Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Normally, I don’t struggle too much with how to open these marathon race recaps, but this year, I’m at a loss for words. Sunday defied my wildest expectations in the best way possible, and I don’t know how to summarize it.

So I guess I’ll start at the beginning.

I got a good night of sleep Friday into Saturday, and then spent nearly all of Saturday fretting about the forecast. It seemed like the meteorologists were getting a little wishy-washy on the potential for thunderstorms on Sunday, but it wasn’t until around 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon when AccuWeather took storms out of the forecast entirely that I actually relaxed. I knew it was still possible that it could storm, but I hoped that the fact that Saturday didn’t get as warm as predicted meant the warm front that was supposed to cause all the thunderstorm-inducing instability had stayed south of us and that we’d get by unscathed.

It’s a good thing I slept well Friday into Saturday, because my sleep Saturday night into Sunday resembled my night of sleep before my first half marathon, which is to say: it barely happened. I tossed and turned throughout the night, but I was able to keep my wits about me. I’ve been running races long enough to know that a poor night of sleep the night before the race is normal and nothing to worry about, which helped keep me from getting upset about it. I also discussed my insomnia issues from earlier this summer with my therapist when I was in the thick of not sleeping between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m. on weeknights, so I had some breathing exercises and other helpful tips (i.e.: no playing on my phone or looking at the clock) to try to help lull me into dreamland. All told, I was up for about three hours the night before the marathon, but I refused to let it bother me: something that would quickly become my theme for the day.

I was in a good mood when my alarm went off at 4:45, and made a point of doing everything in my power to maintain that good mood. It was raining, but AccuWeather said it would stop raining in 90 minutes, so I figured it wouldn’t get in my way too much. I broke the cardinal rule of racing and tried something new for race day. That something new was Aquaphor, which I slathered all over my feet, anywhere I had previously experienced chafing on long, wet days (my sports bra line, under my arms), and anywhere I thought I could experience chafing during the race on Sunday. Holy smokes, you guys. Everyone who’s sung the praises of Aquaphor to me since I started all of this in 2013 was not kidding. I have so many regrets about not jumping on the Aquaphor train sooner. I’m still a Body Glide believer for everyday runs, but moving forward, I will 100 percent be an Aquaphor user on long, wet runs.

The CARA Compound (CARA VIP Experience, as they called it this year, and have possibly been calling it for plenty of years, since I stopped paying attention a long time ago) returned to Hilton this year, so I went there before the race to meet up with my friends from my training group and to stay warm and dry. I ended up leaving the Hilton a little later than I should have, and was antsy waiting in the security line to get into Grant Park. Fortunately, I made it to my corral with about 10 minutes to spare.

I was in Corral G because I asked to be, but didn’t really belong in Corral G, so I lined up at the very back, just like I did last year. It started to drizzle a bit while we waited to start, which reminded me a lot of Rock ‘n’ Roll back in July! It wasn’t too bad, though, and around 8:20, I was off.

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As my post on Thursday may or may not have implied, I didn’t really have much of a race plan for Sunday. I still hoped to run a 4:45, but like I said in that post, my real goal was to give it everything I had and see what happens. That’s all well and good, but it does help to have some sort of an idea of what you want to do in the pacing department, so I decided I’d try to run somewhere between a 10:50 and 11:00 pace at least to start and see what happened.

I manually lapped my watch at every mile, since GPS is useless during the Chicago Marathon, and came through mile 1 in 11:18. That, obviously, is a bit slower than my 10:50-11:00 target, so I tried to step it up a little after that point. I saw my parents and grandma at mile 1.5ish, waved hello, and continued down State Street, and hit mile 2 in 11:01. Still not *quite* where I wanted to be, but better. I came through mile 3 in 10:58, and then hit the first 5K in 34:28, which seemed reasonable enough to me for a 5K pace during a marathon (for me, that is).

I don’t know why I decided to do this on Sunday, but it occurred to me when I hit the first 5K in 34:28 that if I added 34 minutes to that time, I could predict my 10K time if I maintained a consistent pace (1:08:xx. I don’t usually pay attention to the seconds during long races like this, so as far as I was concerned, I had run a 34:00 5K). So then that was my goal: hit the 10K in 1:08.

Somewhere in Lincoln Park, it started raining. There was also a decent breeze out of the north, and honestly, I thought the combination of the two made things downright perfect for running. Several people have commented on how terrible the weather was on Sunday, and while I agree that it was objectively terrible, I would argue that it was PERFECT for marathon running. I have been begging–begging–for 55 and overcast ever since 2013, and I never got it until Sunday. The rain and breeze made 55 and overcast even more pleasant for marathoning in my opinion. They kept me from getting too warm, which I think is one of the most important parts about running a marathon. I also truly do enjoy running in the rain (as long as it’s not storming!), so I will happily take rain on marathon day over sunshine every time.

I continued on my way, going past the zoo and onto Fullerton. Just beyond the aid station in front of the Nature Museum, I saw a spectator making a bit of a commotion. Turns out he was trying to scare away a CANADA GOOSE that had wandered onto the course and was just walking along Cannon as if there weren’t 44,000 people running around him. It was seriously one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen during the marathon. He didn’t even seem interested in flying away! Perhaps we inspired him 😛

Just past Mr. Goose, I crossed the 10K mark and looked at my watch. Lo and behold: 1:08. I felt like I had been maintaining a steady pace, and that confirmed it. I did the math for the next 5K, and determined I’d want to hit 15K in 1:42. I also noted the temperature on the Presence building at Diversey/Sheridan/Cannon, and was oh-so pleased to see 60 degrees on the sign. I always check that when I run past it during the marathon, and it was much nicer to see a temperature I liked at 10K rather than a temperature that was already too warm at 10K!

We got to the top of the course at Sheridan (instead of Addison like in the past), and at the intersection of Sheridan and Broadway, Biofreeze had a video screen up where cheers people sent you would display. I had sent two cheers to myself to remind me of my mantras for the race, but neither one of them showed up. I started to worry that something was wrong with my bib, and in the past, I think that easily could’ve derailed my race. I would’ve panicked, fumbled around with my phone to pull up the app to see if I was being tracked, lost time. Instead, I decided that if my timing chip was malfunctioning and somehow not working, 1) it was too late to do anything about it at that point, and 2) I didn’t *need* an official time anyway. Regardless of how the day went, I most certainly was not going to BQ, after all. (For the record, my chip was working, so who knows why my messages didn’t show up.)

This is part of a bigger theme of my entire race day: my mental game. I really thought having a good attitude was going to be critical to succeeding on Sunday, and I was bound and determined to not let myself get in my own way. I decided in the corrals that Sunday was going to be my day, and I wasn’t going to let anything keep that from being the case. When things felt challenging, I told myself that I liked the challenge. If I felt like I wasn’t pumping my arms enough, I reminded myself that I did not drag myself out of bed at 5:45 for 16 consecutive Tuesdays to let my back get away with not putting in its fair share of effort at the race. When my legs started to burn around mile 19, I told myself that I liked the burn (which is true, for the record. The burn I felt was more of the “comfortably hard” burn of a tempo run rather than the “searing pain” burn you sometimes get in a marathon.). I told myself over and over and over again that the wall did not exist because I decided it didn’t exist, and me deciding it didn’t exist was all it would take to keep it from existing. Rather than feeling good at mile 16 and thinking, “Well, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. A lot could happen in 10 miles,” I thought, “10 miles?! That’s nothing. That’s a Tuesday. That’s easier than most of my Tuesdays!” (Metaphorically speaking, because I don’t run on Tuesdays, and because my Tuesdays are usually long days.). I told myself that I was going to PR, period, and I was going to run a 4:45 to do it.

