gasped and luckily only my hands touched as I crawled there for a quick minute. But, that slip was enough to completely disorient me at that point where the second I crossed the finish line and stopped running, I entirely blacked out.

When I came to a few minutes later, I was sprawled out on a cot in the med tent with an IV in my arm. I have no idea how I got there, no idea how I got my finisher medal, how I was somehow partially disrobed, and what the clock said when I finished. Those few minutes after crossing the line feel like they didn't happen, and that's a rather scary thought for me.

24 hours later, I finally mustered up the strength to pull my results

65th out of 1,079 finishers
7th out of 445 females

Certainly not the race I trained for, or the race I thought I toed the line to run, but this was still a step in the right direction for me with a 7 minute and 24 second PR. All that lost time was in the last 10k where the race plan was abandoned and all hell broke loose for me. Kind of a dagger to my heart to look at those last 10k splits. Garmin even had me with a whopping 26.67 miles for the day. Awesome. New marathon PDR.

Apparently I'm terrible at running tangents.

The race was what it was, and I still managed to squeak in just under 3:20 when things got messy. Light years away from where I wanted to be for the day, but hey that happens and there will always be another race to give it another go. Likely not anytime soon for me though, currently in a "I hate marathons and will never run one again" state of mind. 

For a first year race, I'd say Naperville was a HUGE success. So well organized and supported by the community. This course was very challenging with all the turns, varying terrain, and the incline/declines, certainly one to work for. The competition was pretty solid as well for a local first year race, where it's pretty neat that Naperville residents won both the men's and women's races.

I'd likely do this again, but for my health and sanity's sake...
I'd probably stick with the half.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In the taper

It's here.
Taper is here.

It's been a whirlwind of a month. Seems when I was planning for this marathon back in May that I neglected to consider all the other things I would have going on during my peak weeks. To say that I overbooked myself for the month of October, which was host to some truly great moments and a few rather hairy ones as well, would most likely be the understatement of the year.

Trying to maintain balance between training and other life's stuff has always been a struggle for me, where committing to things with the intention of putting forth my best effort has become my trademark. I like a good challenge where I get a bit uncomfortable but somehow make it out in the end with a result and an experience that is all my own. Yet, as I age it seems the lower on the list of priorities running tends to fall as the value of my life exponentially increases in unexpected ways.

All those miles are still very much present in my life, but they simply are what they are.
No more. No less.

Mr. Chicago Runner Girl & myself on a recent trip to LA during a peak marathon training week

Running still makes me feel as strong and confident as ever where the sound of my feet grazing across the pavement will always bring peace to my soul. There are few things in life that a woman can have only to herself, and running is that for me. It's my time to disconnect from the world and my daily agenda where the hush of my breath still has that same calming effect as it did 16+ years ago when I started running.

But marathon training has always put this soothing to the test.

It makes me feel like I'm repeatedly short on time, 
running 10 minutes behind the rest of the world,
constantly shuffling from one place to the next,
and just a big ragged around the edges.

I've always felt that marathons, in theory, sound wonderful. It's not until I dive in head first and find myself nose deep in training that I remember why this isn't my favorite distance to race and train for. It's a deeply intense labor of love where the results don't always reflect the efforts, a experience I've become very familiar with over the years. If there is anything that I've learned from my 9 previous marathons over the past 10+ years it's that it's just one day, one race. It isn't the end-all-be-all, just a snapshot on what the body was capable of on that one lived day. And sometimes, that dreamed up PR race just isn't going to be in the cards even after a nearly flawless training cycle.

That being said, I've still put in the work needed for a great race.

I've tackled countless hills, and sometimes even mountains, to prepare.
Way outside of my comfort zone on that.

That one was a doozy.
I've practiced, practiced, practiced that GMP like it's my job.
So much to the point that goal marathon pace feels second nature to the legs now.

Last GMP workout of the cycle, 12 miles @ 7ish pace

Hit a PDR week for 2013 with 62 miles.
Clocking the most quality miles my life has ever seen.

At this point I'm feeling more prepared and less stressed than I've ever been for a marathon in my entire life. I've done the work, I'm doing the rest, and I trust myself. Just itching to get out there. 

There is no over thinking,
no doubt,
no question at all whether I'm ready or not.
I'm ready.

What happens happens and I know that I'm going to walk away from this experience knowing that I gave it my best. Clock times, splits, placings, etc. hold no weight for me. Instead, all I'm concerned about is putting forth a solid effort while maintaining that same steady focus I've had for months.

