Chi Town Half Marathon Race Recap

After twelve weeks of training my face off–well, eleven weeks of training my face off, plus one week of shin pain/paranoia-induced super taper–it was finally time to put my hard work to the test at the Chi Town Half Marathon.

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I got up at 5 a.m. and did my best to get my head in the game, listening to my favorite running motivational video on YouTube and even busting out my sacred I Run the Marathon to the Very Last Mile playlist on the Music app on my phone: a playlist heretofore reserved exclusively for marathon mornings (and the occasional time I need to warm up my dance class because my teacher’s running late, as that playlist and the Hamilton soundtrack are the only music I have on my phone, ha.). I was in a decent headspace heading out of the house, but I still only felt about 35 percent as confident as I hoped to feel when I left my apartment. Marathon Morning 2018 this was not.

I got a ride to the race and did a pretty good job of keeping it together until we got just past Irving Park on Lake Shore Drive, where we encountered an insane backup of traffic trying to get off at Montrose. I thought I had allotted plenty of time to get to the race, but clearly that wasn’t the case. After we finally got off the exit ramp, finding parking was impossible. People had parallel parked on Simmonds, even though you’re supposed to regular park on that road. All that parallel parking reduced the road’s parking capacity by nearly 50 percent, because now each individual car was taking up about 15 feet of parking space rather than the eight or so it should’ve taken.

I was freaking out about the parking situation. Like, literally crying in the car. I didn’t want to walk all the way (“all the way”) from the parking lot north of Wilson to the start line at the bend of Montrose (you know, that whole…half mile, maybe?), and I didn’t want to take off my sweats any earlier than necessary because I didn’t want to get too cold, but I also didn’t have anything to gear check them (since I planned to keep them in the car)…basically, I was a mess, to put it gently. Eventually I got dropped off close to the stop line, made a beeline to the portapotties, and got to the corral staging area about 10 minutes before the race began.

I haven’t done this race (or any other All Community Events race) in five years, so I don’t know how long they’ve handled corralling this way, but it was totally different from anything I’ve experienced at any other race. Instead of all of us lining up in a straight line behind the start line, there were three large corrals to the right of the actual start line: one for blue bibbed runners (“7:00-8:59 pace, no walkers, no joggers”), one for red bibbed runners (“9:00-10:59 runners, no walkers”), and one for green bibbed runners (“11:00+ runners”). I was a little offended that being in the red corral meant that I was considered a “jogger,” apparently, instead of a runner, because I would hardly consider a 9:00 pace to be jogging, but whatever. I guess if you normally run a 7:00 pace, 9:00 is jogging.

Anyway, I got into my corral and maneuvered my way forward to a woman holding a 9:10 minute/2:00 overall pace sign. I struck up some small talk with a girl standing next to me in an effort to distract myself from my nerves. She asked me if this was my first race, which I took to mean my first time doing this race specifically. I told her no, I had done it five years ago (to the day, coincidentally, though I didn’t realize that until much later that afternoon), and eventually asked if she had done it before. Turns out when she asked me if it was my first race, she meant my first race ever, because it was her first race ever. Holy cow! I guess she ran when she was younger, but had never done an organized road race before. I was so impressed that she was starting her road racing career with a half marathon! I had two 5Ks and a 10K under my belt before I even considered a half marathon, plus two more 5Ks and another 10K under my belt before I actually ran my first half marathon. Props to her! She ended up ditching my pace group, like, .25 miles into the race, so I have no idea how she did, but I hope it went well for her.

Two other pacers showed up before the race began, one of which was a very enthusiastic woman who seemed over the moon to be pacing us. She was asking us about our PRs (I was the only one she asked who actually had a PR, because the two other people she asked were doing their first halves that morning. Popular first time race, I guess!) and told us that a year ago, she had been told she’d never run again due to a cocktail of health problems, but here she was. I’ll admit, that made me a bit uneasy. I was hoping for pacers who bust out 1:30-1:45 half marathons every weekend and were taking it easy pacing the 2:00 group, not someone who, it seemed, hadn’t been running much over the past 365 days. But that’s what I got, and I wasn’t about to try to pace myself for 13.1 miles.

We got to the start line about three minutes after the race began, and we went out like bats out of hell. We came through the first mile in 8:56, which is not exactly the 9:10 I was promised. I felt surprisingly comfortable, though, and decided to consider it money in the bank for later on (knowing, of course, that there is no such thing as money in the bank when it comes to racing. Going out too fast is always and only a bad idea.) We hit mile two in 9:04, which was closer to 9:10 to make me not panic too much.

