Saturday, December 5, 2015

Schaumburg Half Recap and a Sneak Peek at 2016

For the past five years I've run the Schaumburg Half Marathon the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Illinois.  A lot of people I know run Thanksgiving Day races but since we're always traveling that morning I choose to run mine a couple of days later. The half in Schaumburg is always  a well-organized race that takes place in a relatively flat forest preserve about a little over an hour away from Milwaukee. It doesn't start until 9:15am so it gives me plenty of time to get there in the morning. It just works out well on so many levels.

I've PR-ed on this course a couple of times- including my very first sub-1:45 half a few years ago (1:44:20). Even when I haven't run a PR I've still been able to sock away some pretty decent times, including a 1:45:01 and a 1:45 on the nose the past two years. This year I unfortunately felt pretty much like garbage throughout the whole second half but I still clocked in again with a 1:45:19! (My splits are straight from Sad Town though, averaging 7:45 for the first half but around 8:20 for the back half. Oof. Hey, it happens.)

I always approach this race with a "see what happens" attitude but also with the slightest of hope for an awesome performance. It comes at the end of a long racing season and usually after I've finished a marathon or an ultra a few weeks earlier. This year I ran two marathons in October/November so I knew there was the possibility my legs would go into full on "Nope" mode.

Well... I made it to mile 6 before entering Nopesville so a little bit farther than I expected going in. Up until that point I was running pretty solid in the 7:40s but something in my stomach felt a bit "off." I'm going to go out on a limb and say it was the consistent diet of mashed potatoes and beer for the two preceding days. I mean, I'm no doctor but I might be onto something with this theory. A little past half way we hit a turnaround and had to head back uphill and that was the moment my body checked out. I got a little nauseous and suddenly I felt like I was a gigantic hungover potato with legs. Somehow I was still running 8:15-8:20 so it wasn't a complete bonk but everything mechanically just felt... clunky. I was going but it wasn't going to be pretty from here on out. I honestly felt like I was going even slower than I was because at one point I thought to myself,  boy I hope I can run under a 1:50! I guess things weren't really as bad as I felt because a 1:45 half is pretty damn good!

Overall I'm glad I got a solid 13 mile run in at a pretty aggressive pace for me for the first 6 miles. I've really got my eye on running a sub-1:40 half in the next year so I have to happy with where I'm starting at on that front.

Which brings me to this:

2016 is going to be straight up rad. I'm so excited about it! I had big scary dreams in 2014 that I ended up falling short of, but I came back STRONG in 2015.  I'm hoping to take that momentum and kick all the ass in 2016.

The important stuff:

1. Lower my Boston Qualifying time. Just today I signed up for a super early spring marathon in Indiana called Circular Logic. It's actually a super flat one-mile loop that you run 26 times. Some people may find that mind numbing but remember I'm the kind of person who thinks that running marathons on an indoor track is relaxing. Basically the race was built for me. Also it's early enough in the season where I don't have to worry about freakish warm weather. See here. And here. I'm pumped.

2. Run a sub-1:40 half. Like I mentioned above, it's just just about damn time that I get this one done. I did run an "unofficial" 1:41 at the Chi-town Half Marathon this year (thanks to running the wrong way for an extra half mile on the course) so I know I'm super close.  If anything I have a really big PR in me just waiting to bust out. My goal race for the is the Icebreaker Half Marathon in January. 

3. Run another 50 miler! After a two year hiatus I am itching to get out there and run the big trail miles. I've been hooked on an ultrarunning podcast the past few months and it has me considering things that are absolutely bananas. I'm seriously eyeing a 100K in 2017.... but first things first. I'll be signing up for the Ice Age 50 Mile race when it opens in a couple of weeks.

And that only takes me through May. I guess you could say I'm feeling a little ambitious. Giddyup!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Time I Ran The Marathon I Helped Make Happen

I decided not to renew my personal trainer certification in January of this year. After a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that it wasn't the right fit for me. At the time I had no idea what I was going to do next and was kind of floundering around trying to figure things out when my friend Chris contacted me about an interesting opportunity. We met for lunch to discuss a little event he was working on called the Milwaukee Running Festival.  And thus, a partnership was born.

Sitting here now I'm still kind of amazed we pulled it off. Honestly most of the time I felt like I was just making things up as we went along. I had been a part of the crew that organized the Great Milwaukee Race for five years- an event for about 300 hundred participants. I'm not really sure what made Chris think I could do that for a race over ten times that size? I felt a little like a fraud at times with my made up title we created. Social and Marketing Director it reads on my business card. What does that even mean? I have no business giving myself any kind of title. The funny thing is, that title didn't cover half the stuff I ended up doing for the event so I guess I shouldn't sell myself short.

I'm so glad he had confidence in me from the start. Although it made me feel better that I knew he was making things up as he went along too. I mean, if we messed up we would mess up together? But... if we were successful it would be even more fantastic! It would make for a damn good story.

I was surprised at first to hear that many big city marathons actually employ a full time staff. I am not shocked by this anymore. Holy shit there's a lot of work that goes into planning an event that goes through an entire city! The fact that we pulled this off without our teeny tiny little staff is just bonkers looking back on it now. Luckily we had completely awesome people step up to give a hand on many levels of the operation. We also hired an experienced and phenomenal crew that has a number of big city events under their belts and made us look really good. Still, inaugural events are tough any way you cut it. EVERYONE is skeptical of you. Frankly, even some of your supporters probably are. A lot of runners just want to watch to see if the first year is a shitshow first before deciding whether or not they will participate in the future.

People expect you to fail.

I won't get into the nitty gritty politics and other silly little dramas that plagued this event from it's very conception. There's no point to it. Our event was not without it's missteps- nothing ever is- but honestly, we outperformed my wildest expectations.


Oh, and my reward on race day? I actually got to run the marathon course! 3:48:58

I felt a little guilty about being able to run in the race. On one hand I felt like a chump for not having a race day job. On the other hand? I was so completely fried from stress and not sleeping for the last 2 weeks that all I wanted to do was let go and RUN. I wanted to experience every step of what we had been working so hard to put together for the past year.

