Chicago Marathon Training Week 15

Sunday, September 9: 90 minutes cross training (35 minutes stability/flexibility + 55 minutes bike)
Sunday’s workout was my longest cross training session of the season. I don’t want to phone it in too much during peak week, but I will admit that I took the easy route on this workout, starting off with Runner Flexibility (basically just 15 minutes of stretching) and Runner Stability from the NTC app before hopping on the bike. My primary objective on the bike was getting through as much of my book as possible (I slacked off on reading big time during week 14), so biking intensity took a back seat to reading intensity. Getting things off to a great start in the “not phoning it in” department ๐Ÿ˜›

Monday, September 10: Strength training – legs (AM) + 10 miles in 1:48:15 for a 10:49 pace
Monday morning was a much better example of me trying to not phone it in during peak week. This is the last week I expect to challenge myself to use heavier weights than I’ve used in previous weeks, and unsurprisingly, that made my workout a bit tougher than sometimes! I was able to get through everything, but I did have to spend more time recovering than some other weeks.

I logged my last weekday 10 miler of this training cycle Monday afternoon. The weather was substantially nicer than it’s been for most of marathon season, which helped me run a bit quicker than usual. I’m glad I was able to put in 10 miles at close to marathon pace without feeling like I was putting in too much effort. That helped my confidence a little. The last mile was a bit tough, though, and something about this run in general was just draining. I had a lot on my mind, which I’m sure didn’t help, but when I got home I felt way more exhausted and sore than I expected (or wanted) to feel.

Monday’s Mid-Run Bird Watching Report: I saw my second-ever Red-breasted Nuthatch searching for an early supper about two miles into my run. The only other place I’ve ever seen a Red-breasted Nuthatch was at the Grand Canyon (or at least, that’s the only other place I’ve seen one and been aware of it), so that was a huge and very exciting surprise! I stopped to take terrible iPhone pictures, but if you’d like to see what the bird actually looks like, I recommend my post about the aforementioned spotting at the Grand Canyon, or All About Birds.

Tuesday, September 11: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
Tuesday’s strength training workout had me doing more reps than I’m used to, which made the workout a bit challenging. I wasn’t able to up the weights like I wanted to due to the higher reps, which bummed me out even though it shouldn’t have, because I’m sure it all more or less evens out (lower weight + higher reps vs. higher weight + lower reps), especially since my goal is to build overall strength to help carry me through 26.2 miles, not get ripped.

We lost one person from dance, which now brings our grand total down to four. After class, the only remaining new person asked my teacher if there was a beginner class option, to which he was like, “…this is the beginner class,” so we’ll see how long we stay at four people. I don’t blame her for asking, though: the combo we learned on Tuesday was NUTS. It moves really fast and, to complicate things further, reverted to my teacher’s preferred method of choreography, which is using movement to highlight subtle sounds in the music rather than sticking to normal eight counts. I get why he does that, but it is SO much harder to learn choreography (for me, at least) to “move when this noise happens” rather than “move on four.” I had a hard time keeping up, so I’m not at all surprised that someone who’s never taken a hip hop class before had a hard time keeping up. I’m also getting to the time of year when I worry at all times that I’m going to hurt myself in dance and not be able to do the marathon, further impeding my ability to learn.

Wednesday, September 12: 5.82 miles in 1:00:56 for a 10:28 pace
I did my longest tempo run of training on Wednesday, and I think it went fairly well. It’s hard to know for sure, since my watch had no idea what was going on (it thought I ran a 3:36 first mile. Okay.). I felt like I did a good job of gradually increasing my pace to the middle of the run, and I know I did a good job of gradually decreasing my pace after the middle of the run, since my GPS was working by that point.

Wednesday’s Mid-Run Bird Watching Report: I briefly stopped during the second half of my fastest part of the run because I spotted an American Coot! Oh man, was that exciting! I had never seen an American Coot before, which means I’ve now added TWO birds to my life list in less than a week (the Sanderlings from last Saturday’s long run being the other birds). American Coots are super interesting birds. You might think it’s a duck–the family with a small child along the lakefront sure did, as they kept calling “Duck! Come here, duck!” an in effort to get it to swim closer–but it’s not. They don’t even have webbed feet! Their feet really are something, and I definitely recommend looking up a picture if you’re interested. In case that wasn’t all fascinating enough, American Coots literally run on water to get airborne. There’s a good picture of it on All About Birds (linked above). How crazy!! Anyway, I do not in the least bit regret taking a short break during what should’ve been the hardest effort of my run to see this bird. I would 100 percent stop during the marathon to check out a bird if I thought it was a new one for my life list, even if it meant sacrificing my time goals. Birds first, running second. ALSO, there have only been two other American Coot sightings in Chicago all migration season, according to eBird, AND both eBird and Merlin said that American Coots are “uncommon” for this location at this time of year. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT! A! FIND!!

Thursday, September 13: Strength training – legs (AM) + 60 minutes bike (PM)
I had barbell squats on my list of to-dos for Thursday, but when I got to the gym, the trainer was using the barbell for his Thursday morning client. Instead of using dumbbells like I normally would’ve done, I rearranged my exercises to do other ones first, and when I finished those, was a big girl and actually asked the trainer if he was done using it so I could use it. Only took 13 weeks of showing up at the gym three mornings per week to finally work up the confidence to ask others about using equipment they appeared to be using, haha. (His client still had one more round on the barbell, so I did planks until they were done.) Shout out to my determination to get in three solid strength training workouts during peak week for trumping my usual desire to not bother anyone at the gym.