Naperville Marathon...here I come.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Google apps S.O.S.

I know others have dealt with this recently, and I'm grasping at straws here hoping someone is still reading this blog and can offer a bit of assistance...

Recently I've been notified by Google that I need to update my Google Apps account. 
In their email, they sent me a link and some instructions on what I need to do.
Awesome, easy-breezy right?


Google Apps sucks and I have wasted countless hours in the past few weeks trying to figure out how the heck to even simply log into my account.

When it should be as simple as either logging into this site, or even simpler by clicking the link they sent me, and just typing in some info...it has been everything but simple.

Instead I am continually greeted by this stupid screen.

Thank you google apps for wasting at least a dozen hours or so in my recent life

Every. Dang. Time.

I've tried a million different things.

Changing my password
Clearing my cookies
Contacting google directly (which is a colossal waste of time btw)

Just curious if anyone has encountered this same issue and has the secret on how to get over the "invalid request" hump. 

I'm having a bit of a technology meltdown here.
Systems overload.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Recoverin' & Workin'

It's been a couple of weeks since the FV Half now where I think I'm recovered.

Physically, Emotionally, Mentally,
This race was exhausting in every way for me.

Post race it's easy to over analyze the day.
Looking at data, thinking about where I could have conserved and pushed, wondering why I mentally started to unravel in the back half, and over thinking how I somehow picked up an extra quarter mile on the course that pretty much sealed the deal on not getting a PR have all crossed my mind.

Funny how I can unexpectedly win a race but still tell myself I could have done better even when I was sore the 4 days afterwards from those 13.35 miles.

But hey, I didn't.
And nothing makes me crazier than playing the "what-if" game.

There have been quite a few moments the week after where I've caught myself saying "I could have/should have run faster", but all that talk means nothing until I can put my money where my mouth is. So lets just lay that to rest right here right now.

I ran a solid race where 6-7 miles I flew solo and came pretty damn close to my PR and somehow won. And I learned that I need to step up my mental game.
Let's just call that a success in and of itself.

The plan for the FV half was to do a mini-taper pre race and train through the week post race. Not the most ideal way to recover, but getting the body used to pushing while fatigued is key here for me and that marathon.

And fatigued I have been.

I've had a few decent workouts in the past several weeks, but I've also had a few that have knocked me on my @$$ a bit causing me to really start reconsidering this whole marathoning thing.

There was terrible 6 mile tempo,
an extra challenging 18 miler,
a solid 3x2 mile at threshold workout,
some marathon paced miles on a rather humid day that didn't feel so comfortable,
and one very steamy 20 miler that hurt like all heck.

All in the past two weeks since Fox Valley, with only 2 days off since the race.
So it would be quite the understatement if I were to say that I'm a wee bit excited for this weeks mini cut-back.

5 weeks out from the Naperville Marathon and I'm still workin' on that 3:05. Marathons are hard for me just like everyone else, and my mind has somehow forgotten the commitment from last time around...probably because I ran that one for fun and didn't take training too seriously. Maybe the day will have me at that 3:05 mark, and maybe it won't. So many uncontrollable factors that all I can do is keep my chin up and continue doing the work needed over the next 33 days.

Thirty three days.
33 days.

Honestly, I miss sitting on the couch with these fur balls when I'm out running.

But, just have to hang on and keep my head in the game for 33 more days then it'll be back to channel surfing and snuggie sharing with my Chicago Runner Fur Babes.

Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Fox Valley Half Marathon

"You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need"
Rolling Stones

I've been a very blessed and lucky lady in 2013.

I've got my health.
Wonderful family and friends.
An incredibly supportive husband.
The most awesome job in the world.
Two amazingly sweet furry pups.
And so much more.

To say that my life is so much more than running and racing would be the understatement of the year.
Which, sadly wasn't always the case.
But hey, that's old news at this point.

There is no pressure to perform, to hit certain benchmarks, or to pump out splits like a vapid running machine. Instead, taking the less is more approach to my running this year has been the best decision I could have ever made for myself. Miles are pressure free and I'm just moving forward with what my body is willing to give me on a day-to-day basis, which some days is more than others.

No agenda.
No behemoth goals.
No feeling like I'm miles away from where I should be.

