Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The 2015 Goals Post

Yes, I realize I still have a few weeks left in 2014 before any of this gets put into motion but this no-mans land of repairing/regrouping/recovering is a land that makes me downright twitchy. I need order! Schedules! PLANS.

So here they are:

Qualify for Boston. (Duh.) This is a no-brainer and it's been hashed out a bajillion times here. I'm going to finish what I started and go for my BQ again at Wisconsin Marathon on May 3rd. No hyped-up super-fast start where I take off like a crazed banshee. No building myself up too big and psyching myself out the day of the race. None of that bullshit. It's time to take everything I've learned this year and put it to action.

Run a sub-1:40 half marathon. I feel like I'm a little farther off this goal than I am to a BQ but I'm banking on my next marathon training cycle getting me there. I'll take a stab at it at the Icebreaker Indoor Half next month to see how the chips fall but I'm also planning on running the Chi-Town Half Marathon in April. That will be close to the peak of marathon training so I should be in top shape by then. Also it's on my favorite stretch of the lakefront path in Chicago!

Return to trail running/ultrarunning. I had originally hoped to return to the trails this year if I had run a BQ time already. As we all know things don't always work out the way you plan so I'm banking on next summer being the time I can move back into ultra mode. I miss the trails. I also miss the super long miles run at whatever pace I feel like. I miss pushing myself in a way that's totally different than pushing for a fast time. Right now I'm about 95% sure I'll be doing the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler. I've run it twice and loved it both times. (I've run the 50K and the half out there as well. It's just a great event all around.) I'm sure I'll find myself at a 50K while I build up the miles- most likely Dances with Dirt.

And here's the part where I'm a bit loopy. For the past year I've had my eye running a 100K- specifically the Kettle Moraine 100K in June. Obviously I can't do it in 2015 if I'm still chasing a Boston qualifying time but I'm looking HARD at it for 2016. I know it's too far out right now to seriously think about but I can't deny the thought is there. If I have a good summer on the trails and a strong 50 next fall... well, you know where this is going.

Last, I'm registered for the Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon in November! If you think I'm missing the inaugural year of a hometown marathon that runs all through the city streets then you don't know me one bit. It's going to be one big damn party.

Of course there will be other shorter races and stuff along the way (for instance my 5th consecutive year of RAGNAR) but these are the big ones. The must-dos! But first I've got three more weeks left of aimless wandering- mixed in with some celebrating, holiday-ing and general good cheering.

Then we begin anew.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Schaumburg Half Marathon Recap-a-Roo

Hey! Not a bad way to finish the season! Especially after the double marathon drama.  My hope was to beat my time from last year (1:45:01) and it almost literally slipped away from all the icy patches on the course but I pulled it out by one single second with a finish line sprint. (Official time was 1:45 on the nose.) I wish I would have run the tangents better and dipped into the 1:44s but Safety First. Had one big slip but I didn't faceplant so I'm celebrating my one-second victory. *shimmy* This race is a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for me and it didn't disappoint.

Yes I stole this photo. I buy a lot of photos. Not this one. Sorry.

Taking a closer look at my Garmin it looks like I ran the last mile fastest and peaked down the stretch at a 6:08 pace during my finish line sprint. HEYYY. I have to think this bodes well for me taking a stab at a sub-1:40 in the half marathon next year! I'm signed up for the Icebreaker Indoor Half Marathon and although running on a flat track in a climate-controlled environment might be considered an unfair advantage.... I really don't care. Running in circles that many times takes a level of mental fortitude that I seem to have tapped into so I'm going for it there. Hopefully that will be my launch pad from which I will spring to a BQ at Wisconsin Marathon on May 3rd!

But I'm getting ahead of myself again. This is not a post about 2015 goals. I will say this though: If I do finally get my BQ in May then I hope to have a triumphant return to trails and ultrarunning over the summer and boy do I have some goals there too.

All in good time though my pretties. All in good time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What's Next?

The obvious question, right? Thankfully this time around I'm not experiencing any post-race blues, having had a spectacular day in Madison! It still makes me all warm and fuzzy thinking about how happy I felt throughout that race. As for what's next, I'm not tackling another BQ attempt until spring (Wisconsin Marathon again!) but that doesn't mean I can't have some fun until that training cycle starts in January. For the most part I'm focusing on running "easy" and getting back to strength training (and possibly a little dancing) from now until the end of the year. However I am registered for the Schaumburg Half Marathon on Thanksgiving weekend, which I'm pretty jazzed about. This will be my fourth year running it and it's become my favorite way to put a cap on the racing season. The course is pretty flat for the most part and it always feels great to put in a fast 13.1 after a lazy, carb-filled Thanksgiving. Right now I've got my eye on running a course PR (1:44:22) and I'm pretty sure even on my post-marathon legs that I can nail that pace. If I feel great I might even go for my half marathon PR and take a stab at a sub-1:42. I probably won't make a decision until race day though. That kind of attitude seems to be working for me lately. :)

Monday, November 10, 2014

PEE ARRRRRR: Madison Marathon Race Recap

What's that sound? Oh it's just me rising from the ashes of my Lakefront Marathon burnout to run a brand new marathon PR! Like I said on on Dailymile yesterday:

Redemption Town. Population: ME

Yep, I beat my previous personal best and squeaked under 3:45 for the very first time- just five weeks after my crash and burn at Lakefront. And it did it on the hilliest, hardest, damn road course I've ever run. If only I had the wisdom to pace myself this smart five weeks ago! Oh, the regret. But let's not dwell. Let's bask.