I returned to the gym Thursday afternoon for an hour long bike ride. I wrapped up my latest library book (My Antonia, which I read because I felt like it was one of those books I was supposed to have been required to read somewhere along my English major but never was. I ended up loving it! I thought it was so beautifully written and was quite disappointed that it had to end.) and then dove into Let Your Mind Run, which I bought with some pre-birthday money that had been earmarked specifically for that purpose (lesson learned: complain loudly enough to the right people close to your birthday about the fact that you won’t be able to get a library book you desperately want to read prior to the marathon, and you might just get money to buy said book. Ha.). I’m enjoying it so far, and it was a helpful way to stay motivated on the bike.

Friday, September 14: Rest

Saturday, September 15: Rest

 

Technically, peak week isn’t over yet. As of this writing (on Friday), I still have a 20 miler to complete. Peak week not only brings the highest mileage of training, but also magically makes a week last eight days instead of seven ๐Ÿ˜› I am happy with how this part of peak week went, at least. I change my mind on how I plan to approach the 20 miler every time I think about it, and the forecast is only okay, so I don’t really know what to expect out of the run on Sunday. Hilariously, a 3:37 20 miler works out to a 10:51 pace, and I am all about those 3:37 20 milers (in case you don’t remember, which I don’t expect that you would, my first three 20 milers were all done in 3:37), so who knows! Maybe I’ll return to my 3:37 20 miler ways, end up logging a 20 miler at marathon goal pace, and walk away 100 percent convinced that I can do a 4:45 marathon. I’m not really counting on it, but crazier things have happened (like, you know, running a 3:37 20 miler three years in a row), so we’ll see how Sunday shakes out.

 

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Thursday Things

1. I went to my first concert at Wrigley Field on Saturday, and boy was it a good one.

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(This picture doesn’t show it well, but I loved what they did with the flags on either side of the marquee. For baseball games, they hang flags of each team playing on either side of the marquee, but for the concert, they had special Fall Out Boy at Wrigley Field flags instead. I thought that was so cool!)

As soon as I heard Fall Out Boy was playing Wrigley, I knew I had to get tickets. How could I not? I’ve loved Fall Out Boy for years, so I certainly wasn’t going to miss their hometown show of the MANIA tour at Wrigley Field of all places. It was, unsurprisingly, amazing.

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I love how much Fall Out Boy loves Chicago, and it was so apparent that they were having a great time during the show. I also appreciated the various Chicago touches during the show, like the lighting during Lake Effect Kid:

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Light blue, red, and white: aka, the colors of the Chicago flag.

But their were plenty of other Chicago moments, too, like them playing Chicago is So Two Years Ago (which isn’t on the setlist for this tour), Patrick Stump wearing a Cubs hat, Pete Wentz wearing a customized Cubs jersey at the end of the show, them taking a picture of themselves with the crowd with the WORLD SERIES TROPHY *heart eye emoji*, and, during the intro to Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy, Patrick reminiscing about how he wrote that song in his apartment at Roscoe and Hoyne, and he and Pete would run by Wrigley Field during that time.

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Of course, nothing, not even a show at Wrigley Field, could top seeing Fall Out Boy at the Metro five years ago. Seeing a band of that caliber at a venue of that size (i.e.: small) will likely forever be my favorite concert experience. But Saturday night was a good runner-up ๐Ÿ™‚

2. I continued my Fall Out Boy-ing on Sunday with a trip to The MANIA Experience.

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The MANIA Experience was one of those…uh, experiential things that are cool these days: things like Happy Place or wndr that basically exist for the sole purpose of taking cool pics for the ‘gram. I’ll be honest: I don’t entirely understand why these sorts of things are necessary (perhaps because I don’t have Instagram, and therefore do not have a need to curate an Instagram ~aesthetic~), but the MANIA Experience was free, so I figured I didn’t have anything to lose.

There were about eight or so spaces in the MANIA Experience, each inspired by a different song off the MANIA album (with the exception of the bathroom, which was inspired by the Lake Effect Kid EP).

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“I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color,” is my favorite line from the entire MANIA record (even though it’s actually a line from The Addams Family), not because I relate to it in any way, but because it is so deliciously emo: so emo that it feels ironic, like a caricature of what Fall Out Boy and the entire genre of emo music used to be rather than a genuine expression. I don’t think anyone who grew up listening to emo music in the mid 2000s would try to argue that Fall Out Boy’s newer music is even half as emo as it used to be–and I think for those of us for whom emo music formed the soundtrack of our high school careers (*raises hand as a proud teen of the ’00s*), that’s not only understandable, but ideal. It’s been thirteen years since 2005, after all, and I would hope that most of us, including the bands we listened to, have grown out of our angst since then. We’re not teenagers being taken for a ride by our raging hormones anymore, are no longer under the impression that we’re the only people in the world who have ever felt things, and no longer need music that taps into that sense of how no one could possibly understand anything we’re feeling. (Or at least that’s the case for me, and seems to be the case for most of my peers that I know. Like, I cannot TELL YOU how directly I related to Simple Plan’s Perfect at the ripe age of 12, whereas today, just reading the lyrics makes me cringe with embarrassment.) Anyway, all that to say that I’ve grown up, Fall Out Boy’s grown up, but I nevertheless appreciate their, in my opinion, tongue-in-cheek reference to the genre that started it all nearly 20 (yikes) years later.

That being said, it amuses me to no end how many teenagers showed up at the MANIA Experience, tortured by their abundance of emotions, acting like they’ve been ride or die Fall Out Boy fans since the band’s inception back in 2001, literally before they were born. Okay.

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The absolute craziest thing about the MANIA Experience, though, was the fact that I ended up walking out of it with a free pair of Vans (?!!?!). I got a stamp on my hand when I went in that said “SECRET,” and apparently that entitled me to a free pair of, according to Google, $55 shoes. I’m not sure why I got that stamp, and based on what I saw on Twitter, I think this was only something that happened to those of us who went on Sunday (but I’m not sure), but I’m happy to accept free shoes in my favorite color.

themaniaexperience-vans

Though I do have to say that nothing made me feel old and less emo than my immediate reaction to trying them on, which was, “These don’t have any arch support! When could I ever wear these?!” Please, try to not be intimidated by my coolness.

