Thursday Things

1. I don’t usually spend much time at post-race parties, especially post-race parties associated with cold events. I was freezing after the Shuffle and really just wanted to get back to my gear so I could take off my cold, sweaty jacket and put on a warm sweatshirt instead. The quickest way to get back to gear check, though, was through the post-race party, and while I was power walking past Buckingham Fountain, I noticed a long line outside the Advocate tent. There was a sign outside the tent that said they were giving away hot chocolate, and I thought, “Wow, what a good idea! That sounds delicious, but I don’t want to wait in that line.”

I continued on my way to gear check when I heard two people behind me chatting. One of them mentioned how the hot chocolate instantly warmed him up, to which his companion responded with a comment about the thermoses. I then realized that Advocate wasn’t giving away hot chocolate in Styrofoam or even paper cups: they were giving it away in honest-to-goodness THERMOSES that you got to KEEP. WHAT!

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So naturally, I got myself some hot chocolate.

I was so impressed, for multiple reasons. For one thing, this is a really nice thermos! I can’t believe they were just giving them away! For another thing, I loved that they gave you the hot chocolate in something you can keep, rather than use once and toss in the trash. Good on you, Advocate!

Plus, the hot chocolate was delicious, and they had TOPPINGS: whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and crushed candy canes, despite it being March. I would like this at all future cold weather races, please.

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2. Another thing I really like about the Shamrock Shuffle? The lapel pins they hand out at packet pickup.

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It’s such a silly thing, but for whatever reason I’m very proud of my Shamrock Shuffle lapel pin collection.

(You’re welcome for three pictures of my left hand holding things in this post. Ha.)

3. I’m starting to think about (fitness) life after my half marathon in a couple of weeks, and I’m in a bit of bind. I really want to keep up strength training for a variety of reasons (I like being strong, I like how I look when I’m strong, I like being able to do these workouts and still walk and/or use my arms the next day, I don’t want to regress back to square one and have to start all over again with strength training in both the weight and soreness departments), but I also don’t think my current workout schedule is sustainable  long term.

Ideally, I’d like to run Monday/Wednesday/Saturday, strength train Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday, and rest on Friday. My schedule at the moment makes strength training on Sundays and Tuesdays next to impossible, though–but that same schedule also makes running next to impossible on those days. I could shift my rest days to Sunday instead of Friday, I suppose, which would solve part of the problem, but I’d really rather rest the day before my long run rather than the day after my long run.

My schedule complications are why I’ve ended up doing two-a-days to get my strength training in when I’m actively training for a race as well. While I don’t find these two-a-days to be burdensome to the point of not being able to continue them, I’d put them like two percentage points away from being that burdensome. On Mondays and Wednesdays, for example, I usually don’t finish my run and all its related extracurriculars (stretching, PT exercises, foam rolling, showering) until close to 7 p.m., but I have to start my nightly calling-it-a-night process at 8 p.m., which leaves me with one whopping hour of free time per night: an hour that has to include dinner. It’ll be a little better once I can run commute, but run commuting season will only last maybe two months for me this year, because run commuting will be off the table after I move. Unsurprisingly, only having an hour of “free time” twice a week (really more like 30 minutes of free time after you factor dinner into the equation) is really, really wearing on me–especially since I don’t have any free time at all on Tuesdays.

So I don’t know what to do. My ideal schedule will probably be a lot more realistic after the move, but I don’t really want to drop strength training entirely in the mean time. But I also don’t want to keep up this zero free time thing, either. Once again, life is hard.

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle Race Recap

After weeks of grinding out miles on the treadmill, in the dark, and on the perpetually windy Lakefront Trail, I had the chance to see what all this hard work has done for me at my seventh consecutive Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday. Given my upcoming move to the suburbs, I expect that this will be my last Shamrock Shuffle for quite some time–not because there’s a rule against suburbanites running the Shuffle, but because I have some serious doubts about my interest in hauling myself into the city for any race shorter than 10 miles that doesn’t offer day-of packet pickup once I move–so I hoped that the day would shape up well for me.

(Interesting side note: I noticed that the race dropped “8K” from its official name, per all the official swag aside from the shirt. I assume this is because the race has expanded to include a two-mile walk and a mile run the day before. I’m curious to see if they’ll continue doing the mile run, though, given that there were only 169 finishers.)

I went to packet pick-up on Friday. It was about the same size as last year, which is a significantly scaled-down event from the expos of years past–though the 8K itself is significantly scaled down from races of years past (20,899 finishers this year compared to 33,273 when I first ran in 2013), so that makes sense. I ended up leaving packet pick-up in a great mood because I found (and purchased) a SPIbelt while I was there. It occurred to me on my 12 miler the weekend before the Shuffle that a SPIbelt could solve a lot of my carrying-gear-while-running issues (why it took me nearly eight full years of running to realize this is beyond me) and I hoped I’d be able to find one at the Shuffle expo to avoid needing to buy it online and waiting for it to ship. Lo and behold, Lively Athletics had a booth selling almost exclusively SPIbelts and related accessories, so I got everything I needed, didn’t have to pay anyone to mail it to me, AND supported a local company in the process. Win.