The pacer-with-something-to-prove and first woman pacer I found were towards the front of the group, so I tucked myself in behind the guy pacer in our group, who had said before the race started that he’s run the course thousands of time, because he paces CARA groups out of Montrose. I trusted his credentials more than I trusted the two women (mostly because I didn’t know anything about them), so I felt like he was safe to follow. He was keeping pace with the women in the front, though, and we came through mile three in 8:54.

Incidentally, I had spent a fair portion of the week before the race chatting with people who’ve done a decent amount of pacing, so I went into this race feeling like I knew a thing or two about pacing a race: specifically, that if you’re consistently off pace, you should make adjustments. But we just kept clicking off these way-above-pace miles: 8:52, 8:44 (?!?!?!), 8:57. The race is on the Lakefront Trail, so it’s not like you can really blame buildings for erroneous Garmin signals here. Aiming for a 2:00 half marathon made it pretty darn easy to figure out what time we should hit at the halfway point (1:00, obviously), so when we got to 6.55 miles and I looked at my watch and saw 58:30(ish), I was a bit concerned. Pacers are supposed to aim to finish within one minute of the advertised time (so in this group’s case, 1:59:00-2:00:59). Instead, we were 1:30 ahead of pace at the halfway point, which meant if we kept that up, we were going to finish three minutes ahead of pace.

Now I, personally, did not have a problem with finishing three minutes ahead of pace, because my goal was to break 2:00, not hit 2:00. But I planned on breaking 2:00 by running a 2:00 pace for the first 10 miles and then leaving the group to run faster, not putting a full minute and a half in the bank by the halfway point. I had run the first half of the race MUCH faster than planned, and while I was still feeling fine, I was concerned about how I’d handle that pace going forward.

The guy pacer was running with someone he clearly knew, and at one point, his friend asked him when we were going to start running a 9:10 pace (THANK YOU). The guy pacer consulted with the pacer-with-something-to-prove at a water stop around mile seven, and we finally slowed down and did a 9:08 mile for mile seven. About time! Of course, when you’ve been running in the neighborhood of 8:55 for six miles, 9:08 feels like quite the slowdown. I considered ditching the group, but I did not want to be responsible for pacing myself for almost the entire second half of the race, so I hung out behind the guy pacer again while we did a 9:10 and a 9:07 mile.

There was a water stop somewhere in the neighborhood of mile nine, and in the melee, I got ahead of the pacers. At that point, I was still feeling relatively decent, so I figured I’d forge on ahead on my own. Now that they had slowed down to the advertised pace, I was worried that the slowdown would somehow keep me from breaking 2:00, and that wasn’t a risk I was interested in taking.

So off I went. Only four more miles! I could handle this! How many times have I “only four more miles!”-ed myself? Too many times. So many times that I should definitely know better by now. “Four more miles” is my nemesis in long distance running. I consistently underestimate how long four miles is during long runs and the marathon, and here I was doing it again during this race. Sigh. Some day I’ll learn to respect the last four miles of a run, though Saturday was not that day.

I looked at my watch when I hit mile 10, and came through it in 1:29:xx (which would’ve been a 10 mile PR for me, had I been running a 10 miler). When we crossed the 5K mark a lifetime ago, I looked at my watch and saw 28:xx, so I spent the next bit of time doing some mental math to try to figure out my overall finish time if I, somehow, managed to running the last 5K as fast as I ran the first 5K. 1:29:xx + 28:xx is 1:57:xx. That wasn’t terrible, but, despite the fact that I only had three miles (and one tenth) to go, I was worried that I’d somehow slow down by three full minutes over that distance, so I refused to take my foot off the gas.

But don’t get me wrong. I was struggling, hard. I thought I had plenty to eat for breakfast that morning, but I was hungry throughout the race, and it was all I could do to only eat my chews at miles five and 10, per my usual protocol. (I didn’t have any extra chews on me, so I couldn’t fuel any more than that.). My hip flexors were screaming. My breath had moved from my comfortable three-step inhale, two-step exhale to a more labored two-step inhale, two-step exhale. I was pulling out every mental trick I could think of: mental math to calculate my finish time, reminding myself how I’ve run this exact stretch of the Lakefront Trail probably hundreds of times before, how I know it’s only about two and a half miles from the Barry underpass to Montrose (thank you, marathon training at Montrose!) and I can do that distance in my sleep, utilizing various mantras (“No bonk, no wall,” borrowed from Erin, who commented with it on my marathon post last fall, and “I will,” borrowed from myself during the marathon last fall). It was helping, kind of, but there’s really only so much you can do when you’re hurting like that.

