What’s Next

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

OOFOS Review

I received a free pair of OOFOS sandals for review, but all opinions are my own.

I mentioned it a couple times in passing earlier this year, but back in February, I developed a case of plantar fasciitis in my right foot. I don’t know what exactly led to it–I suspect it was a combination of my new running shoes and my newly-increased running volume–but why I came down with plantar fasciitis is less immediately important to me than the fact that I’m dealing with it.

Fortunately, the pain hasn’t been severe enough to keep me off the roads, but I’d be lying if I said my foot is pain-free these days. I’m sure walking 20,000ish steps per day in Europe (in the aforementioned running shoes) didn’t do me many favors, nor has my refusal to quit running, nor has my apparent inability to stick to any sort of rehab program that might help me, nor has my lack of interest in actually seeking out professional help (i.e.: physical therapy).

When I received an email from OOFOS days after I started feeling pain in my foot, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give them a try. I know several people from my marathon training groups that swear by them, and while I have a pair of supportive flip flops, they’re not the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. OOFOS, being made with their proprietary OOfoam, sounded a lot softer.

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On top of that, the sandals are molded to support your arches. If you ask the internet what you should do to remedy plantar fasciitis, one of the things it mentions is to avoid walking barefoot, even inside. Arch support is supposed to help relieve symptoms, so once again, OOFOS sounded like they might help me out. Being February, I wasn’t all that interested in wearing flip flops outside, but a brand new pair of OOFOS could serve as my indoor, supportive footwear.

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I’ve been really impressed by how much these sandals have helped. Have they cured my plantar fasciitis? No, but I don’t think you can really expect sandals to cure plantar fasciitis when you continue running high mileage in shoes your feet don’t like/walk around Europe in those same shoes/don’t consistently do foot strengthening exercises/don’t wear your night split/don’t pick up the darn phone to schedule a physical therapy appointment. They do, however, dramatically reduce my symptoms when I wear them at home. They also make me an inch or so taller, which I don’t hate 😛

If you have issues with plantar fasciitis, I’d definitely suggest giving OOFOS a shot. For me, they’ve certainly been a better alternative than walking around my house barefoot, and I’m sure they’d be equally great outside. Like I said, I already own a pair of supportive flip flops from another brand, and while I like those ones as well, the OOFOS are light years ahead in terms of comfort, which, when you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, is a pretty big selling point. If you’re interested in checking them out, you can read more about their OOfoam (and purchase shoes, which come in everything from boots to flip flops) on their website, or locate a store near you that sells OOFOS.

oofos-2

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.

bankofamericashamrockshufflepacket2019

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.

bankofamericashamrockshufflemedal2019

2018 Running Recap

It was a good one! As always, thanks to Kim for the inspiration.

Races participated in: 12
Races “raced” (of x amount above): 1, the Jingle Bell Run Chicago 5K
DNFs: 0
DNSs: 0, technically. You could argue that I DNSed the Chicago Half Marathon, since it’s true–I did not start that race. I did start (and finish) the Life Time 5K in its place, though, so I don’t think it’s really a DNS.

Distances
5K: 3
8K:
2
15K: 1
Half Marathon: 5 (sigh. So close to a personal high! If only I had run the Chicago Half. Alas.)
Marathon:
1
States Run In: 5: Illinois, Michigan, California, Washington, and Nevada. No new-to-me states this year, but that’s okay. Can’t do that every year!
Months Run In: 12

rocknrollseattlecourse-1

Hottest race: Hmm. You know, I honestly don’t know! I didn’t have any oppressively (i.e.: memorably) hot races this year. What a nice treat! Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego was definitely warm, since the course didn’t have much shade. I guess that’d have to be my pick, but I’ve certainly run through worse. According to Garmin, Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago was the hottest race I ran (a whopping 72 degrees – child’s play for Rock ‘n’ Roll!), but that race was rainy and overcast, so I think it felt cooler (though a lot more humid, unsurprisingly) than San Diego. The hottest “race” I ran, by far, was this year’s 20 miler, but that’s not a race. The hottest run, for the record, was the nine miler during marathon training. Holy cow. That was no joke.
Coldest race: Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K, if memory serves.

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Look at all those cold people!