Even so, I've had a decent summer with running. Workouts have been challenging both mentally and physically where building up to the Fox Valley Half I had 8 solid weeks of (mostly) progress. My running legs have felt like they are slowly coming back and I've been feeling pretty positive to where it'll all lead for the Naperville Marathon on 11/10. Before even toeing the line on Sunday, I knew that there was a semi-decent race in the legs if I played my cards right.

I gave myself a mini-taper (4 days of easy miles),
and didn't spend too much time thinking about how the race would play out beforehand.

Instead the only thought I let cross my mind the week before was "race not pace".

Race morning was perfect.

Temps were in the high 40's/low 50's with a light breeze and low humidities. We parked about a quarter mile from the finish when the sun was just beginning to rise and the starting area was still quiet. The atmosphere was exactly what my mind needed pre-race; peaceful, serene, and chaos-free.

After getting in my warm-up and squeezing into the corral moments before the gun went off, I tried my best to squeeze to the front before the hubby politely asked me what the heck I was doing. There were NO women up front and instead the line seemed to be crowded with quite a few of the full marathon runners, all male. So I tucked in with the pack and was about 10 seconds behind the line. Apparently according to the hubs, it's poor etiquette to push through to the front.

In the early miles of the race, I felt controlled and very comfortable. Breath was steady, legs felt solid, and my head felt on. I hung with a group of dudes that seemed to be right on my pace and stuck with them every time they tried to edge me out on the narrow path. In those first 6 miles I kept having to tell myself to slow it up and relax the pace every time my watch beeped. Splits were clipping by a bit quicker than I anticipated so eventually I just had to stop looking and keep reminding myself "race not pace" was important.

The course was beautiful and as the miles passed it didn't even dawn on me that the course would eventually split and that I had paired myself up with dudes that were running the full, not the half. Instead I was just enjoying where I was as spectators shouted out "go first female" or "running with the dudes", which I found oddly entertaining.

Racing in solitude, impossibly challenging

Just after mile 6 the full marathon and 20 mile routes split off and I found myself alone, completely alone. The course ahead was like a ghost town where I couldn't see a single runner ahead or hear any behind. It was just me, that quiet lonely path, and my thoughts. By mile 8-9 the head begun to catch up with what the body was doing and the solitude of the course started to mess with me. There were no distractions where all I could focus on was how awful my stomach felt. It was at this point I made the conscious choice to slow up to ease the odd side ache I was dealing with.

Those last 5+ were a little rough mentally

 Honestly, I don't remember much past 9 of the race. I was in some kind of running haze where the non-stop chant in my head of "steady focus" was only doing so much good. There were a few weird twist and turns, a climb up a loose gravel incline that felt like a mountain and had absolutely no traction, running into some oncoming marathon traffic, and what felt like the longest last mile of a race I had ever run. I have no idea how I was making forward progress, but it was somehow happening.

The hubby biked to various points on the course in those last few miles where I knew that I just had to keep going until I saw him again. Seeing his face and hearing his voice faintly through my headphones were the only things that kept me going. The unending support he shows me through everything I do makes me a better person. There really is nothing more special in life than having someone believe in during your most vulnerable times, even when you start to doubt yourself.

Rounding that last corner of the race was very surreal for me where the finish line seemed miles away. I knew that I had won the women's race where I ran the last nearly 7 miles entirely on my own but came in just shy of my 2 year old PR. So many feelings going on inside in those moments that are impossible to put into words.

I had just accomplished one of my major life goals, to break the finishers tape of a race...
but at the same time finished just a mere 21 seconds behind my PR

I finished in 1:28:13, as the 1st place female and 10th overall.
My second fastest half mary split ever.

The #1 male finished in 1:15:52, a whopping 13 minutes ahead of me.
Meaning, in those 13 minutes there were only 9 other people ahead of me on that course where even #9 finished a minute plus ahead of me. I was in a no-man's land, but somehow still managed to finish within 21 seconds of my best.

Receiving my fox trophy and box of gourmet chocolates post win

It's hard to really sum up my post race feelings, and I said some pretty goofy stuff to a reporter afterwords, because it almost didn't seem real. I was drunk on racing and had no idea what was coming out of my mouth until the story came out. Nothing like a lady talking about vomit, truly classy.

5 days removed from the day, it still just all seems so bittersweet.
A win, but no PR, close (21 seconds close)...but not close enough.

It's been weird to see my face on the FV Marathon and Naperville Marathons Facebook pages, receive congratulations from a whole slew of people that I never even told I was racing or that I won, and take that win title. I feel like it's just weird and that I won by an odd fluke of no other faster woman racing the half that day.

