Friday, September 28, 2012

How I'm rockin my "taper"

I've been in an unofficial taper for about 4 weeks now trying to give my body sometime to recover from the Chicago Half on 9/9.

Workouts haven't been too exciting, mileage hasn't been too impressive, and I've just kind of been coasting through with quite a few unorganized workouts that fall along the lines of "run fast to that light post than recover to the next".

Basically it boils down to this...

NO ONE can stay in their best shape for prolonged periods of time. NO ONE. Myself included. 
It burns you out, makes you exhausted, and your fitness begins to backtrack
And believe me, you won't be the exception to this rule no matter how much of a rock star you may think you are.

I wanted nothing more this year than to recreate all that PR magic that 2011 brought, but it didn't happen because I set unrealistic expectations for myself that I've been paying for since April. It's now late September where I was able to do my first 5 mile tempo run for the year last week, 39 weeks in.

Does that mean that I'm not going to ever run a 3:05 marathon or a 1:25 half?
Absolutely not.

It just means that my time frame was off and a year to make these great fitness leaps wasn't realistic for me.

The right decision to make is sometimes the hardest one to make, and for me it was extremely difficult to step back and analyze where I was heading with my running. Turns out that as much as I thought that I was on the right track, I wasn't because I had a bit of tunnel vision for my goals. Running is just running, and sometimes it can be difficult to wrap my head around that.

So I've shelved most of my goals for now.

Right now my priorities are simple:
  • Be as supportive as possible for the man during those 26.2 miles no matter what our clips are
  • Rest as much as possible pre race so that the post race recovery goes as smooth as possible
  • Don't jump into anything else for the year too quickly, instead just let the body slowly progress to gain back speed and fitness that were lost in the early months of the year
  • Take things on a LOGICAL day-to-day basis
  • Let go of mileage expectations, quality is much more important than quantity
  • Have as much fun as one can possibly have while running through the streets of Chicago next Sunday

Today I put in my last "workout" pre-race

400/800/15 mins @ tempo/800/400
Splits: 1:39, 3:04, 6:32 (15 min tempo average), 3:05, 1:29

Being no where NEAR marathon PR shape right now is a good thing for me going into the Chicago Marathon. No pressure, no expectations, and no chance for me to bend the rules and make some kind of pathetic attempt to bust out some half @$$ race that is going to run me into the ground making all the work I've done in the past few months to gain back my fitness null.

The next 9 days will host lots of rest, hoards of nutrients from whole food sources, ample amounts of water, and happy thoughts about running marathon #7 for fun. 

Who else is running the Chicago Marathon next weekend? What are your race day goals?

If you're heading to the marathon expo on Friday 10/5, stop by the Asics booth and say hi. I'll be there all day.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My favorite, yet most difficult, client

13 days out now from the 2012 Chicago Marathon, the man's BIG race of 2012.

Last weekend we put in our last 20 before the race. It was cold and blustery with a bit of sprinkles here and there, a complete 180 from all of our other long runs so far this year. Summer came into Chicago fast and hard in the early weeks of D's marathon cycle. For a man that was just getting back into distance running and hadn't run over 10 miles in 6 years, training became a bit more challenging than we anticipated in the harsh summer weather.

Those first few long runs were tough on him both mentally and physically, we took plenty of walk breaks in the late miles and ended up shaving several miles off the top of quite of few of these runs. Even when I progressed his training slowly, it seemed to take his body a bit longer to get the hang of this whole marathon training thing after a 6 year hiatus. For awhile we weren't really sure if he was going to be able to make it to that starting line on 10/7 healthy, but we both kept patient and were holding out for the moment that things would finally come together. 7 weeks in, he was finally able to get in a solid long run (17.18 miles with an 8:58 average to be exact where the last 5 miles where lingering just around 8:00 flat) without walking and feeling beat to hell in the late miles.

1 kick-butt run is all he needed to tell him that it was on for 10/7 and that there was no reason whatsoever to doubt that he couldn't do it. We took this as a sign that he was ready for some challenging workouts and set our sights on running one awesome marathon together and time to ramp up his training.

When I told him to do 800's at an 3:30-35 pace
He would do them at 3:00.

When I told him to do a 4 mile tempo at 7:45 pace
He would run the first few miles at 7:30 then bust out with a low 6 pace in the last mile.

When I told him to be patient with the long run pace 
He would push it anyhow in the late miles and try to school me in the end.

