Chicago Marathon Training Week 2

Sunday, June 14: Dance.
You know what’s a lot of fun after Ragnar? A 90-minute dance rehearsal. And by “lots of fun” I mean “I have no brain and have forgotten all of this choreography and feel like an idiot, so please ignore me.” Yeah. One of my friends in class couldn’t believe I managed to get through rehearsal after running 16.6 miles during Ragnar, but I don’t know…it didn’t feel like I actually did anything that earth-shattering in Ragnar, especially since all of my individual runs were less than six miles. Whatever. Dancing and running have been two separate things for me for a long time, so this wasn’t all that out of character for me.

Monday, June 15: 3 miles in 31:00 for a 10:22 pace.
OMG THE HUMIDITY. I worked from home on Monday because there was no WAY I was going to be able to handle going to the office Monday morning after going to Spring Awakening Sunday night (more on that later this week), so I squeezed in this run between rain/thunderstorms. The dew point (which is what really matters when it comes to comfort, not humidity percentage) was 71 degrees on this run. For those of you who aren’t armchair meteorologists like myself, any dew point above 70 degrees is generally labeled “extremely uncomfortable” or “oppressive,” so yes, 71 degrees was absolutely terrible. I stuck to shady areas and took my sweet time with zero guilt.

Tuesday, June 16: Dance.
I graduated for the 2034823th time, and had rehearsal before graduation, per usual. Rehearsal this session looked like running through our choreography 10 times straight through with no breaks, followed by breakdance. Graduation went well. There was a cute guy from another class in the audience so I did by best to GO FOR IT ;) Hahaha.

Wednesday, June 17: Rest.
I had every intention of doing a tempo run on Wednesday, but I was unbelievably exhausted all day on Wednesday. I logged somewhere in the area of six hours of sleep Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights, and by Wednesday it had caught up with my HARD. I had plans Wednesday night, so I took a nap as soon as I got home instead. I never take naps, but boy oh boy did I need one.

Thursday, June 18: 4 miles (tempo) in 38:58 (8:52 and 9:25 tempo miles) for a 9:44 overall pace + climbing.
I worked from home again on Thursday (so as to attend the Blackhawks parade! More things you can look forward to reading about later this week), so I did my tempo run before going to the parade. Let it be known that this was the first time ever in my life that I have done anything but an easy run during marathon training. I’ll accept your gushing praise and gratuitous back-patting in the comments below.

Later that night, I went climbing. I originally planned to go climbing on Wednesday and just do a tempo run on Thursday, but I had a friend who wanted to go climbing with me and could only make it on Thursday. I then planned to do my tempo run on Wednesday and go climbing on Thursday, until that whole nap situation ;)

Friday, June 19: Rest.

Saturday, June 20: 7.1 miles in 1:13:17 for a 10:19 pace + dance.
Reunited with my summer marathon training group <3 We actually ran out of Foster instead of Montrose this week, due to the Mumford & Sons concert at Cricket Hill on Friday night. I had no idea how long it would take to get there and ended up showing up way too early, so I killed time and admired the scenery.

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It was pretty cool temperature-wise on this run, but wowza was it humid. I wore arm sleeves to start because I was actually shivering (teeth chattering and all) before we took off, but I ditched them (“tucked them into my shorts,” more accurately) probably within half a mile due to the humidity. My marathon training BFF wasn’t there, so I chatted with a new-to-our-group girl. It’s always weird this early in the season, because people float between groups, drop out of training, etc., as time goes on. The group likely won’t stabilize until late July/early August, making those first few weeks a little weird in the relationship-building department, at least to me. On the other hand, probably two-thirds of our group are returners from last year, so there’s more than enough familiarity to go around.

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As for the run itself, it was fine. My HR stayed where it should for a long run, which makes me happy. Running with a group that forces me to go slower than I would on my own at the beginning certainly helps with that, and keeps me from bonking. Win win.

I went to breakdance in the afternoon as well, per usual.

I was absolutely TERRIBLE about doing my PT exercises this week. I did a couple of them once, and that was it. I really hope to commit to doing more of them this week, and doing them more regularly. The longer I can stay out of PT, the better, and I have a feeling doing my exercises will be the best way to accomplish that.

