Thursday Things

1. NO.

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NO. NO. NO.

I knew snow was in the forecast for this week, but the last time I watched a weather report (Monday morning), Andy Avalos of NBC 5 specifically said it would not accumulate. This is accumulation, Andy Avalos!!!

To be fair, he didn’t call for snow until Thursday afternoon/evening, and this fell Tuesday night into Wednesday morning (?!?!?!). BUT STILL. I didn’t even have a snow brush for my car yet 😦 Thankfully, I was able to borrow one, because I never would have been able to drive to work Wednesday morning otherwise. My car had a solid inch of super heavy, wet snow on it, and there’s no chance I would’ve been able to get it all off without a brush.

2. I have gotten sick way too many times this year, and I am OVER IT.

I woke up around 3 a.m. on Saturday with a sore throat, which was but a harbinger for the misery the rest of the day would hold for me. By the time I went to bed Saturday night, I had a low-grade fever, sinus pressure so ridiculous I thought my cheeks would explode, and such swollen and tender lymph nodes that I could feel them protesting being squished when I would look down. Fortunately, my fever was gone by Sunday afternoon, and I felt more or less like myself by Monday evening. Of course, I had family in town to see me specifically on Saturday, so the timing of the whole situation was a bit of a bummer.

But the bigger bummer is that this is the third time this year this has happened to me: once in March, once in July, and now this. What am I, a kindergartner? I should not get three upper respiratory infections in the space of one calendar year! PLUS, I was similarly sick last December! What gives?? My immune system needs to get itself in shape, because I am not here for this quarterly nonsense.

Oh, and just to add some irony to the whole situation: I had scheduled my flu shot for Sunday, but then I couldn’t get my flu shot on Sunday, because I was too sick to get a flu shot. Figures.

2. While I’m complaining about my health, I’d also like to file a complaint against my stupid teeth. I went to the dentist a couple of weeks ago for my second cleaning of 2019, and it was finally decided that the time has come for me to get a crown. Boo.

This wasn’t an enormous surprise. I made an effort to find a dentist all the way back in 2014 because I had noticed a suspicious black spot on one of my molars and was concerned it was a cavity. Turns out it wasn’t a cavity: it was (at the time) a craze line, a result of me apparently grinding my teeth at night. I didn’t believe I actually ground my teeth while sleeping, but after switching dentists in 2017 and being told by my new dentist, unprompted, that I grind my teeth, I decided these dental experts apparently knew more about me than I knew and agreed to get a night guard. Multiple trips to the dentist and like $300 later, I was the proud owner of my very own, custom-fit night guard, which I’ve worn faithfully (ish) since November or December of 2017. That night guard was supposed to keep my craze line from progressing to a crack. As you might have guessed, it didn’t, and the crack is now big enough for the scrapey hook tool they use at the dentist to catch on it. That means it’s big enough to be a problem, so by this time next week, I’ll have 27 real teeth tops, and one porcelain one. Boo.

I’m told that I should be grateful all I need is a crown, because if I let this go on too much longer, I’d need a root canal. While I suppose I am grateful that I don’t need a root canal (yet), I’m mostly annoyed that I spent $300 to postpone the problem rather than avoiding the problem. I’m also not looking forward to the procedure at. all. I mean, I suppose no one looks forward to dental work, but this is the first time I’ve needed any dental work (other than having my wisdom teeth extracted, that is), so I’m extra nervous about it. The dentist claims it will be fine, but the dentist also claimed that my night guard would keep this from happening, so what does he know?

What’s Next

Ever since I started running in June 2011, I’ve always had a race on my calendar. At times the race has been months away (hello, marathon season 2019), but I’ve always been working towards something: a finish, a goal, etc.

For the first time in over eight years, I don’t have any races on my calendar, and I don’t know when that will change.

I’m on the cusp of moving into a more unpredictable season of life. Because I don’t know exactly what the next few years might hold, I’m hesitant (read: unwilling) to put down big bucks on a race almost a full year in advance (read: the Chicago Marathon) when it’s totally possible I might not be in a position to participate in the event come race day. I don’t feel comfortable committing to year-long race plans or goals right now, and since you have no choice but to commit to something like that with the Chicago Marathon, that means that race specifically is out of the question until things settle down a bit for me. Obviously every race isn’t the Chicago Marathon, but since I have a lot of uncertainty about how things may shake out in the coming months and years, I’m not particularly interested in committing to any races or running-related goals for the time being.

My priorities with running have shifted, for now, from chasing goals to maintaining a base. For the first time ever, I might be able to accurately answer the question, “How many miles do you run per week?”! Finally! (Previously, the answer always depended on what particular race I was training for at the moment.)

I’m actually not running at all right now. I used to always take a full month off of running after a marathon, and I’ve returned to that habit this year. Though I didn’t bring it up much (at all?) during marathon season, the plantar fasciitis that started in my right foot in February hasn’t really improved (imagine that! Continuing to do the same thing that hurt me with absolutely no rehab didn’t magically make it go away!). Because it’s always been more of a nuisance than an actual problem, I haven’t been overly motivated to do anything to try to make it better. In the limited time I’ve taken off since February, however, I’ve noticed that the one thing that consistently eases my plantar fasciitis is not running. So, I’m not running for a month. If it’s STILL bothering me after that point, then I’ll go to physical therapy. Maybe. I’ve known I could probably benefit from physical therapy for over six months now, but since this hasn’t really gotten in the way of my running (or my daily life, outside of having to hobble out of bed every morning due to my sore sole), I haven’t wanted to make the commitment to taking care of it. I don’t really want to deal with this for the rest of my life, though, so if one month off doesn’t fix the problem entirely, I should probably seek out additional help.