Viewing it though my eyes is of course going to be different. Everything was super charged and super emotional because of my own connection to the event.  I have literally never felt better in a marathon though. Ever. And the course was not easy! I started out like a crazed banshee at first because I had so much adrenaline, but as I began approaching all the aid stations I helped organize I started slowing to thank everyone who had come out to volunteer. I was just so happy to see everyone out there supporting our event. As I ran the course I kept thinking about every stupid obstacle that came up in our path on the way to this day and the fact that we kicked every obstacle in it's stupid face. My own face hurt from smiling so much.

As always, with great highs come great lows.  After a week of riding the post-event high (and work that came with it) I've been kind of a sloth. We have a few weeks before we have to start kicking things into gear for 2016 so I'm kind of floundering around again with no direction. I need it though. I'm going to hunker down with family for the holidays and come back refreshed and ready to tackle next year's event with renewed excitement. With the first year out of the way it's all easy peasy from here on out, right?


Monday, November 16, 2015

Lakefront Marathon 2015- BQ #2


It's a been over a month since Lakefront Marathon and I'm finally getting around to absorbing it. I had the best intentions of writing a recap the week after the race when I was recovering but I ended up pretty much diving headfirst into preparations for the inaugural Milwaukee Running Festival (which is another story I need to write***.) That whole business was an absolute whirlwind that didn't really settle down until about a week ago- after which I then retreated into a cocoon of crime television, fantasy football strategizing, beer drinking and naps. It's been kind of glorious, actually.

I need to process things in chronological order though. Thus, the Lakefront Marathon recap comes first.

So back to how this entry started:


That's exactly how I felt when I finished Lakefront this year. 3:39:24. Another PR(!), my second Boston qualifier this year(!) yet... still not good enough to make the new Boston cutoff of at least 2 minutes and 30 seconds faster than a qualifying time.  WOMP. I know I run the risk of sounding ungrateful for what I'm able to do, but honestly knowing that another damn 3:39 time will not get me into the actual race really takes the shine off of what was a pretty good race for me.

What went wrong is kind of unimportant at this point. For some reason (I suspect improper fueling/hydration) I started getting really dizzy around mile 18. I felt a little disoriented like I might pass out so I stopped to drink some Gatorade. After stopping a couple more times to get more electrolytes in me I started to feel better but I had already fallen off pace at this point. That's the story. I didn't check all the boxes I needed to check and it cost me in the end.

Yes, I still finished with a smile on my face. I pulled out a sub-3:40 when I thought even that was lost! I'm really proud of myself for not throwing in the towel. But I'm still chasing that feeling. The feeling of getting to that finish line and knowing that I have crushed my goal without a shred of a doubt.  The feeling of knowing I will be able to actually register for the race that I've been trying to qualify for over the past two years. That feeling is something I have yet to experience and it's what drives me still.

*** MRF recap to come and will have a lot more words and feelings to sort through.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Calm Before the...?

I am strangely zen about my training right now. I mean don't get me wrong, I'm totally pumped to attempt another PR in two and half weeks, but recently something switched in my head and I went from "I have no idea if I'll be ready to race another marathon hard" to "Relax, everything's gonna be cool, man."

You know, kinda like this guy:

I was feeling a little out in No-Mans's Land because I hadn't run any races all summer where I could gauge my fitness.  But lo:

Oh hey, it looks like I finally beat my 5K PR from over FOUR YEARS AGO. It's cool. I've only barely come within maybe 30 seconds of it in the last half dozen 5Ks I've run. So I do this one in the middle of my peak week for Lakefront Marathon and BOOM. Won my age group too! So happy.

The best part is that Jason came down and did the race as well. His second 5K this summer:

We totally do races together now. It's a thing we do.
Then, two and a half days later I tackled my last 20 mile workout of training. Some long runs I do a "whatever feels good" pace and other long runs I consider "workouts," meaning that I have something specific I try to accomplish during the run (usually a fast finish or intervals.) This one was an interval workout:

5 mile warmup
3 miles at GMP (Goal Marathon Pace)
1 recovery mile
3 miles at GMP
1 recovery mile
3 miles at GMP
4 easy miles to get to 20.

My goal marathon pace this time around is 8:15 but I seemed to settle in at about 8:05-8:10 for my faster intervals. It just felt good. (Or, as good as running 20 miles fairly aggressively can be expected to feel.) The point is that I didn't feel terrible and I was able to hang on and hit that speed for all of the (9 total) goal pace miles. Woo! Plus I got to go to Soldier Field and eat nachos and drink beer afterward. The high of nailing this run almost took the sting out of the Bears loss that day. Almost.

To top everything off, yesterday I did a speed workout where I managed to run every one of my half mile repeats in the 6s, Sure they were all 6:5X but dammit if they weren't under 7!

Pretty graph.
Anyway, all bragging aside, I'm feeling pretty chilled out right now about my chances of lowering my BQ time on October 4th. I'm sure I'll go through few dozen more ups and downs before race day but right now I'm going to ride this feeling for as long as I can:

On the Playlist: Part 14

Tigernite on repeat.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Knock Knock

I'm still here!

Wow summer really has gotten away from me- mostly because of my gig working on the Milwaukee Running Festival. Obsessing over my own training has taken a back seat to obsessing over how to pull off putting on Milwaukee's first urban marathon (plus half marathon, plus 5K, plus Mile Race) on November 1st. Eeeeeeep.

Today I'm sitting here after yet another 20 miler- one that was rolled into the Lake Michigan Trail Half Marathon just a few miles from my house. It was was hot, humid, gross, icky, and pretty much a struggle bus- especially the last 3 miles that I ran home. Luckily, I had not specific time goal for today and was scheduled to run "easy," but even that was a tall order today.

So how has training been going? Honestly a couple of weeks ago it felt like this:

Why? I like I said before, I'm much busier this time around so I feel like I'm logging the miles I've mapped out for myself but I haven't taken a lot of time to process what I've been doing. (Which is new for me because historically I over-analyze everything.) Also, with summer being what it is- hot and humid- those days where running feels truly "easy" are few and far between.  Even though I've been completing all the workouts, hitting the paces, and checking all the little boxes, I was missing that feeling of everything is starting to come together.

