Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Historically, I have spent the last two and a half or so miles of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon repeating one phrase to myself: “‘Round the corner, up the hill, ’round the corner, then you’re done.” This year, I found myself saying something different:

“I finally did it.”

After years of trying and failing to have a good marathon, I walked away from Sunday’s race beyond thrilled and beyond proud of how I ran. At long last, I caught my white whale: I conquered–really, truly–conquered the marathon.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

To say that I had a bad attitude going into Sunday would, I believe, easily qualify for my biggest understatement of the year, if not my life. I don’t think it’s been any enormous secret that I was extremely disappointed with my training cycle and felt utterly unprepared to run 26.2 miles on Sunday. I didn’t doubt that I would finish, but I also knew I didn’t have a prayer at finishing in under five hours, and to be frank, that pissed me off. I have never been happy running a 5:00+ marathon before, and I was quite confident I wouldn’t be happy running a 5:00+ marathon this year.


At the same time, I had this stubborn, smoldering flicker of hope deep, deep down inside me that kept whispering in my ear, “But what if this is your year? What if you really do run a 4:45 this time?” I hated that hopeful voice. I wanted to stomp on it, smother it, crush the life out of it. I knew, barring a major miracle, that I didn’t stand a chance at running a 4:45 this time around, and it infuriated me to no end that I couldn’t get that persistent liar to leave me alone.

The dissonance between what my head was saying (“This is going to be another slow one.”) and what my heart was saying (“But what if it’s not?”) created so much anxiety in me that I was a sentient lump of angst for most of last week that only got progressively angstier and angrier as time went on. I had not one but TWO marathon-related stress dreams (I haven’t had a race-related stress dream in over three years), and I spent a fair portion of Friday and Saturday feeling sick to my stomach with nervousness. The Chicago Marathon kept posting countdown photos and gifs on social media in the days leading up to the race, every time saying something along the lines of, “Are you ready?!” and each time I had to force myself to not be That Person and respond with a sullen, “No.”

Sunday dawned without a cloud in the sky, because apparently this is the only kind of weather we get on marathon day (seriously, according to the Chicago Marathon Media Guide’s Historical Weather Conditions entry, October in Chicago, on average, has seven clear days, 8.75 partly cloudy days, and 14.7 cloudy days. Even though the odds are MUCH better that we’d have a partly cloudy or cloudy day, somehow I have never [thus far] run a Chicago Marathon under anything but crystal clear skies.). I headed to Grant Park, swaddled in an old mylar blanket, my stomach rumbling with anxiousness. It took a little while to get into Grant Park, but once I made it through the bag check station, I put on some sunscreen (forgetting, I discovered after I got home, my chest, which is now a lovely shade of red), checked my gear, and got into the longest portapotty line of all time. I don’t know why I always assume the portapotty lines at the Chicago Marathon are going to be fine, because they never are, but it still drives me crazy every year.


(Shoutout to the CNA building [the red one] for adjusting its blinds so its windows said “26.2”)

I had originally been assigned to Corral K for this year’s race, but since I had NO desire to start that late in the day, I requested to be moved to Corral G and the race complied (really, that’s all it took. I just had to ask, and I was moved, no questions.). I originally thought about finding a 5:15 pace group to start the race with, but since 1) there were no 5:15 pace groups and 2) the slowest pace group in Corral G was for a 4:10 marathon (lol ok), I quickly realized that wasn’t going to be an option. I decided instead to start at the very back of Corral G to avoid getting swept up in any early race madness and plod along at an 11:30 pace (just a hair slower than a 5:00 pace) for 13 miles, then reevaluate. Ideally, I wanted to pick it up to an 11:15 pace for miles 13-19 and an 11:00 pace for the last part of the race. I didn’t know what kind of finish time that would get me, but I figured it would be under five hours. At the same time, though, I knew expecting myself to speed up that much on the second half of the race would be extremely difficult. I was a little nervous about going out at an 11:30, because even thought I thought it should be sustainable for 26.2 miles, I knew it was risky. If I needed to slow down, it was going to end up being a pretty dramatic slowdown, and I wasn’t interested in that at all.


I manually lapped my watch for the entire race (except mile 26. I never saw a mile 26 sign! I don’t know if it wasn’t there or if I just didn’t see it, but either way, my last lap on my Garmin stats is for 1.2 miles, not one mile.), and when I hit mile one, I was extremely pleased to see that I had somehow managed to run an exact 11:30 pace for that mile. Boom. All I needed to do was keep that up for another five hours, and I’d be golden.

My parents’ first viewing location of the day was at about mile 1.25, and they weren’t quite ready for me when I got there. I knew it was going to be a slow day, so I jogged in place while my dad fiddled with his phone to get the camera up, and then headed on my way. I was worried that the delay would cost me my 11:30 pace, before realizing that I could simply run faster for a little while to make up for lost time (duh, Bethany.). I came through mile two in 11:23. Mission accomplished. (My moving time for that mile was 11:22, so clearly I didn’t lose much time with my parents.)

I kept chugging along and could not believe how evenly I was running: 11:31, 11:33, 11:30. I have never prided myself on my ability to pace a run, particularly during a marathon, so this was blowing my mind. I was a little worried when I ran mile six in 11:46, so to make up time, I aimed for an 11:15 next mile so they’d even out to 11:30. The result: an 11:12. Who was I?!

