Thursday Things

Marathon weekend thought-dump edition!

1. I was kind of underwhelmed by the expo this year. Then again, this was the fourth year in a row I’ve gone to the expo (WHOA. Time flies!), so maybe that contributed to my sense of being underwhelmed, since it’s the same thing every year.

2. I was SEVERELY underwhelmed by the race shirt.


COME ON, Bank of America. I KNOW you can do better than that. I’ve seen you do better than that on many occasions. It was one thing to give us terrible shirts for the Shamrock Shuffle, because that’s an 8K, but this is a MARATHON. People don’t give up their entire summers to train for an 8K, but they sure as hell do to train for a marathon. The LEAST you could do for a $185 race is muster up something resembling creativity, or, at the very very least, thought, when it comes to your shirt design. I’m not ignorant — I’m sure you do this because you’re a slave to Nike, who inevitably has you make terrible shirts in order to sell more of their sinfully overpriced, made-in-China-by-underpaid-overworked-children gear, BUT STILL. Nike’s clothes were pretty lackluster in 2013 and I bought them anyway. I can’t imagine that there’s such a direct correlation between event shirt awesomeness and Nike’s profit that it’s worth insulting 45,000 people with this poor excuse for design. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

3. That being said, I spent nearly $100 on Nike gear because it was so darn cute this year. Or rather, so darn Chicago-y.


I mean really. How AWESOME is that shirt? And the underside of the bill of this hat:


Dead. I love it. Thank goodness for birthday money.

4. The hands-down biggest disappointment of the participant bag this year, however, was not the shirt, but rather that instead of a coupon for free gelato, Mariano’s gave us a coupon for a free reusable grocery bag. WHAT?! This is a tragedy of epic proportions. I already HAVE reusable grocery bags! I have more reusable grocery bags than I can use! I do not, however, have gelato, and now I’m not going to get any gelato :( Everything is bad.

5. Or maybe the fact that for the first time since at least 2011, when I attended my first Chicago Marathon expo, Nike didn’t do a display with all the participants’ names.


SUPER SAD FACE :'( I kid you not: when I saw the display with everyone’s names in 2011, my first thought was, “Wow, it’d be so cool to see my name on there.” Then they effed everything up in 2013 by printing the 2012 roster on the 2013 #ownchicago, so I didn’t see my name last year, and this year they didn’t do it at all. NIKE, YOU SLAY ME.

6. While I do absolutely loathe how the marathon has to kiss the behinds of all of its stupid, stupid sponsors (who, yes, finance a substantial portion of the race, help make the race the event it is, tra la la), I hate it much less when I get perks out of it. Like, say, a free trip to the Art Institute.


Heyo! ALL marathon runners (plus a guest) could go to the Art Institute from last Thursday through this past Monday, and you better believe I took advantage of that. I’m a marketer’s dream and will swiftly fall for any good ad campaign, so I’ve wanted to see the Magritte exhibit at the Art Institute pretty much since they started advertising it, despite the fact the I know nothing about Magritte (including how to pronounce his name, never mind anything about his art). I didn’t have a whole lot of time at the Art Institute, so I spent all of it at the Magritte exhibit, and I found it to be quite impactful. It’s been 12 years since I last took any visual art class in any capacity, so I know absolutely nothing about surrealism (or, you know, art in general), but a fair number of Magritte’s paintings challenged conventional word/object associations (an image of a leaf labeled “the table” for example), and this was something we talked about in one of my literature classes in college–how the word itself is not the object, but rather just an combination of sounds we have come to associate with an object–so I really appreciated that (and the exhibit just overall).

7. I carb loaded way differently this time around than usual, and I think it went quite well.


Instead of my usual pasta 4 dayz method of carb loading, I put a big emphasis on adding a lot of fruit to my diet (per the suggestion of Deena Kastor, who probably knows a thing or two about fueling, at Breaking Through the Wall a couple weeks ago), having fresh fruit with every meal until Saturday, when I switched over to applesauce, snacking on dried fruit on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and eating a fair amount of rice on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as well. I had pasta Thursday night, an enormous potato Friday at lunch, pasta Friday night, white bread Saturday for lunch, and my usual pre-run pasta with a small handful of frozen peas Saturday night. I think it worked! At the very least, I didn’t have any digestive issues during the marathon, and my stomach didn’t hurt by the end of the week like it has in the past with my pasta-heavy carb loading method, so I think I’ll keep this sort of routine up in the future.