Windiest race: DEFINITELY the Hot Chocolate 15K. Nothing like running five miles of a 15K into a headwind. Oof.
Wettest race: DEFINITELY Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. It was, incidentally, the first time I’ve ever been rained on during race day, and boy, were we ever rained on. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the deluge that was mile nine of that race. The Bank of America Chicago Marathon comes in second in this category, having been the second race I’ve ever run in the rain (and my only marathon with anything but crystal clear skies from start to finish. More cloudy marathons, please.)

Participation medals received: 12. I also received four “above and beyond” medals if you will: one for doing the Half I-Challenge, one for doing two Rock ‘n’ Rolls, one for doing three Rock ‘n’ Rolls, and one for doing four Rock ‘n’ Rolls. Is sixteen medals too many for one year? YES.
AG medals received: 1!

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PRs:
15K:
1:34:33 (first 15K)
Marathon: 4:42:49 (10:03 PR).

Favorite medal: Life Time 5K. Getting this medal instead of the one for the Chicago Half (and, particularly, the serendipity of getting a medal with my marathon motto on it two weeks before race day) made dropping down to the 5K totally worth it. This isn’t just my favorite medal of 2018; it’s my favorite medal, period.

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Favorite picture:

postmarathon

I’m not really a selfie person, but I felt compelled to take one after the marathon this year. I think this pretty accurately sums up how I felt after the race.

Miles run in 2017: 824.02 as of now, though I plan to do three miles on New Year’s Eve, which would bring me to 827.02 for the year (+21.6 (or +24.6) from 2017)
Of those, miles done on the treadmill: 0. Crushed it. First treadmill-free year…ever? I’m nearly certain I’ll be on the treadmill a lot this winter, so I don’t expect to do that again for at least a year. But it was nice to log all my miles outside this year!

 

Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago 8K Race Recap

I decided once again that getting up early on Thanksgiving sounded better than sleeping in and that running an organized race would be more fun than running on my own, so I kicked off my Thursday at the Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago 8K!

artvanturkeytrot8K2018packet

It was COLD Thursday morning (well, not compared to what they had on the East Coast), so I got to the race about 15 minutes before it began to minimize the amount of time I had to stand outside. Even though the race is fairly large (it sold out with 8,000 registrants), there isn’t a whole lot of corralling that goes on here. The race is divided into two waves: those who plan to run a 9:59/mile or faster, and those who don’t (including those who plan to walk the distance), but it’s up to you to self-seed within those waves and their corresponding minute/mile corrals. As you can imagine at a family-focused holiday event, that has mixed results at best.

artvanturkeytrot8K2018startline

I lined up in the back of the 8:00/mile corral, since that’s roughly what I “wanted” to run on Thursday. I say “wanted” because I didn’t really have anything in mind in terms of goals. I knew from last year that the first mile or so would be bonkers with crowding, and I didn’t even bother to look up my time from 2017 to avoid putting undue pressure on myself.

As expected, the first mile of the race was ridiculous. I did my best to remain patient, since I’m sure plenty of people who show up to this race don’t run any other races all year, and those who came to actually race lined up in the 7:00/mile corral anyway. It’s meant to be a fun event, and that’s fine! I think it’s great that people want to start their holiday that way!

HOWEVER. I only had so much patience (and by “so much” I mean “very little”) for the fully grown, almost certainly literate adults who seemed to view the gigantic signs that announced corral paces as suggestions rather than directions. I understand that if you only run a handful of times per year, you might not have a good concept of what 8:00/mile means. Surely–surely–though, if you are a fully grown, almost certainly literate adult, you MUST know that 8:00/mile does not mean casual walking, right?! I have no problem with people who signed up for the race with the intention of run/walking (as long as they had the intention of doing so at an overall 8:00-8:59 pace if they lined up in the 8:00/mile corral). I also have no problem with adults who ended up walking because they ran with their children, who shot out of the start line only to find themselves exhausted 400 meters later. I also have no problem with anyone, adult or child, who signed up for the race with the intention of walking the entire distance. All of those situations are 100 percent okay. What’s not okay is when adults who clearly never planned to run a step of the race–like, wearing a full blown parka clearly never planned to run a step of the race–line up in the 8:00/mile corral and then stroll the course! Come on, people! We got emails nearly every day leading up to the race that specifically said that Wave 2 was meant for walkers! If you’re going to walk the whole thing, follow the instructions and line up where you’re supposed to!

Anyway.

