Goals for 2017: September Check-In

Goal #1: Publish at least one freelance piece
I…have done absolutely nothing in this regard all month. I…also literally copied and pasted that from last month’s check-in. High five for laziness, both in regards to freelancing AND in regards to writing this post.

Goal #2: Get rid of 50 things
After almost exactly two full months of having bags of things I decided post-move I no longer needed sitting around my apartment, I finally did something about it two Saturdays ago and went on a monster donating/recycling spree, first getting rid of ALL OF THE ELECTRONICS (well, all of the olds ones I no longer use, that is) and then getting rid of ALL OF THE REST OF THE THINGS at Goodwill. Current total for the year: 589 things. Yes, it does kill me that I’m at 589, not 590 or, even better, 600, thank you for checking on my Type A tendencies. Even though I feel like I’ve gotten rid of everything I could possibly get rid of, I would be THRILLED if I could find 11 more items to get rid of just to round this out.

Goal #3: Finish Dutch on Duolingo
I hit my one-year streak!

duolingooneyear

Woohoo!

I have recently discovered that conjugations are the death of me when it comes to Dutch. I have to review them all. the. time., and I still haven’t really figured out the rhyme or reason to how they’re used in Dutch. (I mean, they’re used for the same purposes as they are in English, obviously, but I haven’t figured out the rules that dictate where they’re supposed to go in a sentence.) I also recently discovered, while looking up a bakery a friend who recently visited the Netherlands posted about on Facebook, that my Dutch reading skills in a non-Duolingo setting are dismal at best. I had barely any idea what the website was trying to say until I translated it to English. I did, however, learn that “cookie monster” translates to “koekliefhebber” in Dutch, so it at least it wasn’t a complete waste of my time 😛

Goal #4: Stay healthy and out of PT
Done and done, thus far *knocks on wood* As for the other stuff…well…

– Strength train once per week, minimally, during running season: I kind of did strength training during one NTC workout during the month of September. Fail.
– Stretch after every run: I only skipped stretching once all month! What! I was sure I had skipped it more than that. I know I haven’t been quite as good about doing SPF in its entirety after runs lately, but I guess I’ve done a fairly good job at stretching in September. Good job, self.
– Foam roll after every run, even if that means with a Moji rather than a full-blown foam roller: Nope. I
– Do at least three PT exercises twice per week: I’m pretty sure I did this? I would think, between doing PT after runs and the little bits I try to sneak in during the workday, that I must’ve gotten in an average of three PT exercises twice per week. Even if I didn’t, I’m going to let myself believe that I did 😛

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Chicago Marathon Training Week 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

runstats

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

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

Friday, September 29: Rest

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

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

Thursday Things

1. Since I saw no fewer than three anxious posts about the forecast for marathon day on social media on Monday, I would like to offer up an annual reminder that weather forecasts attempting to predict what wrath the atmosphere may or may not unleash on us are rarely accurate beyond the next 48 hours and are not worth the angst they create.

If you could get certified in worrying, I assure you that I would have the highest level of certification possible. I worry about everything. I worry about work. I worry about my health. I worry about other people’s health. I worry about my safety. I worry about other people’s safety. I exists in a constant state of, at best, low level anxiety. I am very, very good at worrying. But even I don’t worry about the forecast for marathon day (anymore) two weeks in advance, because, after years of tracking the forecast for marathon day to prove how useless of an exercise that was, I have enough data to even convince me–ME! A girl for whom no amount of data or facts can assuage her anxiety that bad things will happen–that the forecast is not worth worrying about.

Exhibit A: 2014.
In order to prove my point, I started tracking the forecast for marathon day in 2014 (Oct. 12) the day it became possible to do so in AccuWeather. I wrote down the date I read the forecast, the forecast’s prediction, and, closer to the race, which forecast I used (AccuWeather, Weather Underground [Wunder], Weather.com, WGN, and NBC Chicago.). Behold:

