Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 4

Sunday, February 3: Magic Kingdom
Intended to run eight miles before spending the day at Magic Kingdom, opted to sleep in instead. Again. Felt guilty about it, especially after how much standing around I did at Magic Kingdom (vs. walking around at Universal). I logged 14,766 steps for 6.25 miles and 13/13 active hours, so again, not a rest day, but also not what I wanted. And also not equivalent to an eight mile long run.

Monday, February 4: 3 miles in 31:35 for a 10:31 pace + Epcot
I finally got a Florida run in, though once again, three miles is not eight miles. This was meant to replace the two miler I originally planned to do on Thursday of this week, and I suppose it did replace it (I ran two miles after all – and then another one), but that one mile doesn’t make up for the seven others that went un-run. I probably should’ve just cut my losses, accepted that that eight miler was never going to happen, and not tried to make up for it by running an extra mile on Monday, but whatever. It’s done, and I need to get over it. There wasn’t convenient running by my hotel (I ran on every available sidewalk in the area and got to 2.85 miles, but at that point I figured I may as well go a little farther to get a full three), so running eight miles would’ve been a headache anyway. After my run, I went to Epcot where I walked way more than in Magic Kingdom, logging an additional 20,459 steps and 8.49 miles.

Tuesday, February 5: Dance
I returned to Chicago a little before noon on Tuesday (boo), so I had plenty of time to get to dance that evening. To my great surprise and even greater delight, we started learning new choreography! It’s not new to me–I did this routine in the March/April 2014 session–but that’s fine. I’m still excited to do more than two routines this time around!

Wednesday, February 6: Strength training – legs (AM) + 6 miles (with five hill repeats) in 1:02:11(ish) for a 10:21 pace
After a polar vortex/vacation-induced week off a strength training, I hit the gym Wednesday morning to get back into the swing of things. I really like that the workouts I’m going through now were written for me to do during taper in marathon season. I’m lifting much heavier than I did during taper, but the workouts are shorter. It’s nice to be able to get in and out of the gym quickly!

I ran outside! In Chicago! In February! It’s a midwinter miracle! I returned to Chicago on Tuesday to dry-as-a-bone sidewalks, and since the ice storm we were promised Tuesday night into Wednesday never materialized, I got to run outside for the first time (in Chicago) since January 18. Yikes. It was so glorious and felt amazing, though it did remind me how much longer everything takes when I run outside. I have to get home and change, which always takes longer than it should (I inevitably convince myself that I can watch “just two short videos” on YouTube or read “just one” Washington Post article, and 30 minutes later, I find myself still on the couch, having watched way more than two videos or read way more than one article, and not one bit closer to getting out for my run.), and there’s the whole waiting-at-intersections piece as well. Speaking of which: at one intersection I apparently didn’t stop my watch, so when I tried to restart it when the light turned green, I actually stopped it, and basically everything was a disaster for a minute and 20 seconds. I took that time off my total Garmin time, because I couldn’t figure out exactly how long I was at the light and how long it took me to run the next block (with my watch stopped), so I took the whole 1:20 where it looks like I’m not moving on Garmin off my time. It took me somewhere between 1:02:11 and 1:03:31 to do this run.

Thursday, February 7: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 3.88 miles in 40:00 for a 10:19 pace (PM)
In my ongoing effort to not phone it in during training, I once again upped my weights for this workout, and it was tough. But tough in a good way. I know I’m not going to get stronger if I don’t challenge myself, but it sure would be a lot less sweaty to not do that, ha.

This run was not good. It was a Hal Higdon-style tempo run, and I hoped to work up to minimally a 9:30 pace (ideally more of a 9:20/9:15 pace) for the middle peak. I did work up to a 9:30 pace, but five minutes into those 10 minutes of peak pace, I had to stop to the treadmill and take a break. This is the third treadmill run where that’s happened. I think part of the problem has been that the heat has been blasting in the gym lately, which certainly doesn’t help matters. But regardless, it does not make me happy that the last two speed workouts I’ve done on the treadmill have both been interrupted by my inability to hang onto the pace I want to run. It makes me feel really discouraged about the likelihood that I’ll break 2:00 (…in just under two months, so I’m admittedly being a bit dramatic with so much time left), and it made for a very frustrating run.

Friday, February 8: Strength training – legs
No rest day for me this week 😦 I wanted to get in my third strength training workout for the week, so I went back to the gym Friday morning. I woke up with some pain that made me anxious (what else is new?), so I took it a little easier on this workout than I normally would have. Knowing I had a long run on the schedule for Saturday also made me want to keep things easy-ish.

Saturday, February 9: 9 miles in 1:39:18 for an 11:02 pace
Blah. I started to feel a cold coming on when I got off the plane Tuesday morning, and my nose was running pretty bad by Friday. Since my symptoms were all above the neck, I didn’t feel justified in skipping my long run, and I knew skipping it would make a particular organ above my neck (i.e.: my brain) feel REALLY bad, since that would mean bailing on two consecutive long runs. So I bundled up and headed out. I’m happy with how all my non-Lakefront Trail miles of this long run went, but for whatever reason, all my miles that were primarily on the trail were 11:00+ (even though there really wasn’t any wind to speak of Saturday morning), and that bugged me.

I’m a third of the way through training, and I’ll be honest: I’m not even remotely happy with how training has gone up to this point. I have yet to log a week where I do every single workout as written. I’ve only outright skipped one workout–two, if you count the rest day that never happened during this past week of training–but everything else has been all effed up from the way I wanted it to work out. I’ve moved runs around, I’ve chopped miles off some runs and added them onto others, I’ve done nine of 15 planned runs (nine of 14 actual runs) on the treadmill. I know a lot of this is out of my control. It’s not my fault no one in my neighborhood can be bothered to shovel their sidewalks. It’s not my fault the polar vortex came to visit.

I know sub-2:00 is an ambitious goal, and I know that plenty of things could conspire against me to keep it from happening on race day. What I did not want to even run the risk of having happen was that I’d cross the finish line with 2:xx:xx on my watch and think, “This wouldn’t have happened if I had trained better.” And while, yes, I’m getting my miles in, I’m definitely not getting them in in the manner or at the speed that I wanted to get them in.