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Ragnar Relay Chicago Race Recap

(I kind of wish I had done some Ragnar with an “R” city so that title could be perfectly alliterative :P )

Many times over the course of my running career I have found myself in a less-than-pleasant position, whether it was due to race conditions, the race distance, my personal training, random whims of life, or any other of a host of possible reasons. Despite that, I have rarely finished something related to running and been able to say with confidence, “I am never doing that again.”

Ragnar turned out to be one of those rare instances.

Now, to be fair, this has nothing to do with Ragnar as a company, the race as it was organized, or any other circumstance that normally leads a runner to say, “I hate you and will never give you my money again.” I, truly, have no ill will towards Ragnar at all. But just like 5Ks aren’t some people’s thing and marathons aren’t other people’s thing, after last weekend, I am more than willing to say spending 32 hours in a van with others in order to travel between Madison and Chicago on foot is not my thing.

On the off chance that anyone reading this isn’t entirely familiar with Ragnar, a Ragnar relay involves teams made up of 12 idiots people who divide themselves into two vans and, collectively, run approximately 200 miles from Point A to Point B. Each person runs three legs of varying distances and degrees of difficulty. It takes most teams somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 consecutive hours to complete this challenge.

I was Runner #11 on my team, which meant I spent Friday and Saturday in Van 2. After meeting up with my team, we piled into a Chrysler Town and Country and drove up to Exchange 6, located at Lake Mills High School in the bustling metropolis of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, population 5,708.

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Here, my team picked up our necessary gear (flags, t-shirts, safety know-how, etc.) and waited for Runner #6, the last runner in Van 1, to arrive. I did this race with my marathon training group, a collection of people more insane than I ever realized, given that we had few problems finding 24 willing souls to take part in this race. My team was definitely the “B team,” if you will, but despite this, we did manage to run into Van 1 from the other team at this exchange, which was exciting.

After leaving Lake Mills High School, my team wound through rural southern Wisconsin, hitting up all the exchanges along the way to collect whichever runner of ours was finishing his/her leg and drop off the next runner. We also watched Mean Girls while this happened, because the van had a DVD player and it would’ve been a cryin’ shame to not take advantage of that. (This also turned out to be excellent preparation for running through the North Shore the following day, as Mean Girls is based on/takes place in the North Shore). Distracted by what is obviously the best movie of 2004, we got super lost on our way to Exchange 8 and ended up in some itty bitty down absolutely nowhere near where we were supposed to be. Thank goodness for smartphones and Google Maps for being able to correct our errors!

After retrieving Runner #9, who we accidentally abandoned due to our detour, we continued on with substantially less drama and eventually made it to Exchange #10: my first leg of the race. We also ran into Van 2 from the other team of my marathon training friends here, which was very exciting for me personally, as my marathon training BFF was in Van 2 for the other team.

And then it was time to go! My first leg, inexplicably labeled “Hard” (there was nothing hard about this leg), had me running 5.7 miles down the Glacial Drumlin Trail from Sullivan to Dousman. This portion of the Glacial Drumlin Trail was primarily gravel and surrounded by woods and marshes. I was in heaven. It reminded me of running at home, and I loved it. I did not love how many times I got passed, but I was holding a good pace for me, so I tried to not get too bent out of shape. I did manage one kill on my leg (“kill” is the Ragnar term for passing people), which made me feel a little less inept.

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Near the end of my leg, the trail turned into pavement. Because it was a straight shot, I could see and hear the exchange well before I got to it, and I loved all of the energy. I took off the slap bracelet (the baton used for the race), handed it off to our Runner #12, and met up with my team to drive to Exchange 12.

Every sixth exchange in Ragnar is a “major exchange,” because this is where Vans 1 and 2 switch off. Exchange 12 was hoppin’, let me tell you. We actually had a fairly difficult time getting into the parking lot and finding parking, though the fact that this exchange (and its parking lot) were located by baseball fields where high schoolers (I think) were playing games probably didn’t help matters.

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Exchange 12 was also where one of our runners began to get cranky (not this runner ;) ). Even though I had never run Ragnar before, I knew crankiness would happen probably for everyone at one point or another, which I think made a world of difference for me personally in the patience department. It’s a lot easier to recognize that someone’s grumpy because it’s been a long day and they’re tired/sweaty/hungry and just roll with it, especially when you don’t know that someone (which was the case for me with this runner), and not just write them off as a raging jerkface.

