Thursday Things

1. I left out some important information from my weekly training recap: I saw an INDIGO BUNTING on my run on Saturday!

Somewhere around mile 10, I saw a bird flitting around in nearby wildflowers. When I saw the distinctive blue of an Indigo Bunting, I gasped, immediately stopped, and crossed the trail to try to get a picture. He was not cooperative, but I promise it was an Indigo Bunting! It was the first Indigo Bunting I’ve ever seen in the city of Chicago (and one of only a handful I’ve seen ever), so this certainly made my run.

Speaking of birds (it’s getting closer to migration season, so prepare yourselves for an increase in bird content), look who else I recently saw:

blackcrownednightheron

A Black-crowned Night-Heron on the Riverwalk! Incidentally, I spotted my first ever Black-crowned Night-Heron in the city (and at all) three years ago. I knew what it was right away this time, though! Of course, it’s much easier to identify birds when they’re adults.

2. OMG. YOU GUYS. THE MARATHON COURSE IS DIFFERENT THIS YEAR.

So, funny story. While doing my investigative journalism on Rock ‘n’ Roll’s mile markers, I discovered how easy it is to look up a course’s USATF certification. It occurred to me last week that since it’s so easy to look up course certifications, I could dig through the list of certified courses in Chicago, which would, of course, include the Bank of America Chicago Marathon’s course. If I did this, I would perhaps be able to find the 2018 course before the race officially announced it. And I did! I looked over it, saw that the shape of the course looked the same as I’m used to, sighed deeply with disappointment, and then noticed something new on the south end of the course: we would run past Michigan to Indiana on 35th Street! Yes, this was only a half block change, but it was a change nevertheless! I considered breaking this barely-news in this post, in fact, until the marathon beat me to the punch and announced that there were course changes in a participant email that went out on Monday. The NERVE.

I pulled up the course, and sure enough, there was the jaunt on Indiana. I backtracked across the course and paused when I saw a jog down Canalport. “I don’t remember doing that before,” I thought to myself. I continued backtracking, and found it odd that the course map specifically noted the location of Loomis. Who cares where Loomis is? And then I saw the Mile 18 marker, and that’s when I really lost it. “That’s not where mile 18 is!!” I exclaimed to my empty apartment. “The MARATHON got their own course wrong!!”

I kept looking over the course and realized a bunch of the mile markers were wrong. I couldn’t believe it! How could they mess that up?!

And then I got to the north part of the course, and realized that the marathon wasn’t wrong: I was wrong. They had changed WAY more of the course than realized! AHHHHH!!!!

I have been whining about the lack of course changes to the Chicago Marathon course for.ev.er, so to see that they altered the course thrilled me, even if it’s not quite as dramatic as I had envisioned. My ultimate dream was to run the course backwards, or have a course that still started and ended in Grant Park but otherwise was completely different, perhaps along these lines:

madeupcourse

I will concede that I’m not sure I’d like this course, because SIX MILES on Halsted – oof. Look, I’m not saying that I can come up with a better alternate course. I’m just saying it’d be nice to have an alternate course, especially since I think the current course only does a C+ job of showing off the city. Lincoln Park and Lakeview are interesting, but are they six miles worth of interesting? You spend more time in those two neighborhoods than any other on the whole course, and I don’t think that’s the best way to showcase Chicago (though perhaps it’s the best way of showcasing the part of Chicago the city would like you to see…).

Anyway, let’s analyze the actual changes to this year’s course.

Change #1: This year, we will run past Addison all the way up to Sheridan, which we will take to Broadway. This gives us almost an extra half mile on Broadway.

Change #2: No more Hubbard/Orleans. Instead, we will run straight down Wells all the way to Wacker, run on Wacker (!) over to Franklin, and then continue down to Monroe. Why we’re still going to Monroe instead of down to Adams is beyond me, because the Sears Tower construction doesn’t disrupt street access on Adams, construction on the bridge over the river at Adams–why they altered the course in 2016 in the first place–has long since ended, and making us do the whole Monroe/Jefferson thing adds a turn to the course, but whatever. That being said, by my count the old course had 39 total turns (defining a turn as an angle equal to or less than 90 degrees) while the new course has 35 total turns, which is an overall improvement.

Change #3: We take Damen to Jackson and stay on Jackson all the way to Halsted, rather than taking Damen to Van Buren to Ogden to Jackson. I was not a fan of the stretch on Ogden, so I 100 percent support this change.

Change #4: NO!! MORE!! ASHLAND!!!!! This is the biggest and most significant change to the course in my opinion. Rather than running the full mile of Taylor from Halsted to Ashland, we will turn on Loomis and take that to 18th Street instead. This is so huge! For one thing, running on Loomis will be a wildly different experience than running on Ashland, particularly from a scenery/activity standpoint. For another thing, this means we miss two blocks worth of Taylor Street and two blocks worth of 18th Street, which I personally think is a downside rather than an enhancement, but was also unavoidable. I had a conversation with a Lifetime employee at the Illinois Half Marathon expo in April, and he told me that the city would no longer allow the Chicago Triathlon course to run alongside cars–I’m sure a result of last year’s crash. I’m also sure that this applies to the Chicago Marathon too, and since Ashland was the one part of the course that was open to traffic, I’m also also sure that’s why we’re now on Loomis. While I’m disappointed to run a little less on Taylor Street and 18th Street, I HATED that stretch on Ashland. It was  the worst part of the course in my opinion–even worse than the stretch along the highway after Chinatown–and I always felt it was unsafe. I will not miss it one little bit.

Change #5: The turn on Canalport I mentioned earlier. Rather than running down Halsted all the way to Archer, we will skip Archer entirely (which is also fine with me, as that was another part of the course I disliked) and instead take Canalport to Cermak.

Change #6: The aforementioned jaunt over to Indiana, which we will take up to 31st before merging on to Michigan and continuing as normal.