Every time I’d tell myself these things, negativity followed immediately. “You can’t just decide that the wall doesn’t exist. You don’t have control over that.” “You know you can’t really run a 4:45.” “You’ve been through this enough times to know that 10 miles is a lot at the end of a marathon. You know you always slow down here.” But I refused, absolutely, wholly refused, to listen to those thoughts. I’ve always been a pessimistic person, assuming the worst, expecting things to go bad, but on Sunday I fought tooth and nail against those tendencies. I was not going to let my pessimism get the best of me, even if, especially early on (before I had 3+ hours of practice at shutting up the doubt in my head), my insistence on staying positive felt like lying to myself. I was a little surprised at how many f-bombs my positivity entailed (“You are going to f***ing do this!” was a thought that went through my head many times, haha), but whatever works, I suppose. If aggressive positivity works for me (as opposed to, say, more sunshine-y positivity: “You are the best runner in this race! You are amazing!”), then so be it.

Anyway, back to the physical race. It rained most of the time I was in Lakeview. I could tell that there were definitely fewer spectators than normal–not that I blame them! I wouldn’t have wanted to spectate on Sunday, either!–but it was hardly empty. I saw my mom at Wellington and Broadway, and soon after that hit the 15K mark in 1:41: quicker than I expected, since a steady pace would’ve gotten me there at 1:42. That was great as far as I was concerned! I still did my math as if I had arrived at 1:42 so I’d know when I wanted to get to 20K if I maintained my first 5K pace (2:16).

Somewhere on Sedgewick, I realized I was starting to get some chafing under my left arm, so I grabbed a swipe of Vaseline at the next aid station to slather on the hot spot. What did not occur to me was that, in doing so, I’d end up with fingers full of Vaseline and no good way to get rid of the excess. I wiped a bunch on my arms and shorts, but it took most of Wells for me to clean it all off. Other than that, though, I was chafe-free throughout the marathon, which felt like no small accomplishment.

It had stopped raining awhile ago by this point, and I was getting a bit warm. Once I got downtown, I started dumping water on my head and splashing some in my face at each aid station. I did that during the marathon last year and it made a huge difference. Even though the weather this year was quite different from last year, it still made a huge difference. I felt a lot cooler, and consequently a lot better, once I started doing that.

Downtown was fairly active, and once we headed into the West Loop, I really started to feel the impact of the course change up north. When I learned that they changed the course, I thought it had the potential to be a really good thing for me mentally, and boy was I right. Getting to miles 14 and 15 way before their location on the old course was such a boost. I couldn’t believe I was already there, not because I felt like I was running so fast, but because I’m used to those mile markers being a lot farther along. It made the middle miles feel like they flew by, which is a great way to feel during the middle miles of a marathon!

I had done some analyzing of my past marathon times a couple of weeks ago and discovered that mile 16 is always about 30 seconds slower than mile 15 for me, so this year, I made a point of not letting that happen. When I lapped my watch at mile 17 and saw that I had turned in a 10:43 mile, I pumped my fist. This was happening!

I was still tracking ahead on my 5K splits compared to what I anticipated (I hit 20K in 2:15 and 25K in 2:49, instead of the 2:50 I expected), so when I saw my family just beyond the UIC Halsted Blue Line stop, I yelled at them, “TODAY IS MY DAY!!!” Again, in the back of my head I knew that things could still go downhill, but I pushed that thought away and kept going.

Taylor Street was so different this year compared to what I’m used to. Hitting mile 18 around Carpenter instead of Laflin was a GAMECHANGER. I could not believe I was already 18 miles into the marathon. I felt like I was blowing through the whole race. I also loved running down Loomis instead of Ashland. I’ve said for years that the stretch on Ashland was my least favorite part of the course, and I did not miss it one tiny bit. I crossed 30K in 3:22 instead of 3:24. I knew I had been hitting my 5K splits early, of course, but I didn’t realize I had sped up by two(ish) minutes.

Pilsen was fantastic, as always. When I hit the 20 mile mark, I looked at my watch: 3:37. A couple things to note about that:

  1. GUYS. I FINALLY RAN A 3:37 20 MILER DURING THE MARATHON.
  2. As I mentioned in the linked post above, a 3:37 20 miler works out to a 10:51 pace. What pace do you need to run a 4:45 marathon? All together now: 10:52!

Now, I didn’t realize either of those things during the marathon itself. What I did realize (or rather, knew without needing to realize) is that there are 10 kilometers between the 20 mile mark and the finish line, and that my 34 minute 5K split from the beginning of the race worked out to a 1:08 10K. Do you know what 3:37+1:08 is?

Folks, it’s 4:45.

Even though I had been hitting my splits earlier than anticipated since 15K, that math was the kick in the pants I needed. I didn’t plan on backing off my pace, but knowing that I didn’t have room to back off my pace if I wanted to finish in 4:45 (or rather, thinking that I didn’t have room to back off my pace if I wanted to finish in 4:45) was enough to keep me from even allowing myself to entertain the thought of backing off. I won’t lie: it was getting harder around this point. The burn was more difficult to ignore. I felt like I was working. I had been smiling for most of the race, but that had faded. I did. not. care. Like I said, I had decided the wall didn’t exist, and I was not going to let anything, not even biology, prove me otherwise.

I knew if I could just get through Chinatown, I could probably cruise through the last four miles on willpower alone. When I hit 35K in 3:55, as opposed to the 3:58 I expected, I knew I was in good shape. That was when it really hit me that I had put plenty of time in the bank, and I was, for sure, going to PR. (I should note that never during the race did I even attempt to figure out what a 34:00 5K works out to in terms of a marathon time. In case you’re curious, it’s a 4:46). I saw my family on 33rd Street, and this time yelled, “I’M GOING TO PR!!” A person in a T-rex costume right next to them gave me a congratulatory high five, which was delightful.

I’ve never been less afraid of the last three miles of a marathon than I was on Sunday. I knew for sure that I could do it, and I was nearly positive I’d get in in under 4:45. Indiana was tough, I won’t lie, but once I got to Michigan it was go time. According to my 34:00 5K pace, I expected to hit 40K in 4:32. I got there in 4:29. Just past 40K was the 25 mile sign, and I lit up at the crowd support. I no longer had to fight to keep my mind off the pain in my legs: I was too happy to even bother thinking about it. I was smiling without thinking about it again.

Past the one mile to go sign, past the 800 meters to go sign. 800 meters! How many 800s had I run this summer? How many times had I done it under five minutes, even on tired legs? There were so many spectators, there was so much support, there was nothing in the world that could stop me.

I had a visualization session on Wednesday, and during that session, the therapist leading it talked about me hitting mile 26, looking at my watch, and seeing 4:40. When she said it, I truly could see it in my mind’s eye. Since I missed the mile 26 sign last year, I made a serious point of watching out for it this year (I understand why I missed it last year: it was nearly hidden in the trees on Roosevelt). Right before I lapped my watch at mile 26, I looked at the time: 4:40.

After the visualization session ended and I was debriefing with the therapist, I commented on how she said I was at mile 26 at 4:40. “If that’s the case,” I said, “I’ll run a 4:42!” So, upon seeing 4:40 on my watch at mile 26 in real life, I thought, “Well, I guess I have to finish in 4:42 now.”

I was huffing and puffing by the time I crested Roosevelt, but I wasn’t going to let anything stop me at that point. I turned the corner onto Columbus, saw the finish line, and went for it. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and threw my arms in the air. When I brought them down, I looked at my watch: 4:42:49.

I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe it. I did it. I more than did it! I’ve wanted to run a 4:45 marathon for five years, and I finally, finally, finally did it. I PRed, taking 10:03 off my previous PR from 2015. I f***ing negative split a f***king marathon, running a 2:22:56 first half and a 2:19:53 second half. I didn’t just kind of negative split: I negative split by 3:03. If I never thought I’d run a 4:45, I never, ever in a zillion years thought I’d negative split a marathon, and I certainly didn’t think I’d ever negative split a marathon by more than a second or two. I didn’t even MEAN to negative split! I didn’t even know I negative split until someone told me later that afternoon. Like, what?!?!

