Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Chicago Get Lucky 2017 + TAPER

Every time taper rolls around I usually feel like, "Wait noooo,  I'm not ready! Can I get a couple more weeks of training in first?" 

This time, however, I am HERE FOR IT.  Sure, I still have time left to get in a few good workouts to top off my fitness but I think for the first time in quite a while I've arrived at this point in training with more confidence than questioning. In past cycles I've always felt generally positive about my training three weeks out, while at the same time wishing I had done "X" better or run "Y workout" stronger.

I have not had a perfect training cycle. Still, I've been working towards this particular goal of mine long enough to know that reaching this point in training with all my pieces in working order is an absolute gift. I know I've done the work. I also know I've made some adjustments that will hopefully help bridge whatever gap that seems to always pop up between me and a true "breakthrough" race.

Last weekend I ran my third 20 miler of this cycle. I rolled it into the Chicago Get Lucky Half Marathon and planned to run 10 of those miles in my goal marathon pace range. This was the first time in quite a while that I didn't go into a half marathon intending to race "all out" and for some reason just knowing I wasn't pushing it to my maximum made me feel like running 20 miles was no big deal. I mean, I do know in my brain that 20 milers are never easy but something about being in a race environment while not really racing took a load off me mentally.

The plan was for 4 miles easy just before the race, run the half marathon, then knock out an easy cooldown 3. I was also instructed by my coach to go out the first 3 miles at a pace that was about 30 seconds slower than my marathon pace, gradually speed up every couple of miles, then finish all out as fast as I wanted. This is kind of advice I always give myself but somehow am never able to execute.

Until this race!

I don't think I've ever felt so good at a half marathon. Sure I wasn't racing full out but I also wasn't slumming it either. I was pushing it by the end, just that slow start made all the difference in the world. From mile 3 to the end I consistently passing people- and I'm not really sure if I was even passed at all. What a huge confidence boost that was! I never really think about racing other runners at events but it definitely helped me mentally to run so strong. Even a brisk headwind throughout all of the second half of the race couldn't take me down. *pew pew*

After finishing the race I took a couple of minutes to refill my water bottle, stuffed my medal in my pocket, and headed out for my last 3 miles. Bing bang boom. 

Now all I have to do is execute with the same precision on April 1st! Obviously easier said than done (my race history a case in point) but after last weekend I feel like I've acquired a new skill to help get me there.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


So.... remember that time I put my heart and soul into training for Chicago Marathon for four months and then never wrote a race recap afterward?

In short: That big PR didn't happen. In yet another shocking twist, I had an amazing training cycle and then on race day things never fell into place and I finished short of my goal. Again!

Unlike other races that didn't go as planned though, I didn't feel like my spirit was crushed. It was a beautiful, perfect, marathon day. It just wasn't *my* day. For whatever reason.

Nope. Not today.

But I'm not here to to talk about that. I'm here to talk about now.


The first few weeks of getting back to training in December were Capital-R-Rough. I started week 1 getting sick, went on vacation during week 3, had a terrible half marathon in week 4- after which I promptly got sick again, only to have it linger for a couple more weeks. Not exactly a recipe for success. Through all of this I was still managing to get all of my runs in, hitting the prescribed paces... but never feeling good about any of it. All of it was hard. All of it felt like WORK. (Yes, I always expect marathon training to be hard work, but it's difficult to feel like you are improving when you go though a long stretch without seeing signs of actual progress!) During every run my heart rate always felt too high and I was tired all the time- even on slow recovery runs. I was sticking to my plan day in and day out but everything about training was feeling like one big shrug emoji.

But somewhere over the last couple of weeks something started changing and the result is that I'm finally beginning to feel like myself again. Even better than myself, if that makes sense?  Out of nowhere I've had a series of particularly "hard" workouts and long runs that have been nothing short of Fan-Tastic. Last Saturday I finished a 20 miler feeling super strong and the last 5 miles the fastest-- while just a month ago I was riding the struggle bus to the finish of a half marathon. This past week I've even been running extra hills to run on my routes instead of avoiding them because I want the added challenge. That is NOT normal for me.

