Tag Archives: chicago

How I Got to Chicago and Finished the Race

…I took a bunch of steroids.

No, that’s not true.

First things first: some stolen race photos, because heaven knows I will never buy these.

Put me in coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gloves are off…I think I can, I think I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

getting closer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh wait, this is hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love everyone and everything!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were a number of others, all pretty ugly typical race photos—but the theme is really that I’m smiling in almost all of them. Call me a photo whore, but truthfully I didn’t see most of the cameras along the way. I just had that fan-effing-tastic of a race.

Moving on.

I want to talk a bit about the steps I took in order to both a) get myself to the race and b) finish it. I consider myself lucky that I was able to race after a month of injury, and I do think that some good fortune fell into play in regard to my run-ability. (That, and some very powerful wishful thinking/begging the run gods for a break).

However, there were some very deliberate things I did both pre- and during taper to ensure that I would be able to make it to the finish line last Sunday.

Going into taper was really tricky. I’d only been running a week since taking two full weeks off from running—and now I was supposed to cut down as much as possible. As much as I wanted to run to build my confidence to get through the race—I knew that there were no physical benefits that could come from too much running during taper, so I played it safe. In essence, I did exactly what I would have in a regular taper schedule. Here’s how it looked:

Taper Schedule (Sunday-Saturday):

S: 75 minute yoga

M: 5 m slow run

T: 60 min swim

W: 4 m slow run

T: 60 m swim

F: REST

S: 2.5 m shake out with 3, 30-min strides.

This schedule worked perfectly for me. It was enough activity to keep me from feeling too restless, but it lacked a lot of impact—which is exactly what my legs and ankle needed before taking on a marathon.

In addition to the workouts, I rolled my legs essentially every night—like painful rolling. After Thursday night, I stuck to gentler stretching, but I wanted to make sure that all week I worked out any lingering knots.

I also iced my ankle 2-ish times a day, no matter what. When an injury doesn’t hurt (as my ankle didn’t during taper week), it’s really easy to neglect recovery efforts—but I made sure to keep icing even though there wasn’t any noticeable pain.

I also wore my compression socks around the house whenever possible, and wore them on the plane en route to Chicago.

These things, I believe, all really helped in having a successful race—but perhaps the bigger factors were the way I ran the race and the time I took off when I got hurt.

Having a marathon in sight helped me to buckle down in terms of not pushing it with my injury. Like other runners, I’m prone to working out through an injury (which more often than not makes it worse). Of course, I should never do this—but I think that having a race on the horizon forced me to recognize that R&R were the only means of getting to Chicago. So rest I did, and look at that—I finished, PR’ed, and had the best time—without any ankle pain.

This injury was obviously less serious than others, certainly, which helped with recovering in time for the race—but I’m really trying to take a hint from this experience: if there is one thing that heals an injury, it’s rest.

I hope other runners can see this as a case study of sorts on how rest is a big part of getting you toward your running goals.

It’s not just about the perfect tempos, the multiple 20 milers, or the weekly yoga.

Let’s take a look back: My last 20 miler before Chicago was on August 25, 6 weeks before Chicago. I completely took off 2 weeks of running during what should have been “peak” weeks, and I didn’t run over 12 miles in the month before the race. In other words, the odds were not stacked in my favor.

I’ll stop soon I promise, but I’m reiterating these points to remind everyone that a missed workout, missed mile, or a missed pace goal during marathon training is not the big deal we make it out to be. Sure, it’s not advisable to miss too many workouts or long runs, but I’m realizing there’s way too much stress put on the day-to-day specifics.

It’s just running. When we remove all the accessories that distract us from the simplicity of this sport (gels, garmins, BQs, Yasso 800s, fartleks, rollers, barefoot, not-barefoot, Dean Karnasez, etc.) all of a sudden it becomes a lot more manageableAll those extra things are important, but they are really just details. Kara Goucher has a great quote that puts it in perspective:

“Do the work. Do the analysis. But feel your run. Feel your race. Feel the joy that is running.”

This is how I approached Chicago. All I cared about was feeling the run—enjoying it for the simple act it is, an act I love so very much.

By ridding myself of the stress of perfect training and specific goals, my ankle decided to cooperate with the “go with the flow” mentality and lasted all 26.2 miles in fine condition.

It took me a while to get to this place, have no doubt. I had a lot of anxiety the week before the race about finishing, getting re-injured, etc. It was also very, very hard for me to let go of goals for this race. Admittedly, I know I could have gone sub 3:35 without the training malfunctions—which stings a little. But honestly, I don’t know if a BQ would have felt as good as this “no-goal” race did. By running for the fun of it and instead of obsessing over splits, I remembered just how magical the simple act of running can be.

So am I suddenly a goal-less, no Garmin, hippie runner? Absolutely not. In fact, I have goals that I’m itching to get started on. More on Monday 🙂

However, I’ve realized that running for the love of it can sometimes get you to the finish line just as easily as a flawless 22 miler. Okay, maybe I am turning into more of a hippie, but I truly hope that in a sport that’s full of specifics and details—the basics of putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying the ride isn’t lost on you.

