Thursday Things

1. One cool perk my company offers is that all employees get to take the day off for their birthday without using PTO to do so. If your birthday falls on a weekend, like mine did this year, you can take the day close to your birthday off instead. This worked out wonderfully for me, since it meant I could sleep in and take it easy the day after the Fox Valley Marathon. I got over nine hours of sleep for the first time since I started wearing a Fitbit, which in and of itself was glorious. Even better, however, was that I had time to go the Shedd Aquarium!


I went to the Shedd for Jazzin’ at the Shedd once last summer, but other than that haven’t been since I was in sixth grade, I believe. That was quite some time ago, and I’ve really wanted to go again. The line to get in is always so long, though, and that’s kept me away for the four years I’ve lived here (as has the fact that I work during the week, leaving me with only the weekends to visit the Shedd, and that’s hardly a time to get in with no line). Last Monday was a free day at the Shedd, so I worried that the line would be horrendous, but hoped that maybe since it’s early in the school year and it was a Monday, I’d be okay.



There was no line to get in whatsoever when I showed up around 10:30. It didn’t end up being a *totally* free experience for me, because, according to the lady who sold me my tickets, I’d have to pay to see the penguins, and I was not about to go to the Shedd and not see the penguins. It only cost $10, though, which I happily handed over for penguin-seeing purposes.

Getting to the penguin area wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, as it’s down multiple flights of stairs, which isn’t a particularly friendly activity for 24 hours after a marathon, but it was worth it. Look at these adorable little birdies!


While I was there, two people went into the exhibit to hang out with the penguins (two people I presume to be on Shedd’s staff), and I have officially found my dream job: professional penguin petter.



I also visited the otters, as it was sea otter awareness week last week, and I felt it was important to pay my respects. Okay, fine: I think sea otters are about as cute as they come, and I would’ve visited them whether or not I was supposed to be aware of them that week.


To my surprise, my favorite creatures to see at the Shedd were actually the belugas. I thought they were so cool and fun to watch. The highlight of my time at the aquarium was when this baby popped its head above water and stared at me for a good 15 seconds before casually swimming away. We’re besties now, don’t worry about it.


2. Lest my post about not hating the Fox River valley misled you to believe I now have affection for the Chicago suburbs, I recently discovered my new favorite corner of the internet: the Chicago Suburb Name Generator. This website randomly creates a name for a suburb based on common words (or parts of words: think -ville, -burg, etc.). Hilarity ensues. This was my personal favorite:



The funniest part about this is that it doesn’t even seem like an unrealistic name for a suburb. Behold:

Forest Park
Forest Lake
Lake Forest
Oak Forest
Park Forest
River Forest

Looking at a map of the Chicago metro area, I think you’d assume that Illinois law must state that municipalities within 50 miles of Chicago are required to include at least one of the words “Lake,” “Forest,” “Park,” “Oak,” “River” or “Heights,” or, at the very least, similar derivatives of those words (“Stream,” “Grove,” “Hills,” etc.) to officially count as part of the region. I also have a working theory that these same communities are also required by law to host a Thanksgiving Day race, but that’s irrelevant to this particular discussion.

3. On Sunday evening, I got together with a group of people for a Game of Thrones-themed potluck (less due to my infatuation with Game of Thrones, which is nonexistent, given that I’ve barely watched any of the show, and more due to wanting to hang out and eat food). We had a really delicious, indulgent spread, and all was going well, and then suddenly we were in the dark. The power had gone out. Mostly.

The host’s apartment appeared to have lost all electricity, but the clock on the stove still worked, as did the light in the bathroom. The street lights outside clearly still had power, as did other buildings in the neighborhood. We hadn’t been using any electricity beyond what you’d normally expect for 7:30 or so on a September evening–overhead lights, a ceiling fan–so it didn’t seem to be a fuse issue, and even if it had been, how could nearly all of the fuses in the house blown at once? Beyond that, while it was a bit breezy outside, it wasn’t anything all that out of the ordinary for Chicago, and it wasn’t even raining outside, never mind storming. The outage was completely inexplicable.

Guess who had a panic attack?

I was absolutley petrified, not by the dark, but by the total lack of explanation for the outage. My mind jumped to the worst possible scenarios–there was a fire somewhere in the building that had somehow cut most of (but not all of) the power; there was a gas leak in the area and power had been cut in the mean time–all of which basically ended in, “I’m going to die.” And even though I had the wherewithal to recognize exactly why I was scared in the moment, knowing why I’m scared, while I suppose marginally less terrifying than being scared and NOT knowing why I’m scared, has never done anything to actually soothe me.

I’ve had a fair number of panic attacks when I’m on my own, and I hate it. When that happens, I have no one to help calm me down, and, in my experience, a panic attack is like a snowball you roll down a mountain: it’s going to build and build and build on itself until it runs out of room to keep rolling. Being alone, stuck in my own head with thoughts that seemingly have a mind of their own, is miserable. The benefit, however, is that since I’m alone, no one but me knows it’s happening, and there is little, if any, fallout as a result. I eventually settle down, curse my brain, and carry on with my life. When other people are around, it can, admittedly, be a toss up as to whether or not I’ll get support or not, depending on their understanding of anxiety and/or me (Sunday, for the record, was a support-filled situation, which definitely made a huge difference), but regardless of how other people react, it always packs a one-two punch of 1) the attack itself and 2) the equally awful, if not worse, shame, embarassment, and humilition for totally and completely blowing a situation out of proportion and overreacting in a way that defies all logic, followed by the crushing and inescapable fear that everyone present will forever silently judge me for my overreaction, and, even more so, that with each panic attack I have in the presence of the same person/people, the less chances I have to have another panic attack in front of them–that I have three strikes with people, if you will, or maybe four or five if they’re generous, before they give up on me or lose their patience with me and decide it’s not worth the effort anymore.