I knew going in this wasn't going to be another BQ attempt. Unless something completely unexpected happened in the second half, I knew the nature of the course wasn't suited for such fast time for me, especially with a super short recovery time from my previous race. But like I wrote a few days ago, I was pretty sure I could manage at least a PR if I paced myself correctly.

Ugh, pacing. My nemesis. I was determined not to go out too fast so I positioned myself behind the 3:40 pace group and vowed not to pass them. I had just seen Annie, Rochelle and Kim before the start and I was happy to hear they would be out on the course cheering in the final miles. I didn't feel nervous or super excited but rather just... calm. I remember thinking, "I get to do this. Again!" How lucky am I? That was the attitude I carried throughout the whole race. From the first step over the timing mat, I just knew it would be a good day. Unlike the first mile of Lakefront where my body felt "off" and not fully rested, today everything had this neat feeling of smoothness to it.

Back to pacing though. My goal for the first half was to try hold my pace around 8:20 miles. It was hard to hold back since I was feeling so good and I did a decent job for the most part, although I still was a wee bit fast. For the most part the faster miles were due to some downhills but every time I caught myself going to quick I reeled myself back in again. I knew the second half of the course was going to be super hard and I needed to reserve that energy. Absolutely no 8 minute miles like last month. I came here to finish strong.

I crossed the half a little over 1:49:17*- slightly faster than I wanted but not out of control. Plus,
instead of feeling like I was working hard I felt like I was just getting warmed up. Even the big hill on Observatory Drive at mile 10 didn't knock me out at this point! My strategy of "working with the hills" was paying off. The plan was to relax into the hill on the way up and take advantage of the downhill on the other side. Luckily, every big hill we went up had a big payoff going down. Thank goodness for the little things. Also, I saw Steena with her BEST PARADE EVER sign around mile 12. Yay friends!

*Side note about the halfway mark. I hit 13.1 on pace for about a 3:39 and I never saw the 3:40 pace group after mile 2. They were hauling. I don't know if they were trying to bank time for the harder second half? I thought this was an interesting pace choice. Hmmmm. 

After seeing my half split I admit I had the urge to speed up. But I held back. I knew from looking at the map that once we hit mile 16 it would be solid hills until 22. And not little hills either. Big, stupid, hills for 6 miles. The last thing I wanted to do was get cocky and burn out there. I slowed up a bit and kept my eye on the PR prize.

About those 6 miles of hills. That was really evil, you know? For some reason they changed the course this year and took out a long, flat out-and-back at the end that I guess people didn't like. What did they make up the difference with then? MORE HILLS. First we wound our way through Warner Park (I hear people go sledding there? Good. Great. Wonderful.) It kept building and building until we scaled the biggest hill of all in the Maple Bluff neighborhood somewhere before 22ish. I admit I walked parts of these later hills. At this point I felt like it was more important to keep my heart rate from skyrocketing and then power back on the downhill to recover. I had my best mall walker powerwalk on too. One guy told me my walk was faster than his run at that point. Heh.

Elevation map. Gross.

After 22 though, despite how those last hills had slowed me up I still knew I was golden. I could see the capitol in the distance and even with my fuzzy runner math head I knew I had my PR in the bag if  just kept putting one foot in front of the other. The next question was could I squeak in under 3:45? I was definitely running slower at this point but I was passing people left and right so this gave me confidence. Then a little after mile 24 I saw Annie, Ro and Kim! (I didn't know it at this point but Kim had run a PR in the half marathon as well!) It gave me such a boost to see them and I told them I was going to get my PR as I passed. So happy.

I had a big dumb smile on my face until I saw the last hill leading up to Capitol Square. I knew it was coming but I didn't realize just how awful it was going to feel until I was in the middle of it. A half mile climb right at the end, and just when we got to the top we turned away and went back DOWN for a block before climbing up AGAIN to the finish. Oh, the humanity. It was at this point that my Garmin read 3:44 but it wasn't showing the seconds so I didn't know how much time I had left to get in under 3:45. Kesha was playing super loud as they announced my name and I "sprinted" across the finish line.


Holy shit. This year.