Suddenly I'm like, "Ohhhhhh all those days I thought I was doing crappy were really helping me get stronger and I'm NOW JUST REALIZING IT." 

Now is a good place to be. I hope it lasts. Like maybe through race day this time?

Goal: Sub-3:35 at Circular Logic Marathon, April 1st. (BQ +10 minutes for 2018)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

  • 5 attempts at a Boston qualifier before achieving the time goal in May, 2015
  • 3 total BQ marathon times so far- 5/2015, 10/2015, 4/2016
  • This week: Rejected yet again for Boston Marathon 2017

You could say I'm a little bit fired up for Chicago. 

Monday, September 12, 2016


In my 8+ years of running I've fallen maaaaybe two total times - and both of them were on ice. They were the kind of falls where your feet shoot out from under you and you land on your tookus. It's disorienting but overall not that bad, all things considered. Even with all my trail running and 50-milers I've never taken a full out digger. Until yesterday.

I don't do graphic injury photos so this is it.

I was really looking forward to Sunday's run. The temperature has dropped and it's finally starting to feel like fall! I had 16 miles to run where I planned to average in the 8:30-8:45 range for the first 12 miles then ramp up for three miles just below an 8 minute pace before a cooldown mile. I love fast finish runs because it's a huge goal of mine to negative split a marathon and finish feeling strong and fast instead of fading at the end.

I was in the groove, finally! I took the first two miles really easy but then got up to my goal pace and started clicking off the miles, each one slightly faster than the last. Everything was coming into place, feeling effortless as I cruised in to mile 8. Metallica's "Enter Sandman" was on my ipod (I know, I know) when it happened. My toe caught the edge of a part of the sidewalk that was jutting out and I.... flew? At least that's what it felt like. I launched forward, Superman-style, and landed sprawled out on the pavement. I literally made the sound "Oooof" as I landed and immediately rolled over onto my back and started contemplating the meaning of life. It was strangely a perfect metaphor how training has gone for me this summer: One minute I'm high as a kite and the next, SPLAT.

I don't think anyone saw it happen.  That or maybe nobody cared that it happened? A few cars passed me on the street but I just sat up and started surveying the damage.

Anything seem to be broken? No. Did I twist my ankle? No. Basically I tore up my right knee, elbow, and a bit of my left palm.  My knee was bleeding pretty bad at first but it didn't hurt too bad. I really just wanted to get everything cleaned up and I didn't really feel like slogging home with blood dripping down my leg so I did something I've never done before: I called Jason to come pick me up.

While I was sitting there on the side of the road waiting for my ride I started to get mad. Seriously? The first really good long run I've had in I don't know how long and this happens? I was pissed. Jason rolled up in the car not 5 minutes after I made my distress call and I hobbled to the door thinking to myself "Don't bleed on the seat." 

Of all the things to think in this moment.

Anyway, by the time we got home I was doubly sure I wasn't actually seriously injured and I had already made the decision to patch myself up as quickly and get back to the run. (Side note: I absolutely wouldn't have done this if I was in any serious pain at all.) So I cleaned up my scrapes, applied some Neosporin and bandages and headed upstairs to my treadmill to get to work on 8 more miles. I chose the treadmill *just in case* something went wrong after my restart. I didn't want to get far from home and realize this was a bad decision.

But it wasn't! It was actually an awesome decision. I must have been jacked up on adrenaline from the fall, or being mad about the fall, or some combination of the both because I laid down 8 more miles at and average 8:10 pace and finished the last three with an 8:00, 7:54 and a 7:48. I felt like I could have have even knocked out a couple more! Way to turn things around.