Aug. 31 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 1 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 2 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 3 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 4 — A chance of rain. 58/45.
Sept. 5 — Mostly cloudy, a little rain. 58/45.
Sept. 6 — Mostly cloudy, a little rain. 58/45.
Sept. 8 — Clouds and sun. 56/38.
Sept. 9 — An a.m. shower; partly sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 10 — An a.m. shower; party sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 11 — An a.m. shower; party sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 12 — Cloudy with a little rain. 56/40.
Sept. 13 — Cloudy with a little rain. 56/40.
Sept. 14 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 15 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 16 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 17 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 18 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 19 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 20 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 21 — Mostly cloudy. 62/48.
Sept. 22 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 23 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 24 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 25 — Clouds giving way to sun. 62/46.
Sept. 26 — Clouds giving way to some sun. 62/46.
Sept. 27 — Clouds giving way to some sun. 62/46.
Sept. 28 — Mostly cloudy. 62/48.
Sept. 29 — Sunny. 71/43.
Sept. 30 — Sunny. 72/50.
Oct. 1 — Mostly sunny. 60/37.
Oct. 2 — A little rain in the morning. 61/44.
Oct. 3 — Partly sunny with a shower. 66/52.
Oct. 4 — Cloudy with a few showers. 70/51.
Oct. 5 — Heavy showers in the morning. 64/46.
Oct. 6 — Rain tapering to showers. 67/56.
Oct. 7 — Partly sunny with a t-storm. 72/54. (Accu)
Chance of rain. 68/57. (Wunder)
Scattered t-storms. 70/52. (Weather)
Clouds part following an overnight frontal passage. 67/52. (WGN)
Scattered t-storms 70/52. (NBC)
Oct. 8 — A thunderstorm possible. 69/55. (Accu)
Partly cloudy. 68/54. (Wunder)
Isolated t-storms. 68/52. (Weather)
Cloudy w/ a few pds of showers/t-storms possible for CM 70/50. (WGN)
Isolated t-storms 68/52. (NBC)
Oct. 9 — A morning shower possible. 68/55. (Accu)
Partly cloudy. 66/48 (Wunder)
Few showers. 67/50 (Weather)
Turning cooler with steady easterly wind. 66/48 (WGN)
Few showers. 67/50 (NBC)
Oct. 10 — Partly sunny. 68/55 (Accu)
Clear. 64/52 (Wunder)
Partly cloudy. 66/46 (Weather)
Lingering clouds and possible showers exit area early. 67/49 (WGN)
Partly cloudy. 66/46 (NBC)
Oct. 11 — Partly sunny. 65/52 (Accu)
Clear. 64/50 (Wunder)
Sunny. 67/46 (Weather)
Becoming mostly sunny. 66/45 (WGN)
Sunny. 67/46 (NBC)
Oct. 12 — Partly sunny. 65/51 (Accu)
Clear. 63/52 (Wunder)
Sunny. 66/46 (Weather)
Pleasant for mid-October. 67/46 (WGN)
Sunny. 66/46 (NBC)

Please note that a mere five days before the race, every outlet was predicting thunderstorms. Did it storm on race day in 2014? No, it did not. It was sunny that day, and, according to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Media Guide’s Historical Weather Conditions section, there was a high of 64 and a low of 45. Weather Underground came the closest to getting that right, and when did they get it right? 72 hours before the race. This is not an anomaly, either. The same thing happened in 2013 (please see this blog post, and then this blog post, for evidence), and for all I know it could’ve happened in 2015 and 2016 as well – I’ve stopped paying attention.

Exhibit B: My complaints about the heat wave.

As you may recall, I posted this screenshot last week, complaining about the weather:

forecast

I would now like to present you with another screenshot of AccuWeather’s forecast, taken a week later:

forecast

There are a few things I’d really like to draw your attention to here.

Thing #1: Tuesday. As you can tell, the high on Tuesday most certainly was not 79 degrees, even though they said it would be less than a week before.

Thing #2: Wednesday through Monday. While the details (sunny and hot) were all correct, the predicted high temperatures themselves were off by anywhere from four to seven degrees. These are temperature differentials marathoners will absolutely split hairs over, so this is not insignificant.

Thing #3: Friday 9/29 and Saturday 9/30’s details. While the predicted high for both of these days has gone up, rain has been taken out of the forecast entirely. This is something else marathoners split hairs over, so once again, not insignificant.