Perhaps my favorite race tee yet.

If you couldn’t already tell, a lot of what I write on this blog is as much for myself as for my readers. So I appreciate you reading my somewhat stream-of-consciousness style of blogging.

Maybe someday I’ll have an agenda or a means of drafting my posts. But for now, these self-therapy sessions will have to do. Thanks for sticking around 🙂

Happy Friday!

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Chicago, the rest of it.

It was a whirlwind trip to Chicago, and before we were even halfway through it—I told BF that I wished we had an extra day.

I don’t know if it’s that I didn’t know enough about Chicago, or I was simply distracted by the whole marathon thing, but I truly underestimated the magnitude of this city.

Hello Chicago!

It is HUGE. Next to New York, I don’t think I’ve ever been so amazed by the size of a city. The juxtaposition with the crystal blue Lake Michigan was such a sight to be seen as well, and I fell pretty hard for this city. (I know, I know…the city-by-the-water thing shouldn’t get me so giddy any more, but I still can’t get enough.)

unrelated Friday night airport bar photo..

We arrived LATE Friday night, and after a little sleeping in, a 2.5 mile treadmill run, and a trip to the complimentary breakfast, we were off on the Blue line of the “L” headed toward downtown.

Ever since I studied abroad in Europe, I have a very deep affection for efficient and accessible public transportation—and Chicago was definitely not lacking in this regard. It was so easy to navigate our way around, and I can imagine you wouldn’t even need a car if you lived in the city.

Once in the city, we dropped our bags off at a friend’s apartment, and we jetted to the expo. I’m not going to do this expo justice in words or photos, but just take my word for it when I say that it was enormous. They held it in the convention center, and they used up every last space available. Hundreds (yes, hundreds) of booths were set amongst the packet pick-up areas, and you definitely needed a map to quickly find anything.

Other than a few samples we grabbed along the way, there were only two booths I wanted to visit: Runner’s World and Girls on the Run. And look who I found at the RW booth…

Hal Higdon! This meant so very little to most people I tell, but most runners I know have at least heard this guy’s name. He was much friendlier than he appears in the photo as well.

They also had food everywhere, music, shoe testing, etc. It was a party. Although it would have been fun to hang out more, I wasn’t really in the business of staying on my feet for too long—plus we had more of Chicago to see!

With not a ton of time left between the expo and dinner, we decided to head up the Hancock Center. The building has 94 floors, and unlike the Sears tower—it’s free! The views at the top were unreal, and it helped us get a sense of just how huge Chicago really is.

View from floor 94.

Looking out at Lake Michigan.

As I said in the last post, BF made me dinner as opposed to going out. It was simpler, cheaper, and given the amount of carb-hungry runners flooding Chicago restaurants that night—I’m glad we avoided the crowds.

On Sunday, I decided to jog around the city to explore a bit. After 26.2 miles, I figured I ought to include BF in all my sight-seeing, and we went to the infamous Chicago Cloud Gate. I actually knew it was “the bean thing,” but I guess that’s not accurate.

This was the only tourist attraction I actually knew about before coming to Chicago, and I have to say it was pretty dang cool. I was also riding a marathon high and chowing on donut holes, so that helped with the “omg so impressive!” factor.

Where’s Waldo (RB/BF)?

Reflection photo! I told BF he wore the least obvious marathon spectating outfit in the word. He agreed. He also didn’t take up my offer of an enormous pink shirt. Rude.

BF told me I smelled, so I decided to shower before we ventured out to see more things. We had a bit of a time crunch before we had to get back on the train to head to the airport, so we narrowed our exploration down to two things: the Navy Pier and pizza. I really wanted to go on the architectural boat tour, but there wasn’t time—and admittedly I cared more about cheese and crust than pretty buildings.

The Navy Pier was definitely cool, and I loved being close to the lake and seeing all the different boats. Because the pier juts out so far into the lake, we were able to see a lot of the skyline.

Stop your showing off Chicago, you’re making everywhere else look bad.

 

Now comes to only disappointment from the trip…

So, we had just enough time to get to our chosen deep dish joint, eat, go back and get our things, and head to the airport. As we sat down at the restaurant (Ginos East of Chicago), and we ordered our delicious deep dish selection…our waitress informed us that the deep dish took SEVENTY-FIVE minutes to make, so we might want an appetizer. We didn’t have 75 minutes, and so we mournfully opted for the regular thin crust instead.

boring

I realize to a normal human this is a very first world problem…but for two people who were intent on Chicago pizza (one of whom just ran a marathon), this was equivalent to a small pet dying. Sure, thin crust was fine…but this was definitely a disappointment. Don’t worry, I still ate more than half.

Delicious 312 beer helped *a little*.

However, the good thing about missing things while visiting a popular destination is that it gives you a reason to go back. Chicago is definitely a city I’d love to see more of, and I’m very keen on visiting again.