I am SO excited about these changes. With the exception of the loss of a half mile total of Taylor and 18th, I think all of these changes are VAST improvements. Every part of the course I didn’t like is gone. I am going to hit all the mile markers from eight to 18 earlier than I’m used to, which I think has the possibility to be a total gamechanger. I had this course memorized forwards and backwards and could tell you where just about every mile marker was from an intersection standpoint. To hit mile 13, for example, at Franklin and Lake rather than Monroeish like I’m used to is going to be HUGE. Well done, Chicago Marathon.

3. I was downtown on Saturday and the mood struck to visit Millennium Park. Since that rarely happens, I figured I should take advantage and stroll over.

thebean

I always find it weird to be in Millennium Park. It’s a space that’s so associated with the city, but it’s also a space where I spend SO little time, and I don’t think I’m the only Chicagoan in that boat. I don’t know anyone who goes to Millennium Park to just, like, hang out (or at least not to the Bean part. I know plenty of people who go to the lawn part for concerts, movies, etc.). But you’d think that’d be the point, it being a public park and all! Though I guess that being said, it’s also not in a place that’s convenient to a lot of people (compared to other parks in neighborhoods, that is) but is convenient to the other standard tourist things to do in the city (the museums, Michigan Ave., Navy Pier), so that probably has something to do with it.

Thoughts on the changed Chicago Marathon course??

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Chicago Marathon Training Week 10

Sunday, August 5: 80 minutes cross training (20 minutes stability + 60 minutes bike)
As I was on my way from church to the gym on Sunday, I realized I had brought everything I needed with me except shoes. Oops. I had no desire to delay my workout by the additional hour it would take to get home and back to the gym, so I opted to do my workout in the most stable footwear of all time: my flimsy $12 sandals I tend to wear to church. At least they have a back strap…? I didn’t plan on doing all that intense of a workout in the first place, and having barely any shoes on my feet did nothing to change that. I did the NTC Runner Stability workout, which is a lot of hip, core, and balance work (and obviously designed for runners), and then hopped on the bike for an hour.

Monday, August 6: Strength training – legs (AM) + 9 miles (with six hill repeats) in 1:43:05 for an 11:27 pace
Monday morning’s strength training workout was bonkers. It started out with 120 leg presses and 120 jump lunges (broken up into sets, thankfully) and if it sounds like that was a lot of work, you are correct! And that was only the first third of the workout! I spent most of the last third wondering how much my legs would be able to function on Tuesday.

The forecast leading up to Monday had me concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get my run in, but none of the severe storms predicted for the afternoon materialized. It was a bit on the warm and humid side, so I took it slow and didn’t worry too much about my pace. My hill repeats went well and were a nice way to break up a fairly long weekday run. Disaster came thisclose to striking with about .2 miles remaining in my run, when my toe caught on an uneven manhole cover and I went hurtling towards the ground. I have NO idea how I managed to catch myself, because in that split second I was falling, I was 100 percent sure I had way too much momentum to stop and had visions of scraped knees and bruises in my head. I somehow didn’t hit the ground and continued on my not-so-merry-anymore way, a bit shook up but VERY glad I made it through the briefest of ordeals unscathed.

Tuesday, August 7: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I had a good workout Tuesday morning, albeit a slightly more challenging one than I anticipated. While my gym has one of just about everything in the dumbbell and kettlebell department, it only has one of just about everything, which means on days like Tuesday, when a personal training client is using all of the 20 pound weights, my options are to lift lighter than I’d like to or lift heavier than I’d like to. Because I wanted the 20 pound weights for rows, an exercise I know well, I opted for heavier, but it was still a little irksome.

We started getting this session’s choreography in order for graduation at dance on Tuesday. As I expected, we won’t do anything beyond the two songs we learned, but we added some transitions and such to the overall routine, so I guess that’s something. I also got floor burn 😦 I don’t think I’ve had a floor burn since my basketball days, but I can report that it’s just as painful in 2018 as it was in 2003! In case anyone was wondering 😛

Wednesday, August 8: 6 miles in 1:02:49 for a 10:28 pace
I had a mid-afternoon appointment on Wednesday, so I took my August half day Wednesday afternoon and run commuted home around noon. I cannot get over how much more pleasant run commuting is at noon rather than during the evening rush hour! Too bad I can’t get away with working 40 hours a week and leaving at noon every day 😛 This was a pace run, and since my goal marathon pace is 10:52, I was definitely a bit too quick. I find pace runs to be a bit of a challenge, not necessarily so much from a pace itself standpoint (though I admittedly got off easy on Wednesday with very cooperative weather) but from a figuring-out-what-my-marathon-pace-should-feel-like standpoint. I can’t rely on my watch to give me accurate feedback when I’m around buildings (which doesn’t just apply to run commutes, but also applies to a fair portion of the marathon course itself), so I’m trying to work on understanding what a marathon effort feels like with these pace runs. You would think with six marathons under my belt I’d have a pretty good idea of what that effort feels like, but since my effort on five out of six of those has been “easy for the first 14-18 miles, trying very hard not to die for the remaining 12-8 miles,” I don’t feel like I have a good grasp on what marathon effort is supposed to feel like.

Thursday, August 9: Strength training – legs (PM) + 55 minutes yoga (PM)
My strength training on Thursday was pretty standard lower body work. One of the exercises for the day was lateral lunges, and when doing the first set, I noticed that my left knee felt odd. I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as pain, and if it had been a sensation I felt while running, it wouldn’t have been enough to make me stop, so I kept going and wasn’t bothered during the second or third sets of the lunges. After getting to work, though, the knee situation was a different story. It was SO STIFF when I’d get up from sitting for more than 30 minutes or so. I’ve had runner’s knee before, and this was definitely not the same sort of pain (if for no other reason than that it was stiffness, not pain). Walking helped substantially–I felt the best I had felt all day after I returned from my 1.25-mile lunchtime walk.

