Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Alternately titled, “In Which Bethany Learns She is Not a Windy-Weather Runner.”

As always, I have more than enough to say about the events surrounding race day, but I’ll save that for Thursday. For now, we’ll start with Sunday morning, where I “woke up” on an air mattress in a friend’s apartment at roughly mile 25.75 of the course. I say “woke up” because waking up implies that I slept Saturday night into Sunday morning. While my Fitbit claims that I did, I personally disagree with that assertion. It took me forever to fall asleep, and once I did fall asleep I struggled to stay asleep. It was noisier than I’m used to, it was brighter than I’m used to, and I think we can all agree that air mattresses, no matter how high quality, are never a decent substitute for an actual bed. But I’ve had plenty of poor nights of sleep heading into a race day, so I wasn’t too concerned.

I was, however, concerned with my mental state. I have been in much worse moods waking up the morning before a race, but I also wasn’t as geared up and ready to go as I was last year (having to quietly prepare while my friends slept probably didn’t help). I firmly believe that my positive attitude last year was the x factor that allowed me to PR, and I was a bit worried that my lack of an excessively positive attitude (and inability to conjure one up) was going to hurt me during the race.

I originally planned to bail on the CARA VIP Experience due to the Palmer House not being nearly as convenient to the race as the Hilton, but since it was so cold, I opted to go. All of my runners were in Wave 3 while I was in Wave 2, so I didn’t expect to see any of them, but then ran into one of them when I was getting one last sip of water and saw the other three when I got off the elevator to head to the race. I was so excited to see all of them and wish them good luck. Even though three of my four runners were almost twice my age (and the fourth was I believe seven or eight years old than I am), I still felt like a proud mom seeing all of them 🙂

caravipexperience2019

I don’t know the exact Real Feel before the race started, but I’d guess that it was in the high 30s/low 40s. To that end, I wore capris, a short sleeve shirt, arm sleeves, and gloves for running (I had an earband, but getting that on/off over my visor is such a nuisance, and I never felt like I needed it while running. I looped it around my hydration belt for the duration of the race.) and layered on fleecy sweatpants, a long sleeve tech shirt, a fleecy zip-up sweatshirt, and a hat as throwaways. I also had throwaway gloves, but ultimately decided to wear my running gloves the whole time instead of the throwaway gloves, and didn’t feel like I needed an additional layer while I was waiting. Since the wind hadn’t picked up yet, I was surprisingly comfortable. I kept my throwaways on a lot longer than normal (I wore my pants, sweatshirt, and hat until about Corral B, and wore my long sleeve shirt until right before I entered the starting chute), and I have zero regrets about anything I did in the throwaway department. That might be the one thing I really, truly nailed for the race, ha.

chicagomarathoncorralg

I was in Corral G, per usual, and lined up at the very back of it, also per usual, so I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way at the start. The 4:10 pace group decided to hang out by me (lol), and while I was standing there, a woman standing next to me said she thought she should be in a different corral, because she was hoping to run more of a 4:25/4:30 and didn’t think she’d be able to keep up with the 4:10 group. I assured her that it really didn’t matter and that the slower pace groups would catch up to her eventually, and then the two of us started chatting for the duration of the time we had before we got to the start line. I never got her name, but MarathonFoto took two pictures of us together at the start line, so naturally I looked up her in the race results. (She ran a 4:38.) I could tell from talking with her that she was obviously a lot older than I am–I guessed she was in her late 50s/early 60s, most likely–but according to her race results she’s in the 70-74 age group! WHAT! As the kids say, #goals. I think just to be out there running marathons in that age group is incredible, but to do a 4:38! She came in FIFTH in her age group, for goodness’s sake! Amazing! She’s my new inspiration. I really enjoyed chatting with her, especially when she at one point said, “You know, I really don’t like running marathons all that much, but what keeps me coming back is the training. I love the training.” Girl, same. That’s what I’ve been saying for years, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Incidentally, she also used to take a hip hop dance class (I KNOW RIGHT) and now she does Zumba NINE (!!!) times a week. When I grow up, I want to be this lady.

chicagomarathonstartline2019

Unsurprisingly, we split up the second we crossed the start line, and I was on my own. I really didn’t know what I was aiming for pace-wise. It was weird going into this race because while my training was almost perfectly identical to the training I did for last year’s PR, I really didn’t feel like I was in PR shape at all heading into Sunday. Logically, it seemed to me that if my training was exactly the same, I should be able to run exactly the same, which meant I should’ve been able to aim for 11:00 miles – or possibly even faster, since the weather was objectively better (at least at the start) this year than it was last year, with much lower humidity and much lower temperatures. While I thought I probably could run 11:00 miles, I also kind of didn’t want to run 11:00 miles, so I figured I’d go out easy and see what the yielded. What it yielded was an 11:13 mile, which I was perfectly happy with and thought I should definitely be able to hang onto for quite some time.

I saw my parents just before the Chicago River, wove my way through downtown, and as I was heading up LaSalle, started to feel some discomfort in my chest. Being me, I immediately went into a panic, terrified I was about to collapse and die of a heart attack on the course (even though you would think if I had some undiagnosed congenital heart defect, which is what tends to be responsible for younger people collapsing and dying mid-race during an endurance event, it likely would’ve made itself known sometime during my previous seven marathons). Since I’m still, you know, alive, I think it was more likely a reaction to the cold than me knocking on death’s door, since this was the first time since spring that I’ve spent any significant time exercising outside in cold air.

Regardless, that obviously didn’t do much to help my already-iffy efforts at staying positive, and I really wasn’t enjoying myself all that much. When I ran the race last year, I had a lot of success breaking the race up into 5Ks to try to use that to stay on pace, so I concentrated on getting to the 5K mark where I could check my watch and have a goal moving forward. I hit the 5K in 35:xx, a minute slower than last year but much easier for doing on-the-fly math, so my new goal was to get to the 10K mark in Lincoln Park in 1:10.

