Training Thoughts

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve decided to try to intentionally negative split my half marathon in April. To that end, I’ve started fast-finishing almost all of my runs, and so far it’s been going quite well! *knocks on all wood available* I’m enjoying it much more than I ever anticipated, though I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m turning in much faster final miles than I ever anticipated, which has been fabulous for my ego.



Those were my runs on March 3 and March 5, respectively. To be fair, I did have a pretty generous wind at my back for the last mile of my run on March 5. But still, I don’t see 8:xx times outside of a race setting very often, and it’s nice to know that I am capable of running that fast without the assistance of dozens/hundreds/thousands of people next to me running that fast as well, even if I rarely do run that fast without said assistance.

I feel like a pretty tried-and-true piece of running advice is that *insert-large-number-here* percent of your runs and/or miles should be easy miles. That’s all well and good, but as a person who only laces up her running shoes three times per week, I’ve started find that advice increasingly stressful. If 60-80 percent of my miles are supposed to be easy miles, and I’m only usually logging 15-20 miles per week (up in the 30s during marathon season, but never even up to 40, never mind more than that), when, exactly, am I supposed to do “real” training – you know, the hard running that presumably makes up the rest of those miles? Assuming 80 percent of my miles should be easy, in a 15 mile week, that gives me a whopping THREE miles that are allowed to be hard. Even under the highest of mileage circumstances, when I’m doing more like 35 miles per week in the darkest depths of marathon training, that still only gives me seven miles that can fall into the “hard” category. And since long runs that last more than 1.5 times longer than your usual weekday ran apparently count as hard miles…wtf man?! It’s literally impossible to hit that kind of target when your mileage is as low as I tend to keep mine.

After years of trial and error, I’ve realized that three days of running/week along with three days of cross training per week is my exercise happy place, and unless that stops being my happy place, I don’t have any intention or desire to up the number of times I run per week. While I do occasionally ponder what kind of things I could accomplish if I ran more than that, I know that when I have tried to run more than that, I was so stressed out about how I would get in all those “other things” that I’m either supposed to be doing to be a better runner (strength training, cross training, etc.) or the things that I want to do (dance) that it just wasn’t worth it.

Only running three times per week, though, limits both the number of weekly miles I can log (hitting 40 miles per week–a fairly modest number, in the grand scheme of non-first timer marathon training–would require TWO weekday 10 milers AND a weekend 20 miler. HARD. PASS.), and limits the available time I have to do various workouts. Assuming a long run is a given and that I should do at least one type of speedwork per week, that leaves me with exactly one “free” run. That free run, of course, could be my easy run, but it would be impossible for easy run to account for 80 percent of my weekly mileage–you can’t possibly do one single run that constitutes 80 percent of your weekly miles and not have that run be your long run.

So does any of this conventional wisdom apply? Should ANY of my runs be easy runs when there isn’t even flexibility to include “junk miles” in my training in the first place? If I’m starting all of my runs slow and finishing all of them fast (aside, right now, from my once-every-three-weeks tempo run, prescribed by Hal Higdon’s HM3 half marathon training program), what kind of run is that, anyway? Half easy/half hard? All hard? SHOULD I be doing all of my runs like that? Am I setting myself up for injury and/or burnout by doing all of my runs like that? These are the questions that keep rolling around in my head every time I’m pounding the pavement.

While part of me feels like I’m playing with fire by fast finishing nearly all of my runs, it’s also blown my mind what kind of impact this seems to have had on my overall fitness. After watching with frustration as my resting heart rate (according to my Fitbit) stubbornly hovered around 6-8 bpm higher than I “like” it to be (and by “like” I mean “what I’m used to it being when I’m regularly running”), it’s been within my normal-when-in-training range ever since–and this is true–the day after I started fast finishing my runs. Maybe that’s entirely a coincidence, and even if you want to argue that my Fitbit is questionable at best at measuring my fitness based on heart rate data–which I would, for the record, completely agree with: last week, I synced my Fitbit when it was OFF my wrist, and the app showed my “current” heart rate at 105 bpm *rolls eyes forever*–I can’t deny how WILDLY different my tempo run last Wednesday felt compared to every other Hal Higdon tempo run I’ve done in the past year.

Hal Higdon’s tempo runs ask you to start at a comfortable pace, gradually speeding up to 10Kish pace around the midpoint of your run, holding that pace for 5+ minutes, and then gradually slowing down to a comfortable pace at the end of your run. I do this in five minute increments, holding a hard-but-comfortable pace for 5-10 minutes of the middle of my run (five minutes if there are an odd number of five minute intervals in my run; 10 if there are an even number intervals). These runs have, without QUESTION, been my #1 love-to-hate workout since I started doing them in February 2017. They are hard. While I would ideally like my paces to look like a perfect pyramid, the second half of these runs were almost always much slower than the first half. Last Wednesday, though? For the first time ever, it felt…easy. Or, at the very least, it felt much easier than it’s ever felt in the past.

I kicked off this training cycle with miles much slower than I hoped to see and a flurry of adjusting my expectations for spring running. I’ve seen a lot of unexpected improvement since I started, you know, trying on the majority of my runs. I know I phone it in a lot in the name of not getting injured, and I wonder if I use my fear of injury as an excuse to not hurt (in the right way, not the injured way) during a lot of my training. Or am I being smart? I truly don’t know, and this is the question that’s vexed me to no end for the past few weeks. The one time I did really train back in 2014, I threw down four consecutive PRs on back-to-back-to-back-to-back weekends. I also spent the entire second half of the year in physical therapy. It really frustrated me to not even come close to setting a PR in anything last year, and I would like to not feel that way about running again…but at what cost?