8. I chafed during the marathon! I’ve never chafed before on a run, so this is a new and miserable experience. Note to self: apply more Body Glide under your arms in the future.

9. I did not, however, get horrifying blisters during the marathon like I did last year, which is a major win as far as I’m concerned, because those suckers HURT.

10. Speaking of disgusting body things, let’s talk about my toenails! Or, rather, one of my toenails. Several weeks ago, my nail polish began chipping off my toenails, and I noticed that the nail on my second toe on my left foot didn’t seem to be its usual color. I figured this meant it had turned black and I was going to lose it, thus earning my street cred as a runner (I was actually much more distressed about the prospect of losing a toenail than I’m letting on, but we’ll pretend like this didn’t bother me.). But as time went on, my toenail didn’t go anywhere. When I clipped it the other day, the part I clipped off was white, not black, and I’m starting to think that instead of a black toenail, I may just have a blood blister under my toenail? This discoloration seems to be on my skin rather than on my toenail. The weird thing about this whole situation is that it doesn’t hurt at all (not that I’m complaining!). I’ve done extensive Googling and seen things I can’t unsee, but every website (and my CARA friends who have lost toenails) seems to suggest that if I had a blood blister or a dead toenail, that it would hurt…but it doesn’t. I don’t know what it meeeeaaaaaaannnnnnssssssss. I mean, I’m not worried about it (shocking, I know), it’s just weird, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about it. Therefore, I’m doing nothing about it.

11. According to my Polar Loop, I took 60,447 steps on marathon day. It also says I walked 32.12 miles that day, which, I suppose, given that I usually log somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-5 miles just going about my day-to-day life, might actually be true. Does this mean I can call myself an ultramarathoner? (No. No it does not.)

12. Because I didn’t feel sick after the marathon this year like I did last year, my family and I got food after the race. We went to…Potbelly.


Admittedly not as exciting as it could have been, I suppose. BUT I was going out with my CARA group a couple of hours  after the marathon as well, so I didn’t want to have *too* much to eat. Plus Potbelly is delicious and provided me with an excellent way to put some salt back into my system via a turkey bacon cheddar flatbread sandwich (OMGSOGOOD). So did the bacon + peanut butter burger I had at the Bad Apple with my CARA group later (I promise it’s not as weird as it sounds). And the bacon grilled cheese I had when my boss took my coworkers and I out for lunch on Monday. And the leftover burger I finished Monday night. So. Much. Bacon. I don’t even really like bacon…

13. Speaking of food, I kicked Graham Elliot’s (of Masterchef fame) butt at the marathon. When I discovered this, I tweeted about it, because you know how I do. (Mind you, I didn’t tweet at Graham Elliot, because I thought that would be rude…r than just pointing out the fact that I beat him in the first place).

WELL. Imagine my surprise/utter elation when:

Screen shot 2014-10-15 at 10.23.28 PM

My work here is done. *mic drop*

14. I really want to thank every single person who’s supported me throughout this marathon cycle, whether it was through donating to my OAR fundraising, reading, commenting, and/or providing insight on my training posts, or just generally putting up with me. I know I’ve been a bit of an insufferable head case for the past four and a half months, and I very much appreciate those of you who stuck with me through it. I truly believe it takes a village to raise a marathoner, so thank you for being part of my village :)

15. 10/11/15. Let’s do this again, hm?


Filed under Life

Bank of America Chicago Marathon 2014 Race Recap

(For the sake of “brevity,” [lulz. There's nothing short about this post.] we’ll keep this exclusively as a race recap. You can come back later this week for the rest of my musings from the weekend :) ).

Race morning dawned dark and early, as they tend to do.