By the time we got to the airport and were waiting for our flight…I was beyond spent. Two nights of little sleep in a row, plus a marathon, plus lots of travelling= a very, very sleepy bird. I can’t sleep on planes too well either, so needless to say after a FOUR hour plane flight home, I was ready for some horizontal time.

Note to self: when travelling for a marathon, don’t be a hero and take the next day off work.

The travel exhaustion, however, was insignificant compared to how great the rest of the trip was.

You put on a good show Windy City, thanks for being awesome.

In a non-related but kind-of-related sidenote, I am almost  pain and soreness free today from the race on Sunday. It’s kind of a miracle, and I credit it to all the walking necessary afterward. That—and all the rest I allowed/am allowing myself before and after the marathon. I also have zero blisters, very little chafing, and all my toenails in tact. Little victories…I accept them all.

However, the combination of little sleep and the marathon has resulted in a fairly heavy cold I’m currently sporting. But, I’ll take a sore throat and headache  if it means I get a race like Sunday’s any day. Does that make sense? I’m sick, don’t judge.

I might try running today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week…who knows. Right now, I’m soaking in some bonafied laziness right now. On Monday, instead of a “shake out swim” or “shake out walk” I decided a “shake out grilled cheese and chocolate” was a much better idea. That theme continues through today…and I could care less.

Have you been to Chicago? What did you love most about it? Would you have been as sad about the pizza as we were? Do you think I overreacted? Mom, you don’t get to answer the last question…

Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Yesterday was a very, very good day.

If you want the quick-and-dirty version of how I fared in the Chicago Marathon, you can scan to the bottom. If you’re interested in the full race recap, read on! Spoiler: it’s full of happiness and run love—and a little bit of past and present tense confusion. Forgive me.

Those of you who’ve been following me know that I was nervous with a capital N about this race. To briefly recap those of you who haven’t had to listen to my whining for the past month, this is how I went into the race:

1 month ago, my ankle blew up in a horrible case of tendonitis, and I couldn’t walk without a limp let alone run at all. 2 doctors visits, lots of icing, and positive thinking later— I could sort-of, kind-of run again. This was a mere 2 weeks out from the race, and it wasn’t without irritation, but it was running. Another two weeks of a little running (12 miles being the furthest) and continuing to rest my angry ankle, and I decided I would try and bust out a marathon. Flights had been booked, plans had been made, yada yada yada yada (Seinfeld?), so I figured…let’s go for it.

Mind you…my last 20-mile run was on August 25, and that 12 mile run mentioned above was not easy.

{I am not sharing these facts for any sympathy votes or to throw myself a pity party…I just feel they’re essential to detailing both how I approached this race and how I felt about the end results. Take ’em or leave ’em.}

I lowered my expectations for this marathon. I planned a conservative pacing strategy, and I went into it knowing that a) I would probably be in pain at some point, b) I wouldn’t be very fast, and c) I could end up re-injured.

My best case scenario was finishing without too much ankle pain. I wasn’t looking for speed, I was merely looking for a finish line crossing.

And what did I get?

One of the most fun races of my life—and what I believe was the most well-executed running I’ve ever done.

Enough Tarantino, let’s go back to the beginning…

Saturday night, after some Chicago exploring, my feet were up, my compression socks were on, and BF was making me a perfect carb-heavy dinner. I wasn’t feeling the same nerves I’d been grappling with all week. I felt ready—a little anxious—but mainly content with that fact that all I could do was my best. Without any high goals or expectations, I knew all I could do was run smart and hope for the best—and as someone who is always so numbers-oriented, this was a pretty relieving approach.

Nevertheless, my sleeping was not ideal Saturday night, but that’s to be expected.

At my 5:00 am alarm, though, it was game time. A face wash, gear check, and banana later—we were on our way to the start line. The nice thing about Chicago was all the accessible public transportation—the trains made all the coming and going much simpler!

Let’s go run a marathon!

Girls on the Run did such a wonderful job with a pre-and-post race set up. We had a warm place to hang out, food, real bathrooms, easy gear storage, and PT masseuses! Fancy stuff. I felt very lucky/grateful.

I would appreciate this set up at every race from now on. Please and thank you.

7:00 am rolled around, and it was time to jet to the start line. There were so many people doing this race. Of course I knew this ahead of time, but you can never really know what a single event for 40,000 people looks like until you’re there. It was quite the production, and the Chicago Marathon volunteers/staff had the whole thing down to a science. Despite the crowds, it was largely controlled chaos and really just felt like a huge party. I tried my best to stay calm, soak it in, and appreciate the fact that I was part of such a spectacular event. The announcer told us that 114 different countries were represented amongst the participants, as well as ALL 50 states. Amazing.

Pre-corral entrance, a good luck send off.

The gun went off, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” played over the speakers, and we were running! It took me about 4 minutes post-gun time to actually cross the start line, but it didn’t matter—I was so hopped up on running-gratitude and adrenaline that I didn’t feel any urge to push or weave.