3. I once again neglected to inform you all of my exciting bird sighting during my training recap post on Monday! Get it together, Bethany!

The strong winds on Saturday drove a bunch of birds onto the shores of Lake Michigan (as in, I ran past multiple clusters of 100+ seagulls. And I do mean that literally: I counted them). About a mile or so into the run, I saw three little birds scurrying around and promptly lost my mind, as I am apt to do (to the point where my group leader was like, “Do you need to stop to take a picture?” Hahahaha. My life.). I had never seen them before, so I looked them up when I got home, and it turned out that they were Sanderlings! I think they were juveniles, but I’m not 100 percent sure. My crummy iPhone pictures make it hard to tell. Regardless, I was so excited to see them! They breed up near the Arctic Circle, so those little creatures had made quite the journey to get all the way down to Chicago! They were total cuties, and definitely the highlight of an otherwise relatively unpleasant (due to the wind) run.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 14

Sunday, September 2: 30 minutes cross training (circuit)
I was with family for most of Labor Day weekend and didn’t have access to a gym, nor did I have a spare 85 minutes on Sunday to do the workout I originally hoped to do. NTC’s Zero to 100 in a living room had to get to the job done. Even though it’s one of my favorites, I haven’t done that workout since January, so it was nice to go through it again.

Monday, September 3: 6.4 miles in 1:10:21 for an 11:00 pace
Another day of Labor Day weekend, another shortened workout. I thought I might try to get up early on Monday to do my eight miles before the heat got too bad, but sleeping in and spending time with family ended up taking priority over my run (which, grand scheme/big picture, is probably for the best). I got back to my apartment around noon on Monday and, after some unpacking from the weekend, decided to take my chances and head out for eight miles around 12:45. I knew storms were developing on the radar, so instead of doing an out-and-back like I would’ve normally done on Monday, I decided to do laps around a three-ish mile loop near my house instead. I got through the first lap without incident, but noticed ominous clouds gathering over the horizon as I started the second lap. When I was as far from home as I could be on this loop (of course), my phone buzzed, letting me know a Special Weather Statement had gone into effect. More often than not, AccuWeather sends me notifications about Special Weather Statements related to storms that are no where near me and not moving in my direction. I stopped to check this one, and sure enough, it was about strong thunderstorms in the area of Bolingbrook and Naperville. I was five-odd miles into my run, so I figured I’d do my best to get in another three. I started to hear more consistent rumbles of thunder, so I then thought I’d head home and run laps around my block until I got to eight miles. On the way home, though, I saw a bolt of lightning. It seemed increasingly unsafe to stay outside, so I called it a day when I got back to my apartment, even though I was 1.6 miles short of what I intended to run on Monday. I’m annoyed that I had to cut my run short–this was the first run all season I had to shorten–but if it had been a normal Monday and I had gone to work, I wouldn’t have gotten my run in at all, given the timing of the second round of storms that came through Monday afternoon, so I guess I’ll take what I can get.

Tuesday, September 4: Strength training – legs (AM) + dance (PM)
I skipped the gym on Monday, so my normal strength training schedule got pushed back a day. I’ve gotten so used to my usual gym routine that it was really weird to do legs on a Tuesday! Tuesday’s workout felt really effective and was a nice way to start the day.

I got my own first day of school with dance resuming on Tuesday. It’s already shaping up to be an interesting session. Only five people showed up on Tuesday (compared to the usual 10 or so), three of which are regulars, one of which is me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a class with only two new people. It’ll be interesting to see what the dropout rate looks like this time around! The combo we learned was completely new to me, so that was fun.

Wednesday, September 5: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 8 miles (2 mi WU, 8x.5 mi (4:40, 4:37, 4:37, 4:43, 4:50, 4:46, 4:53, 4:39) w/ .25 mi recovery) in 1:26:52 for a 10:52 pace
I had a tough-in-a-good-way workout Wednesday morning. My arms were already sore by the time I left the gym. It was a bit disorienting to be there on a Wednesday! I’ve never been on Wednesday morning before.

I had my last 800s workout of this marathon season Wednesday afternoon. I’m not entirely sure why I scheduled it for this week and not peak week (possibly because of the eight miles thing?), but I’m sure there was a reason for it when I put my schedule together months ago, so off I went. It was a balmy 91 degrees when I left the office, making Wednesday the toughest conditions I’ve had for 800s (though it was 77 by the time I got home, so there’s that). A boys cross country team from a local high school was at the park where I do my 800s when I arrived, so I got to run “with” them–and by “with” them I mean “tried my best to stay out of their way because they were all a million times faster than I am, even during speedwork.” Their coach apologized at one point for them not paying attention to their surroundings and occasionally crossing my path, but it really didn’t bother me. They got there first, after all. Plus, I could use the things he was telling his runners (“Swing your arms! Run tall! Kick your legs!”) as free coaching for myself ๐Ÿ˜› As for my workout, I’m honestly not very happy with how it went :/ This was by far the least consistent I’ve been on my 800s (16 second spread), and even though my last one was one of my best, I was also pushing myself to give it everything I had, which isn’t really the point. The point is to be consistent across all eight 800s, and I’m not at all happy with my consistency–or rather, lack thereof. I also walked two and a half of my recovery laps instead of jogging them: another thing I didn’t want to do. Out of the five 800s workouts I did this season, I’m least happy with this one. Boo.

I averaged a 4:43 800 during this workout, and my overall 800 average for the season is 4:45 (heyyyyy). My fastest 800 was a 4:36, and my slowest was a 4:59. We’ll find out how much any of this 800s lore holds up in a month (with the caveat that I did not ever reach a full Yasso 800, nor were any of my “800s” actually perfect 800s (they were half miles, meaning they were actually 804.672s) so it’s possibly not fair to use my data to try to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of Yasso 800s). I’d be perfectly happy with a marathon finish time anywhere between 4:36 and 4:59 (well, maybe not perfectly happy with a 4:59, but happy enough), so here’s hoping.