One of our group leaders last year was famous for counting down our miles on a long run by saying, “X miles down, Y to go. That aiiiiiiiiin’t shit!” Though he didn’t run with us this year, we certainly kept his positive thinking going throughout the season, so this seemed like the most appropriate message to wake up to Sunday morning. I also set my alarm to Gonna Fly Now (the Rocky song), because is there a better way to wake up on the morning of a marathon? I think not.


After getting ready while blasting my marathon pump up playlist (thank you, Caitlin!!), I headed out to join the masses on the CTA making our pilgrimage downtown. There’s nothing quite like the CTA on marathon morning :) Like last year, I completely ignored the fact that I had access to Charity Village and instead opted to use the CARA Compound at the Hilton for gear check and face time with my CARA friends.


After chilling at the Hilton and taking approximately 23948237 pictures, we all headed over to our corral where we waited, and waited, and waited for Wave 2 to go off. When 8:00 finally rolled around, we started processing from Congress to Monroe, and then we were off!


I ditched the group instantly. Or rather, got ditched. Pete offered some good insight on my attempt to analyze what went wrong on my 20 miler and suggested that I may be going out too fast. With that in mind, I made a SUPER concentrated effort to go out slow in the marathon. I hit the first mile in 10:55, which was 15 seconds faster than I had hoped for, but still substantially less than 10:30. It also was probably the first time in my entire running life where my Garmin hit the mile exactly as I crossed the mile marker (this didn’t happen at any point for the rest of the marathon, so my remaining 25 splits are probably slightly off). It sucked to not run with my friends, especially since I hadn’t done a single long run without them all summer, but it didn’t seem worth it to me to risk blowing up at the end of the marathon for the sake of having company to start with.

My plan, per a suggestion I had read in Runner’s World a couple days before, was to go out at 40 seconds slower than goal pace (11:10), run the second mile at 20 seconds slower than goal pace (10:50), run the third mile ten seconds slower (10:40), and then attempt to run goal pace or faster for miles 5-20, and hang on for the last 10K. This…ended up not happening at all. Haha. But it was a nice thought!

I continued to force myself to run much slower than I felt capable of running as we wound through downtown to LaSalle. When I was heading up LaSalle, I passed a blind runner on crutches and his guide, which was arguably the most inspirational thing I’ve ever seen in a race.

One of my CARA friends had posted on Facebook Saturday night that they had painted a blue line on the course, in case anyone happened to need guidance. I don’t know why the marathon didn’t bother telling any of the runners this (or at least if they did, I definitely missed it), but as I was running up LaSalle, I realized that the blue line on the course followed the tangents. BEST REALIZATION EVER. I signed up to run 26.2 miles and not one step farther, thank you, so once I realized the marathon had made my life SUPER easy by literally showing me the most direct route on the course, I made every effort to stick to that blue line, even when it seemed to do weird things. There were points along the course where the line disappeared, but MAN was this a lifesaver, especially on super wide roads like LaSalle.

I was feeling all right headed up through Lincoln Park (and saw Katie! So exciting!), but not having my friends around made it tough for me to not focus on everything that felt slightly off. One of my coworkers who has run several marathons advised me earlier last week to only worry on the mile I was running, so I did my best to not think too far ahead and stay in the moment. I saw my old roommates on Addison and then headed down Broadway. I remember being slightly underwhelmed by Boystown last year, but this year it was ROCKIN. I loved it. So much fun and enthusiasm!

I saw my family just beyond Wellington, as expected, and then was quite pleasantly surprised to see a friend from church (who I had no idea was spectating the marathon) at Surf. My splits through this whole section were all over the place, but all fell between 10:30 and 11:10 (depending on aid stations, mostly, since I walked whenever I grabbed water at an aid station — but only where I was drinking water, not through the entire aid station), which was quite all right by me. I really wanted to try to speed up, but with so much of the race left to go, I was scared to push it, so I told myself I had to at least hang back until I made it to Damen and Van Buren at mile 15.