Even though I peed before leaving the Palmer House, I had to go again before I even started the race. I believe that’s happened to me other times during the Chicago Marathon and I’ve chosen to just power through, but when I got to the intersection of Fullerton and Cannon and saw zero lines for the portapotties, I decided to test the “stopping at a portapotty doesn’t make you lose that much time” theory I’ve heard thrown around plenty of times, popped into the first open one, emptied my bladder, and carried on my way. I came through mile six with a 12:09 split after doing mostly 11:15-11:25s up to that point, so now based on personal experience, I feel like I can confidently say that a bathroom break doesn’t destroy your time that much.

I stepped on the timing mat for the 10K as my watch said 1:10:59 (crushing it), which was good enough for me to believe I was still on pace (my official split for 10K is 1:11:01, but I cross my heart I saw 1:10:59 on my watch, so that’s what I’m sticking with). Even though I ran a 12:09 for mile six because I stopped in a portapotty, I was now anxious about staying on pace and ran four miles I came to regret later on in the day: a 10:30, a 10:58, an 11:03, and an 11:03. While that was, admittedly, closer to what I ideally would have liked to run on Sunday, it was a bit quicker than I believed I was capable of running, and I didn’t feel all that confident that I’d be able to keep it up for the rest of the race. Spoiler: I couldn’t.

That being said, I felt like a freaking rockstar in Boystown, which was nice. Maybe it’s because I ran through Boystown in the heaviest rain of the day during last year’s race, but it felt more energetic than I ever remember it being this year, and I loved it. Even though other parts of the course had equal energy from the crowd, this was the only part where I felt good enough to enjoy it, so this was easily the best part of my day. I even felt good enough to joke with my parents about my time when I ran past them at Broadway and Wellington (“I don’t think I’m going to break two hours!” Ha.).

I wanted to hit 15K in 1:45, so I was very happy to come through it in 1:44. Just like last year, I decided to continue setting my 5K split goals based on if I were still maintaining my starting pace rather than my new pace, so I was shooting to get to 20K in 2:20.

And then the wind picked up.

The forecast was pretty clear that we’d have some wind to contend with during the race, though after running about 10 miles that felt wind-free, I hoped that it was wrong and we’d get through the race totally unscathed. I also have spent ample time in Chicago during windy conditions (hello, all of mid-October to early-May), so I am VERY well versed in how wind acts in the city. It doesn’t matter in the least which direction the wind officially comes from once you get into areas with tall buildings. In those environments at street level, the wind comes from every direction, and coming down Wells around mile 11, I got my first taste of what a fair portion of the rest of the race would look like. I could see the wind before I encountered it, because there were tissues and other debris swirling around 40 to 50 feet in the air. My pace had been fairly consistent up to this point, but the wind really slowed me down, and I was now turning in 11:25-11:30s. One the wind settled down, though, I was back to my 11:1xs, and managed to come through 20K in exactly 2:20:00. Once again, crushing it.

My inability to do math bit me in the butt on the trip west on Adams. The wind was coming from the west southwest on Sunday, so even without buildings, Adams was a bit of a challenge. What really got to me, though, was thinking that I needed to hit 25K in 2:50, when in fact to stay on pace I needed to hit it in 2:55. I was getting more and more restless wondering when the heck the 25K mark was going to appear and how on earth I had gotten five minutes off pace, when, just before turning onto Damen, it occurred to me that I should check my math. After doing that and realizing I thought I had five fewer minutes to get to 25K than I actually had, I felt much better, and I felt even better when I hit 25K in 2:55. I wasn’t speeding up, but I wasn’t slowing down either, and that was good enough for me.

In all of my marathons, the only one where the wheels haven’t fallen off between the mile 16 mark and the mile 17 mark (assuming they hadn’t already fallen off by that point) was last year’s. I chalked all of my previous 16-mile walls up to poor nutrition, and assumed I must’ve figured out exactly what I need to do nutrition-wise to avoid the wall during last year’s race, since I never hit it. I rigidly stuck to that plan again this year, but when I lapped my watch at mile 17 and saw 11:34–my first 11:3x of the day that hadn’t been into the wind–I started to worry.

Though I was worried, I wasn’t all that surprised. Even though I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself to my limit, my legs started to feel tired somewhere in the neighborhood of mile 10–a full 10 miles before that happened last year. I don’t really know why I started to feel tired so early on. I was good about limiting my activity for the last two weeks of taper. I wonder if it was due to the cold? I’ve always felt that I thrive in cold weather, since nearly all of my PRs came on days when it was in the 40s or so, but most of those PRs have also come in mid- to late-April, when I’ve run in similar (if not colder) conditions for the past four months. Obviously, coming off a full summer of training, I’m not as accustomed to the cold right now as I am in April, and I’m curious if that has anything to do with my leg-tiredness on Sunday. I also felt physically tired from the poor night of sleep leading into the race morning, which I’m sure didn’t help at all. I also felt emotionally tired and cried (or cried as much as one can while running) several times during the race, including running down Jackson between mile 16 and 17, and I’m also sure that THAT didn’t help at all, either.

Fortunately, I knew I would see my parents on Halsted around 290, so that helped me keep going through that stretch. The crowd here was also very enthusiastic, and one girl in the crowd saw me and said, “Bethany! You’re looking great! You’re going to PR today!” I laughed and said, “No, I’m not!” to myself, because I knew I was very, very off PR pace by that point, but I appreciated her encouragement nonetheless.