All that being said, I’m glad to be glad to be running again (not a typo). I was so burnt out by the time I wrapped up my 2017 training in December (actually, I was burnt out by, like, September), and I wanted nothing more than to stop running for a long time. It’s nice to be happy to run again.





2017 Running Recap

Time for one of my favorite posts of the year! As always, thanks to Kim for the inspiration 🙂

Races participated in: 10
Races “raced” (of x amount above): 3. I was going to make a comment about how this is the most I’ve ever raced, but then I looked back on my past annual recaps and it’s definitely not, haha. It is, however, one of the only times I’ve ever been able to give a definitive response for this, so that’s something 😛
DNFs: 0
DNSs: 0

5K: 2 (a personal annual low!)
Half Marathon:
5 (far and away a personal high. My previous record was 3.)
States Run In: 6, another new personal high! Although it looks like I used to only count this as states raced in, not states run in. Regardless, I went to way more places this year than ever before, and consequently ran in way more places this year than ever before. This year, I ran in Illinois, Michigan, California (new to me, both as a state and a running destination!), Tennessee (new to me!), New York (new to me!), and Nevada (new to me!). It was a pretty big year for destination running, I’d say. I’m bummed I was too sick to run when I was in Washington, D.C. in May 😦 I’m writing this post the week before Christmas, and there’s a very small chance I may run in Washington (state) while I’m out there this week, but I’m not counting on it.


Road: 10
Trail: 0
Months Run In: 12

Hottest race: For the first time ever, this is a tough one. (I don’t keep track of the actual weather on race day, so I’m just going off memory.) It was either Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, where they pushed the start of the race up by 30 minutes due to the heat (it approached 90 that day, though I don’t think it was in the 90s while we ran), or the Chicago Half Marathon, where it also got up to 90 that day. Bizarrely enough, Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago had some of the best race day weather (at least from a seasonal perspective) out of all of the races I did this year. Go figure.

Coldest race: Jingle Bell Run Chicago, easily. It was only in the 20s.
Windiest race: I’m going to give this crown to Jingle Bell as well, because the headwind in the second half of that race was no. joke. It was windy during the Illinois Half Marathon, too, but not at ALL like at Jingle Bell.
Wettest race: That’s a three-way tie between Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, the Chicago Half, and the Chicago Marathon, not because it rained at any of those events–there wasn’t a cloud in the sky for the duration of any of them–but because I think I dumped as much water on my head during those races as I drank and was soaked through by the time I finished all of them. Yay hot runs 😐

Races I ran for free: 0. Another first 😦
Race entries I paid for other people: 0

Participation medals received: 13. Why yes, yes I did end up with more medals than races run. I got a bonus medal at Illinois for doing the Half I Challenge, a bonus medal from Rock ‘n’ Roll for doing two of their races, and though it hasn’t arrived yet, I’m also supposed to receive a bonus medal from Rock ‘n’ Roll for doing three of their races. In related news, I’ve run out of space on my medal rack. In equally related news, I think the regularity of handing out medals at the end of races has gotten a little out of control.

AG medals received: 0 😦 Oh, odd year Jingle Bells, how you break my heart!

Goose egg 😦 Since I started running in 2011, this is the first time I didn’t log any PRs. It’s a bit disappointing, especially on the half marathon front since I ran so many of them, but hopefully I’ll have better news to report in 2018’s annual recap.

Favorite medal: Nashville. Say what you will about Rock ‘n’ Roll, but as far as medal design goes, I think they’re the best in the business. I love that this one lights up!

Favorite picture: Mt. Roosevelt.


I don’t often buy pictures from MarathonFoto, but I believe it’s required by runner law to hand over your credit card to MarathonFoto if you’re able to look that genuinely happy at the top of Mt. Roosevelt at mile 26.1 (or so) of a MARATHON. I regret nothing.

What I particularly appreciate about that picture is that I sent this picture to my parents two weeks before the race so they’d know (more or less) what I’d look like on race day, saying, “I forgot to take pictures of my outfit after the 20 miler this year because my brain was melting from all the heat. Fortunately, CARA’s photographer got one of me, so this is what you can expect to see on race day. Don’t hold me to that expression, though.”

2017 CARA Ready to Run 20 MilerPhoto credit: Chad Marek of Endurance Photo

WELL WELL. Look who was able to manage that expression on race day! 😀

Miles run in 2017: 802.42 (+238.02 from 2016, with the ENORMOUS caveat that my 2016 total doesn’t include any of my many, many 2016 treadmill miles. I estimate that I ran up to 100 miles on the treadmill in 2016, which would make this +138.02 from 2016 instead). This is, of course, assuming that my GPS watches were accurate, which as I most certainly learned the hard way this year, was not always the case. But that’s what my Polar annual report + my Garmin reports say, so that’s what I’m going with. (Speaking of Garmin: is there an easy way to get it to tell you your annual mileage? The only thing I could find was a chart with monthly mileage, but I had to add up the monthly totals individually. I find Garmin Connect, both the website and the app, to be fairly unintuitive compared to Polar’s interface, however, so it’s possible I just don’t know how to get the data I’m looking for.)
Of those, miles done on the treadmill: 5.74

BOOM. This was probably one of the pettiest, stupidest goals I’ve ever had as a runner, but at some point during marathon season, it occurred to me that I hadn’t logged one single marathon training mile on a treadmill, and I decided I wanted to keep it that way. It’s so irrelevant and unimportant (and not even meaningful, really – I didn’t log any treadmill miles during marathon training in 2015, either), but I guess after doing SO many runs on the treadmill last year, I got a pathetic amount of pride out of not running on a treadmill this year. I only ran twice on a treadmill all year: once in February, and once at Runn Chicago.