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I love the shirt and the hat this year! Normally I get rid of the extra swag that comes along with the Shamrock Shuffle, but I plan to keep the hat this time around.

The forecast had threatened rain during the race all week, but come Sunday morning, it was just overcast. It was also in the low 40s, which is the warmest Shuffle I remember having since my first race in 2013. I generally wear tights for the Shuffle, but it was warm enough Sunday morning that I thought I could get away with crops and a light jacket (I could. In fact, the jacket was probably too much, but it’s the only green thing I own for running, so I wore it anyway). It was nice to not freeze in the corrals for a change!

I didn’t have much in the way of hopes and dreams for the race this year. I thought it’d be nice to PR, but I also didn’t know if that was realistic. I’ve been training for a fast 21K, not a fast 8K, and my rotten 12 miler from the week before still stung. I was in corral C, so I expected to run somewhere near my usual Shuffle pace, given that I’d be surrounded by runners holding that usual pace.

I came through the first mile in 8:25 (manually lapped, because I know better than to trust my Garmin on downtown races). My previous PR pace was 8:21, which seemed like a good sign. I tend to underestimate just how long an 8K can feel, so I didn’t want to push it too much harder for fear of blowing up at the end like I did last year. I was quite surprised, then, when I hit mile two at what felt like the same level of effort in 7:57.

I absolutely cruised down LaSalle and felt better than I think I’ve ever felt in any race. I felt fast and comfortable, which are two words I don’t usually associate with each other, especially in a race setting. Writing recaps of these races helps me remember more details about them, and one of the things I remembered from last year’s recap was that I hit the 5K mark in 26:xx (in reviewing my past results, it looks like I’ve always hit the 5K mark of the Shuffle in 26:xx). I debated with myself whether or not I should check my watch at the 5K mark this year, but ultimately decided to and got a pretty big confidence boost when I saw 25:25 on my watch. That meant, minimally, that I was 35 seconds ahead of my previous PR with 3K to go. That’s a pretty generous cushion! (What I didn’t know at the time was that my 5K split from my previous PR was 26:26, so I was actually 1:01 ahead of PR pace.)

I started feeling like I was working during the last 1.97 miles, but it was nothing compared to how miserable I felt during that same stretch last year. I was breathing heavier, but I wasn’t panting. My legs hurt, but they weren’t threatening to spontaneously combust. I powered up Mt. Roosevelt and rode down Columbus to cross the finish line in 40:24, for a monster 1:08 PR.

I was floored. I thought I stood a decent chance of PRing when I came through the first mile in 8:25, but I really was just shooting for anything under 41:30. It never occurred to me that I could possibly finish a minute faster than that. I averaged an 8:08 pace. I ran my most recent 5K at an 8:03 pace!

I wanted to PR at Shamrock mostly as insurance against my half marathon in two weeks: if I don’t break 2:00 or don’t PR there, at least all of this training wouldn’t have been for nothing. Instead, I walked away from Shamrock with a renewed sense of confidence that not only has all of this training not been for nothing, it’s working. The last time I had a gigantic PR at the Shuffle was also at the end of training my tail off for the Chi Town Half Marathon, so…who knows. I’m the first person to give all of the credit or place all of the blame for my race outcomes on the weather, and the weather was as perfect as you could hope for on Sunday: overcast, low 40s, no wind. I could get something completely different in two weeks at Chi Town, and it could make a big difference in how things shake out. But regardless of what happens there, I now have clear proof that the work I put in this winter has made me faster, and that’s a really rewarding feeling.

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Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 10

Sunday, March 17: Strength training – legs + 60 minutes cross training (bike)
I knew getting to the gym three times in the morning this week would be tough, so I did my first leg workout of the week on Sunday. It left me with very sore shoulders, like you would expect from a…leg workout. Ha. Almost all of the exercises in this workout involved holding heavy weights for a long period of time, and it definitely took a toll on my shoulders! Immediately after I finished my strength training, I hopped on the bike for an hour. Sometimes when I need to combine my strength training and cross training workouts, I roll them all into however much time I allotted for cross training that day, but since I had plenty of free time on Sunday I figured I’d still give myself a full hour on the bike. I’ve found that I make the most progress reading when I’m on the bike, which makes me more hesitant to cut down the time I planned to spend biking. I want to get through my books!