It was getting harder and harder to fight the urge to walk as I turned into Little Italy, and I decided that I should probably use the aid station on Taylor Street to refill my water bottles. I hadn’t refilled them once up to that point, which is NUTS. I usually refill my water bottles two to three times during the race, and on Sunday, I only refilled them once, and it was past mile 18. So on top of everything else, I’m sure I had some dehydration issues going on, too. Anyway, I got my refill and walked to the end of the aid station, at which point I definitely knew my dreams of finishing this marathon feeling great were over. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me that much. I think I was kind of over everything by this point and really just wanted to be done.

I knew even before I got to the 30K mark just beyond Little Italy that I was no longer on pace (3:30), but I figured I’d check my watch anyway. I came through 30K in 3:31, which wasn’t that far off, but I knew I didn’t really have the energy, or, more importantly, the will to push the pace for the next just-over-seven miles.

I hoped the crowds in Pilsen would give me as much of a boost as the crowds in Boystown did, but no such luck. I was struggling. I took my last Honey Stinger chews at mile 20 and was not even a little sad to say goodbye to them. Though I’ve never had issues with Honey Stingers in the past, they were bothering my stomach from mile 10 on on Sunday. My stomach felt cramped for a fair portion of the race, though I do wonder if that’s from my nutrition/hydration or if it’s from hunching over due to the wind/cold – or some combination of the two.

The only thing really keeping me going through Pilsen/between Pilsen and Chinatown was the hope that I could still somehow sneak in under five hours. At some point during the race (I don’t remember where – maybe mile 16 or 17?) I looked at my watch and realized that as long as I could keep up an 11:30ish pace, I’d cross the finish in 4:54 – which, crucially, gave me a six-minute cushion in case I were to slow down. After mile 20, though, it seemed less and less likely that I’d be able to pull that off. I came through mile 20 in 3:48, which meant I’d need to do the last 10K in under 1:12 to break five hours. If I were still doing my 11:15s from earlier, that would’ve been perfectly reasonable. By this point, however, my mile splits were more in the 12:30 range, so I was pretty sure I didn’t have a prayer at finishing in under 5:00.

Because of that, I decided to walk a little bit on Cermak. For the first time ever, I took out my phone to see how everyone I was tracking was doing. The app still predicted a 4:58 finish for me when I checked my phone, which kind of motivated me to push harder, but this was also a pretty good distance past the 30K mark where the app took my last split. A lot had gone wrong since that point, so I didn’t think it was all that accurate anymore. That being said, if I wasn’t going to break 5:00, I didn’t want it to be because I gave up on myself, so I started running again and actually felt a lot more energized after my little phone/walk break.

That energy didn’t last long, and I was hurting again once we got out of Chinatown. I knew my parents would be right before mile 23, so I made sure to be running and smiling when I passed them, even though I didn’t really feel like it. I was just really over it by then and mostly wanted to be done.

I took one more walk break around 35th Street to eat some more pretzels, and then shuffled my way through the rest of the race. Getting to mile 24 and knowing I only had two more miles to go was a huge relief, but I swear the distance between the “one mile to go” and “800 meters to go” signs was MUCH longer this year than it was last year 😛 I was race-crying again by this point, which only got worse as I turned onto Roosevelt (though I did force myself to stop crying on Roosevelt, because it made breathing so difficult). I was weepy the whole way down Columbus and cried as I crossed the finish line. For the first time ever (!), I didn’t stop my watch the second I crossed the timing mat, prioritizing having triumphant finish line pictures over getting a perfect time on my watch since the race would obviously have an official time for me anyway.

I finished in 5:07:32, putting 2019 in the #5 spot on Bethany’s All-Time Marathon Finishes list (by mere seconds: my 2016 Chicago Marathon was a 5:07:49). For those of you keeping score at home, that does make this one of my slowest marathons, but like I said two paragraphs ago, I was so over it that I genuinely didn’t care. I had told my family I thought I’d be able to finish in under 5:10, which I did, and that was good enough for me.

I kind of kept it together emotionally through the finisher’s chute, at least until I got my medal. I wasn’t expecting that to be the moment everything hit me, but it was, and I was an absolute mess. Another medal volunteer saw me, reached out, grabbed my arm, and gave me the most genuine, “You did it!” I’ve ever received, which was very touching. Yes I did, medal volunteer. I did it eight times in seven years. I did it for almost all of my 20s. I did it in everything from 4:42 to 5:25, I did it in Chicago and the far western suburbs, and I did it in heat and sun and cold and rain and wind. I ran 209.6 miles worth of marathons – 209.6 more than I ever would have imagined I would run 10 years ago. Hopefully I’ll add a few more to that tally in the future (my legacy entry will be good for Chicago through 2025), but for now, I’m hanging up my (full distance) marathon shoes, proud of and satisfied with what I’ve accomplished.

As I said every time we left a water station during this summer’s training runs: onward.

finishermedal2019

Chicago Marathon Training Week 18

Sunday, October 6: Strength training – legs + 57 minutes bike
My scheduled called for a much longer cross training workout than I expected on Sunday! I took it exceptionally easy to compensate. First, I did my strength training workout at 25 percent of my usual load (thank goodness the gym has three pound weights!), and then I wrapped up my 75 minutes of exercise on the bike, where my heart rate was lower than it usually is on my lunch time walks. This week is all about using exercise to stay sane rather than using it to build fitness, though, and I could feel my anxiety levels come down as soon as I started working out. That’s always nice!

Monday, October 7: 5 miles in 57:02 for an 11:24 pace (AM) + strength training – upper body (PM)
It was super cold Monday morning (in the high 40s), and I was feeling anxious about the marathon (surprise, surprise), so I had to make a conscious effort to not let either one of those things speed me up like they normally can. With an overall 11:24 pace, I think my efforts were pretty successful. I must admit, I’m not going to miss these morning runs. I would if the sun still came up around 5:30 or 6:00 every morning, but with sunrise inching closer and closer to 7:00, it’s getting harder for me to get in a run with daylight and get to work at a decent hour. That was something I didn’t consider when I decided to start running in the morning!

