Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

Sunday, September 21: 20.25 miles in 3:37:04 for a 10:43 pace.

After feeling lousy all day Friday and for the majority of the day Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up feeling just fine (albeit nervous) for my 20 miler Sunday morning. I went through my normal pre-run routine, made sure I had everything, and headed to the Wilson parking lot for CARA’s 20 miler.

The run started out just fine. I didn’t see my running buddy from the past couple of weeks, but I found another one of my friends with no trouble, so we partnered up and took off with the group. My friend hadn’t been at the run the week before, so we had a whole 14 days worth of life to catch up on which gave us plenty of talking material for the first portion of the run. While we were chatting, the two girls running in front of us popped in on our conversation. These girls had met each other during a Ragnar and clearly bonded over the experience, since they decided to run Chicago together this year. Get this: neither girl lives in Chicago. One lives in Atlanta and the other lives in Texas, and they both came up to Chicago just to do the 20 miler. I couldn’t believe it!

The first seven or eight miles totally flew by (have I mentioned how much I love having running buddies? I love having running buddies. Game changers, you guys.). When we got around Castaways, however, things started to head south for me. Though “officially” we were running a 10:30 pace, in reality that 10:30 pace looked a whole lot more like a 10:15-10:20 pace, which may not sound like a whole lot, but let me tell you: it’s a whole lot. It particularly becomes a whole lot during the Concrete Section of Hell, aka the segment of the trail between Castaways and Navy Pier where there is concrete, lake, sand, and uninhibited, brutal sunshine. I loathe that section of the trail under the best of circumstances, and a 10:15 pace on a not-cold day is not at all the best of circumstances. I managed to stay with the group through the aid station at Randolph (about mile 10.25/mile 10.5), at which point I threw in the towel and let them go on ahead without me. I got laid up at the station refilling my water bottles and didn’t want to put forth the effort to catch up with the group, so I didn’t. This didn’t seem like the worst idea in the world at the time, but once I no longer had the company of my friends, I also no longer had anyone to talk me off the mental edge other than myself, and, well, we all should know by now how well THAT usually turns out (not well at all). I got progressively grumpier and grumpier as I got progressively slower and slower and kept thinking all sorts of great thoughts like, “Running is terrible,” and “I hate this.” I was getting super annoyed with my time and actually considered taking off my watch, which is something I’ve never thought about doing, but ultimately opted to leave it on to keep me on track with fueling (the course had mile markers, but for whatever reason my watch marked each mile .25 miles before every sign. I don’t know why — last year on this exact same course my watch measured a perfect 20.00, so I imagine something funky was going on with my Garmin).

So I’m plodding along, hating life and the majority of the decisions that led me to this point, when I come across the girl from Texas who had been running in front of me many miles ago. She’s walking, so I offer her a word of encouragement, and much to my surprise, she starts running next to me, and all of a sudden I have a running buddy again! And not just any kind of running buddy — a veritable stranger running buddy! Do you know how much easier it is to come up with talking points when you’ve never met a person before in your life? I can’t ask my normal CARA running buddies about their jobs, where they live, how they ended up here, etc. anymore, because we’ve long since gotten past that basic conversation. But not so with this girl from Texas!

Now, don’t be fooled: I met up with this girl somewhere in mile 14 but continued to hate my life and decisions up until mile 19. I particularly hated my life around mile 16, where my running buddy and I took a walk break that made my knee (which had felt totally fine up to that point, btw) SCREAM with pain. Literally could not bend my knee. I could run without pain, but I couldn’t walk to save my life, which was a problem, because endurance-wise I felt so exhausted that all I wanted to do was walk. We took a couple more walk breaks through mile 19, at which point we exchanged attitudes, and my new friend was ready to check out mentally while I was suddenly like, “LET’S DO THIS. WE ARE GOING TO KILL THIS LAST MILE. Also, would you like to hear about my knowledge of Chicago geography?”

We finished in 3:37, which, in the cruelest twist of fate, is the exact same time it took me to run the 20 miler last year *bangs head against wall*. I’m pretty irked by that, to be honest, because by and large this entire season has been SO much faster for me than last season, and I really expected to have a much better time on this year’s 20.