And now he's ready.

It's amazing how much a runner, or any athlete for that matter, can grow in a 4 month time period with a bit of persistence and patience. Goals that once seemed far off can become well within reach, and the possibilities of what lay ahead really gets your motor going. The coolest part is when that runner is your own husband where he tests and challenges you every step of the way completely blowing your expectations of his abilities out of the water. 

That last 20.01 miles we ran last Saturday took us 2:56 minutes, which is an 8:47 average pace. 

That was 7 minutes ahead of his last 20 miler 3 weeks prior, where his last 7 miles were a progressive build down to a 7:28 pace for mile 20. 

We aren't getting too concerned about marathon pacing yet, just focusing our efforts on running a smart solid race where we restrain as much control as possible in those early miles to conserve a heck of a lot of energy to cruise right through the finish. No matter what that clock says, I think he already is a winner and I couldn't be more proud of him for waiting out the rocky start to he had with his training patiently for this exact point in time.

This is the most excited I've EVER been for a marathon where I'm really enjoying not thinking about myself and my goals where all my efforts are instead focused on what is best for D. It actually makes the whole marathon experience worth it to know that you're going to be at your best friend side as they shoot for and nail their own goal.

Chicago Marathon 2012, here we come!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

life stuff

Life's latest progress...


Turns out that home ownership isn't as fun and wonderful as people make it out to be.

Sure it's your house, but every damn thing that's wrong with it you're responsible to fix where a lot of things in our "new" house need urgent attention.

And @#*! ain't cheap.

In the nearly 5 weeks that we've been homeowners I've come to realize that:

"move in ready" doesn't always mean what you think it means.

Move in ready my butt!
Anyone looking for some concrete rocks? I've got plenty of them.

you won't have hot water unless you light the pilot light...who knew?
if the previous owners of your home fixed something, it doesn't mean they actually fixed it. More than likely it's just a temporary bandaid that will hold just until the sale closes.
not everyone is as anal about housekeeping and fine details as I am. We have a 4 bedroom 2 bath house where none of the doors have the same knob. Tacky city, but they all match perfectly with the cheap mis-matched 1970's light fixtures.

Still not understanding what style the previous owners were going for here.
Tacky chic?

that quick DIY project will more than likely take you 10x longer than you think.
suburban homeowners are douchey. And why do speed limits have no meaning in the burbs?
a home that is a blank-slate can be overwhelming to decorate and furnish when you have absolutely no furniture.

Making baby steps

One room painted. But vacant. No curtains. No furniture. No lights. 

Turns out I'm no where near the Martha Stewart I thought I was.
I'm pretty much a disaster with any type of tool.


After my half on the 9th, I took several days off and strayed away from any and all type of structured workouts. Most of this year has been pretty touch-&-go in regards to my running where there was a point in time that I basically cooked my legs and wasn't sure if I'd be able to recover before the end of 2012. But I think things happen for a reason and there is a lesson in everything.

Best running lesson of this year that I've learned is:

more isn't always better. 

Whether that's mileage, intensity, cross training, focused workouts, speed, whatever.

Learning to train SMARTER makes a hell of a lot more sense than learning to get in more training. Making best use of those miles and where quality trumps everything is my #1 priority right now. A 5k PR with 24 days of training after burn-out only happened because I kicking my own ass shook me up enough to get my head screwed back on straight.

It's just running.
And I'm not a pro.
It's a hobby that I do because it's fun.

So maybe I didn't hit that half marathon PR 10 days ago, but I'm pretty stinkin content with a 1:29 finish after the mess of a year I created for myself. With only two 4 mile tempo runs beforehand, I'd say that a 1:29 is pretty solid, especially when the stomach wasn't really up for racing that day.

Just gotta take what you can get and appreciate what you DO have.

I've ran my past 2 long runs with a hand-held and I don't know how you hand-held lovers do it. I hate it. 

The water makes this gross and annoying sloshing sound, and it is just annoying to hold. But, it's either carry it or die of dehydration out here. Which I tried once, and it didn't turn out too well.  It's fairly small, only holds 10 oz., but I really feel silly with this thing attached to my hand. Sometimes it's hard for me to jump on the bandwagon of these new running trends. Hand-helds, skirts, gu's, fancy socks...just all seems like companies ways of getting more of my money when in the end I get the same results without all the crapola.


Went to a local Road Runner Sports event last night in Naperville.