I think people forget how much the forecast changes from day to day–do you remember the specifics of what kind of weather was predicted for today this time last week? Because without that screenshot, I sure wouldn’t–and this lack of knowledge, combined with taper crazies, leads to panic. So I am here, fellow marathoners, to assure you as a professional worrier, that you do not need to worry about the forecast for race day. (Yet. If the forecast is bad on the Thursday before the race, then you–and I–can definitely start worrying.) Although, I will offer up another friendly reminder: you can control so many things on race day. You can control your pace, your hydration, your nutrition, where you decide to run on the road, your clothes, your accessories, your aid station strategy, how many selfies you take per mile. You can’t control the weather, no matter how much you worry about it, so instead of losing the precious hours of sleep you need leading up to race day tossing and turning and refreshing your forecasting app of choice, figure out how you’ll need to adjust your race plan in light of the forecast, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you were never going to win this race anyway, and even if you had huge goals (a BQ, an enormous PR, etc.) that the weather may sabotage, your life will go on. Your family will not love you less if you don’t BQ. Your training partners will not abandon you if you don’t run your fastest time ever. Your nonexistent sponsors will not snatch your livelihood away from you if you don’t have the race you wanted to have. It’s one long run on one long run day. You will be okay if it doesn’t go the way you envisioned when you signed up.

I would also like to take one moment to point out that we had seven consecutive days where the high broke 90 degrees. I would be exceedingly okay with never experiencing something like that, particularly in late September, ever again.

2. Since I already touched on the topic of taper crazies: guys. I do not feel ready for the marathon. Not even a little bit. This is the first year that I’ve gotten to taper and instead of feeling immediate relief that I could finally cut back on my mileage, instead felt instant and unrelenting panic over how little time I had left, and how none of that time really counts as training. Taking off almost the entirety of the week before Labor Day killed me. I’ve missed so. many. miles. this season: 47, which, when you consider that I’ve been averaging 20 miles/week, is nearly two and a half weeks of training. Two and a half weeks out of an 18 week program that’s really 15 weeks + three weeks of taper. Two and a half weeks out of an 18 week program whose 15 weeks of “real training” start with seven weeks of fairly low mileage–all of which I completed just fine, of course–leaving just eight weeks for hard training, of which I missed a QUARTER. I have been a very bad runner and added miles during taper (I KNOW, I KNOW. But I only added two last week and two this week, none next week, and I only added them to my mid-week long runs, and my midweek mileage was STILL lower than CARA’s training program AND Hal Higdon called for on those same weeks anyway, so just…leave me alone. Haha.), which kind of makes me feel better, but also makes me feel worse because now I’m worried that I’m screwing up my taper. I just really, really wish I had more time.

3. When my tomato plant started ripening the tomatoes it had produced back at the beginning of August, it also stopped blossoming. I had at least a dozen blossoms on my plant when my first tomato began to turn red, but all of them shriveled up without turning into fruit. That was fine by me–I had 42 tomatoes on the plant at the time, which seemed plenty sufficient for my tomato-consumption needs.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I went outside to pick the most recently ripened tomatoes last Thursday and discovered several tiny baby tomatoes AND new blossoms.

I don’t know if this was brought on by the heat wave or if tomato plants normally get a second wind towards the end of the season. Either way, I now have more tomatoes than I originally anticipated (and will no longer have an accurate count of how many tomatoes my plant produced as a result, since I don’t know how many I’ve picked/eaten at this point). I’m pretty surprised that a plant that looks half dead managed to pull off such a feat, but I’m not complaining.

Speaking of my tomato plant, I am kind of eagerly awaiting its demise (don’t tell it I said that), because after I pull it up, I plan to plant tulip and daffodil bulbs in the bathtub for next spring. It needs to get a lot colder before I can plant any bulbs, but that hasn’t kept me from daydreaming about what I want my tulip and daffodil garden to look like. Since my Netherlands trip has, once again, been delayed by a year–but mark my word: I don’t care who’s getting married in April of 2019, I am not. going. No one’s wedding will derail my thrice-rescheduled Netherlands trip!–planting tulips in my own backyard seems like the best way to get my tulip fix.

Please, shower me in your stories of being undertrained for a marathon and having the race of your life. I need all the encouragement I can get.

Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

I hit the half marathon of half marathons on Sunday (that is to say, I ran my 13th half marathon on Sunday), and boy oh boy did I earn it.

chicagohalf2017goodiebag

Sunday happened to fall in the middle of the worst, most unrelenting heat wave we’ve had all year, and after running 20 miles in the heat last Sunday, I was extremely uninterested a half marathon in similar conditions. I never actually considered a weather-related DNS until Sunday, and honestly, the only thing that got me out there Sunday morning was my anxiousness over how behind I feel in marathon training. I’ve missed 35 long run miles this season, and I certainly was not about to miss 13 more for anything short of serious illness, injury or other similar emergency.