Back downtown, I got passed by a 4:55 pace group that I assume came from Corral H (the only other 4:55 pace group was in Corral L, the last corral, and I can’t imagine they had caught up to me in 12 miles). Even though the group passed me, they didn’t really seem to be gaining on me, at least not by much. I didn’t know what a 4:55 pace boiled down to in terms of pace/mile, so I decided if I could still see them after I passed the halfway point, I’d catch them, see how fast they were running, and go from there. It turned out that they were running an 11:00 pace (I hit mile 14 in 11:04). I knew that’d be too tough for me to sustain for the entire second half, so I dropped off and continued running my own race.

The miles were ticking by, and all things considered, I was feeling fantastic. I started dumping water on my head at the Boystown aid station in an effort to keep cool, and when I got a sponge in Old Town, I stuffed it in my sports bra and hung onto it until I turned onto Columbus. At every aid station, I’d get a cup of water to drink (or two) and a cup of water to dump on my sponge. I’d squeeze the sponge over my head, then tuck it back into my bra until the next aid station. I also started eating pretzels at mile 15 (10 pretzels + 5 Honey Stinger chews at mile 15, 10 pretzels + 5 Honey Stinger chews at mile 20, 10 pretzels at mile 23.5) to get some salt back in my system. This seemed to do the trick. It was still hot, no doubt, especially in the sun, but making sure I was super proactive about staying cool and staying salted (and not running too hard) made an enormous difference. It did also lead to a little underarm chafing, but if that’s the price I have to pay to keep running and stay out of the med tent, so be it. I never had to walk other than the times I got crowded in at aid stations, which also made me quite happy.

I’ve been through this marathon song and dance enough times to know that just because you feel okay at mile 14, or 16, or 20, or even 22, most certainly does not mean you’ll continue to feel okay for the remainder of the race, and I’ll be honest: I was having a tough time letting myself believe that everything was going well. I was absolutely convinced that the wheels were going to fall off eventually. But I got through mile 14…and 16…and 20…and 22…and all of a sudden I was on 33rd St., saw my parents, and even though I knew I certainly wouldn’t PR, said with complete confidence, “This is the BEST RACE I’ve ever had!”

I know Michigan Ave. is always tough, so I really didn’t want to push my luck by dropping the hammer with 5K left to go. I kept up with my hydration/cooling system at the first two Michigan Ave. aid stations, but when I got through the second aid station a little bit past mile 24, I realized that this was really going to happen. I wasn’t going to break five hours, and I wasn’t going to PR, but I was, finally, after five years of trying, going to have a good marathon. I let my legs do whatever they wanted, and they wanted to go, so off we went. After a 12:05 mile 23 and a 12:05 mile 24, I hit mile 25 in 11:26–my third fastest mile of the race up to that point–and, though I don’t have an exact split since I didn’t see mile 26, my Garmin map says I crossed what appears to be mile 26 on the course map at 5:01:49 on my watch. I hit mile 25 at 4:50:46. That means I ran an 11:03 miles–my fastest mile of the entire day–for the last mile of the race. My last 2K split, between 40K and the finish? 10:36.

I was deliriously happy. I waved to a video camera stationed at the corner of Michigan and Roosevelt, and the lady standing next to the person filming commented on how good I looked (pleaseohpleaseohplease let that be official marathon people and let me end up in a promo video for next year’s race. I would be so thrilled if that happened! Haha.). I flashed a huge smile and a double thumbs up to the photographers at the top of Mt. Roosevelt (!! Gonna buy those race pictures for SURE.). I sobbed my way down Columbus and across the finish line.

After six tries, five years, 157.2 marathoned miles, I had finally, finally, finally run a good marathon. It took me 5:04:09 to do it (#3 out of six time-wise), but I don’t care at all. This finish was so much more satisfying than either of my sub-5:00 races. This was the one distance I had left to conquer, the one race I just couldn’t figure out, and I finally did it.

I crossed the start line on Sunday not knowing whether or not I’d ever run a marathon again. I crossed the finish line on Sunday knowing that I will definitely be back for more.




Chicago Marathon Training Week 18

Sunday, October 1: 60 minutes XT (biking)
Biked for an hour at the gym. I covered a whopping 10.6 miles in that hour, so obviously I was not exactly putting in a lot of effort here. I also spent all 60 minutes biking and zero minutes strength training, in case you were wondering whether or not I had given up the ghost on that pipe dream (I have).

Monday, October 2: 5.39 miles in 55:59 for a 10:24 pace
Five miles according to MapMyRun. I used this run to test out manual lapping without auto lapping on my watch, and it went MUCH better than last Thursday. My watch still beeps every time it has measured a mile, but it doesn’t record anything unless I manually lap it (I figured where I would hit each mile based on what MapMyRun said, and lapped my watch in that general area). The run itself was a bit more challenging than I expected or hoped it would be, which was a bummer. My legs felt heavy and tired, especially during the first half. I had a dentist appointment immediately after this run, which meant two things. One: instead of run commuting, I did a 2.5 mile out-and-back from my office and then back to my office. Unsurprisingly, the “back” portion, during the height of rush hour, was a bit…tense. I didn’t actually yell at anyone, though I did almost throw an elbow. But only almost! Two: I had to go directly to the dentist after retrieving my stuff from the office, so I didn’t have time to stretch, foam roll, or do my usual post-run PT exercises. I got in more of a cooldown walk than usual, though, so that’s something.