I saw a friend from college in Old Town (side note: I did not particularly like the crowds around Wells and Division. They had all gotten off the sidewalk and were closing in on Wells, making the course really crowded. This was the only point of the entire marathon where I felt like I couldn’t move.) and continued truckin’ along back to downtown. That whole stretch of Adams from the turn through Old St. Pat’s has SO much energy, and I loved it. I hit the halfway point in 2:23:40, which is just over a minute faster than last year, when I hit the halfway point in 2:24:53.

The funny thing to me about a marathon is that when you pass 13.1, mentally it seems like you’re basically done. You have less distance to cover than you’ve already covered, so it should be a piece of cake, right? (True life: I was actually disappointed I was halfway done with the race. I didn’t want the marathon to be over!) Physically, however, my body knew exactly what was up and responded appropriately. Though I felt all right, aside from sore legs, my times crept into the 11:00 territory. I had a 10:43 14th mile, but beyond that, it was all 11:00+ or slower basically for the remainder of the marathon.

I made it through the charity block party (though I didn’t see my charity anywhere, even though I know they were out there :( ), and then things got real quiet. There was no one out by the United Center in terms of spectators, and that was kind of a bummer. Fortunately, my disappointment over the lack of crowd support at that point quickly dissipated, because I had turned onto Damen, and then turned onto Van Buren, at which point I had hit my goal of running the first 15 miles :D I gave myself a very proud pep talk and continued running along. I saw my physical therapy company at Jackson and Halsted (though not my PT, sadly. I’m not sure if he came out to the race at all, actually. Some fake boyfriend he is! Hahaha :P ) and gave them a hearty thank you, and then enjoyed that beautiful stretch of Jackson between Halsted and Whitney Young. I LOVE that stretch of the course. It’s so different from everything else in the West Loop area, with all the trees and old houses. It feels much more like Lincoln Park than the West Loop, and I, for one, am a HUGE fan. MarathonFoto also sets up camp in this area, and I am oh-so happy to report that the pictures they got of me in there look AWESOME. No slouching, no look of death — man, if I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have had a clue those pictures were at mile 16!

I was feeling REALLY good all the way down Jackson and even to Halsted. I saw my family by UIC, just like last year, and I was SO blown away by how much better I felt seeing them there this year than I did last year, when I was already dying. Soon after I passed UIC, though, things started to get rough. I began to have a bit of trouble breathing, which led to me having a LOT of trouble not panicking. I knew I was going to have to switch over to my run/walk plan soon, but I wanted to make it at least to Erin’s aid station before doing that. I did, but just barely. While I had been walking only the points in aid stations where I was taking water, I started walking a little earlier at this aid station and actually thought I was going to pass out. Fortunately with a little bit of walking through the aid station I got my situation under control, and once I got past the aid station began to employ my 4:1 plan.

Originally I thought I’d do three sets of 4:1 and then reevaluate, but since I still wasn’t feeling super stellar during set two, I decided I’d keep it up at least all the way down Ashland to Pilsen. When we were heading into Pilsen, I happened to reach up and touch my face and found that I was SUPER salty. This presented me with an interesting problem. I know I’m a bit of a salty sweater, but it’s never been enough of a problem that I’ve felt like I need to replace electrolytes. I felt so salty, though, that I started to worry I had gotten too dehydrated. I knew I needed salt, which meant I knew I needed Gatorade (or pretzels, but OF COURSE at the one point on the course where I need spectators with pretzels, I saw none. Lame.), but I’ve hadn’t taken Gatorade once during this ENTIRE training cycle, and the marathon itself was not exactly the time where I wanted to start experimenting. I didn’t think I had much of a choice, though, since I still had a solid seven miles left in the marathon, so I grabbed Gatorade in Pilsen and also took a cup of water to dilute the Gatorade a bit.

MIRACLES. Not only did I feel a lot better (well, actually I felt a bit nauseous, but I could at least breathe again), but I could suddenly run again. Granted, my Garmin splits are not an accurate representation of the actual course miles, but I went from having a 12:45 and a 12:49 at miles 19 and 20 (which realistically was probably more like miles 17.75-18.75 and miles 18.75-19.75) to having an 11:25 at mile 21 and then out of NOWHERE busting out a 10:48 in mile 22, all while still using my 4:1 run/walk plan. The 10:48 was actually the only split I happened to see on my watch, but that was more than enough to convince me to keep up with my run/walk plan.

