Full Marathon Recap (it’s a long one!)

Hi friends!

Writing this whilst watching the Cubs – I love living so close to Wrigley – I can actually hear the roar of the crowd through my windows!

I’ve waited to write this post because I want to get everything right. And I want to collect all of my impressions from yesterday. So forgive me if it’s overly detailed and maybe even boring – I’d understand if you didn’t read through the whole thing!

I’ll start by checking in with where I am right now: sore and on the couch. More sore than I’d expected, and in different places – like my shins (they never hurt) and my left quad. Comically, where am I not sore? My tushie, the source of my major injury this summer!! I had lofty plans of going to a spinning class tomorrow and yoga on Wednesday to try to flush out my legs..not giving up on the plan but not so sure it’ll come to fruition!

Now the recap. πŸ™‚

When last I wrote I had gotten all of my gear at the race expo and was attempting to “rest” for the remainder of the day – easier said than done. But I did my best and watched a lot of tv and read a lot of running articles. I took my trusty Tylenol and I got some sleep Saturday night. Sunday morning I felt really calm, for the most part, and prepared. The only hiccup was taking a cab to the starting area – my freighbor had suggested a cab over the L but with so many road closures the cabbie really didn’t know the best way to Grant Park. We ended up coming within maybe 5 blocks of the start area and I just hopped out – if I had taken the L I would have gotten just a little closer but probably with less stress. One thing I forgot to tell my family – on Friday night we ate at the second installment of an Italian restaurant; in the cab on my way over I passed the original one. It felt like a good sign!

I got to Grant Park and everything was just as organized as what everyone said – from start to finish this was an exceptionally well organized event. I got through the security check and the gear check (both of which I thought would take a long time; neither of which ultimately did) and waited just a little to use the porta potty (clean enough, with hand sanitizer stations right outside – a relief!). I ate a UCAN nutrition bar and took my anti-inflammatory. Then I walked over to my start corral and to the righthand side, which is where I always run. I think it’s because in school I always sat on the righthand side of the classroom!

Anyway at this point a woman in my marathon training group (Z) called to find me. She’d been wanting to run with someone but I was hesitant to step up because I knew she was faster than I was. But she kinda didn’t have a choice because of everyone in our group, we were the only ones in the J corral. She emailed me earlier in the week and said she was having hip problems of her own (bursitis) and so she thought a slower pace would be good for her. We met up and…well…candidly, it was nice to have someone to chat with, but also a little unnerving. Right away she asked what pace I wanted to run at and I inwardly panicked – I really don’t have a pace; I run the best I can and at pretty much just one speed. I do have the fancy Garmin that tells me how fast or slow I’m going but I don’t really rely on it for that (I mostly use it to maintain my run/walk ratio). I told her I was just going to do what I could and that she should feel absolutely free to take off if I was going to slow, which is what I expected would happen.

I’d say I got to the corral by 7:30 and it closed at 7:45; our wave didn’t even start until 8am. Slowly we walked up towards the start line and it started to get real. I don’t think I was nervous – just excited and ready to get this thing over with. OMG – so we’re about to cross the start line – and some girl to the right of us actually falls on the tracker!! Luckily she was standing way to the right so there weren’t too many people behind her, plus we were in a slow corral so no one was ready to explode out of the gate – she got up pronto and laughed it off, but good lord that could have been a catastrophe!

Finally we were off! I thought my breathing would be weird and shaky since it usually is when I first start running but it felt fine. My legs didn’t feel quite as relaxed as I thought they would but they also calmed down eventually. So earlier I mentioned the Garmin – usually I think it’s accurate, more or less, but the race starts with a little tunnel action and that threw off the whole device – case in point, it said I’d run a mile when in actuality I’d barely gone half a mile. It also said my pace was wicked fast. It was kind of annoying to know right away that I couldn’t rely on the watch for distance, but since I really use it to ping me every time I need to run or walk, it wasn’t the worst thing to happen.

Anyway, all was fine and then Z turned to me and said her hip was killing her. And she was going to walk. And that’s the last time I saw her. Later I checked the official race results and she didn’t have any times listed. I felt terrible for her. Not only had she, like me, spent the entire summer training, yesterday was also her birthday! What a crummy way to commemorate it. Of course I also know that pain is pain, and to drop out in the first mile must have meant there was just zero way for her to finish, so obviously I think she made the right decision – I just felt awful for her.