Tuesday, October 3: Dance
My teacher wasn’t there on Tuesday, so instead we had a sub from his dance crew. Unfortunately, the sub didn’t know the most recent routine we’ve worked on, and none of us remembered the parts we added on last week, so this was a fairly useless hour of dance. On the bright side, I felt completely comfortable marking everything instead of going all out at any point during class, given that my teacher wasn’t there, and I feel much better about dance the Tuesday before a marathon when I can put in 10% effort and not worry about hurting myself.

Wednesday, October 4: 30 minutes XT (yoga)
This one:

I thought about biking, but decided to do yoga instead, since I’m really trying to keep my energy expenditure low in the days leading up to the marathon. I chose this practice because it was the next Yoga Camp practice I hadn’t done that was 30 minutes long, but it ended up being exactly what I hoped for. There wasn’t a single vinyasa in the entire practice. The whole thing was just gentle, easy movement, and it was totally perfect for what I wanted that day.

Thursday, October 5: 2.01 miles in 20:28 for a 10:12 pace + SPF
Somehow my GPS said I needed to run farther to hit two miles than MapMyRun did, even though my GPS was all over the place for the first mile…?? Whatever. I wasn’t going to stop this run without my watch saying two miles, and I don’t think the extra tenth of a mile was going to make that big of a difference. CARA’s training plan didn’t actually call for a Thursday-before-the-race two miler this year like I remember doing it in the past, but this is one of my favorite runs of the entire training cycle, and I was not going to be denied my Thursday two miler! Haha. I had had a stressful day and ran way too fast, but oh well.

Friday, October 6: Rest

Saturday, October 7: Rest

In the immortal words of Porky Pig, that’s all, folks. Marathon training cycle #5 is in the books. Now all that’s left is to actually do the thing I’ve been training to do for the past 18 weeks. This marathon season definitely was not the one I anticipated when I sat down and wrote out my training plan at the beginning of this year, but what’s done is done, and we’ll see how it all works out on Sunday.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 17

Sunday, September 24: 13.23 miles in 2:29:31 for a 11:18 pace + PF
Chicago Half Marathon, by my watch.

Monday, September 25: 45 minutes XT
Ah, yet again, the best laid plans of mice and men. (I may as well adopt that line as my summary for this marathon season.) I had 40 minutes XT on my schedule for Monday and planned to either bike or do yoga, based on how I felt when I woke up that morning. I didn’t feel too sore, so I decided to bike at the gym after work. I packed up my gym bag, headed off to put in my eight hours, and when I got to the gym after I wrapped up my work day, discovered that I had left my gym bag at home. Good work, self. So I trudged back home, astounded by my ability to sabotage my workout so spectacularly, and did NTC’s Peaks and Valleys, a strength workout with a few moments of cardio thrown in, instead. During this, I discovered that my core strength is even worse than I expected, since I could hold a plank for a whopping 15 seconds before failing. Fabulous. On the bright side, this allowed me to log one NTC workout for September, which I didn’t think would happen, so yay for that.

Tuesday, September 26: Dance
A lot of people were missing from class on Tuesday, which surprised me but definitely didn’t bother me. Fewer people means more space to move. We reviewed what we learned last week and added on a little. I’m pretty sure we got thisclose to the part that I already know, so hopefully we’ll get there next week.

Wednesday, September 27: 6.44 miles in 1:02:42 for a 9:44 pace + SPF
I really ran six miles, not 6.44. I had a stressful day at work and was looking forward to an hour by myself to relax and decompress. My Garmin, unsurprisingly, had other ideas. After eight minutes of waiting while it failed to do IT’S MAIN JOB (find a GPS signal), I gave up and started running. It eventually found a signal, but by then had no idea what was going on and consistently showed me running at a 4:30 pace. Ok. I had had the foresight to actually make a note of where my mile markers would be when I mapped out my run ahead of time on MapMyRun, but when I tried to lap my watch when I hit the first mile, nothing happened, because for reasons far beyond my comprehension, the ability to manually lap your watch isn’t turned on by default. WHY. So I fumed for a few miles about how utterly deficient and useless I’ve found this watch to be, but fortunately by the time I hit mile four or so I had calmed down significantly. I’m glad I tried to do manual laps on this run, though: I know I’ll need to manually lap my watch during the Chicago Marathon, since downtown will inevitably ruin my watch’s tracking, and I really rely on manual tracking to have a clue as to how I’m doing. I would MUCH rather find out on a six miler that I needed to configure manual lapping than find that out at mile one of the marathon. Taking my angst out of the picture, this run went fairly well. It was quite nice to run when it was in the 70s as opposed to the 90s for a change.

Thursday, September 28: 4.1 miles in 40:10 for a 9:48 pace + SPF
Ugh, all of these stats are wrong. The distance is wrong, of course, because it always is (this was exactly four miles according to MapMyRun), but this time even the overall time is wrong because I lapped my watch at a stop light instead of pausing it and didn’t realize what I had done until the light turned green. Fail. It looks like I was stopped for 25 seconds, so that means I actually ran four miles in 39:45. All hail seasonable weather.