Bridgeport was a bit of a struggle. Once we were along the highway, I started to have breathing trouble again, and I was in rough shape when I saw my family at mile 23 (though, terrifyingly enough, they said I looked better at mile 23 this year than I did at mile 23 last year, which means I must have looked really, really bad at mile 23 last year). I could feel myself starting to panic over my breathing, so instead of walking one minute I walked two at this point (even through the MarathonFoto stations! I told you I wouldn’t deviate from my plan no matter what :P ).

I was in bad shape rounding the corner from State Street to 35th. I had my name on my singlet this year, and as I was going around the corner, some woman I’ve never met before in my life yelled out, “AUTISM RESEARCH! BETHANY! YOU CAN DO IT!”

Tears. So many tears. (Guess I wasn’t that dehydrated after all ;) ). I waved a thank you to her and then felt motivated enough to pick up my 4:1 plan. Plus at this point we had all of one block to run to Michigan Ave., and once you get on Michigan — home stretch, baby.

Around Chinatown, I began to worry that I wouldn’t break five hours if I kept up my run/walk plan, but when I turned onto Michigan, I saw that I had more than enough time to cover the remaining couple of miles and make it to that finish line before my watch hit 5:00. I continued to run/walk until I got to mile 25, at which point I knew I was going to run all the way to the finish. I actually ran into one of my CARA friends around here, but she told me to go on without her, so I did. I was so tired and so ready to be done, but I kept repeating over and over again, “Round the corner, up the hill, round the corner, then you’re done.” This was basically the only thing keeping me going through that last mile haha. The hill on Roosevelt, once again, felt like absolutely nothing, and then there it was: my finish line.

I didn’t have much left in me for a kick, but I managed to run the last bit at a 10:33 pace (according to my Garmin stats, that is. My Garmin says I ran 26.54 miles, and that 10:33 is for the last .54). Most importantly, I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face and a 4:57:51 on my watch :D (Well, 4:57:52 on my watch, but a 4:57:51 on the marathon’s watch, which is the only one that matters).

Oh, I was just thrilled. I didn’t cry (what?!), but I was SO, SO, SO happy. I had some serious doubts when my breathing started to go downhill about the likelihood of me breaking 5:00, so to do it was just the most wonderful relief. I knew I’d have no trouble PRing, but to PR by 28 minutes…! (27:39, technically, but whatever. Close enough to 28.). Just. Thrilled.

I made my way through the finisher’s chute (with a bit of concern — I had taken my sunglasses off to cross the finish line so I could have good photos [priorities, people], but found that my vision was all sorts of funky. It took me a second, but I realized that my pupils weren’t contracting in response to increased light like they should, which made everything way too bright [especially with all those white space blankets everyone gets at the finish]. Eventually they started working again, but that was a scary moment for me), got some Gatorade, water, and food, and cringed as the post-run pain set in my legs. I hobbled oh-so slowly back to the Hilton and met up with my family, who was, once again, quite shocked by how much better I looked compared to the year before.

Overall, I am just beside myself with how the marathon went this year. I ran fairly even splits (2:23:40 first half, 2:34:11 second half. That’s a 10:31 [!!] difference, which is about 48 seconds/mile slower — not a bad average at all in my opinion, considering I ran/walked seven of the last 13.1 miles), which makes me feel like I ran a smart, smart race. Obviously there’s this whole breathing issue, which is something I intend to look into in the near future, and there’s the whole how-to-properly-hydrate thing, but other than that I think things went really, really well on Sunday. I achieved every single one of the goals I set out to achieve, and at the end of the day, I think that makes for a very successful marathon. And man oh man do I want to do it all again in 2015 :)



Filed under Marathon Training

Chicago Marathon Training Week 18

I know, I know. You’re bored of these posts. Last one for the season, I promise :)

Sunday, October 5: Rest.