I saw one of the girls in my dance class who happened to be out for a stroll on the trail just a bit before mile 12, so I said hi to her and tried to use that a motivation to get myself across the finish line quickly in case she’d ask me about the race on Tuesday. I hit mile 12 in 9:12, which was my slowest split of the day. My overall time at that point was 1:48:17, and I was really worried that another 9:12 mile + a 9:12 .1 mile wasn’t going to be enough to me home in under 2:00 (it would’ve been. It would’ve gotten me a 1:58:24.), so I did everything I could to find another gear. As I headed towards the Montrose underpass, I made a conscious decision to go into the pain cave, another phrase I borrowed from various other bloggers, which is something I don’t ever remember intentionally choosing before. But I knew the last mile or so was going to hurt, probably a lot, and I was going to have to just put my head down and power through it, because the sting of finishing in anything slower than 1:59:59 was probably going to hurt worse and for a lot longer.

So power through I did. I was gasping for air. My legs were dying. I saw mile 13 (turned in an 8:42 last full mile, which was my fastest of the day), thanked everything good in this world that for once, the distance between mile 13 and the finish line didn’t feel interminable, did my best to smile for the camera and appear triumphant at the finish line, and stopped my watch.

1:57:27.

I visualized my race three times in the week leading up to Saturday, and in all of those visualization sessions, I saw myself cruising across the finish line with tears in my eyes. In reality, I forced myself across the finish line with every iota of willpower I could muster, and by the time I stopped running, I was too spent to feel any emotion. I was worse-than-5K exhausted. I was 10K-PR exhausted, which, prior to Saturday, was my benchmark for feeling exhausted after a race. I made it through the finishers chute and found a French barricade to drape myself over while I tried to recover and process what I done.

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This was, hands down, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. It was so much harder than any of my marathons, even my first one. I really think only my 10K PR comes close to comparing to the difficulty I felt on Saturday. All I could think after I finished was, “I’m so glad I never, ever have to do that again.” Unless I magically get about a thousand times fitter, I am a hard one-and-done on the sub-2:00 club, thanks.

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Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 12

Sunday, March 31: 60 minutes cross training (18 minutes strength – legs + 42 minutes bike)
I know I need to dial down the intensity on my strength training workouts this week in the interest of my shin and in the interest of taper. I did dial down the intensity on this workout, but man, I feel so silly using such light weights when I know I’m capable of lifting much heavier. I did my squats with two five pound kettlebells, for example, when normally I’d do them with a barbell at minimum, possibly a barbell with added weight. I don’t think anyone at the gym cares so much about me that they meticulously track how much weight I’m using (other than me, of course), so I’m probably getting worked up over nothing (if you can imagine such a far-fetched scenario as me getting worked up over nothing). But I do prefer to use weights that actually challenge me rather than ones that make it feel like going to the gym at all is a waste of time. As noted, I biked after finishing my strength training workout.

Monday, April 1: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 45 minutes cross training (bike) (PM)
Another day, another strength training workout with light weights. The benefit of light weights, I suppose, is that it doesn’t take me nearly as long to recover between sets, so I can get through my workout a lot quicker than sometimes. I was in and out of the gym in 21 minutes Monday morning, which was nice.

I had a four mile run on my schedule for Monday, but due to my shin pain/crushing anxiety surrounding said shin pain, I opted to bike instead. In a perfect world, my run would’ve taken about 45 minutes anyway (“perfect world” being one where I actually run slowly on my easy runs), so I got in the same amount of exercise from a time perspective. I FINALLY finished Native Son while biking. Well, mostly. I didn’t get through all of Richard Wright’s comments about how he created the character of Bigger, but I did finish the novel itself. What a powerful story.

Tuesday, April 2: Strength training – legs (AM) + dance (PM)
I had my final strength training session of this cycle Tuesday morning, where I accomplished incredible feats like deadlifting 10 pounds. I actually really wanted to bail on this workout because I could barely drag myself out of bed, but I hadn’t missed a single strength training workout over the past 12 weeks. Skipping the very last one because I was tired seemed like a dumb time to break that streak.

We had a sub in dance again this week (same sub as last week). At the beginning of class, he asked if we wanted to learn something simple or something challenging, and fortunately everyone voted for the challenging routine. I’m always interested in learning tough routines, and this one did not disappoint. It was to Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” and it was no joke. We make it through I think two eight counts. Ha. But it was really fun to have tough, fast, intricate choreography to learn!