I got water, Gatorade, my medal, my heat sheet, and for the first time ever in any race, I even got the finish line beer (what can I say? I liked that Goose Island designed cans specifically for the marathon.). I was also shivering despite the heat sheet (being soaking wet in a tank top and shorts when it’s barely 60 degrees outside will do that to you), so I only managed to get four or five sips of beer down before having to dump the rest upon exiting Grant Park. But whatever. The four or five sips I had were well earned 🙂

I’ve said many times that your marathon performance is the result of a plethora of factors, and any one thing going wrong can derail your race day. On Sunday, everything went right. Everything I could control–my running training, my strength training, my diet leading up to race day, my sleep, my attitude–and everything I couldn’t control–namely, the weather–aligned perfectly.

I thought nothing would ever top my marathon experience last year, but somehow this one did. No, I wasn’t comfortable from start to finish, but I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be uncomfortable. I wanted to run without fearing the pain that comes later. I wanted to go for it. I WILL.

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I DID.

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Chicago Marathon Training Week 18

Sunday, September 30: Strength training – legs + 50 minutes bike
I was in a FOUL mood from late Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, and had no desire to go to the gym. I felt off, mentally and physically, and didn’t know if going to the gym was really the right call. BOY was it ever! It occurred to me that since I wouldn’t have time to do my strength training on Monday and I had barely done a long run the day before, there was no reason I couldn’t do my Monday workout on Sunday. I did my first round of squats and instantly felt better. I was shocked! I could not believe how much better I felt all around as soon as I started working out. My improved mood continued for the rest of the day, so I wonder if my angst was rooted in taper-induced antsiness/anxiousness. Whatever the cause, this was a great workout, and I’m so glad I got it in.

Monday, October 1: 5 miles in 56:31 for an 11:18 pace
I had PT Monday morning (hence doing my Monday strength training on Sunday), and it took a toll on my legs. My muscles were quite tired, making this a taper run if ever I ran one. Everything felt hard and difficult and impossible. So much fun! 😐 At least that made it easy to go slow, haha. Fortunately I’ve been expecting to feel like this on most of my runs during taper (even though I hadn’t until Monday), so it didn’t upset me as much as it could have.

Tuesday, October 2: Strength training – upper body
I definitely could’ve gotten away with not going to the gym for this workout. I really don’t want to push it this week, so I stuck to five and 10 pound weights for every exercise Tuesday, when normally I’d use somewhere between 10 and 25 pound weights. Even though I could’ve done this workout at home, I’m glad I went to the gym. Now that I’m in the habit of going every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday morning, it feels weird to not go (like on Monday).

Wednesday, October 3: 30 minutes yoga
This one:

I have been a sentient lump of stress and anxiety all week, so I turned to this yoga practice hoping it would help. It didn’t, but A for effort, I guess. Let’s be honest: no amount of yoga, meditating, chamomile tea, praying, listening to calming music, spending time in nature, journaling, or any other stress-relieving technique you can think of is going to relieve my marathon weather-related worry. The only thing that’s going to solve that is an improved forecast, which no one seems to be willing to give me.

Thursday, October 4: Strength training – legs (AM) + 2 miles in 21:50 for a 10:54 pace (PM)
One last (hopefully) trip to the gym before the marathon. As should be painfully obvious by now, I’ve spent the entirety of this week becoming more and more convinced that it will storm during the Chicago Marathon, that the race will get cancelled mid-run, and that my marathon season is going to end up lasting two to four more weeks than I originally anticipated–though that’s only if I get lucky enough to get into another marathon, of course. If that’s the case, my morning strength training sessions will resume as well. I’m just a bundle of joy to be around these days.

I took a half day on Thursday, because by that point, I was really just wasting everyone’s time being at work when all I could do was fret about the forecast. I did this easy peasy “shakeout” run as soon as I got home around noon. I don’t know if it really counts as a shakeout run if it’s so far ahead of the race, but whatever. It was very cool outside, so that made for a delightfully comfortable run.

Friday, October 5: Rest

Saturday, October 6: Rest

 

Well, folks, there you have it. My sixth marathon season is (hopefully) in the books. I won’t lie: as I write this on Friday, my race day forecast anxiety has not improved one bit, and I don’t anticipate that it will on Saturday, either. I’m disappointed that the season ended on such a stressed-out note, and I hope that all the cortisol I’ve been pumping into my system since Monday doesn’t have too negative of an impact on my performance on Sunday. I’m also just hoping that I have the chance to perform, period. With the forecast as it stands right now, I’ll consider finishing to be a pretty significant accomplishment. And if I don’t, well, you can look forward to some bonus training posts 😛 Thanks for coming along on this ride with me. I hope that the next time you hear from me, it’ll be with a race recap of my 26.2-mile run through Chicago.

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 17

Sunday, September 23: 3.11 miles in 31:23 for a 10:05 pace
Life Time 5K by my Garmin.

Monday, September 24: Strength training – legs + 40 minutes bike
I had PT in the morning, so both of my workouts took place in the afternoon on Monday. I did strength training first, taking it easy in the weight department and being very careful about form in order to keep my hamstring as happy as possible. Then I hopped on the bike and put in 40 minutes there. I’ve dialed down the intensity on the bike as well, biking on manual mode instead of interval mode and at a lower level than usual. I might’ve taken it too easy–this was the slowest bike I’ve had all year, and my heart rate was barely elevated.

Tuesday, September 25: Strength training – upper body
I…did not dial down the intensity on this workout. I know it’s taper, and I know it’s important to take taper seriously, but the past couple of days of “workouts,” which felt like workouts and more like ways to pass the time, were getting to me. I felt like everything I was doing was nearly pointless, and I really wanted to feel like I was working for a change. I didn’t go crazy with the weights and try to PR or anything like that, but I also didn’t use the half the weight I sometimes use like I had been doing. I had a pleasant burn in my arms for the rest of the morning.

I didn’t know what to do about dance on Tuesday. Part of me didn’t want to skip, because I already planned to skip next week and didn’t want to fall two weeks behind, but part of me didn’t want to go and risk re-injury. I consulted with one of my friends in class about it Monday afternoon, and she said to not come to class, so I skipped.

Wednesday, September 26: 4 miles in 43:50 for a 10:58 pace
It is seriously such an adjustment to drop down to these short runs during taper! Yes, I ran three and a half miles instead of six during Week 16, but that felt more like a hamstring test than my actual run anyway. Excluding that run, the last time I only ran four miles during the week was June 27. That was a long time ago! I got home so early! While my hamstring feels totally fine these days, I’m not interested in taking any risks this close to race day, so I tried to run as slow as possible on this run. My heart rate was WAY lower than usual–like 10 bpm lower than a usual weekday run–so I think I succeeded in my goal to take it easy.

Thursday, September 27: Strength training – legs (AM) + 4 miles in 43:13 for a 10:48 pace
I once again took it easy in the strength training department on Thursday, reducing my weight across the board for everything other than bodyweight exercises–can’t do much to reduce the weight I use each time on those 😛 I have to admit that I feel kind of embarrassed to be using such light weights, especially when I know I’m capable of using a lot heavier weights. But now is most certainly not the time to make gainz, so my ego’s just going to have to take a back seat to the marathon until October 7 (like, you know, everything else in my life, haha).\

I ran another four miles on Thursday. I very rarely run on back-to-back days, and it’s even more rare that I run the exact same distance on the exact same route on back-to-back days, so this was a fun little experiment! I’m surprised that I did it faster on Thursday than on Wednesday (and not particularly pleased, since the goal is to go as slow as possible these days). I’m using these runs to work really hard on maintaining a slow (although, in light of most of my running this summer, “slow” seems more accurate) pace, not just for the sake of my hamstring, but to practice for the marathon itself. I assume if running at a 10:48 pace on my own feels like I’m barely moving, it’s just going to be that much more challenging to maintain a slow pace on race day.