Monday, October 6: Personal Training.
I was under the false impression my trainer would take it easy on me since it’s marathon week. No such luck. We had a good session, however, and I’m bummed that I’m done with personal training. To be honest, I don’t feel that I look much stronger, nor do I really know if I am much stronger, but I will say that I’ve been substantially faster throughout this entire season than I was at any point last year. Granted, this summer was cooler than last summer, but not to such an extent that I would think my running would have been quite as affected as it was. I think I had one run all season that averaged an 11:xx pace? That’s never been the case before, and if my trainer wants to take credit for that, well, I’m not going to stop him haha. I really enjoyed working with him over the past 18 weeks, even if it did mean getting up at 4:45 every Monday morning all summer long. I doubt I would have strength trained in any capacity this marathon season if I hadn’t had a trainer, and I certainly would not have done the vast majority of things I did. Hooray for one-on-one attention! And hooray for now knowing that I can get up and go to the gym before work, which was something I previously swore I would never do.

Tuesday, October 7: Physical Therapy + Dance.
Back in the blissful moments of summer when I thought I would, you know, some day actually finish PT, I only scheduled one appointment for this week. Then my knee exploded on the 20 miler, and my PT thought it’d be best to keep me coming in twice a week through the marathon. Unfortunately, err’body is injured at this point in marathon season, which makes finding appointment times that work with my schedule a bit of a challenge. My PT and I talked about me coming in Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. to meet with the same PT I saw last Tuesday (not my normal PT), but since that wasn’t super ideal, when I *officially* made my appointment with the girl working the front desk last Friday, we scheduled me for 7 a.m.

So I, being the responsible person I am, showed up at my PT clinic at 7 a.m., bright eyed and bushy tailed. When I went to sign in, however, I saw that my name was next to the 8:30 appointment slot, not the 7 a.m. slot. HMM.

Well, even though I was at 7 a.m., no one in the clinic could confirm that. The PT there had other patients, so I ended up doing a LOT of exercises and then got 10 or so minutes of manual therapy at the end. It all worked out just fine, though I did feel pretty stupid over the whole thing :/

Wednesday, October 8: 4 miles in 40:01 for a 10:00 pace.
Oh, these runs make me so sad! :( This was, most likely, my last weekday afternoon outdoor run until March or so. By the time my month of running ends, it’ll be way darker than I like it to be for running, so any future afternoon runs between now and next year will likely be on the ‘mill. BAH :'(

Anyway, this run went just fine. I tried to take it nice and easy and more or less succeeded. My left leg felt weird again, but I’m just blaming that on taper.

Thursday, October 9: 2.01 miles in 20:39 for a 10:18 pace + Physical Therapy.
I honestly had a pretty hard time working up the motivation to go out for a two mile run. It seemed like so much work to get all geared up to go run for just 20 minutes haha. But I did it anyway, because there was no way I was going to skip my last run of training because it felt like more work to get ready than to do the run itself.

I had my last pre-marathon PT session Thursday afternoon, which consisted of like one “exercise” (which was really just a warmup) and lots of my PT loosening up everything he’s worked on over the past…oh, 18 weeks (#foreverinPT). It hurt, per usual, but somehow I didn’t gain any bruises. What a disappointment! :P

Friday, October 10: Expo.
Aka “active rest.” Expo was good, per usual. Lots of things to see, lots of samples to pick up, lots of places to throw away my birthday money (darn you, Nike!). I actually was rather unimpressed with all the other brands’ gear offerings, so I think I spent less money than last year? Though I did buy more Nike swag this year than last year…. UGH. It was all so CUTE! If I were a gazillionaire, I would’ve bought one of everything, but I’m not, so instead I used the experience as an exercise in self-control.

Saturday, October 11: Rest.

And that’s a wrap! Marathon training cycle #2 is in the books! Honestly, I do these posts more for me than anything–I’ve found it to be extremely helpful to have this sort of online training log so I have something simple to refer to later on–but I really appreciate everyone who’s read and commented on these posts. I know they can be tedious and boring, but your feedback has been very helpful. Thanks for sticking with me!


Filed under Marathon Training