Wednesday, April 3: 30 minutes cross training (bike)
I had a 30 minute tempo run on my schedule, so it was pretty easy to figure out how much time I should’ve spent running on Wednesday and spend an equivalent amount on the bike instead. I had a moment of shin pain when I biked on Monday, but nothing on Wednesday, so that was encouraging.

Thursday, April 4: Rest

Friday, April 5: Rest

And that’s it! Twelve weeks of training in the books. Now we just have to see what tomorrow holds.

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 11

Sunday, March 24: 4.97 miles in 40:24 for an 8:08 pace
Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K, by my official stats. My watch had me at something like 5.3 miles, but I know it was wrong based on the squiggles in the map. I’m sure I ran more than 4.97 miles, though – I’m not that good at tangents!

Monday, March 25: Strength training – legs (AM) + 40 minutes cross training (bike) (PM)
After having such a great race at the Shuffle, it felt like I should’ve had a day off. But the Shuffle wasn’t my goal race, and I have two more weeks of training to get in before my goal race, so back to the gym I went Monday morning. I did squats for the first time in a month, and I definitely felt it the next morning! This was the first workout in awhile that’s made my legs sore (my arms are a different story 😛 )

I did take the day off running, though, and went to the gym for a 40 minute bike instead. I hadn’t been to the gym after work in four weeks, so it felt weird to be there rather than running outside! I appreciated the break, though, and of course was glad to get some reading done.

Tuesday, March 26: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I had some CTA woes Tuesday morning and got to the gym about 10 minutes later than usual. My Tuesday schedule is pretty tight, so I didn’t have a lot of flexibility and was worried about getting through my full workout. Fortunately, it was pretty straightforward (i.e.: not a lot of equipment changes or one-sided work, which can quickly add up in the time department) and I was super focused, so I got through everything and made it to the office on time. Phew!

We had a sub in dance Tuesday night. The sub is in my teacher’s dance group, but also used to take hip hop with us (and still takes break dance), so I know him fairly well. He taught us a piece he choreographed, which I thought was so cool! It was fun to learn a routine done by someone who was once a student with me.

Wednesday, March 27: 6 miles (with 10x.25 miles w/ .12 mile rest) in 1:03:27 for a 10:34 pace
This was my final interval workout of my half marathon training cycle, and I hoped to make it a good one. Once again, the goal was to do my “400s” (really 402s, since I was measuring in miles rather than meters) in about 2:00. To my great surprise and delight, I did a much better job of getting close to that pace on this workout than when I did 9×400 two weeks ago. My splits were 2:05, 1:57 (!), 2:00, 1:59, 2:01, 2:07, 2:01, 2:01, 2:00, and 1:55 (!!). That averages to 2:00.6 (so, fine, 2:01): a three to four second improvement/400 over my 9×400 workout. As it turns out, the secret to running consistent paces appears to be actually recovering during your recovery interval. Who knew! After my fifth interval (the first 2:01), my heart felt like it was about to beat out of my chest and I was gasping for air, so I thought instead of jogging my .12 mile recovery, I should walk it. I continued walking all of my recovery intervals after that, and I’d say, based on the 2:01/2:01/2:00 that followed, brisk walking seemed to be a much better idea than jogging. (I really pushed myself on the last interval since it’s the last one I’ll do until marathon season, most likely, hence the 1:55.) My shins didn’t appreciate all of the pounding involved in this workout, but I’m hopeful they’ll recover quickly.

I have no idea if the Yasso 800s idea scales down to Yasso 400s for half marathons (I assume not, because I’ve never heard of Yasso 400s), but on the off chance it does, it’s both encouraging and slightly anxiety-inducing that a full “Yasso 400” workout for me averaged a 2:00.6 pace. Running a 2:00:35 half marathon is not what I have in mind with this sub-2:00 goal!

Thursday, March 28: Strength training – legs (AM) + 6 miles in 1:01:11 for a 10:12 pace (PM)
Thursday’s strength training workout was tough. I wouldn’t say it was fun to start my day with a tough workout, but it was a really good reminder that I need to dial down the intensity big time on my strength training workouts next week while I rest and recover for the race on Saturday. My left shin was still a little touchy from Wednesday’s run, but my right shin felt fine.