Once I do start running again, I’d like to maintain a running base that would allow me to run a 10K or shorter at any time, and allow me to be five or six weeks away from running a half marathon. I plan to do two weekday runs in the three to four mile range and one weekend run of six or seven miles, at least for the remainder of 2019. If I feel like I’d be happier running slightly more than that (three to five miles on weekdays, six to eight miles on weekends), I’ll make adjustments in 2020. Six to eight miles feels very manageable for a consistent long run, as does three to five miles for a weekday run. Anything more than that is when I start to feel like my runs are eating up a bunch of my time, which is one thing when I’m training for something specific, but another thing when I’m running just to maintain fitness. I’ve always used goal races to motivate me to run, and that helped me get through more burdensome longer runs. Since I won’t have a goal race to work towards, I don’t want to put myself in a position where I resent running in general or feel like it’s just one more thing to check off my to-do list. I think keeping my weekly mileage in the 12 to 18 mile range should keep that from happening. Of equal importance, these are all distances I feel like I can handle on the treadmill if necessary. I don’t know what the outdoor running situation will be like in the winter around my current apartment, so I want to keep my mileage at a treadmill-friendly level until I have a better idea of how good my area is at cleaning their sidewalks. If it’s anything like the neighborhoods where I lived in Chicago, I’m not exactly optimistic I’ll find ice-free conditions 😛

In the mean time, I’ve renewed my focus on strength training, this time with an emphasis on my upper body. I have an event coming up in January where I’ll be wearing a dress that shows off my back and arms, so I’d like to see if I can coax a little more definition out of them. Over the past year and a few months of strength training, I’ve done two days of legs and one day of upper body per week. I’m flipping that between now and January, doing two days of upper body and one day of legs. I’ve found that consistent strength training over about three months or so does amazing things for the muscle definition in my legs, and I’m crossing my fingers that the same thing will happen to my back and arms if I work on those twice a week instead. I’m not unhappy with how my arms or back look right now, so if nothing happens it’s certainly not the end of the world, but I figured it was worth a shot. I’ve also been doing some light cardio (like, 20-minutes-on-the-stationary-bike cardio), and doing HIIT workouts from Fitness Blender once or twice a week. Those workouts are no freaking joke, so once or twice a week is perfectly sufficient for me.

It’s weird to not have any definite races coming up (I might do a turkey trot on or around Thanksgiving. TBD.), but it’s also nice to be able to take a little bit of a break from the constant grind of training. I have a few weekdays during the remainder of the year where I know I won’t be able to get a workout in, and it’s nice to have the flexibility to rearrange my schedule or take an additional rest day to accommodate other life things (like getting a crown next week, ugh. I’d rather do a HIIT workout!). I’m looking forward to a more low-pressure fitness life for awhile and am interested to see how running for running’s sake works out for me.

 

 

Open House Chicago

I look forward to Open House Chicago weekend every year. Ever since stumbling upon it in 2012, I’ve made a point of attending, and generally try to attend both days. While I’ve gone in with a strict itinerary in the past, I decided to be more flexible about my Open House schedule this year. Unfortunately, that led to the poorest Open House experience I’ve had to date. Multiple sites I wanted to see were closed when I tried to visit them. I spent more time feeling frustrated and disappointed over Open House this year than I did enjoying it, which was a real bummer.

Regardless, here are the sites I did manage to see during Open House Chicago 2019.

Saturday

St. Ignatius College Prep

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I’ve wondered about the interior of St. Igantius every time I’ve passed it, so this was my top priority for Open House this year. It. Was. Insane. I cannot imagine going to high school (or any school, for that matter) in a building like this. The tour was a bit rushed and too crowded (a group of 14 arrived right after I got there, which bloated our tour groups. I think it would’ve been a much more pleasant tour with fewer people.), but we still got to see a ton of the school. I was particularly fond of all the architectural artifacts and the timeline gallery, which featured pictures of St. Ignatius and the surrounding area from its founding 150 years ago to the present day. There were two pictures taken at Blue Island and Racine–one in the 1950s, one in the 1960s–that were particularly striking. The neighborhood and built environment changed enormously in that time period, and both of them were really fascinating to see, especially in light of how the area looks now.

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Chicago Children’s Theatre’s The Station

The Chicago Children’s Theatre, located at Racine and Monroe, is housed in a police station that closed in 2012. We got a tour from a woman who works for the architecture firm (Wheeler Kearns Architects) that handled the 2017 renovations that transformed the building into the Chicago Children’s Theatre, and it was really fascinating. Despite obviously needing to redo the space to change it from a police station to a building meant for child-friendly shows, the renovations managed to keep many of the original details from the 1930s design (thought 1940s construction – the design was finished pre-WWII, but construction wasn’t able to happen until after the war ended). It was a really interesting and informative tour.

150 N. Riverside

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I make a point of avoiding repeat Open House sites (or avoiding sites I’ve previously visited during non-Open House times, which is why I didn’t visit the Nederlander Theatre, for example), so I didn’t originally plan to see 150 N. Riverside, as I went there in 2017. It made sense based on my route, though, and I’m glad I went! Instead of taking visitors up to an empty floor, this year we went down to the lower level conference room, which is only a few feet above the Chicago River. While there are ample opportunities to see the Chicago River from high up, it’s not often that you get that close to the river, particularly inside a building. It was fun to get a different perspective for a change.

Design Museum of Chicago

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In honor of 2019 being the Year of Chicago Theatre, the Design Museum featured an exhibit with objects (costumes, props, set designs, etc.) from what had to have been every (or nearly every) theatre company in Chicago, from college programs all the way up through Steppenwolf, Second City, and Broadway in Chicago. It was really cool!

Prudential Plaza

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This was easily one of the highlights of Open House. The 11th floor tenant space was open, and boy, it was enough to make me want to slide my resume under the door of every office in the Prudential complex. My office downtown has a nice rooftop tenant space, but it is nothing compared to what they have at Prudential. The indoor area was beautiful, and the rooftop itself was out of control. The landscaping was lovely, the views were amazing, and the beautiful Saturday weather made me want to stay there all day.

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Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects

I didn’t plan to see any architecture firms this year, but since I was already in the Prudential complex, I figured I may as well swing up to their office. They moved into the Prudential Plaza in April, so obviously the office was super fancy and modern. I’m used to getting tours at architecture firms, but we were allowed to just wander around at Sheehan Nagle Hartray. That meant I didn’t learn as much about buildings they’ve designed as I expected, but it was still fun to see their space.