Anyway, treadmill hatred aside, this was FAR and away the highest annual mileage I’ve ever logged. My previous recorded PR in that department was 671.58 in 2015. I was also in training for a lot more of this year than ever before (last week of January through the second week of December with no time off by my definition – “time off” by my definition meaning not running for a full week by choice, not by injury- or illness-induced force), so I can’t say I’m surprised. I also have an even greater appreciation for people who manage to log 1000+ miles annually after all of this. While I think my body could’ve handled more miles this year, my mind certainly couldn’t. I was really, really tired of running by the time I was finally done training for the year, and I can’t imagine adding any extra training time onto my schedule (or somehow adding 198 more miles into the training I did).

It was a weird year in running for me, on the whole. Most of my race times were not anywhere near what I’d like, and marathon training was a wildly demoralizing experience, especially after Labor Day. The marathon itself, however, went so well that I’m really still not over it almost three months later. That was the highlight of my whole year in running, and I kind of feel like it made up for every disappointment I had in the half marathon department this year (of which there were PLENTY). I don’t have any super solid goals for running in 2018, other than at least putting effort into trying to PR my half marathon, but I’m looking forward to running a couple new races, seeing some new sights, and hopefully not getting food poisoning during marathon training this time around 😉


Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago 8K Race Recap

Thanksgiving may be the most popular day for racing in the United States, but growing up, I was completely oblivious to the concept of a turkey trot. Maybe it was ignorance, but from what I remember, Thanksgiving was most definitely not a day for running where I grew up. In Chicagoland, however, the opposite is true, and since I stayed in town for the holiday this year, I took on my first turkey trot last Thursday!


I was a little concerned about the race from an organizational standpoint in the hours leading up to the event. After finding out the Sunday before Thanksgiving (or maybe it was the Monday before?) via a sponsored Facebook post that the race had changed its course, I then got an email on Wednesday informing me that, “As the safety of our participants, volunteers and spectators are our utmost priority, we’ve been working with the City of Chicago to make some alterations to our race course. Stay tuned to our social pages for event updates and new course announcements.” Excuse me? They then sent another email at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, a mere 11 hours before the race, announcing that they had finalized the course. The “new” course was now identical to what the course had been prior to them changing it a few days before o.O All in all, a very bizarre situation that I would not exactly label “confidence inspiring.”

Anyway, I got to the race Thursday morning, and it was so nice outside! I certainly wouldn’t call it warm, but the sun was out and tons of people were dressed up in turkey hats or other holiday-appropriate apparel, making me very excited for the race.


I opted to run the 8K, but the race had a 5K option as well. Everyone, aside from the kids running the Plymouth Rock Ramble, started at the same time: all 6,886 of us. The race was self-seeded, and since I’ve never run an 8K slower than a 9:03 pace, I decided to tuck myself into the back of the 8:00 corral. The course began at Fullerton and Cannon, and it wasn’t particularly spacious, so they were sending the corrals off at a pretty generous stagger. I crossed the start line roughly 10 minutes after the race began and headed east on Fullerton.

Even with the staggered start, the course was CROWDED for the first mile. I came through the first mile in 9:04, which was fine by me. I had looked up the results from 2016 before starting, and knew that I didn’t have a prayer of placing in my age group (I thought I might, given that turkey trots are usually more low key affairs, but that apparently isn’t the case at this particular race), so I wasn’t too concerned that I turned in a 9:00+ mile.

We continued running north to right around Addison, where the courses split. The 5K runners headed south while those of us running the 8K kept north. Unsurprisingly, the 8K was the least popular of the two events, so the course opened up a lot after the turnaround, making it a lot easier to run faster. I had an 8:38 second mile, which was a lot closer to where I ideally wanted to be pace-wise, and followed that up with an 8:36 third mile. When I got the mile three sign, my watch said I was at 3.14 miles. I didn’t think too much of it, since I don’t really expect my watch’s mileage and a race’s mileage to ever match up exactly, but when I finished the run, my watch said I had gone 4.99 miles total. Somehow over the course of less than two miles, I had gone from being .14 miles ahead of where I technically should be to only being .02 miles ahead of where I technically should be. Either I somehow cut a fair amount of the course during those last twoish miles, or the mile marker signs weren’t 100% accurate. I’ve never seen myself make up that much extra mileage before, so I found that to be a bit curious.

It occurred to me after the turnaround (just north of Buena) that I was going to have to join back up with the 5K runners at Addison, and that the 5K runners I’d be joining would definitely not be running the 8:30ish pace I had been holding for the past few miles. I hoped to bank some time before I got too caught up in the melee, and was happy to see that I ran a 8:26 fourth mile. The course crowding wasn’t as bad as I feared initially, because between Addison and Belmont, the northbound runners were all running along the harbor, and the southbound runners had the trail more or less to ourselves. Things definitely got sticky between Belmont and the Barry underpass, but fortunately that didn’t make up *too* much of the course, so it didn’t hurt me too much from a time standpoint.

I didn’t have any real time goals going into Thursday’s race, but after emerging from the Barry underpass, I decided I’d like to try to finish in under 43 minutes. I managed to squeak in just under the wire, finishing in 42:56 for an overall 8:39 pace (and a perfectly negative-split race! My last .99 miles were at an 8:13 pace.). I’ve run seven 8Ks over the past few years, and all but three of them have been a 42:xx, so I was perfectly happy with my result.