The big advantage of running the 8K at this event is that you get to (briefly) ditch the 5K participants around mile two, and that the 8K has a substantially smaller field than the 5K. The course opened up as soon as the 5Kers turned off, and I literally breathed a sigh of relief at all the newfound space I had. I was even more relieved when I finally hit the first aid station, which for the 8K wasn’t until just before mile three (!?!). That was a lot longer than I wanted to go without water, especially since I overdressed (of course).

The big disadvantage of running the 8K is that you have to join up with the 5K participants again with about a mile or so to go in the race. The course was the same as last year, so at least I knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant. I ended up tailing a guy from the 8K who passed me right after we reunited with the 5K, letting him make all the strategic decisions of how to best bob and weave through the crowds while following in the wake he left. Fortunately, this is only really bad for a half mile or so, until you go through the Barry Underpass and get into more open territory.

By that point, though, the damage had been done in the pace department (the damage had really been done after my lackluster 9:20 first mile), and I crossed the finish line in 45:30 for a resounding personal worst in the 8K. I’m not too upset about it since I didn’t have any expectations going into the race in the first place (I’m more upset that my watch said 45:26 while my official results said 45:30. I’m used to a second or two of discrepancy between my watch time and official time, but not four seconds!). I got my 10,000 steps for the day in before feasting, which was my only real goal 😛

The post-race party was just as awesome as last year, though moderately less enjoyable (for me) because it was so cold. That’s not Lifetime’s fault, though. I did get in my turkey bowling, and a photographer I know Lifetime uses for some of its advertising collateral took a picture of me bowling, so perhaps I will, at long last, realize my dream of ending up in a race ad (my real dream is ending up in a Chicago Marathon ad, but I don’t wear enough Nike to make that happen). Based on the fact that the website currently only uses photos of the actual race, it might be a stretch, but one can hope. Regardless, I got my mini pumpkin pies, which is as good of a reason as any to run this race as far as I’m concerned.

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All in all, a good way to start Thanksgiving. I don’t know if I’ll be in town to do this race next year, but I think it’s a great city option if you’re looking for a local turkey trot.

artvanturkeytrot8K2018medal

 

Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Race Recap

I ran the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K on Sunday, logging my first 15K (in a race setting) in the process.

Like I said a couple of weeks ago, there are multiple reasons why I had never run Hot Chocolate. Timing was a big one, since the race falls soon after the Chicago Marathon. The bigger reason, though, is Hot Chocolate’s reputation for royally screwing things up. It’s been years since the debacle that was Hot Chocolate D.C., and while that was likely Hot Chocolate’s biggest screw-up, when I was more actively involved in the behind-the-scenes part of the Chicago running world, Hot Chocolate Chicago was also notorious for having nightmare packet pickup situations. I have very little patience for races that can’t get their act together, and even less patience for races that can’t get their act together when they’re put on by a for-profit company whose only purpose is to put on races (i.e.: RAM), so I thought it would likely be in my best interest to stay away.

However, I am not immune to the siren song of cool race swag. I started toying with the idea of running Hot Chocolate last year, and started taking that idea more seriously at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago expo when I saw the race’s sweatshirt for the first time.

hotchocolate15kpacket

I LOVED it, so at that moment I decided if I could make it through the marathon in one piece, I’d sign up for Hot Chocolate.

I have no idea how the expo was this year, because my cousin was in town at the end of last week for a conference at McCormick Place and offered to pick up my packet for me to save me the trip. He didn’t seem to have any complaints, though, so I guess it must’ve been fine. The contents, however, were less than helpful:

hotchocolate15ksafetypins

That is a zip tie that has already been zip tied. Good luck getting that to attach your gear check tag to your gear check bag!

Another small detail that was perhaps not messed up, but certainly confusing? My packet came in an plastic, opaque white drawstring bag. Additionally, other participants did get clear plastic bags for their packets. I also saw some people with black plastic packet bags. What gives?? The gear check rules online specifically indicated that I needed to use a clear plastic bag for gear check. If you’re going to require that I use a clear plastic bag for gear check, then you need to provide a clear plastic bag for gear check, like every other race that has that requirement.

hotchocolategearcheck

Please note the line at the end about the zip ties, too.

The forecast had called for rain on Sunday all week, so I was pleased to wake up to dry skies. It was fairly chilly and quite windy, though. I donned my Goodwill throwaways and headed out the door around 5:45 for the 7 a.m. start.