The win just hasn't sunk in yet,
even though I've eaten almost that entire box of chocolates already.

Thank you to all who have supported me in this endeavour.

Thank you Truebar for giving me the opportunity to represent you.
Thank you Mr. Chicago Runner Girl for your unending love and support.
Thank you readers & friends for believing in me.

Hold on to your hats because it's not over yet.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Runner's Guilt

Race week is upon us...
which means one last good workout before taper and just like clockwork my ornery Garmin will decide to go apeshit on me.

About 3 minutes before the damn girl lost her mind. Again.

While it looked a bit touch-and-go there for a second, Lazarus has arisen and is back in working order. Again. If there is anything I've learned about my Garmin Forerunner 110 over the past 4 years it's that she's a crazy b*@#$. I've lost count at this point, but it has revived itself from the dead several times now and has caused me countless headaches and moments of frustration. Now I just wait her out, and eventually she always comes back to me.

Tried a hard-rest TWICE yesterday morning, with no response whatsoever from ole faithful.
But this morning when I hooked her up and plugged her in, she responded and no reset was necessary. Lucky for me all my data was still there, including yesterdays workout that I was really eager to see the splits of.

Workout was 4x1.5 mile repeats 5-10 seconds quicker than HMGP(6:35ish)
On rolling hills. Into the wind.

The 24 hour period where my watch went on vacation was KILLING me because I really wanted to see these splits. Felt better than I've been feeling during speed workouts lately and wanted to see some type of visual assurance that my body is actually making progress and that it's not just a figment of my imagination.

In all outright honesty, workouts for the Naperville Marathon for the most part have been hard.
Like whats-wrong-with-me-I-feel-so-out-of-shape-hard.

But, it's been awhile since I've trained somewhat logically and hard for a full (back in fall of 2011 to be exact) where that still didn't pan out too well for me. Think there it was just too much of everything going on there. Too much drive. Too much commitment. Too much mileage. And too much pressure that I put on myself.

Which is why I've made an honest and solid vow to myself that there will never be a 60+ mileage week for Naperville and quality workouts are going to serve me far greater than the quantity of miles this time around. Even so, I've been lingering in the mid-50 mpw range for the past month or so now and I honestly cannot imagine running one step more than I'm already doing.

Which leads me to think...
how the hell was I running 70-80 mpw consistently last time around?

I feel like even now with my weekly mileage lingering around the mid-50's that everything revolves around my running.

My sleeping schedule.
My eating schedule.
My social life.
My bedtime.

It's making me crazy, and I'm only at the half way point.
53 days and some change to be exact.

Marathons just seem to pull so much out of me that I now feel pretty confident in saying that this may be my last, at least for awhile. The Runner's Guilt I constantly experience because of training seems to be weighing heavy on my heart these days.

Am I alone in this?

The guilt that my husband after a hard days work has to make dinner and eat in solitude because I'm out for a run...
Missing a friends birthday 30th birthday party because of an 18+ miler that pulled me out of bed at 5 am before work caused me to crash at 9 pm....
The fact that I'm a greedy hog these days that refuses to share any food because my energy stores are constantly calling for more and more fuels...
How my house has become as disastrous mess because I no longer have the time or energy to do anything about it.

Maybe I've just hit a mid-training cycle lull.
Or marathoning just makes me even crazier than I already am.

Friday, September 13, 2013

2013 Chicago Half Marathon

Half Marathons seem to have become a staple in my life these days.
For some crazy reason, I just can't seem to get enough of them.

ones that make me curse myself
and even ones that are so cold that I have nearly gone into a hypothermic shock

I think it would be fair to say that at this point I've become somewhat of a half marathon junkie where I've pretty much seen it all.

Guilty. As. Charged.

This year alone I've already toed the line of 3 half mary's (including the Chicago Half 2013) and have another one a mere 8+ days away. It pretty much became a no-brainer for me when I realized I accidentally committed to the race that fell the morning after one of my favorite people in the whole entire world was getting married that this race would NOT be an ideal time to go out for a PR.

College girlfriends with the gorgeous bride
and of course, my terrible posture. baagh, just can't cure it! 
Honestly, I never once even considered calling it an early night for the sake of the race.
Your girlfriends only get married once (well, maybe...sometimes two, three, and four times but hey I don't judge I just celebrate) while races come around nearly every weekend. So instead of spending the night before a race on my sofa wrapped up in my snuggie with the company of my pups while calling it an early night I was staying hydrated on the dance floor sipping sweet tea vodka out of mason jars while gorging myself on southern goodness.