Until last week!

Last week we had a glorious dip in temperature and I headed out for a run on Tuesday morning that  I was kind of dreading- 10 miles with 6 at marathon pace. Fortunately though, that sudden burst of fall weather lit a fire in me. I was cranking out 15 seconds faster than the pace I needed and it felt like I could have run like that all day.  THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED. I went home and started combing through my Strava workouts and realized that I actually have been making some pretty good improvements this summer. My speed workouts have been tougher than last time around, and although my long run pace remains the same overall- I've been completing them with fast finishes (something I desperately need to learn to do in races.)

This worry that I haven't been progressing this summer is totally unfounded. My mileage has been a wee bit lower than for my spring marathon, but that's really just because this cycle is only 12 weeks this time instead of 18. Going into peak week next week I'm feeling energized right now instead of drained. Now I just need fall to happen and hopefully I can coast into October in top form.

Can I really be on track? I think I might be.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

D-Dub-D #4

This race was a reward for me. (First let's just assume that normal people reward themselves with running 32 trail miles.) Although I love road racing and training for road events, I had to give up trail running for a bit in order to completely focus on training for my BQ. I told myself that I would get back to the trails once I qualified for Boston and Dances with Dirt just happened to be 6 weeks after Rockford Marathon so I signed up (despite the fact that I hadn't set foot on a trail of any kind since September of last year.)

I've reached this point with running where I don't really worry too much about not being able to do stuff anymore. Not because I think I'm super amazing, but because I know that somehow I'll be able to get through it. It may not be pretty but i'll get it done. That was my feeling with DWD this year. I figured it wouldn't be pretty, it may take me all day, but I would get that shit done and have a good time doing it. I admit my 20 miler with Sara at Lapham Peak two weeks before the race left me pretty wrecked for a few days, but I also knew this was my one chance to do an ultramarathon this year before I have to focus on road racing again in the fall. I wanted to do it.

Running can surprise you. I have had races where I thought I was totally prepared and ended up flopping. I've also had races where I've surprised myself with an unexpected PR. Luckily this time the DWD 50K surprised me in a good way. I approached this whole run like one big meditation. Again, I'm aware one can just meditate sitting on their duff and not running 32 miles but I was doing this race solo without any running buddies so I approached it as such. Trail running can get very peaceful and introspective anyway so running by myself I just got really wrapped up in the scenery and the air moving in an out of my lungs and the (massive) effort it took me to scale all those hills.

Top o the bluffs at Devil's Lake. Never gets old.

Dances with Dirt is an insanely hard course. It's by far the most difficult race I do and that's part of the reason I don't like to set myself a time goal. However once I got to the top of the bluffs about 13 miles in I realized I was going along at a much faster clip than I had in previous years so I decided to see if maybe I could finish in under 7 hours. (Two years ago we finished in 7:30.)
The course was a little different this year in that they removed the section with a gigantic ski hill right at the beginning. I hesitate to say it was "easier" because this course in general eats you up no matter what. I'm sure the lack of ski hill is mostly why I was able to cover ground so much faster this year although I would like to submit this picture:

Little Trail Runners on the Prairie

They substituted the ski hill section with 6 miles of prairie. Sun drenched, humid, god forsaken prairie. This was the only real low point of the day for me. I really struggle with prairie sections of trial courses and it was physically and mentally deflating for that stretch. I would argue that the ski hill would have been preferable but who knows. When we finally got back into the woods it felt like a reward to be able to power hike up a 2 mile hill. That's how bad it was.

*I would put my finisher photo here but apparently I only do races with no race photographers these days.

Prairie aside, I'm so glad I put this race on my schedule. Although I love doing trail races with friends, I really enjoyed being out there by myself this year. Also, I haven't run an ultra since the Door County 50 in the fall of 2013 so it feels good to know I can still kick some ultramarathon butt- and on such a hard course! Oh yeah, I finished in 6:54- and the course had almost a whole extra mile this year! Not bad for a road racer, eh? I placed 5th in my age group and got a nifty duffle bag. I'd be lying if I didn't say I've been eyeing more trail run 50Ks and 50 milers again. (Ice Age 50 I'm looking at you for 2016.)

But first, back to the road. I've got a little revenge in mind for Lakefront Marathon in October.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ragnar V and Regrouping

I swore all year this was going to be my last Ragnar Relay. I figured 5 years in a row would be enough right? Jokes were made about my "retirement" and whether or not I would receive a gold watch for my years of service. Dammit, wouldn't it just make sense that I would have my most favorite Ragnar experience of the five? And in that post-race beer-filled glow on Montrose Beach in Chicago I found myself committing to Ragnar 2016.


What a bunch of weirdos.

Riding the deer at Deerfield Lutheran Church. It's a thing we do.

This past week I took it easy on running (due to the expected #ragnover) but I kicked my strength training back into gear. Man I've missed my kettlebells! I feel great- and oh so sore- and excited to build some strength again for a few weeks while I'm not running so many damn miles. Except for the part where I'm running the Dances with Dirt 50K in three weeks. GAH. I know I'll get through it but it really doesn't fit into my training at all right now. Still, I feel like I need to get out on the trails for a good, long, ridiculous run that doesn't have anything to do with pace or goals or Boston or stuff like that. I suppose I could do that with fewer than 31 miles? Whoops I'm already signed up! It will all work out. Shhhhhhh.

Oh hi. I've missed you.

After I build my strength training base again and get this 50K under my belt then it's time to buckle down and focus on bettering my BQ time at Lakefront Marathon in October. There's no way I'm not going to try to build on that 3:39 and get my ass to the actual race for 2017. 

Project BQ Harder bitches! Let's go!

On the Playlist: Part 13

Heidi's a bit much but thumbs up to Oberyn Martell. And Sia Forever.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

I FINALLY DID THE THING: Rockford Marathon BQ!