Monday, March 18: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 8 miles (with seven hill repeats) in 1:24:15 for a 10:32 pace
In case Sunday’s workout wasn’t enough, I got to put my shoulders through the ringer again on Monday with an upper body workout. When I re-started this strength training program (I’m not on my third time through it), I restructured my lifting PR sheet to give me space to write down the dates I do an exercise and the amount of weight I used on that date. I used to record all of this on the workouts themselves, but I found a spreadsheet worked better for quick reference. Ideally, I’d like to up my weights after I’ve done a workout three times (unless I’m still struggling with that weight after three workouts, or unless a long time has passed since I last did the workout). This was the first time I hit the third time through anything (single arm rows), so I challenged myself with 30 lbs. I made it through all my reps in all three sets, and I was really proud of myself! I used to use 10 lbs. for single arm rows, so to be up to 30 now makes me feel great about how far I’ve come strength-wise.

Phew. If last week was my hardest week intensity-wise, this is definitely going to be my hardest week volume-wise. I don’t have a long run this week thanks to the Shamrock Shuffle, but the Shuffle isn’t long enough to count for a long run, so I needed to get all of my volume (21 miles) in from three weekday runs. That’s worse than marathon training! AND it’s too cold to run commute, so I don’t even have that to help me out. I had zero interest in running eight miles Monday afternoon, so I did my best to set myself up for success, laying out all my running clothes before I left for the gym in the morning, leaving work right on time, and not doing anything when I got home other than getting ready to run. It took me awhile to mentally get over my annoyance at having to do eight miles on a Monday night, but by the time I got to my hill for my repeats I was in a better mood. The repeats all went well, and then I ran a little beyond my hill before heading home to make sure I got in all eight miles. I ended up getting home 10 minutes earlier than I expected. I don’t mind running eight miles in theory: what I mind is how much of my evening it eats up, so to get those 10 minutes back was nice.

Tuesday, March 19: Strength training – legs (AM) + dance (PM)
It was so nice to go to the gym on Tuesday and know I wouldn’t have to get up early to go any more times this week! The early wakeup calls are a price I’m willing to pay to get stronger, but it does begin to wear on me after awhile. Tuesday’s workout wasn’t too tough, or at least I didn’t think it was at the time. The residual soreness I felt while stretching during dance later Tuesday suggests otherwise đŸ˜›

Nearly everyone was back in class for dance on Tuesday, thank goodness. I guess I don’t mind a semi-private lesson, but I definitely prefer when there are more people in class than me and one other person. We reviewed what we learned the previous week (or rather, were taught it again, since so many people hadn’t been there the previous week) and then continued building on that choreography.

Wednesday, March 20: 6.21 miles in 1:01:03 for a 9:50 pace
I’m not 100 percent convinced I covered 6.21 miles on this run, despite my Garmin’s insistence that I did. This was a 60 minute Hal Higdon-style tempo run, so I was running by time rather than distance, but I swear I turned around awfully close to where I usually turn around for a six miler…. There aren’t any obvious discrepancies on my Garmin map, though, so maybe it’s right and I have my turnaround spot wrong (I haven’t done enough six milers since the Lakefront Trail separation, so I’m not as clear on my six mile turnaround as I used to be). Anyway. If my watch wants to say I ran a 10K in just over an hour, I’ll take it. I think this was my first (and consequently, only, since it was the last one on my training plan for this cycle) Hal Higdon-style tempo run outside this entire cycle (*sobs*) (but I’m also feeling too lazy to actually verify that, so I might be wrong), so it was my job to hold my paces rather than the treadmill’s job. I’m happy to report that I was almost perfect! I don’t really have target paces on these runs, just “faster than the last one” for the first half and “slower than the last one” for the second half, and I hit that on all of my five minute intervals save for #9 (9:37) and #10 (9:34). That’s pretty insignificant, though, so overall I’m very happy with how this run went.

Thursday, March 21: 7 miles in 1:15:21 for a 10:46 pace
Ugh. Twenty one miles in three weekdays is too many miles for weekdays, especially when it’s still too cold to run commute (“too cold” being determined by whether or not I need to wear a coat to work, since I only want to run commute in one direction, not both). I had no desire to go out for this run when I got home from work, but I knew I’d beat myself up if I didn’t (especially if I don’t break 2:00 in a couple weeks), so off I went. It was supposed to be an “easy” run (is seven miles ever really “easy”?), but I felt like I went too fast for it to count as easy. Blah. I’m also super over having to finish my runs into a headwind, but there’s not much I can to do to control the wind’s direction, unfortunately.

Friday, March 22: Rest

Saturday, March 23: Rest

 

Thursday Things

1. UGH YOU GUYS. I AM SO MAD ABOUT THE LOLLA LINEUP. CAPS LOCK NECESSARY.

I thought I was over my music festival phase, particularly my Lolla phase. I didn’t have that great of a time when I went in 2016, and I didn’t go in 2017 or 2018 because I had zero interest in attending. The lineups didn’t interest me at all, and hanging out with a bunch of drunk teenagers interested me even less. I thought maybe the penchant for Broadway I developed in 2017 turned me off popular music, and since the Lolla lineup never included, say, the original Broadway cast of Hamilton (omg WHAT IF), I didn’t have any desire to go.