But I had 25 miles to finish. πŸ™‚ I kept going and I thought I’d be faster – everyone says that since Chicago is so flat, people go out really fast at the outset and struggle afterwards. I was just my usual slow but steady pace. I kept wishing I’d studied the map a bit closer – with the Garmin tracker so off, I didn’t really have a sense of where the next mile marker would be. I knew I’d told my family to set up at certain distances and I wanted to make sure I’d seen them.

Anyway, I’m running along and I see a guy in front of me who I think was in my group, D. But D looks like everyman, so I’m not totally sure it’s him. So I try running a little faster so that I can turn around and look at him – and when I do – somehow I look beyond him and see my family with my posters!! It was the BEST moment – I was so happy! AND the kicker is that D was there after all, and he thought I was getting all excited about seeing him! So that was funny and a total emotional boost.

I wrote about the Motigo app, where your friends/family can record cheers for you – I can’t recommend this app enough!!! I expect the company will start charging for the service because it is AWESOME. In the beginning of the run I really wanted to soak up the atmosphere so I didn’t have any music playing, but I did have my headphones in so that I could hear the cheers. Sure enough, right around mile 5 I thought I was hearing voices and realized it was my brother and sister in law with my first cheer! Soon after I heard one from my coworker and absolutely laughed out loud – the other runners around me must have thought I was nuts. In the end I had 21 cheers that played throughout the run and it was just the greatest thing to have that support and to hear so many messages and hilarious greetings from my friends and family. If you’re ever doing a distance event that Motigo supports, sign up for it and shamelessly ask for cheers – it’ll be awesome, I promise!

Anyway, I knew the next time I’d see any friends would be around mile 7.5, which is where the course comes closest to my house and my two neighbors would be there to greet me. The run continued to go well and I had a huge smile on my face when I saw them – one even made a poster just for me! This is the part of the course that takes runners through Boystown, which is known to pack in spectators and have awesome cheering support – definitely did not disappoint. I was feeling great.

I guess around mile 8 or 9 I decided to take a bathroom break and once again found a porta potty with plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer – really a girl can’t ask for more! That’s another thing about how well organized this race is – there were plenty of bathrooms and a TON of water/gatorade stations. I was really surprised by how many there were. The only only only slightly negative thing about the water stops is that by the time I got to them the ground was alternately sticky and slippery, so even if I wasn’t stopping for a drink I had to really slow down (haha, from my already slow pace!).

It was probably around this time that I also realized just how slowly I was going. To put it in perspective, my “A” goal was to finish in 5 hours, which would have meant running 11:45-minute miles. I honestly thought this was possible, based on my half marathon and 20-miler times. My “B” goal was to finish using 12-minute miles. It was around mile 8 or 9 that I realized I wasn’t even doing that. I wouldn’t say it bothered me but it just surprised me – I thought I’d go out too fast and would be super energized and would have to slow down in the end. That is exactly what happened, but any speed I had in the beginning was not nearly what I thought it would be. I definitely can’t blame the crowd – while there were 40,000+ runners with me, at no time did I feel cramped – and while the weather was warmer than expected, it was never TOO warm. It was, at times, windy, so maybe that factored in a bit, but I guess overall it was just nerves. Or maybe my little body knew to conserve whatever energy I had because I’d be needing it at the end!

Anyway, we got out of Boystown and the rest of what I’d consider the North side and wound up back downtown and I had the treat of seeing my family a second time – just as awesome as the first! Although – and I forgot to tell them this – it was during one of my walk breaks! I saw my sister in law take out her camera so I “ran” a little to at least make the thing look authentic and then returned to my precious minute of walking! Which kind of made me laugh. πŸ™‚

My dad asked me afterwards if seeing the 13.1 sign made me feel good, like, hey! I’m halfway done! And I said – umm, no, not at all! When I crossed that sign all I could thing of was “hey…I’m only half way done…” I perked up around mile 14 when one of my work friends literally stepped into the course to make sure I saw her – totally boosted me up – and stayed somewhat uplifted through mile 16.5, where I saw my family for one last time. After that I knew we didn’t have any more sightings planned…the next 10 miles were up to me.