I know I still have plenty of time to improve. I’ll get over this cold eventually (right?). It’ll stop being cold eventually (right?). But I feel like thing after thing after thing has gotten in the way of me having an effective first month of training, and I’m not happy about it. My confidence is shot, and that’s obviously not helping matters, either. I’m feeling negative about this whole sub-2:00 goal right now, and I really hope things turn around in the next four weeks.


Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 3

Sunday, January 27: Strength training – legs + spinning for 40 total minutes of cross training
The impending polar vortex/Chiberia/soul-searching as to why I didn’t act on those impulses to move to San Diego when I was there for a conference last June led me to move my Monday strength training up to Sunday (so I could move Tuesday to Monday and Thursday to Tuesday, in case I couldn’t make it to the gym on Thursday). I had 40 minutes of cross training on my schedule for Sunday, so I did my Monday leg workout first–which was mercifully easy, because it’s the one originally written for me to do the day after the 20 miler in September–and rounded out my time with 24 minutes on the spin bike at the gym. Why the spin bike as opposed to my usual stationary bike, you ask? Because for the first time ever on a Sunday, I couldn’t get a stationary bike. I thought about hopping on the elliptical, but I really wanted ~more~ of a workout, so I opted for the spin bike instead (and walked away with the consequential butt pain. Why are those seats so horribly uncomfortable?!). It was a bit of a nuisance to get the thing configured so I could reach everything, but I got there eventually.

Monday, January 29: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 6.5 miles (tempo) in 1:06:39 for a 10:15 pace
I ventured out into the snow Monday morning to get strength training workout #2 of the week in before work. Days like Monday make me so grateful for the CTA and its operators who get me from Point A to Point B safely in miserable weather. I’ve been feeling motivated to lift heavier recently, and while I didn’t set any PRs during this, I hit all my previous PRs. That felt great!

Speaking of PRs: treadmill PDR for me on Monday! Woo! I’m so glad I discovered that I can read on the treadmill, because that made this run a bajillion times more manageable than it would’ve been otherwise. I warmed up for 1.5 miles at a 10:54 pace, then did 3.5 tempo miles at a 9:31 (I think? It was either 9:30 or 9:31) pace before cooling down for another 1.5 at 10:54, all at a 1.0 incline. I thought about bumping my tempo pace up to 9:2x, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure I was ready to run that far that fast yet, so I kept it at 9:31 for this tempo run. I have tempos every other Monday of this cycle, so there’s still plenty of time to get those middle miles faster (plus the Hal Higdon-style tempo runs I have every other week as well). It’ll be interesting to see how my tempo runs go when I start running outside again. It’s a lot easier to stick to a specific pace on a treadmill than it is running outside! I hope I can push myself appropriately once I’m able to hit the sidewalks again.

Tuesday, January 29: Strength training – legs (AM) + dance (PM)
Three days of strength training in a row is TOO MUCH. Even though I did an upper body workout on Monday (and, admittedly, wasn’t sore from it), I was getting really sick of picking heavy things up and putting them back down again by Tuesday morning. I did set a deadlift PR, though (barbell + 50 pounds – I think that’s 95 pounds, but I don’t know how heavy the barbell at the gym is. I assume it’s 45, because nothing about it suggests that it’s not a standard barbell, but since I don’t know for sure, I track my weight by barbell + known weight of plates), and that was exciting! And hard, ha.

I really hoped dance would be cancelled, but alas. Unsurprisingly, 1) barely anyone showed up and 2) the people who did show up are all regulars in some capacity. I had my fingers crossed my teacher would take that opportunity to teach us some cool random choreography, but no dice. We reviewed/cleaned up what we learned the first week of this session, and since all of us have taken breakdance at some point, did a little bit of breaking at the end of the choreography we had learned up to that point. I don’t know if that’ll stay in the routine or not, but boy! It has been A. LONG. time since I’ve done breakdance freezes, and I expect to have a pretty bruised shoulder as a result. I’m glad I can still do it, though!

Wednesday, January 30: 40 minutes cross training (Fitness Blender)
This one:


I do Fitness Blender videos every now and again, but it’s been a long time. I usually do them when I’m taking some time off running and want something easy to follow that I can do at home. Because I had zero interest in venturing outside on Wednesday, I went through Fitness Blender’s videos on YouTube to find a 40 minute, cardio heavy workout. This fit the bill! From a heart rate standpoint, I definitely got more out of this than I usually get out of biking at the gym, so I think it was a really effective (if challenging!) cross training option.

Thursday, January 31: 4.5 miles (with 6×400 w/ 200 rest) in 46:32 for a 10:20 pace
I emerged from house-bound exile Thursday afternoon to go to the gym to do my intervals. I felt really overwhelmed on Wednesday and Thursday and hoped going for a run on Thursday would help me slow down the swirling anxieties in my head and get some peace of mind. It didn’t. Womp. I struggled a lot more on this run than I expected to, and by the fifth interval had to slow down both my hard pace and my recovery pace. That didn’t help my mood at all, unsurprisingly, and instead of reducing my anxieties, gave me a new one: how am I going to manage to do this off the treadmill once the sidewalks are passable again? And if I can’t maintain fast paces during training, how am I ever going to maintain a fast pace during the race? (<- things I do not need to be worrying about more than two months out from the race *eye roll emoji*) Blah.

Friday, February 1: Rest

Saturday, February 2: Universal Orlando
I intended to run eight miles Saturday morning. I did not run eight miles Saturday morning. I ran zero. I did, however, take 17,410 steps for 7.37 miles (according to my FitBit) and logged 13/13 active hours for the day, so I feel like that has to count for something. I certainly wouldn’t call it a rest day, at least.

Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 2

Sunday, January 20: 35 minutes cross training (yoga)
This one:

Technically that was 37 minutes, but whatever. Close enough for me. I had a crazy schedule on Sunday, so it was a lot simpler to do yoga at home than take the time to go to the gym (and work out at the gym). Hopefully next week I’ll be able to hop on the bike for some more cardio-heavy cross training.