Once again, shoutout to the three pound weights at the gym, which were my go-tos during Monday’s workout. I used three pound weights for everything except rows – for those, I stepped it up to the five pound weights. I know. I hope bragging about the weights I’m using this week doesn’t make me seem less relatable.

Tuesday, October 8: Dance
I was on the fence about whether or not to go to dance, but (obviously) decided to go and put forth, like, 33 percent effort. Any time I felt like I was working too hard, that I was too out of breath, that my muscles felt like they were doing too much, I dialed it back. I did the routine we learned full out (and even then, only like 80 percent out) once in the entire class, which felt like a perfectly sufficient amount for a couple days out from the marathon.

Wednesday, October 9: Strength training – legs + 13 minutes bike
I didn’t have time to do a two-a-day on Thursday, so I combined my strength training and cross training into one workout, per my usual Sunday routine. I accomplished great feats of strength like deadlifting six pounds twelve times in a row, and then somehow found the endurance to get through 13 minutes on level one on the bike, every now and again breaking 60 RPM.

Thursday, October 10: 2 miles in 22:12 for an 11:06 pace
For the first time ever, my Garmin spit out a weird map for a run I did in the suburbs. Sad face. So it’s possible that my pace isn’t 100 percent accurate here, but that’s fine. I almost certainly could’ve done my traditional pre-marathon two miler in the afternoon, but I’ve come to enjoy watching the sun rise on my runs, so I got up WAY later than I’ve ever gotten up for a morning run, knocked out two miles, and dove into my work day. I managed to not cry, despite feeling particularly reflective over the past 18 weeks/six years, which felt like no small victory.

Friday, October 11: Rest

Saturday, October 12: Rest

Chicago Marathon Training Week 17

Sunday, September 29: Strength training – lower body + 66 minutes elliptical
I’ve started reducing the workload on my strength training by about 50 percent, which meant this workout flew by and I was done in 14 minutes. I had 80 minutes of exercise on the calendar, though, so I rounded out the (large) remainder of that time on the elliptical. This was my last cross training workout during the September step challenge, so I can finally go back to the bike now (though I think I plan to do yoga for most of my remaining cross training workouts, since it’s taper and all). Funny story from this workout: my strength training called for a superset of suitcase deadlifts and deadbugs, so I grabbed a mat to put on the floor for when I needed to do my deadbugs. I had to laugh when I laid the mat down and saw a literal dead bug on it, haha. Clearly I was meant to use that mat for my exercises 😛

Monday, September 30: 4 miles in 46:09 for an 11:32 pace (AM) + strength training – upper body (PM)
Four miles! Does that even count as a run? After nearly nonstop rain from Friday morning through Sunday night, it was finally decent enough to be outside Monday morning, though it was awfully foggy. Some parts of my normal route were puddled, which tragically spelled disaster for my well-maintained shoes less than a quarter mile into my run. In an attempt to avoid running straight through a puddle that early on, I veered off into the grass, which was less “grass” and more “gigantic mud pit,” and now the whole outside of my right shoe is covered in dirt. Sigh. That was my pretty pair of shoes, too! Oh well. Worse things have certainly happened.

Per usual, I went to the gym Monday afternoon to lift for a bit. I’m very much enjoying these lighter weight workouts, mostly because they’re so much easier than what I’m used to. If only easy workouts built muscle so I could never have to work at strength training! 😛

Tuesday, October 1: Dance
This is the point in marathon season where dance starts to make me really nervous, and Tuesday was no exception. It was particularly no exception when my teacher demoed a move and followed it up with, “Be careful so you don’t tear your meniscus or ACL.” Ok. Obviously I didn’t do that move full out – or even half out, really. I’m not about to risk my knees (or anything else) over some silly dance class.

Wednesday, October 2: 40 minutes yoga
This one:

 

I must confess that I wasn’t particularly in the mood for yoga, so this was kind of meh for me. I feel like that’s been the case most of the time I’ve done yoga over the past year or so, honestly. I think the stretching and mindfulness and breathing will do me some good, but instead it just feels like it drags on forever and I keep checking to see how much time I have left.

Thursday, October 3: 4 miles (2 mi WU, 4x.25 mi (2:25, 2:15, 2:18, 2:16) w/ .25 mi recovery) in 43:57 for a 10:59 pace (AM) + strength training – legs (PM)
Last workout of marathon season 😦 (By “workout” I mean “not easy run or cross training cardio.” Obviously I plan to keep exercising between now and the marathon.) First morning run where I was able to sleep in a bit, do my run, and start my work day on time! Woo! It rained so hard Wednesday night into Thursday morning that it woke me up, so I can’t say I was surprised to find my running route even puddlier than it had been on Monday. I didn’t bother trying to avoid the puddles this time and just ran through them, especially once I realized that doing that helped wash some of the mud from Monday off my shoes. They’re still stained, but at least they’re not quite so crusted with dirt anymore. I didn’t really have a goal or game plan for my 400s (.25 miles, technically) and just wanted to run hard. It felt really good to put forth some effort on my run for a change. My shin started bothering me a bit during this run, but it actually felt better when i was running faster, so I’m blaming taper and moving on with my life.

Another nice and easy strength training workout for Thursday. The biggest challenge of these taper strength training workouts is getting over my embarrassment at using light weights, but per usual, I don’t think anyone is actually paying attention to what weights I use, and I just need to get over it 😛

Friday, October 4: Rest

Saturday, October 5: 8.61 miles in 1:37:02 for an 11:16 pace
Last long run of training 😦 Per usual, I spent most of the summer resenting having to get up early to drag myself to the lakefront, but once the last run of the season rolled around, I wished it never had to end. I’m impossible to please. This was probably one of my coldest marathon training runs ever, with temperatures never breaking 50 on the run. It was a beautiful morning, though, and we got to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise followed by a 2.5ish mile tour of the end of the Chicago Marathon route. I really had a great time on Saturday. We all ran well, it felt much more casual and laid back than usual, and running the last part of the course is a fun treat.