And I was definitely sore. Not my tushie and not my hip, but my right hamstring was just super tight. I kept trying to stretch it during my walk breaks but it just wasn’t getting any better. I thought maybe eating something would perk me up so I had another UCAN bar and it felt like sandpaper in my mouth. I had turned my music on back at mile 11, and while it did energize me a bit, even that wasn’t helping as much now. That’s pretty much when I knew my time had come. I never “hit the wall” in that I never felt like I couldn’t keep going – I just felt like I couldn’t keep running. My goal was to run 20 good miles and I caved at mile 18. I pulled to the side of the road and texted my mom to say I was going to walk it in and it’d probably be another two hours before I finished. At first I tried to maintain my 5:1 ratio, only doing 5 minutes of walking and 1 of running – but the thing is, I can walk really quickly and still find it pleasurable. My token one minute of walking was slow and painful. At first when I realized I’d be walking 8 miles it felt daunting, but I picked up my pace (at this point the Garmin was spot on – I continually held a sub-15-minute mile) and took off. And I passed a LOT of runners who were struggling.

By mile 20 I felt super confident, and moreso as I continued. I texted my mom one last time at mile 22 to let her know I had another hour to go and that I was going to finish – and I felt AWESOME. Yes I was tired and yes I had blisters but to have that mental security that I was coming home with a medal was just an awesome feeling. It was also humbling – I was passing out runners who looked miserable and were clearly injured, ones over on the side of the road trying to stretch out one way or another, or ones who were walking with some exaggerated limp Β – my goal was just to finish, and I was going to reach it. I’m guessing a lot of the people I passed had other, more ambitious goals for the day.

The rest of the run is a bit of a blur; I just kept going! I drank a ton of water and had a little Gatorade and just kept walking past mile markers. Finally, once we were well past the 25 mile sign, I started to run – because it felt like the right thing to do! The way the race ends, you run uphill past the 26 mile marker and finish up the .2 with a bit of a downhill run, making a turn to the left. Seeing the finish arch was just…I know I keep saying awesome, but that’s what it was, awesome! I thought I’d cry like a nut when I crossed, but I didn’t – I just went through the chute and got my heat blanket (which I had zero use for because it was so warm; I just really wanted to feel what it was like to wear one!) and my medal and called my mom immediately and finally met up with my family. We took a bunch of pics of everyone and the posters they made and my parents brought me pink roses (reminiscent of all of my dance recitals!) and we walked back to their hotel and I got cleaned up and we had the Mexican food and margaritas that I always crave after a run…and that was it! I went home and reminisced a bit with my BFF and my freighbor and responded to a million wonderful texts and Facebook posts from my friends and family and went to bed.

Of course I’m not done yet! Β Just a few more impressions to recap. First, the posters from all of the fans – some of them were just awesome! Of course my own family put together two super cute ones for me (one had a big Greek flag that was really noticeable, so that helped me for when I was trying to spot them AND won them a bunch of Greek fans when we ran through Greektown!), but there were a lot of other cute ones. Like these:

“I run marathons too!” (insert Netflix logo)

“Alison, this is REALLY boring!”

“If this were easy it’d be yo momma’s bed!”

“If the Cubs can make the playoffs you can totally run 26.2!”

My all-time favorite was “Oh hi Mark” – which is a reference to The Room, a brilliant cinematic achievement which you should go and watch this very moment if you haven’t already.

And there were many, many, many iterations of “You run better than the government!”

I’ve written at length about surprised I was at my utter lack of speed (full disclosure, I came in at 34,638 out of 37,182 runners who finished). My official time was 5 hours, 58 minutes – a far far cry from both my A and B goals. On the other hand, the last runner to finish did so in 7 hours, 29 minutes – so I guess I wasn’t the slowest turtle out there! And as my dad said today, think of where I came from. And it’s so true – when I started running 10 years ago, and this is no exaggeration, I couldn’t even run a block. And recall it was exactly two months ago that my hip started to hurt and I ignored it for awhile and it ultimately got so bad that I couldn’t run at all. And I am still trying to figure out the right kind of nutrition for my sensitive little tummy. I did accomplish my ultimate goal – I came home with a medal – so what if it took me longer than expected!

I’ve learned that the marathon is undoubtedly a mental game. I think back to when I quit the Marine Corps marathon; these were two very very different experiences but I cannot pretend I had similar doubts yesterday. It was especially tough after seeing my family at 16.5 and when I decided to walk it in at 18 – for that distance in-between, as short as it seems on paper, I was really doubting if I’d be able to finish. Part of me really did, for a moment, think about throwing in the towel. But all I could think about was that my family didn’t fly out from Connecticut to see me quit another race. I was going to finish. If they hadn’t been here…I really don’t know what the result would have been!