Based on the knee situation and the fact that I just really, really wanted to relax, I took it super easy in the yoga department on Thursday and did this practice:

which was technically 58 minutes, but whatever. Close enough to 55 for me. It was extremely slow, extremely breath focused, and extremely what I needed.

Friday, August 10: Rest

Saturday, August 11: 15.18 miles in 2:49:03 for an 11:08 pace
After several weeks of running with the “11:00s” who were running at an 11:30 pace, I finally accepted that I really should be doing my long runs at an 11:30 pace and started with that group in the first place – and by “that group” I mean “me,” because I was the lone person interested in starting at an 11:30 pace this week. Why does this keep happening to me?! Does no one like me?!?! *sobs* (I’m totally kidding. I don’t think anything of it, other than that it’s nice that CARA will still provide a group leader for just me.) Anyway, it only took one water stop for us to pick up another runner, and a few others joined as the morning wore on. We were definitely taking things quite easy, even walking a little every now and again, and I was feeling super comfortable. I seriously considered sticking with the 11:30s for the whole run since it felt so comfortable, but since I had mentioned on this very blog just one week ago that I intended to at least attempt to fast finish my 15, 16, 18, and 20 mile runs I figured I should give fast finishing a shot, and told the 11:00 pacer at a water stop around mile 7 something that I planned to run with her for the last five miles in front of everyone in the 11:30 group to give me even more accountability to do so. The 11:30 group leader ended up sending me off with the 10:30s around mile 8ish to try to meet up with the 11:00 group leader. I never found her and didn’t really manage to hang with the 10:30s, so I was on my own for those last miles. It worked out really great, though. My intention was to do the last five at goal marathon pace (10:52, in case I haven’t beat that into your heads enough by this point), and my splits were 10:52 (!!), 10:45, 10:49, 10:57, and…something. My GPS got messed up at the end, so my watch says it was a 9:28, but I have serious doubts about that. Regardless, I’m super happy with the splits I know are accurate. I’m happy I was able to do them, period, after running 10 miles at an 11:30ish pace, and I’m happy that I was able to keep them in the 10:52 range, particularly in light of my whole “trying to figure out what marathon pace feels like” goal.

 

My knee still feels a little funky as of writing this on Saturday, though it felt totally fine while I was running an 11:30 pace on my run on Saturday and 97 percent fine while running at GMP. Because, naturally, running 15 miles doesn’t bother me, but sitting at work does. Clearly I should quit my job and become a professional runner 😛 Now that we are in the depths of marathon training, I’m trying to be even more intentional about taking care of myself and recovering, so hopefully that intention will fix my knee woes by sheer power of will (because that’s definitely how hat works) and I’ll be good as new next week! And, if I’m not, at least I know who to reach out to for insight/assistance.

 

Thursday Things

1. Look at this crazy duck I saw over the weekend!

duck

I was in downtown Naperville on Saturday and saw this bird along the Riverwalk. Isn’t it nuts?! I scoured the internet (i.e.: did one Google search) to try to figure out why it looked like that. I think it might be a domestic Mallard? I didn’t realize people domesticated Mallards, but apparently that’s a thing, and I guess sometimes people breed them to have white feathers…or something like that. I didn’t really understand the article, so I don’t know what I’m talking about 😛 But regardless, it was quite the unexpected sight!

2. Has anyone ever used the Chicago Public Library’s eBook borrowing? Ever since I started working at my current company (…two and a half years ago), I’ve had a pretty dramatic decrease in the amount of reading I do, because with my new job came a new commute, and that new commute usually required a lot more standing on trains than the commute to my first job in Chicago required. I’ve found it’s much easier to hold my phone than it is to wrangle an actual book when I’m standing on a train, and that has naturally led to a lot more Twitter and Facebook and a lot less reading. I know that you can get an app on your phone to get eBooks from the Chicago Public Library, though, so I’m interested in trying that out. If you have used eBooks from CPL (or if you get eBooks from your local library), I’d love to hear about your experience!

3. And now, a rant.

I am well aware that the majority of people are not long distance runners. I understand that to people who are not long distance runners, the distances I run on a regular basis are incomprehensible. I recognize that people who have never gone through marathon training will likely never understand how I could ever consider a 10 mile run, never mind a six mile run, to be 1) attainable and 2) easy. It does not bother me that people who are not long distance runners might have no desire to run long distances themselves, now or in the future.

HOWEVER.

It does drive me up a freaking godforsaken wall that a person with whom I have routine contact feels the need to constantly–constantly–express how flabbergasted they are by my marathon training. That every. single. time. they ask me how many miles I am running today, ran yesterday, or plan to run later in the week, they insist on responding to my answer with, “*insert number here* MILES?!?!?! I don’t know how you do it!!!!!!” It also drives me up a freaking godforsaken wall that when I provide an answer to a question about long distance running–for example, that if I go out for an 18 mile long run, the point is to not slow down between mile one and mile 18, in response to being asked how much a person slows down over the course of that distance–this person wholeheartedly refuses to believe the answer I provide–in this example, that it is impossible that a person would not slow down during an 18 mile run, that they would almost certainly start out at an 8:00 pace for the first mile and drop down to a 10:00 pace (“basically walking,” according to their assessment of paces) by the second mile)–followed by an assertion that if they were ever to try to run more than one mile, they would most certainly slow down by mile two and/or die.

Look, I get it. (Kind of. I do not get the need to editorialize on other people’s pastimes, since I’m certainly not offering up any commentary on my opinions of their pastimes.) Even though I’ve been running for seven years now, I clearly remember when I was in middle and high school, when I firmly believed my body could not cover more than two miles at a time and that a 5K was 100 percent beyond my ability. I clearly remember being unable to comprehend how a friend could run 13.1 miles when she announced that as her summer plan during college. When you’re not running long distances, the distances that other people, especially people who seem normal (i.e.: not professional runners) can cover is mind-boggling.