Basically I got to be a running geek for a night where I spent my time blabbing on and on about everything running with some pretty cool vendors. Not sure the Nike rep appreciated my input about how they really need to step up their game with their next version of the Nike+ watch, but he listened anyhow. Free samples and prizes are always the way to a woman's heart. They gave away a 2 month unlimited Core Power Yoga membership that I was crossing all my fingers and toes for, but walked away empty handed. The good news is they host these types of events often, so maybe I'll be luckier next time.

Being in the presence of nearly every running shoe on the market right now wasn't a bad way to spend a night.


I must have been 20 cents short of a dollar back in January when I signed up for the Chicago Marathon thinking that I would actually be able to race it and finish somewhere around 3:05. It all sounded well and good at the time, but I am NO WHERE near that fitness level right now. Not even close, and most likely won't be for some time. 

Basically I'm glad that events have transpired the way that they have this year where all I care about this time around is running with my bestie and supporting the crap out of him. I'm a nerd and have found myself getting a bit choked up these days about him getting back into marathoning. The past few years have been a difficult build up back to the point where he can once again run without pain after his last marathon in 2006. Seeing him cruise through double digit runs makes me a very proud wife.

Pretty sure he is going to knock my socks off on 10/7. Never in my life have I been this excited for a marathon. No nerves, no pressure, just running way it's meant to be...FUN. Still trying to convince him to wear matching outfits, but he's not biting.


Still no concrete post-marathon plans. I think it would be in my best interest to just go with the flow and keep myself committed to non-structured activities. There is a small possibility that there could be another race before the end of the year, but that's not a decision that I'm willing to fully commit to yet.

How do I convince my hubby to be a total cheese ball and wear matching race day outfits?

Monday, September 17, 2012

All that race garb

Over the past 16+ years that I've been running, I've managed to collect a wide array of random race crap. From medals, to bibs, to plaques, to trophies, to other strange items that just seem to collect dust. I'm not a saver of trinkets, so I've pitched quite a bit of it over the years but still seem to be holding on to quite a few items.

Now that my husband and I have relocated outside of the Chicago city limits and no longer live in a 600 sq. ft. 1 bedroom apartment, I've been thinking of doing something with some of this stuff in our office. It's all been held it all in a pink photo box that has been stuffed to maximum capacity for over a year now where I'm just really not sure where to start.

Just a small taste of the collection
I don't want to hang up every medal I've ever received because I feel like it would become an awkward shrine to running days past that would just be weird.

Plus, this kind of crap seems to collect a lot of dust when displayed...and dust gives me the heeby-jeebies.

Looking for ideas on what to do with all this "stuff". Not opposed to anything involving scissors, glue, or any other type of crafty re purposing methods.

What do you do with all your race SWAG and awards?
Keep? Toss? Display?

Looking for any and all ideas.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

RRS Naperville "Girls Night Out"

We could all use a night out every now and then.

A bit of running gear shopping.
Good company.
And of course cocktails.

If you're located in or near the Western Suburbs, Road Runner Sports Naperville is hosting a "Girls Night Out" on September 18th from 6-8 pm.

Come join me for a night filled with running gear, prizes, and great company with fellow female runners on 9/18.

Road Runner Sports Naperville is a HUGE store that has pretty much any running product you're looking for with a very knowledgeable and helpful staff.

Hope to see you all there!

Monday, September 10, 2012

2012 Chicago Half

Settle down, it'll be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear
The trouble, it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone,
'Cause I'm gonna make this place your home

Everything in life has come full circle for me lately. I'm back in the place where my life started that I fled like a manic hostage 10 years ago ready to conquer my own path in life. Back then I traded the quiet discomfort of not-so-quaint homes with their perfectly manicured lawns and Pleasantville lives tended by flawless housewives which always made me feel drably ordinary for awe-inspiring skyscrapers and curious hipsters which tend to stir in urban spaces. My bohemian spirit found a warm peace within it's bizarre self to just be me on the Streets of Chicago, barefoot and unfiltered.

Taken at the Chicago Half Expo at Navy Pier on 9/8

Yet, here I sit in my new home with grossly blank white walls awaiting to be draped with the yet undiscovered memories of first homes adventures and boxes still full of our lives contents awaiting my attention in the exact city I escaped in horror from a decade prior. My entire adult life I've fought every urge to be grounded and settled while being married to a man that is kind enough to humor my impractical and stubborn ways patiently.