I don’t know if that’s a realistic concern or not, but reality and anxiety, at least for me, are not even on speaking terms, so whether or not that’s a realistic concern is perhaps irrelevant. Regardless, it just makes situations like Sunday night that much more upsetting. The things that make me anxious, especially fire and thunderstorms, already make me feel immautre–like, shouldn’t I have outgrown this by now? Why are other adults able to walk outside in a storm, or turn on a gas stove, enjoy the light and scent of a burning candle, when all of these things reduce me to a trembling, blubbering mess? Why are other people able to laugh and make jokes when the power goes out, or during a fire drill, or when food burns on the stovetop, while I’m barely able to hold myself together? Why do other people get to be normal, when even though I try to pretend to be, eventually, if you spend enough time with me, I won’t be able to hide it anymore?

It’s frustrating, to put it mildly. No one on Sunday reacted remotely cruelly to me–a couple people even followed up after everyone had cleared out to make sure I was okay–but it’s like, come on, brain. Isn’t the panic attack enough torture for one person? Can’t I have just a little bit of normalacy in my life? I don’t know–maybe it IS normal to have that shame after a panic attack. But man. I wish I could just…not worry about so much, you know? That I could be baseline normal rather than anxiety normal (and I suppose we could argue all day about what “normal” really means, but that’s not the point). Or that, at the very least, I could have my anxiety attacks with support and without the emotional hangover.

Have you ever been to the Shedd Aquarium?
Make me less anxious. Plz.

Life Time 5K Race Recap

As a long-time fan of the Chicago Half Marathon, and an equally long-time fan of saving money, I registred for the Chicago Half Marathon on New Year’s Eve last year (to avoid a price increase, obviously), figuring it was about as sure of a bet as anything. I planned to run the Chicago Marathon in October, and the Chicago Half lines up perfectly with Chicago training. I did purchase race insurance just to be on the safe side–since that started being a thing, I always purchase insurance on my races–but figured injury would be the only thing that would keep me from the start line on Sept. 25.

What I did not anticipate last New Year’s was running a marathon the week before the Chicago Half.

While I suppose I probably had the physical ability to run a half marathon on Sunday, attempting to do so exactly seven days after my most recent marathon and fourteen days before my next marathon seemed ambitious at the very best. I know plenty of people can perform these feats of endurance–Marathon Maniacs come to mind–but I have not at ALL trained my body to stand up to that kind of abuse and didn’t want to risk it. So, a few weeks ago, I emailed the good folks at Life Time, kindly requesting to drop down to the race’s 5K. They were happy to accomodate, but unfortnately my race insurance only worked if I dropped out of the event entirely. And that, friends, is the story of how I came to spend $80 on a 5K.


(Theoretically, I’m guessing I probably could have dropped out of the race entirely, gotten $70 back, and then re-registered for the 5K, paying whatever the race fee a few weeks before the event happened to be. Coulda woulda shoulda.)


I went to the expo on Friday, which was bizzarely located on the concourse of Solider Field…? I’m assuming this means every other usual location for the race’s expo was taken? Or maybe out of budget, but I can’t imagine that Soldier Field comes cheap. Maybe cheaper than Navy Pier or the Hilton, though. Anyway, for whatever reason, the expo was at Soldier Field, so to Soldier Field I went. I got there fairly late on Friday evening and didn’t have much time to look around, though once you’ve seen a few Chicago running expos, you’ve really seen them all, so I didn’t mind. I was, however, THRILLED beyond measure to see that, at long, long last, after five years, I FINALLY got my name on a participant list they had printed at the entrance to the expo (*significant look* CHICAGO MARATHON). Lifetime: 1 Bank of America: -2.


As much as I like the Chicago Half, I do hate the logistics of getting to and from the race. Jackson Park is inaccessible via the CTA as it is (and by “the CTA” I mean “the El,” which is really the only way I want to travel to distant locations in Chicago), and it only gets worse on race day, when Lake Shore Drive–the only logical way to get to Jackson Park–shuts down at 6 a.m. for the race. I ended up taking a Lyft to get there this year instead of dealing with the shuttle. While this improved my wakeup time substantially, I still ended up getting to Jackson Park before 6 a.m., which, considering my race didn’t even start until 7:45 a.m., was SO unnecessarily early by my normal race arrival time standards. But since there’s really no way to avoid this, I don’t know any other solution (other than building an El line that goes to/from Jackson Park, but I’m not crossing my fingers for that happening any time soon/ever.)

I hung around before the half and watched the start, and then did some warming up in the half hour that followed that end of the half marathon start and beginning of the 5K start. (I also used this abundant free time to puppy watch. There were so many dogs at the race watching their humans run! Most of them were dogs, really, but one was an actual puppy, complete with puppy paws and puppy cuteness, and I was just dying.) I made more portapottie trips than I’ve ever made before a race, not so much because I needed them, but because it was something to do, and then finally around 7:35 or so, they had our start line all set up, and we began to file into the start area.