Monday, January 21: Strength training – legs (AM) + 2.98 miles in 30:00 for a 10:04 pace (PM)
Monday morning did not get off to a good start. The first thing I do when I wake up on gym mornings is check the bus’s arrival time, since I get up with exactly enough time to get ready and head out the door to catch the bus. When I saw it was scheduled to come eight minutes earlier than normal, I knew there was no chance I’d make it, which would delay my arrival to the gym. Then I moved to get out of bed and a weird pain in my side that caused me to fly into a panic, convinced I was on the verge of death (this is my usual reaction to any unexpected feeling in my body). I ultimately decided to go to the gym anyway and see what happened, particularly since I didn’t have any other concerning symptoms (nausea, vomiting, fever, etc.). I was so late to the gym based on the bus schedule/side pain panic, though, that I ended up skipping the entire last third of my workout and all the planks I was supposed to do between single leg deadlift sets.

Due to my schedule/the sidewalks, I swapped Wednesday’s workout for Monday’s and did a 30 minute tempo run on the treadmill after work. My tempo runs done by time will all be Hal Higdon-style, as I call them (gradually increasing to a fast pace held for five to 10 minutes, then gradually decreasing to a slower pace). My goal for this was to do five minutes at an 11:00ish pace, five minutes at a 10:00ish pace, 10 minutes at a 9:00ish pace, and then come back down (five at 10:00ish, five at 11:00ish). The treadmill, however, sabotaged my plans! Five minutes into my intended 9:00 pace, the treadmill dropped me down from 6.6 mph to 6.5 mph. I suppose it’s possible I did something to make this happen, but I can’t imagine how I would’ve dialed the speed down a tenth of a mile per hour without noticing. I ended up doing five minutes at 6.6 mph, 4:30 at 6.5 mph and then, upon realizing my error, :30 at 6.6 mph before dropping down to 6.0 (10:00 pace) for the down side of this tempo pyramid. I discovered that Hal Higdon-style tempo runs are far more tolerable on the treadmill than normal tempo runs, so that was nice.

Tuesday, January 22: Dance
We reviewed everything we did the week before, thank goodness. I had forgotten most of the second half of the choreography and needed a refresher. I also talked to my friend who’s been in class as long as I have about how this choreography was different than what we learned last time,. It turns out this is to a different part of the same song, hence the different dance. That’ll do it!

Wednesday, January 23: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 4.5 miles (with four hill repeats) in 48:19 for a 10:44 pace (PM)
Normally I do my upper body strength training on Tuesdays, but since I had my biometric screening at 11 and wouldn’t be able to eat until it was over, I didn’t want to do anything that could make me hungrier than I was in the first place. So I waited until Wednesday, even though I always have late nights on Tuesday. This workout was pretty high rep (15, rather than the usual 10-12), so I couldn’t lift quite as heavy as I wanted to. That being said, I lifted for longer than usual, so I assume it all evens out.

My run on Wednesday was totally different than I expected it to be when I wrote my training plan. I intended to do six miles with four hill repeats, but that assumed I was going to run to my normal hill where I do repeats, which is a couple miles away. Due to the perpetually icy sidewalks, I was relegated to the treadmill. I had extremely limited interest in doing more than two warmup and cooldown miles on the treadmill, since don’t need to get to the hills on the treadmill: they’re available whenever I want to change the incline. Because of that, I decided to cut this run down to 4.5 miles for the sake of my sanity and up Thursday’s planned three miler to 4.5 miles as well, which all told added up to the nine I wanted to do across those two runs anyway.

In a predictable turn of events, I did my math wrong and warmed up longer than necessary (1.75 miles). I then did four hill repeats, with .25 miles at a 3 percent incline followed by .25 miles at a 1 percent incline (my normal incline setting on the treadmill). After that, I cooled down for a mile.

Thursday, January 24: Strength training – legs (AM) + 4.5 miles in 51:01 for an 11:20 pace (PM)
I had squats on my schedule Thursday morning, which always makes me a little nervous due to equipment availability. Thankfully, the gym was basically empty, so I had no trouble using the rack and getting in the rest of my workout.

Another day, another treadmill run. I thought this was going to be a disaster. The music in the gym was so loud that I could barely hear the podcast I was trying to listen to, which caused some serious mental fatigue. My #1 problem with podcasts is that I can only listen to them when I’m doing something mindless (folding laundry, running on the treadmill), because if I need to be able to focus on what the host says. Unsurprisingly, when you can barely hear what the host is saying, it becomes really hard to focus! My headphones were almost dead anyway, so I gave up about two and a half miles into my run and tried to convince myself that enduring this would help me build the mental stamina I’ll need to not throw in the towel when the going gets tough during my half marathon.

And then, a breakthrough.

It occurred to me that years ago, I had commented a blog post where the blogger mentioned reading on the treadmill. I couldn’t comprehend how she could do that. I found the bouncing of running (even of elliptical-ing) makes reading next to impossible. She responded that she had a Kindle, so she could bump the font size up, which made it possible to read on the run. I wondered if Libby had similar functionality, and lo and behold, it does!! GUYS. I CAN READ ON THE TREADMILL. ALL OF MY PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN SOLVED!!!!

I’m not being dramatic when I say this has changed everything about treadmill running. I know my entire problem with the treadmill stems from the fact that I find it so crushingly boring. I can do interval-y workouts on the treadmill just fine, because I rarely stay at the same pace for more than a few minutes. I spend the whole time staring at the screen, sure, but there’s a big difference between staring at the screen waiting for it to go from one quarter mile to the next so I can change my pace/incline and staring at the screen willing 1.12 miles to magically turn into 4.50 miles so I can stop running. Nothing–not the TV, not music, not podcasts, not even audiobooks–provided enough distraction to keep me from starting at that damn odometer, wondering how half a mile outside breezes by but half a mile on the treadmill feels interminable.

But reading a book does! Reading keeps my mind off the odometer, but most critically, it keeps my eyes off the odometer. I’ve found that distances tick by a lot faster both inside and outside when you’re not glued to your distance tracking device, be that your treadmill’s odometer or your GPS watch. I rarely have a problem keeping my eyes off my watch, but now that I’ve found a successful way to keep it off the treadmill odometer, I think I might be able to survive the rest of this training! Woohoo!