Thursday, September 6: Strength training – legs (AM) + 60 minutes yoga (PM)
Dragging myself out of bed Thursday morning felt like an impossible feat, so unsurprisingly, going to the gym wasn’t exactly firing me up. The gym was SUPER packed when I got there. I couldn’t even do my deadlifts with a barbell because all the barbells were being used. First world problems.

I did this yoga Thursday afternoon:

I wanted to do something restorative-ish that wasn’t purely yin yoga, and this fit the bill. It was a good practice and kept me moving enough that I didn’t fall asleep, which…was not the case the last time I did yoga. Haha.

Friday, September 7: Rest

Saturday, September 8:ย 14 miles in 2:38:49 for an 11:21 pace
I don’t have a particularly specific measurement for Saturday’s run, because gmap-pedometer, which had been a highly useful tool all season, suddenly decided on Sunday night that it won’t allow me to say that I ran on the RUNNING portions of the Lakefront Trail, so I couldn’t measure my run from Saturday the way I normally do. So we’re just going to say it was exactly 14 miles, because that’s what it was supposed to be. But seriously, what the heck, Gmap??

Anyway, this run was INSANELY windy. The wind was coming from the east north east, so we had the delightful privilege of running more or less into the wind the entire run. Woo. ๐Ÿ˜ It wasn’tย winterย bad (i.e.: it was possible to make forward movement), but it was a lot worse than I’m used to during summer training. The waves on Lake Michigan were bonkers! We got sprayed from the waves so many time during this run. The wind definitely made pacing hard, and I felt like I worked a lot harder to finish 14 miles than I would’ve liked to have felt.

 

So. Less than a month until race day. That makes things feel a lot more real, and I’ve got to be honest: I’m nervous. My self-doubt has been growing lately, which only compounds the situation. I’m nervous that I won’t be able to run a 4:45, and I’m nervous that since I’m doubting myself, my mind is going to hold me back more than my body. I know that having the right attitude and mentality going into a marathon makes an enormous difference when it comes to your race day experience. I hoped to read Deena Kastor’s new book about that topic prior to the Chicago Marathon, but it’s currently on a six week hold through Libby, so I doubt I’ll get my hands on it before race day (though if anyone has recommendations for other similar books, I’m all ears).

Part of what feeds into this nervousness is my training. Every other marathon season, I’ve trained somewhere in the neighborhood of a 10:30-10:50 pace on nearly all of my runs (and subsequently gone on to run anywhere between an 11:08- and 12:23-paced marathon). The idea of training slower to go faster on race day is totally foreign to me in the world of marathon training. I should note that that idea is not totally foreign to me in the world of every-other-distance racing: all of my best other-distance races have been faster than my average training run. But it just feels different, you know? I’ve been around the marathon block too many times to continue mistaking it for just a longer other-distance race. I really think marathoning is in a totally different category than running half marathons, 10 milers, 10Ks, 5Ks, etc. They are so long. Yes, you can fall apart in the later miles of any race, but I truly don’t think it compares. There’s a big difference between hitting the wall two-thirds of the way through a half marathon and having to drag yourself through the remaining three and a half miles and hitting the wall two-thirds of the way through a marathon and having to drag yourself through the remaining nine miles.

I think that’s what’s really getting to me: I haven’t come remotely close to running any substantial distance at my marathon pace. I’ve done it for the last five miles of a 16 miler, sure, but that’s only five miles at GMP. I can’t drop five miles at GMP during the marathon itself and expect to hit my goal time. I am extremely confident that, barring an unfortunate and unforeseen circumstance, I could cruise through the entire marathon at an 11:30 pace no problem. But at a 10:52 pace? I haven’t even run 10 miles at that pace during marathon season, never mind 26.2. What is supposed to lead me to believe I can do that for an entire marathon? I don’t have the advantage of bright-eye naivete I once had at this distance. I have five marathons worth of experience that show me that the last eight to 10 miles or so of a marathon can be really, really hard. I only have one marathon worth of experience where the opposite was true. Last year’s marathon was an absolute dream, but I started it off really, really slow, and finished in 5:04 (plus change). I want to run it NINETEEN MINUTES faster this year. That’s 44 seconds/mile faster across the entire race.

I know that you can surprise yourself on race day (I have plenty of times), and I know that a lot–A. LOT.–goes into to determining your success on race day. Training obviously plays a part of it, and from a volume and cross training standpoint, I trust that the schedule I’ve followed so far this year can get the job done. (From a pace standpoint, not so much.). But the weather makes a difference, your nutrition makes a difference, what you do in the week leading up to the race makes a difference (which is why I have naturally scheduled two evening events for the week of race day. That can’t possibly come back to bite me in the butt. *rolls eyes*), your mentality makes a difference (*significant look* Ahem, self). I also know that while race day is less than a month away, it’s just barely less than a month away, so I still have time to work on my mental game (because as we all know, getting less anxious and more zen is a walk in the park during taper ๐Ÿ˜› ). This crisis of confidence stuff is no fun, and I would really like to put it to bed sooner rather than later.

On to peak week.

Thursday Things

1. I spent some time in Lincoln Park (the actual park, not the general neighborhood) over Labor Day weekend, and man, what a lovely part of the city!

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I’ve lived here for over six years, and this past weekend was only the second time ever–ever!–that I visited the South Pond. It was the first time I’ve been there during the summer, and my goodness, it was so nice. I suppose I was aware of the fact that the South Pond exists, but having never really been, it wasn’t at all aware of how beautiful it is, especially with all the wildflowers in bloom.