This year started with a foreshadowing of change. I set my sights high on pursing my passions, living out my dreams, and starting a family with my high school sweatheart. 28 was going to be the year that I built my coaching and personal training empire that was going to blow the minds of the doubtful, soar through the streets of Chicago effortlessly knocking out PR after PR like it was no big deal, and than become a speedy Momma Runner. My mind didn't plan for hiccups or speed bumps and instead let my heart flutter with how simply perfect things would unfold. I wouldn't need second or third chances because I had a full proof plan.

2012 was going to be the year of the mind-blowing half marathon PR

The PR that my tenacious heart was going to hunt down like a starving mountain lion stalking it's long awaited prey.

Yet, the theme of "you can't always get what you want" has been unmistakeably apparent in my life this year as things never pan out as planned. Those behemothly unassuming goals moving about in my small self that I've been most insistent on pursuing have turned out to be the exact things which have imperfectly ran their unfulfilled course. And yesterday's half was no exception.

I went. I saw. I ran. And I barfed. Twice.

The morning started out at the ugly hour of 4 am proceeding a restless night of sleep that left my stomach in unusual and unfamiliar knots. Chalking it up to nerves, I choked down a rather generous portion of oatmeal heavily sprinkled with cinnamon and drowning in bananas heading out of the house after prematurely ripping my sleepy husband from his peaceful slumber.

Legs felt on, rested and strong.
Mind felt relaxed.
Heart was ready.

Blowing kisses to the man early on. He's perfected the art of spectating.

After being in a tailspin with my finicky Garmin for weeks, which at this present time is out of order, the goal for this race became to "race not pace" through the finish. Clock time was irrelevant, all that held weight in my heart was enjoying my time back in Chicago racing my favorite distance healthy once again. Events of the last 5 months had made this moment seem far from possible and only allowed for an 8 week build up for this race that hosted maybe 4 semi-decent workouts. I basically felt like I was starting from scratch back in July where expectations of what 2012 was supposed to be was eaten alive by what actually was. Those insanely aggressive and hefty goals which seemed to trump a lot things in my life 10 months ago when I put them out there for all to know have had to temporarily move to the back burner a bit making room for logic and patience.

Thanks Charlyn for your support at mile 8

Going into this race I knew that a sub 1:25 finish was a long shot for my current fitness level and all that's happened for me this year. There are times to let yourself be intoxicated by the seductive allure of big hairy crazy goals, and there are other times when you have to ground yourself shining light on the realism of your situation. I've been with both feet steady on the ground for several months now where momentum is just starting to begin once again.

When the gun went off and my feet were once again reunited with the streets of Chicago, my soul felt a beautiful awakening that overshadowed the discomfort of my uneasy stomach that left a goofy grin on my face the entire race. I never felt as loved and blessed while running as I did yesterday. Breath controlled, the legs working in a steady rhythm with one another, the mind clear, it just all consumed my heart. So many supportive people, both those that I've come to know closely and those that I've yet to be blessed to know on a personal level, billowing from the depths of their lungs for Chicago Runner Girl to keep cruising along. Love comes in many forms, and yesterday brought a new kind of love to my life that was incredible to experience as the fortitude of my spirit was tested in a way it's never seen.

In the end, I was far off that sub 1:25 mark and instead hit a rather unusual vomiting PR for the day. By mile 4 I had to veer off to the side of LSD for a minute or two to relieve my stomach a bit when keeping my breakfast down became unavoidable. Even with the legs feeling more powerful than they've felt thus far this year, the stomach just wasn't going to have it. There was never a time when it felt settled enough to take in any type of fluids or fuels which made the last 5k nearly impossible to finish. Yet my smile never vanished and I chugged along with all that I had left despite how terrible my stomach felt. Somehow I managed to keep down what was left in me until exiting the finishing chute when the nausea became overwhelming and the medics pinned me as a potentially explosive finisher.

How fickle my heart, how woozy my eyes

Sprawling out in the grass post race having no idea what the clock read when I finished as I was in a drunken barftastic haze, the circle of the sub 1:25 conquest came to a close for 2012. It wasn't until this morning that I saw I finished in 1:29:42, a full 2 minutes off of my current PR and 20 seconds per mile away from goal pace.

Three chances and three strikes.

But I'm not out yet.
Not even close.

My feelings on goals are simple...set the bar high and jump in head first.