The moment I saw my family yesterday I made them promise to remind me that I said I’d never ever ever do this again. But of course I’m already thinking about what I’d do differently IF I were to train for a second go-round. πŸ™‚ We’ll see. First I have to get my tendinitis healed, that’s definitely task number one. Then…we can see where we’re at.

In the end, I’ve spent the past 18 weeks running 407.2 miles. Which makes the 54 Β that I missed (due to my injury) look like small potatoes. I’ve had 9 sessions of physical therapy, and one each of an Xray and an MRI. I’ve bought two pairs of sneakers, one new armband, one new set of headphones, and a Garmin. I now own a foam roller and a cheap piece of elastic that I can use in myriad ways to help strengthen my hip.

And I have a medal. And if I never run another step again, I truly have enough memories for a lifetime.

But never say never! πŸ™‚

Thank you all, so much, for joining me on this journey. And keep your eyes on this page…Lani may run Chicago yet again, who knows!!


I finished :)

Pretty sure anyone who reads this blog knows that I totally finished the run today. πŸ™‚ My pace was WAY slower than I’d anticipated and I definitely walked the final 9 miles…but who cares?! I have a medal and got to wear those weird aluminum foil-looking jackets for a few minutes before I overheated and threw it away. πŸ™‚

Will write a full recap tomorrow – right now I’m just a bit too dazed!

Just remind me if I EVER wax nostalgic on this day and start talking about another marathon…NEVER AGAIN. Once was more than enough for this girl’s lifetime!*


*unless I sort out my nutrition issues and come to a full recovery with my tendinitis and don’t hurt myself somewhere new and work enough on improving my running that I truly think a second go-around would have a dramatically improved outcome…

Last Post Until the Big Dance!

…and after 18 weeks of training, here we are! Marathon Eve!

In some ways it feels like this day was never going to come…and in other ways it came way too fast! I’m so happy to be writing one last entry from my couch, with the windows open, enjoying another beautiful fall day in my beautiful city.

My family arrived last night and we had a great carb-loading dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant (allegedly frequented by one Ms Jennifer Aniston during her Break Up filming days…if it’s good enough for Jen, it’s good enough for me!). I am so incredibly honored that my parents and my brother and sister in law made the trek out here to cheer me on tomorrow. It means the world to me.

This morning my parents and I went over to the race expo. I’ve done these twice before – once for Marine Corps and once for a half marathon at Disney World. This one was just exceptional – SO incredibly well organized and so well laid out; I know there were a ton of runners there but the venue is just huge so you never felt cramped or overwhelmed. We took a shuttle bus from my parents’ hotel and it was just so easy. Everyone at the expo was super nice and encouraging.

After getting my parents back to their hotel I headed home for one last day of rest. Apparently I’m not nearly as good at relaxing as I thought I was – I just feel so antsy! I’m trying to save my energy but keep bopping around, especially with cleaning. Thankfully I can distract myself with the Cubs game in the next few minutes, and I still have to take my shower and order dinner, so those will help kill the time until I can go to bed!

Tonight I’ll take my traditional Tylenol PM to help me get to bed – a full dosage is 2 pills and that knocks me out; I instead just take 1 pill and it sort of gently suggests sleep, rather than forces it. And tomorrow morning I’ll take an anti-inflammatory as soon as I wake up, so that by the time I get to the start line it will hopefully have kicked in.

My freighbor suggested cabbing to the start area, so I’m planning on getting up around 5:30 with the goal of being out the door around 6:15. It usually takes me just 10-15 minutes to get downtown, but even if it takes me a half hour, I’ll still be there a full hour before my corral closes. That should be plenty of time to put away my gear bag and use the porta potty one last time.

I got an email from one of my running group friends; she’s in the same corral and we’re going to try to meet up. She’d asked awhile ago about trying to run this with one of us but I told her I was hesitant to commit because she’s typically faster than I am. Well it turns out she hurt her own hip a week or two ago so she wants to take it easy! If we find each other, it’ll be nice to have someone to chat with – if not, I’m definitely ready to go it alone.