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I saw a bunch of turtles and fish in the pond, but the biggest (literally) and most exciting surprise was when I was standing on one of the parts of the boardwalk that goes out over the water and a BEAVER swam out from under the boardwalk!

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I had never seen a beaver in real life before, and I can’t say I ever expected to see one in Lincoln Park of all places!

I did not see any Black Crowned Night Herons: a situation I found very surprising in light of the fact that I’ve now encountered three Black Crowned Night Herons along the Riverwalk this summer. One of the educational signs along the boardwalk said that the boardwalk and island in the middle of the pond had been designed specifically with Black Crowned Night Herons and their migration patterns in mind. It also said they were endangered in Illinois. I wonder if that’s still true? I’ve seen three in the past month, plus I saw a juvenile a few years back (in Lincoln Park, incidentally, not all that far from the South Pond). I’ve seen a lot more Black Crowned Night Herons than, say, bluebirds (of which I’ve seen exactly zero in the city, ever), which makes it hard to believe they’re endangered, but I suppose Lincoln Park and the Chicago River are a pretty small slice of Illinois overall, so maybe my perception is warped.

2. I also went to the Lincoln Park Zoo to visit the birds who live there. Though I regularly attend ZooLights, I only remember two other occasions where I’ve visited the zoo for the purpose of seeing animals, so this was also a rare occurrence for me.

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I enjoyed seeing all the birds (related: the sky is blue. Grass is green. *insert other obvious statement here* haha), but the Sunbittern really took the cake.

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It ran across the walkway, flew up to the railing, and then put on an excellent demonstration of its frontal display. It stood on the railing like that for close to a minute, then flew up to a perch more tucked away from the people and continued frontal displaying. It was quite the sight!

All of this time in Lincoln Park, just like the time I spent in Millennium Park a few weekends ago, really made me think about how rarely I take advantage of what Chicago has to offer. I never go to Lincoln Park, or Millennium Park. I barely ever go to any of the museums in the city. I think part of that is just the nature of living somewhere vs. visiting somewhere: it’s much easier to hit up a city’s attractions when you’re visiting and your only obligation is to hit up a city’s attractions. Like I mentioned last week, I don’t exactly have a surplus of free time to spend hours at a park or museum. My birthday is in a couple of weeks, which means I’ll have the day off (my company allows you to take your birthday off without using your PTO – it’s its own separate category of time off). A fair number of museums are free for Illinois residents that day, so I think I might spend my time off exploring them.

3. Some idiot left the door to my fridge’s freezer open all day on Tuesday (that idiot being me, though I’m tempted to blame it on the house fly that had been buzzing around my kitchen all weekend). Sigh. I’m not actually sure how it happened. I know I closed the freezer door after getting my ice pack for my lunch Tuesday morning, but I must’ve closed it with too much enthusiasm or something, causing it to bounce back open…? I don’t know. All I know is that it was definitely open that evening, and that all of the food in it was definitely no longer frozen. The most devastating loss, by far, was the ice cream. It wasn’t even close to being empty! Alas. They say experience is the best teacher, and let me tell you, I have now been thoroughly educated on the importance of making sure the freezer is in fact closed before I leave the house.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 13

Sunday, August 26: 85 minutes cross training (20 minutes stability + 65 minutes bike)
In a wonderful turn of events, I was not tired on Sunday, which made this workout infinitely less miserable than I expected. I did NTC’s Runner Stability workout to start things off, then hopped on the bike for a little over an hour.

Monday, August 27: Strength training – legs (AM) + 60 minutes bike (PM)
I had a great strength training workout at the gym Monday morning. The workout felt super quick but also super effective, which is just how I like them. The bulk of Monday morning’s workout involved squats, and I’ve been surprised to discover how much I enjoy them, at least relatively speaking. They’re just the right amount of challenging–enough to make me feel like I’m working, but not too much to make me worry that I’m going to hurt myself. Win win.

I decided to reschedule Monday’s run due to the weather and do the indoor bike workout I planned for Thursday instead. I might have been able to run Monday afternoon, but it seemed silly to put myself through 10 miles outside in the middle of a heat advisory when I could wait until things were forecasted to cool off on Wednesday and Thursday. If the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday had been equally bad, I probably would’ve gone outside for the slowest 10 miles ever on Monday, but since it wasn’t, to the bike I went. I had a way more effective workout on the bike than I had on Sunday, so that was nice.

Tuesday, August 28: Strength training – upper body
In an unexpected turn of events, I was more sweaty when I got to the gym than I was when I finished at the gym, courtesy of Tuesday morning’s absolutely crushing humidity. That’s not to suggest that Tuesday’s workout was a breeze, however. This was similar to a workout I did several weeks ago that involved 20 reps of every exercise. It’s definitely a burner!

Wednesday, August 29: 7 miles in 1:14:40 for a 10:40 pace
All hail overcast skies, low dew points, and temperatures in the 70s! The accommodating conditions made this pace run much more attainable than it would’ve been at other times during the summer. I was a little quick, as this was a goal pace run and my goal pace for the marathon is–all together now!–10:52. That being said, this run was also a bit more challenging from a cardiovascular standpoint than most of my other runs this summer–I felt like I was actually working, compared to my 11:30 long runs where I feel like I’m cruising along at no effort–so it’s probably a good thing that this isn’t my goal pace for the marathon, if seven miles at that pace was enough to get my heart pumping harder than what I experience on my comfortable-pace runs. I definitely don’t think I could’ve done another 19.2 miles at that pace. I’m also not sure I could’ve done another 19.2 miles at a 10:52 pace, but we won’t worry about that too much right now ๐Ÿ˜› The good news is I feel like I’m getting a slightly better grasp on what marathon pace effort feels like, so that’s nice.