Once our last runner finished, we continued on to Waukesha, where we stumbled into the MainStream Bar and Grill for cheese curds, Spotted Cows (for the beer drinkers, aka not me), and other incredibly healthy food, like this BLT which haunted me hours later (as I expected it would. Worth it, though).

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We left dinner around 9:30 or so, at which point sleep started to be a topic of discussion. Being in Van 2 meant that our runners were on deck to run between about 11:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. – prime sleepytime hours. We got to Exchange 18, located at Martin Luther High School in Greendale, about an hour before our first runner needed to take off, so we all attempted to get some shuteye with varying degrees of success. I managed to sneak in my first hour-long nap during this time.

After our first runner took off, I fell asleep for hour-long nap #2. I would have loved to have slept longer, but I had work to do: specifically, I had 5.9 miles to run through the neighborhoods of Racine at 3 a.m.

But first, we had to go retrieve Runner #8. Sometime during my hour-long nap #2, my team got confused and drove ahead an exchange, where we waited and waited before realizing that we had blown past the exchange where Runner #8 finished and gone straight ahead to the exchange where Runner #9 was supposed to finish. Oops. So we backtracked, picked up Runner #8, returned to the exchange where we had accidentally gone earlier, and all was well…aside from the fact that it was like 1 a.m., and we were all exercising.

So anyway. 3 a.m. 6(ish) miler. I was absolutely dreading this leg, and even though all of my teammates who had run their night legs said it wasn’t too terrible, I HATED this. I had two thoughts for the just-less-than-an-hour I was running, “F*** this s***” and “I hope that car traveling down this road does not kidnap me.” My biggest complaints about this leg:

1. My headlamp didn’t stay up, and I literally had to readjust it once every 20 steps. This was probably my own fault.
2. I was utterly alone for the VAST majority of this leg, and that was terrifying.
3. One stretch of this leg required us to run with traffic, which seemed like a REALLY BAD IDEA, considering that it was 3:00 in the freaking morning and black as, you know, night. Because it was night.
4. There were lots of turns, and while they were all marked, I was s.t.r.e.s.s.e.d. that I’d miss one and be wandering the streets of Racine by myself at 3:00 in the freaking morning.

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I will say, however, that people were much nicer about passing me during this leg. I’d estimate that 95% of those who passed me said, “Good job!” as they went by. It made for a nice feeling of solidarity. Then there were also the overacheivers who blew past me at probably close to a 7:00 pace, and they made me inexplicably ragey. Obviously I understand that some people just run that fast naturally, but I took their speed very personally, because no one has normal thought processes at that hour.

I handed off the slap bracelet at Exchange 23 at The Prairie School, then helped our driver navigate to North Beach Park in Racine (which, according to a bystander, is where Ironman 70.3 Racine takes place, in case anyone was curious). This was a major exchange and where my van decided to put up for the night. Because I had just run almost-six miles, I was wide awake, so I volunteered to go meet our runner at the exchange to bring her back to the van.

Okay, fine. That was far less about me being a good person and far more about this:

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This exchange had a huge setup of tents (“Tent City”) that were free to use if you so chose, but far more importantly had three fire pits and S’MORES. omg. This was, without question, the highlight of the entire nighttime portion of the race for me. You guys. I was beside myself with happiness. I wanted a s’more SO BAD, and being able to roast one for myself over the fire at like 5 a.m. was the best thing of my whole entire life (or at least the best thing of my whole entire 5 a.m.).

We stayed at this exchange until 8:30 or so the following morning, where I slept, by which I mean constantly adjusted my position in an attempt to get comfortable for approximately four hours while the van got hotter and stuffier and I went from uncomfortable to irked to angry to FULLBLOWN HULK RAGE.

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Instead of sleeping, I spent most of this time reviewing my photos from my trip to Baltimore and D.C. and thinking about how much I wished I were there instead of in a van in Racine, Wisconsin. Good times.

We hit up Starbucks for breakfast (where I discovered what might be my new favorite KIND bar: Almond Coconut Cashew Chai. WHAT. Where has this been all my life??) and then headed back to ILLINOIS!

