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'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.