I also started this race without my music playing—which was both abnormal and intentional. I wanted to be able to enjoy the crowds which I’d heard so much about—and I figured that starting my music later on might give me a helpful jolt of energy when I’d need it. This would end up being a very, very good strategy.

We were off—cruising through the beautiful streets of Chicago. There are so many different buildings, businesses, and general attractions to see around that city, and it was easy to be distracted (in a good way) by it all.

And the people! Right off the bat, there were crowds at least 3-people-deep lining the course, all of whom were so encouraging, happy, and motivating. There were some hilarious posters as well—my favorites being, “You’re definitely NOT going to win” and “Remember, Liam Neeson is proud of you!”

The first 5 or so miles went all through down town, and I felt great. My plan going into it was to stick around an 8:40-8:45 min/mile for the first half, and then reassess depending on how I felt. However, due to a massive Garmin fail about 1.2 miles into the race—my pacing was based solely on my stopwatch function and some mental math skills.

Because of the clouds and the tall buildings, my satellite was more off than on, and when I did have a signal, my watch’s pacing was definitely not accurate. So, I was able to distract myself a lot with a good deal of addition, memorization, and division.

And in the end, I’m actually very thankful for the Garmin mishap. Not only was I distracted by my need to configure my own pacing, but I wasn’t obsessively checking my watch. I would say I ran 80% of the pace solely by feel, and in the end this would result in a great overall strategy. If I felt slow, I picked it up, if I felt fast, I pulled back. Back to basics—it was refreshing.

However, I did want to make sure I stuck to my slower-first-half plan, and so I was trying my hardest to get to each mile marker based on my self-calculated 8:40 pace plan. Looking back on the results, I think I did a fair job sticking to this. I felt great through the 10 mile mark, and it was around this point that I started to get wary about my ankle.

Teal hat on the left, photo courtesy of BF.

I knew that I could make it to the halfway point or so without too much worry about my ankle—but after that, it was pretty up in the air as to what would happen.

The pain I’d been experiencing beforehand with my injury would come on without warning, really quickly, and so there were a number of times from miles 10-15 where I was paying a lot of attention to how it was feeling. There wasn’t much sign of anything too threatening, though, and eventually I was able to stop thinking too much about it.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the halfway point came. It felt like I’d just started running—and feeling good at this point was really encouraging in terms of how I felt I would bode for the rest of the race.

I was constantly analyzing both my energy levels and my form—and I think this “checking in” was good for my pacing and my motivation. With both a lot of energy left and a completely pain-free ankle at the 13.1 mark…my fears of needing to drop out were slowly diminishing.

The miles continued to tick by—just the way you would hope they would in a race. The crowds also continued to be huge, loud, and just fantastic. I slapped hands with so many strangers, took oranges offered by various folks, and smiled at most everyone I saw. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face, and the further I ran, it seemed the better I felt.

Looking back, I think I felt the best from miles 13-19. My pace felt steady, my energy felt strong, and I couldn’t believe how good my legs felt given my huge lapse in training. I consciously didn’t let the fear of missed training keep me from enjoying the running and instead I credited the resting I’d allowed myself and the taper plan I followed. No questioning….just running.

I thought that at some point the course would enter a no-man’s-land of sorts, as most marathons tend to do. But there was never really any point of the run that felt deserted. There were always people spectating, and generally there was always something interesting to see. There were bands, DJs, huge video monitors, funny signs, and generally a good atmosphere throughout the course—and I never felt that there was a point where we were forced to look down and grind on.

And as an added bonus, I saw BF 3 different times! He was able to make it to miles 4, 11, 21, and the finish (I couldn’t see him at the end) and I loved being able to see him along the way. I also loved the Swedish fish he gave me at mile 11…

I didn’t ever consciously think to pick it up in terms of speed. However, after looking through my results it seems as if miles 15-21 ish were where I ran the fastest. My 35k (mile 21.7) clocked in at an 8:18 min/mile, which is much better than I could have expected, particularly considering I still felt good at this point.

Around the 22 mark, though, I was feeling the fatigue I knew would come. It was mainly just tired legs, nothing too brutal, and considering that I only had 4.2 miles to go, I wasn’t too daunted by it. An expected soreness really.

At this point, I was breaking the race down into small portions. At mile 23, I tried to think, “Okay, just a 5k to go,” and then at mile 24, “Just a little 2.2 miler—just like you did yesterday.” Admittedly, knowing that I could run 10 minute miles to the end and still tie my PR was definitely encouraging.

I was hurting at this point, but not horribly. It felt like the kind of pain you expect from a marathon, and it was primarily my legs and not my energy. Endurance wise, I still felt good, and it was more of a mental battle with my quads than anything else.

Chicago did a fantastic job with making the finishing miles just what you’d want them to be. There were signs for 1 mile to go, 800 m to go, 400 m, 300 m, and 200 m…all leading to the finale of an enormous finish line lined with stands of cheering crowds. Unreal amounts of cheering, cameras, and crowds…it was amazing.