The remainder of our drive took us through the North Shore, which, for those of you not from around here, are the FANCY suburbs of Chicago — and when I say fancy, I mean fancy. I had never really driven through the North Shore before, and ho.ly. smokes. The opulence. The privilege. The conspicuous consumption. This is the 1%, people, and man oh man did my sleep deprived, middle class self have OPINIONS on all of this. You know how in Mean Girls, you see them drive up to Regina George’s house and you’re like, “lulz, right. No one actually lives like that.”? You’re wrong. People do live like that, and those people live in the North Shore, and go to high schools that look like country clubs.

Annnnnnyway. I ran through Kenilworth, Winnetka and Evanston on my portion of this. My exchange took place at a lovely little lakeside park and took me past MANSIONS that morphed into big houses that morphed into, “Okay, yeah, I understand how people can have the income to support this kind of house…kind of.” This, actually, also reminded me of running at home, as there are some enormous, 7,000-square-foot monstrosities not all that far from the not-even-2,000-square-feet home of my youth.

Judgment aside, this was actually my favorite leg. I was in shade most of the time, which helped keep me comfortable, and there was a nice breeze coming off the lake when I was close to it. The last portion of it took me past a lot of Northwestern’s campus, including Ryan Field, which I thought was pretty cool.

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However, the best part about this leg was how strong I felt. From a running standpoint, this was FAR and away my best performance. I maintained a sub-10 pace the entire time (I had a couple 10:30s in my previous two legs) and I killed seven people (WAY better than my 1 and 3 on my other two legs). The real highlight for me, however, was chicking this one broseph not once, not twice, but three different times. Dudebro in his CrossFit tee passed me maybe a mile or so into things, which I really didn’t think that much of, though he did seem to be putting in a fair amount of effort to pass me. But whatever. I cared more about finishing than I cared about him. Right after Ryan Field, however, I noticed I was getting awfully close to him. We had less than a mile to go, so I knew I could pass him and then hang on for dear life for the last mile, which is exactly what I did (not counting it as a kill, since he had already killed me. It neutralized things at best.)…until we got to a stop light. I, being the upstanding citizen that I am, stopped my watch and myself to wait for the light to change, but dudebro plowed forward, effectively passing me in the process. I rolled my eyes, as I am apt to do at dudebros with something to prove, and, once the light turned, continued on my merry way and passed him again…until we got to another stop light. Once again I, and my fellow non-dudebro Ragnarians, stopped at the light, and when dudebro caught up to us, he said, “F*** it,” and went through the light. Everyone else kind of shrugged and followed him, while I said, out loud but not loud enough to be heard, “You know I’m just going to pass you again, right?” Which I did. Take that, CrossFit caveman. How’s your paleo diet now, huh??

(I should note that I know nothing about this person whatsoever other than the fact that he was wearing a CrossFit shirt and apparently couldn’t maintain his original pace. However, I am vehemently and unapologetically anti-CrossFit and judged this guy accordingly, because I am a terrible person. Sorry not sorry.)

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I wrapped up my portion of Ragnar right outside Northwestern and then headed to Montrose Beach with the rest of my van, where much unnecessary drama ensued (like a heated argument over whether we should go meet the people from Van 1, who were standing approximately 25 meters closer to the finish line than we were, or if they should come to us — really. Mind you, where we were standing was still 200-300 meters away from the finish line itself, so those 25 meters were not going to make any sort of difference whatsoever). Eventually, however, we got everything sorted out and crossed…

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…the finish line.

Thank. Goodness.

We hung around the post-race party for-freaking-ever before finally heading back to the van to retrieve all of our stuff and head our separate ways. My rain coat and CTA pass were temporarily lost during this time (one of my teammates accidentally took my coat since it looked like hers), and I did my best to contribute to the steep elevation in f-bombs dropped as a result. Hahaha. (I theorize that there is a direct correlation between the time you’ve spent in the van during Ragnar and the incidence of swears. Don’t tell my mom :P ).

Once I got home, I made a beeline for Trader Joe’s, where I bought just about every single stereotypical breakup food you can imagine (I almost told the cashier I didn’t just get dumped, but I was too tired to care what he really thought of me), and, at long last, satisfied what was quite possibly one of the most intense cravings of my life.

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ICE CREAM SUNDAE. This was all that I had wanted since like…7:30 Saturday morning, and MY OH MY was I a happy camper once I assembled this thing of beauty. I was such a happy camper that I made myself a second one, because #yorro (You Only Run Ragnar Once…or at least I sure do ;) ).