Thursday, August 30: Strength training – legs (AM) + 10 miles (with seven hill repeats) in 1:51:42 for an 11:10 pace
Thursday morning’s workout was a super sweaty one. After getting through the strength-focused part of the workout, my strength/cardio combo finisher for the day was kettlebell swings and burpees: 21 reps of each, 15 reps of each, 9 reps of each. If you ever find yourself thinking that you are invincible in the fitness department since you can run long distances, I highly recommend attempting to do 21 burpees (after 21 kettlebell swings and a leg workout). It will humble you very quickly ๐Ÿ™‚

I intended to do Thursday’s 10 miler on Monday, but given the choice between doing a 10 miler (with hills, no less) in 90+ degree heat and humidity or 70+ degree heat and low humidity, I think you’ll understand why I switched this run to Thursday. It was glorious in the weather department, but the first four miles in particular were a bit of a challenge. I run on back-to-back days maybe a handful of times per year, and my legs aren’t used to that much work in that little time. (Though I suppose it’s probably good from a marathon training running-on-tired-legs perspective.) I normally do my hill repeats about three miles into my run, but I decided to putter around a bit before I got to the hill and was instead five miles into my run by the time I started my repeats. Five miles (plus seven miles the day before, if you’re being generous) is hardly the 26 miles I’ll have put on my legs by the time I get to Mt. Roosevelt during the marathon, but I figure the more tired my legs are for repeats, the better I’ll mimic how Mt. Roosevelt will feel. The repeats went fine, and the end of my run went even better. I was downright comfortable (from a temperature perspective. From a muscle perspective, not so much.) when I finished! More of that, please.

Friday, August 31: Rest

Saturday, September 1:ย 18.12 miles in 3:23:23 for an 11:13 pace
The curse of the 18 miler continues! For the third 18 miler in a row, my run was interrupted by thunderstorms. It really is uncanny. The only times I’ve ever had it thunderstorm on a long run have been times I’m running 18 miles: in 2015, when I ran 18 miles in 2016 (while the rest of the group ran 16), and now this year. I never did 18 miles last year, because I was sick the week CARA ran 18 miles, and when I tried to do 18 miles on my own the following weekend, I crashed and burned HARD. Apparently in 2016, I requested the cancellation of all future 18 milers, and I would like to reiterate that request after this past Saturday.

Anyway, back to this year’s debacle of an 18 miler. Knowing there was a chance for storms on Saturday, I checked the radar as soon as I woke up and saw this:

18milerradar

I was absolutely, 100 percent convinced CARA would cancel the run. I mean, honestly, how could they not?ย Nothingย about that radar implied that we’d be able to get Saturday’s run in before the storms. The shortest distance anyone had to run on Saturday was 18 miles. The fastest pace group CARA supports is a 7:30 (though it’s unlikely that anyone running in the 7:30 pace group would be doing beginner mileage, but for argument’s sake, let’s believe that there are 7:30 runners doing beginner mileage). If they ran at a perfect 7:30 pace and did not stop, it’d take them 2:15 to finish. The earliest groups start at 6 a.m. (though no one starts running when the run “starts,” at least in my experience. Announcements start at 6 a.m.). So, assuming the fastest group left on time, never stopped, and ran the shortest distance available for the week–AND was running on the lakefront, not in any of the western suburbs–the absolute earliest anyone would finish would be 8:15. That screenshot, as you can tell by the progress bar towards the bottom, shows the radar at 4:20. You don’t have to be a meteorologist to take a look at that image, know that it’s moving west, and guess that it is probably not going to take four hours to get from where it is in the picture to Lake Michigan.

But regardless, CARA decided to still have Saturday’s runs. While even I, at my turtle 11:30 pace, was able to get in just about 10 miles before I saw the first flash of lightning that morning–which admittedly is a decent amount of running–I still maintain that CARA never should’ve had an official run Saturday morning. Cancelling the run officially won’t necessarily stop people from showing up, but it would’ve given people an out. Yes, we’re all adults and can make our own decisions, but let’s be honest: how many people training for a marathon, who’ve made it this far into training, are going to willingly bail on the second longest run of the season when the training run hasn’t been cancelled? I KNEW it was going to storm. I KNEW I wouldn’t get 18 miles in without having to hide in a bathroom somewhere. I HATE being outside in thunderstorms. Even with all of that, Iย stillย showed up Saturday morning. I think the irresponsibility of having the run is compounded by the fact that, at least in the city, groups don’t usually run one-mile loops around the parking lot where they start to get in their miles. It’s very common to do an out-and-back, which, on a week like this, means that you could very well be up to NINE MILES away from where you started, along Lake Shore Drive (i.e.: not in the city, where you can easily duck into the nearest Starbucks and wait it out), with no easy means of getting back to the starting point other than on foot. I’m glad I got my 18 miles in on Saturday, but I still don’t think this run ever should’ve happened.

As for the run itself, things were fine for the first part. Since we knew storms were coming, we went out at a pretty decent clip in an effort to try to get as many miles in before we had to stop. I originally planned on fast finishing the last seven miles of the run, but I felt uncomfortable forging on ahead on my own, so I stuck with the group until we saw enough lightning that my group leader suggested we get to the next bath house as quickly as possible. I took off at a 10:00 pace, and met the rest of the group when they got there. We hung out at the bath house for a bit, tried to take off, only to see more lightning. I was maybe 200 feet from the bath house before I decided I was not willing to go on, and returned to the bath house. The rest of the group joined me shortly after, and after some phone consulting, decided we could try to make it to the next sheltered area. Once again, soon after getting out from under the bathhouse, lightning flashed over the lake. I had no interest in taking my sweet time getting to the next shelter, so I high tailed it to the building, logging a 9:03 mile. How’s that for a fast finish? ๐Ÿ˜› There were times where I was running my 5K PR pace in my enthusiasm to get a roof over my head ASAP. I waited there for about 15 minutes, and once I was thoroughly convinced the lightning was gone, finished the last threeish miles of my run. The last five miles of my run did all end up being 10:45 or faster, so I ultimately did fast finish my run, even if it wasn’t under the circumstances I originally envisioned. And I never got hit by lightning, so that was nice. But let me tell you, it is going to take a LOT to convince me to do another 18 miler ever again! Haha.