But just because it’s mind-boggling doesn’t mean you need to commentate on it time and time and time again!! I have plenty of other people with whom I have regular contact who are able to ask me about my running (“When’s your next race?” “How’s marathon training going?”) without informing me that what I’m doing must surely be impossible or that they “don’t know how [I] do it.”. I am perfectly happy to talk about my running or training with people who are genuinely curious, or at least have the tact to pretend that they’re genuinely curious. Talking about it with people who seem to be baiting me for the purpose of expressing affronted incredulity drives me NUTS.

Have you ever borrowed eBooks from the library?
How do you (kindly) deal with unsolicited feedback about your hobbies?
My approach thus far has been “answer all questions in an exasperated tone and hope they get the hint,” but it has so far proved to be an ineffective method.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 9

Sunday, July 29: 80 minutes cross training (30 minute circuit workout + 50 minute bike)
I went to the gym Sunday afternoon and settled in for the longest cross training session. I know I shouldn’t start complaining about these already – it’s only going to get worse (i.e.: longer) before it gets better. I was in A Mood at the gym (tired, hungry, headache-y, cranky), which meant I was not at all in the mood to do this workout. Skipping it only would’ve made things worse, because then I would’ve been tired, hungry, headache-y, cranky, AND mad at myself for skipping a workout just because I didn’t want to do it, so I got it in. Fortunately, things went by quicker than I anticipated.

Monday, July 30: Strength training – legs (AM) + 6 miles in 1:08:42 for an 11:27 pace
Today was apparently core day for me. I did stability ball rollouts for the first time since my senior year of college (or possibly PT, but all of those sessions blurred together over time) and leg raises which were INSANELY HARD. Holy cow. I had to do 21 reps at one point and stopped to rest twice during those 21 because I was dying. It’s a good thing today was core day, because I clearly could use some work in that department.

Due to the shower woes at home, I decided to skip my run commute on Monday and do an out-and-back from work instead. That way I could shower there in case my landlord hadn’t been by to fix our shower draining issues yet. My run felt surprisingly hard to start, especially considering how slow I was moving. I felt better after a couple of miles, though, so maybe it was just a matter of warming up. The biggest downside of doing an out-and-back instead of a run commute was that I had to tackle crowds twice, rather than powering through them for the first mile or so. It will never cease to amaze me how many people lack a rudimentary understanding of how to exist on a public walkway. Your entire party does not need to walk side by side down a narrow path. Rules of the road dictate that you should stay to the right, but if you refuse to stay to the right, then at the very LEAST you should stay to the left. THE. MIDDLE. IS. NOT. A. SIDE. And finally, if you, person in the aforementioned party that erroneously believes you must all walk next to each other rather than in front of or behind each other, see a runner approaching, it would make a lot of sense for you to move out of the runner’s way.

I’m counting down the days until Labor Day, because after that, my run commutes will only involve other-commuter dodging, rather than tourist dodging.

Tuesday, July 31: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I had an exciting moment during Tuesday’s strength training session. I’ve done reverse flys who knows how many times since I became acquainted with strength training eight or so years ago, but they’ve always been really hard for me, and I’ve never been able to do them well with anything heavier than five pound dumbbells in each hand. WELL. On Tuesday, reverse flys showed up on my strength training schedule for the first time this marathon season, and since I already had the 10 pound dumbbells out, I figured I’d try to do them with 10 pounds instead of my usual five and see what happens. I was able to do it!! I was so surprised! There have been times in the past two months when I’ve wondered if all this strength training was actually doing anything other than making me sore at all times, so to have tangible evidence that I am getting stronger was wonderful.

My fears that we would not learn anything else in this session of dance were confirmed on Tuesday, the last available to chance to start learning something new. SUPER DUPER EXCITED to spend the next two weeks reviewing the same things over and over and over and over again *eyeroll emoji* It’s just really frustrating to have to play to the lowest common denominator in these classes when the lowest common denominator is made up of people who clearly have limited interest in attempting to get better. If you can’t be bothered to put a modicum of effort into the class, why are you even there?!?! Spend your money and your time elsewhere! Go to a drop in class! You don’t have to sign up for an eight week class with a performance at the end!

Wednesday, August 1: 6.5 miles (2 mi WU, 6x.5mi (4:41, 4:36, 4:36, 4:36, 4:42, 4:45) w/.25 mi recovery) in 1:08:37 for a 10:33 pace
*praise hands emoji* This is my third time doing 800s this marathon season and I. LOVE. THIS. WORKOUT. I look forward to weeks with 800s, and after a particularly annoying day at work, I was banking on this workout to put my grumpy self away before I got home for the evening. I checked the news after lunch and saw a line of thunderstorms forming out near Rockford that seemed like it would get into the city right when I planned to leave for my run, but miraculously the line broke into two pieces and avoided me entirely–the sidewalk wasn’t even wet when I left the office–so I was able to get in my run and was very grateful for that.

It was fairly warm on Wednesday and I expected my first 800 to be somewhere in the high 4:5x range. I was both surprised and concerned when I lapped my watch after the first 800 and saw that I had come through in 4:41: my fastest 800 all year. Since the point of this workout is to keep all of the 800 reps at the same speed, I quickly realized that Wednesday’s workout was going to be less of a test of my current fitness and more of a workout workout. I hoped I could hang on and do another 4:41ish, so when I lapped my watch after the second 800 and saw a 4:36, my eyes about fell out of my head. WHAT WAS HAPPENING.