The 5K didn’t have corrals because less than 2000 people participated, and a notable lack of singlets and short shorts made me think this wouldn’t be the most competitive race of my life, and it would perhaps behoove me to line up much closer to the front than usual. I didn’t have any *real* expectations for this race, but I know myself enough to know that I would NOT be pleased with a time dramatically off my usual 5K times, marathon-seven-days-before be damned, so I hoped to put in the best effort I could and see what would happen.

The start of the race was crowded for maybe 100 meters, but opened up quickly. I’m usually a slave to my watch during 5Ks, but on Sunday, I decided to not look at it at all (and somehow had the self-control to actually not look at it) and instead run purely by feel. I did sneak a couple glances at my watch during the race, but didn’t note my overall time or current pace until the final turn and the three mile mark, so I’d say the whole “run by feel” thing was quite successful.

There aren’t many things I like about 5Ks, but the one thing I do like is that by the time you hit mile two, you’re practically finished: a nice change of pace for me, particularly during marathon season, when hitting mile two feels more like a joke than a relief. I really felt pretty good probably until mile 2.75 or so, at which point I stopped feeling pretty good and started feeling like I hate 5Ks more than anything (except, perhaps, the last 10K of a marathon). As I came in towards the finish line, I heard my name announced (one more point for Lifetime! This rarely happens.) and then noticed a shadow coming up behind me. I didn’t think I had anything left in me for a kick, but since I couldn’t tell from the shadow if the person behind me was or was not likely to be in my age group, I managed to pull out a bit more effort for the last 15 meters or so. Turns out the shadow belonged to a man probably in his 30s, so he wasn’t much of a threat to my dreams of age group glory, but it felt nice to hold him off anyway.

I finished in 25:15, which these days is actually a pretty slow 5K for me. I’ve only run one non-24:xx 5K since 2015, and that was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago 5K last summer, when it was eleventy bajillion degrees with infinity percent humidity and full sunshine, so I don’t hold that time against myself. I didn’t realize it had been so long since I hadn’t broken 25:00, and when I did realize that, I was a bit bummed out. However, I was only one week removed from a marathon, which is generally not the case for my 5Ks, so I suppose I really can’t complain. I also came in 7th in my age group, AND the age groups were twice the usual size (20-29 instead of 25-29), so that was a nice consolation prize.


The post-race party was pretty empty when I got there, since the half marathon winner only finished a couple minutes before I finished. I felt really stupid collecting so much food on the way out for only having run 3.1 miles, but who am I to turn down a water, an electrolyte drink, Chobani, a banana, and chips? By the time I got through my Chobani and banana, I was more than satisfied and planned on skipping the post-race pizza for the runners, until I remembered that I paid $80 to run a 5K, and…



Sunday was a study in overindulgence after a 5K, but whatever. I was a bit bummed to only do the 5K instead of the half marathon, but I think it was the smarter idea for my body. I don’t expect to ever run a marathon on my birthday weekend and follow it with another marathon three weeks later again, so I can certainly run the Chicago Half some other time.


Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

Sunday, September 18: 26.51 miles in 5:14:02 for an 11:50 pace.
See previous.

Monday, September 19: Rest.
See above.

Tuesday, September 20: Dance.
I was still fairly sore on Tuesday, as I expected, but I’ve never skipped dance after a marathon before, and I didn’t feel any more sore than I usually feel two days post-marathon, so to dance I went. Naturally, class was super intense, and the air conditioning in the building was off, so I was sweating bullets. It felt REALLY good to move, though. I find that to be one of the trickiest things about marathon recovery: treading that line between allowing your muscles to heal and moving to promote blood flow and alleviate stiffness. Normally it doesn’t really matter, because normally after the marathon ends, my “physical fitness” season ends, too, at least until I remember I’m running a 5K in December and should probably, you know, run or something. But since I have another marathon in less than three weeks (*sobs*), I don’t have the luxury of not caring this time around.

Wednesday, September 21: Rest.
Welcome to my life in the week after a marathon. Not particularly eventful, to say the least. I didn’t even hit 10,000 steps this day. I did feel a LOT better, though. Nearly all of more soreness and stiffness had disappated, and the only thing that didn’t feel normal quite yet was going down stairs.

Thursday, Septebmer 22: 2 miles in
Yay! While normally I don’t do any exercise (other than dance) until a full week after the marathon, since I do have another marathon coming up in two weeks, I didn’t feel like it would be in my best interest to take a full week off completely. I also felt back to normal on Thursday, so off for a run I went! My left shin felt a little touchy at the beginning, but other than that it was just so, so nice to get moving again. I just don’t like how I feel when I’m not getting in some sort of activity on days where I normally get in activity (on the flip side, I also don’t like how I feel when I get in activity on days when I normally DON’T get in activity. I LOATHE working out on Fridays–my normal rest day–and it seriously throws me off on the very rare occasions that I do it.), so going for a very short, very easy run on Thursday was most welcome.

Friday, September 23: Rest.
Told you I loathe working out on Fridays😛

Saturday, September 24: Rest.

Wheeeeee! Easiest week of marathon training ever! Haha. I probably could’ve done more this week, but I wasn’t particularly interested in pushing it. I know everything between now and Chicago is just maintaining fitness anyway. I’m not going to make any major progress between now and then, so I’d rather play it safe.