Nope. It’s not that I don’t care about popular music anymore. It’s that the lineups for Lolla from 2016-2018 were awful. I’m not any more into popular music now than I was two years ago, but when I got an email yesterday morning with the Lolla lineup for this summer, my first reaction was, “Noooooooooooo!!!! THIS IS SO GOOD AND I CAN’T GO *all of the sobbing emojis*”

UGH. I want to go so bad. But there’s just no way it’ll happen this year. Lolla is August 1-4, and August 1 is literally the first day I definitely won’t be living in the city anymore. The lease on my current place is up on July 31, and while I don’t know when specifically I’m going to move, I feel pretty confident it’ll be by the end of my lease. And, no, it’s not like there’s a rule against attending if you live outside city limits, but it’s obviously a lot more logistically challenging if you don’t have a house of your own to return to via the CTA at the end of the night. Not to mention that the potential first few days after I move do not seem like the best time to drag myself to a festival that I barely had the endurance to survive when I was 22, never mind when I’m 28. There’s also the fact that I didn’t budget with the expectation of going to Lolla this year, and since I have been budgeting for other major expenses associated with the move (i.e.: needing to buy a car. Blech.), I don’t exactly have the flexibility to change my financial plans for the year to accommodate a Lolla ticket.

So I won’t be attending, even though my 23-year-old self would never, ever forgive my 28-year-old self for skipping when both Flume AND RL Grime are playing. Those were my two favorite DJs in my EDM phase! And frankly, both my 16- and 28-year-old selves will never forgive my 28-year-old self for skipping when Death Cab for Cutie is playing. I’m so sorry, High School Bethany. I apparently will not follow you into the dark *more sobbing emojis*

And those are just the nostalgia acts I’m mad about missing! Twenty One Pilots?! Kacey Musgraves?! Judah & the Lion?! AJR?! Fitz & the Tantrums?! After years of not wanting to see a single act on the entire lineup, there are suddenly enough for me to justify buying a four day pass (which are still on sale, as of Wednesday. Back in MY DAY, those suckers sold out in under an hour.).

Sigh. Growing up is stupid.

2. In happier event news, I went to a few sessions of the Big 10 Tournament last week, and it was so much fun!

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A couple friends invited me to come along with them, so after my run last Wednesday I headed to the United Center in time to see the Northwestern/Illinois game.

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Honestly, the game itself wasn’t that great until the end of the second half, but I suppose that’s what happens when you’re watching two of the worst teams in the conference play each other. The game ended up going into overtime, though, and that was really exciting!

I made it to both evening games on Thursday, arriving around half time of the Minnesota/Penn State game (which also went into overtime!) and staying to the bitter end of Iowa’s blowout of Illinois.

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Even though Iowa destroyed Illinois, who I was cheering for by proxy, since I attended with Illinois alumni (my real Big 10 loyalties lie exclusively with Michigan), I still really enjoyed the game. There were SO MANY Iowa fans there, and they got so excited every time their team did something well! I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such sustained enthusiasm. Iowa won by 21 points, but the way its fans cheered, you’d think it was a one-possession game down to the final buzzer. It made for a really fun atmosphere!

I also realized while I was at the Northwestern/Illinois game that it was the first time I had ever been to a DI basketball game. What! I went to a DIII school, so I’ve been to plenty DIII basketball games–like, almost every home game of my college career, save for my semester in Chicago–but I had never been to a DI game! So that was cool.

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3. I mentioned in my training recap post on Tuesday that I spent most of my time on the bike last Sunday reading Educated. I finished it last Wednesday, and wow, what a story. I don’t think this was really supposed to be the main takeaway of the book, but what really struck me about it was just how much the human body is able to survive. I can’t tell you how many times I expected someone to die from their latest insanely traumatic injury, but (spoiler) no one did, and it blew my mind. It was a really great read, and I definitely recommend it.

I also appreciated that it took me just under seven hours to read. Before Educated, I read The Goldfinch, and that gigantic book took me TWENTY AND A HALF HOURS to read. Holy cow. I thought it would never end! That was also a great book, but boy, it was a commitment.  That’s the one downside of Libby: not knowing how long a book is until it’s too late. If it tells you how long a book is before you borrow it, I haven’t figured out where that information is, so sometimes I do things like check out The Goldfinch because it won a Pulitzer and realize just how much reading I signed myself up for once it downloads and my eyes fall out of my head at the page count, ha.

Is anyone going to Lolla this year? If so, I’d like to formally request to live vicariously through you, thanks.