If I thought one 4:36 was shocking, it was nothing compared to the shock I felt when I did both my third AND fourth reps in 4:36 as well. And not only did I run three consecutive 4:36s: I ran them at the exact same pace down to the tenth of a second.

aug1800s

WHO AM I?!?! 1) Where was this speed coming from, and 2) where was this consistency coming from?! The wheels fell off a bit on reps five and six, and I am a bit bummed out by my 4:45 final 800, mostly because that means I had a nine second spread between my slowest 800 and my fastest 800, and in a perfect world, I’d like to keep that spread closer to three or four seconds at the most (in a perfect perfect world, I’d like to keep that spread to zero seconds). That being said, reviewing my heart rate data from the run gave me a better understanding of why the last couple were slower. I clearly wasn’t recovering as much on my .25 mile recovery lap, at least from a heart rate standpoint, as the workout went on, which I think helps explain why the burn of the 800s would set in a lot earlier on the last two reps than it did early on.

aug1hrdata

Regardless, this was the fastest 800s workout I’ve had yet, and that was very encouraging. Runs like Monday’s have made me wonder if I’m actually gaining any fitness from all the work I’ve put in so far this season, but runs like this show me that I have. That doesn’t necessarily make my three times/week two a days easier, but at least it makes them feel like they’re helping. I’m sure I’m overanalyzing the data, but across all my 800s so far this year, I’m averaging a 4:46. If that turns out to be what I’m able to do on marathon day, I would be so thrilled.

Thursday, August 2: Strength training – legs (AM) + 50 minutes bike (PM)
After a miserable night of “sleep” that saw me awake from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. courtesy of an inability to get comfortable from both a sleeping position and temperature standpoint, I was dragging Thursday morning and would not have minded bailing on my workout. I knew I wouldn’t have time for that and biking after work, though, and I really want to save my workout bails for times when I actually need them, not when I just want them (“need” meaning due to weather, injury, illness, or something along those lines). I know you don’t have to do every workout in a training program, it’s just a guide, blah blah blah, but one of my goals in any training program, marathon or otherwise, is to do as many workouts prescribed as possible. So if that’s the goal, I’m not going to jeopardize my success with that goal because I don’t want to do something. Anyway, despite my lethargy, I got in a good strength training session. Erin gave me some deadlift tips to help protect my back, and that made a big difference.

I returned to the gym after work for some biking. I actually tried on Thursday and felt like I got in a good workout, rather than 50 minutes of spinning my legs out, so that was nice. I did turn me into a puddle of sweat, but I suppose that’s a silly thing to get worked up about in the exercise department 😛

Friday, August 3: Rest

Saturday, August 4: 11.07 miles in 2:06:05 for an 11:23 pace
I briefly tried to kid myself into believing I could run 11 miles at an 11:00 pace on Saturday, but with the heat, humidity, sun, and utter lack of of interest in pushing myself at all on a long run, that lasted less than one mile. I met up with the 11:30 pace group after our first water stop on Saturday, and it was much more my speed (literally!). The pace felt a lot more comfortable and will probably be where I stick for the rest of the summer (particularly since I would like to try fast finishing all of my remaining long long runs (15, 16, 18, 20)). I enjoyed the company and effort, and all in all felt like this was another good long run.

 

Well, here we are: halfway through marathon season. I’m pretty sure I always feel this way, but it won’t stop me from saying it again: I feel like the first half of marathon season FLEW by. I cannot believe it’s already August. I cannot believe I only have nine weeks of training left. Of course, I also feel like the first half of marathon training is just the prep work for the second half of marathon season, when the real work begins. The super long long runs, the super long week day runs, the marathon-training-is-the-entirety-of-my-free-time part of marathon training. I had such a crummy second half of marathon season last year that I have to admit I’m a little apprehensive going into the second half of marathon training this year. Nearly everything went wrong in the second half of training last year, from knee pain to a stomach bug to a heat wave at the end of September (WHY). The chances of all of those things happening again this year seem slim, so hopefully I’ll have a better second half of marathon season in 2018. Fingers crossed!

Thursday Things

1. I went to the allergist last week to see if I could get some answers in regards to why my arm exploded after I got a tetanus booster in January (well, not exploded, but overreacted), and it was a shockingly wonderful experience!

I was excited to get to the bottom of what happened to my arm, and possibly some other allergic-ish reactions I’ve had as well. The nurse did the whole intake rigamarole–weight, blood pressure, etc.–and then a resident came in an interviewed me for thirty minutes about why I was there, my symptoms, my family history, anything else that could possibly be relevant to the discussion. It was AMAZING. I felt like he didn’t leave a single stone unturned, and it was so nice to feel like a doctor was actually listening to me rather than working to get me out of the office as quickly as possible because I’m an active 27 year old with no medical history who couldn’t possibly have anything wrong with her.

When the actual allergist came in, she told me that she suspects I had an allergic reaction to whatever they used to clean my skin prior to the injection rather than the injection itself, based on the pattern of redness and my description of my symptoms. Given the way I broke out in an instant rash after using a bath bomb in April, the way I break out in a rash if I touch anything washed with Tide Coldwater Clean, and the way I break out in hives when I shower at my parents house, the idea that I have sensitive skin was not particularly earth shattering to me.

The allergist ordered a titer test for me to check on my tetanus, diphtheria, and Hib immunity levels so that if I get pregnant before I’m due for my next tetanus shot, I can have titers taken again, compare my future immunity levels to my July 2018 immunity levels, and use that information to determine whether or not I actually need a Tdap booster. (Pregnant women are supposed to get a Tdap booster during every pregnancy so they don’t come down with one of those illnesses when they have an infant on hand. It’s more cost effective to give everyone a booster than take titers on everyone, which is why all pregnant women are supposed to get one. It is a little odd to me that the allergist didn’t order a pertussis titer, because to my understanding it’s pertussis that’s the big concern with babies, but I’ll allow myself to believe she knew what she was doing.) I can also get future Tdap/tetanus boosters at the allergist’s office if I so choose using the challenge method, where they give you part of the dose one day, see how you react, and give you the rest of the dose a couple days later. She also told me that I can come back any time to get tested to see if I still have the penicillin allergy I was diagnosed with as a child, which was good to know. All in all, a fabulous experience!