Friday, January 25: Rest

Saturday, January 26: 7 miles in 1:19:00 for an 11:17 pace
Woo indoor running! 😐 The temperature was ridiculous and the sidewalks were still dangerous, so despite the bright and shining sunshine, I took my run inside. Again. Instead of going to my gym, I bought a guest pass to one closer to my house (my gym being convenient when I’m on my way to or from work, but not convenient at other times, like Saturdays. This gym is on my way to nowhere, but it’s closer to my house than my normal gym, so I decided the price of the guest pass was worth it.). This gym happened to have the same treadmills my gym has, which was a nice surprise – no learning curve on that front. I have such a hard time guessing what’s a “good” pace for treadmill running, so I went conservative and did 5.4 mph on a 1.0 incline. Once the treadmill timed out at an hour, (5.39 miles into my run, which makes sense, given the whole 5.4 mph thing) I went upstairs and finished the remaining 1.6 miles I had on the indoor track. It was 13.8 laps to a mile, which seemed like it’d be really difficult to monitor since the track didn’t have any markings indicating where .8 of a lap finished, but I had my Garmin on, so I was fine. Or at least fine enough. I certainly would’ve preferred to do this outdoors, but I’m glad I got the miles in regardless.


Chi Town Half Marathon Training Week 1

Sunday, January 13: 30 minutes cross training (yoga)
This one:

I’m being a little less prescriptive about my cross training for this cycle. Ideally, I’d like to bike (or elliptical, or otherwise engage in some sort of cardio) for my cross training, but sometimes that’s not feasible–and sometimes, I just need yoga. Sunday was one of those days.

Monday, January 14: Strength training – legs (AM) + 4.25 miles (tempo) in 43:08 for a 10:09 pace
I more or less kept up with strength training after the marathon ended, but now that I’m officially training, I’m no longer considering strength training to be “strongly recommended, but technically optional.” So I went to the gym Monday morning for a pretty simple leg workout.

I made my much-dreaded return to the treadmill Monday afternoon. Since so many people in my neighborhood seem to think that shoveling their sidewalks is someone else’s responsibility, I didn’t feel comfortable trying to go for a run outside, and I especially didn’t feel comfortable trying to do a workout outside. Thus, the treadmill. It was pretty miserable, I won’t lie. Spending your entire run staring at your distance, acutely aware of how much longer you have to run, is wildly unpleasant. (And since, at least as far as I can tell so far, you can’t program workouts into the treadmill, I don’t have much of a choice but to keep an eye on my distance so I can adjust my speed accordingly.) I survived, and actually felt like I got in a great workout, but I wish it weren’t so soul-crushingly boring. I did this tempo run as a “normal” tempo run (i.e.: warm up for a mile, 2.25 miles at tempo pace, cool down for a mile) as opposed to a Hal Higdon tempo run (gradually increase speed to the middle of your run, hold that pace for 5-10 minutes, gradually decrease speed to the end of your run). I thought I was being ambitious with my tempo pace (9:30), but I held on just fine, which was very encouraging.

Tuesday, January 15: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance
My third trip to the gym in 24 hours! I’m not actually working out any more than I was during marathon season, but when I trained for the marathon, I ran outside on Mondays and had a change of scenery. It was weird to go to the gym so many times in a row. I got in a great upper body workout, but I lifted heavier than usual on some of them, so I anticipate I’ll be sore tomorrow.

Dance was NUTS. After telling us last week that we’d only learn two songs this session, we dove head first into new choreography in class on Tuesday. This was only the second class of the session, one we usually spend reviewing what we learned the week before, so I was surprised 1) that we were already learning something new and 2) how quickly my teacher was blowing through the choreography. Class was non-stop, and I was really impressed that the new people were able to keep up at all. Incidentally, I’ve learned choreography to this song before (from the same teacher), but the choreography is completely different than what we learned the first time (“the first time” being April 2013.)

Wednesday, January 16: 4 miles (with 5×400 w/ 200 rest) in 40:50 for a 10:12 pace
(Side note: I have such a hard time remember to type “January” instead of “June” on these things, because I’ve never tracked my training like this outside of marathon training!)

I decided that I’m only going to do speedwork outside if I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can do it all on non-icy sidewalks. Since I didn’t have that guarantee on Wednesday, it was back to the ‘mill. I found this workout to be a lot more tolerable than the tempo run I did on Monday, because I barely had time to settle into a pace before needing to speed up or slow down during those 400s. It’s hard to get bored in that situation!

The treadmills at the gym can switch between displaying your distance in miles or kilometers mid-workout, so I ran a warmup mile, then changed the display to kilometers, since it’s easier to keep track of 200s from the kilometer view than mile view (200 meters is .124 miles, but the treadmill display only goes to the second decimal (i.e.: 1.25), so it just seemed a lot simpler to do it in kilometers). What I did not consider, nor realize until I switched from miles to kilometers for the first time, was that all the metrics would change to kilometers, including my speed. No longer did the treadmill tell me my minute/mile and mile/hour pace: instead, it showed me my time in minute/kilometer and kilometers/hour. Believe it or not, I’m pretty unfamiliar with my minute/kilometer and kilometer/hour paces, haha. I switched back to miles for a second to determine that my recovery pace (11:06 minutes/mile) translated to 8.7 km/hour, and my 400 pace (roughly 8:00 minutes/mile) translated to 11.9 km/hour. Good to know for the future! It also took me to figure out how to efficiently move from one pace to the other. The treadmill has a function that allows you to jump to your last pace (so when I was running 11.9 km/hour, I could tap the screen to immediately drop down to 8.7), but you had to hit it just right to get it to work, and it took me until my fifth interval to figure out what “just right” was. But I got it, and now I’ll know how to use it next time.

Thursday, January 17: Strength training – legs (AM) + 3.01 miles in 34:10 for an 11:22 pace
I had a hard time getting up Thursday morning, and kind of wanted to just curl up in the locker room and nap through my workout time instead of, you know, working out. But that seemed both uncomfortable and generally frowned upon, so I drug myself out to the gym. I thought I was being really badass and lifting heavier than ever before on all the exercises for the day, until I consulted my lifting PR spreadsheet halfway through and realized in fact I was lifting lighter than any of my PRs. Fail. I was lifting heavier than I’ve lifted in a while, though, so I figure that’s something.