I used this run to try to figure out the lapping function on my watch, and while I now have it turned on, I don’t think using auto lap and manual lapping is going to get me the stats I want. Manually lapping my Polar watch would give me two different tables: one with the watch’s automatic laps and one with my manual laps. The output from my Garmin after letting auto lap run while manually lapping my watch is a little less clear.


The two splits in mile two were my own fault since I lapped my watch when I meant to pause it. But what’s weird to me is that my watch shows the first auto lap, and then only shows manual laps for the remainder of the run, but counts the first manual lap as starting after the first auto lap (rather than counting it from the start of the run). It also doesn’t show any of the auto laps after the first one, even though my watch kept beeping every time I hit an auto lap (one mile) by its count. o.O I have clearly been living in the Polar world too long and am not having an easy time adjusting to Garmin’s interface.

As for the run itself, I couldn’t believe how quickly this went by. I clearly was running a lot faster than usual, which I’m sure contributed to how fast the run felt, but I also haven’t done a four miler since June. It felt really weird to be done so quickly! My back had been bothering me all day at work–I think I was having some sort of spasm or cramp?–but it actually felt better while I was running than it felt sitting, and after a hot shower and some time with a heating pad at home, it felt back to normal.

Friday, September 29: Rest

Saturday, September 30: 8.19 miles in 1:25:58 for a 10:30 (!!) pace + SPF
Okay, so realistically, I probably didn’t actually run a 10:30 pace on my run, because I know my watch hit mile two too early, and I’m really pretty sure I only ran eight miles, not 8.19. But whatever. Let me have this one thing 😛 I had absolutely no desire to get up early and haul myself to my CARA group run for eight measly miles when I could sleep in and do those without issue on my own starting and ending at my house, so that’s what I did. The weather was FABULOUS and just what I’d love to have on race day…though who knows what we’ll get on race day (just a fun little tidbit here: as I write this post on Saturday afternoon, AccuWeather is calling for a high of 81 on Friday. Tom Skilling, WGN weather guru and fellow eclipse appreciator, is calling for a high of 71 on Friday. That is a TEN DEGREE difference, and what does that tell us? That long-range forecasting is a professional guessing game, and putting your faith in a forecast that far away is a fool’s errand. THIS IS WHY WE DO NOT FREAK OUT ABOUT THE FORECAST TWO WEEKS OUT, FOLKS.). I have come to loathe my hydration belt, since I feel like every time I’ve worn it, I’ve been extremely slow, so I decided to wear it on this run even though I most certainly did not need a hydration belt for eight miles. For once, it didn’t feel like it was weighing me down or throwing me off, so I think I just need to stop filling my flasks so full and I’ll be all right.

Here we are! Race week has arrived! It doesn’t feel real quite yet, to be honest. It didn’t even occur to me that this past week was one week out from race day until last Tuesday, and I still don’t think I’ve fully wrapped my mind around the fact that the race is THIS SUNDAY. I don’t really have any particular feelings about the race to discuss at the moment. I’m not anxious and I’m not restless. I just feel…normal. And a little bit in disbelief, I suppose. This happens every year, but I feel like marathon season flew by. I have absolutely no idea what to expect out of race day–I’m not even sure if I really have an actual, realistic goal beyond finishing–but I suppose we’ll find out the answer to that soon enough!

Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

Sunday, September 17: 19.89 miles in 4:07:17 for a 12:26 pace + S
WHOA BUDDY was this the toughest 20 miler I’ve ever done. At the end of last week’s training recap post, I mentioned that the forecast didn’t look promising for Sunday, and boy, was I ever correct on that. It was already 70 degrees when I woke up at 4:30 Sunday morning, which, considering that sunrise was nearly two hours away, did not bode well for the run.

There were rumors of rain, so I hoped we’d get lucky and at least have cloud cover for most of the 20 miler. Not so. While the sun was mercifully hidden behind the clouds for the first six miles, by mile seven the sun had come out and it did. not. let. up. The sun only got more intense as the day went on, as the sun is apt to do throughout the course of a morning, and the Lakefront Trail proved to be as miserable as ever with basically no shade to speak once we got south of downtown. On top of all of that, the 20 miler course was also different this year than it was the other times I’ve done CARA’s 20 miler, and that threw me for a loop (we went south to Fullerton and looped around Diversey Harbor, which in the past we haven’t done [I didn’t do the 20 miler last year since I was busy torturing myself with a marathon that day, so I don’t know if this change was new this year, or if it was different last year as well.]. We also didn’t do the lap around part of Grant Park, I assume because we made up that distance elsewhere.)

I had a pretty good feeling that I wouldn’t be doing a 3:37 at the 20 miler this year like I have ever other time I’ve run it, but I certainly didn’t expect to be an entire HALF HOUR slower than in years past. That was definitely a blow to the ol’ ego (which, in my opinion, has taken enough hits in the running department lately as it is), and I spent a substantial amount of this run questioning whether or not I’m going to keep doing marathons in the future, particularly given my string of long run disappointments as of late (though, as we all know, the middle of a rough run isn’t really the time or place to make that kind of decision). I started walking sometime after mile 14, and instead of doing my usual 4:1 run:walk plan, did more of a “run for awhile, then walk for 3-4 minutes” plan. I think I ended up running more this way than I would have had I followed my usual ratio, but I was literally running at a 13:00 pace, so I don’t know that it made much of a difference in those last few miles.