I worked out the details with my family as far as where they will be and approximately what time they’ll see me – hopefully we’ll see each other at the start, then at miles 3.5, 11.5, 13.5, 16.5, and 25. My sister in law texted me a pic of the signs they made – they are super cute and really noticeable! My neighbors will be at mile 7.5 and one of my running friends will be at mile 13. And I snuck a peak at the Motigo app; I have 16 messages coming my way so I should feel fully supported by my friends and family!

I’m reminding myself how well the 20-miler went and that this is a mere 6 miles more. And if I do meet up with my running friend, I think it’ll help keep me on track. During my 20-miler I had 15 really good miles, 3 semi-okay ones, and walked the final two – tomorrow I’d like 20 good miles and then can start backing off if needed. I think I can do it – when I ran the 20-miler I was in the early stages of recovering from my injury, but tomorrow I will have been running and resting for several weeks – I should be in better shape.

The weather will be cool at the start but warming to about 75 by noon – technically that’s warmer than ideal, but I feel like I trained in 90-degree heat with a ton of humidity – this won’t be so bad. Plus I know I’ll be fine in a t shirt and capris; I won’t have to worry about wearing throwaway clothes for the start. One less thing to think about.

Not much more to say! Throughout this whole year I’ve kept this document on my work computer of a hodge-podge of positive thoughts, helpful hints, interesting perspectives, things like that. Pretty much every time I read something that seems profound, I cut and paste it and add it to this document. I want to end my post by sharing this cute little email that I got from The Universe. Did you know you can get messages from The Universe? My dear friend C and I learned this last summer during a yoga class on our beach vacation – just google Notes From the Universe and you too can sign up to receive these little daily messages. Sometimes they’re silly and sometimes they’re Β a little off the mark, but I received this one recently and it was just so appropriate. Read it and then create your own Universe account!

“Not events, elena, but outcomes. Visualize outcomes.

Not the cracking of the bat, but gliding over home plate.

Not the inking of deals, but the kind of life you’ll lead.

Not the scale, the diet, or the food, but the admiration you have earned.

And not the whens, the wheres, the whos, or the hows, but the laughter, high-fives, and wows.

Not events, elena, but outcomes. Visualize outcomes.

Seeing you happy,

The Universe

Getting So Much Closer!

And just like that, my last mid-week runs are all done! 3 miles down yesterday and just 2 this morning – now I rest for two days and then run 26! For the next two days my only goal is to stay healthy and not trip on anything – I have been wearing flats at work the whole week to mitigate the chances of that! πŸ™‚

I’m definitely starting to feel excited – I’ve been reading so many blogs and articles about the Chicago marathon specifically, and coupling that with seeing the blue paint on the streets every day and receiving SO many well-wishes from my friends is making it feel like it’s just around the corner – which it is, of course! My family arrives tomorrow afternoon and I can’t wait to see them, then I just have to get through Saturday and it’ll be go-time!

Tonight my freighbor (friend/neighbor – no, I didn’t make it up!) P came over with spinach pasta and vodka sauce from Whole Foods, for me to cook up on Saturday – wasn’t that so nice!? She has run 3 Chicago marathons and has been so supportive of my efforts this whole year. We ran the Soldier Field 10-Miler together (as in, we ran the same race – she is WAY faster than I am!) and she’s just given me so many tips and ideas and advice. She and two of our other neighbors will be cheering for me right around mile 7.5, which comes within just a few blocks of where I live. It’s really good to know that I’ll have fans and will very likely see them at that spot, because while I have mapped out viewing areas and estimated times for my family, it’s not a sure thing that I’ll see them. But I’ve cheered with P before for previous marathons so I know exactly where to find her!

OH – and P said I looked “so skinny” tonight – she is a wonderful freighbor! πŸ™‚

Today I read an article on the importance of positive thinking – which normally I can kinda take or leave, but today it all really resonated. There are so many studies that show the body still has fuel to burn when the brain is telling you to quit, so when the going gets tough on Sunday I’m going to remind myself that I can keep going.

Last night I had my last pre-run phys therapy appt. Josh said to go ahead and take the anti-inflammatory that morning, which I agree makes sense. Science apparently shows that painkillers may inhibit the body repairing itself after an injury, but as we both said, I’m not looking to repair myself on Sunday, I’m just looking to finish. I think mentally that will help too. And maybe will help ward off some of the more intense post-marathon pain.