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 9

Sunday, March 10: 60 minutes cross training (bike)
I don’t know what was going on Sunday, but everyone and their best friend seemed to be at the gym Sunday afternoon. I’m used to basically having the place to myself on Sundays, so it was really weird to have so much company! I was still able to get a stationary bike, though, and rode it for an hour while I did my best to power through Educated.

Monday, March 11: Strength training – legs (AM) + 6.75 miles (tempo) in 1:03:00 for a 9:20 pace
I randomly started to feel sick on the bus on the way to the gym Monday morning, so I took it pretty easy on my workout once I got there. I don’t know what the deal was–might’ve been my dinner from Sunday night?–but I’m glad it only lasted for the morning.

Everyone and their best running friend seemed to come out of hibernation Monday afternoon. I think I saw more runners on this run than I’ve seen on all my non-Saturday outdoor runs combined in this entire training cycle. I wore a pullover instead of my winter running jacket for the first time since it was warm at the very beginning of January, and I felt so light and free! It was delightful. In terms of the run itself, I warmed up for a mile, tempo-ed for five miles, and cooled down for .75 miles. All of my tempo miles were sub-9:00 (8:52, 8:45, 8:57, 8:51, 8:41), but I definitely felt like I was working on them. My legs were burning! Knowing I need to run an additional 8.1 miles during the half made me nervous, but I also need to average a 9:09 pace across all 13.1 of those miles (to hit 2:00:00 exactly, so I suppose I really need to average a 9:08 to break 2:00). That’s 19 seconds/mile slower than my average for those tempo miles (8:49), so hopefully I’ll be all right.

Tuesday, March 12: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
Tuesday’s upper body workout was one of the few high rep/low weight workouts I have. I remember it being tough from marathon season, and it was just as tough this time around. Twenty reps is so many.

TWO people showed up to dance on Tuesday, one of which was me. That’s never happened before, at least not this early in a session. I knew a couple of people wouldn’t be there, but I was really surprised when three people from last session (who were all there for the first class of this session last week) didn’t ever make an appearance. I didn’t think last week’s choreography was that scary! Hopefully it was just a fluke and they all come back next week. We did learn some brand new choreography on Tuesday, despite how empty the class was, so that was nice.

Wednesday, March 13: Strength training – legs (AM) + 5.5 miles (with 9x.25 miles w/ 1:25 rest) in 57:01 for a 10:22 pace.
I planned to work from home on Thursday, so to avoid needing to work time to get to the gym into my Thursday schedule (and to avoid needing to go Friday morning, thus sacrificing my rest day) I went in Wednesday morning instead. Part of my workout called for split squats, and man, I can’t believe how hard those continue to be! I barely use any weight (five pounds/hand) while I’m doing them, but they just kill me!

I did my first non-treadmill interval run of this training cycle on Wednesday. Doing my 400s outside presented a couple challenges. For one thing, my watch can’t toggle between miles and kilometers mid-run like the treadmill can. For another thing, while the place I do my intervals is similar to a track in that it’s a quarter-mile oval, it’s not actually a track, which means 1) it’s not actually 400 meters around and 2) it doesn’t have markings to indicate every 100 meters. A quarter mile is close enough to 400 meters for me (it’s 402.336 meters, officially), so I set my watch to do track quarter mile intervals. The 200 rest was the trickier part. 200 meters is .124274 miles, which has to be the most inconvenient distance possible when you’re working with a watch that can only track intervals by distance out to the second decimal point. In general, I’d round .124 down to .12, but that feels like I’m missing too much of the distance (and since this is my recovery, I don’t want to cut myself short!). Rounding up to .13, though, feels like too much (and since this is my recovery, I don’t want to spend too much of my run on it). Since I’m talking about literally one-one hundredth of a mile here, obviously I’m splitting hairs over something completely unnecessary. Even if I did round up to .13, that would only add up to a whopping .09 extra miles of recovery across this entire workout. But for whatever reason, that sounded unacceptable to me. Instead, I decided to figure out how much time I spent on my recovery intervals on the treadmill using this handy dandy tool. It apparently takes 1:23 to cover 200 meters at 8.7 km/h. My watch only lets me set time-based intervals in fives, so I set my recovery interval to 1:25. Did I add additional recovery time to my workout by rounding up two seconds instead of .01 miles? Almost certainly. Oh well, live and learn!

Anyway. My actual workout. I warmed up for a mile, then jumped into my 400s. I didn’t pay any attention to how long it took me to run them, just let my legs burn and hoped for the best. When I reviewed my times after my run, I was disappointed. I did a 2:05, 2:00, 2:02, 2:09, 2:08, 2:08, 2:06, 2:03, and 2:00. That averages out to 2:04(.55, of course. I just can’t escape this rounding stuff no matter how hard I try!), which is an 8:16 mile (unless you round up to 2:05. Then it’s an 8:20 mile). That’s not bad, but it’s definitely a lot slower than my goal pace for these intervals (8:00), and it’s slower than I was doing them on the treadmill (8:06). I also felt sick after I finished them–like, thought I might throw up right there on the sidewalk, though thankfully I didn’t–so my cooldown 1.25ish miles were SUPER slow. I’m not upset about that, necessarily, but I’m frustrated that my body reacted like I pushed myself to my absolute limit (and that I felt like I pushed myself to my absolute limit!) only to see that my times were slower than what I’d like my absolute limit to be.