A lot of things come easy to me. This has not. Because of what has happened in this past year of training and racing, this crazy goal I have of qualifying for Boston holds even more meaning to me now. But today wasn't about getting to Boston. It was about proving to myself that I am strong. I have improved this year. All my training wasn't for naught. And now that I've learned how to pace myself correctly and run a SMART race? I. Feel. Unstoppable.

I am a babystepper. Following in the footsteps of the great Bob Wylie I will continue to babystep my way to my BQ and beyond. I began with a 4:27 just a little over 5 years ago. Since then I've whittled my way down to 4:07, 3:58, 3:56, 3:50, 3:46 and yesterday, a 3:44. How cool is that? I have a feeling 2015 is going to be a great year.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Something to Believe In

I crushed it! I crushed the sick. It took lots of quality couch time, tons of water, and multiple back-to-back episodes of Parenthood but I'm fairly sure I've emerged victorious. FIST PUMP.

I have the strangest attitude about this weekend's race. I'm excited to run again but I feel like I have no idea what to expect out of myself. I was so absolutely sure I would BQ at Lakefront that I didn't even have a "B" goal. Now, I feel like I'm just throwing my hands up in the air and whatever happens happens. Obviously I would be thrilled if I had an amazing day and ran a PR. (It's what I hope happens.) But if it turns out that I've exhausted all my fitness for this racing season I'll also not be surprised at all. I'm actually fully prepared to be schooled by what looks to be a challenging, hilly course.

Still at this point I feel good, both physically and mentally. Unlike the week before Lakefront, I actually feel well rested and antsy. The buildup for marathons is part of the fun.

And now for some Bret Michaels because it's what I'm jamming to this week:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


I've been feeling sick-ish the past couple of days and my resting heart rate is up (not the best of signs) so I'm trying to take it easy and stop whatever this bug is before it takes hold. Yesterday I took a Sudafed 12-hour decongestant hoping to squash it but it ended up making my heart race and I felt like I was high all day. Whoops. I won't be doing that again. So today I'm putting my feet up and watching Netflix. I'm lucky I can do such things when needed so I'm going to rest like a champ. Needless to say, I have to be fresh by Sunday so I can channel my inner Buffy:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Final Countdown

I think it's 11 days until the Madison Marathon? Yes. (I just checked.) This race feels so different because I'm not carrying on about it nonstop on social media. I'm still a firm believer in making your goals known but honestly, after all the buildup I gave Lakefront, I'm over the blow-by-blow countdown... for now at least. :)

So what is my goal again, exactly? I said earlier that I recover quickly and that remains true. After 10 days of rest and only easy/recovery runs, I initialed Project Run All the Hills. This was another 10 days of practicing every incline I could get my hands (or feet) on- which culminated with the relay in Door County last weekend. (That fast, flat, Monster Run 5K was stuck in there as well.) Now I've got two solid weeks of taper- with a little bit of speed sharpening tomorrow but otherwise rest, rest, and MOAR REST. I'm definitely not trying to get faster at this point, but rather I'd like to ride this current training cycle out just a little bit farther.

What was I saying? Oh yes, GOALS! Um... the #1 goal is still to Have Fun. Honest to jeebus if that is all that happens on November 9th then I will be nothing less than happy to end the marathon season on a good note. While looking at some pace charts though (and taking into consideration my recovery level) I think that even starting out slower than normal I can still go for a PR.


Here's the thing: I've been shooting for the 3:33 to 3:40 (BQ) range for months, but what is my actual personal best? 3:45. 

That's a whole 5 minutes of time I've been forgetting about.

I feel pretty solid about going for that. At Lakefront, once I knew a BQ was sailing away I shut down mentally. It was all or nothing. I shake my head at that nonsense way of thinking now. Tsk.

And if by some freak of nature the hilly course in Madison doesn't fry my legs by mile 18, will I kick it up a notch? Sure. I've met myself before. But if the opposite happens and I end up only being able to muster a slow jog, I'm going to soak up every last shuffle with a hap-hap-happy smile on my face.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On the Playlist: Part 7

I know that "Stronger" is often on a lot of people's playlists but "The Sun Will Rise" is the song that speaks to me.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall 50 Relay Recapping

Another Fall 50- but from the relay perspective this time! I swore to only run trail 50s after how bad my IT bands felt on the road last year but the relay was a super fun (and challenging) experience from start to finish.

                                                                        Team Hodor:

Yep, we were a Game of Thrones team. Ygritte, Hodor and Daenerys Targaryen had a blast from Gill's Rock to Sturgeon Bay. Not everyone got the costumes (i.e. Are you guys the Hunger Games?) but the people who did get it were really into it. At one point a guy ran to catch up to me and said, "I just wanted to say I ran with the Khaleesi for a little bit." Heh. I suppose it could have been creepy but it actually wasn't.