That really is all I’ve got! I’ll write one last time, probably on Saturday afternoon while I’m lying on my couch saving my strength. Talk soon!! GO CUBS!!!!!!!

One Quick Run Down, 2 to Go!

I had such a fab run this morning! I barely slept last night (I cannot get my brain to shut up – taking a Tylenol PM tonight for sure!) and definitely did not want to get up when the alarm went off…but I knew I wouldn’t want to run tonight and get all worked up before bed yet again. So I rallied.

I headed out around 6ish and was home before the sun came up. I purposely tried to push my pace and it paid off – once I was done my Garmin informed me that I’d set a new record for a 5K. There were a lot of other runners out on the trail, many wearing last year’s marathon t shirt and probably training for Sunday!

My pace leader sent us one last pep email today – well equal parts encouragement and advice for the next few days. As always it was well timed and felt tailor-written for me – she always hits the nail on the head with her emails! And then just a few minutes ago I got an email from my neighbor who is in Japan for work, wishing me luck – I was so flattered that she thought of me!

The only other thing of note to report is that I bought my race shirt – totally simple Champion dry-fit t shirt from Target…and it is BRIGHT PINK. This shirt could not be more me if I sewed it myself! No one will miss me on that course – they’ll be seeing a pink glow miles away! I also bought patterned masking tape that I think I will use to spell out my name on my shirt – I figured it’s easier to remove tape than the puffy paint I used to decorate my 2003 t shirt!

That really is about all I can think of to share…my brain is all-marathon, all the time! Thank god work has been slightly busier than usual so I’ve had some distractions to get me through each day. Anyway, tomorrow morning I’ll be running 3 miles and then tomorrow night I’ll have my last physical therapy session before the big day. We’re getting closer!

Random Musings…

Normally I don’t write on a rest day because there’s not a lot to talk about but I’m so tunnel-focused on this marathon and feel like I must get some thoughts out on the screen!

Yesterday I went to yoga and my hips are definitely feeling it today. I am still hoping to run on Sunday sans any pills but I want to check it first with my physical therapist. If I don’t run with the pills they will definitely be in my post-race gear bag!

I finished up Kristin Armstrong’s book on running a few days ago and needed something new – I already had something downloaded on my Kindle that I was planning on reading but I couldn’t concentrate on it. So I downloaded Hal Higdon’s book instead. Hal is basically the godfather of marathon training and works closely with CARA, so there’s sort of a connection. In the beginning of the book he recaps the historical legend of the marathon – in short, a Greek guy was dispatched and ran from Marathon to Athens to alert the Greeks that they had been victorious in a battle against Persian troops. The distance he ran was 26 miles. He died as soon as he got the message out. Naturally I am hoping to reach a more positive conclusion, but the takeaway is: I am half Greek. Marathon running is in my DNA! I should be just fine! πŸ™‚

In my last blog entry I wrote about the differences between my first attempt at a marathon and today. And I forgot to mention all of the running blogs and tweets and Instagram accounts that I follow. They make a HUGE difference – not only do I feel inspired when I read through them, I also learn a ton. And not only am I learning facts – about fueling, pacing, foam rolling, you name it – I’m also learning about the emotional side of running. I thought it was just a struggle for me because I’m not naturally inclined to be a runner (despite my Greek genes, haha!), but now that I’m reading so many stories about elites and sponsored runners I realize that, if anything, it might even be harder on them. Just today I was reading about a runner who had a “disappointing” first marathon experience…finishing up in under 3 hours. What now!? The only disappointment I will feel on Sunday is not finishing!

But I digress – the point is that one of my favorite bloggers was ready to go for a marathon in Utah this past weekend – she is a sponsored Brooks runner and has already run Boston and was training this whole summer to finish up her run in under 3 hours. Everything was going smoothly until a week or two before her big day – her stomach started acting up. And at first she was able to work around it by changing up her diet, but ultimately she was in such pain that she went to a doctor…and found out she had an ulcer. No running, no marathon for her. After spending the entire summer training. My heart just goes out to her. But she’s committed to resuming her training as soon as she gets the green light and has promised all of her hard work won’t go to waste.