Advocate Dreyer Fox Valley Marathon Race Recap

Well, folks, I did it: 26.2 miles on my 26th birthday. Now I can go ahead and cross that item off my bucket list.

The Fox Valley Marathon takes place in the far western suburbs along the Fox River, starting and finishing in St. Charles and taking runners through St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, and Aurora. In addition to the full marathon, the race also has a half marathon and a 20 miler, as the race happens to perfectly coincide when Chicago Marathon runners should be doing 20 miles. Unless, of course, you are this Chicago Marathon runner, who decided to throw caution to the wind and run the whole darn thing three weeks before race day, too.

The race had several packet pickup options which I, as a carless city dweller, really appreciated. You could pick up your packet at Fleet Feet in Old Town the week before the race (which I did), attend the expo in the ‘burbs on Friday or Saturday, or pay a $30 fee to pick up your packet on race day, which I would have done if the city option hadn’t been available. But since it was, I went with that choice.


Outside of the Chicago Marathon, I think this is the first time anyone has actually checked my ID when I picked up a race packet, but that seemed to be pretty par for the course for this race. The attention to detail, from top to finish, was absolutely unparalleled. I don’t have any complaints about the organization of the Chicago Marathon–I think that event, at least in my experience, runs like a well-oiled machine–but I was blown away by Fox Valley. For example, each race was color coded–green for the half, orange for the 20, blue for the full–and that color coding ran through the entire event. Your packet pickup bag (which also served as your gear check bag), your bib, your medal’s ribbon color, the arrows on the course, the mileage signs on the course: everything’s color reflected the appropriate race distance (except at the places on the course where all three events shared the same course. Then everything was blue.). The race-provided guides were also so detailed and so helpful. I was seriously so, so impressed, and would recommend this race to anyone based on that alone.

I try not to worry too much about race day forecasts, because if anything is an exercise in futility, it’s worry about race day forecasts. Nevertheless, I almost always end up worrying about race day forecasts, especially when they’re poor, and this race was no exception. While it was a beautiful day by conventional standards–not a cloud in sight, warm temperatures–those conditions are far from ideal during a marathon. I ran through that kind of misery last year at Chicago, and didn’t particularly have any major desire to repeat the experience.


It was fairly cool when I got the the race site around 6 a.m. on Sunday. It took me a little while to figure out where everything (i.e.: the portapotties) were, but eventually I found them behind the start line. I hung around for a bit and headed over to the start area around 6:45 or so. All three events started at the same time, and while the race only let 100-200 people start at once, there weren’t any specific, organized corrals. At a race that size, though, I don’t think you really need them. They had signs indicating where you should line up based on your anticipated pace, so I found a spot near the 11:00/mile sign and crossed the start about eight minutes after the race itself began.


My strategy, per usual, was to hold back as much as I could in the first miles and gradually increase my pace to, ideally, negative split the race, or at the very least, not bonk. I hoped to go out at about an 11:30 or so pace and felt like I was barely moving at all for the first mile, so I was SHOCKED to see my watch tell me 10:41 when I hit the one mile mark. I genuinely thought I was running at least one minute per mile slower than that, and could not believe how easy that first mile felt.

We continued on south through Geneva, winding a bit through downtown. I haven’t spent much time (…any time…) in the western suburbs, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always turned up my nose at them, assuming all of them to be fake non-towns established in the 1950s with no center, no history, no originality, no anything that would make them in any way appealing to me or anyone else who prefers to keep cookie cutters in the kitchen and out of subdivisions. Well, folks, I owe an apology to the entire Fox River Valley. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was to discover that St. Charles, Geneva, etc. are not terrible (that is to say: not Schaumburg. MAN do I hate Schaumburg, even if it does have an Ikea. Schaumburg is the embodiement of everything I loathe about suburbia.). After all, they are along a river, which would’ve made it a logical place to set up a town in the earlyish 1800s. Regardless, I was SO surprised to find that these towns actually had downtowns, and not only did they have downtowns, but they had lovely downtowns! I found Geneva in particular to be especially nice, and I really enjoyed running through it.

Perhaps the only thing I found more surprising than the loveliness of St. Charles, Geneva, and Batavia (I wasn’t all that enamored with Aurora, but I also didn’t see any of it beyond the Fox River Trail, as we didn’t veer off the trail at all during that portion of the race) was my pacing during the marathon. Historically, I’ve been fairly inconsistent in my pace from mile to mile, both in marathons themselves and kind of general, though I think I’m starting to get better at pacing overall. Anyway, I was shocked every time I looked at my watch though the first portion of the race. I was so consistently running 10:5x miles (with two 11:0x miles) that, heading into mile 10 or so, I started think I may average a 10:57 pace across the entire race. I did, however, have the benefit of this not being my first rodeo, and knew that mile 10 was far too early to start having any sort of real expectations about how the following 16 miles would shake out.