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

Sunday, September 22: 20.03 miles in 4:05:25 for a 12:15 pace
All week, the forecast called for rain and/or thunderstorms on Sunday. Having been around the Chicago forecast block once or twice in the past, I figured that the meteorologists would ease up on their rain predictions as the week went on. Instead, it only got worse. As of Saturday night, it looked like there was an 80 to 100 percent chance of rain for the duration of the 20 miler. I don’t think I was overreacting by assuming we’d run the 20 miler in the rain.

When I woke up at 3:45 Sunday morning, (yay living in the suburbs 😐 ), my first order of business was to check the radar. There was some nasty weather over in Iowa, but it appeared to be moving northeast. Other than that, it appeared likely that we’d stay dry for the race. Regardless, I implemented Full Rain Protocol for the run. I packed a full change of clothes, down to my underwear and socks, and put them in a Ziploc bag, which I then put in a grocery bag, which I then put in my (not waterproof) gear check bag. I also packed my raincoat and an additional change of clothes for the car, just in case. I double bagged my phone and went to town with the Aquaphor, absolutely coating any area of skin where I’ve ever chafed on a run in the past and slathering my toes with the stuff to attempt to avoid blistering.

As a group leader, I needed to arrive to the 20 miler between 5:30 and 5:45, even though the run itself wasn’t scheduled to start until 6:30 (and in reality started a little later than that). I picked up my group leading supplies (bib, pace bib, pace stick), chilled in the car for a bit, hit up the portapotties, then found my runners and hung out with them until it was our turn to start running at 6:52 a.m.

It wasn’t raining, but it was super humid Sunday morning, and frankly I would’ve preferred rain to the swamp we ran through. The past two 20 milers have been very hot and sunny, but the humidity made this one just as challenging from a weather perspective, at least for me.

Per usual, I wasn’t all that concerned with holding a perfect 11:30 pace, though I did come through the first mile in exactly 11:30 *high fives self* I stuck with my runners for a bit, but one pulled ahead and two others fell behind, so by mile four or so, I was flying solo.

All of six miles into this 20 mile endeavor, I was really starting to lose it. Running felt hard and not fun, and to top everything off, the sun came out, which was the LAST thing I wanted on Sunday. Thankfully, I had never taken my sunscreen stick out of my hydration belt, so I told myself I could take a sunscreen-applying walk break at the next aid station (I had been running through all the aid stations up to that point).

As I was walking through the aid station around mile seven, my runner who had pulled ahead popped out of a portapotty, so I had a running buddy again. That helped me out immensely, and the next three miles flew by. He stopped to take a walk break around mile 10.5, though, and I was on my own for the remainder of the run.

I won’t lie, it wasn’t pretty. I mean, I’ve had worse 20 milers, both from a time and enthusiasm perspective. But I wasn’t in the best mood of my life by any means, and most of the time, I was running for the sake of finishing as quickly as possible, not running because I felt up to it. I desperately, desperately wanted to be DONE. My feet were absolutely killing me, and my pesky ankle was protesting more than I liked, too. I walked through all of the aid stations (and started dumping water on my head somewhere on the south side – I probably should’ve started doing that a lot earlier) but ran most of the rest of the run, aside from a walk break at mile 15 while I ate my Honey Stingers, and a walk break around 18.25 because I was #overit.

To put a cherry on the top of my misery sundae, I also wasn’t feeling super great in the stomach department. I tried to hydrate well on Saturday, but I 1) didn’t hydrate as much as I had hoped to and 2) didn’t anticipate that it would be so sticky on Sunday. I was quite thirsty throughout the run, but I wasn’t absorbing most of it. I could feel water sloshing around in my stomach, and it really frustrated me. I knew I needed to be getting more hydration in, but if my stomach refused to process it, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do.

I nearly cried at mile 19 and at the finish line, not because I was so overwhelmed with what I had accomplished, but because I was SO glad to be done. I hadn’t looked up any of my previous 20 miler times, so I didn’t know it at the time, but this was actually the fastest one I’ve had since 2016. It sure didn’t feel that way, but it’s nice to know that it was!

Monday, September 23: Rest

Tuesday, September 24: Strength training – legs (AM) + dance (PM)
I didn’t need to be to my volunteer day for work until 9 a.m., which gave me AMPLE time to work out in the morning. This being my first workout post-20 miler, my strength training plan called for light weights and low reps, and I was able to get through the whole thing in 13 minutes. Yes please.
Fortunately, all of the soreness I felt Monday had dissipated by Tuesday, so dance wasn’t the struggle I worried it might be. We learned a new combo and were given instructions to “not forget it before next week,” so there’s something for me to work on 😛

Wednesday, September 25: 6 miles in 1:10:19 for an 11:43 pace (AM) + strength training – upper body (PM)
I slept in later than I planned and was a bit frazzled getting out the door for six miles on Wednesday morning. The whole thing felt more difficult than I anticipated, which was a bummer, but I suppose that’s taper for you. I also underestimated how long six miles would feel, thinking that after 20 it should be over in a heartbeat. Not so! Once again, the struggles of taper.

I am loving my early taper strength training workouts. This one took 15 minutes! I’m used to my strength training taking more like 25-30 minutes, so this change has been most welcome. It also won’t last for all of taper, but once I get closer to the marathon, I’ll also start dropping my weights big time for my strength training workouts, so it’ll all even out. Hopefully.