I was MORE than perfectly happy with the post-race party, however! Holy cow! I really have no complaints about Lifetime as a race organizing entity (other than the course situation earlier in the week, but from my experience with Lifetime, that seemed like an anomaly), but if there’s any part of races that Lifetime really knocks out of the park, it’s the post-race party. The post-race party for the Chicago Spring Half is main reason why I ran that race twice, the post-race party for the Chicago Half is definitely top-of-the-line, and even the Chicago Triathlon post-race party, which I attended this year with the triathletes I spectated, was mind-boggling in terms of amenities. The Turkey Trot was no exception. In addition to the standard banana/potato chips/pretzels spread Lifetime usually hands out for post-race food, they also had MINI PUMPKIN PIES, which made my day. And that’s not even including the party itself! They had all sorts of stuff to do: corn hole, a football toss, TURKEY BOWLING (where you bowled with an actual frozen turkey. My family always goes bowling on Thanksgiving, so that made me particularly happy, though my family was grossed out by it, haha), beer, hot apple cider, race results, and the most insane giveaway I’ve ever received at a race:


This is the S+ sleep monitor by ResMed (a company apparently best known for its sleep apnea devices). It’s supposed to help you sleep better by giving you feedback on your sleeping environment (too hot, too cold, too bright, etc.), telling you how you’re currently sleeping, helping you drift off at night, waking you up gently in the morning, and all sorts of other things. I haven’t taken my out of the box yet, so I can’t give you any insight into whether or not it works, but what I can tell you is that, according to Google, these things retail for $30 a pop, and they were just handing them out. It was crazy!! I’ve never seen anything like it.

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic way to start Thanksgiving. I had a smile on my face from start to finish, and couldn’t recommend this race more if you’re in Chicago on Thanksgiving.


Runn Chicago

I’ve never tried to hide my hatred of treadmill running. I took it as a point of pride that I never once set foot on a treadmill for the duration of this summer’s marathon training. I only choose to run on a treadmill if something makes it too dangerous to run outside, and even then, I’d be more likely to just scrap my run altogether than hop on a treadmill for however many miles I wanted or needed to run that day.

Needless to say, when Runn Chicago, a new, local fitness studio whose entire premise is treadmill running, reached out to see if I’d be interested in a class, I was skeptical at best. I enjoy checking out studios and sampling their workouts, but despite all the rave reviews on Facebook about how this would change your mind about treadmill running, I really didn’t have high expectations that’d I’d be all that thrilled with the class.


I went to an Express Runn class at 5:30 p.m. on a Monday and was one of only three people there that day. Keith, the studio’s founder and my instructor for the day, said that class tends to be lighter in the attendance department, which means if you’re able to show up then, you, too, could get what basically amounted to a small group training session for the price of a group class. Speaking of the price of a group class, your first class is 100% free, regardless of whether or not you have a blog 🙂 After that, it’s $23 for a single class, $109 for a five-class pack, and $199 for a ten-class pack (class packs never expire).

The Express Runn class itself lasts 30 minutes, but I don’t think we ever did anything for more than one minute before changing something. Keith really ran through the treadmill through its entire repertoire: we’d go faster, then slower, then up, then down, then faster and up, then slower and down. It was as much of a workout for your thumb as it was for your legs!


Speaking of Keith. Now, I’ve been to a lot of studios and a lot of classes over the past few years, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met a friendlier instructor. You know the haughty, aloof vibe you get walking into some studios, where it feels like they deigned to allow you to enter their space? There was none of that at Runn Chicago. Not even close. I saw a few reviewers on Facebook mention that they had been faithful attendees of Keith’s classes when he used to teach at a gym, and I can see why. I’m sure it helped that there were only three people in class when I was there, but he was so engaged with us on an individual level, recommending speeds based on other speeds we had run earlier in the day, chatting with us about our running backgrounds, telling us about why he opened the studio, asking each of us which song we wanted to sprint to at the end and accommodating all of our requests. I’ve never had an instructor, particularly an instructor whose class I was taking for the first time, be that friendly and approachable, and it made a HUGE difference.

The 30 minutes flew by, and I’m sure that’s because there was so much variety in the workout. The thing I really hate about treadmill running is that I find it to be just painfully boring. I’ve tried all sorts of things–music, TV, podcasts, audiobooks–to try to keep my mind occupied when I’m on the treadmill, and none of it ever works. I inevitably end up staring at the clock, praying that it’ll move faster so I can be done with it. Things changed so constantly during Express Runn that I didn’t have time to pay attention to the clock: I was too busy adjusting my speed or incline to focus on how long I’d been running.


Overall, I was really impressed with Runn. I enjoyed the class a lot more than I anticipated and felt like I got in a good workout in a short amount of time. Particularly if you need motivation to get in speedwork, I think Runn could be a great supplement to your training plan.



What’s Next

Long-term edition.

This past marathon season, as I mentioned once or twice or on a weekly basis from the beginning of September (or maybe even earlier?) through race day, was without a doubt the most trying marathon season I’ve had. A variety of factors played into this, and while maybe one or two of them would’ve been manageable on their own, dealing with all of them at once made the last six weeks of training so difficult that I began to ask myself some serious questions, the root of which, always, was, “Why am I doing this?” The fact that I couldn’t come up with an answer–not any sort of answer at all–was troubling, to say the least.