Friday, September 28: Rest
I did have PT Friday morning, and that involved WAY more exercises than I would normally feel comfortable doing on a rest day.

Saturday, September 29: 8.37 miles in 1:35:33 for an 11:25 pace
My PT said I could run eight miles on Saturday, so I got to join in the group run on Saturday morning! It was FREEZING, especially compared to the rest of the summer (according to my Garmin, it was 43 degrees during this run!), but you won’t hear me complaining about cool temperatures for a run. Saturday morning was just beautiful, and I loved watching the sun rise over the lake. We finished our run by running up Michigan Ave. from 31st St. all the way to Roosevelt and Columbus to preview (or, in my case, review) the last threeish miles of the course. I didn’t expect to get much out of it, since I’ve run that five times before, but it was surprisingly impactful! Or maybe PTSD is more of the correct term, haha. I even almost got a little choked up when we got to Roosevelt, thinking about what it’s going to be like to do that during the marathon. I’m really glad we finished our run that way. It was the perfect way to end the season of group runs.

 

Less than one week until the big day. I have a novel of thoughts related to the big day itself coming for you later this week, so I’ll spare you my missive right now. My hamstring has been pain-free since Sunday (the 23rd), which is encouraging. I don’t want to go too much into my thoughts about training yet, either, because I’d rather save that for another post. But for the moment, I will say that I had a substantially better experience training this year than I had last year. I really enjoyed the company of the people I ran with, and it made a huge difference in my overall experience. Honestly, I’m really bummed that training’s almost over. I won’t miss the 4:30 alarms every Saturday, but I will very much miss the people I ran with after those alarms. It was a fun season 🙂

 

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

Sunday, September 16: 20.15 miles in 4:16:50 for a 12:45 pace
WOO WORST 20 MILER EVER!

😐

Where to even begin with this run? I guess we’ll begin with my 4:30 alarm, which made me inexplicably angry. I’m no stranger to getting up at 4:30 for long runs–I’ve done it every week of marathon training, aside from the first one when I was in Seattle. Compounding my anger was the fact that it was already 70 degrees two hours before sunrise, which did not bode well for the run (incidentally, I wrote basically that exact same sentence last year in my 20 miler recap as well.) I felt moderately better after eating (and waking up a bit), and off to Wilson I went.

I swung by the 10:30 Awesomes’s wave to say hello to my old group leaders. Even though I firmly believe I made the right decision by dropping down to an 11:30 pace (and moving locations) this year, I do miss my group leaders a lot, and it was nice to see them. I briefly chatted with a couple other people from the group as well, then headed back to my 11:30 wave, saying that I hoped to see everyone at the finish line in less than four hours!

Ah, blissful ignorance.

I met up with my current running buddy in our 11:30 wave and we made our way to the start line. This year will be her first marathon, so she was a bit nervous heading into the 20, but I wasn’t too concerned. I’d done this five times before! I knew exactly what to expect!

We started off a little quick, logging an 11:14 first mile, but I honestly thought that felt quite slow. My running buddy peeled off around mile two to use the bathroom and said she’d catch up with me later.

I chugged along all right for the first four miles or so. My stomach had really bothered me at the start of the race and after getting water from the first aid station, but it was feeling a little better at that point. We wound around Montrose, and then, due to Lakefront Trail construction, were routed onto the service road detour on the east side of the golf course. HO.LY. COW. I severely underestimated how much harder it would be to run on gravel compared to pavement, or even the crushed limestone I’m more used to. We were only on the gravel for about a mile, but my legs felt TRASHED, which is really not what I was hoping for four miles into a 20 mile run >.<

I hoped to catch a second wind after getting back on the paved trail, but I didn’t. Less than six miles into the run I was already bargaining with myself on when I could start walking. My usual rule is that I have to make it to the halfway point of a run before walking is even on the table, and here I was, barely a quarter of the way through the run, trying to convince myself to make it to the next aid station before I started walking. AWESOME.

One of the big problems with the 20 miler (or rather, with running the Lakefront Trail in the morning, period) is the dire lack of shade. The afternoon isn’t as rough, because there are usually more trees on the west side of the trail than the east side, where there’s just a gigantic body of water. When I was in the shade, things felt tolerable–manageable, even!–but in the sun, it was rough. The aid station at 6.8 was in a bit of shade, so I felt a little better, but that didn’t stop me from walking through the aid station and a bit beyond the aid station. My shoulders were killing me–another bad sign, that I was already slouching so much the muscles involved in slouching hurt–so I took some time to stretch them out before resuming running.

My stomach acted up again, which made the next stretch not particularly fun (nor did total lack of shade for several miles). When I got to the aid station around North Ave., I noticed that the volunteers were filling the water cups with jugs labeled “Alkaline Water.”

Now, I know next to nothing about science, and even less about the various benefits and/or drawbacks of ~fancy~ water, like alkaline water. A very brief Google search says that a small study involving people who drank alkaline water after strenuous exercise showed that those who drank alkaline water experience reduced blood viscosity, which allows your blood to flow more efficiently and deliver oxygen to your muscles better. If that is the case, I can see the argument for using it during a 20 mile run on a hot day. What I do know is that after taking a cup of that water and downing it, my stomach started to hurt again. I then thought back on all the other times my stomach had hurt during the run, and realized every single one was after taking water from an aid station. I wasn’t experiencing an upset stomach after drinking out of the water bottles in my hydration belt, so it must’ve been something about the water CARA provided that didn’t sit well with me. While I was glad to figure out the root cause of my stomach woes, I was NOT glad to realize that it was the WATER, of all things. I usually wear a hydration belt for convenience’s sake, because it allows me to take my chews whenever I want, not whenever an aid station appears. On Sunday, however, I was so thankful that I at least had the means to hydrate myself without depending on the aid stations, because it was quite apparent that that was not going to be an option for the remaining 11 miles of the run.

South of North Ave., I stopped at a drinking fountain to fill up my water bottles, and while I was in the process of doing so, my running buddy caught up with me! Hooray! Another girl who runs from our location was also in the area, so the three of us took off together and decided to stick with each other as much as possible for the rest of the run.

The stretch along the lake to the east of Grant Park was brutal. I was horribly thirsty and so, so hot. We stopped at the aid station right before the Museum Campus, where I grabbed a Gatorade, despite having a very spotty history with Gatorade and my stomach agreeing with each other midrun, and filled my water bottles again at nearby drinking fountain. I told the other girls I was going to need to run/walk the rest of the run, and they felt the same way, so we implemented quarter-mile intervals for most of the rest of the run: a quarter mile of walking followed by a quarter-mile of running. This made things manageable, but I will admit that I was dying for those walk breaks by the end of a running interval.

As we continued south, we picked up two other people who were interested in following our run/walk method, bringing our group to five. This was the first time I’ve ever had running buddies for the entire second half of the 20 miler, and it really helped. Having someone else keep track of the intervals was great, but it was also just nice to have company and people to pull me along. I’m sure I would’ve walked a LOT more if it hadn’t been for everyone else in my group.

This was, unsurprisingly, not even close to the 20 miler I had hoped for. I really wanted to use this run to practice (and/or figure out) pacing for the marathon, and initially hoped to run the first five (maybe 10) miles at an 11:30 pace, then attempt the remainder of the run at GMP. The closest I ever came to GMP was that 11:14 first mile. I’m not at all happy with my overall time–I would be happy with that time for a marathon, but certainly not for a 20 miler–and comparing this year’s 20 miler time to all my other 20 miler times (3:37, 3:37, 3:37, 3:40, 4:07), and seeing how those 20 miler times have consistently gotten slower over the past three years, does not exactly inspire self-confidence.