Around mile six, we ran through the Fabyan Forest Preserve, which was so pretty. Actually, most of this course was really pretty. Granted, it doesn’t take much to impress me with a course’s scenery these days–take me off the Lakefront Trail and I’m a happy camper–but I really enjoyed running through the woods along the river for (most of) the race. (The last few miles weren’t so wooded, but I’ll get to that later.) Somewhere in this forest preserve, a spectator had a sign that said something about losing toenails, and a runner just to my left commented that he had never lost a toenail in a race. I assumed this would be the beginning and end of our interaction, but oh, how wrong I was. Now, I don’t hate talking to people while I run–I do it all the time on my Saturday runs–and I certainly love to have company, but I really think I prefer to listen to people around me talking and not talk to anyone myself while running. This toenailed runner, however, was not of that same mind, and set about to chatting with me for the next two miles, even after I ditched him at an aid station soon after he started talking to me. So I learned about his girlfriend, and his triathlons, and his swimming, and his job, before getting to the eight mile mark, where he turned around and headed north with the rest of the half marathoners, while the 20 milers and my fellow full marathoners continued on south.

The half marathon course split off at mile eight(ish), and after that the full and 20 continued on together until mile 12(ish). Here, the 20 milers turned east to cross the river and then headed back north, while we marathoners kept going south for three miles before turning around and coming back up to that 20/26.2 split, where our course rejoined the 20 mile course. This meant that when I hit mile 12, there were lots of speedsters coming towards me, which I thought was really cool. The 3:25 pace group was the first group I saw, but there had been runners before that as well, so the first people I saw were all probably doing close to a 3:20 or so. Since the Chicago Marathon doesn’t have any out-and-back portions on the course, this was the first time I’ve ever seen those mythological runners for whom a BQ is not a laughable prospect, and it was really cool! I wish I could be one of those people.

Dehydration was my biggest downfall during last year’s Chicago Marathon, so in an effort to maintain some electrolyte balance, this year I brought pretzels along on the run. I had pretzels once during a long run months ago and they didn’t bother me, so even though I’ve barely practiced with them at all, I figured I’d give it a shot during the race and see what happened. I’m SO glad I did this. It was wonderful to eat real food instead of chews, and the saltiness tasted fantastic.

When I hit mile 16, I looked at my watch and was surprised to see an 11:21 split. That was nearly 30 seconds slower than I had been running, but I didn’t feel like I was putting in any less effort than I had been at any other point in the race. In retrospect, I imagine this was me hitting the wall, though it was really less of a “wall hit” than a “gradual encounter with the wall,” more along the lines of my bonk at Chicago in 2013 than my bonk in Chicago in 2014, which was immediate and obvious the second I turned onto Taylor Street that year.

Heading into this race, my #1 goal was to not feel sick when I finished. It was my birthday, after all, and I had food plans that I did not want thwarted by the marathon. When I got to mile 17.5 (by my watch – I didn’t run the tangents all that well and by that point in the race was about .2 miles ahead of the mile markers), I realized that I could continue running and be miserable, or start run/walking and probably be all right when I finished (this is actually the exact same thought process I had during my 20 miler two weeks ago). With that in mind, I decided to do four minutes running/one minute walking intervals for miles 17.5-18.5, and then would reevauluate. My “reevaluation” turned out to be more of a “complete deviation from the plan.” Honestly, there was very little rhyme or reason to my walk breaks after that. I tried to be somewhat consistent, but sometimes my heart wasn’t in it to start running again, or sometimes my heart wasn’t in it to start walking again, so I kind of just did whatever felt right–though that that point, very little felt right at all. I felt miserable and just wanted to cry (and did cry when I saw my family around mile 20ish).

I was in the midst of a walk break when my Fitbit alarm went off at 11:18 – the moment I turned 26. Determined to not walk through that occasion, I started shuffling again. This was just past an aid station at mile 21.5, and I felt one billion percent awful. My legs hurt, my ego hurt, and the sun was killing me. While the first 20 miles of the course had a good amount of shade, the last six miles had barely any at all (which benefitted my lack of willpower, because at some point I decided I would start running again when I got to shade, and there was barely any shade to be found!). I knew, when I looked at my watch at mile 22, that there was no way I’d break five hours, which was definitely another goal of mine, so at that point I basically gave up entirely. I knew some people running the half and 20 miler, and texted one of them when I got to mile 23 detailing my misery (“This is absolute hell,” is how I started it.). They had all been waiting for me at the finish, but ended up meeting me on the course around mile 24.5 and walked with me for a bit. No matter how hellish I’ve ever felt during a marathon, I have always, always, always run the last 1.2 miles, and I was not about to not do that on Sunday, so I ditched my support crew and shuffled on.

My family was at the finish line, marking the first time they’ve ever seen me actually finish a marathon (since you can’t get into the finish area of Chicago these days). When they saw me, they started singing Happy Birthday, and the people on the other side of the finish chute joined in as well, which was touching. I crossed the finish line in 5:14:01, making this my second slowest marathon to date.

All things considered, I actually didn’t feel too bad when I finished. The race director was in the finish chute when I finished, and chatted with me for a bit, which I thought was a really nice gesture, considering I don’t even know they guy, and I don’t think he knows me, either. He even got me a cup of Gatorade, which I thought was so nice of him. The volunteer who gave me my medal first tried to hand me a 20 miler medal, to which I said, “Oh no, buddy, I ran the whole dang thing,” and made sure I got the right one haha. They had a GREAT spread of food for runners after the race–pizza, bagels, bananas, donuts, bread pudding, and potato chips, which was definitely put Chicago’s bag of food to shame (not that I don’t like Chicago’s bag of food, but I liked this a LOT more than a bunch of pre-packaged stuff like you get at Chicago). I knew I had brunch coming up, so I didn’t get much, but I was super grateful for the variety and effort nevertheless.