While I’ve been a tried-and-true three-days-of-running-per-week runner basically since I started running in 2011, since I’m trying to do something I’ve never done before (i.e.: run a half marathon in under two hours), I’m training like I’ve never trained before, and thus will be running four days a week rather than three for two-thirds of this cycle (I’m doing two weeks of four days followed by one week of three days). I’ve mostly avoided four days of running per week because it’s always felt like too much, so if I’m going to do that this time around, I want to be sure to take my extra run very easy. That’s certainly what happened on Thursday!

Friday, January 18: 6 miles in 1:06:20 for an 11:03 pace
The forecast had threatened a Friday night/Saturday morning winter storm all week, so I decided to switch my long run from Saturday morning to Friday afternoon. Six miles isn’t too overwhelming of a distance, and I needed to be in the suburbs early Saturday afternoon, so getting it done on Friday seemed like it would make Saturday a lot easier. It was really cold, and the wind was biting, but the sidewalks were (relatively) clear. When I left for the suburbs Saturday morning around 10 a.m., most of the sidewalks around me hadn’t even been shoveled yet, so I feel like I made the right decision. Running through five-ish inches of unshoveled snow wouldn’t have been much fun!

Saturday, January 19: Rest



Toyota Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon Race Recap

Boy is this race tough.

I arrived in Las Vegas late Friday night (well, late Chicago time), long after the expo had closed. I went to the expo Saturday morning as a result, which proved to be good decision. It was the least crowded I’ve ever seen that expo (I went in 2016 and 2017, even though I didn’t run the race in 2016 due to my booted foot) and it made the whole experience 100 times more enjoyable than usual. 10/10.


Having learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons the hard way during last year’s race, I made a point of trying to be more intentional about my nutrition and hydration leading up to Sunday night’s run. I carried a water bottle with me everywhere in Vegas and kept it light at breakfast (around 11 a.m.) with two small pancakes and two scrambled eggs. At 3 p.m., two hours before I thought I would start running, I had a bag of off-brand Pirate’s Booty (“Sailor’s Loot,” lolololol) and a bag of animal crackers I got at the expo that added up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 calories. That all worked out WAY better for me in the stomach department than last year’s pancake binge at breakfast and couple of handfuls of Munchies as I headed out the door to the race, so I’ll file that away for any future late afternoon/early evening half marathons 😛

It was much colder in Vegas than I expected based on the past two years (I don’t think it ever got out of the low 60s while I was there, and at night it was down in the 40s. There was actually a freeze warning on Monday!). I figured I’d be fine for the race in shorts and short sleeves, but when Rock ‘n’ Roll sent out an email a few hours before the race warning about high winds, I started to panic. I didn’t have any throwaways, anything that I could adjust while running (a jacket, arm sleeves), and I was in the second wave, while the other person from this year’s group who was running the race (four of us went to Vegas, but only two of us ran) was in the first wave, meaning we’d arrive well before I started running. I worried I’d be overly cold. I ended up begging a long sleeve shirt off my running buddy, but once again, lesson learned. I can’t forget to pack my arm sleeves in the future!

I’ve run enough Rock ‘n’ Roll races over the years (eight, counting Sunday) to feel comfortable saying that Rock ‘n’ Roll is, hands down, the worst race organizer when it comes to corral enforcement. Even after Ironman bought Rock ‘n’ Roll, your corral assignment seems to be a weak suggestion at best. While other Rock ‘n’ Rolls I’ve run have been laughable when it comes to corral enforcement, Vegas truly set the bar for unbelievably terrible corral management.

Vegas has a pre-race party, and my assumption, especially since I was never told otherwise, is that the pre-race party is optional. In my entire running career, no one has ever made attendance at any events surrounding the race (other than packet pickup, of course, but that was taken care of at the expo) mandatory, and when attendance at any event surrounding a race is mandatory, you’re informed well in advance, usually multiple times.

I had no interest in going to the pre-race party. I didn’t need to check any gear. There are abundant bathrooms in every hotel up and down the Strip with running water and flushing toilets, making a pre-race portapotty stop unnecessary. The last thing I want to do immediately before running a half marathon is attend a concert. Why on earth would I prioritize going to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s pre-race party when there is literally no reason for me to be there?

My running buddy didn’t have interest in the pre-race party either, so we left our hotel (Harrah’s) around 3:30 and started walking south to get to the start line, which was slightly north of MGM on the east side (the MGM side) of the Strip. When we got to Harmon, we saw a stream of runners heading towards the start line, so we, along with everyone else walking south on the Strip with us, joined the stream.


As we walked, it became quite clear that most of the people in the stream were in the blue (first) wave of the race. My running buddy had been assigned to the blue wave, so that was fine, but I was technically in the green wave. As always, Rock ‘n’ Roll was bold, italicized, red font serious about not allowing people into corrals that did not correspond with the color on their bib, but was there anyone checking our bibs where we got in the stream to make sure we all belonged there? No. So I was able to sneak into the blue wave 1) without meaning to and 2) without realizing I was getting into the wrong wave.

Eventually, it occurred to us that all of the bib checking/”security” to get into the corrals must have been located somewhere in the pre-race party, but if that was the case, that was never communicated. This is what my pre-race information sheet said:


Now, I will concede that it says to arrive at the Start Line Village by 3:30. Fine. But NOWHERE in this document does it say that you have to go to the Start Line Village prior to the race. It’s commonplace for races to suggest that you arrive by a certain time, but to my understanding, unless that time is when your corrals close, you don’t actually have to arrive then. I’ve read that whole document through several times, and I cannot find anywhere where it says that you must go to the Start Line Village (aka the pre-race party) in order to get into the corrals. It’s pretty obvious that Rock ‘n’ Roll has no problem highlighting text they don’t want you to miss, so if going to the Start Line Village was a requirement, why wouldn’t they put that in this document?

On top of that, the document does specifically say that “Entrance to the GREEN START CORRALS will be on Las Vegas Blvd north at Harmon Ave.” Now, call me crazy, but when I read a sentence like that, I assume that I enter the corrals on Las Vegas Blvd. (the Strip), not from the pre-race party.

“But Bethany,” you argue, “you were getting into the blue corrals. Maybe they had different instructions!”

They did, but those instructions still didn’t say anything about mandatory attendance at the pre-race party to enter the corrals:


Once again, the instructions here are to enter the corrals “on Las Vegas Blvd.” That’s not the Start Line Festival. That’s not Harmon, where we found the stream of people. That’s the Strip.