When I crossed the start line of the Chicago Marathon this past October, I did so not knowing whether or not I’d be back in 2018. I had had it with the entire experience of marathon training and really didn’t know if I could put myself through that again. Then, of course, I had the race of my life (when I was expecting to have a terrible race, no less), so that obviously changed my perspective a bit. While I suppose it would make sense to retire now–going out on a high note, as it were–now that I feel like I’ve at least figured out how to run a marathon (only took five years and six attempts!), I would like to apply that knowledge to a training cycle and race and see what happens.

HOWEVER. Having the race of my life doesn’t suddenly erase the fact that last marathon season was not even close to an enjoyable experience, nor does it change, what I think, was the main reason I hated last marathon season so much: my CARA group. I feel like the experiences I had with the group this year had a serious impact on the way I felt about marathon training in general (that is to say, not positively). Because the importance of this group to me and my training in the past was so high that it was consistently the reason I listed as the reason why I continued running the Chicago Marathon, having a problem with the group automatically becomes the biggest problem of all. There’s a lot that goes into this, so bear with me.

I’ve run with the same 10:30 pace group every year that I’ve done marathon training. I don’t know why I initially chose a 10:30 pace group–I guess it seemed reasonable enough in 2013?–but if I’m being honest with myself, it was a bit too fast for me. I rarely ran with the main group, and more often than not ran with a handful of people doing closer to a 10:45 pace. I barely ever spoke to anyone. I went to one post-run brunch, but felt like I was crashing a party I wasn’t actually invited to, and never went to any other “extracurriculars,” if you will. Somehow, despite not really being connected to the group, I felt inexplicably connected to the group (see?), and came back for more in 2014.

Two big things changed for me in 2014. I felt far more comfortable in the group than I did in 2013. It was no longer a new experience, and that made it easier for me to open up and be chatty–a key element to making friends in my running group, in my experience. Additionally, a fair number of people who I considered to be the “in crowd” of the 10:30s were not running with the group in 2014. This left a social vacuum, an opportunity for a new in crowd to form without having to compete with the existing in crowd. I took both of these changes and RAN WITH THEM (literally, I suppose, but I mean it in more of the metaphorical sense 😛 ). I initiated conversations with my running buddies. I went to every single extracurricular event. I struck up a good friendship with another girl in the group, Jill (all names changed to protect the innocent)–so good that she even invited me to her birthday party that November (the one and only time someone from the 10:30s invited me to a non-10:30s event). Things went really, really well from a social standpoint, and I was officially all in for the CARA 10:30s.

Things changed in 2015. Jill signed up for marathon training, but rarely showed up to marathon training, mostly because she was usually at CrossFit instead, and I definitely resented her for it. I still attended the extracurriculars like my life depended on it, but I didn’t feel like I had A Running Buddy anymore like I had had in Jill. It bothered me a lot. Something about group training in 2015 just didn’t click for me like it had the year before (see? [#9]). 2016 was more of the same, but I blamed that on the fact that I was training for two marathons at once and rarely ran the same mileage as the rest of the group.

I don’t remember what my feelings were headed into training this year. I knew Jill wouldn’t be there, since she moved to California. Pretty quickly, however, I realized that the in crowd situation from 2013 was back with a VENGEANCE. Though the cast of characters had changed, there was a distinct, undeniable in crowd in the group. They took up the front spots in the group every Saturday, would meet up with each other to run on weekdays, were all on each other’s kickball team. If I thought Jill not showing up in 2015 made me feel resentful, it was NOTHING compared to the way I felt about the 2017 10:30s in crowd. They were cliquey and exclusive and I hated it, not only because of the cliquey-ness and exclusivity, but because every single person in that clique joined the group AFTER I did and have run fewer marathons than I have, and that infuriated me. I felt like I had seniority, like I had earned my place in the in crowd, like this was my group and my thing and how DARE they take it away from me like that. Maybe that’s petty or stupid or whatever, but it’s the truth.

My resentfulness about the clique situation came to a head after Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. I used to live relatively close to two of my group leaders and would often get rides home from them. The week before Rock ‘n’ Roll, I told them I wouldn’t be at the group run the following week since I was doing the half instead.

“Emma’s doing Rock ‘n’ Roll, too,” one of them responded, referencing one of the girls in the clique. “She’s looking for someone to run with! You should let her know you’re running!”

Now, I’ve never been particularly close to Emma. We’ve chatted once or twice at group events, but that was it. Nevertheless, I’m Facebook friends with her, so I sent her a message later that day letting her know that I’d be running Rock ‘n’ Roll and was available as a running buddy but most certainly did not need to be her running buddy if her goals were different than mine for race day. She responded quickly letting me know that two other girls from our group (both clique members) were also running it (so why my group leaders were under the impression that she had no one to run with is beyond me) and that “we should definitely meet up before.” Fair enough. She gave me her number, and that was that.

Neither Emma nor I made any effort to coordinate with the other person before race day, so the morning of, I texted her to let her know which corral I was in, and that I was about 20 minutes away from Grant Park. She responded in kind, letting me know that she also would be there in about 20 minutes. I opted to carry a water bottle and my phone that day instead of checking gear like normal, so I had my phone on me the entire time leading up to the race, but I never heard anything from Emma. That was fine with me. I was just there to get my long run in and didn’t necessarily need a companion to make that happen.

That was all I really thought of it until after the race, when I sat down in Grant Park and began looking up the race results of everyone I knew participating, as one does (or is that just me?). To my enormous surprise, Emma (and the two other girls) had both run substantially faster than I had–like, up to 13 minutes faster than I had–and to my enormous dismay, I saw that all three of them crossed the start line at the exact same time.