Vista Sales Gallery

This was another highlight of Open House for me. The Vista towers are still under construction, but when it opens, those with substantially more money than I have will move into condos taking up most of the building. The sales gallery showed the available floor plans and finishes, which, since the condos start at about $1 million, were a bit nicer than what I currently have in my apartment (but I have more square footage and an additional bedroom for a lot less, so *shrug emoji*). Short of winning the lottery, I’ll never be able to afford living in a place like Vista, so it was fun to ogle at the kitchen and bathroom fixtures the one percent will have.

465 N. Park

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The tenant space on the sixth floor of this brand-new apartment building was open for coveting during Open House. The indoor portion of the tenant space was lovely, but of course the rooftop was, once again, out of control, with private grilling areas, a pool, cabanas, and great views. After a long day of walking around the city, I actually hung out here for a bit, relaxing on one of the chaises by the pool before heading out to meet up with friends for dinner.

Sunday

Elks National Memorial

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The Elks National Memorial is one of the Open House staples, but I had never managed to make it there. I went Sunday, and it didn’t disappoint. Built initially to honor Elks members who died during WWI, the memorial now commemorates the lives of Elks who’ve died in subsequent wars as well and is a truly stunning building. The rotunda is amazing, but the Grand Reception Hall really surprised me. It reminded me of rooms I saw in the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, which is about as high of a compliment as a building in the U.S. can hope to get from me.

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Lincoln Park Conservatory

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I’ve been to the Lincoln Park Conservatory once before, but I went during Open House 1) because I was in the area and 2) because they were doing behind-the-scenes tours. We got to go into staff-only areas where we saw the administrative office, which is in the cottage that used to serve as housing for the conservatory’s caretaker. We also saw the former horse stables and greenhouses full of poinsettias the conservatory is growing for its and Garfield Park Conservatory’s holiday shows.

St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church

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I didn’t plan to go to St. Chrysostom’s, but I stumbled upon it on Sunday and decided to check it out. It was a really beautiful building that made me miss going to church in a real church (as opposed to in another church’s basement, which has been my church’s setup for the past year and a half). The organist was playing (another thing I miss), and I enjoyed looking around and seeing a church unlike most of the churches I tend to visit during Open House.

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Thursday Things

Annual marathon thought-dump edition!

1. While I thought the expo felt bigger and more populated (from a brand standpoint) this year, I was #notimpressed with the offerings. I purchased one thing (see line item #3) and was honestly pretty disappointed about it, until I remembered that I had already bought three things from Nike prior to the expo, which was why I didn’t have anything I needed to buy at the expo.

2. The three things I bought from Nike (well, one was technically Nike via Fleet Feet):

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I already mentioned that I got a visor at Fleet Feet two days after the 20 miler to make sure I got something. When I went to Nike the following weekend, they still had plenty of everything. I got a blue half-zip and my traditional marathon hat, both of which I like a lot.

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I’m a big fan of the heathered look on anything, so obviously I love my half zip, and I like all the detail on the hat. I’m also VERY excited that both the hat and visor have mesh-y-ish material for the sweatband (by which I mean its perforated – I don’t know the best way to describe it), which I think will make them both INFINITELY more breathable than anything else in my current hat/visor collection. I insist on wearing hats or visors when I’m running in the sun, but the lack of breathability does make them a bit toasty. I’m optimistic that the design on this year’s marathon hat and visor will solve that problem.

3. I, sadly, was not able to make my annual Christmas ornament purchase from SportHooks, as they have apparently gone out of business and therefore clearly weren’t at the expo this year. I’m bummed out about it, because I’m quite proud of my SportHooks Christmas ornament collection. Instead, I bought a glass ornament from the Commemorative Merchandise booth with all of the official Bank of America Chicago Marathon non-Nike swag. I think Christmas ornaments are the best souvenir–they don’t take up much space, they’re a great way to show off your interests/experiences, and they don’t clutter up anything but your Christmas tree–so I’m glad I was able to get one for this year’s race, even if it doesn’t match the others. (You can’t really see it, but it’s on my participant shirt in the picture below, right under the Nike swoosh.)

4. The participant bag seemed light on stuff this year, though maybe I just feel that way because I didn’t buy anything but that ornament on my way out.

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I’m a HUGE fan of this year’s shirt and think it’s light years better than last year’s monstrosity. I also think this is the best poster they’ve given out since the 2013 poster. (Maybe they only have good posters on years the race is run on October 13?) You can’t see it here, but the poster is a picture of view facing south on LaSalle towards the Board of Trade and ran with the “I am” theme that the marathon apparently decided to go with this year. (“I am fearless. I am strong. I am ready.” etc.). They had that all over the participant bag, too, which was new. Usually it’s just the logo. I thought it was a nice touch, though one year too late for me, because I was all about those positive statements last year.

5. I know some people were annoyed that CARA gave you a wristband to get into the VIP Experience this year, and that they put it on you at the expo (which, if you went on Friday like I did, meant you had to wear it all day Friday and Saturday.). It didn’t bother me at all. It seems to me like checking shoe tags is probably the easiest way to go about doing things, but I wasn’t irritated by the wristband.

6. Like I said on Tuesday, maybe this is just because last year’s crowds were light due to the rain, but I thought the crowds this year were some of–if not the–best I’ve ever experienced. I’ve worn my name on my shirt every Chicago Marathon other than my first one, but I felt like I was cheered on by name way more this year than any other time. I loved it. Give me all of the encouragement! I can’t even tell you how many times I heard, “Bethany! I see you!” which was weird, getting that turn of phrase from so many different people, but I was all about it.

I also, at almost every aid station, thought the medical aid station staffers were cheering for me when in fact they were yelling that they had, “Vaseline!” which, when yelled, sounds a lot more like my name than I ever realized prior to Sunday. Ha.

7. The signage game was also on. point. this year. Honestly, looking for creative signs was basically how I survived most of the race. Some of the ones I really liked:

  •  A little girl holding a “You’re almost there!” sign around mile 4/5, while her mom (or otherwise responsible female adult) standing next to her was holding a sign with an arrow pointing to the girl that said “She’s lying.” Ha.
  • No fewer than three different, “It took the Cubs 108 years to win the World Series. Take your time.” signs. I thought it was crazy that I saw that exact phrase on three different signs?? Did they all coordinate??
  • No fewer than FOUR different, “At least you’re not at work right now!” signs. Apparently this was a banner year for running the race if you hate your job.
  • “The one where [name I forgot] runs a marathon,” and a “Run like Phoebe” sign, both in reference to Friends.
  • “You don’t have to run tomorrow!” to which I thought, “FREAKING FINALLY,” every time I saw it.