Because I know you’re all interested in overanalyzing my 20 miler as much as I am, a side-by-side comparison between 2013 and 2014:


I just don’t know entirely what to make of this. On the one hand, I don’t know if it’s worth putting any stock in my Garmin stats, since I really think my GPS was wrong. By my Garmin, however, I ran a 10:22 average pace for the first 10 miles this year (10:33 last year) and an 11:04 average pace on the last 10 miles (11:13 last year). So that’s somewhat reassuring. The 9:44 for the last .25 this year also encourages me. AND last year I didn’t take any walk breaks, whereas this year I did…I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW. What I do know is that I’m not really thrilled with how things went for me on the 20 miler, and I’m just hoping the idea I heard over and over again in my band days that a bad dress rehearsal translates to a good performance applies to marathoning as much as it applies to concerts.

Monday, September 22: Physical Therapy.
Oh, my knee, you guys. I still couldn’t walk normally/bend my knee on Monday, and much grimacing ensued during my PT appointment (though I did, once again, get out of having to do exercises as a result! Haha. Silver linings, people.). I felt better after my PT did some work on it (i.e.: I could walk), but he told me absolutely no running until I could go down stairs without pain, which was not at all the case on Monday.

I knew from past experience that sitting at my desk all day with my legs bent did my knee no favors, so I rigged up this classy situation:


which sadly did not help my knee at all. Well, maybe it did. It didn’t get worse, at least, even if it didn’t get better.

Tuesday, September 23: Dance.
I am obSESSED with our Beyoncé hip hop routine, you guys. Ob.Sessed. It’s so sick and I LOVE IT. Breakdance, on the other hand, was misery. My arm, which had been doing better, did not react will to breakdance once again, and I spent a fair portion of the class pouting in the corner.

Wednesday, September 24: 4(ish) miles in 41:24 for 10:20(ish) pace + PT.
I could finally bend my knee fully again on Wednesday and stairs didn’t bother me anymore, so I went out for what I intended to be a five miler but turned into a four miler. My Garmin took a billion and a half years to find a satellite signal, but I didn’t have a billion and a half years to spare, so eventually I took off running while my Garmin continued to search for a signal. I think I probably ran closer to 4.25 miles when it was all said and done. My knee was a little twingey, plus I was super short on time, so I opted to just do four miles instead of five. I was also really worked up and breathing wasn’t quite as easy as it sometimes is, so all the more reason to do four, I figured.

After my run (and the fastest shower known to man, since it had been, ahem, awhile since I had last showered…), I went to PT. I didn’t get out of exercises that time around, but overall it was a good PT appointment. I also gained some more IT band decorations.


Yeah. This is what I walk out of PT looking like probably 80% of the time. And he wonders why I grimace…

Thursday, September 25: Personal Training.
I exercised this time! Hooray! Haha. After last week’s emotionally charged vent/tennis ball session, it was nice to actually, you know, do things this week. We focused primarily on core and leg work to make sure to not aggravate my arm at all. We did this one exercise where my trainer put what looked like an overgrown resistance band around my waist and had me side-step away from him while he pulled back on the band, which was totally new to me and I really liked! (Even though it probably looked really weird to everyone else in the gym haha.)

I also went to my sports doctor on Thursday to get a second opinion on my arm, and this time was diagnosed with impingement syndrome and a pectoral strain, which could be a result of weak shoulders. “The treatment plan is two-fold,” my doctor said. Oh no… I thought. “First, we want to get rid of the inflammation, so I’ll write you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory,” Here it comes…, I thought, “and second we need to strengthen your shoulder, so I’ll add that onto your current PT treatment.”


So I guess I only get to dump one of my fake boyfriends (the Chicago Marathon) after October 12, not both of them. When I e-mailed my PT to tell him what was up, I told him I should probably look into buying stock in the PT company, since I seemed to be doing such a good job of keeping them in business 😛 The handout the doctor gave me said all this business usually clears up with six weeks of treatment, which, for those of you keeping score at home, will put me at 20 straight weeks of physical therapy (assuming week one of shoulder treatment starts next week) and will make it so I’ve been in PT for nine of the past 12 months. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL MY LIFE IS A JOKE 😐

Friday, September 26: Rest.

Saturday, September 27: 12.05 miles in 2:09:56 for a 10:47 pace.
I was a little nervous heading into Saturday’s run that my knee would give out on me, but fortunately it held up the whole time without much whining — at least not enough to make me feel like I needed to stop. It was HOT on Saturday (for September 27, at least, and compared to the past few weeks), so the Concrete Section of Hell (which I never have to run again during this marathon season heeeeeeeyyyyyy! 😀 ) was misery on the way out. Fortunately it wasn’t *quite* so unbearable on the way back, probably because one of my group leaders talked at me the whole time haha.