I. Was. Furious.

My furious-ness only increased later in the day, when I made the critical mistake of Facebook stalking Emma and saw the two pictures she had posted from that day’s race: one of her and the other two girls all together in their corral, and one of the three of them together after the race, complete with the caption, “Lucky to be part of such a wonderful running community.”

RUNNING COMMUNITY MY BUTT. I made an effort to be your running buddy even though I didn’t want to because Jack and Jess (the group leaders) said you needed one, and then you completely ditched me to run with two other girls in the clique?!?! If that’s “community,” then I’m Jordan Hasay.

Maybe I’m being ridiculous. Maybe I am, once again, being petty. Maybe should have hounded Emma more to coordinate meeting up. But it pissed me off. It all felt so unnecessary. If you didn’t want to run with me, JUST SAY SO. I would not have been the LEAST bit offended. I would’ve been relieved, in fact! I SPECIFICALLY said in my initial Facebook message that it “doesn’t make a difference to me either way” if she ran with me or not. But when you act like you want to run with me and then go silent on me on race morning AND THEN run with other people from the training group AND THEN post all about it on Facebook, I’m going to be offended! (The fact that they all smoked me time-wise didn’t help either, I’ll admit.)

So I was already soured on the group, and that was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back. That whole situation went down at the end of week six of training. I only went to four more long runs with the group for the entire year (out of 11 possible). Granted, there were extenuating circumstances more than once–my knee, my food poisoning, being out of town, a half marathon–but still. If you needed me to point out the The Moment where everything changed for me in terms of marathon training this past summer, that was most definitely it. That was the moment that all of my starry-eyed infatuation with the 10:30s from 2014 exploded into a million dead pieces, and, having had time to reflect on it, I think that’s really what killed this whole season for me. No, the food poisoning didn’t help, and the fact that September felt more like July in terms of temperature (when July had been fairly September-y) most certainly didn’t help the situation either. But it was Rock ‘n’ Roll that did me in. My love for my training group and the friends I had there had always been enough to overcome all the frustration and disappointment that inevitably comes along with an 18-week marathon training program. Once that love was gone, so was my interest in marathon training.

Since marathon training has, historically, been my primary interest in this whole thing–I really hated marathon running up until just about a month ago–having lost that interest–or at least having lost interest in doing that with the people I’ve always done it with–has put me in a bit of a running identity crisis, if you will. Who am I, if I am not a 10:30 Awesome?

To be fair, the Saturday 6:30 a.m. group at Montrose is far from the only option for marathon training. I could train with the 6 a.m. group (*weeps*), or the 6:30 a.m. Lakeshore East group, or I could defect and become a Chicago Endurance Sports runner and train with them next year. Or I could train solo, though that idea doesn’t really appeal to me when I know the path will be full of groups I could’ve joined if I had decided to do so. As much as I hate to admit it, I think my 10:30 Awesome days are over. And it just sucks, you guys. That group was so fundamental in developing me into the runner I am today. I really, really like Jack and Jess, and I hate the idea of abandoning them. I felt like I got along with the two of them really well. They’re friendly and helpful and impeccably nice. Jess TEXTED me on my birthday, for goodness sake! The only other people to text me on my birthday were my best friend from childhood and my good friend from dance! I’m sure there are other wonderful group leaders in CARA (and in CES, for that matter), but Jack and Jess are my group leaders, and it really upsets me that the vibe of the group changed so much that I don’t even feel like I belong anymore and won’t be running with Jack and Jess as a result.

The other issue I have at the moment? I just…don’t want to do the marathon next year. I’m not sure that I want to do any marathon next year, never mind the Chicago Marathon. I had such a miserable experience this past training cycle that it’s really turned me off from the whole idea.

Now, that alone should seal the deal, right? If I don’t want to run the marathon next year–if I don’t even have to do soul-searching to know that, if my stomach turns every time I get an email from the race encouraging me to sign up for next year–that should be it right there. Don’t want to run the race? Then don’t run the race. A few years back, there was a girl in my dance class who would constantly text me an hour or so before class saying that she didn’t want to be there, and it was all I could do to keep from shaking her by the shoulders and screaming in her face, “THEN DON’T COME TO CLASS ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!” (Instead, I’d text her that, just with less caps lock and fewer exclamation points, haha.) It BOGGLED my mind that she could have so little interest in dance and continue to show up week after week after week, and even more than that, continue to register for future sessions! WHY?! Why would any adult do that to themselves? Why would any grown woman force herself to have a hobby she didn’t want to have?! I could NOT comprehend it.

And yet, here I am, with next to no interest in running the Chicago Marathon next year, still contemplating running the Chicago Marathon next year.

I guess what it really comes down to for me is this: I don’t want to run the Chicago Marathon next year right now. I am not at all confident that I won’t want to run the Chicago Marathon next year when training season rolls around. Unfortunately, because the race insists doing registration obscenely and unnecessarily early, I don’t have the luxury of waiting until next summer or next year or even next month to decide if I want to run Chicago or not. Since every summer marathon training program in the city targets the Chicago Marathon, if I intend to train with a group–which I do, even if that group is a different group–Chicago is far and away the most logical race to do, especially if I join a new group. Joining a brand new group and then running different mileage then them every week is certainly not going to do me any favors in the running-buddy-making department.