However, my top three signs were as follows:

  • #3: A life-sized cutout of the Jonas Brothers that said, “Mandie, we’re waiting for you at the finish!” I saw that around mile three and was VERY upset I didn’t see it again. I’m also upset they weren’t waiting for me at the finish, but whatever. I’ll get over it 😛
  • #2: “If Hamilton could write the other 51, you can run 26.2.” Amazing. Excellent reference. 10/10.
  • #1: “My sister is running the race but I’m here for Tyler C. #abcbachelorette” I mean, seriously. How do you top that?

I also saw approximately a million and a half “Touch here for power” signs–WAY more than usual–and sincerely appreciated the various signs that in one way or another referenced Truth Hurts, including one that just said “100% That Bitch.” Phenomenal.

8. Having not watched The Bachelorette for a few seasons, I didn’t have high hopes about recognizing any of the four former contestants running this year. In fact, I forgot that there even were former contestants running this year until I saw the aforementioned sign. When I found out there were Bachelorette contestants running the race, it suddenly became important to me that I beat all of them. I’m sad to report that I only beat one of them BUT I would like the record to show that Tyler and Dustin ran 4:45s, which is slower than my PR from last year, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. That will be a point of pride for me for the rest of my days, even if either of them ends up going on to run a much faster marathon in the future.

9. SPEAKING of celebrities at the Chicago Marathon! When I took out my phone during my post-Pilsen pre-Chinatown walk break, I saw a text from one of my friends running the race that they had seen none other than JERRY GERGICH FROM PARKS AND REC SPECTATING THE RACE. WHAT!!!!!!! I mean, technically they saw Jim O’Heir, the actor who played Jerry, since Jerry’s a character. But that’s not the point! I guess he was just before Whitney Young. I was obviously long past there by the time I saw the text, which is an argument for getting texts on my Fitbit if I ever there were one (because my friend was ahead of me, so I would’ve known to look if I had seen the text in time!), but MAN, how cool is that??? My friend got a selfie with him, and I am unspeakably jealous.

10. I was SO invested in how my runners from my training group would do during the race. I saw two of them after the race and gave them big hugs and lots of congratulations. I’m so freaking proud of them!

11. That being said, I don’t know that group leading is for me. Or perhaps more accurately, I don’t know that group leading in the situation I found myself in this year is for me. I really didn’t like being the only 11:30 group leader out of downtown, especially when, five weeks into it, I got half marathoners thrown into my group, too. I always prioritized the marathon distance over the half marathon distance, especially since I only had two half marathoners, which meant they ran the second half of their runs solo pretty much all season. I don’t think that’s the group training experience they expected or deserved, and I wish if CARA were going to offer half marathon training out of the same location at the same time as marathon training, that they’d get half marathon pacers to lead it instead of expecting the marathon group leaders to figure it out (especially when I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that I was going to be responsible for leading both a half and full marathon group at the same time). Being the only 11:30 group leader made me feel a lot of pressure, because there was never anyone to pick up the slack for me. And, let’s be honest, group leading downtown after I moved to the suburbs sucked. I knew that was going to happen when I signed up for it, but I didn’t expect to move so early in July. I thought I’d have to drive in for all of August and September (plus one week of October), and instead I had to drive in for all of July, August, and September (plus one week of October). It was a lot, and getting up at 4:05 every Saturday got very old VERY quickly.

I think one of the things that really got to me about group leading, though, was that I no longer had the illusion of choice when it came to my long runs. Was I going to show up every single week, even if I were only a participant and not a group leader? Almost certainly. I’ve never bailed on a long run for anything short of illness, injury, or a race the next day, so do I think I would’ve drug myself downtown every Saturday even if I weren’t group leading? Most likely. But as a participant, I made the choice to be there every week. As a group leader, I didn’t have that choice. I had to be there–especially since I was the only group leader for the 11:30s.

That being said, I did really like being in a mentor position and having free rein to offer unsolicited advice to my runners, so that aspect of group leading was nice. It was also nice to be invested in other people’s races on Sunday, not just my own, so it has its pros and cons.

12. I had my mind made up that I wanted to get finisher gear this year, and after trying to get some on Tuesday last year only to find everything remotely close to my size sold out online, I didn’t want to take any chances this year. I knew it would go on sale online on Saturday and planned to buy something as soon as that happened. I was super annoyed, then, when I checked the website that afternoon and they only had men’s finisher gear available. It wasn’t unisex, either – it was specifically labeled as men’s. I was so annoyed! I checked the website multiple times that day, and it kept only showing men’s finisher gear.

When I was unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep Saturday night, I decided to check the website one more time, and lo! The number of women’s items had gone up from 45 to 48! I scrolled down, and sure enough, there was the finisher’s pullover, jacket, and t-shirt. I contemplated getting the pullover, but since I already have a pullover from this year’s marathon, I opted for the jacket instead. Now I just need to make a point of, you know, wearing it. I have a 2016 finisher’s jacket that I’ve only managed to wear a handful of times because the weather never feels right for it, but maybe this one will be different. I can hope 😛

13. I was really surprised by how friendly everyone on the course seemed to be on Sunday. I’ve never experienced overt rudeness from other runners during the Chicago Marathon (or covert rudeness, for that matter), but I both elbowed and was elbowed by several people during the race. Every single time I was elbowed, the elbower apologized, and every time I elbowed someone and apologized, they didn’t seem bothered in the least. Amazing!

14. I love this.

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Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Alternately titled, “In Which Bethany Learns She is Not a Windy-Weather Runner.”