So, fine. Let’s give Rock ‘n’ Roll the enormous benefit of the doubt and say that their pre-race documentation was accurate and clear, and I’m just an idiot who makes too many assumptions and can’t read for comprehension. Putting all of that aside, the corral situation was STILL a disaster, even if you followed the directions about entering them, because they filled in from the back, with no delineation between any of them. There were no gates, no ropes, no volunteers, nothing. The entire thing was completely self-policed, and you know how THAT always ends up going. My running buddy was supposed to be in Corral 10, but by the time we reached what appeared to be Corral 12, it was so crowded that we couldn’t have moved up any farther even if we wanted to.

I’m not aiming to break any world records at any of these Rock ‘n’ Roll races, least of all at Vegas. But it bothers me to no end how Rock ‘n’ Roll talks such HUGE game about being strict about their corrals and then not only doesn’t enforce them, but at this race in particular, doesn’t even make an effort to show where one corral ends and the other begins. Inflatable corral markers only show you the general area associated with your corral, not its actual boundaries. It’s abundantly clear to me that Rock ‘n’ Roll does not care one little bit where anyone actually lines up at any of their races, and I just hate how they talk about corrals like it’s The Biggest Deal, and then do nothing to follow through on that claim.

Now that I’ve gotten those 900 words out of the way…


I knew this race would be a challenge from the get-go, so I had extremely low expectations for myself. I kind of wanted to do better than I did in 2017, but I also kind of didn’t care. I was quite surprised to hit the first mile in 10:46, since I assumed I’d be running mostly in the 11:xx range. I came through the second mile in an 11:29, however, which was much closer to what I expected.

I thought about really getting into the spirit of just enjoying myself and taking pictures along the course whenever I felt so inclined, but I ultimately decided I didn’t feel like stopping at any of the big photo ops (the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, anywhere along the Strip, etc.) and just kept chugging along. Even though I started well before I was supposed to, based on my corral assignment, I passed a decent number of people and never felt like I was in anyone’s way (though having the entire Strip just for us did help in that department).

You run past the finish line (on the other side of the road) around mile five-ish of the half and full marathons at this race, and I was THRILLED to see the 10K finishers wrapped in heat sheets in the finish area. Knowing I’d get one of those after the race and not have to shiver the whole way back to Harrah’s was a huge relief. I also noticed that the finish line had a smoke machine, the “smoke” from which was blowing all over the road. I had a bad reaction to that at a race once (like, hard-time-breathing bad reaction) and was worried that would happen again, but I made it through all right.

We made it up to Fremont Street and then turned south onto Las Vegas Blvd. again a bit past mile nine, which, in my opinion, is when the race really gets tough. I said this last year, too, but the most deceptive thing about Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas is that the entire course is on a barely-perceptible incline. You can’t see it, but you can certainly feel it, especially when you start going up again on the southbound trip to the finish line.


When I hit mile 10, it occurred to me that I could play my 5K game from the marathon again. I had checked my watch at the 5K mark, which I came through in 35:xx. When I hit the 10 mile mark, I added 35 minutes to my time and got to 2:28:xx. I decided I’d try to run the last 5K faster than the first 5K: a bigger challenge than I think I realized when I set it, due to the incline situation.

My mile times weren’t dropping quite like I wanted them to, especially for how hard I felt like I was working. When I got to mile 13, I realized it was going to be awful close to cross the finish line before 2:28:xx, so I did what I could do find another gear and managed to get in at 2:27:52. That counts! (And is around seven minutes faster than I did this race last year, so yay.)

The smoke machine situation was not ideal at the finish line. Due to the wind (which wasn’t even half as bad as Rock ‘n’ Roll’s email made it sound–my Garmin logged an 8 mph wind, compared to the 18 mph wind it logged during Hot Chocolate the week before), the smoke blew into the finish chute rather than up harmlessly into the air. I felt it irritating my throat (not too badly, thankfully), and a bunch of people around me were coughing. You’d think, if they sent out an email threatening to not even put up start/finish line signage (which they did use) or course clocks (which they did not use) due to the wind that it would occur to them that perhaps smoke machines would be a bad idea, but apparently that didn’t cross anyone’s mind.

I hobbled through the finish area on achy legs, gathered my food, hydration, and heat sheet, met up with my running buddy, and returned to Harrah’s to thaw out.


(For all my criticisms of Rock ‘n’ Roll, I do have to hand it to them in the medal department. I love this one. The “cards” fold in, which I think is cool. You can’t really see the black detail at the bottom in this picture, but it’s a bunch of buildings from the Strip.)


Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

Every time I’ve signed up for the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon, I’ve done so with hesitation. A half marathon in the middle of July in Chicago is a bit of a gamble, and I will admit that I register expecting the worst.


Little did I know just how much of “the worst” this year’s edition of the race would hold.

“The worst” started on Saturday. A loved one got quite sick on Saturday (like, 103 degree fever quite sick), and to say that it stressed me out would be an enormous understatement. I spent most of Saturday vacillating between massive anxiety and crushing panic as their fever crept higher and higher (is there a difference? Not really, but it makes my writing sound fancier.) Instead of sleeping Saturday night into Sunday morning, I took what amounted to two, two-hour naps: one from 9:45 to 11:45, and another from 2:00 to 4:00. When I “officially” got up at 4:30 Sunday morning, I seriously considered bailing on the race, especially since I was still so wracked with anxiety that I could barely think straight. Sitting around my house stewing with worry wasn’t going to make anything better, though, so I figured I may was well attempt to burn off my anxious energy with a 13.1 mile run.

(For the record, things are much better now. Their fever finally broke Monday evening.)

It was overcast and cool for July when I got to Grant Park, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about the weather. It could’ve been much worse–hotter, more humid, sunnier–so I didn’t think much of it. I saw a girl from my running group when I got to Columbus, chatted with her for a bit, and went off to get myself into a portapotty line and the corrals. To everyone participating in Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago’s credit, runners on Sunday’s race seemed to respect their assigned corral way more than the race field in San Diego or Seattle did, so there’s that. The corrals are still completely unenforced, but hey, nice to know people who show up in Chicago are more likely to follow their assignments!