Thursday, March 14: 60 minutes cross training
I worked from home Thursday because I had early evening plans, which meant I didn’t have time to go to the gym for my cross training session. Instead, I found an hour(ish) Fitness Blender video to do:

 

I really should do these more often. I get a way better workout with Fitness Blender than I get on the stationary bike, and I can do them at home for some serious time savings. This wasn’t quite as cardio-heavy as I wanted, but it got the job done. Since I had already done two leg strength training workouts this week, I kept it very light on the weights for all the lower body exercises (10 lbs, which is lighter than anything I use during a normal strength training routine outside of split squats or arm raises).

Friday, March 15: Rest

Saturday, March 16: 12 miles in 2:03:23 for a 10:17 pace
Ugh. Nothing like a disappointing long run to take all the confidence you’ve built over the past month and blow it up in your face đŸ˜¦ My plan for this run was to do the first six miles at an easy pace, and the last six miles at a 9:00 pace. I need to run a 9:08 pace to break 2:00, but I want to give myself a bit more cushion than just squeaking across the finish line in 1:59:44, so ideally I’d like to run closer to a 9:00 pace (or, more realistically, finish around a 9:00 pace. I plan to run with the 2:00 pace group, which will be doing a 9:10 pace according to the race’s website, with the goal of ditching them at mile 13 at the latest, but ideally closer to mile 10 or 11.). My easy miles were comfortable and great–or as great as any miles can be dodging St. Patrick’s Day revelers on your way to the Lakefront Trail–but my race pace miles were a disaster. I felt challenged (not in a good way) as soon as I picked up my pace, and I couldn’t hold it for more than three miles. My last six miles were 9:09, 9:15, 9:02, 9:32, 9:57, and a dismal 10:25 to wrap things up. From a big picture perspective, those times are fantastic for me. I rarely turn in 9:xx miles on a long run, never mind five of them in a row, so if I were just out there training for a half marathon for the sake of completing a half marathon, I’d be thrilled! But I’m not looking to just complete my half marathon. I’m looking to break two hours at my half marathon. Running at the pace of those last six miles (9:33) wouldn’t even be enough to break my PR, never mind two hours.

I’m trying to maintain a bit of perspective about my disaster of a long run. It only took me 59 seconds more to run 12 miles last Saturday than it took me to run 11 miles the Saturday before, which is certainly something to be proud of. I had to fight a 12 mph headwind on most of my fast miles, and while yes, I could certainly have to fight a 12 mph headwind on the back half of the course on race day, I’ll have pacers to draft off and won’t have to take on the wind entirely by myself. I also won’t have the added stress of trying to maintain my pace on race day: the pacers will set the pace, and I just need to hang with them. This also was easily my hardest week of training from an intensity standpoint, with the long tempo run on Monday and the 9x400s on Wednesday, and I didn’t get nearly enough sleep last week, which I’m sure impacted my ability to recover well from those runs (and thus be ready for a hard long run on Saturday). I know a bad last long long run (I have one more “real” long run before the race, but it’s only 10 miles) doesn’t mean the race itself will go poorly. In fact, I’ve had really bad 12 milers before and still had a decent half marathon after the fact. But it was still really frustrating to have this run go so differently than I hoped it would go.

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 8

Sunday, March 3: Rest
I outright bailed on my workout Sunday. I didn’t feel good in both the stomach and sinus departments when I woke up Sunday morning, and then I stuck around church a lot longer than normal. It was one of the staff member’s last Sunday with us before moving to New England, and I wanted to hang out to say my goodbyes. I thought about still going to the gym, but when I realized I wouldn’t be home until close to 3 p.m. if I did, I decided it wasn’t worth it. I thought about maybe doing gentle yoga when I got home, but ultimately took a nap instead.

Monday, March 4: Strength training – legs (AM) + 6 miles (with six hill repeats) in 1:06:46 for an 11:08 pace (PM)
My sinus pressure from Sunday had turned into a bone fide cold (again) by the time I woke up Monday morning. Cool. I tried to fool myself into believe it was allergies (to…what? Subzero wind chills?) and took a Zyrtec before leaving for the gym. It eased my sinus pressure a little, so I guess it was worth it. I was mostly just glad that Monday’s workout wasn’t too tough, since I definitely didn’t feel up to lifting very heavy Monday morning.