2. Getting my titers taken, however, was a bit more frustrating. The lab was swamped, so it took forever to get in, and once I did get in, I had to raise a stink about how I had to be lying down during a blood draw. I do this every time anyone needs to poke me with a needle, and every time, regardless of where I am, I’m made to feel like I’m putting everyone out of their way and ruining their entire lives.

Look, I wish I could sit in the nice padded chair like a big girl, too. I wish I could convince my brain that the half second of minor pain that comes with a blood draw or injection is not a reason to shut the whole thing down. But I’ve fainted three separate times when needles were involved, Phlebotomist Who Has Known Me for Less Than One Full Minute, and I know the best way to make sure I don’t faint is to have me horizontal before the fact so my blood can’t pool in my legs to begin with, keeping me from fainting in the first place. It’s a whole lot easier for everyone, including you, if I stay conscious throughout the entire ordeal, so instead of interrogating me about whether or not I’ve fainted under these exact circumstances before, why don’t you just LISTEN to me when I tell you I’m going to need to lie down and need to continue lying down for at least 15 minutes after you’re done? It’s not like I’m asking you for a whole lot here. “Maintaining consciousness” seems like a pretty small request.

I have every intention of continuing to insist on lying down when shots or blood draws are involved, but it is really frustrating to have to be so demanding about it every. single. time. Is it so hard to show a little understanding?

3. My apartment had a bit of a bathroom drama this past weekend. Our tub had been draining slowly for a week or so, and our attempts to remove the tangle of hair and dirt that were clogging the pipes only made matters worse (to the point where neither the tub nor the sink would drain well. Awesome.), so we placed a call to our landlord who knew exactly which trap was associated with both the tub’s and sink’s drainage and said he’d come by Monday to take care of it.

WELL! When I came home Monday, not only had he taken care of whatever was blocking the pipes, but he also cleaned the tub and sink so well that they looked nicer than they’ve ever looked while I’ve lived there! They were downright sparkling, and I was so touched! That was so above and beyond the call of landlord duty, and I really appreciated the gesture. (Plus, this means I don’t have to clean the bathroom later this week, which I fully anticipated needing to do.)

I’ve lived in three apartments in Chicago with landlords who had varying levels of interest in the place where I lived, and let me tell you, living in an apartment in a building that’s been in my landlord’s family for who knows how long–he was literally born in the building–makes a WORLD of difference. My first place was owned by a management company, and they couldn’t have cared less about me or my apartment. My second place was a condo owned by a dude, and he kind of cared about the condo, but it was clear that he had become less enamored with the idea of investing in real estate over the 10 years he owned the place and was more interested in ridding himself of his landlording side gig (and the condo) than he was in the condo itself. My current landlord has a vested interest in keeping the property in as good of shape as he can, and it really shows. It’s so refreshing to live somewhere where the landlord cares!

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 8

Sunday, July 22: 13.1 miles in 2:19:13 for a 10:38 pace
Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago by my Garmin (sort of). My Garmin logged 13.95 miles, but that was due to the tall building-induced GPS hysteria more than a terrible effort at running the race’s tangents. I’m calling it 13.1 miles because that’s what it was supposed to be, so I’m going to assume I ran close enough to 13.1 miles to log it as such (even though I’m sure in reality I did more like 13.2, 13.3, maybe even 13.4).

Monday, July 23: Strength training – legs (AM) + 50 minutes yoga (PM)
After my grip-strength related complaints last week, Erin recommended that I switch over to using a barbell, which, duh, Bethany. I’ve avoided using a barbell…basically forever because it seemed too scary, it was always occupied, *insert whatever excuse is convenient here*. Well, on Monday it wasn’t occupied, and Erin has specifically told me to try to use the barbell, so I did. And it went great! It made me feel badass, which I of course enjoyed 🙂 I was supposed to use them for lunges, too, but someone else needed the barbell when I got to the lunge portion of my workout, so I let him have it since I knew I could do lunges with dumbbells.

I originally planned to bike in the afternoon, but I was stressed and sore, so I opted for this yoga instead:

It was WILDLY different than my usual YouTube yoga finds, both from a practice perspective and from a commentary perspective. It worked for me on Monday, though, and I did feel a lot calmer after I finished, so no complaints.

Tuesday, July 24: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I made my first attempt at negative chin-ups on Tuesday. It…could have gone better. Haha. Obviously I expected them to be difficult, but when I decided to try an easier version that consisted of just hanging on the bar in a chin-up position, that was really hard, too! How come the stuff I used to do at recess is so impossible now?!

Dance took a turn for the serious on Tuesday (serious as in “let’s focus and get this done,” not serious as in “something bad or dramatic has happened”), and thank goodness. I know it’s not fair for me to get bent out of shape over dance being amateur hour when the class is specifically advertised as being for beginners with no experience, but it does frustrate me that people who can only manage to show up sporadically or who clearly refuse to even consider the possibility of practicing outside of class hold the rest of us back. It has apparently worn on my teacher’s patience, too, because Tuesday included lectures about the importance of reviewing parts of choreography you struggle to remember (you know things have gotten serious when he starts giving lectures), and, most significantly, him breaking us up into small groups. Breaking a large class into small groups isn’t entirely uncommon from my (limited) experience, but it NEVER happens in my Tuesday class. Making three or four people dance on their own in front of everyone else flies in the face of my teacher’s usual approach to class–that approach being, never call out an individual who is messing up, but instead address the entire class about the problem (“Point with your left arm, not your right arm. LEFT arm. LEFT ARM.”). Small groups don’t give you the opportunity to hide. Everyone’s going to see if you mess up, so you better figure out the choreography fast if you don’t want to make a mistake while everyone is watching. I think this helped us make a lot of progress on Tuesday, though I do worry it’s too little too late: with how slow people have been to grasp the choreography this session, I don’t have high hopes that we’ll start something new next week with only three classes remaining until graduation.