My favorite was Bran riding along on Hodor's back:

My goal for this race (other than to have fun) was to take it somewhat easy on the pace but to attack all the hills. Yow, a couple of them were brutal! When I did the solo 50 last year I walked every incline so I really wanted to challenge myself in a different way this year. I walked for about 15-20 seconds at the top of the biggest hill but otherwise I felt pretty darn strong out there. I'm happy some of the hill work I've been doing lately seems to be paying off! Luckily there were a lot of downhills as well so I could airplane arm it on the way back down. 

                                                      Handing off to Sara. *pew pew*

After the race we stayed over in Sturgeon Bay another night drinking beer in bed at the Comfort Inn because that's how Team Hodor rolls. In Ultimate Style.

Between this weekend and the Monster Run weekend I'm officially feeling back on top. Spending time with friends has helped bring me back out of the funk I was in after Lakefront. It's nice to know I have good people on my team. Now I've just got a couple more adventures planned before this year is over! I'm excited to finish 2014 on a high note.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#TBT Fall 50 2013

Me and Ro at the Fall 50 finish last year. My IT bands were busted for a week but I was so happy to run with her that day. I'll be there again this weekend, this time running the relay!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monster Running

I had the best weekend! This was much needed too after a pretty "blah" week. Saturday afternoon Ava and I got dressed up for the Monster Run:

 Rainbow Dash and the TARDIS

Ava did the half mile Kids Dash with her friend Grace and they put on a show at the finish line:

Wings out!

I was proud of her for participating because really, running isn't her thing. However she wanted to rock her costume and hang out at the post-race party so she put up with the whole running part. I believe her words were something like, "We ran really fast at the start but then we got down the street and were all like UGH RUNNING IS THE WORST." Totally been there. 

After the Kids Dash I ran in the 5.5K race. (I know, I know,  a 5.5K? Huh?) Get this though- I won second place overall female! FULL DISCLOSURE: This was totally a fun run and there were obviously not a bunch of speedsters at this race. Still it felt super good to run at the front! When I was heading back after the turnaround I was all by myself and I got a few "GO TARDIS!" cheers from people. That was neat. Also I think if it had been an actual 5K distance I would have come super close to a PR. I guess I'll just have to race a 5K one of these days. 

This week I'm back to running bigger miles before tapering for Madison. I've continuing to incorporate more hills into my routes and it's giving me some confidence. I'll be in Door County running the Fall 50 relay on Saturday and the plan is to run all the hills (at an "easy" pace.) It should be another great weekend with friends! Yahoo!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do Your Thing

Day 11 of recovery after Lakefront and I dare say I'm starting to get excited about the Madison Marathon! I still don't think I can "race" it all out but I'm feeling better and better about the idea of starting out slow and running whatever feels good. Maybe I'll surprise myself? Or maybe not. Either way I think it will be a good day. I realize people have all sorts of opinions about running multiple marathons close together but I will take my husband's always sage advice on this matter, which is "Fuck 'em." This is what makes me happy, and life is too short to not do the things that make you happy. \o/ Isn't there a Taylor Swift song about that sort of thing?

Speaking of other instances where this advice can be applied, I stumbled onto an online message board (yes, in the year 2014) where people were trash talking a runner/blogger I like and have followed for a few years now. It amazes me how people can spend so much time caring about what someone else does- to the point where there are pages and pages of comments on her training, her race times, even her outfits. I can't wrap my brain that kind of pre-occupation. Where does that come from? Does it make people feel better to snark so? I guess I don't expect any answers.

Me, I'll keep plugging along.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Recover. Rebuild. Go.

I'm truly thankful that I recover so well. It's uncanny how well my body bounces back after a long run- if only I could put together that "perfect" race day before said recovery, right? I'd gladly experience a few extra days of soreness for that.

I tried to take it easy last week but by Thursday I felt like I was raring to go. I did hold back a little, despite the feeling that I wanted to bolt out my door on Sunday and disappear onto the trails all day. The fall weather is calling me! Instead I spent some time researching trail ultras for next year. People do some crazy shit! Yeah, I suppose I'm one of them. Hell no I'm not willing to do any triple digits though.

But all that's for next year. I've still got a few things on my plate in 2014 to round out the season so... slow down and take one thing at a time. I found my Doctor Who TARDIS dress for the Monster Run 5K next weekend so that was neat. And after that it's the Door County Fall 50 relay with my Game of Thrones-themed team! (I still need to embellish my Khaleesi costume from last year a bit.) Oh yeah, and that whole Madison Marathon thing and possibly the Schaumburg Half at the end of November.

It's a lot, but I love it. I really do. Sometimes I wonder what I would do with myself if I hadn't found this crazy sport. I'm in love with every bit of it- from having a workout on the schedule to check off my calendar (nearly) every day to the undeniable adrenaline at the starting line of a race. I'm happy I found something that just clicks for me. On days when I'm feeling a little down I look to the plans I've made for the upcoming months and I know I'll be ok.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tipping My Hat

This year has been all about the marathon distance for me. (Obviously.) While 2013 was all about running ultras and not focusing on my time, this year started out with on big, bold, FAST, time goal. While I didn't achieve that goal this year, I still feel like I want to end 2014 with me and the Marathon on good terms. Shake hands, if that makes sense.