At the turnaround, my running buddy mentioned that she was struggling, and when I checked in with her a few miles later, she still wasn’t feeling super strong. I asked her if she needed to slow down, but she said she could wait until the last aid station, so we ran with the group to that point and then hung back as they all took off. We walked for a quarter mile so she could regroup, then ran for about two miles, walked for probably .15 miles, and then ran the rest of the way, with all of our running being at more of an 11:00 pace than a 10:30. I personally was feeling quite dandy, but I figured it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to take it easy for the sake of my knee. Even more so, having definitely been in that I’m-struggling boat before, and the times I’ve had someone slow down to stick with me while I was struggling meant THE WORLD to me, so I figured it was the least I could do. Plus I have to talk someone’s ear off during the run 😉

I did skip my 8 mile run this week, but no love lost. My PT told me I had to pick between the 8 miler and my 12 miler on Saturday, so obviously I choose the 12. Taper is about to get real real, and I only have one more official training run left with my group 😦 Let’s not talk about how sad that makes me…

13 thoughts on “Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

  1. I would say you are faster than last year, based on your faster last 11 miles (11:10/mile vs. 11:00/mile). I tend to focus more on my splits over the last half of a long run, since this will be a good gauge of how I will hold pace the last 10 or 11 miles of the marathon. Both this and last year it looks like you may have started too fast and then faded on the last half, however, not as much as last year. This probably indicates that you may need to start slower and gradually pick up the pace during the marathon. Hope your knee feels better and good luck!

  2. I so agree with you on the Concrete Section of Hell. Not to mention that a lot of the path, especially around Oak Street Beach, is tilted. I am sure that this was designed to prevent standing water from the lake, but it wreaks havoc when you’re trying to run! In any event – congratulations on completing your peak 20-miler and welcome to your taper! So glad that your knee got better towards the end of the week.

    Also, I don’t really put a lot of stock in comparing any single long runs from one year to the next. My running varies so much just on a day-to-day basis, let alone from one year to the next. So the fact that your 20-miler was done in the same time this year vs last year does not necessarily correlate with how your training is progressing, maddening as it is. Plus, this is not to mention that you’ve been dealing with a lot more injury issues this year than last year. That’s a big consideration!

    • Yes! And the part of the path that isn’t tilted is so beat up it’s like putting your life on the line, especially since the non-tilted/beat up part is right next to the lake!

      And thank you for that reassurance. I was definitely feeling pretty down on myself in regards to the 20 miler, but there are SO many factors that can affect how any one run goes. While it’s one thing to look at patterns over time, the same benefit probably doesn’t exist in just looking at two specific runs one year apart.

  3. The Concrete Section of Hell! Great way to put it. I mean, it’s one of the most beautiful views in the world (especially running south) BUT you’re right – it’s a nightmare, logistics-wise. You and your PT must be best friends at this point haha and while I know it’s a pain in the butt it really shows how much you love and are dedicated to running and fitness. So many people would have given up by now – so I commend you for that!

    • Oh yeah, the views along there are to die for. Unfortunately, it’s hard to enjoy them when you feel like you are actually dying haha. Seriously, though: I have referred to my PT as my best friend more than once hahaha. I do see him more often than my best friends! (sad but true) 😛

  4. Congrats on your 20-miler! Even if it was the same time as last year it’s still an awesome time and I mean at least you aren’t getting slower, right!? With the adrenaline and excitement on race day you will for sure be faster. I can’t believe our marathons are in less than 2 weeks!! Where did the time go?!

  5. Congrats again on the 20 miler and welcome to the taper! You should be proud of every run 🙂 Although I know I know, easier said than done. My biggest downer during this training cycle has been the mental comparisons of my current pace to last year’s when I was training for a half marathon. It’s sometimes difficult to grasp the idea that I can’t run nearly as fast as before, but so many factors come into play that I force myself to push those negative thoughts away. At least we’re out there running, right?!

    Looks like you and I both have battle wounds (i.e. bruises, so many bruises) from marathon training recovery methods! Foam rolling always bruises my shins and calves…it ain’t pretty, especially in the summer.

    • You’re definitely right, Irina — finishing any run is something to be proud of, no matter what the time. Just getting out there is totally an accomplishment 🙂

      Ah, the bruises. I’ve had two people comment on mine in the past two days haha. My PT must have really beat me up on Wednesday, since my bruises are still there! Normally they go away within a couple of days, but not this time. He’s so mean 😛

  6. Pingback: Chicago Marathon Training Week 16 | accidental intentions

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