That being said, I know that the weather had a significant impact on my run. I was recounting to my running buddies at one point how I distinctly remembered putting on jeans and a sweatshirt after the 20 miler in 2014. It was 66 degrees and overcast at noon that year. This year, it was 78 degrees and clear at 11:30, with a Real Feel of 87. Obviously that makes a HUGE difference. The weather is out of my control, and I think it had a bigger impact on how my run went than my preparation up to this point. I still wish I could’ve used this run to practice what I want to do for the marathon more effectively, but it’s done and over, and I’ve written 1487 words analyzing it. Time to move on.

Monday, September 17: Strength training – legs
Normally I wouldn’t work out at all the day after the 20 miler, but gosh darn it, I have been too consistent about these strength training workouts to give up now! Plus, Erin gave me a really gentle workout for Monday, and I used significantly lighter weights than usual (like, to the tune of 50 percent or less than what I would normally use), so this was more of a recovery “workout” than anything, and I honestly think I felt better after doing the workout than I felt before doing it.

Tuesday, September 18: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
I technically did strength training on Tuesday, but to say I phoned it in would be generous. Rather than going to the gym, I stayed home and used the 10 lb dumbbells I have at my house, justifying my lack of effort with the fact that it’s taper time.

We were back up to five people in dance on Tuesday. Since one person missed all of last week’s instruction on the combo we learned then, we spent most of the class reviewing it, which was fine by me. I need all the review I can get on that one! I felt like I had a much better grasp on it when I left class on Tuesday, and that was reassuring.

Wednesday, September 19: 6 miles in 1:04:34 for a 10:46 pace
I woke up Wednesday morning with pain in my left hamstring, just above my knee. I didn’t really know what to make of it. On the one hand, I doubted that it was an injury, due to the fact that every other time I’ve injured myself in any way, the pain has presented itself for the first time during activity, not when I woke up the following morning. It seemed unlikely to me that I would’ve injured my hamstring while sleeping. On the other hand, the pain did not feel DOMS-like, and that concerned me. I walked a lot on Tuesday, and our dance combo from Tuesday did involve a fair amount of kicking with the left leg, so this wasn’t entirely out of left field, but it was a bit unexpected. Since the pain seemed to kind of come and go, I decided to proceed with my run as scheduled to test it out. The first 100 meters or so were painful, but after that, I found the pain subsided a lot. It didn’t bother me at all on hills, and it felt the best it had felt all day during the last mile. I made a point of focusing on hamstring stretches when I got home.

Thursday, September 20: Strength training – legs (AM) + 3.5 miles in 36:54 for a 10:33 pace (PM)
My hamstring still hurt Thursday morning, but I couldn’t decide if it was better, worse, or the same. It didn’t bother me at all on my walk to the CTA on Thursday, so that made me think it was better, but it did bother me when walking up steps, which made me think it was worse. I went through all of the strength training exercises I had scheduled for the day with lighter-than-normal weights, and only one (hip thrusts) caused any sensation at all in my hamstring. I was getting increasingly worried about the pain, however, and decided to schedule an injury screening with a physical therapist later that day for a professional opinion on the situation.

I went to the physical therapist at lunch for my injury screen, where it took approximately two minutes of me telling the PT about my situation for her to declare that I have a hamstring strain. Now that you don’t need a prescription to get PT in Illinois (which is very disorienting for me. I’m used to going to PT because a doctor tells me I need PT, not because I decided I need PT. I don’t feel like I have the authority to make that decision!), my injury screen turned into an evaluation/appointment. The PT massaged my hamstring, had me do some gentle stretches, and then hooked me up to the stim machine and put a heating pad on my leg. I was told that I can continue running, though no more than three to four miles at a time, and I have to ice when I finish. My remaining runs for the season were a six miler, a half marathon, a four miler, another four miler, an eight miler, a five miler, and a two miler, so realistically, that’s not too big of an adjustment. If I’m not cleared to run more than three to four miles before race day (which I don’t expect I’ll be), I’ll lose a total of about 17 miles (but still run about 25.1 of the initially planned 42.1). I’m not super excited to miss those miles, but I’d rather miss those 17 miles than 26.2 of the marathon.

Since I was still allowed to run some, I cut my six miler with six hill repeats into a 3.5 miler with no hills Thursday afternoon. Considering that it was a balmy 93 degrees when I left work that afternoon, I suppose I preferred that to what was scheduled. I really wasn’t trying to run fast, so I don’t know what happened that led me to run this almost a minute/mile faster than usual. My hamstring felt far better running than it had at any other point that day, which was frustrating.

Friday, September 21: Rest

Saturday, September 22: Rest

 

By Friday afternoon, my hamstring felt much better, and it barely bothered me at all on Saturday. I still noticed it a little when walking up stairs, but the pain was much less intense (not that it was ever that intense in the first place). Of course, feeling better so quickly leads me to wonder if I substantially overreacted by going to the PT. This close to the marathon, though, I figure better safe than sorry. I was pretty worked up about all of this on Thursday and Friday (ok, fine, I was really worked up about it), and getting some professional eyes on the situation made me feel a little more in control about everything. I would be quite surprised if a few appointments of PT between now and the marathon make things worse, so I suppose I have nothing to lose other than some sleep, since most of my appointments are before work. I know hamstring injuries are no joke, so even if this isn’t serious, I want to take it seriously to prevent it from becoming serious, especially with the race less than two weeks away at this point. If nothing else, I’ll be very well rested going into race day!

Chicago Marathon Training Week 15

Sunday, September 9: 90 minutes cross training (35 minutes stability/flexibility + 55 minutes bike)
Sunday’s workout was my longest cross training session of the season. I don’t want to phone it in too much during peak week, but I will admit that I took the easy route on this workout, starting off with Runner Flexibility (basically just 15 minutes of stretching) and Runner Stability from the NTC app before hopping on the bike. My primary objective on the bike was getting through as much of my book as possible (I slacked off on reading big time during week 14), so biking intensity took a back seat to reading intensity. Getting things off to a great start in the “not phoning it in” department 😛

Monday, September 10: Strength training – legs (AM) + 10 miles in 1:48:15 for a 10:49 pace
Monday morning was a much better example of me trying to not phone it in during peak week. This is the last week I expect to challenge myself to use heavier weights than I’ve used in previous weeks, and unsurprisingly, that made my workout a bit tougher than sometimes! I was able to get through everything, but I did have to spend more time recovering than some other weeks.

I logged my last weekday 10 miler of this training cycle Monday afternoon. The weather was substantially nicer than it’s been for most of marathon season, which helped me run a bit quicker than usual. I’m glad I was able to put in 10 miles at close to marathon pace without feeling like I was putting in too much effort. That helped my confidence a little. The last mile was a bit tough, though, and something about this run in general was just draining. I had a lot on my mind, which I’m sure didn’t help, but when I got home I felt way more exhausted and sore than I expected (or wanted) to feel.

Monday’s Mid-Run Bird Watching Report: I saw my second-ever Red-breasted Nuthatch searching for an early supper about two miles into my run. The only other place I’ve ever seen a Red-breasted Nuthatch was at the Grand Canyon (or at least, that’s the only other place I’ve seen one and been aware of it), so that was a huge and very exciting surprise! I stopped to take terrible iPhone pictures, but if you’d like to see what the bird actually looks like, I recommend my post about the aforementioned spotting at the Grand Canyon, or All About Birds.

Tuesday, September 11: Strength training – upper body (AM) + dance (PM)
Tuesday’s strength training workout had me doing more reps than I’m used to, which made the workout a bit challenging. I wasn’t able to up the weights like I wanted to due to the higher reps, which bummed me out even though it shouldn’t have, because I’m sure it all more or less evens out (lower weight + higher reps vs. higher weight + lower reps), especially since my goal is to build overall strength to help carry me through 26.2 miles, not get ripped.