So I signed up for the Madison Marathon on November 9th. Not as another BQ attempt, but rather I want to finish a marathon this year feeling "good". No pressure or worries about running a specific pace. No staring at my Garmin the whole time and not being in the moment. Madison will be my time to run whatever feels good that day and pay my respects to the marathon distance. I'm pumped to soak it all in and be grateful for what I've gone through this year. It's been an experience.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Words and Feelings: Lakefront Marathon 2014

I'm going to attempt a race recap but everything important about this race doesn't have as much to do with the actual race itself. There was so much buildup to Lakefront Marathon for me this year (for obvious reasons) so the story is more about journey there than anything. From the hardest, most dedicated summer of training I've every gone through to the nonstop motivation and encouragement from friends (you know who you are), the fact that I missed my goal seems secondary.

In January of this year I put a big dream of mine out into the Universe. I said that I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year. This is something that I never ever in a million years thought I would even attempt so it was a big hurdle for me to publicly say it was something I was going after. Having missed it three times now, on one hand I feel frustrated for building it up so big only to fall short, but I'm also more fired up than ever to smash this goal of mine with an iron fist. There are lessons to be learned from every race and after yesterday the tweaks I need to make to be successful are even more clear to me. (But more on that later.)

First the highlights of of the weekend!

Sara and I went together to pick up our packets on Saturday. She has had my back throughout this whole process. If you don't have a Sara already, I highly recommend you get one.

Then my friend Shiow came in from Chicago for a visit! We ate carbs and laughed and laughed and I went to bed at 9pm while she played Dungeons and Dragons with my family. Right before bed I realized we were out of wheat bagels and she and Jason ran out to the store to get some for me. It may seem like not a big deal but it made me feel special. The next morning Shiow even got up at 5am to see me off, declaring marathon morning "like Christmas for weirdos" and we snapped this photo:


Then all the usual race morning stuff. Long bus ride out to Grafton followed by an anxious hour of waiting at the start. I ran into some friends who wished me well and I was feeling good. Then we were off!

I'm not really sure how to explain the race other than it never felt like things were "clicking" for me. I started off a bit slower as planned- although in hindsight probably not enough- but I didn't feel super relaxed. My legs felt a little heavy and I kept thinking maybe I just needed to warm up since it was only 35 degrees and I was wearing shorts. I was running the correct pace for the most part but I've done enough marathons now to know when I'm going to have a great day. In Chicago last year I felt like the first 13 miles were a warmup, 20 miles is where the "race" started and I passed lots of people in the final 10K. (This is the only race where that has ever happened- I need to find that again!) This day, everything just felt...ok. I knew I would make it through the race but to have a blowout PR day in the marathon everything has to be nothing short of AMAZING. 

26.2 miles is a long way though and I wasn't about to write the day off in the first hour of running so I kept trying. Here's the amazing part about running a marathon in your hometown- everyone that comes out to cheer! Leading up to race day I lost track of how many people I would have to look for on the course and where they would be standing. I joked that I needed a spreadsheet to keep it all straight but it was really true. I saw people I knew everywhere! I don't even want to name names because I'll probably forget someone but if you were out there yesterday please know how much you were appreciated. Concordia was especially exciting because I saw my family cheering! I knew that whatever happened they were going to be proud of me. 

I think I reached the half marathon point in a little under 1:48, which was right on schedule but like I said before- it needed to feel like a warmup and it didn't. I had hoped to run miles 13-20 at slightly above goal pace and then "relax" the rest of the way in. Ha. When I tried to speed up though my legs just...didn't. Nothing. The winds were picking up and we hit some hills and it was difficult so I had no choice but to keep doing what I was doing. I knew this was a bad sign but again, there's no point in quitting halfway. 

By the time I saw my family again at 18 I pretty much knew I was toast as I was barely hanging on to an 8:20 pace then. (The bare minimum I needed to run, and it felt hard.) I tried to smile for them when I passed by but later they told me they could tell I was not happy.  I slipped even more into the 8:30s and 8:40s during the next two miles and when I saw friends again at mile 20/21 as I was wrapped up in a lot of messy emotions. The friends I saw at this point in the race were so positive and amazing and I wanted to run faster SO BAD just for them. It doesn't make sense because IT DOESN'T MATTER in the grand scheme of things but I wanted with all my heart to be successful for everyone who said they believed in me that day. Going into today I believed fully I was going to achieve my goal but by mile 22 that belief was gone. 