I'm not sure why I felt like writing such a detailed entry of this weird run. I guess maybe other than it being a good illustration of how my Chicago Marathon training has been this summer, I also feel like I turned the corner a bit today. Like I'm leaving all the bullshit behind and going to shut up and get this done.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

This Has Been an Update

Oh hey, so it's been a while.

I haven't written since that sad, sad DNF? Huh. Well, I suppose things could have gone one of two ways after that.

1. Throw in the towel


2. Rest, recover, hire a coach, and get to work.

(Really, if you know me there was really only one option on the table.)

Oh there's been fun stuff this summer for sure. In July I got to spend an absolutely breathtaking week in Ireland. I also did Ragnar again with my usual band of misfits (7 years and counting now!) But for the most part I've just been quietly putting my head down and training. Quite honestly, it's been really tough this summer with what I feel has been oppressive humidity that never seems to let up. I'm just trying to trust in my training though, which for the first time in a while has really been pushing me to a new level.

Dying in the humidity at ChiRNR.
Yep, I hired a coach! Good lord it's been glorious to just get my mileage and workouts for a whole month in an email and plug it into my calendar. I've done a wee bit of shifting around to accommodate my schedule but for the most part I do what what I'm told- especially when it comes to the big "challenge" workouts of the week. I'm desperately tired and hungry 24/7 at a level I've never felt before, and I'm not even running as many miles as I've done in previous marathon training! The difference is that the quality of the running I'm doing has been amped up and I'm forced to do workouts that I would mostly likely not write for myself. I've done 65-70 miles a week in previous cycles but this time I'm hovering comfortably between 40 and 50. And STILL feeling wrecked. 

Can you tell I love it?

I've had two god-awful training runs at the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon and the Madison Mini but I'm still feeling confident that once the evil heat and humidity finally leaves the midwest everything will start to come together.

Also, I get to register for the Boston Marathon in just a couple of short weeks! (Fingers crossed I get in this year.)

Dying in the heat at Ragnar but my teamies are there.

What's my goal for Chicago Marathon? I don't think I'm ready to tell.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ice Age 50 DNF- Epiphanies and Such

This smile is a lie.

Well, file this one under Shoulda Known Better. I knew once I decided to race another marathon this spring instead of focusing on my trail build up for Ice Age that I was risking not being able to finish this race. The fact that it came true just proves the question that I've been asking myself lately:

Can I be successful road racing and trail running at the same time?

A lot of people can be rock stars at both. Me? Sure I can take part in both, maybe even have decent finishes at both (except last weekend. Ha.) But I'm talking about being good at both. Like, the best you can possibly be at both. What I realized this weekend is that even though I love both "fast" road running and trail ultraunning, I really need to just pick a lane. (For now, at least.)

Sure, I had stomach issues during this race. I don't know if it was something I ate during the race or if was just a fluke but I struggled a lot with digestive stuff for the first time at an event. Still, I think if I had been better prepared for this race overall I would have had a better chance of overcoming my situation- both physically and mentally.

Here's how this spring should have went- if I had better judgement:

1. Finish Circular Logic with my BQ. (Check! Did that.)

2. Recover for a week. (Check)

3. Do a mini-build up for Ice Age that culminated with running a 50K trail race three weeks out.

Oh wait, whoops.

What did I do instead? I got all bent out of shape about my marathon time not being better and signed up for another road race, re-tapered for that, had a mediocre race, followed that up with a mad scramble to get some trail runs in before re-re-tapering for 50 miles.

You get what you deserve eh? I SO DID.

I love trail running. I love ultrarunning. But here's the thing: I love road racing too. I'm also not a dummy and know that I probably only have 5ish good years to continue getting faster before I just don't anymore. Sorry, it's just a fact.

So.... I pick road running. (For now.) Not to say that I won't do other trail races (or even ultras) but the focus of my running is going to be on getting my marathon and half marathon times down to what I believe is my full potential. I can't sabotage one love with the other anymore. Yes, I realize this is just a silly hobby and I'll never be an "elite" runner, but it's also a fun game for me.