I know Hot Chocolate usually has oodles of participants (there were 29,702 timed finishers on Sunday. For those of you keeping score at home, this year’s Shamrock Shuffle had 20,899 finishers. Based on that, I would like to reiterate my belief the Bank of America should sell the Shuffle to RAM: a company much better suited to put on a race like the Shuffle.), so I wanted to arrive with plenty of time to check my gear and use the portapotties. As it turned out, there were ample portapotties for the size of the race, and I waited less than five minutes to get into one (a non-smelly one, no less!). I will certainly give Hot Chocolate credit for that. If I had to pick between an unusable zip tie and plenty of portapotties, I’d pick the portapotties every time.

15K gear check was quite a hike from the Wave One start corrals, but I got to my corral with 15 minutes to spare. I found myself a nice spot on the leftover blue line (not that it mattered, since this obviously wasn’t the marathon) and watched the pre-race ceremony on a video board they had right by the start line. The race supports Make-a-Wish, and they had a couple Make-a-Wish kids up on stage with their parents to talk about what the foundation means to them. One of the kids wants to skate with the Blackhawks, so they brought Tommy Hawk up on stage and had Jim Cornelison sing the National Anthem! That was really cool. They also used the board to display race etiquette, both for runners and runners with children, and to show how the 5K would split from the 15K. I thought it was excellent use of technology, and something other large races should definitely consider using.

hotchocolate15kstart

And then we were off! Hot Chocolate involves a lot of running in the Loop (if you do the 5K, you run almost exclusively in the Loop) and used a different course than the usual Loop-based races, which I enjoyed as a nice change of pace (heh puns). While we’re on the topic of the course, though, I would like to air my biggest grievance with Hot Chocolate: the online course map.

hotchocolatecoursemap

This is what was provided in the online participant guide: the only place I could find a course map for the race. At first glance, it looks just fine. Shows you the start/finish lines, shows you where you’re going to run, shows you all the race courses, even includes a detail with the 5K/15K split: what more could you want?

I don’t know, maybe mile markers? And while we’re at it, aid station locations?

COME. ON. I complained about Rock ‘n’ Roll’s bizzaro map issues back in July, but this makes Rock ‘n’ Roll look like they had their act together. I’d rather have misplaced mile markers on the course map than no mile markers at all! It especially bothered me that they didn’t put the aid stations on the online course map. I fuel every five miles for runs seven miles or longer, which meant I needed to fuel during this race. Because no one at RAM could be bothered to give us any information on the location of aid stations, neither in the participant guide nor in the course map, I had to carry my water bottle for the whole run to ensure I’d have water to chase my chews at mile five. As it turned out, there was an aid station at like mile 4.8, which would’ve been MORE than sufficient for my fueling needs.

Did this completely screw up my race, a race I only needed to finish to PR? Of course not. The miles were all marked on the course, which is all I really needed. It didn’t put in me in danger or anything serious like that. But like I said after Rock ‘n’ Roll, the devil is in the details when it comes to these sorts of things, and when you combine it with the other detail-related issues (a pre-zipped zip tie, an opaque bag), all of those little problems make RAM look sloppy, especially when there are other event management companies that get every detail right, every single time. If all you do is organize races, you should be getting every detail right, every single time. Period.

Anyway.

As it turned out, the primary challenge of Hot Chocolate was not running blind in terms of mile markers or aid stations, nor was it having a pre-zipped zip tie, nor was it having to find a clear bag for my gear: it was the wind. Holy cow, the wind. There were 18 mph winds out of the southeast for the duration of the race, and you know the only two directions you run between emerging from Lower Wacker around mile one all the way through mile 6.a little change? South and east. Oof. Hot Chocolate marked the first time in my running career where I saw used aid station cups before I got the the aid station, because the wind was so strong downtown that it blew the cups up the course. It was nuts, and I was very thankful that we only had wind to deal with, not wind and rain.

The course was definitely one of the more unique ones I’ve run in the city. Not only did it not follow the typical Columbus-to-Grand-to-State Street route, but it was hilly by Chicago standards?? That’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d write, but there were a bunch of inclines on the course: up to get off of Lower Wacker, up to get onto the 35th St. pedestrian bridge at the southernmost portion of the course, up to get off the Lakefront Trail onto Fort Dearborn Drive, up from a dip around Soldier Field, up to get back up onto Columbus for the finish. It was quite the experience for a Chicago race!