I walk/jogged in the last 4 miles because at that point the goal was missed and I was in that phase where I needed to come to terms with it so I could hopefully finish with a smile on my face.  At the mile 25 marker my minimum goal time of 3:38 flashed by on the clock. That was rough. Right after that I came by Rochelle, Marty and Tony and I wanted to lose it but at the same time I was so happy to see them because I had no idea I would be seeing anyone I knew this late in the race. I told myself not to be a baby and be strong for the finish so I picked myself up the best I could as I headed in Veteran's Park. I saw my friend Bill cheering and taking photos at mile 26 but after that I just kept my eyes forward and ran as hard as I could to the finish. I was done in 3:50:45. (Here's another reason why I'm kind of a jerk: This time was literally my dream time last year. Perspective.)

I put my hands on my knees and felt my face crumple right away which caught the eye of the medical staff so one guy was on me ASAP. I told him I was fine and just sad that I missed my time but he kept following me and helped me get my mylar cape and water, all while asking me a bunch of questions. I finally convinced him that I'd be ok and he let me go. I suppose it was nice that people are there looking out for you. Immediately after that I ran into a couple more friends who had finished right ahead of me and got some much needed hugs. The first few minutes after a finish is always so surreal so I was happy to see some familiar faces. I tried to pull myself together and went to go find Jason and Shiow so I could get wrapped up in even more hugs. MORE HUGS! Good lord I needed them. 
Ugh. This is longer than I intended. When I look back at the technical part of the race, I realize now that I probably need to start out even slower and build up speed from there. I'm kind of really afraid of beginning a marathon below my goal pace but I suppose it worked for me in Chicago last year so why not try it again next time I go for the BQ? What have a got to lose at this point? Seriously. As for when the next attempt might be I don't know right now. If anyone has a good suggestions for a favorable course, holler at me. I'm all ears. I still think when I do get to where I want to go it's going to be the best, most fantastic feeling ever having gone through all of this. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Don't Stop Believing

Well. One of these days I'll get my pacing nailed down and be able to finish a marathon strong. My legs felt kind of strange and heavy pretty early on in the race but I kept trying to push it anyway until I just couldn't push it anymore. I'm proud of how hard I trained this cycle and the fact that this was marathon #15 for me- and on the 5 year runniversary of my very first marathon! I was really blown away by how many awesome people I saw on the course today. Everyone really lifted my spirits despite me having have a bad day. I love this event so much and will be back. Now time to decompress, reevaluate and start figuring out why I always have my strongest runs in training. Sigh. Still managed a sub-4 though! Official time: 3:50:45. I am proud. :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Letting it Happen

The hay is in the barn.

That's a comment a fellow Dailymiler made on one of my workouts this week. There's nothing more I can physically do now before race day. So instead focusing on trying to calm my mind.

Normally I'm not very good at this type of thing. I'm kind of go-go-go and don't take a lot of time to do things like meditate or focus my mind inward in any way. There's just too many distractions everywhere and let's face it all those kitten videos on the internet aren't going to watch themselves. I realize though how much of marathoning is a mental game though. When I look back at my implosion at Wisconsin Marathon during the final 10K I wonder how much of it was in my head. Sure, I definitely felt my hip locking up after mile 20, but part of me wonders if my brain took that unanticipated obstacle as an excuse to bail out.

Or maybe I just wasn't ready that day. I really doesn't matter I suppose. But I'll be damned if I start to check out mentally this time.

I've felt some negativity penetrate my "bubble" this week. I don't want to dwell on these thoughts because I can't think of any way they are constructive or helpful. I'm simply going to acknowledge my feelings and then let them go.

In an attempt to foster positivity I decided to make a good luck charm. For months there's been a locket that used to belong to one of the kids floating around the junk drawer in our kitchen.  I decided to snag it yesterday and put photos inside of two people who I'm pretty sure would still be pretty proud of me even if I end up falling flat on my face on Sunday. On the right is my mom, who never got a chance to know me as a runner. She knew me as a dancer and came to every single performance of mine, even if I was only on stage for a couple of minutes. I know she would be my biggest cheerleader of all if she was still here. The second photo is my grandpa who just passed away last Christmas. Since he lived in Florida for the last 25 years or so he also never saw me run. But whenever we spoke on the phone he would ask me how many miles my next marathon was going to be.  Some people think that question is exasperating but I found it incredibly endearing and I miss hearing it.

So that's it. I've been blogging a lot this week and it's been cathartic for me. Maybe it's self indulgent? Yeah, it probably is. But it's making me feel better.

Nothing left to do now but let it happen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


In addition to working on myriad of pacing spreadsheets this week (3:38 finish? 3:35? 3:33?),  I also spent some time crafting a spectator spreadsheet for my family so they know where to find me on Sunday along the course.

Did you hear that? MY FAMILY is coming to cheer for me this weekend! And not just at the finish line- but legit driving around to spectate at different spots on the course. I cannot even tell you how happy this makes me. (Although yes, I will try.)