I don’t know a single person who had a good day on Sunday, which did make me feel a lot better about things–not in a, “If I’m going to have a bad day, EVERYONE had better have a bad day,” sense, but more in a, “Okay, if everyone did awful today, then I’m not an awful runner – it was just awful weather for running 20 miles,” sense. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t continue to shake my already fragile confidence, but I guess at least if the real feel is near 90 on race day, I’ll know what to expect out of myself (a 5:45 marathon. That’s what I’d expect out of myself if the weather is as bad on Oct. 8 as it was on Sunday.)

Monday, September 18: Rest
Birthday rest day! My favorite kind of birthday workout!

Tuesday, September 19: Dance
My teacher started the class on Tuesday by telling us to “get ready to sweat,” and he wasn’t kidding. We learned a new combo on Tuesday–one that I like SO much more than the one we’d been working on–and it’s pretty fast and high energy. I’ve actually learned part of this combo twice before in class, but what we did on Tuesday didn’t feel familiar, so I think it might come before what I learned years ago?

Wednesday, September 20: 8.21 miles in 1:34:51 for an 11:33 pace + SPF
UGH. This was pure misery. It was 91 degrees on this run, so I wasn’t surprised that it went poorly, especially considering that it hasn’t been 91 degrees in Chicago since August 16 (you know, when it’s supposed to be that hot outside), which was the first 90+ degree day since July 23. Point is, we haven’t had consistent 90 degree weather this year (which is FINE by me), so my heat acclimation is nonexistent, and these eight miles sucked. And just in case the heat wasn’t enough to make me hate my life, there was also a 14 mph wind coming out of the south that felt like it was directly out of the furnaces of hell, and only served to make me hotter rather than cool me off. I know the times for my first two miles of run commuting are always inaccurate, so ignoring those, the fastest mile I had on this run was an 11:29 >.< Miles five through seven were all 12:00+. I know the weather was a huge factor, but it’s still extremely discouraging to see such slow times. For what felt like the millionth run in a row, I spent a fair amount of this run seriously considering whether or not this endeavor is worth it. On the bright side, for the first time ever, my watch measured my running-amongst-buildings almost perfectly. It still had me starting a good block and a half away from where I actually started, but within two blocks, it found me where I was and didn’t go bonkers once for the whole rest of my run. High five, watch!

Thursday, September 21: 65 minutes XT (bike)
Back at it on the bike again this week. It was, once again, sinfully hot outside, and I was very glad that I could keep my workout indoors. I did the exact same rolling hills on level three workout I did last week, though this time I only got through 13.17 miles instead of 14.12. I’m not losing any sleep over it.

Friday, September 22: Rest

Saturday, September 23: Rest

Assuming I survived it, I should have a recap for you of what will, without a doubt, be the hottest Chicago Half Marathon I’ve ever run later this week. I’m really curious to see how the race will go. The weather will be every bit as terrible as it was at Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville in April, but there won’t be hills…but there also won’t be as much shade. Will that make for a better or worse outcome? What a fun experiment I can’t wait to undertake! /sarcasm Seriously, though, this armpit-of-summer weather needs to go directly back to whichever corner of hell it came out of and STAY THERE. As I write this on Friday, it looks like we might be in for some relief by Wednesday which, conveniently, is the next time I plan to run (after Sunday, that is). Here’s hoping.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 15

Sunday, September 10: Rest
I didn’t get home from Iowa until 8:30 and still needed to go grocery shopping and make lunches for the week after that. Obviously, the 90 minute workout I planned for the day didn’t happen. Though, looking over the past six weeks on my training log, that seems to be more the standard rather than the exception, so what else is new? At least if race day goes terribly this year, I certainly won’t have to spend any time wondering where I went wrong in training.

Monday, September 11: 10.39 miles in 1:47:33 for a 10:21 pace + SPF
I continue to be #unimpressed with Garmin’s utter failure at GPS tracking among buildings. According to my watch, I ran my first mile in 6:55, and my max speed was 117.5 miles per hour. Look, I understand that it’s hard to triangulate my position when there are buildings in the way, but COME ON. According to Google, the fastest animal (the Mexican free-tailed bat) can only travel at 99 mph, and that’s while it’s in flight. OBVIOUSLY a human–particularly a human who usually runs in the 5.0-5.7 mph range–can’t run 117.5 miles per hour. There really needs to be something built into the software on these watches that prevents these kind of blatant errors. GPS watches have existed since 2003. How has technology not improved to the point where a watch can AT LEAST see that something extremely fishy seems to be happening, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, the GPS pings it’s receiving don’t make sense? I’m not looking for perfection here, but since I am one billion percent sure I’m not the only runner on the planet attempting to use a GPS watch around buildings–and, as I have been dismayed to learn, with this Garmin in particular, it doesn’t even matter how tall the buildings are. While my watch is most inaccurate around tall buildings, the only time I get a good signal is out by the lake. My maps show me weaving all over the road even when I’m in my neighborhood, where the buildings are two to three stories tall–it really seems like it should be a MUCH higher priority to teach these watches how to look for obvious impossibilities and to smooth out erratic mapping accordingly.