Thursday, September 26: 6 miles in 1:10:03 (with six hill repeats) for an 11:40 pace (AM)
Check out that consistency! How long does it take me to run six miles? An hour and 10 minutes! My work schedule was a little messed up this week, and I didn’t have the flexibility to start my day late like I normally do on days I run. That meant getting up well before dawn (since dawn is fairly late these days) and heading out in the dark, which I do not like. I thought being nervous about running in the dark would make me go faster, but apparently that wasn’t the case. I ran about two miles before tackling my hill repeats. The uphill I ran faces east, so I got to watch the sun come up, which was kind of cool–seeing how much higher it got each time I went up the hill. The weather was amazing, with the first dew points in the 40s (!!) that I’ve seen all season. You’d think that would also help me run faster, but whatever. I guess that’s not really the point of maintenance runs during taper, is it?

Friday, September 27: Rest

Saturday, September 28: 12.22 miles in 2:17:49 for an 11:17 pace
Well, I guess you can’t hope to make it through all of marathon season without a rainy run. This reminded me more of April running than September running! I got to my group run Saturday morning to discover that one (1) of my runners had showed up, so it was less of a group run on Saturday and more of a duo run, but that’s all right. I’m just glad I had someone to run with, because Saturday’s weather was miserable, and it would’ve been that much worse if I had had to go it alone. We had a nice chat and clicked off our miles quicker than usual (i.e.: not at a 12:00+ pace), which was particularly nice after Sunday’s disheartening 20 miler. We had the wind at our back for the first six miles, but when we turned around, we had to head home into a headwind amidst aggressive sprinkling (it wasn’t really raining raining, per se, at least not compared to Friday – but it was definitely precipitating). I had worn my finisher’s jacket from the 2016 Chicago Marathon (which I had never run in prior to Saturday #YOLO), and though I got too warm within the first mile and had to tie it around my waist, I was VERY glad I had it for the return trip. I put it on half a mile after turning around and wore it for the remainder of the run.

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 15

Sunday, September 15: Strength training – legs + 60 minutes elliptical
My strength training up to this point in marathon season hasn’t aligned with the week it’s “supposed” to be on for a few reasons. I kept going through my strength training program (more or less) after the marathon last year and through half marathon training earlier this year, so instead of starting at the beginning when marathon training started, I just kept going with where I was. Additionally, my strength training program is 16 weeks of training, not 18, so even if I had started strength training week one on week one of marathon training, it would’ve stopped aligning by the end of training. In an effort to not overexert myself, however, I thought it’d be in my best interest to get back into alignment for peak week. Plus, I liked the peak week workouts better than the ones I was supposed to do this week, anyway 😛 I went through those, then hopped on the elliptical for an hour to round out the 90 minutes of exercise on my schedule for the day. While I’m still not crazy about the elliptical, I rarely hit 10,000 steps on Sundays, and that step competition at work is not going to win itself! I get steps for the elliptical but none for the bike, so I’m guessing most of my cross training for the rest of the month will be elliptical-based.

Monday, September 16: 10 miles in 1:55:10 for an 11:31 pace (AM) + strength training – upper body (PM)
Or perhaps I should say a 10 mile swim, based on the swampy conditions Monday morning. HOLY HUMIDITY, who put in an order for mid-summer?! Blech. Thankfully the actual temperature wasn’t too high, and the sun was well hidden behind a thick cloud cover. The first couple of miles of this run were a serious slog, but I hit my groove around mile 2.5 and felt surprisingly good for the remainder of my run. I took a nature-heavy route on Monday and really enjoyed it. It’s so nice to be among trees and birds. Plus, it makes me feel like I’m multitasking: I’m getting in my recommended physical activity for the day and my recommended nature exposure for the day. Win win!

I got to the gym at what’s normally a pretty busy time on a weekday afternoon, so I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of space and not too many people joining me for my workout. Monday’s strength training called for high reps, so I scaled back my weights and found it a lot more manageable than when I try to use my usual weight for a high number of reps (duh). You’d think this would’ve occurred to me a lot earlier!

Tuesday, September 17: Dance
As expected, my teacher wasn’t there on Tuesday (his company had a huge show this past weekend, and he usually doesn’t make it to class when he’s days away from a big show), so we had a sub. I know her, but I had never taken a class with her before. It’s always so interesting to me how different everyone’s style of teaching is! She didn’t really know the choreography we learned last week, so we attempted to piece it together from our collective memory. We’ll see how that turns out when my teacher’s (presumably) back this week, ha.

Wednesday, September 18: 5.68 miles in 1:00:57 for a 10:44 pace + strength training – legs
My company gives you a free day of PTO for your birthday, and while some people choose to take that day on the nearest Monday or Friday to have a three-day weekend, I always choose to take it on my birthday itself, because I like my birthday and I don’t like working (not just at my current job: in general), so having the opportunity to take the day off without spending any of my PTO is ideal. It was also great because that meant I could run without feeling any pressure to wrap things up and get to work in a timely fashion! This was my last big Hal Higdon-style tempo run of training, and it was tough, per usual. It’s so hard to pace myself when I have so. many. five minute intervals to get through! I’m really happy with my peak pace though–it ranged from 9:32 to 9:18 (appropriate, given that it was 9/18), which is right where I’d like it to be.

After running, I went home, made myself a small batch of pancakes, then left my apartment for the gym. I thought I’d have the place to myself, since it was like 10:45 on a Wednesday, but there were two other people there! Fortunately none of them seemed to need the equipment I needed. The workout went well, but I was surprisingly sore from it on Thursday.

Thursday, September 19: 60 minutes elliptical
All about getting those steps in this month. I hopped on the elliptical for an hour after work to cross train and increase my step count for the day. I made a lot of progress on the book I’m currently reading. It took a super unexpected turn near the end of my 60 minutes, which made it hard to get off the elliptical! I wanted to keep reading!