We lost one person from dance, which now brings our grand total down to four. After class, the only remaining new person asked my teacher if there was a beginner class option, to which he was like, “…this is the beginner class,” so we’ll see how long we stay at four people. I don’t blame her for asking, though: the combo we learned on Tuesday was NUTS. It moves really fast and, to complicate things further, reverted to my teacher’s preferred method of choreography, which is using movement to highlight subtle sounds in the music rather than sticking to normal eight counts. I get why he does that, but it is SO much harder to learn choreography (for me, at least) to “move when this noise happens” rather than “move on four.” I had a hard time keeping up, so I’m not at all surprised that someone who’s never taken a hip hop class before had a hard time keeping up. I’m also getting to the time of year when I worry at all times that I’m going to hurt myself in dance and not be able to do the marathon, further impeding my ability to learn.

Wednesday, September 12: 5.82 miles in 1:00:56 for a 10:28 pace
I did my longest tempo run of training on Wednesday, and I think it went fairly well. It’s hard to know for sure, since my watch had no idea what was going on (it thought I ran a 3:36 first mile. Okay.). I felt like I did a good job of gradually increasing my pace to the middle of the run, and I know I did a good job of gradually decreasing my pace after the middle of the run, since my GPS was working by that point.

Wednesday’s Mid-Run Bird Watching Report: I briefly stopped during the second half of my fastest part of the run because I spotted an American Coot! Oh man, was that exciting! I had never seen an American Coot before, which means I’ve now added TWO birds to my life list in less than a week (the Sanderlings from last Saturday’s long run being the other birds). American Coots are super interesting birds. You might think it’s a duck–the family with a small child along the lakefront sure did, as they kept calling “Duck! Come here, duck!” an in effort to get it to swim closer–but it’s not. They don’t even have webbed feet! Their feet really are something, and I definitely recommend looking up a picture if you’re interested. In case that wasn’t all fascinating enough, American Coots literally run on water to get airborne. There’s a good picture of it on All About Birds (linked above). How crazy!! Anyway, I do not in the least bit regret taking a short break during what should’ve been the hardest effort of my run to see this bird. I would 100 percent stop during the marathon to check out a bird if I thought it was a new one for my life list, even if it meant sacrificing my time goals. Birds first, running second. ALSO, there have only been two other American Coot sightings in Chicago all migration season, according to eBird, AND both eBird and Merlin said that American Coots are “uncommon” for this location at this time of year. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT! A! FIND!!

Thursday, September 13: Strength training – legs (AM) + 60 minutes bike (PM)
I had barbell squats on my list of to-dos for Thursday, but when I got to the gym, the trainer was using the barbell for his Thursday morning client. Instead of using dumbbells like I normally would’ve done, I rearranged my exercises to do other ones first, and when I finished those, was a big girl and actually asked the trainer if he was done using it so I could use it. Only took 13 weeks of showing up at the gym three mornings per week to finally work up the confidence to ask others about using equipment they appeared to be using, haha. (His client still had one more round on the barbell, so I did planks until they were done.) Shout out to my determination to get in three solid strength training workouts during peak week for trumping my usual desire to not bother anyone at the gym.

I returned to the gym Thursday afternoon for an hour long bike ride. I wrapped up my latest library book (My Antonia, which I read because I felt like it was one of those books I was supposed to have been required to read somewhere along my English major but never was. I ended up loving it! I thought it was so beautifully written and was quite disappointed that it had to end.) and then dove into Let Your Mind Run, which I bought with some pre-birthday money that had been earmarked specifically for that purpose (lesson learned: complain loudly enough to the right people close to your birthday about the fact that you won’t be able to get a library book you desperately want to read prior to the marathon, and you might just get money to buy said book. Ha.). I’m enjoying it so far, and it was a helpful way to stay motivated on the bike.

Friday, September 14: Rest

Saturday, September 15: Rest

 

Technically, peak week isn’t over yet. As of this writing (on Friday), I still have a 20 miler to complete. Peak week not only brings the highest mileage of training, but also magically makes a week last eight days instead of seven 😛 I am happy with how this part of peak week went, at least. I change my mind on how I plan to approach the 20 miler every time I think about it, and the forecast is only okay, so I don’t really know what to expect out of the run on Sunday. Hilariously, a 3:37 20 miler works out to a 10:51 pace, and I am all about those 3:37 20 milers (in case you don’t remember, which I don’t expect that you would, my first three 20 milers were all done in 3:37), so who knows! Maybe I’ll return to my 3:37 20 miler ways, end up logging a 20 miler at marathon goal pace, and walk away 100 percent convinced that I can do a 4:45 marathon. I’m not really counting on it, but crazier things have happened (like, you know, running a 3:37 20 miler three years in a row), so we’ll see how Sunday shakes out.

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 14

Sunday, September 2: 30 minutes cross training (circuit)
I was with family for most of Labor Day weekend and didn’t have access to a gym, nor did I have a spare 85 minutes on Sunday to do the workout I originally hoped to do. NTC’s Zero to 100 in a living room had to get to the job done. Even though it’s one of my favorites, I haven’t done that workout since January, so it was nice to go through it again.

Monday, September 3: 6.4 miles in 1:10:21 for an 11:00 pace
Another day of Labor Day weekend, another shortened workout. I thought I might try to get up early on Monday to do my eight miles before the heat got too bad, but sleeping in and spending time with family ended up taking priority over my run (which, grand scheme/big picture, is probably for the best). I got back to my apartment around noon on Monday and, after some unpacking from the weekend, decided to take my chances and head out for eight miles around 12:45. I knew storms were developing on the radar, so instead of doing an out-and-back like I would’ve normally done on Monday, I decided to do laps around a three-ish mile loop near my house instead. I got through the first lap without incident, but noticed ominous clouds gathering over the horizon as I started the second lap. When I was as far from home as I could be on this loop (of course), my phone buzzed, letting me know a Special Weather Statement had gone into effect. More often than not, AccuWeather sends me notifications about Special Weather Statements related to storms that are no where near me and not moving in my direction. I stopped to check this one, and sure enough, it was about strong thunderstorms in the area of Bolingbrook and Naperville. I was five-odd miles into my run, so I figured I’d do my best to get in another three. I started to hear more consistent rumbles of thunder, so I then thought I’d head home and run laps around my block until I got to eight miles. On the way home, though, I saw a bolt of lightning. It seemed increasingly unsafe to stay outside, so I called it a day when I got back to my apartment, even though I was 1.6 miles short of what I intended to run on Monday. I’m annoyed that I had to cut my run short–this was the first run all season I had to shorten–but if it had been a normal Monday and I had gone to work, I wouldn’t have gotten my run in at all, given the timing of the second round of storms that came through Monday afternoon, so I guess I’ll take what I can get.

Tuesday, September 4: Strength training – legs (AM) + dance (PM)
I skipped the gym on Monday, so my normal strength training schedule got pushed back a day. I’ve gotten so used to my usual gym routine that it was really weird to do legs on a Tuesday! Tuesday’s workout felt really effective and was a nice way to start the day.

I got my own first day of school with dance resuming on Tuesday. It’s already shaping up to be an interesting session. Only five people showed up on Tuesday (compared to the usual 10 or so), three of which are regulars, one of which is me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a class with only two new people. It’ll be interesting to see what the dropout rate looks like this time around! The combo we learned was completely new to me, so that was fun.

Wednesday, September 5: Strength training – upper body (AM) + 8 miles (2 mi WU, 8x.5 mi (4:40, 4:37, 4:37, 4:43, 4:50, 4:46, 4:53, 4:39) w/ .25 mi recovery) in 1:26:52 for a 10:52 pace
I had a tough-in-a-good-way workout Wednesday morning. My arms were already sore by the time I left the gym. It was a bit disorienting to be there on a Wednesday! I’ve never been on Wednesday morning before.