I race a lot. Like, probably one a month, if not more. There comes a point where running another 26.2 seems like it's old news I guess? I hate typing that because finishing a marathon is always a BIG DEAL but I totally understand that it's way less exciting to come cheer for someone the 27th or 28th time they've done something. Not to mention, the times I've asked them to come out and cheer it generally guarantees that race day weather will be miserable for spectating (i.e. 40 degrees and huge gusts of wind at the Soldier Field 10, pouring rain in the woods at the Bewl 15... Sigh.) I joke sometimes that I'm going to need to run a 100-miler to get their attention these days- and I'm only sort of joking. 

It's a good thing that I've always been a solid solo runner. I didn't meet any running buddies until I'd been running for about a year and although I love group runs now, my best workouts and races are definitely when it's just me getting in the zone. I've done many races where I've driven by myself hours to the event not knowing a single soul there, just because it was something I wanted to participate in. Still it puts a little fire in my belly to know that I'll be seeing Jason and the girls (and my good friend Shiow!) along the way on Sunday. Add that to the many friends who have told me they are also planning to volunteer or spectate along the course and I've almost lost count of all the faces I need to look out for this weekend. 

Like I said, I do a lot of races. I'm pretty decent at coaching myself and staying focused when I have a goal on the line. But that doesn't mean that I don't need a little outside encouragement as well from time to time. I forget that I need it sometimes, honestly. But when I do get that extra bit of support from people I love it lifts me up like nothing else.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pins and Needly

One. More. Week. 

Not to be overly dramatic but it's seriously difficult for me to think about anything else right now. I'm trying really hard not to be a broken record on social media about the marathon- which really just means that I lurk and don't post anything at all because IT'S ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT. I'm pretty much insufferable, and going into the final week of taper I'm probably only going to get worse. All of this is familiar territory but this time around I feel like I have so much more riding on this race. (It is not lost on me that these expectations have been created by myself, but they exist nonetheless.) So here I sit scouring the internet for BQ race reports, constructing pace spreadsheets and of course, weather stalking. (Current forecast: 44 degrees at the start, no rain, winds 8mph! Wheeee!)

Meanwhile, I finished another "last" workout- my final double digit run of this training cycle. During the final cooldown mile it dawned on me that there is really nothing left for me to do. All the hard work has already been done and all I have to do is now is rest and wait for the actual day. I thought about this and suddenly I felt like I didn't want that last workout to end. So at 11 1/2 miles into my 12 mile run I stopped and walked the rest of the way home. I guess I just wanted to let everything sink in. Not just the past 14 weeks of this training cycle- but the whole 9 months since I first decided I was going to try for this outrageous goal. It's all coming together now. It's coming together and I'm ready! I'm so ready. Let's go.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekend Shenanigans and Taper Madness

Well the first week of taper for Lakefront Marathon is in the books. I woke up sick on Monday morning and felt like crap for most of the week. Bluh. I kept telling myself that it was better to be sick now that in 2 weeks. Get it out of the way now, right? Still, it put a wrench in my plans to race the Brewers 10K all out on Saturday. The sicks combined with a hilly course made for a not-so-fun morning for me.  Oh well. I wish I could have had a good race experience ahead of the marathon but I suppose it's more important that my overall training has been on point. Now is the time to trust the process.

Brewers 10K. Don't let my smile fool you.

SUNDAY however was a completely different day. With the help of my friends Deb and Sheila, we organized a "virtual" edition of the Beat the Blerch race, an event happening out in Oregon on the same day that sadly we were unable to attend. Everyone brought snack-y junk food to Sheridan Park and ran/blerched either a 5K, 10K or half marathon. Fun ensued and good times were a-plenty! It was the perfect way to come off of a hard race and just enjoy some easy running with friends. Also snacks. 

The smiles are real this time.

So now we enter week 2 of taper.  Let's keep this train rolling. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Trails

Trail running! Oh how I've missed ye. Sara and I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon last weekend and it only highlighted how much I've missed trail running while training for this stinking elusive marathon BQ. The weather out there at Ottawa Lake was nothing less than perfect on Sunday. It just felt SO GOOD to enjoy being outdoors and not concern myself with any sort of pace. I'm hoping after October I can get a couple of good trail runs in once Lakefront is over and before we descend into the next polar vortex. And then next year... I have some plans. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


If you’ve ever trained for a big race you know that there are both highs and lows. We’re not talking just mild little fluctuations either. There are HIGHS and there are LOWS. Personally, I have some days where my legs seem to float across the earth effortlessly as if was skimming over water. Then there are other days where my body feels so clunky and heavy that I start to question if previous race finishes were actually done by the same person.

Running is so much of a mental sport in addition to being incredibly physically demanding. It can be easy to forget those highs when we’re in the pits of despair. The trick is to know in your heart that even if you had a crappy run, a string of crappy runs, or even weeks of feeling uninspired about running, the pendulum always swings back the other direction eventually.