As always, I have more than enough to say about the events surrounding race day, but I’ll save that for Thursday. For now, we’ll start with Sunday morning, where I “woke up” on an air mattress in a friend’s apartment at roughly mile 25.75 of the course. I say “woke up” because waking up implies that I slept Saturday night into Sunday morning. While my Fitbit claims that I did, I personally disagree with that assertion. It took me forever to fall asleep, and once I did fall asleep I struggled to stay asleep. It was noisier than I’m used to, it was brighter than I’m used to, and I think we can all agree that air mattresses, no matter how high quality, are never a decent substitute for an actual bed. But I’ve had plenty of poor nights of sleep heading into a race day, so I wasn’t too concerned.

I was, however, concerned with my mental state. I have been in much worse moods waking up the morning before a race, but I also wasn’t as geared up and ready to go as I was last year (having to quietly prepare while my friends slept probably didn’t help). I firmly believe that my positive attitude last year was the x factor that allowed me to PR, and I was a bit worried that my lack of an excessively positive attitude (and inability to conjure one up) was going to hurt me during the race.

I originally planned to bail on the CARA VIP Experience due to the Palmer House not being nearly as convenient to the race as the Hilton, but since it was so cold, I opted to go. All of my runners were in Wave 3 while I was in Wave 2, so I didn’t expect to see any of them, but then ran into one of them when I was getting one last sip of water and saw the other three when I got off the elevator to head to the race. I was so excited to see all of them and wish them good luck. Even though three of my four runners were almost twice my age (and the fourth was I believe seven or eight years old than I am), I still felt like a proud mom seeing all of them 🙂

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I don’t know the exact Real Feel before the race started, but I’d guess that it was in the high 30s/low 40s. To that end, I wore capris, a short sleeve shirt, arm sleeves, and gloves for running (I had an earband, but getting that on/off over my visor is such a nuisance, and I never felt like I needed it while running. I looped it around my hydration belt for the duration of the race.) and layered on fleecy sweatpants, a long sleeve tech shirt, a fleecy zip-up sweatshirt, and a hat as throwaways. I also had throwaway gloves, but ultimately decided to wear my running gloves the whole time instead of the throwaway gloves, and didn’t feel like I needed an additional layer while I was waiting. Since the wind hadn’t picked up yet, I was surprisingly comfortable. I kept my throwaways on a lot longer than normal (I wore my pants, sweatshirt, and hat until about Corral B, and wore my long sleeve shirt until right before I entered the starting chute), and I have zero regrets about anything I did in the throwaway department. That might be the one thing I really, truly nailed for the race, ha.

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I was in Corral G, per usual, and lined up at the very back of it, also per usual, so I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way at the start. The 4:10 pace group decided to hang out by me (lol), and while I was standing there, a woman standing next to me said she thought she should be in a different corral, because she was hoping to run more of a 4:25/4:30 and didn’t think she’d be able to keep up with the 4:10 group. I assured her that it really didn’t matter and that the slower pace groups would catch up to her eventually, and then the two of us started chatting for the duration of the time we had before we got to the start line. I never got her name, but MarathonFoto took two pictures of us together at the start line, so naturally I looked up her in the race results. (She ran a 4:38.) I could tell from talking with her that she was obviously a lot older than I am–I guessed she was in her late 50s/early 60s, most likely–but according to her race results she’s in the 70-74 age group! WHAT! As the kids say, #goals. I think just to be out there running marathons in that age group is incredible, but to do a 4:38! She came in FIFTH in her age group, for goodness’s sake! Amazing! She’s my new inspiration. I really enjoyed chatting with her, especially when she at one point said, “You know, I really don’t like running marathons all that much, but what keeps me coming back is the training. I love the training.” Girl, same. That’s what I’ve been saying for years, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Incidentally, she also used to take a hip hop dance class (I KNOW RIGHT) and now she does Zumba NINE (!!!) times a week. When I grow up, I want to be this lady.

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Unsurprisingly, we split up the second we crossed the start line, and I was on my own. I really didn’t know what I was aiming for pace-wise. It was weird going into this race because while my training was almost perfectly identical to the training I did for last year’s PR, I really didn’t feel like I was in PR shape at all heading into Sunday. Logically, it seemed to me that if my training was exactly the same, I should be able to run exactly the same, which meant I should’ve been able to aim for 11:00 miles – or possibly even faster, since the weather was objectively better (at least at the start) this year than it was last year, with much lower humidity and much lower temperatures. While I thought I probably could run 11:00 miles, I also kind of didn’t want to run 11:00 miles, so I figured I’d go out easy and see what the yielded. What it yielded was an 11:13 mile, which I was perfectly happy with and thought I should definitely be able to hang onto for quite some time.

I saw my parents just before the Chicago River, wove my way through downtown, and as I was heading up LaSalle, started to feel some discomfort in my chest. Being me, I immediately went into a panic, terrified I was about to collapse and die of a heart attack on the course (even though you would think if I had some undiagnosed congenital heart defect, which is what tends to be responsible for younger people collapsing and dying mid-race during an endurance event, it likely would’ve made itself known sometime during my previous seven marathons). Since I’m still, you know, alive, I think it was more likely a reaction to the cold than me knocking on death’s door, since this was the first time since spring that I’ve spent any significant time exercising outside in cold air.

Regardless, that obviously didn’t do much to help my already-iffy efforts at staying positive, and I really wasn’t enjoying myself all that much. When I ran the race last year, I had a lot of success breaking the race up into 5Ks to try to use that to stay on pace, so I concentrated on getting to the 5K mark where I could check my watch and have a goal moving forward. I hit the 5K in 35:xx, a minute slower than last year but much easier for doing on-the-fly math, so my new goal was to get to the 10K mark in Lincoln Park in 1:10.

Even though I peed before leaving the Palmer House, I had to go again before I even started the race. I believe that’s happened to me other times during the Chicago Marathon and I’ve chosen to just power through, but when I got to the intersection of Fullerton and Cannon and saw zero lines for the portapotties, I decided to test the “stopping at a portapotty doesn’t make you lose that much time” theory I’ve heard thrown around plenty of times, popped into the first open one, emptied my bladder, and carried on my way. I came through mile six with a 12:09 split after doing mostly 11:15-11:25s up to that point, so now based on personal experience, I feel like I can confidently say that a bathroom break doesn’t destroy your time that much.