What sense would it make for every challenges outcome to produce a lavish victory and never experience defeat? To never be so outside of your comfort zone to have to question if you're on the right path and if the glory you're chasing down is worth the heartache? To get a pat on the back every time you make the safe decision or take the road less traveled?

I live for failure, discomfort, and short comings. Feeling like an ass through my imperfections has taught me more grace than any triumph ever will. I relish the ugly moments trying to find peace and beauty in them. And yesterday got pretty ugly as I was hunched over vomiting up my insides while my lips turned blue with the man looking on like it was normal at the finish. Abnormal has become our normal and we don't judge.

When one circle comes to a close, it's not too long before a new one is created and the possibilities of the future are fueled by more hopes and dreams. Don't quite know what that next circle ahead holds for me and my man, but I haven't given up hope. There will always be another race and another chance to try something that scares the mess out of me and life will simply go on.

And until that next chance appears, I'm holding on to the moment that my racing season of 2012 came to a bittersweet close leaving me thirsty for more. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I'm going back to the start

For such as time as this
Esther 4:14

I love the time I spend alone running where my only company is the steady cadence of my feet and the depth of my breath that somehow seem constant no matter what the chosen pace is. It's all silent stillness here as I trek through desolate paths which seem unexplored and all that surrounds a runner is nature. I've forgotten how being encased in green stirs my soul creating peace and what that steady cadence of my feet and the depth of my breath sound like. All this time it's been there fading into the hum of Lakeshore Drive traffic and Lake Michigan's waves that created quite a bit of mind chatter making complete peace seem impossible.

Running isn't my end-all-be-all, it's just something I do.

2012 has showed me this. It has humbled me in such a way where the unstoppable forces guiding me in the early parts of the year made me out for a tunneled visioned fool. I'm a runner, but I'm also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, coach, entrepreneur, Christian, dreamer, and so much more. My happiness in life isn't determined by finish times and splits, but I somehow let myself get caught up in the magic of speed that dangles in front of every runner early in the year. A little bit made me selfish and hungry for more, where it all in due time blew up in my face. A knee boo-boo, the never-ending training cycle that I let myself get tangled up in, and my relentless focused heart all powered the steam engines of desire for more.

Citius, Altius, Fortius
Faster, Higher, Stronger

4 days out from half marathon #3 for the year where my Garmin is busted, I've had only a handful of successful workouts this cycle which only surfaced in the past few weeks, and I've had to learn to do more with less this summer. My mileage has been at an all time low since April where the quality of work being put in has always trumped the quantity. Last year at this time I was clocking 80+ mile weeks like it was no big deal, but I was tired, beat, and had a hard time getting through my key workouts. Until earlier this year I thought that the AMOUNT of miles I put in was the deal-clincher for last September's half marathon PR, but after analyzing the data and flipping back through running logs I realized most of the miles I forced myself to put in were crap. 80+ mile weeks are useless if my body could only handle 1 pathetic speed workout a week that left me feeling beat to hell.

So I scratched everything I knew about myself this summer, and decided to go back to the basics. Back to the start of it all. Back to running for fun and seeing where that gets me. Putting in miles for the sake of putting in miles was leading me nowhere and something had to change. For me it turns out that the secret to running PR's and kick butt workouts isn't the AMOUNT of miles that I clock at all, rather it's the QUALITY of the miles that I'm putting in and how they stoke the embers to my dreams. 

A 30 second 5k PR 33 days after complete and total burn out this July wouldn't have been possible if I didn't fall flat on my face in the spring months. It's no coincidence that I reached my breaking point causing me to reconsider where I'm headed with life and running, instead it was just what I needed when I needed it. Looking ahead to Sunday I know that I've lost a bit of ground in the past 4-5 months, but still feel fitter than ever where each foot strike seems to be filled with zest and lust for one hell of a race. 

It's been one heck of a year where the chaos of the last few months has been a blessing in disguise. There has been no time for self doubt or over thinking, only stone cold execution. I'm as ready as I'll ever be and have the urge to run until my feet feel like they are on fire and quads are screaming for me to stop. While my heart still wants that sub 1:25 finish, clock time has lost it's importance recently to me and has instead been replaced by nostalgic feeling for what it's like to run a race where there is no reason to hold back.

2011 Oak Brook Half Marathon, my PR 1:27
Can you do more on less?
Only 4 more days to find out.

"The purpose of a race isn't to win, it's to test the limits of the human heart."
Bill Bowerman in Without Limits