UGH UGH UGH. Thursday’s run was a disaster. AccuWeather said it was 60 degrees (or so – it was definitely 60 or warmer) with a Real Feel of 61 or 62 when I changed into my running clothes, so I put on shorts and short sleeves. It took barely any time at all to realize I was woefully underdressed for the actual weather. I don’t know why I took AccuWeather as gospel truth when I had just been outside commuting home in my pea coat and knew no matter what any thermometer said, it certainly didn’t actually feel like 60+ degrees outside. The wind, unsurprisingly, only picked up and made everything colder the closer I got to the lake, so I ended up bailing on my planned route and putzing around further inland to get in six miles. However, my eagerness to finish my run made me run WAY too fast (see: 10:12 pace) for what was supposed to be an easy run, and that made me mad at myself, because nine days out from race day is really, really not the time to cheat myself on an easy run. On top of that, my left shin continued to bother me on this run, sending me into a panic over my remaining workouts (particularly the 10 miler I planned for Saturday) and whether or not it would be 100 percent by the race. UGHHHHHHH.

Friday, March 29: Rest

Saturday, March 30: 5.01 miles in 52:08 for a 10:25 pace
This was definitely not the final long run I had in mind for this training cycle. My shin felt a bit better on Friday and didn’t hurt at all when I woke up Saturday morning. I had already accepted that my planned 10 miler might need to be cut short, but since I hadn’t had much pain, I hoped I’d be able to get in all 10 miles. I got about .15 miles into my run before I started feeling some pain, and then spent the next 2.4 miles waffling on whether or not it was bad enough that I should throw in the towel. My plan was to go 2.5 miles out, reevaluate, and either 1) continue if I thought my shin could handle more distance or 2) turn around and go home for a five mile run instead of a 10 mile run. I was having a really hard time deciding whether or not I was in enough pain that it’d be smarter to stop than continue, and I felt like the fact that I was having a hard time deciding was evidence enough that I was not in enough pain to stop running. In my experience, when I am in truly incapacitated by injury or illness, there’s no questioning it. I don’t wonder, “Do I have a stomach bug?” or “Am I congested?” or “Does a part of my body hurt enough to stop running?” When something is genuinely wrong, I know. When I got just about exactly to mile 2.5, though, I took a step where the pain was bad enough that I stopped questioning whether or not I should continue and knew definitively that I should go home, so I turned around and plodded back to my apartment. Of course, my shin didn’t hurt quite as much on the way home as it did on my step at mile 2.5, so I got to spend the next two and a half miles worrying that I had made the wrong decision, beating myself up for making the wrong decision and/or allowing myself to run to the point of potential injury 10 days before my race in the first place, and generally feeling like I had failed myself both in that moment and preemptively at the race.

I haven’t had any shin pain since my run on Saturday, but I also haven’t run since Saturday and don’t plan to run again until the race (despite the strong temptation to do a short run tomorrow just to test it out). I did the hop test on Saturday and Sunday and passed with flying colors. That gives me a small amount of optimism, but if you think I’m not losing my mind convinced that I have a stress fracture, obviously you don’t know me very well 😛 I’ve been working to remind myself that I went through something very similar (same leg and everything) in the days leading up to the Shamrock Shuffle in 2015, and a couple of days off cleared that up nicely. I don’t like skipping my last two runs of training at all, but I’m also working to remind myself that nothing I do this week is going to make the race go any better on Saturday, and if anything, it’ll make it go worse. The hay is in the barn, as they say. I’m not going to reap any benefits from pushing myself to get in two more runs on a touchy shin. Of course, it’s one thing to say that and another thing to believe it, so if you need me this week, I’ll be hyperventilating in a corner.

 

 

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 22: Rest

Saturday, March 23: Rest

 

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Friday, March 15: Rest

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

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

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 8: Rest

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

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

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 7

Sunday, February 24: Dance
We had our (semi) usual extra rehearsal before graduation on Sunday. I say semi-usual because it typically happens, but now that I think about it, I don’t actually remember the last time I went to one! I wasn’t able to go in December, and I don’t think we had one in October, so maybe it was August? Regardless, I had dance for about an hour, and that counted as my workout for the day.

Monday, February 25: Strength training – legs (AM) + 6 miles (tempo) in 56:52 for a 9:28 pace (PM)
I had a good but challenging workout Monday morning at the gym. Adjusting the leg press machine so it’s at an appropriate distance (sometimes I can’t get it to move, and end up using it when the distance between the seat and the plate is really a bit too long for me) makes the workout a lot tougher! I was pleasantly sore after the fact.