The entire week leading up to Rockford Marathon I kept five different weather tabs open on my laptop. Every time there was a lull in whatever I was working on, or if I hadn't checked in the past oh, 30 minutes or so I would click over to them and go down the line:




I thought someone must be playing some kind of cruel joke on me by forecasting 40 degree temperatures on race morning. Obviously, this was going to change and I would be slogging through unbearable heat and humidity (or both) like I expected when I registered for the race.

It wasn't until Friday afternoon when the temperature in Milwaukee started to take a sharp nosedive that I started to actually believe that this thing could possibly go my way.  I mean, the only missing piece to my puzzle was the weather, right? I felt like if I couldn't pull this race off when everything tipped in my favor then I really had no excuses left.

I drove to Rockford on Saturday afternoon so I could pick up my race packet. They do have race day pick up but I was antsy, and I wanted to make extra triple sure I had been switched from the half to the full marathon like I requested. Pickup at the Clock Tower was super no-frills and I was in and out in probably 5 minutes flat. (Bonus: The postcards we sent for the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival were in the bags!) 

I still had some time to kill before I needed to meet my dad for dinner so I decided to drive down to the race start. On the way I stopped at a nifty t-shirt shop called Rockford Art Deli and picked up an "I Heart Illinois" sweatshirt with Abe Lincoln and the Sears Tower on it. (Yes, I can totally love both Illinois and Wisconsin and no you can't stop me.) Once I was down there I thought, why not drive the course? I certainly didn't want a repeat of th course shenanigans at the Chitown Half Marathon in April. I pulled the map up on my phone and drove most of it (except for the parts it hops on the bike path.) This made me feel good because I was also able to scope out the long uphill stretch I was concerned about. It didn't look too bad driving it but because the course was 2 loops I knew the second time through this section would hurt. 

Course Exhibit A

When I got back to just before the finish, I pulled my car over at the top of the hill at what would be mile 26 and tried to visualize coming down the last stretch seeing the clock at 3:3X:XX. It may sound hippy dippy but it felt like something I needed to do.

The rest of the evening was pretty standard pre-marathon stuff: Pasta dinner at Capri (a classic Rockford Italian restaurant) with my dad, brother and sister-in-law, followed by general race prep fussing and bed by 9pm at my dad's house. I set my alarm for 4am since the race started at 6 and I like to have plenty of time to eat, drink coffee and get ready. Lights out.


Obviously I woke up and went to the bathroom about a half dozen times and eventually woke up about 5 minutes before my alarm at 3:55. I wasn't tired at all. The first thing I did was check my tweets and texts and saw this from Jason (who was back in Milwaukee with the girls.)

Something about that really struck me and I kept thinking about it. (Pssst. Foreshadowing.)

I got ready in about 15 minutes and basically just waited around for coffee to clear out my system before going. (Truth.)  During this time I got a message from my good friend Shiow in Chicago and she informed me that her plans for the day were canceled and that the would be coming in to cheer for me! I sent her the proper cheer coordinates and felt pretty excited since I thought no one would be there on the course. My dad also woke up and paced around with me even though he swore up and down he would never get up this early. He told me he would drive down to see me at the finish later and I was out the door at 5am.

General pre-race stuff. Blah blah. I dropped my bag at the start and stretched a bit. It was cold! Awesome. I think it was about 44 degrees- although clouds would have been nice. One thing I definitely noticed was the wind coming pretty strong out of the north. I got a text from my friend Chris warning me about the wind projected for the day and he told me to tuck in behind other runners and draft in a headwind. I wondered how much I would be able to do this at a small race? I was a tad worried about this development.

Onward. So this event is super low key. They call it a "runner's race" but sometimes I think that's just code for "cheap?" This would be my fifth time running it and although it's always pretty well organized and full of great volunteers, it's still very, very no frills. Last year they didn't put on the marathon at all (only the half and 10K due to money issues) so this was the first year back for the full. This year there was no one announcing anything at the start until about 2 minutes before the race started. Not even an national anthem? Weird. Somebody just picked up a mic a minute before 6am and counted us down. Ok then. We were off!

Oh hey, I guess I'm doing this again. After 22 weeks of training and a DNF 4 weeks ago. I was so excited that I didn't realize that my Garmin didn't actually start when I pressed it. Balls! When I finally got it started I wasn't sure how many seconds had went by. (Pssst. More foreshadowing.) I tried not to let this bother me too much though and began to settle in. My strategy this time was to play it super conservative. The first 6 miles were going to be going north, directly into the wind I was worried about earlier- and also a steady uphill for about 2 of those miles. The week leading up to the race I was considering going for a 3:35 based on my training but in the end I decided there was no way I was going to risk bonking again so my plan was to aim for just under a 3:40- about 3:38ish. I decided I would go out at an 8:15 pace for at least the first 13 miles and re-evaluate there. The cool weather made the pace feel pretty ok but because of the wind and the uphill I wouldn't call it "easy." Still I felt optimistic! We always do in the first 6 miles right?

On the way north on the first loop I was lucky to tuck in behind some half marathoners. The were chatting and having fun and I was right behind them trying to shield myself from the wind. I felt like I was dealing with it ok andI kept telling myself it would all pay off on the way back south when I would have the wind at my back. I managed the 2 mile climb without faltering but I knew it would be a killer on the second loop. 

Course Exhibit B

Around mile 7 or so we crossed the river and headed back south. I was surprised that i didn't immediately feel a strong tailwind at my back to balance everything out. Lame! The air did feel super calm though so at least I didn't have the wind in my face anymore. Also, I was going to see Shiow at mile 12! I took this opportunity to guzzle the rest of the water in my handheld. I figure if I had a friend to refill for me I would take advantage of it. There was no way I was going to end up a dehydrated mess like I did in Kenosha four weeks ago. Around this time I saw a woman with a sign that said "What Would Harry Potter Do?" Honestly I was confused. I thought about yelling "Accio Finish Line!" at her but decided to save my energy. 