Part of the final 400 meters or so was quite uphill (the only uphill during the whole race!) so that wasn’t too spectacular—but as soon as I rounded the corner and saw the huge “FINISH” ahead of me, I was elated.

I’d done it. No ankle pain, no dropping out, and no collapsing before the finish line.

And somehow, to cap it all off, I crossed the finish line at 3:42:10—a 2 minute PR.

I felt so incredibly redemptive from my Tacoma finish, and I felt so over-the-top in love with the marathon distance—again. It did feel great to stop, and as I slow-trudged down the recovery area along with all the other tired runners, I had a 26.2 mile-wide smile on my face—I couldn’t believe how well the race went.

Here are some of the more official results:

I was surprised to see that my speed progressed throughout the race. While I was trying my best to keep track using my stopwatch/mental math method—my brain became a little too fuzzy to keep up this kind of stats work. I’d say the last 10 miles were run solely on feel, and I’m really pleased with just how well that ended up working.

Here are some more numbers:

If you’re wondering, there were 1614 women in my age group and 16,767 women overall.

After slowly finding my way back to the high school, I met up with BF, thanked the Girls on the Run ladies, and got a good stretch done by one of their PT volunteers. Lesson learned: a good amount of walking + a quality stretch post-marathon yields far less sore legs.

Very happy girl.

I loved this race. I loved the course, I loved the crowds, and I loved the way I felt the whole time. It was the perfect combination of happy running and well-earned pain, which always results in the most satisfying kind of runs. The PR was truly just the icing on top of what was already such a memorable race, and I was mostly just thankful for finishing and finishing without an injury relapse. Afterwards, my ankle felt as good as when I woke up in the morning…and with the exception of some tight quads and IT bands, my legs feel pretty darn good today.

Coffee and chocolate donut holes…post marathon perfection.

I so appreciate all the support both before and after from all of you. Knowing there were people tracking my times made each timing strip crossing all the more encouraging, and I cannot thank everyone enough.

I loved Chicago, I loved this race, and I love that I’ve become reacquainted with the magic of the marathon.

Congratulations to EVERYONE who raced this weekend! I hope you all are resting well and soaking in the post-race glory. Thanks to everyone for the texts, tweets, tracks, emails, and phone calls—your support means so very much to me. Thanks to Eminem and the cast of Wicked for getting me through those last few miles. And a special thanks to both Girls on the Run and those who donated to my fundraising efforts—I would not have been able to run this race without you.

Alright, done with my Oscar speech. If you’ve made it this far—bless you.

And let it be known…Boston, next time, you are mine.

Did you race this weekend? Next weekend? Have you run Chicago? Results? Opinions? Pizza?

My Brain on Marathon

These past few days there have been two things going through my head:

Holy shit, I’m running a marathon this weekend.

And

Holy shit, I need to blog about all my feelings.

Okay…there have been 5,000 other thoughts going on as well, but stick with me.

Somehow, I couldn’t seem to get these two very complimentary thoughts to mesh together in beautiful, therapeutic symmetry.

I mean come on—don’t all running bloggers blog 2x per day, every day, during the last two weeks of taper before a marathon?

We have so many nerves, ideas, and circumstances floating through our heads…and all we want to do is talk to other runners about them all.

So why haven’t I been spilling my guts out incessantly and instead just been flitting over the surface in regard to my upcoming 26.2 attempt?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I am thinking about the race nonstop. I already have pre-race butterflies in my stomach. I am in a constant back-and-forth battle between being excited and optimistic and being so nervous I want to hide under my desk.

Essentially, there are so many thoughts going through my little taper-brain that I’ve had a hard time coming up with anything coherent or sensible to write about. I know, I know…a lot of my blog posts are of the word-vomit variety already. However, when it’s been coming time to put my fingers to the keyboard to describe how I’m feeling about this race, my brain spirals into chaos—and I can barely sit still—let alone write a post.

With that said, I’m not here to offer up any constructive or solid “feelings” or “plans” or whatever it is you’re supposed to have the week before a marathon. I am here, however, to attempt to let loose some steam—and to hopefully give a little insight into how you truly never know what to expect in so very much of life.

It’s hard for me to differentiate my nerves between regular, expected pre-marathon jitters, and legitimate concerns about my current condition. Sometimes, I’m imagining it as just any other marathon—other times, I’m thinking of it as a death march on out-of-shape legs and a floppy, swollen ankle. I’m trying to land somewhere in the middle of these two outlooks—balancing the ordinary nervousness with the warranted exceptional circumstance I’ll be running the race in.

Of course, marathon brain is far from balanced and sensible, so despite my best efforts so just chill and play with the cards I’ve been dealt…it’s been a process to actually internalize that mindset.

Recently, it’s been going more like this:

“I’m going to have the best time! I might have some pain later on, but as long as I go easy, soak in the sights, and let the race adrenaline work its magic..I’ll be fine! I love running! I love marathons! This will be great!”