I finished in 1:34:33, which was perfectly fine by me. I hoped to run close to a 10:00 pace and ended up averaging a 10:09. No complaints here. I’m ran a steady pace for most of the race (my 5K and 10K splits were both 10:14 exactly) and felt like I ran comfortably hard for all 9.3 miles.

The real highlight of the event, of course, is the post-race chocolate (there was also candy at the aid stations, but I skipped most of that). The finisher’s mug is really something else:

hotchocolate15kfinishermug

Yes. Please.

It started to rain a little after I got my mug, but it didn’t seem feasible to travel with it, given the chocolate fondue situation. I certainly wasn’t about to let any of my treats to go waste, so I chowed down while watching the awards ceremony. Everything was just as delicious and wonderful as I hoped it would be!

hotchocoalte15kpostraceparty

I don’t expect that I’ll do Hot Chocolate again, mostly because I don’t expect that it’ll be as convenient for me as it was this year moving forward. I’m glad I gave it a shot, though, and that I got a super comfortable, well-fitting zip-up sweatshirt out of it 🙂

hotchocolate15kmedal

What’s Next

Normally after the marathon, I’m more than ready for a break. I’m tired of the time commitment of running, the early mornings, the late nights, the never-ending list of extracurriculars that come along with running (cross training, stretching, foam rolling, PT exercises, etc.). I want to be done.

This year was different. I could barely make it through my off-week after the marathon, when I refuse to exercise at all (other than my Tuesday dance class). I was itching to lace up my Asics, and it felt so good to get back out there last Monday. I’m still riding a post-marathon high and want to run all of the miles on all of the days! Run! Run! Run!

Fortunately, my plans for the rest of the year line up nicely with my desire to keep running. Last year, getting through the remainder of my race season after the marathon was a serious grind. I’m hoping that my current enthusiasm for running will keep those feelings away this year, because I have a lot left on my calendar.

Up next: Hot Chocolate! Would you believe that I’ve lived in Chicago for close to six and a half years, have been actively involved in the running community that entire time, but have never run Hot Chocolate? (Probably, if you’ve been reading my blog that long and/or have stalked my past race recaps.) I planned to run 10 miles that weekend regardless, so I figured I may as well run 9.3 in the Hot Chocolate 15K and get a reward for doing closet to what I intended to do in the first place. Plus, I’ve never run a 15K before, so as long as I finish, I’ll PR. If any of you have any interest in running Hot Chocolate, they started a referral program for this year’s event the day after I signed up (naturally). If you use my code, I get $5 and you save $5. Everyone wins!

Why did I plan to run 10 miles that weekend? Because the following weekend, I will once again be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon. This is perhaps a little surprising, given how after last year’s race I swore that I would never, EVER do it again, but here we are. This year, I have much more realistic expectations. I know it’ll be embarrassingly difficult. I know it’s at a terrible time of day. I know my sleep and nutrition and hydration will be a disaster going into the run, not to mention how off they’ll likely be during the run itself. I know that it’s very unlikely that I’ll break 2:30 due to all of those conditions. I assume knowing all of these things will help me enjoy the run a lot more–or at least, enjoy it as much as one can possibly enjoy a late afternoon 13.1 mile run through the desert.

I would like to do a turkey trot in some capacity on Thanksgiving, though the exact details of that (distance, location) are still up in the air. While I didn’t like getting up early on Thanksgiving to do a turkey trot last year, I did like exercising (and being rewarded for it–clearly a theme in this post 😛 ) before spending the rest of the day eating. Since the city and what feels like every single suburb offer turkey trots, I’m not too concerned about finding one.

In December, I’ll do my annual 5K. I expect that this will be my last year doing that race, so I’m hoping to walk away with an age group award. I’ve placed in my age group every time I’ve run this race in an even year (2012, 2014, and 2016), and I’d certainly like to keep that streak alive! I’d be happy to turn in a nice time at this race, too, but my only real concern is how I do compared to the other women between the ages of 25 and 29. I don’t care if I run a 35:00 5K as long as the fourth fastest 25-29 year old woman runs a 35:01.