This stretch of the course is the best since most of it is on a bike path right next to the river. It's super pretty and FLAT and there are people around to cheer you on at various points. And then I saw Shiow! She has cheered for me at multiple races (where I've failed to meet my goal- womp) but she always wears a bright tomato red hoodie that I can see from far away. When I saw the hoodie I pumped my fist in the air. Woooooooo! She ran beside me and asked me how I was doing and I said pretty good, but would she refill my bottle for me before I saw her again at 18. 

Rockford's "Symbol" sculpture. Being symbolic of something. (No I did not take this during the actual race.)

She took off and I felt like I got a huge boost. Although this section of the course was great I felt like the second loop was looming hard- especially that hard trip back north into the wind. Seeing Shiow got me energized and I trucked onward, passing the half marathon mark in 1:48:19. Nice, but I didn't have a lot of wiggle room if I slowed down. (Ahem. Foreshadowing.)

So here I was re-evaluating my pace at the half. I felt pretty good but I also didn't want to risk speeding up when I knew miles 13-18 were going to be the uphill/windy section again. After the half marathoners finish it get's pretty desolate at this race too so I wouldn't have any one to draft off of. I decided to stick with an 8:15-ish pace and check back in again when we hit the turnaround. 

This was wise. The second time out was exactly what I expected. The hills felt hillier and the wind felt winder. Luckily I don't mind races where I'm alone because that's pretty much what it was like. I always had someone on sight ahead of me but I was never running "with" anyone after this point. I allowed myself to slow just a bit during miles 15 and 17 since these where the more significant inclines. I figured I could make it up when we hit a big downhill at 18.5. I saw Shiow again at the top of the larger hill before 18 and she handed me my water bottle back. Backstory: this is where I dropped out in Kenosha so it felt awesome to grab the water bottle and shout that I was going to do this thing! Shiow wooo-ed at me and said she was headed to the finish and I made my way to the glorious glorious downhill.

Mile 19.5 I finally got to turn away from the wind and head south towards the finish. Only about an hour left to go! Ooof. This was when I hoped to kick it into another gear and sail to a 3:35-3:36ish finish but.... waaaah. Maybe the wind took more out of me than I expected or maybe it just wasn't meant to be. Whatever. I couldn't speed up but I was going to try like hell to hold on to whatever I had left. I started thinking about that tweet from Jason. I kept saying to myself, "TODAY IS FOR YOU." Because eff missing my goal again! Today was my day whether it wanted to be or not. I was going to MAKE THAT SHIT HAPPEN. 

Again, where was my tailwind? Those last 6 miles of racing a marathon are going to feel like a butt no matter what. Maybe the tailwind was there but I didn't feel it. At this point I was clinging to whatever I had left. When I got to mile 22 I was pretty sure I had enough of a buffer to still get a 3:38 as long as I ran under 8:45 minute miles but dammit math is not what my brain was wanting to do right now. Also, I had no idea how many extra seconds my Garmin didn't pick up at the begining of the race. I passed a few runners who were fading and walking so that part felt good but overall I was so stressed out over the math at this point that I just kept pumping my arms and repeating my mantra: TODAY. TODAY IS FOR YOU.

After mile 25 we left the bike path and headed down the final, long stretch of road. It's flat and long except for the part where you can see the hill waaaay down at the end leading up to mile 26. It's one of those hills that would never really feel like a hill except for when you've run 26 miles beforehand. As I slogged my way up the hill the final song on my playlist came on. OH SHIT. If this song ended then I knew it was all over. (Lyrics: The clock keeps turning, the world keeps burning, it's life and death, we won't rest, 'til we're dust and bones...) I was pretty sure I had enough time but those last tenths of a marathon seem like an eternity. Also my Garmin was now 2 tenths of a mile ahead of the mile markers so DAMMIT MORE MATH. At the top of the hill at mile 26 (where my Garmin said 26.2 thankyouverymuch) I saw a girl with a sign that said "Touch Here For Power" with a big green button drawn on it. I slapped the cardboard button with one hand and then took my now empty water bottle and spiked it on the ground in a fury. I didn't want a single ounce of extra weight as I turned the corner and ran towards the finish. 

I rounded the corner and although I couldn't make out the clock just yet I could see Shiow's red hoodie in the distance! I punched my hand up in the air and sailed down the hill. 

As I approached got closer to the finish Shiow came out into the street and started running next to me, screaming: "GOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" She started dropping names of everyone who was cheering for me back at home: JASON AND SARA AND ROCHELLE ARE ALL CHEERING FOR YOU! GOOOOO! I still had probably another tenth of a mile to go and I shouted back, "WHY IS IT SO FAR AWAY?" Seriously we must have been the most ridiculous thing. I would pay so much money for a photo of this moment. (There was no official race photographer at this event. Mega-womp.) 

Anyway, the clock finally came into focus for me and it made sense why she was screaming. It said something like 3:39:XX! I was baaaaarely going to squeak this sucker in. ( I know, I can't handle the drama either.) I stared straight ahead and pushed those last couple strides out to cross the finish at 3:39:41! 

We might have won the Loudest Finish Award.

I immediately put my hands on my knees in shock that it was finally over. There was someone there snapping a bunch photos of me and it was honestly very overwhelming. (I need to figure out who this person was- I was told there was no "official" photographer but I now for a fact someone was there taking pictures of the finishers.) My knees buckled for a second and I put my hands on the ground and tried to catch my breath. I looked to my right and my dad was standing right there waiting for me! I pulled my emotional mess of a self together and went over to him and Shiow shouting, "I did it! By this much- but I did it!"

My dad and me!

Now here's the kicker: Although my time technically qualifies me for the Boston Marathon, a 3:39:41 most definitely won't be good enough to allow me to actually register for the 2016 race. They take the fastest qualifiers first and work backwards until the race fills up. Historically "BQ squeakers" don't get in. BAH. This means Im still going to have to qualify harder again at another race. (Most likely Lakefront Marathon again, which will then qualify me for 2017.) At first this might seem a little bittersweet but honestly nothing can take away from the high I felt at that last moment when I knew all my hard work was going to finally pay off down that last stretch of pavement. Even if I don't run Boston in 2016 I KNOW I DID IT. I really did it! And the long drawn out story of trying/failing/trying/failing only intensifies how accomplished I feel about finally reaching my goal. Looking back at my splits I could hem and haw over where could have gone faster but the truth is I could not have run one bit faster that I did in those last 4 miles. I left every last thing out there on the course so there's no point in second guessing things.