Friday, September 20: Rest

Saturday, September 21: Rest

Chicago Marathon Training Week 14

Sunday, September 8: Jonas Brothers ❤
I didn’t do a formal workout on Sunday, but I did jump/dance/flail/scream/cry around for 90 minutes at the Jonas Brothers concert, which feels like it should count for something 😛

Monday, September 9: 8 miles in 1:25:23 for a 10:40 pace (AM) + strength training – legs (PM)
After checking out of the hotel and driving home, I put my overnight bag down in my parents’ house, changed into shorts, and threw myself out of the house to get in my eight miler. I had less than zero interest in doing this run, but I 1) didn’t want to do it in the afternoon when I got back to Chicagoland and 2) didn’t want to do it later in the week, when the highs were predicted to flirt with 90. So off I went for an eight miler around my parents’ house. I didn’t have time to wait for my Garmin to find a GPS signal, so my pace readings were all over the place in the first mile and I didn’t really have a good idea of how quick I was running until a few miles in. With how poorly my 18 miler went from a pace/effort standpoint two days before, I was VERY happy to be able to comfortably hold a 10:40 pace (on a hilly route, no less!) after having such an active weekend.

When I got home Monday afternoon, I headed off to the gym to get in some strength training. I had to modify Monday’s workout a bit due to not having TRX bands available to me anymore, but I made it work. I thought it was going to be a long one, but I finished everything in about 30 minutes, so that was nice.

Tuesday, September 10: Dance
I thought we’d add on to what we learned in class last week, but instead we reviewed it for a few minutes and then moved on to totally different choreography. My teacher mentioned that the choreography was very 90s, and as we were learning it, TLC’s “What About Your Friends” popped into my head. We always learn choreography without music first, so you can imagine my shock when my teacher decided we had learned enough to start dancing it with the music and the song he put on was “What About Your Friends.” I haven’t learned this choreography before, nor have I danced to “What About Your Friends” before, so I was floored to have guessed the song all on my own! That’s never happened before!

Wednesday, September 11: 8 miles (2 mi WU, 8x.5 mi (5:11, 4:59, 5:05, 5:07, 4:55, 4:54, 5:01, 4:56) w/ .25 mi recovery) in 1:28:20 for an 11:02 pace (AM) + strength training – upper body (PM)
Ugh. I realize these training recaps may as well be weather recaps for how frequently I blame/credit the weather for how my run went, but THE HUMIDITY on Wednesday! It was out. of. control. The dew point was a swampy 71 when I headed out to do my 800s, and despite thinking it wouldn’t affect me because “it’s the end of summer” and “I’ve been running in humidity for months,” I was very, VERY wrong. I felt spent by the end of my two-mile warmup, so you can imagine how I felt for the remainder of the run. Blech. I had to walk my first 400 recovery (though I slow jogged the others). I hate having crummy 800 workouts, and I hate even more that I had a crummy last 800 workout (because I don’t have any others on my schedule for this training cycle). These were some of my slowest 800s by a long shot, and it was a big bummer.

Fortunately, my upper body workout Wednesday afternoon went really well. For the first time in a long time, it didn’t feel like a huge hassle or slog. Perhaps I’m getting stronger?! Or just less resistant to doing upper body workouts, haha. Let’s say I’m getting stronger 😛

Thursday, September 12: Strength training – legs + 40 minutes elliptical
Since I didn’t have a chance to strength train on Sunday, what with the Jonas Brothers concert and everything, I had to get my last session for the week in on Thursday. I decided to roll it into my 60 minutes of scheduled cross training to help me not be at the gym for my entire life. My strength training went pretty well, though someone else in the gym was using all the plates I wanted to put on the EZ bar for hip lifts, so I ended up doing dumbbell swings instead, as the internet told me those work the same muscles. Incidentally, the person using all the plates was doing hip lifts on the weight rack, so now I have an idea of what that setup looks like in case I want to try that method later on. I really prefer the bike to the elliptical, but some suspicious activity in the step challenge at work (i.e.: someone who hadn’t been in the top 10 suddenly being in first with exactly 250,800 steps. SUSPICIOUS.) had me on a mission to get in as many steps as possible for the rest of the month. Since you get steps on the elliptical but not on the bike, I spent 40 minutes upping my step count on it.

Friday, September 13: Rest

Saturday, September 14: 14.01 miles in 2:44:23 for an 11:44 pace
While my run on Saturday went great, getting to the run on Saturday was another story. I’ve made the drive from the suburbs into the city for training plenty of times at this point, so when I was walking to my car and thought, “Should I look up directions on Google Maps in case something is wrong with traffic?” my next thought was, “No, I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Of course, you can see where this is going. Soon after getting onto the highway, I was met with a forest of brake lights, as the highway inexplicably went down from three lanes to two (with warning), and then two lanes to one (without warning). There was zero evidence of any actual construction work taking place, naturally. But even with reduced, 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday traffic, it still caused a huge backup. While sitting in traffic, I reached for my hydration belt to grab my phone so I could tell my site coordinator I was on my way but would be late, only to find that I didn’t have my phone. AWESOME. So now I was stuck in traffic with no way of telling anyone and no way of consulting the internet to figure out the best way around said traffic. Just what I needed at 5:30 in the morning. Once I got through the traffic, I zoomed down the highway much faster than I or my car like to go, only to get off the highway at my usual spot to get stuck behind someone who STOPPED AT A GREEN LIGHT, THEN WENT WHEN IT TURNED RED. *explodes* Unsurprisingly, I was all sorts of amped up by the time I actually got to the run (before my group left, fortunately). Like I said, the run itself went really well–probably one of my better long runs all year. I was really bummed to not have my phone, though. I’ve been taking a picture at the exact same spot every week since the first week of training, which has been a cool way to see how the weather/sun positioning has changed over the weeks. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take one next week due to the 20 miler, but I had hoped I’d be able to get the other weeks of training at least. Now I’m going to be missing two weeks in my photo collection 😦

Chicago Marathon Training Week 13

Sunday, September 1: Strength training – legs
I spent all of Sunday afternoon with family, so I didn’t have much time to squeeze in a workout. Fortunately, my strength training workout for Sunday was really short, so I popped into the gym after family time and got it done. We walked around a lot during family time, so we can pretend that counts as cross training.