Anyway, aside from continuing to think my watch was an utter waste of money and hating Garmin with the fury of one thousand suns, this run went pretty well. It went a lot better than my long run last Saturday, which was a relief. My knee bothered me a little bit, which was a reminder that I really need to dial it in on my PT exercises between now and the marathon.

Tuesday, September 12: Dance
We finished (I think?) the combo we started learning last week. If I’m being honest, I kind of hate the song and the combo, so I hope we’re done and can move on to something else. We had two people show up that weren’t there the week before and no one that didn’t show up from the week before, so it was a bit crowded.

Wednesday, September 13: Your guess is as good as mine in what should’ve been 60 minutes but wasn’t for a who knows pace + SPF
As much as I enjoy berating my watch at every possible opportunity, this disaster-from-a-tracking-standpoint of a run all came down to user error >.< Don’t you hate it when that happens? I had a 60 minute tempo run on my schedule for Wednesday: my first tempo run with my new watch. These tempo runs, if you recall, ask me to gradually increase my speed for the first half of my run, get to a 10K pace by the middle of my run, then gradually decrease my speed for the second half of my run. I do this in five minute increments, so I like using interval timers for these workouts. I figured out how to access the interval timer on my watch, and then set it up before I left work. I set it up on Run Indoor mode since I was still inside, but then when I went outside, I didn’t realize my watch was still on indoor–and thus, not searching for or using GPS–mode. Fail. When you run on indoor mode, your watch calculates distance based on the your average stride length, as determined by your GPS data. That’s all well and good, but considering that three of the five runs I had done with this watch prior to Wednesday had faulty GPS data, I have reservations about the accuracy of my average stride length as determined by Garmin. (For what it’s worth, my watch says I ran 5.9 miles, while MapMyRun says I ran 6.2.)

So that was user error #1 (though, with how frustrated I get by the crappy GPS reception my watch has around buildings, maybe I shouldn’t complain too much about that particular error). I was rolling along quite nicely on this run and was fortunate enough to not have to stop for lights until roughly a minute into interval eight of 12. I slowed down at the stoplight, pushed the button on the lower left corner of my watch, and watched in horror as it ended interval eight and started interval nine while I frantically tried to figure out what was happening and how I could make it stop. After a few seconds, I realized I had pressed the lap button, not the pause button–on my old watch, the button in the lower left corner was pause, while the button in the upper right corner was start/stop. On this watch, the button on the upper right corner is start/pause/stop. Since I had ruined my eighth interval AND was using the interval timer for the first time (so I didn’t know what it did at the end of the workout), I ended the whole workout and feverishly programed a new, five interval workout for to finish out my run. Overall, I ended up running for 63:01 instead of the 60:00 I planned to run. But whatever. I got the run in, and I guess that’s what matters the most.

Thursday, September 14: 65 minutes XT (bike)
All season long, I’ve used my Thursday cross training days to do yoga, but since I’m panicking over the miles I’ve missed this season and the ramifications that may or may not have on my marathon, I decided that for this week and next week, and possibly the week after, I’ll be biking rather than doing yoga on my cross training days to hopefully help my endurance out a bit. I did the rolling hills workout on the bike at the gym and covered 14.12 miles in 65 minutes. I didn’t really know anything about bike speeds before this year, but it is SHOCKING to me how slow I am on the bike! I’m usually somewhere in the 12.x MPH range, which seems awfully slow to me. Is that normal when you’re on a a stationary bike? (I genuinely have no idea.)

Friday, September 15: Rest

Saturday, September 16: Rest

This week went a lot better than I anticipated, which was a welcome change after last Saturday’s debacle of a long run. I’ll have run the 20 miler by the time this post goes up, but as I write this on Friday, I obviously haven’t done 20 miles yet. I have no idea what to expect out of Sunday. If the forecast holds, it will be far and away the worst weather we’ve ever had for the 20 miler (yay :|), with predicted highs in the low 80s and a decent chance for higher-than-pleasant humidity as well (*sobs*). Expectation is the root of all heartache, as the angsty quotes on the internet say, and I certainly learned that the hard way when I went into my 18-turned-12 miler last Saturday with high expectations. My plan for the 20 miler, therefore, is to go in with exceedingly low expectations. I probably won’t be fast. I probably won’t be comfortable. I wouldn’t be surprised if I had to walk at some point. But as long as I cross the finish line healthy, I’ll consider Sunday a success.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 14

Sunday, September 3: 33 minutes XT
After being on the couch from Tuesday through Saturday, I finally felt good enough to get in some activity on Sunday. I went to the gym after church and spent some time on the recumbent bike and did one PT exercise afterwards. I had felt a bit woozy in the morning (hence the recumbent bike), but I ended up making it through just fine and actually felt a lot better when I was done.

Monday, September 4: 3 miles in 33:55 for an 11:18 pace + SPF
Well, I wasn’t exactly moving mountains here, but at least I ran! In a perfect world, I would’ve gotten up early and gone running before it got hot outside, but…I chose sleep over ideal training conditions. I didn’t go for my run until like 11:15 or so, and it was HOT and humid by that point. I shuffled through this run, but that was fine. I just wanted to get some miles on my legs, and that’s exactly what I did. Considering how all of last week went, I count three slow miles as a success.