 

I’m happy with how this week shaped up, particularly in light of how hot things started out. I will admit that I’m a bit nervous about the weather during this upcoming week as well (spoiler for next week: I’m already behind on mileage, thanks to Monday afternoon’s ceaseless parade of thunderstorms that kept me from the eight miles I had planned for the day), but hopefully everything will work out. Only this week to go before peak week!

Thursday Things

1. I realize I just complained about this (complained about it twice, actually) in my weekly training recap on Monday, but that’s not going to stop me from complaining about it again: I am so. tired. (literally) of the sleeping problems that have plagued me for the past month.

I’ve never been particularly great at going to bed at x time and waking up at y time without waking up sometime in the middle, but the past month or so has been WAY beyond what I’m used to. I would guess in an average week, I probably wake up during the middle of the night maybe four days out of seven. I don’t know why I wake up, but I usually fall back asleep within fiveish minutes. This past month, by contrast, has been a (metaphorical) nightmare. I’ll wake up sometime in the middle of the night, again for reasons I don’t know, but instead of falling back asleep, I’ll lay there for an hour, hour and a half, two hours, sometimes for the rest of the night, getting angrier and angrier and never falling back asleep. To say that this has been a major source of frustration for me would be an ENORMOUS understatement.

I’m sure this would be frustrating regardless of my morning circumstances, but it’s particularly frustrating because it’s not like I can just sleep in an extra two hours to make up for the sleep I miss between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. I still have to drag myself out of bed to go to work, or to do my Saturday morning long run, or to go to church. I can kind of handle it on weekends, because at least I have the option to nap on Saturday and Sunday, but on weekdays it’s just brutal. I have a short fuse at work all day and spend most of my eight hours resenting the fact that I have to be there, which is not exactly great for fostering a good attitude about my job (a job I do, generally, enjoy).

I don’t know why this has started to be such a problem lately. I’ve had one-night encounters with insomnia on a handful of occasions since I started college 10 years ago, but I’m almost positive I’ve eclipsed my count from the previous 10 years in the past month alone. It’s gone from being a once-in-a-blue-moon sort of situation to a two-to-three-nights-per-week sort of situation and I am OVER IT. I’m especially over it because I don’t understand why it’s happening. I haven’t changed my diet, daily habits, or getting ready for bed routine. I got new sheets right around when this started happening, so maybe that’s part of the problem? It doesn’t seem like sheets should have THAT dramatic of an impact on my ability to sleep. This is hardly the first time in my life I’ve switched sheets, after all, and I’ve never battled insomnia as a result of new bedding in the past. Whatever it is, I hope it goes away soon.

2. On a related note, I am so ready for the upcoming three day weekend. I’ve been desperate for some time off, particularly time off that doesn’t require me taking PTO (because that obviously happens all the time, where I’m just given free days off of work with no consequence whatsoever. /sarcasm), and I’ve been looking forward to Labor Day for months. Of course, I still have way too much to do this weekend, but at least I’ll have one more day to do it.

My therapist asked me on Tuesday if she thought I had enough time to relax each day, and I, without even having to think about it, said, “No, not at all.” Obviously marathon season, particularly this time of marathon season, makes that worse–having to devote between one and three+ hours to just to the action of exercise every day, never mind all of the exercise-adjacent things that come along with that (stretching, foam rolling, showering, etc.) doesn’t do much to increase one’s available free time. But even when it’s not marathon season and I’m just doing closer to the normal, AHA-recommended 30 minutes per day five days per week sort of thing, my available time to relax per day is still a joke. I’m lucky to have two free hours per weeknight on those days, and right now, during the bulk of marathon season? Forget it. I’m happy to get 30 free minutes per weeknight. And that “free time” is less “sit on the couch and do nothing” time so much as it is “make/eat dinner, do dinner dishes, get everything in order for tomorrow, and THEN sit on the couch and do nothing” time. Having no free time on weeknights obviously means everything that needs to get done–cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.–gets shoved to the weekends, along with any socializing at all, so there goes my available free time to relax on weekends to. And I don’t see any way around this, other than to quit my job or quit exercising, neither of which is a particularly viable option.

I realize my situation is not at all unique, and, honestly, not even all that new for me. I’ve been in this boat since I graduated from college. And I realize that however limited I think my free time is is NOTHING compared to what anyone raising a family deals with. I guess the grind is just wearing on me more than usual these days, and I feel like whining about it.

3. And to conclude today’s post, I present to you OneRepublic’s newest music video, in which my brother plays the most minor of roles:

Around the 2:00 mark where you see the whole crowd? He’s in that crowd. Somewhere. Even he doesn’t seem to know exactly where, but he’s in it. He was in New York last month, and I saw OneRepublic put out a call on Facebook for extras in their music video that would be filming in New York the next day. I sent it on to him, he emailed the address in the Facebook post, and voila. He got to be in a music video. I told him if he got his SAG card from this that I expected to be the first person he thanked if he were to win an award someday, but I’m guessing, “One of hundreds of people with their arms in the air for approximately four seconds of a music video,” probably doesn’t cut it ๐Ÿ˜›

Chicago Marathon Training Week 12

Sunday, August 19: Rest
I went to a wedding in the suburbs on Saturday and spent the night out there. While I certainly had time to go to the gym when I got back to the city on Sunday, what I did not have was a desire to go to the gym, especially since so much of my weekend free time went to the wedding (which is not a complaint, just a statement. The couple are two of my favorite people, and I had been looking forward to their wedding for weeks.) In anticipation of this, I actually did the workout I had scheduled for this Sunday the Sunday before. I had originally planned a rest day for the Sunday of Week 11 because I thought I’d be out of town, or if I wasn’t out of town, that I’d have dance rehearsal. I turned out to be in town and not have dance that Sunday, so I did my August 19 workout on August 12 and took my August 12 rest day on August 19 instead.