Post-race, we went to Nosh, a breakfast/lunch place in downtown Geneva, where I DEVOURED a three-egg omelet with bacon, ham and cheese, potatoes, and an English muffin. They had an awesome menu, and I wish Geneva wasn’t like an hour away, because I’d love to go there again. I’d also love to go to the All Chocolate Kitchen next door to Nosh, which I tragically did not make the time to visit while in Geneva on Sunday. I did, however, have Portillo’s for dinner later that day, including a slice of chocolate cake, of course, so that sort of makes up for missing the All Chocolate Kitchen.

I’m not particularly happy with how my race went. Ideally, I had hoped to run almost 30 minutes faster than I did, and while I know the weather and lack of shade during the last 10K was out of my control, I’m pretty frusrated with my performance. I wanted a 5:00+ marathon to be a one-time thing for me, or a two-time thing max, as I don’t particularly expect to break 5:00 at Chicago this year, given the whole “I already ran a marathon three weeks before Chicago” thing. I feel confident in my abilities at any race distance except the marathon, and that bothers me more than I care to admit. I don’t need to be the best marathoner, but I don’t even feel like I’m a particularly good marathoner, which really bugs me, since the past four summers–the past four YEARS, really–of my life have revolved around marathoning, and I still can’t seem to get that stupid distance right. I’m probably not training nearly enough for these races, at least in terms of weekly mileage, and I’m sure that’s a huge factor in my inability to do as well as I want to do during a marathon (that, and my diet, which could always stand a bit of improvement). On the flip side, I know when I’m training more, I feel like I’m not doing enough “other stuff,” and that bothers me as well, so I’m in a bit of a catch-22 with this, I suppose. I want to have it all–low mileage, three days a week of non-running training, plus a rest day, and fast race times–and that’s probably not going to happen.

However, I LOVED the Fox Valley Marathon. I cannot say enough good things about this race. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it again–Chicago is much more convenient for me, since I live in the city and don’t have a car, and the third weekend in September is even more of a crapshoot than the second weekend in October as far as weather goes–but I’d recommend it to anyone. I loved the course, I loved the organization, I loved the small field, I loved that it didn’t feel like THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF MY LIFE, unlike Chicago with all its hype. This was, top to bottom, a fantastic, fantastic race, and I’m really glad I had the chance to run it.


Chicago Marathon Training Week 15

Sunday, September 11: Dance.
I had every intention of going to the gym and spending 30-45 minutes on the bike or elliptical on Sunday. Then on Saturday afternoon, my dance teacher texted me, asking me if I could sub for him in his class on Sunday. I spent two hours furiously re-teaching myself a combo we learned last April (like April 2015 last April, not this past April) on Saturday, and then went to his class on Sunday and taught…all two people who showed up. Haha. But I thought it went well, and I was proud of my debut as a substitute dance teacher🙂

Monday, September 12: 4 miles in 40:20 for a 10:04 pace.
Welcome to Bethany’s Week of Way Too Fast Runs Because She’s Stressed. I really, really intended to take it super easy on all of my runs this week, but my stress level over my impending marathon was THROUGH THE ROOF. As a result, all of my runs were way faster than I wanted them to be, including this one. The dance routine I taught on Sunday had irritated my shin, and it bugged me on this run as well, which sent me down the rabbit hole of injury-related panic and dread.

Tuesday, September 13: Dance.
I was at work on Tuesday, showing my boss a project I had just wrapped up, when my dance teacher texted me again, asking if I could sub that night as well (he had a show in Wisconsin on Tuesday, which is why he was unavailable Sunday [for rehearsing for his show] and Tuesday [for the show itself]). So I continued my journey to become a professional dance instructor, and told my boss if I ever just don’t show up one day, it’s because I finally made the leap and decided to dance full time (that will never happen, to be clear).

Wednesday, September 14: 3 miles in 28:05 for a 9:21 pace.
To be fair, I don’t think this was actually three miles. My watch beeped the first mile a bit earlier than usual, but I was on a major time crunch as I needed to make it to therapy on time, so I just rolled with it. The weather was SO NICE for running on Wednesday! Almost makes those miserable summer runs worth it (but not quite😉 ).

Thursday, September 15: 2 miles in 19:12 for a 9:34 pace.
Ah, the last-run-before-the-marathon two miler! So simple. This was about as straightforward as they come in the running department, though it was, once again, too fast, because of my never-ending stress.

Friday, September 16: Rest.

Saturday, September 17: Rest.

So there we have it! One marathon training cycle down, another maintenance…cycle? period? to go. I’m writing this on Thursday evening, so I have nothing to report yet in terms of my marathon (it was great! The weather, by some miracle, turned out to be 55 and cloudy the entire time with a gentle 5 mph cross breeze to keep it extra comfortable. And I BQed. <– these are all lies I’m making up on Thursday. Please ignore all of the things I just wrote.), but I’m sure I’ll have a recap up soon enough🙂

Thursday Things

1. Hi! I feel like it’s been SO long since I wrote a life post – probably because my last Thursday Things post went up three weeks ago today! So let’s catch up.