Exhibit C

Never ever ever when I started running did I think I would qualify for the Boston Marathon. When I finished my first marathon 5 years ago in 4:26 it never even entered my mind that it would be something I could someday do. When I ran my first sub-4 marathon it never was something I considered. When it took me 2+ years to whittle my time down to a 3:50 it still seemed like a complete fantasy. Something about Chicago Marathon in 2013 though lit a fire in me and I can't quite explain why. All I know is that I'm so glad it did.

And now I get to experience yet another awesome moment when I smash my 3:39 into oblivion this fall. :)

Monday, May 25, 2015


I can't really be this lucky can I?


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wisconsin/Rockford Marathon Training Week... 21?

Yeah, I don't know either. I guess since I didn't complete my marathon in Kenosha a couple of weeks ago I'm trying to extend this thing into a 22-week training cycle (instead of an 18-week one.) Except...for the part where I did a full on taper for Wisconsin Marathon- I don't really know how to spin that. Luckily, the week after my DNF I felt completely fine. I got a ton of water and rest into my body over that weekend and jumped back in to another 60+ mile week without any problems. I ran another "fast finish" 20 miler the following Saturday because the weather was PERFECT for running (middle finger to the sky thankyouverymuch).

After that new peak week I started to "re-taper" a bit down to 40 miles. I still ran a solid speed workout though and a progressive 15 miler over the weekend. I don't feel as exhausted as I did when I first tapered for Kenosha so the meat of my taper/relaxation is starting just now, two weeks out from Rockford Marathon. 

Yep, I emailed the race director and asked to upgrade to the full. It's probably grasping at straws to expect favorable conditions on May 31st (flashbacks to Sunburst Marathon last year) but I figured if I was already planning on doing the half that I would absolutely kick myself if by some stroke of nonsense it ends up being 45 degrees and cloudy that day and I was only registered for 13.1 miles. I'm fully expecting it to be ridiculously warm and sunny on race day but this way I have an ace in my back pocket if Mother Nature decides to smile down upon me that morning. I'll at least finish a spring marathon either way. 

I'd really, really love for the chips to fall in my favor though. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wisconsin Marathon: DNF This

Did that really happen? The answer is unfortunately so.

As the race was unfolding, none of it seemed real. I absolutely could not believe that it was happening to me. Nope. Nope. Not on any level.

But it did happen. And after spending a week moping and channeling my inner Nancy Kerrigan I've come to the point where I just have to let that shit go. Yes, I got screwed by the weather. No, there was nothing I could do to avoid the fact that my body was not acclimated to the warmer temperature. Yes, other people had similar troubles at this race so it wasn't just in my head. No, it was not fair. Yes, it was heartbreaking to be fitter than I've ever been and have this happen.

No, there is nothing I can do to change it.

At first it didn't feel like it was that warm. 60-65 degrees is in fact very much not that warm at all. However 18 weeks of training in nothing higher than the 40s meant that it was a shock to my poor Midwestern system. Geez, even on my last couple shakeout runs leading up to Saturday it was in the 30s.

Happier times: Around mile 5.

My initial warning was a side stitch forming at mile 6. Then a super icky dry mouth feeling developed around mile 8 despite already finishing all my 22 ounces of water. The 8:15 pace I was running not only didn't feel easy- it felt like WORK. (A huuuge red flag since I ran a 7:40 pace half marathon just a few weeks ago. 8:15 should have been a breeze at this point!) After my water bottle was empty all I could think about was getting to the next aid station to hydrate more. I chugged more water around mile 12 and was immediately thirsty again a minute later. I felt like I was reenacting that scene in Spaceballs where they are lost in the desert. But you know, in Kenosha instead.

I got to mile 16 and I finally accepted that it was not happening that day. I texted my family who was waiting for me at 18 and told them I was slowing down and planned to drop out. Then I had 2 miles to come to terms with that decision so I wouldn't cry in front of them.

Mile 9ish. Beet red face. Sadness.

I've never DNF-ed a race so this was completely new
territory for me. I've mega-bonked races before and been proud of finishing them but this time it honestly didn't seem like it would be a wise decision to keep going. Looking at it from a technical perspective, I can tell myself I didn't put my body through the stress of completing 26.2 miles so I can log it as a long tempo run. I can "save" my legs and extend my training cycle a few weeks and maybe try again at another race at the end of the month.

Still it stings like a bitch. More than any other bad race I've ever had.

All I want to do is have my hard work pay off on a race day. I absolutely know I can do this. 18 weeks of the most amazing training and I'm left with... what? It's beyond frustrating. I feel like I'm on the verge of this huge breakthrough but it's just taking it's damn sweet time getting here.

When I finally smash through this wall it's going to be so good.

Friday, May 8, 2015

I should probably write about that Wisconsin Marathon DNF huh.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fuck Yeah: Wisconsin Marathon Training Week 15

I made it to taper! This is undoubtedly the longest, hardest, most intense training cycle I've done. And I'm no slacker! (Also: Not a euphemism.) The past two weeks were definitely crazy. I ran the Chitown Half Marathon on the 11th and although I *technically* PR-ed the distance, my uber-smart self managed to make a wrong turn and add an extra .6 miles to the course. I realize that it's not unusual to run an extra tenth or even two at a race but I literally ran the wrong direction and had to double back. Ugh. It was kind of the worst when it was happening. I debated quitting for a hot minute because I was so mad but then I realized that nothing was stopping me from running a 1:41 half- it just wouldn't be in the official results.

So I did:

How does one manage to run the wrong way in a race? Well, it takes a special kind of talent, I guess. It started with a burst pipe in the underpass that goes under Lake Shore Drive. The path was completely flooded and the volunteers were shouting at people to take a detour, only it was a *little* unclear what the detour was and people were scattering in multiple directions. I panicked and decided to follow a guy THROUGH the shin-deep water and when I came out on the other side of the underpass I was completely flustered and upset and missed a sign that would have directed me in the correct direction. The rest is history. I actually ended up feeling super strong though and completely thrilled with my pace on my Garmin.