Wednesday, July 25: 9 miles in 1:43:54 for an 11:33 pace
I was a little surprised by my slow pace on Wednesday, until I looked at the weather on my Garmin report and found out it was 86 degrees when I went for my run on Wednesday. That’ll do it! I was also so sore on Wednesday from Monday and Tuesday’s strength training workouts, and I’m sure that didn’t help matters either. But slow miles are better than no miles!

Thursday, July 26: 4.81 miles in 50:46 for a 10:33 pace (AM) + strength training – legs (PM)
I took my July half day Thursday morning to go to the allergist to try to get the bottom of why my arm exploded after my tetanus shot in January. Because of the appointment, it made more sense to run in the morning and go to the gym in the afternoon. I really don’t enjoy running on weekday mornings–running when I know I have to be done by a certain time stresses me out–so I was glad that if I had to run in the morning, at least that run happened to fall on tempo run day. Since my tempo runs start so slow, it makes it much easier to warm up. I’m really happy with how this tempo run went. It was tough, just like they all are, but I executed the gradual speed-up followed by a gradual slowing perfectly (paces for my intervals: 11:42, 11:22, 10:47, 9:48, 9:28, 9:02, 9:46, 11:21, 11:23, 11:47) and that makes me very happy 🙂

It was so weird to strength train in the afternoon! Definitely not what I’m used to. I did deadlifts with a barbell for the first time ever on Thursday, and quickly realized I’m going to need to be a lot more conscious about my form when I’m trying to deadlift more than, you know, 30 pounds. The goal of strength training is to make me a better runner, not an injured runner, so I know I’ll need to work on that as time goes on.

Friday, July 27: Rest

Saturday, July 28: 13.47 miles in 2:33:18 for an 11:23 pace
What a delightful long run! The weather was SO nice compared to some runs this summer (temperatures were in the 60s *praise hands emoji*), my Garmin was accurate the entire time (?!?!), and even though I technically ran with the 11:00 pace group, we clearly did not run an 11:00 pace. Assuming my heart rate data is accurate, this is the lowest my heart rate has averaged on a run…like ever (probably not ever ever, but in recent memory: I averaged 156 bpm, when usually on a run, even a run I think is easy, I almost always average 166 bpm), which forces me to concede that yes, I probably should be running with the 11:30 pace group, not the 11:00 pace group. But whatever. If the 11:00 pace group leader runs close to an 11:30 pace, then I can run with the 11s and still run at an appropriate pace! 😛 Anyway, this run felt great from start to finish. I even saw a goldfinch while we were out, which was such a nice surprise! I barely ever see goldfinches in the city (though I saw another one right outside my apartment when I got home – crazy! I hadn’t seen a single goldfinch in the city since March 23, according to eBird, and then I saw two within two and a half hours!). I’ve never done two significantly long runs within six days of each other, and I was really pleased with how good I felt.

 

I logged 40.4 miles this week, which is officially the most miles I’ve ever logged in a calendar week (I know). Granted, that’s mostly because the 20 miler and Chicago Half Marathon are each on Sundays, which throws off my peak week milage (I usually run like 16 miles during the calendar week that counts as peak week since the 20 miler is on the Sunday of the next calendar week, haha). It’s an arbitrary thing–I’ve probably run 40 miles over the course of seven days before, just not seven days that started on Sunday and ended on Saturday–but I’m still really proud to have done it. I know 40 miles per week is NOTHING compared to what most marathoners log, but as a tried and true 25-35 miles per week sort of runner, crossing that threshold felt like A Big Deal. I rewarded myself with a donut from the bakery down the road from my apartment for my hard work 🙂 On to cutback week!

Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

Every time I’ve signed up for the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon, I’ve done so with hesitation. A half marathon in the middle of July in Chicago is a bit of a gamble, and I will admit that I register expecting the worst.

rocknrollchciagopacket2018

Little did I know just how much of “the worst” this year’s edition of the race would hold.

“The worst” started on Saturday. A loved one got quite sick on Saturday (like, 103 degree fever quite sick), and to say that it stressed me out would be an enormous understatement. I spent most of Saturday vacillating between massive anxiety and crushing panic as their fever crept higher and higher (is there a difference? Not really, but it makes my writing sound fancier.) Instead of sleeping Saturday night into Sunday morning, I took what amounted to two, two-hour naps: one from 9:45 to 11:45, and another from 2:00 to 4:00. When I “officially” got up at 4:30 Sunday morning, I seriously considered bailing on the race, especially since I was still so wracked with anxiety that I could barely think straight. Sitting around my house stewing with worry wasn’t going to make anything better, though, so I figured I may was well attempt to burn off my anxious energy with a 13.1 mile run.

(For the record, things are much better now. Their fever finally broke Monday evening.)

It was overcast and cool for July when I got to Grant Park, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about the weather. It could’ve been much worse–hotter, more humid, sunnier–so I didn’t think much of it. I saw a girl from my running group when I got to Columbus, chatted with her for a bit, and went off to get myself into a portapotty line and the corrals. To everyone participating in Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago’s credit, runners on Sunday’s race seemed to respect their assigned corral way more than the race field in San Diego or Seattle did, so there’s that. The corrals are still completely unenforced, but hey, nice to know people who show up in Chicago are more likely to follow their assignments!

rocknrollchicagostartline2018

While we waited for the race to begin, it began to sprinkle. I knew there was rain in the forecast, and I was concerned it would rain for the first mile of the race and then quit, leaving us with humid conditions and wet clothes for the rest of the run. Having it start to rain while we were still waiting to cross the start line did nothing to reassure me that wouldn’t happen.

Eventually we took off. This was my third Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, each time with the same course, and this time it seemed to take MUCH longer to get to the first mile than usual. When I lapped my watch at the first mile marker, it said it had taken me 12:52 to get there, which seemed both concerning and totally unreasonable. I know what it feels like to run 12:52, and the effort I was putting in did NOT match the effort I normally associate with a 12:52 mile. Either the mile marker was off or I was in big trouble. Even though I was tired and anxious, I still had enough mental wherewithal to remember that the first mile marker was almost always earlier in the past, and sure enough, when I looked it up on the course map, the mile marker on the course was beyond where the first mile was marked on the online course map.