And I want to win my own personal nobody-gives-a-shit-about-it game.

This epiphany has also led to the decision that I need a coach. I started running a little over 8 years ago, ran my first 5Kin 2008, my first marathon in 2009. Since then I've dropped my marathon time from 4:27 to 3:38- all on my own! I take pride in that but it's clear to me that if I wan't to get to the next level I need someone to help reign in all this crazy energy I have and focus it in the right direction.

So here's to learning and growing and all that stuff.

Big goals for Chicago Marathon this fall! Let's get started.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Oshkosh Marathon Report: Nobody Dies and Says "Glad I Didn't Try"*

Well, that happened.

I can't even be that bummed about it. (And surprisingly, I'm not.) I feel like it was a big question mark trying to race another marathon just three weeks after running under 3:39. In the past I've run two marathons five weeks apart and PR-ed, but I've also run two marathons four weeks apart and completely blown up. (The latter was a super hot day though so I still thought it was at least worth trying to see what would happen.)

So... what exactly did happen?

Clearly, I was not fully recovered from Circular Logic three weeks ago. It's one of those things where you might *feel* like you are better but you don't actually know until you get out there and try- and then your body says OH HELL NO.

As for training, I treated the Circular Logic Marathon like it was my "last long run" of a regular marathon cycle and did a re-taper of three weeks into Oshkosh. I figured that I was already conditioned to run the distance, I just needed to focus on recovery so I could be well rested on race day.  I did a teeny tiny bit of marathon tempo work but I really erred on the side of caution because I didn't want to overdo it. I know I can run an 8:10 pace for a lot of miles, I just needed to rest up so I could try it again for 26.2.

Start photo. All business

Race morning was perfect. I would have killed for these conditions in Indiana a few weeks ago! Cool, cloudy, and most importantly NO WIND to speak of. If I would have chosen this race as my goal race initially I would have been golden. (Ugh. I'm trying hard not to think about that too much.)

Anyway, there's not really much to tell about the actual race. The story is that I was able to go out at the pace I wanted, it just never felt good. I always tell myself to give it a couple of miles before freaking out because sometimes it can take a while to settle in. But by mile 10 I knew it just wasn't going to fly that day. My legs weren't sore but I felt sluggish overall and even though I don't wear a heart rate monitor I could tell that I was exerting more energy than usual to run at that pace.

It took me a couple of more miles to talk it through in my brain and then I made the decision to let it go for the day. Between mile 12 an 13 I downshifted into my regular "easy" long run training pace. It wasn't going to be worth it to try to force the marathon distance again and come up with a 3:43 or something like that. Clearly, I needed to step back.

BUT, I've got the Ice Age 50 mile coming up on May 14th so it wasn't like I was going to drop out right? Before I had decided to run this marathon I actually had a 50K trail run on my training schedule. In short, I needed to run a lot of miles on this day either way and now it didn't matter what the pace was so I could relax and chill out.  So I did!

Near the finish. Emotions.

When I file this race away it won't really stand out that much, but this photo happened to catch a moment when I was suddenly feeling really overwhelmed and grateful for what I'm able to do. I mean, I just qualified for Boston three weeks ago and here I was running a 3:55- a time that was my dream time just a few short years ago. What an ass I would be to not be grateful for that.

The week leading up to this race was kind of rough for me. The 15th anniversary of my mom's death was on Saturday and my emotions were all tied up in that as I drove to Oshkosh that day. By mile 20 on Sunday though all I could think about how incredibly proud my mom would have been of me if she were still around (at least I'm pretty sure of that) and whether I run a 3:35 or 3:55 of 5:55 she would be proud and amazed either way. 

I hear that Boston Qualifications are way down this year due to some warmer weather at races. Maybe my BQ -1:03 will hold up after all and I'll get to run Boston 2017?

*Credit to Tigernite's "Empire" for the post title.