I very seriously considered bailing on this run in favor of couch time Monday afternoon. I felt especially crummy during a meeting late Monday morning, and decided if I still felt that bad by the time I left work, I’d go home instead of to the gym. I perked up a bit after lunch, though, so I ultimately decided to at least try running and see how it went. I kept the pace super easy (5.4 mph) and left the incline on 0 whenever I wasn’t doing a hill repeat (including on my downhills). Surprisingly, I felt better while running than I had felt all day. I felt miserable by the time I got home, though–my energy was 100 percent zapped–and was in bed by 8:30 Monday night.

Tuesday, March 5: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I slept all right Monday into Tuesday (about as good as anyone can hope to sleep when they’re basically sitting up due to all the gunk in their sinuses) and didn’t feel awful when I woke up, but I still was on the fence about going to the gym vs. staying in bed longer and getting some extra sleep. Since there was no getting around the whole having to go to work thing (thanks to our PTO policy, which rolls all our days off–sick, personal, vacation, what have you–into one bank. Sounds nice in theory, until you realize that means that every sick day you take is one less vacation day you have available. Want to travel? Go home for Christmas? Take a personal day because you just can’t any more? Better not get sick. Ever.), and since I didn’t think 40 additional minutes of sleep would be the difference between feeling like a million bucks and wanting to spend the whole day on the couch, I decided to go in and give my workout a shot. Once again, I felt much better working out than I did not working out, which leads me to think that I should spend the duration of this cold exercising or in the shower with hot water blasting my face, since those appear to be the only two things that give me any sort of relief.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I also considered skipping dance on Tuesday, and obviously did not. I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t have a fever (like, not even close. My temperature when I got home from work before dance was 97.5) and didn’t feel justified skipping when I didn’t have any symptoms that would justify skipping (neck or below symptoms: sore throat, cough, etc. Though I don’t know if fatigue counts as a neck or below symptom?). It didn’t help that it was the first week of the new session, and I really didn’t want to get off on a bad foot. So off I went to dance, where we learned a routine I learned this time last year, so I definitely could’ve skipped. But, like things had been going with this cold all along, I felt way better moving than I felt not moving, so at least I got a little relief from my above-neck symptoms for an hour.

Wednesday, March 6: Rest
While it’s one thing to tackle relatively easy workouts during a cold, it felt like another thing to try to do a 55 minute tempo run in Real Feel of less-than-20-degrees weather – or at all, really, because those tempo runs are challenging under healthy circumstances. While exercising may have alleviated my symptoms temporarily, I’m not entirely sure it was helping me recover in the long run, so I gave myself a break in an effort to try to get over the worst of this nonsense.

Thursday, March 7: Strength training – legs (AM) + 3 miles in 31:49 for a 10:36 pace
I felt a lot better on Thursday! Woo! I was still congested to high heaven, but I could occasionally breathe through my nose for a change, and, more importantly, I didn’t feel like doing anything other than laying on the couch required Herculean effort. Skipping that run on Wednesday was definitely the right call. Anyway, Thursday’s strength training workout went pretty well. It was a bit on the easy side, which is just what I needed to get myself back into the swing of things.

I felt good enough to run Thursday afternoon, so I went out for an easy three miles. I intentionally wore the warmest outfit I could think of (my warmest tights, Icebreakers base layer, running jacket, buff, hat, glittens) because I am SO OVER getting cold on my runs. I was finally comfortable for a change!

Friday, March 8: Rest

Saturday, March 9: 11 miles in 2:02:24 for an 11:08 pace
I had a low-key Saturday for a change and didn’t need to get out the door at the crack of dawn in order to get my long run in for the day. It was so nice to sleep in for once! I was worried it’d be cold on this run since AccuWeather made it sound like the wind was pretty strong, but it actually wasn’t so bad. My biggest struggle on this run was dehydration. I thought I had enough to drink Friday throughout the day, but my morning bathroom trip made it apparent that that wasn’t the case at all. You can’t really made up for a day of underhydrating in an hour before going out for a run, so I filled my water bottle to the brim and hoped for the best. By about mile four, I was dying of thirst. (Not literally, obviously, but I was thirsty enough that had it been summer, I would’ve stopped at a drinking fountain even though I had my water bottle.) God bless CARA and their Saturday morning water stations on the Lakefront Trail. I went a little bit beyond my turnaround point to hit one, and it was a lifesaver. (Again, not literally, but it felt that way!) Aside from that, though, I’m happy with my pace and how I felt on this run – though it is a little anxiety-inducing that I need to run 2.1 additional miles at least 2:25 faster in a month to break 2:00.