2. My trip to Seattle was half good, half nightmareish. But let’s focus on the good first. We got to Seattle on a Friday and spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at my grandparents’ retirement home. We didn’t do a whole lot while we were there, other than go to Tacoma on Saturday for my half marathon (and then hung around downtown Tacoma for a bit after the race), but on Monday, we drove out to the peninsula, where we had rented a house in Pacific Beach. Pacific Beach, as the name implies, is right on the Pacific Ocean, though we didn’t have beach access from our house. If you’ve ever been to the beaches in Washington, though, you know they’re more of the “fly a kite and dip your toes in the water” sort of beach rather than a “lay out and relax all day” kind of beach – unless you’re into laying out and relaxing on a beach when it’s cloudy, windy, and in the mid-60s. Personally, that’s not my cup of tea.

On Tuesday, we went up to the Hoh National Rainforest in Olympic National Park. I had been to the Olympic National Park 19 years earlier, but, unsurprisingly, I don’t remember much of it, so it was nice to go back. We did a little bit of hiking and saw a lot of pretty nature.


On Wednesday, we drove back to the Seattle area and had a lazy day at my grandparents’, and then on Thursday went into downtown Seattle for our traditional trip to Ivar’s:


made friends with the seagulls:


and made our equally traditionally trip to the Pike Place Market:


That is basically all I’ve done in downtown Seattle the past four times I’ve been out there, but honestly, Ivar’s and the market make me so happy that I was perfectly content to do both of those things. However, since we always do those things, we were kind of in the mood to do something different, close by, and cheap. (I had wanted to go to the aquarium to see the puffins, but at $25/person, that was out of the question. My parents were not interested in spending $100 so I could see puffins – and I wasn’t interested in begging them to do that either, because that’s a WHOLE lotta money to see some seabirds.) After some Googling, we discovered that the Seattle Art Museum is free to everyone on the first Thursday of the month. And lo and behold, it was September 1 – the first Thursday of the month! So to the Seattle Art Museum we went.


It was nice! A lot smaller than the Art Institute, unsurprisingly, which made it much easier to see a fair portion of the museum’s collections in the time we had to spare. I’ve never come close to covering the entire Art Institute in one trip.

And then on Friday we flew back to our respective homes. My parents and brother left two hours before I did, which meant that I was at SeaTac 3.5 hours before my flight left. I walked laps around the airport and hit 10,000 steps for the day before I even boarded my flight, and, of course, hit up the Made in Washington store, as I am apt to do, to load up on the local goods:

(I actually bought the tea at the market this time, which makes it feel much more authentic🙂 )

3. And now, for the nightmare. So, approximately one minute after we walked into my grandparents’ retirement home on Friday, my phone died. Its battery was at 17%, but sometimes the battery display is incorrect, so I was annoyed, but whatever – your phone dies, you plug it in to recharge it, and all is well. WELL. That only works if your battery actually died. When I plugged my phone in, it came back to life for a minute or two, and then died again, even though it was connected to a power source. I originally had it plugged into a battery pack, so I switched to the wall, and the same thing happened. I then switched to my brother’s charging cord instead of mine, and again: my phone continually died and came back to life while plugged in. At this point, I started panicking. Something was clearly very, very wrong with my phone.

So, off to the closest Apple store we went (we being my mom, my brother, and me). We got an appointment at the Genius Bar, where I learned that my phone was committing suicide–really. I mean, that’s not how the genius who helped us phrased it, but the phone was, literally, killing itself.

When you open up Diagnostics on your phone, you see all sorts of messages. Most of these messages are fairly innocuous – except, that is, for the messages that end in “panic.” This article explains it well, but I’m particularly fond of the opening line in the Panic section: “I’ve saved the worst for last.” Yes, friends, there is truly nothing worse that your phone can do to itself than have panic messages. These only happen due to faulty hardware, and there is only one possible outcome: eventually (and by “eventually” I mean “in about 12 hours”), your phone doesn’t turn back on again. Ever. It’s bricked itself. (As a point of clarification, my phone was not actually “dying” as in turning itself off like I thought it was. Instead, it was rebooting. Every time it does this, it gets closer and closer to death, until eventually, it doesn’t reboot at all.)

This, of course, happened one week to the day after my warranty expired, which seems awfully fishy to me, but I have insurance on my phone, which meant that Verizon would replace it for free. But MY OH MY what an ordeal that was. See, when your phone kills itself, you can’t just walk into Verizon and get a new one. No, no. They have special phones to replace suicidal ones–not brand new phones, but refurbished phones, and those phones don’t live at Verizon stores, they live in some warehouse somewhere not in Seattle. When we went in on Friday afternoon, the customer service rep who helped us told us that they would have a phone overnighted to me via FedEx, and it would arrive at my grandparents’ house between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. the following day (a Saturday). I could live without my phone for that amount of time, so we went on our way.

Well. When we got home from Tacoma Saturday afternoon, the phone still had not arrived. My mom checked the package tracking, and it turned out that the phone wouldn’t get there until Monday. This was a particular problem because we wouldn’t BE there on Monday – we would have already left for the peninsula by then. Fightin’ mad, my dad first called Verizon to demand a resolution, and when that went nowhere, we went back to the store we had been to the day before, where we had the “pleasure” of being helped by the rudest customer service rep this side of a call center hotline and basically were told, “There’s nothing we can do for you. Sorry.” Over, and over, and over again.