So, to conclude this novel: I’m glad I did Ragnar so that I can say I did it. I cannot foresee any circumstance whatsoever that would motivate me to do it again, unless my life literally depended on it, which seems…unlikely. I’m more than happy to keep my crazy to marathons, thank you.

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Chicago Marathon Training Week 1

Here we goooooo!

Sunday, June 7: Strength/HIIT
I found this workout on BuzzFeed a few weeks ago and did it for the first time when I had time to kill on Memorial Day in DC. Normally I default to the NTC app for strength training, but I wasn’t feeling NTC on Sunday, so instead I did this workout. Instead of doing each circuit for 10 minutes (AMRAP-style), though, I did each circuit for 10 minutes and then did another 10 minutes where I went through both circuits consecutively (so I went straight from the V hold in Circuit One to the single leg deadlifts in Circuit Two instead of starting over again on Circuit One).

BuzzFeed, in case you’re interested, has posted a lot of great workouts lately in the Health section, almost all of which are bodyweight/low equipment workouts, in case you’re in the market for workouts and, like me, don’t have gym access.

Monday, June 8: 3 miles in 29:29 for a 9:49 pace.
Storms rolled through the Chicago area Monday afternoon, and since I have a fairly limited window of opportunity to run on Monday afternoons, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to run. I decided to go for it, sticking close to my apartment so I could come back easily at any time if the weather took a turn for the worse. In the end, it only rained for about the first half mile, so all was well.

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I also had the chance to wear my lightweight running rain jacket! I have a North Face Better Than Naked jacket, and while it definitely is $$$, it’s honestly amazing. It’s incredibly light, making it good for summer rain. I did get a little toasty after the rain stopped, but that was because I didn’t want to take the whole five seconds it would’ve cost me to take off my jacket and tie it around my waist. If you’re in the market for a rain jacket (and/or being obnoxiously matchy matchy), I’d certainly recommend this one. Plus North Face products are top notch, and you have a lifetime warranty on it in case something goes wrong. (I should also probably note that, despite how it sounds, North Face didn’t send me this jacket to review on my blog haha).

Tuesday, June 9: Dance.
Our session is almost over, which means we spent this whole class rehearsing our dance for graduation tomorrow. ‘Twas a sweaty one. We actually had subs in both hip hop and break, and while I don’t dislike my teacher, I do like it when we have subs as well. Everyone has a different teaching style, and I like getting to experience that every now and again, especially in breakdance.

Wednesday, June 10: 3 miles in 31:16 for a 10:25 pace.
This was the slowest three miler I’ve logged in awhile. I was kind of frustrated with it, to be honest, so I did some digging through old stats of mine (and by “old” I mean “from earlier this year”) and discovered that my average heart rate was about 20 beats per minute higher on this run than it had been on three milers earlier this year, which explains why it felt so challenging. Heat raises your heart rate during exercise, by, according to Google, 10-20 bpm, so I guess that explains things, considering the three milers I compared this one to mostly took place when it was 40-50 degrees, not 81 and humid. I’ve decided for my own sanity to track the weather during my runs this year as well, so instead of beating myself up over slower-than-I-would like runs, I can go back and see whether outside influences had a major impact on my time (like I think they did on this one) or if it’s my personal fitness.

Thursday, June 11: Rest.

Friday, June 12:  5.83 (according to my watch) miles in 57:41 for a 9:53 pace.
Ragnar Leg #1! According to Ragnar, this leg was actually 5.7 miles, and since it was literally in a straight line, I don’t think I could’ve messed up the “tangents” that much. Anyway, you can read more about this in my race recap later this week :)

Saturday, June 13: 5.9 miles in 59:40 for a 10:07 pace and 5.08 miles in 49:02 (!!) for a 9:38 pace.
More Ragnar. More details coming later.

Ragnar obviously made this a weird start to marathon season. I logged 22.81 miles (if my watch is to be believed), which is a lot more than I would have had I followed CARA’s novice plan exactly (15 miles). On the other hand, I don’t really feel like a “novice” at this anymore, either. I still respect the marathon, but I don’t fear it like I used to, so I’m not quite as concerned about being perfect. Overall, I’m fairly happy with how things went, especially with my last leg of Ragnar. On to normal training!

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