I had my last 800s workout of this marathon season Wednesday afternoon. I’m not entirely sure why I scheduled it for this week and not peak week (possibly because of the eight miles thing?), but I’m sure there was a reason for it when I put my schedule together months ago, so off I went. It was a balmy 91 degrees when I left the office, making Wednesday the toughest conditions I’ve had for 800s (though it was 77 by the time I got home, so there’s that). A boys cross country team from a local high school was at the park where I do my 800s when I arrived, so I got to run “with” them–and by “with” them I mean “tried my best to stay out of their way because they were all a million times faster than I am, even during speedwork.” Their coach apologized at one point for them not paying attention to their surroundings and occasionally crossing my path, but it really didn’t bother me. They got there first, after all. Plus, I could use the things he was telling his runners (“Swing your arms! Run tall! Kick your legs!”) as free coaching for myself 😛 As for my workout, I’m honestly not very happy with how it went :/ This was by far the least consistent I’ve been on my 800s (16 second spread), and even though my last one was one of my best, I was also pushing myself to give it everything I had, which isn’t really the point. The point is to be consistent across all eight 800s, and I’m not at all happy with my consistency–or rather, lack thereof. I also walked two and a half of my recovery laps instead of jogging them: another thing I didn’t want to do. Out of the five 800s workouts I did this season, I’m least happy with this one. Boo.

I averaged a 4:43 800 during this workout, and my overall 800 average for the season is 4:45 (heyyyyy). My fastest 800 was a 4:36, and my slowest was a 4:59. We’ll find out how much any of this 800s lore holds up in a month (with the caveat that I did not ever reach a full Yasso 800, nor were any of my “800s” actually perfect 800s (they were half miles, meaning they were actually 804.672s) so it’s possibly not fair to use my data to try to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of Yasso 800s). I’d be perfectly happy with a marathon finish time anywhere between 4:36 and 4:59 (well, maybe not perfectly happy with a 4:59, but happy enough), so here’s hoping.

Thursday, September 6: Strength training – legs (AM) + 60 minutes yoga (PM)
Dragging myself out of bed Thursday morning felt like an impossible feat, so unsurprisingly, going to the gym wasn’t exactly firing me up. The gym was SUPER packed when I got there. I couldn’t even do my deadlifts with a barbell because all the barbells were being used. First world problems.

I did this yoga Thursday afternoon:

I wanted to do something restorative-ish that wasn’t purely yin yoga, and this fit the bill. It was a good practice and kept me moving enough that I didn’t fall asleep, which…was not the case the last time I did yoga. Haha.

Friday, September 7: Rest

Saturday, September 8: 14 miles in 2:38:49 for an 11:21 pace
I don’t have a particularly specific measurement for Saturday’s run, because gmap-pedometer, which had been a highly useful tool all season, suddenly decided on Sunday night that it won’t allow me to say that I ran on the RUNNING portions of the Lakefront Trail, so I couldn’t measure my run from Saturday the way I normally do. So we’re just going to say it was exactly 14 miles, because that’s what it was supposed to be. But seriously, what the heck, Gmap??

Anyway, this run was INSANELY windy. The wind was coming from the east north east, so we had the delightful privilege of running more or less into the wind the entire run. Woo. 😐 It wasn’t winter bad (i.e.: it was possible to make forward movement), but it was a lot worse than I’m used to during summer training. The waves on Lake Michigan were bonkers! We got sprayed from the waves so many time during this run. The wind definitely made pacing hard, and I felt like I worked a lot harder to finish 14 miles than I would’ve liked to have felt.

 

So. Less than a month until race day. That makes things feel a lot more real, and I’ve got to be honest: I’m nervous. My self-doubt has been growing lately, which only compounds the situation. I’m nervous that I won’t be able to run a 4:45, and I’m nervous that since I’m doubting myself, my mind is going to hold me back more than my body. I know that having the right attitude and mentality going into a marathon makes an enormous difference when it comes to your race day experience. I hoped to read Deena Kastor’s new book about that topic prior to the Chicago Marathon, but it’s currently on a six week hold through Libby, so I doubt I’ll get my hands on it before race day (though if anyone has recommendations for other similar books, I’m all ears).

Part of what feeds into this nervousness is my training. Every other marathon season, I’ve trained somewhere in the neighborhood of a 10:30-10:50 pace on nearly all of my runs (and subsequently gone on to run anywhere between an 11:08- and 12:23-paced marathon). The idea of training slower to go faster on race day is totally foreign to me in the world of marathon training. I should note that that idea is not totally foreign to me in the world of every-other-distance racing: all of my best other-distance races have been faster than my average training run. But it just feels different, you know? I’ve been around the marathon block too many times to continue mistaking it for just a longer other-distance race. I really think marathoning is in a totally different category than running half marathons, 10 milers, 10Ks, 5Ks, etc. They are so long. Yes, you can fall apart in the later miles of any race, but I truly don’t think it compares. There’s a big difference between hitting the wall two-thirds of the way through a half marathon and having to drag yourself through the remaining three and a half miles and hitting the wall two-thirds of the way through a marathon and having to drag yourself through the remaining nine miles.

I think that’s what’s really getting to me: I haven’t come remotely close to running any substantial distance at my marathon pace. I’ve done it for the last five miles of a 16 miler, sure, but that’s only five miles at GMP. I can’t drop five miles at GMP during the marathon itself and expect to hit my goal time. I am extremely confident that, barring an unfortunate and unforeseen circumstance, I could cruise through the entire marathon at an 11:30 pace no problem. But at a 10:52 pace? I haven’t even run 10 miles at that pace during marathon season, never mind 26.2. What is supposed to lead me to believe I can do that for an entire marathon? I don’t have the advantage of bright-eye naivete I once had at this distance. I have five marathons worth of experience that show me that the last eight to 10 miles or so of a marathon can be really, really hard. I only have one marathon worth of experience where the opposite was true. Last year’s marathon was an absolute dream, but I started it off really, really slow, and finished in 5:04 (plus change). I want to run it NINETEEN MINUTES faster this year. That’s 44 seconds/mile faster across the entire race.

I know that you can surprise yourself on race day (I have plenty of times), and I know that a lot–A. LOT.–goes into to determining your success on race day. Training obviously plays a part of it, and from a volume and cross training standpoint, I trust that the schedule I’ve followed so far this year can get the job done. (From a pace standpoint, not so much.). But the weather makes a difference, your nutrition makes a difference, what you do in the week leading up to the race makes a difference (which is why I have naturally scheduled two evening events for the week of race day. That can’t possibly come back to bite me in the butt. *rolls eyes*), your mentality makes a difference (*significant look* Ahem, self). I also know that while race day is less than a month away, it’s just barely less than a month away, so I still have time to work on my mental game (because as we all know, getting less anxious and more zen is a walk in the park during taper 😛 ). This crisis of confidence stuff is no fun, and I would really like to put it to bed sooner rather than later.

On to peak week.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 13

Sunday, August 26: 85 minutes cross training (20 minutes stability + 65 minutes bike)
In a wonderful turn of events, I was not tired on Sunday, which made this workout infinitely less miserable than I expected. I did NTC’s Runner Stability workout to start things off, then hopped on the bike for a little over an hour.

Monday, August 27: Strength training – legs (AM) + 60 minutes bike (PM)
I had a great strength training workout at the gym Monday morning. The workout felt super quick but also super effective, which is just how I like them. The bulk of Monday morning’s workout involved squats, and I’ve been surprised to discover how much I enjoy them, at least relatively speaking. They’re just the right amount of challenging–enough to make me feel like I’m working, but not too much to make me worry that I’m going to hurt myself. Win win.

I decided to reschedule Monday’s run due to the weather and do the indoor bike workout I planned for Thursday instead. I might have been able to run Monday afternoon, but it seemed silly to put myself through 10 miles outside in the middle of a heat advisory when I could wait until things were forecasted to cool off on Wednesday and Thursday. If the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday had been equally bad, I probably would’ve gone outside for the slowest 10 miles ever on Monday, but since it wasn’t, to the bike I went. I had a way more effective workout on the bike than I had on Sunday, so that was nice.