One of the most unexpected things that came out of marathon season was my newfound interest in strength training. While it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that I enjoyed getting up close to an hour earlier than normal three times per week all summer long to go to the gym before work, I did enjoy being at the gym, and I definitely enjoyed how strong it made me. I also enjoyed how amazing it made my legs look, and I will fully own up to the fact that a big part of my motivation to continue strength training comes from my desire to continue having kickass legs. Sorry not sorry. I want to keep up (or rather, get back into, since I haven’t been to the gym at all since the Thursday before the marathon) that routine, even if it means regular two-a-days while I’m actively training for a race. The pros (increased overall strength, increased confidence, increased discipline, decreased running injuries) strongly outweigh the cons (getting up early), so it’s a worthwhile endeavor as far as I’m concerned.

I have one last thing I want to accomplish with running while I still have the flexibility to train on my terms: breaking 2:00 in the half marathon. While I have come close-ish to breaking 2:00 twice (a 2:02:50 and a 2:05:19), it’s been awhile (2014 and 2016, respectively), and I honestly consider breaking 2:00 to be as audacious of a goal as running a 4:45 marathon. But hey! I just did that! I can do hard things!

Across the 17 half marathons I’ve run, my average time is 2:19:18. If you throw out all the ridiculously hot half marathons I’ve done (three), my average drops to 2:16:33, and if you throw out all of the just-for-fun half marathons I’ve done (four), focusing only on the ones where I was actually trying, my average drops to 2:12:14. So let’s say that, when I care, I can run a 2:12 half marathon. That’s still a ways from 1:59:59. Then again, prior to two weeks ago, my average marathon time was 5:07:02, and that’s even farther from 4:45 (22 minutes) than 2:12 is from 1:59 (13 minutes), so maybe I shouldn’t get down on the myself and the “impossibility” of running 1:59:59 quite yet.

Regardless, I know that breaking 2:00 is not going to be easy. It will require the same dedication to training that I had this past marathon season, where getting in every run, every cross training session, every strength training workout is my #1 priority. No excuses. Throughout marathon season, I said that I did not want to miss 4:45 because I didn’t train hard enough to make it happen, and that’s the same mentality I plan to use in my efforts to break 2:00 in the half. If it doesn’t work out, so be it. Sometimes it’s just not your day, and you can’t do anything about it. But I don’t want it to not work out because I threw in the towel in training.

I know it’ll need to be cold, so right now, I have my eye on either F3 in January (where I ran my 2:05 in 2016) or the Chi Town Half in April (where I ran my 2:02 in 2014). If I do F3, training will start on Nov. 5, so my offseason will have to wait until after the race. I will admit that it makes me nervous to jump into intense training again less than a month after the marathon (and to try to do intense training during the holidays), so I’m not quite decided yet (though I’ll need to make a decision soon!). I’m open to any input from the peanut gallery!

So that’s the plan for the next few months. After that, things are still a little up in the air at this exact moment in time, butttttt…I’m probably going to do another marathon next fall >.< I KNOW, I KNOW. I said I was done. And I am done, at least as far as intense training goes, at least for now. I know that marathon training won’t be able to be my top priority next summer. I put a lot of things on the back burner to accommodate marathon training being my top priority this summer, and it won’t be possible to do that two years in a row. Besides, I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish with the distance (well, I suppose I’d like to qualify for Boston, but since I’m 1:12 (that’s hours:minutes) away from a BQ, obviously that’s not going to happen without really, really, really intense training, haha), so I feel like it’s more reasonable to expect myself to be able to train to run just for fun rather than to train for a goal.

But. I really, truly enjoy the process of training for a marathon. I’ve said that dozens of times before, and this past summer confirmed that. Yes, it can be a grind when you’re in the thick of it–the 90-degrees-and-humid afternoon runs, the 4:30 Saturday alarms–but at the end of the day, I love working towards a not-too-distant goal and I love following a structured plan to get there. I also really liked the girls I ran with this year. Changing training locations and paces made a world of difference in my experience this year vs. last year, and I felt like I developed some good friendships that I’d like to maintain next summer (especially since I know both of my friends plan to run again next year). Right now, I’m thinking that I’ll register for Chicago (since I have a guaranteed entry) and enter the New York lottery just to see what happens. But who knows! I have just over a month to decide whether or not I want to register for Chicago, so we’ll see how I feel as this month goes on.

For those who have broken 2:00 in the half (after running lots of 2:00+ half marathons): training advice? I’m not sure how to go about training for this. I have little/no information from how I trained when I ran my 2:02 and 2:05, so I could really use some guidance, particularly in the speedwork department.