Tuesday, September 5: Dance
Dance started up again on Tuesday, and to my great delight, the combo we learned on Tuesday was neither 1) set to Bruno Mars nor 2) one I’ve done before. This was the first time in over a week that I actually did the workout I planned to do, which was nice, though it did take it out of me a bit. Class went 10 minutes late, and I was predictably annoyed. I really think I might start walking out when class is supposed to end whether or not my teacher’s done teaching, because I’m super sick of this.

Wednesday, September 6: 8.16 miles in 1:24:19 for a 10:20 pace + SPF
I decided to try out my new Garmin with GPS on a run commute to see how it held up, and, not entirely surprisingly, it was just as bad at handling being bounced around between buildings as my Polar watch was. Fortunately, I had measured out my run ahead of time and knew my eight mile route (so my pace, as reported, is incorrect as always). The weather was just about perfect for running, with temperatures in the mid 60s and no sun to speak of, although I did endure a one-minute downpour about five and half miles into the run that was just enough to soak me and make me cold for the next two and a half miles home. It was FREEZING inside my house, too, since we obviously didn’t think to turn the heat on at the beginning of September, so I didn’t do as much PT as I could/should have, because all I could think about was getting out of my cold clothes and into a hot shower.

Thursday, September 7: 58 minutes XT (yoga)
This one:

Well, well! Look who finally got herself into downward dog again! I skipped yoga for four consecutive weeks for various reasons with varying levels of acceptability (ranging from, “I’m sick” to “I don’t feel like it”), but I had no excuses on Thursday, so back to Yoga with Adriene I went! I expected this to be difficult and challenging after four weeks of no yoga, and was pleasantly surprised to have it go quite well.

Friday, September 8: Rest

Saturday, September 9: 12.13 miles in 2:29:25 for a 12:19 pace + S

I cannot even begin to tell you how terrible this run was. It was, without a doubt, the worst run I’ve had all season, and was probably one of the three worst runs I’ve ever had. I was in Iowa last weekend and had to come up with a route, so I found a perfect six mile loop from my hotel (“hotel” is a generous word for where we stayed) that I planned to run three times to make up for the 18 I missed last Saturday. Admittedly, the route was a bit tougher than I’m used to–316 feet of elevation gain, compared to the 100ish I get on a long run on the Lakefront Trail–and I didn’t have the same relaxing Friday night I usually have either, but this run sucked from the second I started and only got worse as it went on. I was more than ready to quit after the first six mile loop, and I did quit after the second mile loop. I was walking before I hit mile 10, and walked almost all of the last mile. I don’t have a clue what happened, but the whole run felt like shit, plain and simple. I was extremely frustrated and cried more than once as a result. I felt like a complete failure, and this absolutely destroyed my confidence.

So…peak week. I have a 10 miler coming up today, and I am desperately hoping for some redemption, especially after Saturday. I’m seriously concerned about the 20 miler on Sunday, not to mention the marathon that’s less than one month away and only one week of actual training from now (since you don’t really make gains from a training perspective during taper). I’ve never gone into peak week doubting my ability to even run 20 miles, never mind run them successfully. I’m worried now that being sick has completely screwed me over, and I’m PISSED OFF about it. I just want to have a good marathon for once in my life, and now I don’t feel like I even have a shot at that, and it’s all because of whatever I got sick with. I know life’s not fair, but…I’m still really frustrated that life’s not fair, especially when for once in my crummy excuse for a running career, I just wanted to have a marathon time I’m proud of. I know a lot could change for the better between now and Oct. 8, but right now, I’m not feeling good about any of this at all 😦


Chicago Marathon Training Week 13

Sunday, August 27: Rest
I guess I technically had time to work out after spectating the Chicago Triathlon, but I didn’t want to, so I didn’t. Considering that I’m trying to focus on quality workouts over quantity workouts right now in an effort to stay as far away from overtraining as possible, I’m not torn up about it.

Monday, August 28: 10.25 miles in 1:49:18 for a 10:39 pace + S
Blah. This run sucked. The forecast had called for a chance of thunderstorms all day, so I spent my last hour at work feverishly monitoring the radar. It did not look promising, and I didn’t know what to do. I knew I wouldn’t have time to run on Tuesday, and I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable running a 10 miler and 7 miler back to back on Wednesday and Thursday. I also knew that I could NOT tolerate 10 (or seven, for that matter) miles on a treadmill. I finally decided to chance it and headed outside to see how many miles I could do. I’m still running with my old watch during the week (until I’ve gotten in a few unobstructed GPS runs with my new watch, at which point I’ll switch over to that one in indoor mode for my run commutes). I got 2.34 miles in before I heard thunder, so I turned around. I thought about doing seven miles and then doing 10 on Wednesday instead, and considered running the 2.34 miles back to the office to get to roughly 4.6 and then going to the gym to finish the remaining 2.4 on the treadmill to get to 7. When I did get back to the office, though, it wasn’t raining or storming, so I decided to run the rest of the way home and still aim to get 10 like I originally planned to do. I did get to 10 (.25 by my watch to be safe), but it was NOT easy. I was absolutely dragging and in a horrible mood by the time I got home.