I woke up at 4:45 Sunday morning to a balmy 74-feels-like-78. I had known all week that this was not going to be a PR sort of day, though I did hope to at least do better than I did in Nashville earlier this year, when it was just about as warm and terrible. I thought I ran a 2:45 in Nashville (turns out I ran a 2:40), so the goal was to do a sub-2:45 for sure, and maybe do a sub-2:30 if I could mange. I figured I’d be walking a lot and didn’t have any “run x miles before I start walking” hopes or dreams.

chicagohalf2017start

I crossed the start line three minutes after the race began and felt like the entire field passed me. My goal is always to start slow and speed up as a race goes on, but it was still a little demoralizing to get passed so. many. times. I stuck to my guns, though, churning out some 11:xx miles.

Honestly, I felt WAY better than I expected I’d feel, and a mile or so onto Lake Shore Drive, I was having a hard time holding myself back. I knew the second half would be, minimally, much sunnier than the first half, though, and didn’t want to start running faster only to pay for it later. I did try to keep all my miles faster than 12:xx, though, and while I came close on my fifth mile (11:50), I managed to never drop below that 12:00 threshold. Woo!

To my great delight, I negative splitted all of the second half miles (11:36, 11:32, 11:20, 11:20, 11:16, 11:02, 10:44, 9:12 [the last .23 – I favored shade over tangents and didn’t run this race very well]). That doesn’t very often, and it certainly doesn’t happen often on a hot day like Sunday, so I’m quite proud of that. I only walked when getting water from the aid stations, and did my best to not get caught up in the crowds at the aid stations to avoid losing too much time.

Speaking of the aid stations: for a race that always takes place in September, I was BEYOND IMPRESSED with how much Life Time did to keep runners cool on the course. None of the aid stations seemed to be scrambling for water by the time I got there. There were regular-sized misters you see at football games at a few of the aid stations, there was a gigantic, fire department mister somewhere in the neighborhood of mile nine, and most–possibly all?–of the aid stations on the return trip on Lake Shore Drive were handing out cups of ice, which I happily stuffed down the front and back of my sports bra, as once does when it’s 89 degrees and you’re trying to run a half marathon in full sunlight. They also handed out popsicles at the finish line. I had half of mine, but I wanted salt more than I wanted sweet, and it was so cold compared to the rest of me that I was having a hard time eating it. It was a much appreciated gesture, though!

I checked my watch obsessively down the final stretch and was pretty sure I’d get in under 2:30. Sure enough, I crossed the finish line in 2:29:31 #nailedit. It’s my second slowest half marathon to date, but considering that it was also the second worst conditions I’ve run in, I can’t complain.

I downed some water, collected my obscenely large medal, ate my free slice of pizza, and stumbled out in search of air conditioning and a cold shower. This certainly wasn’t the day I hoped for or expected when I signed up for a late September half marathon, but I’m really happy with how things went. This is the first time I’ve made it through a run lately without questioning whether the effort involved is worth it, and that, my friends, was a wonderful feeling.

chicagohalf2017medal

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 22: Rest

Saturday, September 23: Rest

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

Thursday Things

1. Of all the extra benefits my company gives its employees (extra, by my definition, being the things that go beyond your basic health/dental/401k benefits), I’d have to say my favorite one is that you can take your birthday off without it counting against your annual PTO allotment. (If your birthday falls on a weekend, you can take the day before or after your birthday off instead.) I like not working on my birthday just in general, but with the way marathon training timing has worked out for the past two years, I’ve especially liked not having to go to work the day after a marathon (last year) or the day after the most miserable 20 miler ever (this year).

For the second year in a row, the Shedd Aquarium was free for Illinois residents on my birthday day off (last year it was free on Sept. 19, the day after my birthday, but since my birthday was on Sunday last year, I took Monday off.), so I went to visit the penguins to kick off 27.

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The Shedd’s penguins are all molting (I expected that would be the case, since they were all molting when I went this time last year), which means they’re grumpy and fairly uninterested in anything other than their own discomfort, so they mostly just stood around and picked at their itchy feathers. But they were still super adorable! I officially turned 27 while watching them, and I have to say that that beat officially turning 26 while I was on mile 21 or so of the Fox Valley Marathon last year. Though, considering my affinity for penguins and my affinity for torturing myself by running long distances, I guess both ways were appropriate.