Tuesday, August 28: Strength training – upper body
In an unexpected turn of events, I was more sweaty when I got to the gym than I was when I finished at the gym, courtesy of Tuesday morning’s absolutely crushing humidity. That’s not to suggest that Tuesday’s workout was a breeze, however. This was similar to a workout I did several weeks ago that involved 20 reps of every exercise. It’s definitely a burner!

Wednesday, August 29: 7 miles in 1:14:40 for a 10:40 pace
All hail overcast skies, low dew points, and temperatures in the 70s! The accommodating conditions made this pace run much more attainable than it would’ve been at other times during the summer. I was a little quick, as this was a goal pace run and my goal pace for the marathon is–all together now!–10:52. That being said, this run was also a bit more challenging from a cardiovascular standpoint than most of my other runs this summer–I felt like I was actually working, compared to my 11:30 long runs where I feel like I’m cruising along at no effort–so it’s probably a good thing that this isn’t my goal pace for the marathon, if seven miles at that pace was enough to get my heart pumping harder than what I experience on my comfortable-pace runs. I definitely don’t think I could’ve done another 19.2 miles at that pace. I’m also not sure I could’ve done another 19.2 miles at a 10:52 pace, but we won’t worry about that too much right now 😛 The good news is I feel like I’m getting a slightly better grasp on what marathon pace effort feels like, so that’s nice.

Thursday, August 30: Strength training – legs (AM) + 10 miles (with seven hill repeats) in 1:51:42 for an 11:10 pace
Thursday morning’s workout was a super sweaty one. After getting through the strength-focused part of the workout, my strength/cardio combo finisher for the day was kettlebell swings and burpees: 21 reps of each, 15 reps of each, 9 reps of each. If you ever find yourself thinking that you are invincible in the fitness department since you can run long distances, I highly recommend attempting to do 21 burpees (after 21 kettlebell swings and a leg workout). It will humble you very quickly 🙂

I intended to do Thursday’s 10 miler on Monday, but given the choice between doing a 10 miler (with hills, no less) in 90+ degree heat and humidity or 70+ degree heat and low humidity, I think you’ll understand why I switched this run to Thursday. It was glorious in the weather department, but the first four miles in particular were a bit of a challenge. I run on back-to-back days maybe a handful of times per year, and my legs aren’t used to that much work in that little time. (Though I suppose it’s probably good from a marathon training running-on-tired-legs perspective.) I normally do my hill repeats about three miles into my run, but I decided to putter around a bit before I got to the hill and was instead five miles into my run by the time I started my repeats. Five miles (plus seven miles the day before, if you’re being generous) is hardly the 26 miles I’ll have put on my legs by the time I get to Mt. Roosevelt during the marathon, but I figure the more tired my legs are for repeats, the better I’ll mimic how Mt. Roosevelt will feel. The repeats went fine, and the end of my run went even better. I was downright comfortable (from a temperature perspective. From a muscle perspective, not so much.) when I finished! More of that, please.

Friday, August 31: Rest

Saturday, September 1: 18.12 miles in 3:23:23 for an 11:13 pace
The curse of the 18 miler continues! For the third 18 miler in a row, my run was interrupted by thunderstorms. It really is uncanny. The only times I’ve ever had it thunderstorm on a long run have been times I’m running 18 miles: in 2015, when I ran 18 miles in 2016 (while the rest of the group ran 16), and now this year. I never did 18 miles last year, because I was sick the week CARA ran 18 miles, and when I tried to do 18 miles on my own the following weekend, I crashed and burned HARD. Apparently in 2016, I requested the cancellation of all future 18 milers, and I would like to reiterate that request after this past Saturday.

Anyway, back to this year’s debacle of an 18 miler. Knowing there was a chance for storms on Saturday, I checked the radar as soon as I woke up and saw this:

18milerradar

I was absolutely, 100 percent convinced CARA would cancel the run. I mean, honestly, how could they not? Nothing about that radar implied that we’d be able to get Saturday’s run in before the storms. The shortest distance anyone had to run on Saturday was 18 miles. The fastest pace group CARA supports is a 7:30 (though it’s unlikely that anyone running in the 7:30 pace group would be doing beginner mileage, but for argument’s sake, let’s believe that there are 7:30 runners doing beginner mileage). If they ran at a perfect 7:30 pace and did not stop, it’d take them 2:15 to finish. The earliest groups start at 6 a.m. (though no one starts running when the run “starts,” at least in my experience. Announcements start at 6 a.m.). So, assuming the fastest group left on time, never stopped, and ran the shortest distance available for the week–AND was running on the lakefront, not in any of the western suburbs–the absolute earliest anyone would finish would be 8:15. That screenshot, as you can tell by the progress bar towards the bottom, shows the radar at 4:20. You don’t have to be a meteorologist to take a look at that image, know that it’s moving west, and guess that it is probably not going to take four hours to get from where it is in the picture to Lake Michigan.

But regardless, CARA decided to still have Saturday’s runs. While even I, at my turtle 11:30 pace, was able to get in just about 10 miles before I saw the first flash of lightning that morning–which admittedly is a decent amount of running–I still maintain that CARA never should’ve had an official run Saturday morning. Cancelling the run officially won’t necessarily stop people from showing up, but it would’ve given people an out. Yes, we’re all adults and can make our own decisions, but let’s be honest: how many people training for a marathon, who’ve made it this far into training, are going to willingly bail on the second longest run of the season when the training run hasn’t been cancelled? I KNEW it was going to storm. I KNEW I wouldn’t get 18 miles in without having to hide in a bathroom somewhere. I HATE being outside in thunderstorms. Even with all of that, I still showed up Saturday morning. I think the irresponsibility of having the run is compounded by the fact that, at least in the city, groups don’t usually run one-mile loops around the parking lot where they start to get in their miles. It’s very common to do an out-and-back, which, on a week like this, means that you could very well be up to NINE MILES away from where you started, along Lake Shore Drive (i.e.: not in the city, where you can easily duck into the nearest Starbucks and wait it out), with no easy means of getting back to the starting point other than on foot. I’m glad I got my 18 miles in on Saturday, but I still don’t think this run ever should’ve happened.

As for the run itself, things were fine for the first part. Since we knew storms were coming, we went out at a pretty decent clip in an effort to try to get as many miles in before we had to stop. I originally planned on fast finishing the last seven miles of the run, but I felt uncomfortable forging on ahead on my own, so I stuck with the group until we saw enough lightning that my group leader suggested we get to the next bath house as quickly as possible. I took off at a 10:00 pace, and met the rest of the group when they got there. We hung out at the bath house for a bit, tried to take off, only to see more lightning. I was maybe 200 feet from the bath house before I decided I was not willing to go on, and returned to the bath house. The rest of the group joined me shortly after, and after some phone consulting, decided we could try to make it to the next sheltered area. Once again, soon after getting out from under the bathhouse, lightning flashed over the lake. I had no interest in taking my sweet time getting to the next shelter, so I high tailed it to the building, logging a 9:03 mile. How’s that for a fast finish? 😛 There were times where I was running my 5K PR pace in my enthusiasm to get a roof over my head ASAP. I waited there for about 15 minutes, and once I was thoroughly convinced the lightning was gone, finished the last threeish miles of my run. The last five miles of my run did all end up being 10:45 or faster, so I ultimately did fast finish my run, even if it wasn’t under the circumstances I originally envisioned. And I never got hit by lightning, so that was nice. But let me tell you, it is going to take a LOT to convince me to do another 18 miler ever again! Haha.

 

I’m happy with how this week shaped up, particularly in light of how hot things started out. I will admit that I’m a bit nervous about the weather during this upcoming week as well (spoiler for next week: I’m already behind on mileage, thanks to Monday afternoon’s ceaseless parade of thunderstorms that kept me from the eight miles I had planned for the day), but hopefully everything will work out. Only this week to go before peak week!