I don't usually do Garmin photos but dammit, this is my proof!

Yep, another Garmin shot. 
Truth be told, I pouted a little bit at not having an official time that reflected my effort but the important thing is that I DID IT. I totally killed it. And it's exactly on track for what I need to do at Wisconsin Marathon in three weeks. Yes just three weeks! Yesterday ran my last "big" long run of training. I hit a 70 mile week for the second time and it felt absolutely amazing to complete this cycle with a another strong long run. I just need to make sure I take my taper seriously this time. At Lakefront last fall I ran on days during taper when probably should have rested and I ended up not feeling fresh on race day. This time I'm going to try to listen to my body more instead of being a stickler with my training plan. The hard work is done now- I just need to be smart. Extra junk miles are only going to hurt.

So, onward we go. Commence weather stalking and outfit planning and general weirdo excitement.

Overcoming things on race day. Blah blah.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Utterly Bananas: Wisconsin Marathon Training Week 13

Yeah, another Strava screenshot. But hell yeah I'm excited about this 70 mile week!

Even with the cutback in mileage the week I raced a 10K, I'm still going to cross the 250 mile mark for March.
That is BONKERS.

Crazy mileage aside, I've had some quality workouts that have been confidence builders for me. I'm focusing really hard on not just running all "junk" miles but giving each run a purpose (speed intervals, tempo, progressive, recovery, etc.) I also think a big reason why I'm able to hit this mileage without hurting myself is that Wednesday and Friday are always recovery runs done at a very, very easy pace.

So what was good in the past couple of weeks? I actually had a pretty crappy speed workout to start week 12 where I couldn't hit my prescribed paces- mostly because I wasn't paying attention to my easy intervals and ran them way too fast. Rookie move, I know, which resulted in me getting slower and slower until I was just completely frustrated in the whole thing. That whole week I was feeling pretty tired and the botched speed workout hung over me like a dark cloud going into my 10K race.

Luckily? This happened instead:

I am smiling really big because I made it over the top of that big stupid hill and was rewarded with a huge downhill on the other side. Great shot to take a photo if you ask me. I ran a 30-second 10K PR- which is pretty neat since my previous PR was run on a flat track a few months ago. This one was full of hills! It started to hurt by mile 5 but otherwise I felt strong. I managed to win my age group which was an added bonus! I always wonder how fast I'd be able to run if I didn't race theses short races in the middle of marathon training- but who am I kidding I'm always in marathon training. Maybe I'd be a lot faster? Or maybe I'm just full of shit. 

Anyway, that was a huge boost to me since I was feeling kind of down all week leading up to the race. It turned me around mentally just in time to focus on Week 13: 70 miles! Whoa. 

First off, on Monday I had a "do over" of the speed workout I bonked the previous week. I took my recovery intervals seriously this time and was able to hit my paces spot on. Boom! Science. My other runs this week were easy paced (just trying to log the big 7-0) although my 13-miler on Tuesday was done progressively quicker each mile with a fast finish. I'm working really hard on starting out conservatively and allowing myself to ease slowly into my speed. I feel like it's been paying off because the faster miles don't feel like as much work anymore. Point two for Science.

Today was my 22 miler to cap off the week. This run was fantastic. Actually, I'm having a hard time figuring out which run this week was the best. It's a good problem to have! Especially because I've had a couple of rough weeks. Today though, I was again super proud of my pacing. I ran with Sara and Renee for the first 5 miles and we took it very easy since Renee is coming back from an injury. From 5-9 I ran with Sara and we naturally picked it up a bit as we talked but still, I didn't want to be too aggressive. Sara finished up at mile 9 and I took off to execute the rest of my plan. At mile 10 I started doing minute surges at marathon pace (8:10-8:15) at the top of every mile. It felt so good to speed up my legs! In between the surges I was able to recover and I felt ready to kick it up again as I approached a new mile. My overall pace increased more due to the surges but I was still saving up for the end where I kicked it up one last notch and ran in the 8:20s from mile 15-20. It didn't feel super "easy" but it didn't feel hard either which was great. The last two miles were a cooldown and I just had the biggest smile on my face. I'm so happy I've figured out how to finish long runs strong this cycle instead of crashing. This may be the missing piece in my training? Who knows. 

An added bonus is that I never had to stop and pause my Garmin at all during all 22 miles. A lot of times I have to stop for a traffic signal or a car or sometimes I'm with people who want to stop to eat whatever fuel they brought with. Today I just kept on trucking through. I didn't even pull my ipod out of my zip pocket after Sara left because I didn't want to lose focus and mess with it! I guess you could say I was in the zone. 

So now there are just 2 more hard weeks of training before taper. I have another cutback in mileage next week so I can race the ChiTown Half Marathon on Saturday and then there's one last push. Right now my outlook is most definitely optimistic. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

7 Weeks to Go: Wisconsin Marathon Training Week 11

I'm really trying not to psyche myself out this time around by obsessively counting down, but who am I kidding- I'm excited! This past week of training was a real high point for me. I hit 65 miles and topped off the week with a 21 mile run that I paced so well I was able to crank out the last 4 miles the fastest. It's a new thing for me to not be dragging at the end of a super long training run and I think I like it. I'm really trying to practice starting slow and building speed as I go since that will be my race day plan in May. Obviously qualifying for Boston is my #1 goal but I'm also dying to have a race where I don't hit a wall and get stronger and stronger until the finish. It's my turn to have one of those right? I'm working so hard.

Next week is a step back week in mileage again because I'm racing a 10K on Saturday. I'm feeling confident that I can break the PR I set in December. I hope I'm right.

View from the Shedd Aquarium last week on my 19-miler.
Another negative-splitter! It's what I do now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Living on a Prayer: Wisconsin Marathon Training Week 9

We're halfway there! *insert Bon Jovi gif here*

It's amazing how much better I've felt in the last week and a half. I knew the tireds were just a temporary thing as I adapted to the mileage but I truly feel like a weight has been lifted. 60+ mile weeks? Pffft. I got this. 