Sweet tea vodka, who knew?
So amazing. So refreshing. And goes down oh so smooth.

I ate.
I drank.
I danced.
And I stayed out way past my bedtime.

The cutest wedding photographers ever set up a photo booth that caught some pretty awesome snippets of the evening.
By the time my 4 am wake up call rolled around race morning, I felt a bit hairy to say the least.
While I still left the door of opportunity open for hard effort race morning, I knew within minutes of being awake that it would be a slow and steady wins the race kinda day. 
No big deal, especially since I knew I was going to do it all again in 2 weeks anyhow.

Besides, this race was going to be my brothers 1st half marathon ever.
A former heavy smoker with some fairly serious smoking related health issues who in early 2013 decided enough is enough and randomly took up running. A man that had never gone for a run willingly in his entire life before and had a smoking habit that lasted nearly 50% of his life was now running, and racing for heaven's sake. From smoker to half marathoner in less than a year, makes me tear up just thinking about how much he has transformed his life. 

As the older brother and I parted ways before the race venturing off to our respected start areas, I ran into quite a few people I've met in the past few years through running. Some that I've connected with through this blog, some that I've met within the past year from the running store I work for, and some that I just seem to bump into at nearly every single Chicago race I've ran. All of which have come into my life because of running. It made me realize how much the sport really has enriched my life connecting me with some pretty neat people that I wouldn't have met otherwise.

Marathonfoto seemed to capture this day spot on for me
Honestly, the race wasn't anything special for me. Before the gun went off there were talks in the corral with one of my newer running peeps about hanging together to get him finally under that 1:30 mark, but by mile 4 that plan fizzled out when the humidity and dew point seemed to make the race not the most ideal day to hit a new benchmark. So we parted ways, and I continued on with my pace which seemed to sit pretty steady within my goal marathon range. 

As the miles clipped on, the humidity was making me feel like I was sweating out pure vodka from the previous evenings shenanigans. Sweat poured into my eyeballs, my entire body was sopping wet as if I'd just taken a dip in the lake like the olden days, and I felt very calm and relaxed. My head pretty much just went blank while locking into a comfortably uncomfortable familiar pace as I coasted along LSD. It was almost therapeutic offering me a bit of assurance that good things are to come for me in the next 8 weeks. 

I finished pretty much where I expected for the day

a solid 7:02 pace
with plenty of gas left in the tank
just about where I hope to be on 11/10 for my full

As for the brother, he finished with a solid 1:52.
Less than a year of running in those legs and already holding mid 8 pace like it's nothing for 13.1 miles and already talking about a potential full next fall.

Some races bring those PR's, and some don't.
I never expected that PR on Sunday, and instead embrace the experiences I had instead.
I'll get my day, and damn it'll be sweet.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

i be racin'

Do you hear that?
Well it's there and it sounds like steady purpose and adventure.

It's been awhile since I've been here, so long that at first I didn't even recognize the hum of my own inner workhorse. But she's there, and she is feeling more powerful than before.

Let's back it up a bit...

Sunday, as in tomorrow, I will be 49 days into training for marathon #8 (or is it #9? arrrgggg, can't recall at this point) and toeing the line again this year of the Chicago Half Marathon. Last years race was bittersweet; no PR, quite a bit of vomit, and breathtaking views of my former hometown (of which wounds still feel very very fresh). Training was sub-par and I still managed to squeeze in just under 1:30, which at that point in time was a success in and of itself. 

Now, I'm 49 days into another marathon adventure that seems to be the exact opposite of everything I experienced last year where I often find myself in disbelief at what is actually going on.

Workouts happen, goal paces are within my reach, and progress is slowly beginning to creep in.

It's an odd feeling, to be successful at something that you've had so much trouble with recently. Part of me wants to dance around my house after returning from a steady run or interval session when I've hit paces without feeling like death, but a bigger part of me just sits waiting quietly in anticipation for the end while staying grounded knowing that at any time the bottom could fall out. It's hard to believe sometimes that 2012 has now become a thing of the past and that 2013 has a different story playing out for me in practically every area of my life. 

The city that I love so much, the discomfort and exhaustion, the lack of direction...it's all now just a thing of the past.

Life is moving forward fast and most days I'm just trying to keep up.