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I happened to time my visit to the belugas and otters perfectly, and got to see their trainers working with them.

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I love the belugas so much. Two of my friends recently got engaged via the Shedd’s Beluga Encounter, which I thought was the coolest thing EVER. Anyone can do a Beluga Encounter at the Shedd (if you’re willing to drop some $$$. They’re not cheap.), but if you schedule a proposal Beluga Encounter, not only do you get to meet the belugas and have them do some tricks for you, but their final trick is to bring you a waterproof box that contains an engagement ring. *dies* You can also propose during a Penguin Encounter at the Shedd, though frankly, I’m not sure which one is more adorable, since both animals are unspeakably cute.

Anyway.

I knew belugas could do fun little tricks (I particularly enjoyed their dancing), but I had no idea you could train otters! The trainer could get them all to line up in a little row, but my favorite trick was when they would twirl around in a circle! It was the cutest thing.

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I also went to visit the pretty fishies, which I thought I had never done before until I got downstairs to the Wild Reef exhibit and thought it looked familiar, so I guess I have?

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While in the Wild Reef, I found Dory:

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I didn’t quite find Nemo, because I don’t think there are any Nemos in the Wild Reef exhibit (or if there are, I didn’t see them), but I did find an anemonefish, which is a type of clownfish, so close enough.

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I brought my SLR to the Shedd and was super impressed with how well it handled the low light conditions! I didn’t think I’d get any good photos of anything with how much the animals move, but I was quite happy with how most of my pictures turned out.

2. When I went to the Shedd for free last year, it wasn’t totally free. I had to pay extra to see the penguins (a price I was MORE than willing to pay), and I would’ve had to pay extra extra to see an aquatic presentation, if I remember correctly. Not so this year! I only had to pay extra if I wanted to do one of the 4D shows (which I didn’t), and since I arrived about 30 minutes before an aquatic presentation, I got to see one of those!

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I expected the presentation to be all dolphin tricks, but it turned out to be more about Shedd’s rescuing, rehabilitation, and training missions. I thought it was really interesting! They had the dolphins do some tricks, then brought out a sea lion who had been shot in the face as a pup and as a result is blind (*sobs forever*). They had trained him to do things like wave hello, which was crushingly adorable. Then the dolphins did some more cool things, and after that they brought out a DOG! I was not aware that the Shedd rescues and rehabilitates dogs, but apparently they have four of them. Peach was a total cutie!

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The whole point of bringing out Peach was to show that the same training methods that work on dogs also work on dolphins, so there was a demonstration where Peach’s trainer would have her do a trick (like shaking, as pictured above), and then a dolphin trainer would have a dolphin do a similar trick. The Shedd trains via positive reinforcement (so no “Bad *insert-animal-name-here*!” or saying no), which I thought was really great.

After the show, another trainer brought out a red-tailed hawk! I have to say, I did not at all expect the Shedd Aquarium to be a rescuer to dogs and hawk, but I certainly didn’t mind it!

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This red-tailed hawk doesn’t have a left eye, so it can’t survive in the wild, since hawks rely so heavily on their powerful vision to find prey and eat.

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So instead, it lives at the Shedd.

I guess I can’t really speak to how the Shedd treats its animals, since obviously a show like this is meant to give you a good impression of the aquarium, but it definitely seemed like they care a lot about the health, well-being, and stimulation of the animals in their care.

3. I know there is no task so fruitless as complaining about the weather, but you guys, WHAT is going on with the weather.

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I am beyond not okay with this. It’s September! LATE September! Why are we going to have six consecutive days where it’s pushing 90 in September?!? Granted, I’d be annoyed by six consecutive days where it’s pushing 90 in July or August, but I especially hate it this time of year! I’m going to be running in worse weather during the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday than I ran in during the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half in July. That’s not how this is supposed to work! The two hottest long runs of marathon season are going to be the 20 miler and the first long run of taper. WHY.

I also know the only thing less useful than complaining about the weather is worrying about the weather, but I’d be lying if I said this unrelenting, unseasonable weather wasn’t making me antsy about the weather on marathon day. Obviously the weather can change dramatically between now and two and a half weeks from now–two weeks ago, the high was 67–but man, I would just feel so much better if it could start being seasonable outside.

Have you ever been to the Shedd Aquarium?
Did you do anything fun for your most recent birthday?

Chicago Marathon Training Week 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15: Rest

Saturday, September 16: Rest

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