That’s one of the other pieces that’s keeping me from throwing in the towel entirely: while training was not a particularly pleasant experience this year, I do really like marathon training. Really truly. I love have 18 weeks of scheduled workouts (even if they inevitably don’t go according to plan). I like the structure and the order, and even though it can be burdensome at times, I very much appreciate the predictability and rhythm of marathon training. It feels stable, and I like that feeling a lot.

I still haven’t submitted my application for my guaranteed entry, but I expect that I probably will. At the end of the day, even with all the angst it caused me in 2017, I think I’d like to give the Chicago Marathon specifically at least one more shot. I’d like to try training with a different group, and I’d like to try training at a more appropriate pace (which, based on how the race went this year, is probably going to be either 11:00 or 11:30–most likely 11:30–much to my ego’s chagrin). If things still go terribly, if I hate my new group and I hate training, then I guess I have my answer as to what I should do with all of this moving forward. I still feel like I have unfinished business with the Chicago Marathon (like finally running a time I want to run, for example), and I don’t think I’m ready to walk away from it with that hanging over my head. We’ll see what happens, I guess, but that’s the plan for the moment.

What’s Next

Short-term edition.

With the Chicago Marathon well in my rearview mirror, it’s now time for me to focus on the remainder of my running calendar for the year because surprise! The marathon wasn’t the end game this year! Well, I suppose the marathon was my end game, at least from a goals standpoint, but I have three (!) more races coming up before I can officially go into hibernation mode.

I registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon last year, but due to being booted, wasn’t able to run. This year, I successfully completed the marathon without stress reacting/fracturing my foot or peroneal tendinitis-ing my peroneal tendon, so I plan to do the race this year. While it’s perhaps possible that I could ride out my marathon fitness for five weeks and still complete a half marathon, it didn’t feel particularly likely that I could do that, and even if I somehow could do it, I have very strong doubts that I would enjoy doing that. Thus, a four week half marathon “training” plan was born.

My half marathon training plan is really more of a maintenance plan than anything. I took the week after the marathon off from exercise (mostly) entirely (I did go to dance on Tuesday, per usual, but I took it easy and only did what I could.) and went for my first run post-marathon the Monday of the week after the race (Oct. 16, eight days after the marathon). My half marathon maintenance plan was somewhat inspired by Hal Higdon’s HM3 program, at least from days-of-the-week-spent-running and a type-of-run perspectives. I didn’t want to jump into week nine of HM3 when I was still more or less recovering from the marathon, so I decided to ease back into things for a couple of weeks, have one “peak week” of 20ish miles the week before race week, then “taper” the week of race week. I am most certainly not hoping for a PR in Vegas, and even though I don’t really drink (even when the alcohol is free, as I learned when I went to Vegas last year), I’m not fooling myself into believing I’ll be in prime racing condition for this event. Even if I were in prime racing condition, since the event is a night(ish) race, I’m obviously going to be going into this under much different circumstances, particularly in the food/hydration/rest departments, than other half marathons. I just want to be able to finish uninjured, and I think my maintenance plan will help me accomplish that.

After the Vegas half, I have a whopping 10 days until my next race: my first ever turkey trot! My schedule worked out this year to allow me to do one, and I’m super pumped! I think it’ll be a nice way to start a day that usually involves little to no movement on my end. Again, I’m not expecting any miraculous performances here: just going out to enjoy myself and start Thanksgiving on an active note.

Two weeks after the turkey trot, I’ll wrap up my year in running with the same 5K I run every December. I actually do care about this race–care too much, one could argue–so I’m hoping that maintaining higher mileage going into it and keeping up with a little bit of speedwork will help me out. I love the idea of PRing, but I also know the weather for this event is a complete crapshoot (I’ve run it in everything from 48 and humidish to freezing and middle-of-a-snowstorm), so that’s probably a little out of the question. My goal at this race is always to place in my age group, which I’ve done every other year. Unfortunately this is an “off” year for me in terms of age group placement (historically, I’ve placed in my age group at this event during even years and gotten fourth in my age group during odd years), so we’ll have to see what happens, I guess.

As soon as I cross the finish line of that 5K, I plan to hang up my running shoes for the remainder of the year. I like to take a bit of time off every year to give myself a bit of a break in the running department, and since I know I’ll need to start officially training again at the end of January, the end of December seems like a good time to take that break (plus holidays, parties, travel, etc. etc.).

I’m hoping to incorporate more strength training into my fitness life through the end of the year, but I’ll be honest: I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to go about doing that. NTC is an option, I suppose, though I’m really not as crazy about NTC as I used to be (I still hate the updated app, even though it’s been updated for nearly a year and a half at this point.). I’d love to find some sort of strength training program that fits what I’m looking to accomplish (one to two workouts per week, ideally with a total body focus, since I expect my strength training to be so infrequent that I’d like to get the most bang for my buck in that department), but so far have just gotten overwhelmed every time I’ve tried to find something online and give up. I’m also not really looking to spend any additional money to make this happen, which limits me a bit as well. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

So that’s the plan for the moment. I still have some decisions to make regarding more long-term plans, but that’s another topic for another blog post 🙂

Chicago Recovery Room

Over the course of my running career, I’ve racked up a laundry list of injuries, ranging from run-through-able (runner’s knee) to walking-boot-confining (a stress reaction). Throughout these experiences, I’ve become quite familiar with the running injury pipeline, if you will:

Step 1: Realize something doesn’t feel right. Hem and haw about what you should do for an amount of time that is directly related to your level of pain and, in my experience, inversely related to the amount of time you’ve spent running (the longer I run, the more likely I am to seek medical attention early).
Step 2: Depending on my insurance status and willingness to wait, schedule a free injury screen at a physical therapy clinic (deductible not met and/or want to get in immediately) or schedule an appointment at either the sports doctor or sports podiatrist, depending on the location of the potential injury.
Step 3: Receive a diagnosis and a prescription for physical therapy
Step 4: Wither away (mentally; get stronger physically) in physical therapy for six weeks to six months
Step 5: Run until you feel pain again, rinse and repeat.