…two minutes later:

“I’m going to die. I’m going to be exhausted after one mile, my legs are going to cramp, and even if I make it pretty far, I’m going to have to bail and get off the course. Then I’m going to cry. Even if I make it, I’m going to be walking, puking, and/or crying until the finish line.”

Once again, I’m trying to rationalize that I’ll probably land somewhere in the middle.

I’m also trying to remind myself about just how mental running is. Because in my opinion, and in the opinions of many, many great runners out there who are far more qualified to make claims than me, running is primarily mental. Certainly, it takes endurance and strength to run a marathon—no doubt about it. But ultimately, the thing that keeps our feet moving and our will to finish alive is our attitude.

Now, I learned back in T-town that I definitely have a good deal of mental strength. This time around, I’m going to try and channel that mental strength into being present in the moment and savouring the fact that I am able to run a marathon. Let me also just clarify that while what happened in Tacoma is high on my fear list, I no longer want to rehash that race—and I now know that there is a difference between pushing it and pushing it too far.

With that said, I will not be trying to BQ, PR, or anything of that sort during this race. While those types of goals are often high on my list and they encourage me to keep moving, they are also the kind of goals that could disable me from finishing. Due to my current circumstance with my ankle and my training glitches, the only goals I have for this race are to a) finish and b) negative split. I don’t want to negative split to ensure a particular time; I just know that I am going to need reserved energy for the second half. My pacing intentions will be solely for the purpose of staying consistent and staying safe.

I am planning to run by feel, which is a good theme for how I’ve handled these past few weeks of “training.” All of my decisions about when to run, when to rest, and if I was going to do the race haven’t been based on a pre-determined schedule, but solely on how I feel. That’s how I’m planning to run this race. I have paces in mind that I know I will be able to hold for a long time, and although they are many, many seconds slower than I originally planned on running this race—they are what will help get me to the finish line.

So for right now, I trying to channel my energy into focusing on a few things.

The first is positive self talk. I am always such a huge proponent of mantras and self confidence when it comes to encouraging other people along, but I’m not so good at practicing what I preach. I do believe that positive thinking and visualization can make a world of difference in performance—and so excuse me while I act super cocky and conceited for the next 72 hours.

The second thing I’m trying to focus on is what my intention was behind doing this race in the first place. When I first registered, I knew I wanted to take this race less seriously than I had for many before. Marathon training had become less fun and too stressful, and this time around I wanted to enjoy the running for what it was instead of focus solely on numbers. Admittedly, I slipped away from this a bit when I started seeing my times get faster, but now that I’m kind of forced to run the race easier than planned—my original intention has come back into focus.

In addition to my goal of having fun with training for this race, I also wanted to focus on doing something more than just my own, petty “look at me and how much I run” approach. I chose to fund-raise and run on behalf of Girls on the Run because they are an organization that I believe advocates all the best things about running. Girls on the Run gets down to the grass roots of the pure joy, confidence, and enthusiasm that running can instill, and this was a message I wanted to both advocate to others and internalize for myself.

No matter what happens—I’ve raised a lot of money and promoted a group whose cause resonates with so many of the reasons I love to run. And for that, I’m proud and humbled to run on behalf of them.

I suppose there are actually a lot of advantages to running a marathon that isn’t a goal race. And despite my uber-competitive mind trying with all its might to both “be a hero” and finish with an impressive time—for now, she’s going to need to shut up. This is a really good opportunity for me to tune into the part of running that isn’t competitive—the part that isn’t tangible, or “qualifying,” or up to some standard.

I’m going to run because I love it, and no matter what happens—Sunday is just one more day I get to run. In the second biggest marathon in the world— no less. If nothing else, I want to finish how ever many miles I run knowing that I ran smart and I ran happy. Anything else (finishing, a decent time, etc.) will just be gravy.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for listening to me spill my very-full brain. These are the times I’m so happy I have a blog, both as a way for me to get out my thoughts and a way to communicate with runners who’ve experienced all the same things. Writing everything down has always helped relax me—and I’m already feeling more excited for Sunday.

I’ll have a post tomorrow with a few more specifics as to strategy, logistics, etc. I’ll also post a link to how you can follow me during the race! We’re getting closer and closer…and my window of complex carb consumption/hydrating/foam rolling is here.

Bring it on, baby.

Decision Time

Well folks, after much deliberation…I’ve made a final decision:

This Sunday, I will be running the Chicago Marathon.

I’ve thought a lot about this decision, I’ve asked a lot of people their advice, and I’ve done a lot of internet perusing to find “the right answer” as to what I should do.

And I realized a couple of things, but namely…there really isn’t a right answer in this scenario. Some people are willing to run on anything that isn’t a stress fracture, and some people stay away for just the sniffles. There were a number of different pros and cons for me to consider, both big and small. And in the end—despite all the opinions, the research, and the back-and-forth, I knew it had to be my decision—not anyone else’s.

And guess what? With a little help from rest, meds, and wishful thinking, I’m healthy enough to run the race—and I’m gonna try.