That was something I wrote at the peak of one of my marathon cycles. I have some pretty good insight sometimes huh? This is peak week for Lakefront Marathon and these words ring especially true right now. Right now I'm on a high, but good lord there have been some lows in this quest to BQ. The first tempo run I set out on back in July I completely bonked and had to bail. (This was after my mega-bonk at Sunburst Marathon so it was really not what I needed at the beginning of my quest to redeem myself.) Then there's been the humidity the past couple of months. I usually love to race a couple half marathons in my build up to running a full. It's a huge confidence builder for me. However this summer the two races I envisioned running fast at were engulfed in 90+% humidity and there was no way I was putting my body through 13.1 miles of race pace in those conditions. I ended up having decent times considering the circumstances, but I was left disappointed that I wasn't able to challenge myself and gauge my fitness level at a race.

But the pendulum doth swing. When I go back over my training log over the past 3 months one thing is clear. I am consistent. I persevere. Those first couple of weeks starting my new training plan were a little spotty hitting the paces but I've stuck with it. I've run my mid-week long runs, nailed my interval workouts and even done a fast finish 20 miler- something I've never attempted in training before. I've run easy on recovery days and all out on speed days. My mileage has climbed higher and higher and this week will top out at 65 miles. I've done my strength training as well as taken care of myself on rest days. I will not look back at these months and see days where I've slacked, days where I could have done better. That blog post I wrote back then finished with this line:

Sometimes it’s the biggest pain in the butt to reach that peak but man, is the view ever nice from the top.

I am looking forward to that view!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I really enjoy training. I feel like I might as well have a horn growing out of my head when I say that to people. So many people love to race, but not necessarily train. Obviously, I love to run races. Race day is my favorite! I love it when all the pieces come together and I can go out and crush a goal. Even if I have a bad race, there's something about seeing that finish line that gives me a rush like nothing else. Good or bad day aside, how do I get to that finish line though? TRAINING.

I've become kind of a training geek lately. I've never been the type of person who has to drag themselves out the door to go run. Even if I'm dreading a particular workout I still look forward to it. I absolutely LOVE a challenge. Something has clicked for me this year though where I'm really enjoying learning everything I can about the process of marathon training. I wrote a little bit about this on Dailymile the other day:

Heading into the final month before taper, I feel like I really understand the process of marathon training now. (Which is strange because I’m working toward #15. Huh.) I’m just really enjoying the ebb and flow of hard training and how my body is reacting to it. I look forward to the tough workouts of tempo runs and fast intervals but I also enjoy the easy pace recovery runs that follow. I imagine I can feel my body adapting with each new workout and on rest days I picture my muscles repairing and rebuilding themselves. It’s fascinating and a bit like magic at times. It makes me wonder where my ceiling is with this whole running thing!

I like that I continue to learn new things with each training cycle. This time I've been really conscious of what I'm supposed to achieve with each workout- whether it's speed, endurance or recovery. I used to just run whatever pace I felt like all the time but I understand now that specificity in training is super important. I like the changes I'm feeling! Even if something goes wrong for me on race day this time around I feel like I've gained a much better understanding of how the process of hard training works. 

Let's Start at the Very Beginning

Everyone begins at the beginning. An ultrarunner who has completed multiple 100-mile races still had to take that first (super slow, painful) step. It can be completely overwhelming to start running when you have no idea what you are doing (and face it- most of us had no idea what we were doing when we started.) Conversely, for someone who’s been running for years, it can be hard to think back to those first steps and remember all the things we did to get to where we are today. One thing we always remember though it how it felt.


It’s a Saturday morning in May. I’ve got my iPod on, a new cute running top, bright white sneakers and some shades. I burst out the front door of my house on a mission: I’M GOING TO RUN. I’m tired of looking on wistfully at all the local runners with their nicely toned legs as they stride down by the lake like gazelles, sweat running down their backs. I’m headed down to the neighborhood park and I’m going to make myself a runner if it kills me. I tear down the street at top speed with a carefully selected Run Playlist pumping through my headphones. This isn’t so bad! I pass other people walking their dogs and I start to feel a little self conscious. Can they tell I’m not “really” a runner? 

Uh-oh, my legs are starting to hurt. I turn the corner and enter the park and my lungs begin to burn. I get a stitch in my side. I look down at my stopwatch to see how much time has passed. 

 A minute and a half. 


I'll never forget how hard it felt when I started. I'll never forget the first time I ran over a mile without stopping. I 'll never forget how even when I was able to run longer, I still hated the first 20 minutes of every single run. Just get to two miles and things will get better.... I'll never forget how I felt down the final stretch of my first 5K, my first marathon, my first sub-4 marathon, my first 50 miler. Running brings new adventures every day but I'll never forget how it started.