This pipeline, in my experience, has been an effective way to recover from an injury, but is wildly frustrating when something doesn’t feel quite right, but also doesn’t feel quite wrong enough to need a month and a half of physical therapy – maybe I could use a session or two, but good luck getting a doctor to give you a prescription for one physical therapy appointment. Since the only way to get a PT appointment in Illinois is with a prescription, if you just need a little help getting over that hump, you’re stuck.

That is, unless you know about the Chicago Recovery Room.

The Chicago Recovery Room contacted me around the middle of the summer to give their services a try, and I’ll be honest: I didn’t have a clue what to expect out of the experience. I had heard about CRR before, but I didn’t think I was its target clientele. Recovery facilities with their fancy compression boots and ice baths seemed like the place where people who can qualify for Boston go to keep themselves in tip-top shape, not a place where a schlub like me, who has never run a marathon at a sub-11:00 pace, would hang out.

My trip to CRR started out with a three-mile run with Keelan, an athletic trainer at the facility. As we ran along the Lakefront Trail, he told me a bit about the story of the Chicago Recovery Room. Liz Yerly, the founder of CRR, began her career as a physical therapist, and found that both she and her patients were frustrated by the red tape required to get into a PT clinic for an appointment. To make herself more accessible without the need to travel through the injury pipeline, she got certified in athletic training and massage therapy, and eventually decided to open CRR. The goal? To provide athletes of all abilities (even 4:52-on-a-good-day marathoners like myself) with access to medical professionals who can offer PT-like services–ART, Graston, etc.–to people on a short-term, cash-payment basis, thus eliminating the insurance piece of the equation. It’s that insurance piece that makes up a fair amount of the red tape when it comes to physical therapy, so by cutting out that middle man entirely, athletes from all types of sports can access trained professionals who can provide them with a minor “tune up” to help nip a potential injury in the bud.

Sometimes, though, an athlete doesn’t really know what he or she needs in terms of medical treatment (*raises hand*). If that’s the case, CRR offers injury screens, where a staff member can take a look at you and help you decide the best course of action. Maybe somethings nagging you a little, but isn’t bad enough to require a full-blown PT prescription. In that case, you can schedule a tune-up or two at CRR to help you get back to normal. 30 minute tune-ups cost $60 each, and while that may not be free, it is most CERTAINLY cheaper than a PT appointment, which generally bill your insurance company for around $350 for an hour. If your plan doesn’t offer a co-pay on PT–I haven’t had a co-pay on PT appointments in years–and you haven’t met your deductible, you’ll probably on the hook for a good $150 of that. And remember, an hour of PT usually comes out to 30 minutes of hands-on work and 30 minutes of you doing supervised exercises. If your injury is more severe, however, CRR can provide you with a doctor recommendation. If you’ve ever attempted to navigate the process of finding a doctor on your own, you should know how helpful having someone who knows what they’re talking about can be. If your doctor determines you need physical therapy, CRR now has a physical therapy arm, Impact PT, that can take care of you if you’d like to continue seeing the same people who started this journey with you.

After my run with Keelan, I had the chance to check out all of the recovery tools available at CRR. If you don’t need a tune-up or an injury screen, CRR can still be a huge help to you in your day-to-day training life. You can buy a day pass, a 10-pack of day passes, or a month-to-month membership. CRR has every recovery tool you can imagine, from accessories you see in PT clinics (Therabands, etc.) to every foam roller under the sun to NormaTec boots, which I am convinced are magic.

CRR has NormaTec compression technology for your legs, hips, and arms. You zip yourself up into whichever method you choose, then turn on a machine that uses air pressure to create compression. I only tried the boots, so I can’t speak for the hip or arm devices, but the boots start at the bottom of your legs by your feet and slowly work their way up, slowly adding pressure and releasing pressure in a way that’s designed to encourage blood flow to help your muscles recover. You sit in the boots for 20-30 minutes, and then continue about your day. I found the experience to be slightly uncomfortable at first, but I got used to it very quickly and was bummed when my session ended!


I finished my time at CRR with a seven minute ice bath. I’m no stranger to ice baths, but this was a whole different ball game. CRR has a tub that maintains a constant temperatures at 51 degrees, so unlike an ice bath in your bathtub at home, which starts out cold and warms up quickly as your body heat melts all the ice, this ice bath starts cold and stays cold. I wasn’t brave enough to go all the way in, but that’s okay – you can sit on the edge of the tub and just put your legs in if you prefer.

I went to CRR when I was still having pain on a semi-regular basis in my left knee. I had actually run four miles to get to the facility, and when I finished that four miler, my knee was definitely whining. When I left CRR, however, my knee felt perfectly normal for the first time in weeks. That alone was enough to convince me that these recovery tools aren’t just a bunch of talk–they really work.

I left CRR beyond impressed with their facility and the purpose they serve for local athletes. Out of everything I’ve ever reviewed for this blog, CRR is far and away the one I’d recommend most highly. I think anyone, even a turtle like me, can really benefit from what they have to offer. If you’re an athlete in any capacity, this place should be on your radar.