I think I’ve written before about how “resiliency” is such a prominent theme in runner stories – probably because all runners have faced down an injury at one time or another, or a bad run or bad timing or whatever. And the blogger I just wrote about is exemplifying it. Resiliency isn’t always one of my skill sets (I think it goes hand in hand with being Type A) but I’m working on it. I’m proud of how, after ending my 18-miler run, I immediately went off to the gym and got in the pool – determined to maintain SOME level of fitness even if it wasn’t what I was working towards. If I stick with running after Sunday, this is a skill I hope to continue strengthening.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Last night my brain was racing (haha! my thoughts race quickly even if my legs don’t!!) and I had to take a Tylenol PM to sleep; hopefully tonight – after getting some of these thoughts out – I’ll have better luck.

Tomorrow morning will be my last 4-mile run! Then just two more to go!

Last Group Run!

Good evening!

Sort of amazed to write that this morning we completed our last group training run – a relatively quick 8 miles in very chilly and incredibly windy weather! Afterwards we went to brunch to celebrate and strategize a bit for the big day. My pace leader has run 18 (!!) marathons and had a lot of practical advice. This coming week I have three very short-distance runs and then I will have done everything I can to prepare. Part of me is still bugged by the fact that I missed mileage when I was hurt, but when I tally up all of the miles I’ve done (which I’ll share if/when I cross the finish line!), I realize that my missed miles are a fraction of what I’ve accomplished. I’m still a bit sore in my hip flexors and I’m going to talk to my PT guy about that this week – right now I like the idea of pushing through sans any pills, but I also don’t want to be stupid/stubborn. I have a feeling he’ll tell me to try it without the medication but we’ll see what he has to say.

I thought tonight’s post would be a good one for some reflection. Remember early on, how I said I’d trained for the Marine Corps Marathon but did not complete it? It’s overshadowed my training every weekend – each time I get out there I’m not confident that I’ll finish. So tonight I’m going to remind myself exactly how different training for this marathon has been and hopefully will convince myself I’m in a much better spot today than I was 12 years ago.

  1. The actual running: I am maintaining a 5:1 run/walk ratio and averaging 11:30 miles (faster when I don’t take breaks, slower as the mileage increases). In 2003 my running partner and I were maintaining a 2:2 and, as I recall, were closer to 14-minute miles. I distinctly remember there wasn’t much of a difference between our run/walk pace and flat-out walking!
  2. Preparation: I have stuck to my training schedule like glue, and have really emphasized the mid-week runs. I know I’ve written this before – the last time I trained, I really thought those runs were to help get you ready for the long run, and very very very often I’d skip out on them because I’d be able to get through the Saturday mileage one way or another (usually with a ton of walking). This time I’ve completed every single scheduled run, aside from when I was hurt. I’m looking at my mid-week runs as preparation for the real race, not just my long runs.
  3. Mindset for race day: In both races you’re told you’re going to have a ton of crowd support (Chicago in particular does deliver on this) – and while there were definitely people lining the streets in certain parts of the MCM, there weren’t nearly as many as I thought there would be. And I remember thinking that the crowds were going to be what carried us through. One part of the course was particularly desolate AND it was a loop, so as we were entering (and at the very end of the lineup), allllll the faster runners were passing us. And I remember it took a big psychological toll on me. This time I am really excited for the fans (especially my own!!) but I’m not counting on them – I want to be uplifted by the cheering but I also want to be able to get through this on my own.
  4. Also on race day mindset: the importance of weather. With the MCM we expected cooler temps and it turned out to be a warmer and more humid day than what we were expecting. But I didn’t change up my attire – I wore long pants, a t shirt, and my singlet – I was really overdressed, and I remember feeling way too warm. This time around I’m not planning my outfit until Thursday, most likely – and I’ll be paying way more attention to the forecast. My hope is that I can just wear a t shirt and running sleeves (kind of like long socks but for your arms; they keep you warm during the beginning but you can slide them down or take them off entirely during the run as you warm up) and my REAL hope is that the wind is nil and we have no rain. At this point the forecast looks promising but I’ve lived in Chicago long enough to know that the 5-day forecast is more of a suggestion than a science!
  5. Nutrition: This week I am…mindfully carb-loading, you could say – eating light mac and cheese for lunch and lean meat and sweet potatoes for dinner. I will not be overdoing it on carbs the day before the run – everything I’ve read says to increase carbs incrementally rather than all at once – but I WILL eat an appropriate amount of food. Β On the day before the MCM, my training group had a pasta luncheon and I guess I ate then, but I distinctly recall (and my BFF can attest to this) eating a Lean Cuisine for dinner and…god…soy crisps for breakfast the next day, of all things. Back then I just wasn’t putting a premium on fueling the way I do now.
  6. Technology: Two-fold. I bought my fancy shmancy Garmin watch before the 20-miler and that means I’ll always know my pace and distance. Some runners get bogged down in numbers and I’m sure that could happen to me if I stick with this, but for now it actually gives me peace of mind. For one thing I can set my own run/walk ratio so the watch itself beeps and vibrates when I need a break (no staring at the numbers or counting the minutes), and for another I know that for each run/walk cycle I’ll either get to half a mile or a full. During MCM I did look at the course map ahead of time but in reality I had no idea where I was – with the Garmin I’ll always know. Β Also, music – in 2003 no one (I think!) had iPods or iPhones or anything like that, and I feel like headphones weren’t allowed on the course in the first place, so you couldn’t play a tune to perk you up. This time around I have a marathon play list. My plan is to try running as long as I can without any music, to really soak up the experience, but have my headphones ready to go if I need a boost.
  7. Support: As you know, I’ve been shameless in asking for help (esp having my friends and family record messages on the Motigo app), and during the race I already know I’ll see my friends/neighbors when the course gets close to my house (around mile 8), and I’ll also have my parents and my brother and sister in law on the course. On Friday I mapped out where they can be and approximately what time I’ll see them. We tried to do this for the MCM but it didn’t work – I expect this time around I’ll have more success. Plus there’s an app where my parents can track me – allegedly it’s not entirely accurate but I think just for them to have a sense of where I am will help.