I completely missed the second mile marker and was getting awful worried about how long it took me to run the second mile until I realized I must’ve missed the sign – especially when I saw the mile three sign 😛 It rained on and off throughout all of this, just enough to keep things cool (and make the road slippery).

I got better about noticing the mile markers and started to have a better idea of how fast I was running: pretty consistently in the 10:40-10:50 range. That was fine with me. I was out to finish as quickly as possible, but I also knew I wasn’t exactly in a position to PR. Back before this weekend happened, when I had things like “hopes” and “dreams” and “plans” for this race, I wanted to run the race close to my goal marathon pace to see how it would go. My goal marathon pace (for a 4:45) is a 10:52, so even though this was a little on the slow side as far what I ~really~ like for my half marathon pace, it’s ultimately what I wanted out of the race anyway.

While we’re on the topic of mile markers, though, I have some SERIOUS complaints about the miles as marked on the course and the miles as marked on the course map. As I mentioned, I set my Garmin to manual laps for the race, because I’ve run downtown enough times to know that attempting to use your Garmin downtown for accurate data is a fool’s errand. If I’m running a race downtown, I manually lap it when I hit a mile marker so I know how fast I actually ran the distance between two mile marker signs, not whatever sort of 150 mph nonsense my Garmin thinks I was doing. In reviewing the laps as noted by my Garmin map–the laps I created in my watch’s log when I passed each mile marker–they aren’t even CLOSE to what was advertised on the course map. Behold:

rnrdowntown

This is a screenshot of my Garmin map overlaid with a screenshot of the official course map. For whatever reason, my Garmin map only shows odd numbered laps, and remember that my lap number is off due to missing the mile two marker (so lap five was mile six, lap seven was mile eight, etc.). The course map show mile six at the intersection of Harrison and State (circled in blue), while the actual course marked mile six right before the corner of Harrison and Michigan (circled in orange).

Now, I will admit that that’s not a gigantic discrepancy. But look at how much worse it gets as the race goes farther south–and not only how much worse it gets, but how it gets worse in the opposite direction:

rnrsouth

While downtown, the course mile markers were showing up after the course map shows where those miles should be, as we go farther south, the course mile markers are now showing up before where the course map shows those miles should be–and by a lot! The green circle shows where the map says mile eight was, while the yellow circle shows where mile eight was marked.  The light blue circle shows where the map says mile 10 was, while the black circle shows where mile 10 was marked on the course. What the heck, Rock ‘n’ Roll?! How do you screw that up so badly?! And so inconsistently?!

And hey, while we’re on the topic of course maps, would anyone like to explain to me why the courses in 2015 (screenshot here) and 2018 (full screenshot below) are identical except for the fact that in 2018, instead of running straight up Clark to Washington, we turned on Madison, took it to LaSalle and then turned on Washington, presumably adding distance to the race by running three sides of a block instead of one: distance that we don’t seem to lose anywhere else, despite the fact that allegedly both courses are 13.1 miles? (Although according to the 2015 certification, we did run around that block, even though the course map doesn’t show it). Or explain to me how miles eight, nine, and 10 are in WILDLY different locations on the 2018 map than they were on the 2015 maps, despite, once again, being the same course? Or explain to me how mile 11 is in one place in 2015 and another place in 2018, while mile 12 is in the same place both times?

2018course

But then again, what you can you expect from the race series that promises you a vanity bib for running your third Rock ‘n’ Roll of the year as a reward for signing up for the Heavy Medals program months ago and ends up giving you the same one everyone else got, or the race series that sends out its Final Information email for Chicago with pictures of NASHVILLE. I enjoy Rock ‘n’ Roll events for the most part, but the devil is in the details, folks. And while no, none of this matters at all in the grand scheme of things–I do this for fun, as a way to motivate myself to keep training, as a convenient excuse to sleep in one Saturday during the summer–it’s those little things that really make or break my opinion of a race organizer. If you can’t get the little things right, why should I trust you to get the big things right? HOW can I trust you to get the big things right?

Anyway.

The sun came out for a hot (literally) minute a little after I got to mile six, but fortunately the clouds covered it up soon after that. It was really humid when it wasn’t raining, and the sun only made that worse, so I was grateful for the clouds. I became a bit less grateful for them when I got to mile nine, however. There had been plenty of on and off sprinkles throughout the race, but when I was at mile nine, the skies absolutely opened up and it poured. Like, rain streaming down my visor, shoes saturated poured. It was one of those “What can you do?” sort of moments, and everyone around me seemed to take it in stride (heh puns). I don’t love running in pouring down rain, but with only a few miles left it didn’t bother me too much, at least in the moment. It bothered me when I finished and got cold due to my soaking wet clothes, but it made running more comfortable at least.

I felt pretty good towards the end of the race. This year, they lined the entire part along Lake Shore Drive with semi trucks, which I really appreciated. Running so close to traffic on Lake Shore always made me a bit nervous, so to have a solid barrier made things feel substantially safer. I did a better job of not kicking too early this year, but I did keep a close eye on my watch all the way down Columbus. I thought I might be able to sneak in under 2:20, and lo and behold, I crossed the finish line in 2:19:12. That counts!

I was in a hurry to get home (and it was raining…I think. I’ve lost track of when it was and wasn’t raining), so I didn’t stick around for any of the post-race stuff. I loaded up my arms with water, Gatorade and snacks, and made my way back to the CTA.

All in all, I’m happy with my race. The weather, though not particularly friendly wasn’t nearly as bad as it could be in July in Chicago (2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll, I’m looking at you), and I’m glad my lack of sleep/abundance of anxiety didn’t disrupt things too much. I am annoyed that the shirt is, once again, identical to the ones I got in San Diego and Seattle last month, but at least the medal is different this time around.

rocknrollchicagomedal