Monday, September 2: Strength training – upper body + 10 miles (with seven hill repeats) in 1:56:55 for an 11:41 pace
What’s that? No (AM) (PM)? Does that mean…I did both of these workouts together? Yes, yes I did. Please leave your congratulations in the comments below. I really just wanted to get everything done in one fell swoop, so I went to the gym prior to heading out for my run and ran through my upper body workout for the day. I skipped the last part of it because it called for TRX rows (we don’t have TRX bands in my current gym) and then headed off. I could NOT believe how many other people were out and about! I’ve never run in the suburbs on a weekend, so maybe that’s how it always is, and my perception is skewed because I only run on weekdays? Regardless, it was hoppin’ outside. About 4.25 miles into my run, a lady came up to pass me (or so I thought) and was not getting out of personal bubble, which I thought was a little weird, since people normally pass me pretty quickly (I’m not moving all that fast, after all). She then said hello, greeting me like I was an old friend, despite the fact that I had never seen her before in my life. She asked how far I was running, and it turned out she was running 10 miles too, so she decided to run and chat with me for a bit. Definitely not something that normally happens, but she was nice and it helped the next mile or so go by quickly. She wasn’t interested in doing seven hill repeats (imagine that!), so I lost her once I started doing those. They were all right, but by the time I was done, I was pretty gassed. The remaining 2.5 miles of my run were a real slog. I was in full sun almost the entire time, I was hot and tired and dehydrated, and then my stomach decided to cramp up to really round out my misery. It was a lot of work for one morning, but I’m glad I got everything done so I could chill out for the rest of Labor Day.

Tuesday, September 3: Dance
After a two-week break, dance started up again on Tuesday. There were only five people there (including me), which was a pretty small turnout for the first day. One of my knuckle joints was bothering me Tuesday afternoon–I think I cracked it too aggressively or something–and as I was on my way to dance, I thought, “Good thing I don’t take breakdance any more so I won’t have to worry about supporting my weight with this hand today.” Wouldn’t you know it, for the first time ever, my teacher incorporated some breakdancing into the choreography we learned on Tuesday. Figures! Fortunately it wasn’t anything too extensive and my hand held up just fine. Still a weird coincidence, though!

Wednesday, September 4: 7 miles in 1:12:35 for a 10:22 pace (AM) + strength training – legs (PM)
I had a pace run on my schedule for Wednesday and intended to do it between 10:45 and 11:00, because I think that if I were to target a pace during the marathon, that’s what I’d go for. You see how well that turned out. My first mile was a 10:48, but after that, I was running more 10:12s than anything else. I had a lot of frustration from Tuesday to burn (and the weather was glorious), so I’m guessing that’s where this came from. Even though this was almost certainly too fast, and I almost certainly couldn’t run another 19 miles at that pace, I will admit that it felt nice to know I’m capable of running seven miles at a 10:22 overall pace. All of the slow running of marathon training makes it easy to forget I can run faster than an 11:30 pace for more than five minutes.

I need to be better about getting to the gym at a decent time in the afternoon. Once again, I showed up later than usual, and once again, it made getting the equipment I want a struggle. My right ankle seems to get irritated by stretching my leg with the plantar fasciitis stretching thing, and since I used it post-run Wednesday morning, my ankle was still irritated Wednesday afternoon. I’ve noticed that lunges make the irritation worse, and since I had those on my schedule, I planned to sub them out with step-ups instead. All the benches were taken, though, so I didn’t have anything I could step up onto. I did single-leg presses as an alternative to the alternative.

Thursday, September 5: 60 minutes bike
This was a super boring, super light effort cross training session. Even though most of my workouts last more than an hour these days, the idea of spending a full hour on the bike bored me just thinking about it, so it ended up being something I had to endure rather than something I even remotely enjoyed. It doesn’t help that the bike in the gym is directly in front of a west-facing window, which means I have the setting sun blazing in my eyes every time I bike in the afternoon. Not pleasant.

Friday, September 6: Rest

Saturday, September 7: 18 miles in 3:38:46 for a 12:09 pace
Bleh. This run didn’t go quite the way I hoped it would go. After having such a great pace run on Wednesday, I expected running at an 11:30 pace to feel like a breeze, but it most certainly did not. I think part of the problem is my fuel belt. I always feel like this is a problem during really long runs. It weighs me down and makes me feel so sluggish – or at least, I’d like to think it’s the belt that makes me feel sluggish, not me making me feel sluggish 😉 I didn’t run a single 11:30 mile in the entire run, which frustrated me. I felt pretty down on myself around mile 15 or so, but then I remembered that this was the first time I’ve run 18 straight miles (excluding 20 milers and marathons, that is) since 2014. Yes, folks, the curse of the 18 miler seems to have broken. For the first time since 2014, I made it all the way through my scheduled 18 miler without a thunderstorm – without even a cloud in the sky, this year! Thank goodness, because I was in a huge hurry. I needed to get home ASAP to make it to Michigan for a family gathering Saturday afternoon, and my stress about that probably didn’t help the run situation at all. On the plus side, this was one of the only times my group has stayed together for the bulk of our miles, which made me happy. The miles are a lot easier with all that extra company!