I’m two-thirds of the way through training for this half. I have two heavy weeks of training left…and that’s it. Yikes. I’m feeling a bit more optimistic about my chances of breaking 2:00 than I felt after the first third of training. I was able to stick to my schedule a lot better over the past four weeks than I did over the first four weeks–with the exception of my two cancelled workouts this week–and I hit paces on a couple of my runs under my own power (i.e.: outside, as opposed to on the treadmill, where the belt forces me to hit a certain pace), and that did a lot for more confidence. I have a few more workouts that I think will give me a good idea of what I’m capable of pace-wise, but I don’t think a decent half marathon is completely out of the question. The idea of trying to break 2:00 still freaks me out a bit, and I know my mental game could still use a bit of work. Plantar fasciitis has definitely been my biggest struggle over the past month. I think I’m getting a better idea of how to keep it to a minimum (routine stretching and strengthening, wearing my night split after long runs), so I’m hoping it won’t give me too much trouble over the next four weeks.

Thursday Things

1. Throughout the month of February, I kept getting random bruises on my legs. They seemed to show up out of nowhere, and, in an incredible twist of events, (<- sarcasm), I assumed it meant I was moments away from death (this, despite having been to the doctor in late January and getting perfectly normal results on the complete blood count portion of my annual blood work). I decided to go to the doctor again, hoping they’d tell me I had a vitamin deficiency but assuming they’d tell me I had cancer, because that’s generally always my assumption at the doctor.

I got my results two days later, and unsurprisingly, I didn’t develop lymphoma over the course of three weeks. I did, however, find out that I’m iron deficient. (Iron being a mineral rather than a vitamin, so it’s not a vitamin deficiency even if it’s in the same vein.)

I can’t say it’s totally out of left field that I’m iron deficient, despite that not being on my radar prior to getting my results back. I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, and when I do eat meat, it’s almost never red meat. I’ve also never paid any mind to whether or not I paired vegetarian sources of iron with vitamin C, which is apparently important to get that type of iron (non-heme, as opposed to heme, which comes from animals) to absorb.

I have to take an iron supplement now to get my iron stores back to where they should be, but I also need to start being a lot more conscientious about my dietary iron intake, which puts me in a bit of a bind. My cholesterol is higher than it should be, so I’m supposed to avoid red meat, but since my iron is lower than it should be, I’m supposed to eat…more red meat. I’m not really sure what’s expected out of me here?? I think I need to set up an appointment with a dietician (probably after I hit my insurance deductible), because I could really use some help in figuring out how to navigate this high cholesterol/low iron situation I’ve found myself in.

2. In an effort to raise my iron levels (not really, but it did was a nice coincidence!), I crossed a big item off my Chicago bucket list on Saturday: dinner at Girl and the Goat.

girlandthegoat

(I’m annoyed that I did such a terrible job composing this picture *facepalm emoji*)

Truthfully, I didn’t know a whole lot about Girl and the Goat beyond the basics: that it’s Stephanie Izard (of Top Chef)’s restaurant, and that you usually have to make a reservation two or three months in advance if you want to get in. Imagine my utter delight, then, on February 20 when I was looking for reservations in May and instead found one remaining 4:45 p.m. slot on March 2 instead!

I now understand what people mean when they talk about the best meal of their lives, because this was, hands down, the best of mine. Every single dish, from the bread at the beginning to dessert at the end, was mind-blowing. I didn’t know it was possible for food to be so delicious. It was easily the best dining experience I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad I decided to make going a priority. It was more than worth the food coma I had for the remainder of the night.

3. Another highlight of Saturday: visiting the Garfield Park Conservatory!

I wrote a whole post about the conservatory last year, so I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details this time around. This was a spontaneous trip: other plans I had Saturday got cancelled, so I figured, why not? I had seen on Facebook earlier that day that it was the last weekend to see a few of the palms in the Palm Room (they had outgrown the space, and since you can’t very well transplant a palm tree outside in Chicago, they needed to cut them down so other plants could get sunlight again. They had also outlived their normal lifespan–one of them was 93 years old!–so it was time.), so I saw them one last time.

garfieldparkconvervatory-palms

The Spring Flower Show is going on right now, so I reveled in the tulips and daffodils for a long time. Honestly, I could’ve looked at them all afternoon. I can’t wait for them to start popping up outside, too!

garfieldparkconservatory-springflowershow

This trip to the conservatory also gave me a chance to see the sprouting Century Agave in the Desert House.

garfieldparkconservatory-agave

I read an article in Block Club Chicago a few weeks ago about the agave and was really curious about it. Century Agave only bloom once in their lives, which is what this one is doing right now. It sends up a stalk that will grow to insane heights (like, 30 feet insane), bloom, and then the whole plant will die because this whole process takes so much energy. It’s a little tough to see in the picture, but there’s a rope hanging next to the stalk that shows you how much it’s grown over time. At the time of the Block Club Chicago article, there was one weekend where it grew ELEVEN INCHES! In one weekend! Can you imagine?!

Anyway, it was the perfect weekend to go to the conservatory, between the agave and the palms, though I’d argue any winter weekend is a perfect weekend to go to the conservatory. It’s such a nice escape from the misery that is January through March around here.