Monday, August 20: Strength training – legs (AM) + 7 miles in 1:16:03 for a 10:52 pace
I was pleasantly surprised to find the squat rack empty Monday morning. I had barbell squats on my workout plan for the day and worried I’d have to be brave and work in with someone else to get them done. Hooray for not having to talk to strangers! Haha. Monday was the first time I used additional weight on the barbell during my squats. It was comfortably hard from a weight perspective, but the plates for the barbell at the squat rack really mess with my head. They are TINY–even the 25 lb plates, which I didn’t use, are only about six or eight inches in diameter, compared to the plates for the deadlift barbell, which are all closer to 14 inches in diameter regardless of their weight–so it looks a lot lighter than it is.

I don’t know what my deal was on Monday afternoon’s run. I went way faster than I intended or realized, which was particularly surprising given that the weather wasn’t all that friendly. It was quite windy by the lake, it rained for 10 minutes or so, and then it got humid and sunny. I guess I’ll take it.

Tuesday, August 21: Strength training – upper body
Wonder of wonders, the trainer didn’t steal all of the dumbbells for his clients on Tuesday! And I was even emotionally prepared for it! Although it wouldn’t have mattered that much anyway. I was struggling to lift anything heavy on Tuesday and ended up having to use lighter weights than I had hoped to use in order to maintain my form.

No dance this week – this is week one of our summer two week break. Yay for free time on Tuesday afternoons!

Wednesday, August 22: 7.25 miles (2 mi WU, 7x.5 mi (4:44, 4:51, 4:50, 4:44, 4:49, 4:51, 4:43) w/ .25 mi recovery) in 1:17:52 for a 10:44 pace
I am unnecessarily disappointed with this workout. The weather was PHENOMENAL on Wednesday–easily some of the best weather I’ve run in all season–and with a reduced fitness workload this week due to cutback week, I was fairly confident I was going to destroy these 800s, especially in light of how I did three weeks earlier in far more humid conditions. Turning in six of seven 800s at a slower pace than all but one of my 800s from three weeks ago was definitely a bummer. I’m happy with the effort I put in, I’m happy that I was fairly consistent in my times, and I’m happy that I felt good during the workout. I just wish I had been able to be a bit quicker. I was faster on all of these than I was on any of my 800s in Week 6, though, so that’s at least a little encouraging. Currently averaging 4:47 across all my 800s (though I continue to not be sure that you’re supposed to take the average of all your 800s to predict your marathon time. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to, though ๐Ÿ˜› )

Thursday, August 23: Strength training – legs (AM) + 55 minutes yoga (PM)
I’ve been doing this super fun new thing during the summer where I wake up in the middle of the night for unexplained reasons and can’t fall back asleep no matter how hard I try. It’s the best and definitely not annoying or frustrating or setting me up for a bad mood at work at all. Thursday morning was one of those days, where I got to wake up at 3:30 and never fall back asleep! Yay! So you can imagine how TOTALLY PUMPED I was to go to the gym Thursday morning!

๐Ÿ˜

I accidentally PRed my deadlift on Thursday because I forgot that I was using dumbbells for my lightest deadlift weight and then moving onto the barbell as I increased the weight. I guess that was the advantage of being sleep deprived. I only PRed it by five pounds, but a PR is a PR, I suppose–and, more important, I discovered that the 2.5 lb plates fit on the barbell I use for deadlifts, which I didn’t realize was the case. So there’s that.

My back had been bothering me a bit since Tuesday, so I did this yoga Thursday afternoon:

It was delightful, especially the part where I accidentally asleep towards the end. Oops.

Friday, August 24: Rest

Saturday, August 25:ย 13.96 miles in 2:38:37 for an 11:22 pace
We’re just going to go ahead and call that 14 miles, for the record. I was SO. TIRED. on Saturday’s run. I didn’t go to bed on time (story of my life) and didn’t sleep well on top of that, so my alarm went off WAY too early as far as I was concerned. There were even storms for a brief moment on Saturday, but tragically they passed by the time my run started, so no extra sleep for me ๐Ÿ˜ฆ All things considered, the run went well. I woke up a little as the run went on, but not even half as much as I expected to. At one point I threatened to curl up next to a water stop to take a nap and wait for my group to come back on the return trip, when I would join them for the rest of the run ๐Ÿ˜› I didn’t hydrate close to enough on Friday and expected this run to be a struggle, but I expected it to be a struggle more in the general sense, not in the I’m-so-exhausted-I-could-fall-asleep-mid-run sense. At least the weather hadn’t gotten too hot or sunny yet.

 

My tiredness on Saturday has been the story of this marathon season. I know I mentioned it in the early weeks of training, but I still haven’t gotten much better about getting to sleep, or, just as importantly, staying asleep. I’d like to think at least part of this is the weather’s fault. The air conditioning and my ceiling fan are both necessary to keep my room at a remotely comfortable temperature for sleeping, but also both make a holy racket that makes sleeping difficult. My hip soreness has made it difficult to find a position to sleep in on occasion, which exacerbates the situation. And then, of course, there’s the matter of my schedule, which necessitates that I drag myself out of bed before sunrise more mornings than not. Try as I might to go to bed early enough to make up for this, it’s not particularly easy, especially with these longer weekday runs that have a tendency to keep me busy until at least 7 p.m. I think my lack of rest, even during cutback week, is part of why I’m finding it harder to recover and dealing with some hip-related frustration. I know that this is just a season of marathon training, and that things will improve substantially in a little under a month when taper gets serious. But boy is it draining in the mean time.