But let’s rewind a bit, and I’ll catch you up to speed as to where I currently stands in regard to this race:

1 month ago, I had to stop short on a 20 mile run from horrible ankle pain. I was limping for days, icing like crazy, and popping more pain killers than I ever have before. The doctor was nonchalant about it and told me it was just bad tendonitis, but I was still not thinking the worst. In the back of my head, my hopes of a stellar Chicago Marathon were getting shrouded away, seemingly all at once.

1 week after the initial injury struck, I tried running for the first time—to no avail. I couldn’t make it 1/4 mile without my ankle blowing up like a balloon. I limped very slowly the whole way home, holding back tears, and continued to lower my self-proclaimed likelihood of running the race.

A little over a week ago, I went back to the doctor. This time, I was prescribed some actual, real deal pain killers. He told me that if I felt up for it—he would give the green light to run the race. Once again, I tried to run…this time, I made it 6 miles. They weren’t pain free, but I got them out, and it seemed that my ankle was getting better.

Last week, I was able to do the aforementioned 6 mile run, an 8.5 mile run, and a 7.5 mile run. Each felt better than the one before, and my ankle pain was getting to be less and less each time I headed out. After two weeks of discouragement, Chicago was back on the table.

This past weekend was the weekend I proclaimed to be “decision time.” I knew I didn’t want to even make the trip if I wasn’t going to run the race, therefore I needed to make the call one way or the other ahead of time. I set out on my previously planned 12 mile run, deciding that if I made it relatively pain free—I was gonna race.

12 miles later, and…well shit, I’m running a marathon next weekend.

I ran the 12 miles with very little ankle irritation. In fact, there wasn’t even a glimmer of the injury for probably 75% of the run. This was indeed very encouraging…and although I know 26 miles is many more than 12, the rate at which my injury seems to be recovering makes me think that I will be able to spend most of the race relatively pain-free.

However, while my ankle may be mostly cooperative…taking two weeks off completely from running took it’s toll, and admittedly I am mostly worried now about the condition of my legs more than anything else.

I’m not gonna lie…those 12 miles were tough. My lungs felt good, my ankle even felt good, but my legs felt tired. This could have been just an average “bad run,” but I know I’m also feeling the rusty effects of not having run long in a while. I was concerned with just how tired I felt after 12 miles, and it made a marathon seem even more daunting than, well, a marathon already is.

But, the fact of the matter is that if I wasn’t going to run this race…it wasn’t going to be because of some tired legs. It was because of an injury…an injury which seems to be on its way out the door. I feel like I have to try, and while this might be the most difficult marathon I’ve ever attempted, I don’t want to go down without a fight.

Frankly, I’m really nervous for the race. I’m scared of not finishing. I’m scared for the pain. And perhaps more than anything, I don’t like the uncertainty. While of course I was anxious for my first two marathons, I was always very confident in my ability to finish. This setback has left me in a much less confident state in my running—and while I know I haven’t lost all of the training I built up, I’m definitely not in ideal marathon shape.

However, these fears and apprehension aren’t enough to keep me from the start line. I’m truthfully very excited and grateful that I will still get the chance to be in and at the race. This is one of the biggest races in the world, I’ve trained hard to get to it, I’ve raised a lot of money for a great cause, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get out there and try.

So get ready kids, this will be interesting.

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week #11 + Weekend

So, there wasn’t much running involved in my workouts last week…you already knew that. I didn’t post my training last week though out of bitter resentment, so here’s a look at how all the non-running training went:

M: 30 min stair stepper, 60 min swim

T: 2 hour spin class

W: 60 min stair stepper + BodyPump

T: 90 min swim

F: 60 min stair stepper + BodyPump

S: 2 hour swim! 5,000 meters

S: 20 min stair stepper + 6 m run!

Total: 6 miles running

Yea, so that number ^^ is very minuscule compared to where I should have been. But, considering my two week injury hiatus from running, I will gladly take any miles over none. And in spite of not being able to run, I was happy with how I managed to keep activity levels high. I am still in love with my BodyPump class, particularly the instructor, and I think it’s been doing really good things for both my strength and coordination.

In other news, after a beautiful rest day yesterday, I was able to run 8.4 miles today! It wasn’t very pretty, and it wasn’t very easy, but hot damn it happened. And guess what? My ankle felt better than it did during Sunday’s first run back! It was still a little cranky, but it seems that this persnickety tendonitis beast may be on its way out the door. It’s really encouraging that my ankle seems to be getting better while still running on it…and it’s making me feel inches closer to making the decision to race. Don’t worry, I’m still going to take it easy and play the super-taper game…but in the mean time it feels great to pound some pavement again.

On my run this morning, I thought a lot about what would happen if I do decide to race. Because when I don’t wear headphones, my entire life—all past, present, and future aspects of it—seems to engulf my brain.

I felt a whole number of things this morning, but mainly encouraged and anxious. I can feel the possibility of doing the Chicago Marathon getting higher, but simultaneously I’m getting scared for just what finishing, (read:surviving), the race will entail.