I was livid. The receipt I got on Friday CLEARLY said “Next Day Delivery,” and FedEx does, indeed, deliver on Saturdays, despite what the lady at the Verizon store tried to tell me. Eventually, the store manager got involved, and while he was also less than helpful, to say the least, he did get the package redirected to our rental home in Pacific Beach, and credited my portion of the bill on our family plan for the month, since I clearly wouldn’t be using my phone for several days on this billing cycle. The phone finally arrived on Tuesday, so when we got back to the rental house after our time in the rainforest on Tuesday, I tried to set my phone up, but couldn’t get the backup of my old phone I had made to my brother’s computer to sync to my new phone, so I got to start over from scratch on my new phone, which was just a blast and a half. (I had never backed up my phone to iCloud, because the cloud freaks me out.)

I know it’s kind of silly to get all bent out of shape over not having a phone for five days, but it was so much more than just not having a phone, you know? Smartphones aren’t just phones – they’re dozens of different tools packed into one. Not having my phone meant that I didn’t have my camera, didn’t have my alarm clock, didn’t my calendar–smartphones have become such a part of daily life that not having one goes way beyond inconvenience, especially when you’re out of town.

What’s been going on with all of you? I’m so behind! I’m trying to catch up on blog reading, but it’s been a struggle.
Have you ever had phone woes? Tell me so I feel less alone. Haha.

Chicago Marathon Training Week 14

Sunday, September 4: Rest.
I woke up Sunday morning feeling a lot better than I normally feel after a 20 miler, but I still wasn’t going to push it with a workout. Between my 20 miler and the wedding I attended immediately after, I’m pretty sure I got enough activity on Saturday to cover me for Sunday.

Monday, September 5: Rest.
Another national holiday, another unintentional rest day. I planned to do yoga…then I did nothing. I walked around a bit, I guess – does that count?

Tuesday, September 6: Dance.
I missed the first week of this session, as it took place while I was on vacation, so I was a little worried about making up for lost time on Tuesday. As it turned out, my teacher wasn’t even there and we had a sub who taught us a routine different than the one everyone had learned the previous week. I’m still behind, of course, because I don’t know what they learned on week one, but at least now I don’t feel totally behind.

Wednesday, September 7: 2.03 miles in 20:04 for a 9:53 pace.
I don’t even want to talk about this run. I went into Wednesday planning to minimally run three miles, but ideally run 4.5 miles. It was terribly hot and humid Wednesday afternoon, so I resigned myself to the treadmill. While at the gym, however, I learned that I needed to go to the grocery store to pick up supplies for a picnic I’d be attending immediately after work the following day. I could have done this after therapy, which I planned to go to straight from my run, but the radar looked threatening, and I didn’t want to be caught in a thunderstorm on the way home from grocery shopping, which meant I had to go shopping before therapy. Obviously that cut way down on my time available to run, and consequently cut down on my mileage as well.

Thursday, September 8: 4.04 miles in 40:00 for a 9:54 pace.
I think I want to talk about this run even less than Wednesday’s run. I had do this run in the morning before work, which meant I had to get it done on the treadmill once again. Prior to Wednesday, it had been I think pretty close to a month since I last slogged through a run on a treadmill, and in that time I have lost ALL patience I ever had for that machine. I HATED this run on Thursday because I was stuck on the treadmill. Absolutely, totally, completely hated it. I also HATED getting up before 5 a.m. to make this happen. Lots of hatred going on on Thursday in regards to running.

Friday, September 9: Rest.

Saturday, September 10: 8 miles in 1:23:38 for a 10:28 pace.
I had been exhausted all of last week, and decided if it was raining when I woke up on Saturday morning and looked like it would still be raining when our group run began at 6:30, I’d bail. I can do eight miles on my own, and the rest of the group was doing 14 anyway, since they’re not insane and aren’t running a marathon on Sunday. To my utter dismay, it was not raining when I woke up Saturday morning, so I dragged myself out of bed and got to the group run. Fortunately, the most beautiful sunrise of the season thus far greeted me when I arrived.


And then I turned around and saw a RAINBOW!


All good things🙂

It was a lot warmer and more humid than I expected (though I don’t know why I expected low humidity, since clearly rain was coming), and I felt super, super dehydrated on this run. I really need to get better about remembering to hydrate in the days leading up to long runs (or, this week, my marathon) so I stop suffering so much on Saturdays. Overall, this run was fairly uneventful, but it did feel weird to only be doing eight instead of 14.

Holy smokes you guys, I’m running a marathon on Sunday. I definitely haven’t fully wrapped my mind around that yet. (Or the fact that I’m going to have to do it all again in a month…trying to not think about that.) I guess since I’ve only ever done Chicago, it doesn’t feel real that I’m running a marathon at a time other than Chicago, and it’s really disorienting and confusing. I truly have no idea what to expect on Sunday. It’d be nice to run a 4:45, but to say that’s my goal would be an enormous overstatement. I really just want to finish and not feel like I’m doing to be sick and/or die at the end so I can still celebrate my birthday. Ambitious, I know😛 I hope I’ve respected the marathon enough throughout the past 16 weeks (I started “pre-training” for Chicago two weeks before the race, which, after I decided to run Fox Valley, I’ve decided to count as marathon training as well, despite no recaps of that training). I really don’t feel like I have, and I’m putting a lot (a LOT) of faith in my past five years of fairly consistent long distance running, and, even more so, my past three summers of marathon training, to carry me through this. I know fitness isn’t an academic degree, where once you earn it, you never lose it (wouldn’t that be nice!), but I’m still choosing to believe I’m more prepared to do something this stupid ambitious than I would have been earlier in my running career. I guess we’ll find out on Sunday!