I stepped on the timing mat for the 10K as my watch said 1:10:59 (crushing it), which was good enough for me to believe I was still on pace (my official split for 10K is 1:11:01, but I cross my heart I saw 1:10:59 on my watch, so that’s what I’m sticking with). Even though I ran a 12:09 for mile six because I stopped in a portapotty, I was now anxious about staying on pace and ran four miles I came to regret later on in the day: a 10:30, a 10:58, an 11:03, and an 11:03. While that was, admittedly, closer to what I ideally would have liked to run on Sunday, it was a bit quicker than I believed I was capable of running, and I didn’t feel all that confident that I’d be able to keep it up for the rest of the race. Spoiler: I couldn’t.

That being said, I felt like a freaking rockstar in Boystown, which was nice. Maybe it’s because I ran through Boystown in the heaviest rain of the day during last year’s race, but it felt more energetic than I ever remember it being this year, and I loved it. Even though other parts of the course had equal energy from the crowd, this was the only part where I felt good enough to enjoy it, so this was easily the best part of my day. I even felt good enough to joke with my parents about my time when I ran past them at Broadway and Wellington (“I don’t think I’m going to break two hours!” Ha.).

I wanted to hit 15K in 1:45, so I was very happy to come through it in 1:44. Just like last year, I decided to continue setting my 5K split goals based on if I were still maintaining my starting pace rather than my new pace, so I was shooting to get to 20K in 2:20.

And then the wind picked up.

The forecast was pretty clear that we’d have some wind to contend with during the race, though after running about 10 miles that felt wind-free, I hoped that it was wrong and we’d get through the race totally unscathed. I also have spent ample time in Chicago during windy conditions (hello, all of mid-October to early-May), so I am VERY well versed in how wind acts in the city. It doesn’t matter in the least which direction the wind officially comes from once you get into areas with tall buildings. In those environments at street level, the wind comes from every direction, and coming down Wells around mile 11, I got my first taste of what a fair portion of the rest of the race would look like. I could see the wind before I encountered it, because there were tissues and other debris swirling around 40 to 50 feet in the air. My pace had been fairly consistent up to this point, but the wind really slowed me down, and I was now turning in 11:25-11:30s. One the wind settled down, though, I was back to my 11:1xs, and managed to come through 20K in exactly 2:20:00. Once again, crushing it.

My inability to do math bit me in the butt on the trip west on Adams. The wind was coming from the west southwest on Sunday, so even without buildings, Adams was a bit of a challenge. What really got to me, though, was thinking that I needed to hit 25K in 2:50, when in fact to stay on pace I needed to hit it in 2:55. I was getting more and more restless wondering when the heck the 25K mark was going to appear and how on earth I had gotten five minutes off pace, when, just before turning onto Damen, it occurred to me that I should check my math. After doing that and realizing I thought I had five fewer minutes to get to 25K than I actually had, I felt much better, and I felt even better when I hit 25K in 2:55. I wasn’t speeding up, but I wasn’t slowing down either, and that was good enough for me.

In all of my marathons, the only one where the wheels haven’t fallen off between the mile 16 mark and the mile 17 mark (assuming they hadn’t already fallen off by that point) was last year’s. I chalked all of my previous 16-mile walls up to poor nutrition, and assumed I must’ve figured out exactly what I need to do nutrition-wise to avoid the wall during last year’s race, since I never hit it. I rigidly stuck to that plan again this year, but when I lapped my watch at mile 17 and saw 11:34–my first 11:3x of the day that hadn’t been into the wind–I started to worry.

Though I was worried, I wasn’t all that surprised. Even though I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself to my limit, my legs started to feel tired somewhere in the neighborhood of mile 10–a full 10 miles before that happened last year. I don’t really know why I started to feel tired so early on. I was good about limiting my activity for the last two weeks of taper. I wonder if it was due to the cold? I’ve always felt that I thrive in cold weather, since nearly all of my PRs came on days when it was in the 40s or so, but most of those PRs have also come in mid- to late-April, when I’ve run in similar (if not colder) conditions for the past four months. Obviously, coming off a full summer of training, I’m not as accustomed to the cold right now as I am in April, and I’m curious if that has anything to do with my leg-tiredness on Sunday. I also felt physically tired from the poor night of sleep leading into the race morning, which I’m sure didn’t help at all. I also felt emotionally tired and cried (or cried as much as one can while running) several times during the race, including running down Jackson between mile 16 and 17, and I’m also sure that THAT didn’t help at all, either.

Fortunately, I knew I would see my parents on Halsted around 290, so that helped me keep going through that stretch. The crowd here was also very enthusiastic, and one girl in the crowd saw me and said, “Bethany! You’re looking great! You’re going to PR today!” I laughed and said, “No, I’m not!” to myself, because I knew I was very, very off PR pace by that point, but I appreciated her encouragement nonetheless.

It was getting harder and harder to fight the urge to walk as I turned into Little Italy, and I decided that I should probably use the aid station on Taylor Street to refill my water bottles. I hadn’t refilled them once up to that point, which is NUTS. I usually refill my water bottles two to three times during the race, and on Sunday, I only refilled them once, and it was past mile 18. So on top of everything else, I’m sure I had some dehydration issues going on, too. Anyway, I got my refill and walked to the end of the aid station, at which point I definitely knew my dreams of finishing this marathon feeling great were over. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me that much. I think I was kind of over everything by this point and really just wanted to be done.

I knew even before I got to the 30K mark just beyond Little Italy that I was no longer on pace (3:30), but I figured I’d check my watch anyway. I came through 30K in 3:31, which wasn’t that far off, but I knew I didn’t really have the energy, or, more importantly, the will to push the pace for the next just-over-seven miles.

I hoped the crowds in Pilsen would give me as much of a boost as the crowds in Boystown did, but no such luck. I was struggling. I took my last Honey Stinger chews at mile 20 and was not even a little sad to say goodbye to them. Though I’ve never had issues with Honey Stingers in the past, they were bothering my stomach from mile 10 on on Sunday. My stomach felt cramped for a fair portion of the race, though I do wonder if that’s from my nutrition/hydration or if it’s from hunching over due to the wind/cold – or some combination of the two.