Not sure if tomorrow is going to host that half mary PR my heart has been lusting after since early 2012 because I still don't have a plan for the day and have no intentions of changing that in the next 22 hours. This week alone I've already had 2 great workouts, no taper, and have put in about 40 miles. So to say that the expectations are low for a goal time would be an understatement.

Do I think that a PR is in my legs at this point? Yes
Do I think that that day is tomorrow? No

Monday was 6x1 mile repeats in some rather spicy temps
Tuesday was a recovery day
Wednesday hosted 10+ miles for the day with 8 @ GMP
Thursday was a recovery day
Friday was 8 easy with strides

And tonight...
Tonight is one of my girlfriends weddings.

Maybe I'll surprise myself at how I race on little to no sleep while potentially hung-over, but I have a feeling that it may end just like the last half I attempted. And that's okay because I'm saving it all for the Fox Valley Half on 9/22 when I run for Truebar where that race will be worth the wait.

Every. Single. Step.

Here's to hoping tomorrow my breakfast stays down, that I don't have ungodly bags under my eyes, and that tonights shenanigans stay in my memory far longer than any PR ever does.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Staying in the Mile

"Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you're young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don't let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself."

John Bingham

With every new goal, new obstacle, and unvisited experience, there comes a certain amount of fear.

Am I good enough?
Can my body handle it all?
Will this be worth it?
Am I crazy?

For me there is a lot of fear moving forward with this fall marathon pursuit; fear that I am both my best and worst supporter and can easily allow myself to get carried away. 

I've spent most of 2013 rebuilding my running routes and starting back at square one. Staying well within the lines of my comfort zone. Playing by the rules, being realistic, and taming my overzealous spirit. Obviously it was the right choice because I'm here now, feeling stronger and more grounded than I've ever been while nailing my workouts. It's been a long time, and oddly enough it's been a tricky thing to get used to. Who would have thought success would make me feel so uneasy?

There is, and most likely always will be, that voice inside my head telling me to push harder, run faster, and go further.
That voice is filled with plenty of nonsensical reason and makes me more of an irrational human than I already am.
One that thinks excess can lead to better things than logic and conservation.

Keeping that in check is very challenging for me.

When a workout is going well, it takes every ounce of my willpower to not press harder or get in just one more mile. Instead, I'm constantly in a state of reminding myself that steady control is my friend and will be the secret to any successes this fall.

Today's tempo was no different.

Plan was to hit 4 miles on rolling hills in the 6:35-40 range.

For the first time in ages, I felt completely in control inside of my body. The foreign feeling of the mind and body working together harmoniously to accomplish the same thing was uncomfortably intoxicating, leaving me drunk on my sweat.

Relaxed as the legs fluidly moved forward clawing at the ground, it was easy in the early miles talking myself into adding an extra tempo mile for the day. Rounding things out at 5 instead of 4.
Everything was saying lets ride this high and keep the train-a-rollin'.

I think it's entirely normal to have those realistic fears of uncharted waters.
What isn't okay is convincing myself that sailing those waters before I'm ready is a good idea. 
Everything comes with time.

And I still need some time to get there safely.

As quickly as I talked myself into that 5th tempo mile, I talked myself out of it.
Seems like the better decision since I walked away from the workout craving more with an little extra pep in my step. Clearing away a wee-bit of doubt and uncertainty about the logic of this road workout by workout is all I can do. 

Be in the mile I'm in,
and let go of the next.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Last week marked 2 new 2013 milestones for me...

My 1st official 15 miler since marathon training last year.
Officially clocked 15.5 miles yesterday morning on a very hilly (for me) route in 2:01. I waited kind of late to leave the house where it was very sunny and fairly humid by the time I was a few miles in. Pretty sure that I lost at least 5 lbs. of sweat. Seems as if I have forgotten how hard these longer runs were in their absence. 

Everything after the 12 mile mark felt like a crawl as my skin seemed to be baking in the sun and I begun to get antsy.

I'm sure it'll get better with time, and since I am very out of practice with these long runs it only seems right that they are a little extra challenging. As odd as it may seem, the challenge is reassuring. Gives me something to work towards while keeping my workouts honest.


1st week over 50 miles
Clocked 53.79 miles total for the week.

That included a 5x1600 cruise interval session and a 6 mile GMP (sort of) run in addition to that long run. A pretty solid weeks work for me, probably the best in the past 18 months.

3 weeks into things, I'm feeling pretty solid.
Challenged, but confident.

89 more days to go until the big day...

but really who's counting.