There you have it! I guess one of the key behaviors I WILL repeat from MCM is going to bed early this week and getting lots of sleep. And probably taking a Tylenol PM the night before so I’m not tossing and turning and panicking. I know Chicago will be a different experience based on everything I’ve written above – hopefully it’ll be different enough to yield a very different result!

That’s about it for tonight – I’m definitely ready for this thing but I’m glad I still have a week to go. πŸ™‚ Have a great rest of the weekend!

Catching Up!

Good evening! It’s really getting to be fall here – the furnaces in my unit kicked in this morning! I love putting my towel on the one in my bathroom – when I get out of the shower it’s so nice and warm!

Yesterday I did my 3-mile run on the treadmill at the gym – and it felt SO much better than most of my recent treadmill runs! I was able to keep up speed and my usual incline (whereas when I did the treadmill at the hotel in Vancouver I was practically running flat) and ran for some increments well beyond 5 minutes. I almost felt back to my normal self. And aside from taking one of my anti-inflammatory pills in Vancouver, I haven’t taken anything since Saturday morning! Progress!

Tomorrow is our last group run, 8 miles. Afterwards we’re going to brunch to celebrate (hehe – well – technically it’s just breakfast since we’ll be there so early!!).

It is REALLY getting close now! Yesterday when I was on the treadmill I was watching the local news and they had a story about how the marathon route had been spray painted in blue – the idea being that you can practice along it. Well afterwards I was walking to work and what did I see but the blue paint!! It was so exciting! So I know for certain what mile 2 will look like and how close I’ll get to my office. πŸ™‚

Also during my run I saw a commercial for the marathon – 45,000 runners are expected to participate next Sunday. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of! And I realized I could come in 40,000th place and there would still be 5,000 runners behind me. πŸ™‚ Today I tried mapping out where I’ll be and approximately what time so that I can coordinate viewing times with my family. It’s tough to gauge because on the one hand I might be zippier than usual because I’ll be so excited (I know, I know – must pace myself), but on the other hand there will be so many other runners with me that I might be bogged down in the crowds. We’ll see. An estimate is better than nothing at all, I suppose!

I guess that’s about it for now. Sunday I’ll take my last yoga class before the big day, then next week’s mileage is 3 miles, 4, and finishing with 2. That will feel weird, I’m sure! I am totally excited to carb load (haha) but of course dreading the idea of gaining weight, so I’m hoping that I can eat approx the same number of calories and just alter my protein/carb/fat ratio. I have a goal weight in mind for the race and I MIGHT make it if I’m careful next week!

Off to catch up on my DVR and eat dinner and get to bed early. Last night I had a work function so I am tired!

Happy start to the weekend, friends!