The only thing really keeping me going through Pilsen/between Pilsen and Chinatown was the hope that I could still somehow sneak in under five hours. At some point during the race (I don’t remember where – maybe mile 16 or 17?) I looked at my watch and realized that as long as I could keep up an 11:30ish pace, I’d cross the finish in 4:54 – which, crucially, gave me a six-minute cushion in case I were to slow down. After mile 20, though, it seemed less and less likely that I’d be able to pull that off. I came through mile 20 in 3:48, which meant I’d need to do the last 10K in under 1:12 to break five hours. If I were still doing my 11:15s from earlier, that would’ve been perfectly reasonable. By this point, however, my mile splits were more in the 12:30 range, so I was pretty sure I didn’t have a prayer at finishing in under 5:00.

Because of that, I decided to walk a little bit on Cermak. For the first time ever, I took out my phone to see how everyone I was tracking was doing. The app still predicted a 4:58 finish for me when I checked my phone, which kind of motivated me to push harder, but this was also a pretty good distance past the 30K mark where the app took my last split. A lot had gone wrong since that point, so I didn’t think it was all that accurate anymore. That being said, if I wasn’t going to break 5:00, I didn’t want it to be because I gave up on myself, so I started running again and actually felt a lot more energized after my little phone/walk break.

That energy didn’t last long, and I was hurting again once we got out of Chinatown. I knew my parents would be right before mile 23, so I made sure to be running and smiling when I passed them, even though I didn’t really feel like it. I was just really over it by then and mostly wanted to be done.

I took one more walk break around 35th Street to eat some more pretzels, and then shuffled my way through the rest of the race. Getting to mile 24 and knowing I only had two more miles to go was a huge relief, but I swear the distance between the “one mile to go” and “800 meters to go” signs was MUCH longer this year than it was last year 😛 I was race-crying again by this point, which only got worse as I turned onto Roosevelt (though I did force myself to stop crying on Roosevelt, because it made breathing so difficult). I was weepy the whole way down Columbus and cried as I crossed the finish line. For the first time ever (!), I didn’t stop my watch the second I crossed the timing mat, prioritizing having triumphant finish line pictures over getting a perfect time on my watch since the race would obviously have an official time for me anyway.

I finished in 5:07:32, putting 2019 in the #5 spot on Bethany’s All-Time Marathon Finishes list (by mere seconds: my 2016 Chicago Marathon was a 5:07:49). For those of you keeping score at home, that does make this one of my slowest marathons, but like I said two paragraphs ago, I was so over it that I genuinely didn’t care. I had told my family I thought I’d be able to finish in under 5:10, which I did, and that was good enough for me.

I kind of kept it together emotionally through the finisher’s chute, at least until I got my medal. I wasn’t expecting that to be the moment everything hit me, but it was, and I was an absolute mess. Another medal volunteer saw me, reached out, grabbed my arm, and gave me the most genuine, “You did it!” I’ve ever received, which was very touching. Yes I did, medal volunteer. I did it eight times in seven years. I did it for almost all of my 20s. I did it in everything from 4:42 to 5:25, I did it in Chicago and the far western suburbs, and I did it in heat and sun and cold and rain and wind. I ran 209.6 miles worth of marathons – 209.6 more than I ever would have imagined I would run 10 years ago. Hopefully I’ll add a few more to that tally in the future (my legacy entry will be good for Chicago through 2025), but for now, I’m hanging up my (full distance) marathon shoes, proud of and satisfied with what I’ve accomplished.

As I said every time we left a water station during this summer’s training runs: onward.

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Chicago Marathon Training Week 18

Sunday, October 6: Strength training – legs + 57 minutes bike
My scheduled called for a much longer cross training workout than I expected on Sunday! I took it exceptionally easy to compensate. First, I did my strength training workout at 25 percent of my usual load (thank goodness the gym has three pound weights!), and then I wrapped up my 75 minutes of exercise on the bike, where my heart rate was lower than it usually is on my lunch time walks. This week is all about using exercise to stay sane rather than using it to build fitness, though, and I could feel my anxiety levels come down as soon as I started working out. That’s always nice!

Monday, October 7: 5 miles in 57:02 for an 11:24 pace (AM) + strength training – upper body (PM)
It was super cold Monday morning (in the high 40s), and I was feeling anxious about the marathon (surprise, surprise), so I had to make a conscious effort to not let either one of those things speed me up like they normally can. With an overall 11:24 pace, I think my efforts were pretty successful. I must admit, I’m not going to miss these morning runs. I would if the sun still came up around 5:30 or 6:00 every morning, but with sunrise inching closer and closer to 7:00, it’s getting harder for me to get in a run with daylight and get to work at a decent hour. That was something I didn’t consider when I decided to start running in the morning!

Once again, shoutout to the three pound weights at the gym, which were my go-tos during Monday’s workout. I used three pound weights for everything except rows – for those, I stepped it up to the five pound weights. I know. I hope bragging about the weights I’m using this week doesn’t make me seem less relatable.

Tuesday, October 8: Dance
I was on the fence about whether or not to go to dance, but (obviously) decided to go and put forth, like, 33 percent effort. Any time I felt like I was working too hard, that I was too out of breath, that my muscles felt like they were doing too much, I dialed it back. I did the routine we learned full out (and even then, only like 80 percent out) once in the entire class, which felt like a perfectly sufficient amount for a couple days out from the marathon.

Wednesday, October 9: Strength training – legs + 13 minutes bike
I didn’t have time to do a two-a-day on Thursday, so I combined my strength training and cross training into one workout, per my usual Sunday routine. I accomplished great feats of strength like deadlifting six pounds twelve times in a row, and then somehow found the endurance to get through 13 minutes on level one on the bike, every now and again breaking 60 RPM.

Thursday, October 10: 2 miles in 22:12 for an 11:06 pace
For the first time ever, my Garmin spit out a weird map for a run I did in the suburbs. Sad face. So it’s possible that my pace isn’t 100 percent accurate here, but that’s fine. I almost certainly could’ve done my traditional pre-marathon two miler in the afternoon, but I’ve come to enjoy watching the sun rise on my runs, so I got up WAY later than I’ve ever gotten up for a morning run, knocked out two miles, and dove into my work day. I managed to not cry, despite feeling particularly reflective over the past 18 weeks/six years, which felt like no small victory.