I had THE WORST day at work (okay, not THE WORST day, but certainly not a great day) and was more than ready to burn off some angst on my run Monday afternoon. I warmed up for a mile, did four miles at tempo (8:51, 8:52, 9:02, 8:43), then cooled down for a mile to log six total. I severely underestimated how cold it was outside and should’ve dressed warmer. I had to cut my post-run stretch/PT exercise/foam roll routine short because I was freezing and needed to get in a hot shower ASAP! I’m super happy with my tempo miles, though. I guess I would’ve liked a little more consistency rather than a 21 second spread between my fastest and slowest miles, but I’m glad I was able to knock out four consecutive miles at paces that would notch me my sub-2:00 half…assuming I could hold them for another 9.1 miles, that is!

Tuesday, February 26: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I forgot how long Tuesday’s upper body workout was. I should’ve remembered, since it really stuck me with how much longer it took me to finish it than expected the first time around, but I didn’t 😦 I had to skip the third part of the workout (21-15-9 of wall balls + v-ups) because I had run out of time. Alas 😦

As I mentioned earlier in this post, we had graduation on Tuesday at dance, which meant we ran the routine into the ground during class. I kept making little mistakes on the choreography over the past few weeks, so I appreciated the opportunity to clean that all up before the performance. I still made mistakes during graduation, of course, but they didn’t look nearly as bad as I feared, so that’s good!

Wednesday, February 27: 5 miles (with 8×400 w/ 200 rest) in 48:27 for a 9:41 pace
I could’ve done this run outside, based on the sidewalks, but I really wanted to make sure I hit all my intervals. The treadmill seemed like the best option for that. I was surprised by how quickly this run went by. Maybe I’m getting used to the ‘mill?! Gross. Anyway, this workout went great. I think I’ve found my sweet spot for interval recovery, and that’s helping these interval runs go a lot better. I did my 400s mostly at a 12.0 km/h pace, which is about an 8:06 pace, with my recovery at 8.7 km/h (5.4 mph, 11:04). You can’t punch specific speeds into the treadmills at my gym (annoying), so the only way to get between speeds is to click all the way up or all the way down. However, the treadmill does remember the last pace you used, so you can jump instantly from your current pace to your previous pace if you so choose. I was running all my on intervals at a 12.0 pace, but for whatever reason, the treadmill INSISTED on marking my previous pace at 12.1, not 12.0. It’s a pretty minor difference (12.1 is 7.5 mph, which is 8:00 instead of 8:06), but I wanted to run my on intervals at just under 8:00/mile, not at 8:00/mile. Because of that, I manually adjusted my pace on my first six intervals, until I realized I was wasting about 60 of my 400 on meters just getting up to speed. That didn’t seem like a good use of my limited working periods, so I threw in the towel and did the last two at 12.1 instead of 12.0.

Thursday, February 28: Strength training – legs (AM) + 5 miles in 56:24 for an 11:16 pace (PM)
I had to cut my strength training workout short again, completely skipping the kettlebell swings and box jumps at the end. That certainly wasn’t my goal, but today’s workout was a long one (4×10 of everything), so it took me way longer than I anticipated to get through the bulk of my workout.

I did five easy miles after work, and managed to take them much easier than normal. I wasn’t particularly interested in going out for another run, and I wasn’t feeling 100 percent either, so it was pretty easy to not try on this run. I wore my warmest tights, but I still felt cold on this run. Stupid winter.

Friday, March 1: Rest

Saturday, March 2: 10 miles in 1:47:19 for a 10:44 pace
I’m starting to suspect my Garmin doesn’t like Saturday morning long runs. I was a whopping .25 miles into my run when it logged my first lap o.O. I didn’t have my watch set on manual lap, so I couldn’t have hit anything to make it lap at .25 miles instead of 1 mile, and it alerted me every time I hit a real mile, too, so I don’t know what was going on. For the rest of my run, I got two notifications per mile: one at the mile itself, and one at the mile.25, when my watch lapped itself. It was so bizarre. Anyway, aside from my ongoing technical difficulties, this was a pretty good run. I’m happy with my pace and effort. The wind situation was annoying: I had the wind at my back for the first quarter of the run, in my face for the second quarter, at my back for the third quarter, and then in my face for the last quarter. I’ve also discovered that it seems to be these long runs that give me the most foot problems. Last week and this week I started to feel discomfort about seven or so miles into my run, and my foot was tender for the rest of the day. That seems to only happen when I go long, since I’m not dealing with these issues during the rest of the week.