While we waited for the race to begin, it began to sprinkle. I knew there was rain in the forecast, and I was concerned it would rain for the first mile of the race and then quit, leaving us with humid conditions and wet clothes for the rest of the run. Having it start to rain while we were still waiting to cross the start line did nothing to reassure me that wouldn’t happen.

Eventually we took off. This was my third Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, each time with the same course, and this time it seemed to take MUCH longer to get to the first mile than usual. When I lapped my watch at the first mile marker, it said it had taken me 12:52 to get there, which seemed both concerning and totally unreasonable. I know what it feels like to run 12:52, and the effort I was putting in did NOT match the effort I normally associate with a 12:52 mile. Either the mile marker was off or I was in big trouble. Even though I was tired and anxious, I still had enough mental wherewithal to remember that the first mile marker was almost always earlier in the past, and sure enough, when I looked it up on the course map, the mile marker on the course was beyond where the first mile was marked on the online course map.

I completely missed the second mile marker and was getting awful worried about how long it took me to run the second mile until I realized I must’ve missed the sign – especially when I saw the mile three sign 😛 It rained on and off throughout all of this, just enough to keep things cool (and make the road slippery).

I got better about noticing the mile markers and started to have a better idea of how fast I was running: pretty consistently in the 10:40-10:50 range. That was fine with me. I was out to finish as quickly as possible, but I also knew I wasn’t exactly in a position to PR. Back before this weekend happened, when I had things like “hopes” and “dreams” and “plans” for this race, I wanted to run the race close to my goal marathon pace to see how it would go. My goal marathon pace (for a 4:45) is a 10:52, so even though this was a little on the slow side as far what I ~really~ like for my half marathon pace, it’s ultimately what I wanted out of the race anyway.

While we’re on the topic of mile markers, though, I have some SERIOUS complaints about the miles as marked on the course and the miles as marked on the course map. As I mentioned, I set my Garmin to manual laps for the race, because I’ve run downtown enough times to know that attempting to use your Garmin downtown for accurate data is a fool’s errand. If I’m running a race downtown, I manually lap it when I hit a mile marker so I know how fast I actually ran the distance between two mile marker signs, not whatever sort of 150 mph nonsense my Garmin thinks I was doing. In reviewing the laps as noted by my Garmin map–the laps I created in my watch’s log when I passed each mile marker–they aren’t even CLOSE to what was advertised on the course map. Behold:


This is a screenshot of my Garmin map overlaid with a screenshot of the official course map. For whatever reason, my Garmin map only shows odd numbered laps, and remember that my lap number is off due to missing the mile two marker (so lap five was mile six, lap seven was mile eight, etc.). The course map show mile six at the intersection of Harrison and State (circled in blue), while the actual course marked mile six right before the corner of Harrison and Michigan (circled in orange).

Now, I will admit that that’s not a gigantic discrepancy. But look at how much worse it gets as the race goes farther south–and not only how much worse it gets, but how it gets worse in the opposite direction:


While downtown, the course mile markers were showing up after the course map shows where those miles should be, as we go farther south, the course mile markers are now showing up before where the course map shows those miles should be–and by a lot! The green circle shows where the map says mile eight was, while the yellow circle shows where mile eight was marked.  The light blue circle shows where the map says mile 10 was, while the black circle shows where mile 10 was marked on the course. What the heck, Rock ‘n’ Roll?! How do you screw that up so badly?! And so inconsistently?!

And hey, while we’re on the topic of course maps, would anyone like to explain to me why the courses in 2015 (screenshot here) and 2018 (full screenshot below) are identical except for the fact that in 2018, instead of running straight up Clark to Washington, we turned on Madison, took it to LaSalle and then turned on Washington, presumably adding distance to the race by running three sides of a block instead of one: distance that we don’t seem to lose anywhere else, despite the fact that allegedly both courses are 13.1 miles? (Although according to the 2015 certification, we did run around that block, even though the course map doesn’t show it). Or explain to me how miles eight, nine, and 10 are in WILDLY different locations on the 2018 map than they were on the 2015 maps, despite, once again, being the same course? Or explain to me how mile 11 is in one place in 2015 and another place in 2018, while mile 12 is in the same place both times?


But then again, what you can you expect from the race series that promises you a vanity bib for running your third Rock ‘n’ Roll of the year as a reward for signing up for the Heavy Medals program months ago and ends up giving you the same one everyone else got, or the race series that sends out its Final Information email for Chicago with pictures of NASHVILLE. I enjoy Rock ‘n’ Roll events for the most part, but the devil is in the details, folks. And while no, none of this matters at all in the grand scheme of things–I do this for fun, as a way to motivate myself to keep training, as a convenient excuse to sleep in one Saturday during the summer–it’s those little things that really make or break my opinion of a race organizer. If you can’t get the little things right, why should I trust you to get the big things right? HOW can I trust you to get the big things right?


The sun came out for a hot (literally) minute a little after I got to mile six, but fortunately the clouds covered it up soon after that. It was really humid when it wasn’t raining, and the sun only made that worse, so I was grateful for the clouds. I became a bit less grateful for them when I got to mile nine, however. There had been plenty of on and off sprinkles throughout the race, but when I was at mile nine, the skies absolutely opened up and it poured. Like, rain streaming down my visor, shoes saturated poured. It was one of those “What can you do?” sort of moments, and everyone around me seemed to take it in stride (heh puns). I don’t love running in pouring down rain, but with only a few miles left it didn’t bother me too much, at least in the moment. It bothered me when I finished and got cold due to my soaking wet clothes, but it made running more comfortable at least.

I felt pretty good towards the end of the race. This year, they lined the entire part along Lake Shore Drive with semi trucks, which I really appreciated. Running so close to traffic on Lake Shore always made me a bit nervous, so to have a solid barrier made things feel substantially safer. I did a better job of not kicking too early this year, but I did keep a close eye on my watch all the way down Columbus. I thought I might be able to sneak in under 2:20, and lo and behold, I crossed the finish line in 2:19:12. That counts!

I was in a hurry to get home (and it was raining…I think. I’ve lost track of when it was and wasn’t raining), so I didn’t stick around for any of the post-race stuff. I loaded up my arms with water, Gatorade and snacks, and made my way back to the CTA.