Friday, October 11: Rest

Saturday, October 12: Rest

Thursday Things

1. Um, guys.

sundayforecast

Help.

I’ve run seven marathons, and none of them have had a forecast even remotely close to this one. I don’t have the exact weather stats from when I ran Fox Valley, but the Chicago Marathon conveniently publishes the daily high and low from each race day in its media guide. According to that, I’ve run the Chicago Marathon in the following conditions:

2013: High of 64, low of 47
2014: High of 64, low of 45
2015: High of 79, low of 53
2016: High of 62, low of 48
2017: High of 80, low of 56
2018: High of 63, low of 57

You can’t see it because the details cover it up, but the predicted temperatures for Sunday are a high of 52, low of 39 (and a 20 percent chance of rain, but I’m not too worried about that right now).

While I’m not upset about the forecast for Sunday, I am concerned about the forecast for Sunday, because I don’t have a CLUE what to wear. I’ve never run farther than 13.1 miles in this sort of weather!

Right now, I’m leaning towards the outfit I wore for my half marathon PR in April, when (according to my Garmin’s weather stats), it was 40 degrees and overcast. That day, I wore a short sleeved shirt, arm sleeves (which eventually came off), and capris. I think that will be okay for Sunday? I might also add a disposable pullover that I can throw away mid-run if necessary. My real concern is capris vs. shorts. I normally wear shorts if it’s 50 degrees or warmer, which, problematically, it seems like it might be at the end of the race, but not the beginning of the race. Figures. That being said, the forecast is also calling for more wind than normal (i.e.: wind at all), and that will keep it feeling colder than the mercury says…and hopefully counteract the sun, which is my real concern in the capri/temperature department. If it were going to be 50, windy, and overcast, I’d feel better about capris than if it’s going to be 50, windy, and sunny. Though I suppose it’s also worth remembering that I was never going to win this thing outright anyway, so perhaps my concerns about dressing perfectly for changing conditions is…unnecessary. It’s not like it would be the first time I was uncomfortably warm during a marathon.

My other concern is chafing/discomfort, of course. I’ve never even had the opportunity to test anything other than a tank top and shorts at anything longer than 14 miles, so I certainly haven’t done a 20 miler wearing those clothes. I’m pretty sure the capris will be fine. I’m more concerned about my short sleeve shirt and its chafing potential, but if I lather up on Aquaphor under my arms, hopefully it’ll be okay?

On the bright side, I probably don’t have to worry about getting a racerback tan line at the race this year!

2. This whole post is probably going to be marathon themed, just FYI.

Ugh, I am a MESS, folks. My messiness started last Saturday, and it’s only getting worse as time goes on. This is (for real this time!) my last Chicago Marathon for awhile, and I’m not handling it well.

I did a visualization session (on my own, not with a sports therapist this time) on Wednesday to try to get my head in the game for Sunday, and by the time I visualized myself in Little Italy I was in tears. By the time I visualized myself in Chinatown, I was full-on ugly crying. By the time I visualized myself at the finish line, I was practically inconsolable.

I know I can’t run Chicago next year. Too much about the next year of my life is way too up in the air to commit to doing a race 11 and a half months ahead of time. Honestly, I likely wouldn’t know if I could run the race until about a month before, at which point it is obviously WAY too late to START training for a marathon, not to mention way too late to register for Chicago, period. I knew this was going to happen at some point, but even as it became clear that “some point” was no longer some nebulous imaginary time in the way-far-away future, it’s still hard to wrap my head around “some point” being “Sunday.”

At the risk of sounding overdramatic, the Chicago Marathon has been the defining event of my post-college life. Sure, plenty of other major life events have happened in that time, but the Chicago Marathon has been my reliable point of reference through all of it. No matter what job I had, no matter where I lived, no matter what other extracurriculars I involved myself in, my participation in the Chicago Marathon stayed the same. When making decisions like where to live or what job to take, one of my top considerations has always been, “How will this impact my ability to stick to my marathon training schedule?” Which is insane! I’m lucky to run a marathon in under five hours, and I act like an elite athlete whose livelihood depends on successfully completing a marathon. But it’s important to me, and that’s what makes knowing this time is the last time (at least for awhile) so emotional. Since I got involved in the marathon, I’ve never not cared about the marathon. I’ve never not cared too much about the marathon, really.

So I think Sunday is going to be tough for me. I’m always sad when marathon season ends, but in the past, I’ve always been able to temper that sadness by reminding myself that I’ll be back at it next summer. That’s not the case this time around.

I hope to continue being involved in the marathon in some capacity moving forward, specifically through volunteering in whatever capacity makes the most sense for me at the time. But even so, it’s tough to see this chapter of my life come to a close, and I should probably stash some tissues in my hydration belt on Sunday.

3. Three days out from race day and I still, truly, do not have a time goal for Sunday. I keep trying to come up with one for appearance’s sake, but it feels like you’re supposed to have a time goal in mind, but I honestly have nothing. Even when I was doing my visualization session on Wednesday, when I really needed to have a time goal in mind to help the visualizing process along, I felt totally “meh” about the times I saw on my watch in my mind’s eye. I could barely conjure them up, in fact.

Part of it is that I genuinely have NO CLUE how fast I’m capable of running a cold marathon. I’ve always thought that I could run a lot faster if it’s cold, but I also could barely hang onto an 11:45 pace all summer on my long runs, so who knows! The past two cold weeks, I’ve done closer to an 11:15 pace, so maybe that’s reasonable? That would be a 4:54 marathon. I’d be perfectly fine with that. I guess if I really HAD to pick a time goal, I would like to go sub-5:00. I prefer to go sub-5:00 in general. Anything after that is icing on the cake at this point. PRing would be cool, of course, and if I feel like that’s physically possible, maybe I’ll go for it. At the end of the day, I really just want to be happy with how I run the race. As long as I can cross the finish line satisfied with my effort, it’ll have been a successful day.