I need to come to terms with that fact that not only will I be slower than normal and will potentially walk some of the race—there is a good chance I will be in pain during a good amount of it. Pain on top of normal, typical marathon pains. It’s certainly not an ideal scenario—and it’s one that will require perhaps more mental preparation than any other race, should the opportunity come.

Time will tell people. However, I did hear last night that a friend in Chicago is willing to host BF and I for race eve…..and he lives ONE MILE from the start line. We were originally planning on staying out at the airport…a good half hour away. Universe coming together? We’ll see.

In other news, here’s a look at what was a fan-effing-tastic weekend. The weather in Seattle was perfection, and somehow BF and I managed to be way more social this weekend than we have been the entire year.

Spoiler: There was a lot of beer.

Mariner’s Game!

Double dating and baseball night—the Ms even decided to win!

Ferry ride post-game. DON’T WORRY I REPAINTED MY TOES FINALLY. I told you it was a productive weekend.

Seattle skyline via water transportation. Love.

The following morning…

What’s the best thing to come home to after a 2 hour swim? Your boyfriend making pancakes for you. You can’t really tell…but the one underneath is pink. That’s love.

One invite from another couple later…and we were at the Fremont Oktoberfest party ready to cash in our ten tasting tokens. (I only made it to 7…)

Oktoberfest! BF…that mug is just the perfect size for you…you dainty man you.

This was my last beer, I think…and one of 4 attempts at this photo. Low tolerance + high percentage alcohol beer= drunk Robyn.

Right now…I love fall. We are in the perfect phase where it’s not raining, it’s not too cold, and it’s not too hot. The leaves are crunchy and the air promises Halloween and cooler temps shortly. And by Halloween, I mean “I’m probably going to buy candy this weekend.” Loving it. In fact, I might break my pumpkin spice latte rule and not wait until October. CRAZY TALK…I rage.

I hope your weeks have started off splendidly!

 

Chicago Marathon Training Week #9

Hello.

Here’s last week for you…let’s see if you can spot where the big scary hiccup occurred:

M: 9 m run slow

T: 10.2 m run ~8:15 avg. pace

W: 7 m run, no watch + lifting

T: 10.4 m run, 8:20 avg. pace

F: REST

S: 17 m run

S: Yoga

Total: 53.6 miles

Don’t see the hiccup? Well, allow me to backtrack to Thursday, where I said I had a “20 mile long run” on tap for the weekend.

That 17 miler up there? That right there was the first time I have ever cut a run short—and no, not because of fatigue, boredom, or a time crunch.

My would-be 20 mile run turned into 17 because I was in too much pain to finish it. That not-so-significant shin split I mentioned last week turned into a very-significant-holy-shit-hurts pain in my entire left ankle/foot pretty much all at once during my run on Saturday morning. I tried to tough it out, but after a few miles of stopping to alleviate the pain every mile—I knew it was best to cut it off. Thankfully a nice lady with a puppy let me use her phone when I asked (I choose the strangers I approach based on their pets, btw). She was probably a bit frightened by the sweaty, salty, and nearly-in-tears girl hobbling down the side walk—but she complied. Bless her.

As soon as BF picked me up, I lost it. I don’t really need to explain to you all the frustrations I was/am feeling about this. I was in Urgent Care yesterday morning after spending Saturday unable to walk, and I have an appointment with an orthopedic doctor tomorrow morning.

Nothing like prompt medical attention.

I’m trying to not jump to worst case conclusions right now (although I spent a lot of time already doing that). Many thanks to my best friend Anna, BF, and Nicole for calming me down a bit. BF has been a superstar through this also (I think he more than anyone knows how Robyn with Injury goes), and following Saturday’s breakdown he immediately helped remedy my sobbing by making me pancakes, attending to my every ice, Aleve, and compression needs, and accepted his tear-and-sweat stained girlfriend for who she was.

Now that the storm has passed, I’m going to let the pros decide how I should handle this situation.

Luckily, since whatever-this-is happened, my ankle has consistently felt better fairly, and it seems that the more I walk—the better it feels (indicative that it’s probably not a bone thing). But like I said.. I’ll be leaving my fate up to science and X-Rays and stuff.

So how am I feeling right now? Admittedly, hopeful—since it is feeling better and seems to continue to feel better. But, the speed in which this thing came on really scares me, and I’m really going to have a tough time swallowing a diagnosis that not only eliminates Chicago—but eliminates my Fall 2012 running career.

I’m feeling a lot of things right now— frustrated (3 injuries in 6 months—AWESOME), sad, pissed, pessimistic, optimistic, relieved, etc.

I’ll explain it all in another post—because I’m doing my best to not jump to conclusions (no thanks to Dr. Google) and allow no news to be good news. At least until tomorrow morning.

Will fill you all in soon.

Cross your fingers, wish upon a star, and break some wishbones (yikes, no pun intended) for me that this isn’t the worst. I’ve really been very careful in terms of training, resting, and mileage—and I’m more than a little bothered right now with where my bff running has landed me.