Tuesday, August 29: Rest
Day one of food poisoning. I planned to rest this day anyway, so no major skin off my nose.

Wednesday, August 30: Rest
Day two of food poisoning. I planned to run seven miles this day, but since doing a tiny load of laundry to clean up the clothes that bore witness to said food poisoning was enough to exhaust me, obviously I was not about to run .07 miles that day, never mind seven.

Thursday, August 31: Rest
Day three of food poisoning. I planned to do yoga on Thursday, and honestly probably could’ve when I got home from work. I thought I was going to be totally fine on Thursday until Thursday night, when all my illness came back with a roaring, raging vengeance, the likes of which I’ve never before experienced. To say Thursday was one of the worst nights of my life thus far would be putting it mildly. I’ve had worse nights from an emotional/mental standpoint, but I feel confident saying that I have never been physically worse than I was Thursday night.

Friday, September 1: Rest
Day four of food poisoning. After Thursday night’s debacle, I went to urgent care as soon as they opened Friday morning (my doctor, naturally, was on vacation all week). The nurse practitioner I saw there did not seem to think I was dying, even though was pretty convinced of that fact. I honestly went expecting to get admitted to the hospital. I have access to a tele-doc service through my health benefits at work and had called them Thursday night to see if I needed to go to the ER, and was told by them as well that I was probably fine. I suppose I should be thankful that no one seemed to be overly alarmed, and I am thankful for that if I’m being completely honest, but the whole experience also left me feeling super invalidated. I’ve had stomach bugs before, but never, ever this bad. The severity of my symptoms, along with the fact that no one I had contact with had contracted anything, had me convinced that was something much bigger than your average virus, and I was seriously concerned about what was happening. To not see that concern echoed back from medical professionals, even if it really didn’t need to be, made me feel belittled and unheard.

Saturday, September 2: Rest
I suppose it goes without saying, but obviously, after consuming approximately three calories over the course of four days (and eliminating most of them with such speed that I can’t imagine more than one and a half of them ever hit my system in the first place), I did not think it would be wise, appropriate, or even possible to attempt to run 18 miles on Saturday. Back on Tuesday, when I was young and naive and under the impression that stomach bugs knocked you out for 24 hours, left you queasy for the following 24, and were nothing but a distant memory by the third 24, I had doubts about my ability to do 18, but thought I could maybe attempt seven to make up for the ones I missed on Wednesday, or 10 if the seven went well. It became exceedingly clear to me Thursday night that I would not be doing any sort of running at all on Saturday, so I moped and felt sorry for myself instead, as I am apt to do when circumstances beyond my control keep me from a long run.

WHELP. This was, quite clearly, not the last build week before peak week that I envisioned, to say the least. I have a lot of feelings about this past week. Part of me is unconcerned. I know missing a week of training, even a build week, even a big build week, is not the end of the world. I know there are physical benefits to this week, of course, but I also know that a huge part of this week is mental: proving to yourself that you can run a lot of miles in a week and that you can cap it off with 18 at the end. I’ve proved that to myself four times before, so I don’t doubt my ability to do it (though we’ll see what kind of tune I’m singing in two weeks when the 20 miler rolls around). Part of me is TERRIFIED. I’ve only gotten sick during training once before, and it was with a cold, so I was able to stay moderately active–and, more importantly, was able to keep eating and drinking normally. I’ve never had a stomach bug while trying to train for a marathon, and while I’m not all that concerned about the physical gains I didn’t get this week, I am VERY concerned about the physical losses I endured this week. I don’t have a scale, so I don’t know numbers, but I’m confident that I lost a fair amount of water weight this week, as has always been the case in the past for me when it comes to stomach bugs. Even more, I’m VERY concerned about how little I ate last week. From Tuesday on, I subsisted on nibbles of easily digestible foods, only a very small number of which made a successful, normal journey from end to end. I’m concerned about what kind of impact this will have on my energy levels and ability to train this week for sure. Part of me is at a loss and doesn’t know where to go from here. I emailed Leah, the training manager for CARA, the day I got sick to solicit her advice on what to do with the 18 miler. She said if I was all the way better, I could try to do it, but needed to go in understanding that there was a very good chance I wouldn’t make it through all 18 miles and to be okay with that. She also said if I didn’t get the 18 in, that I could treat this as a cutback week (uh, yeah, I’d say so) and next week as a build week, doing maybe 16 or 17 on Saturday instead of the scheduled 14. But am I even going to be able to do that? As I write this on Friday evening, I still can’t fathom doing anything more than like a 10 minute run/walk. I don’t know how quickly my strength and energy (and, you know, health in general) will return, so I don’t have a CLUE what I’m going to do or be able to do in the upcoming week, and that concerns me. And finally, part of me is just pissed off. I have no idea where this bug came from. I’m pissed off that I don’t know what it is, I’m pissed off that I don’t know how I got it, and I’m pissed off that it’s taking me so. freaking. long. to get better. I didn’t think I’d be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel by now–I thought I’d be long out of the tunnel, throwing up two middle fingers at the tunnel, taunting to the tunnel for thinking it could conquer me. But instead, I’m still most definitely in it, without even the slightest pinprick of light in the distance, and that makes me RAGEY.

Though at least I definitely don’t think I’m flirting with overtraining after this week.