All in all, I’m happy with my race. The weather, though not particularly friendly wasn’t nearly as bad as it could be in July in Chicago (2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll, I’m looking at you), and I’m glad my lack of sleep/abundance of anxiety didn’t disrupt things too much. I am annoyed that the shirt is, once again, identical to the ones I got in San Diego and Seattle last month, but at least the medal is different this time around.


St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Race Recap

I’m so behind on blogging – reading, writing, responding, etc. Ten days out of town will do that to you! I promise I’ll get around to everything…eventually.

Because why run one half marathon in the space of a week when you could run two?

Roughly a year ago, a girl I know from college posted pictures of herself after the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half (?) Marathon. (I don’t remember if she ran the half or the full.) It occurred to me that I, too, am capable of running half marathons, and that the race would be the perfect excuse to go to Seattle (not that I ever need an excuse to go to Seattle). It would also give me the opportunity to visit my grandparents who, at 95 and 97, aren’t getting any younger. I want to spend as much time with them as I can while I can, so I decided in that moment that I’d run Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle in 2018.


Roughly two months after that, I moved into a new position at work, and a few months after that, it occurred to me that this new position would almost certainly require my attendance at a conference in San Diego that, most inconveniently, was a few days before Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle. Not willing to be deterred from my dreams of running Seattle and visiting my grandparents, I decided to make a trip out of the whole thing, flying to San Diego, running Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego (because it was the day before the conference, so why not, if work was paying for my flight?), going to the conference, traveling up the coast to Seattle, running Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle, and then coming back to Chicago.

But this blog post is not about my harebrained, 10-day, 2-half marathon trip idea. (That’s coming later, don’t you worry 😉 ). This blog post is about Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle itself!


I arrived in Seattle a little after midnight Saturday morning, and, after crashing SO HARD at my hotel, eventually dragged myself to the expo Saturday afternoon. The expo was down by CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field: areas of Seattle I had seen plenty of times but never visited. I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed it under normal circumstances, but as I mentioned in my training recap earlier this week, I still wasn’t feeling great and went to the expo unsure of whether or not I’d start the race, never mind finish it.

I took it very easy on Saturday, stuck to the easiest-to-digest foods I could think of/find (chicken noodle soup, toast, baked chicken, bananas – not bad pre-run food, anyway), and hoped for the best. I felt fine when I woke up Sunday morning, so I decided to go for it, with the caveat that “going for it” would mean “going as gently as possible, which might mean walking the entire thing, understanding I may stop at every/all portapotty available, and may drop out at any point along the race.”

I started…not in my assigned corral, because I wanted to have as much time as possible to complete the race. Rock ‘n’ Roll’s enforcement of their corralling system continues to rely entirely on the honor system (and there isn’t any division between the corrals once you get in them anyway), so self-seeding isn’t much of a problem. (As a side note, I used to think it was so stupid that Rock ‘n’ Roll bothered with corrals when they don’t even pretend to enforce them, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I like their method. It’s way less stressful than some races [ahem, Bank of America], because the corrals never close, and I imagine enough people get in the right corral to avoid serious crowding.)

The race started–STARTED–uphill, which was a cruel preview of what was to come for the remaining 13 miles. I knew there would be no avoiding hills in this race–it is Seattle, after all, but cow. Nothing could’ve possibly prepared me for this insanity.


I will refer to this elevation map throughout the post, but for now, please observe the red box on the far left, where I was required to climb 128 feet over the course of half a mile (exactly, in fact). “Mount” Roosevelt, for comparison’s sake, is a roughly 10 foot climb over .18 miles (assuming my Garmin is to be believed. There are also a lot of tall buildings around there, so it’s possible the elevation isn’t 100 percent accurate). Needless to say, I was a bit of my element.

Fortunately, I knew this was going to be an extremely tough course by my standards, so my expectations were basement level before my stomach rebelled. I was in absolutely no hurry, so the 11:xx miles I kept logging were no skin off my nose.

I was also wildly unbothered by how long it was taking me to get through this run because the course was stunning. The weather was perfect, and I do mean perfect–52 and sunny, like That One Day in late September/early October where it finally feels nice to run again (if you’ve trained through a Chicago summer, you know what I’m talking about). Even if it had been warm and/or overcast, though, the scenery was SO beautiful. This was easily the prettiest race I’ve ever run.



Without a doubt, the most insane part of the run was in that purple box on the elevation map. I had received an email a few weeks earlier about a “King/Queen of the Hill” challenge on 19th Street, where the three males and three females who recorded the fastest times up that hill would receive an additional award. I assumed this meant the hill was brutal, but I could not have FATHOMED how insane it was until I actually got there. It was an 82 foot climb over .12 miles. That is a THIRTEEN PERCENT GRADE. (It’s 12.95 percent technically, but whatever. Close enough.). Once again, for comparison’s sake, “Mount” Roosevelt is a 1 percent grade. It was NUTS. I wanted to try to run up it, but halfway through I gave up and hiked the rest. It was, bar none, the steepest hill I’ve ever tried to run, and I am quite certain I was not crowed Queen of the Hill. Did I mention it was nearly 10 miles into the run, too? Oof.

The real cherry on top of this hill sundae (Sunday, since the race was on a Sunday? Heh puns.) was the end of the race though, highlighted in the blue box. After a generous downhill leading into mile 12 and immediately after the 12 mile marker, from about 12.5 on, the whole stupid race was uphill! Again! Hadn’t I suffered enough?! That certainly made the end tough, but I crossed the finish line in 2:29:20, which got me the sub-2:30 I was secretly hoping for and was faster than my two slowest half marathons, so there’s that.

Despite the hills, I LOVED this race and would do it again in a heartbeat. I am, admittedly, obsessed with Seattle, so I’m sure that helped my positive feelings about the event. The one thing I didn’t love about the race, though? The fact that the t-shirt and medal were almost identical to the ones I received for doing Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego the week before. I really hope this isn’t a new trend for Rock ‘n’ Roll, where all of their shirts and medals are Variations on a Theme of Exactly What We Did for All Our Other Races. While I don’t run exclusively for shirts and medals, I will admit that nothing about races gets my goat quicker than a lousy shirt or medal design for a long distance race (for a 5K, not so much. I’d rather not get a medal at all for a 5K, and I almost certainly won’t keep the shirt anyway.). First world problems.


On to actual marathon training!