Last weekend was another checkpoint of sorts. I raced a 5K for the first time in... 8 months or so? Sara and I drove out to Nashotah to run the St. Joan of Arc Frostbite 5K and despite the incredibly bitter cold we both had pretty stellar races. I actually kind of loathe how I feel while running 5K because it's so fast but I know it's over in just a little more than 20 minutes so that part is always good. In my case, it was over in 22 minutes and 27 seconds. Not too bad! I had hoped to sneak in under 22 but the course was a bit too hilly for me to do it. I suppose the 5 degree weather didn't help things either- it's super tough for me to breathe in deep when the air is that cold.

I know a 5K isn't the best indicator for projecting marathon pace but it was important for me to run strong. I actually ran negative splits (7:20, 7:19, 7:08) and finished the last tenth of a mile at a sub-7 pace when I thought I was dying so that was pretty neat. Sara and I placed 2nd and 3rd in our age group and got nifty icicle "medals." All in all it was a good day!

I'll be racing a 10K in a couple weeks and then after that is the Chi-Town Half Marathon where I'm super duper fingers crossed hoping for a PR. I'm working so hard this cycle I can't even tell you. 

February Miles: 217!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Climb: Wisconsin Marathon Training Week 7

It's the middle of week seven and holy hell am I tiiiired. I'm not super sore or hurting or anything like that- just SLEEPY. I remember after the first month of training last summer when I got to this point. I had ton of energy at first (most likely due to adrenaline and the excitement from starting something new.) But about 6 weeks in or so my body realized what I was trying to sustain and I just shut down for about a week or so. Eventually I got accustomed to the mileage and I was able to press on but whoa, the sleeps were sleepy. And they are again now. Just typing this now, it's about 7pm and I'm already in bed and looking forward to lights out. Mmmmmm.

Am I stronger yet? Am I faster? I'm not really sure. It's so hard to gauge progress when you're in the thick of things. I've been bringing back hill workouts in to the mix because it helped me so much before Madison Marathon this year. I try to incorporate hills into almost every route I run now and earlier this week Sara and I tried out a completely bananas hill repeat workout that left me gutted. Even so, I feel mentally energized like every step I take is another in the right direction.


Funny story: I actually drifted off and fell asleep in the middle of this blog post. Not LOL funny but... mildly amusing I guess? It's now Sunday afternoon and I'm encased in my Rest Day Blanket on the couch. I'm feeling less tired than I did in the middle of the week so that's nice. I also had a really strong long run yesterday at the Pettit with a nice stretch at goal marathon pace. I love Sundays because in addition to reflecting on all the hard work of the previous six days I get hyped looking at my schedule for the upcoming week. 60 miles on deck! Monster speed workout! Let's go! I swear if I don't see big improvements after this cycle I'm out of ideas.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ramping Up: Wisconsin Marathon Training Week 5

I love my new stripey tights.
Zoom! I passed my first checkpoint over the weekend! I ran a pretty solid 1:44:10 at the Icebreaker Indoor Half Marathon on Saturday and although I would have loved to have been magically a couple minutes faster already, I realize it's early in the process so that fact that I can still eek out a sub-1:45 time means I'm in a pretty good place right now. I really really REALLY hope that in 2 months I can improve on this time and dip below a 1:42. (In my Dream World I would be a 1:3X half marathon runner already but I guess I need to work a little bit harder first.) I'm excited that this is my starting point instead of my peak time this year.

So week 5 begins! I eased up a bit on the mileage ahead of Saturday's race but before that I was starting to rack up some serious (for me) miles: 42, 46 and 49 miles for the 3 prior weeks. (I even managed the 49 during the week I was at Ladies Rock Camp.  I'm super proud of that!) This week I'll top out hopefully at 52 miles and keep climbing from there. Build that aerobic base. I'm hoping to get back to some hill running again this week as well since the frigid temperatures seem to be letting up for now and most of the ice has melted from my neighborhood sidewalks. Too much time on the treadmill and track is making me a bit punchy.

Look! There's Sara behind me!

In other news I've been playing around with logging my workouts on Strava lately. I broke up with Dailymile at the end of the year because I decided I didn't need another social networking site in my life anymore but I obviously still need to keep track of my training. I have my written training journal which I'm enjoying, but I also like being able to see everything on nifty charts and grafts and stuff. (Also, doing math is boring. I want Internet for that.) So far Strava seems to be prettier and more functional than the Garmin Connect site so I'll probably hang around there for a while. I had hoped to keep everything private but some folks have added me on there which I'm cool with for now. (I swear EVERYTHING has to have a social component to it these days.) Anyway, we'll see how it goes. Sometimes I like the idea of keeping my training log just for me. You know, except for when I choose to write goofy, rambling blog posts about it.

Last one. Zooom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

WI Marathon Training Week #3

This kind of stuff if probably only interesting to me but I like to get these thoughts out of my system and I ditched Dailymile this year so this is where the brain dump is going.

Week 3 already! The start of this cycle is decidedly less bumpy than the last time around. (Granted, last summer I was coming off a zero-mileage week during our trip to Barcelona.) This time, my decision to keep relatively high, easy-paced miles throughout December has me starting out with a pretty decent base to build upon. I remember last July those first two weeks of training really kicked my butt- especially the speed workouts- so feeling energized in week three is definitely nice.

Once again, I'm doing with a modified version of one of the training plans from Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning book. (I've constructed something that falls between the 18/55 and the 18/70 plan.) I feel like his training methods definitely made me a faster runner last year. My problem was that I didn't execute my race plan (i.e. going out to fast) or in the case of Lakefront Marathon I don't feel like I tapered enough and wasn't fully recovered on race day.

SO. Here we are again. I've had 2 especially good speed workouts so far and a confidence building marathon pace long run this past weekend. I know it's early in the game but I can't complain. Next weekend is the Icebreaker Half Marathon and while I don't feel ready to go for that sub-1:40 yet, I'm still going to run hard and see what I can do. Then we build from there.

My Dailymile replacement.