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Race Week!: Bayshore Half Training Thoughts

And just like that – a few days from racing, folks!  I decided to type some thoughts out about my training this time around. I opted to keep training “mine” this cycle and not publish weekly training recaps. I’m not sure any of you (the two people reading this) read them in the past, but I really like looking back at them, as a reality check before a goal race. As a runner, sometimes you can walk a fine line between over-obsessing over every minute detail of each and every run and having a healthy mindset about training, between reflecting backward and looking forward. This time, I decided to employ my short term memory each week and spend less time looking behind me – I focused on executing each workout on the schedule as much as I could.

So, this post will serve as a small dose of reflection leading up to Bayshore (more for myself than for anyone reading).

Last year I coached myself 100%. This year (a lil’ secret of mine), I purchased a training plan from a coach I’ve been following on Twitter for years. I’ve been coached one-on-one before and I really enjoyed it. I think I excelled with having a coach in my corner and someone that I could reach out to with every type of silly question to be asked. It’s nice to have that kind of support system – and an external viewpoint on how training is actually going (to balance the internal one that can be a wee bit dramatic). I made the decision to coach myself last year because I wanted to experiment a bit, figure out what kind of training I enjoyed and what I needed most before possibly hiring a coach again. I *really* liked coaching myself but , just with any other kind of coaching relationship, there was a period where I was just trying to figure things out. You find yourself second-guessing the training plan that you put together yourself, mostly based on gut instinct, loosely based on past training plans and books you’ve read. But once you get over that hurdle and become comfortable with 1) listening to yourself and actually believing that you are capable and 2) making minor changes to the plan that you’ve created, just as a coach would, it’s actually really freeing. I’m very proud of the fact that I ran a half marathon PR and marathon PR in 2014 – both as my own coach.

My mindset began to shift in January this year when I started thinking about spring half plans. Besides a lonnnnnnng recovery period after Honolulu (2 weeks off exercise, 7 running miles the 3rd week), I felt like I wanted a schedule with some workouts that I’d never tried before. I could have written up a unique training plan on my own, but it likely would have been more ‘comfortable’ than a plan created by someone else. I knew I could motivate myself to get the training done, having done it 100% on my own all last year. I just needed a little push from someone else, with fresh & “new” workouts to make me excited to train again.

I really liked the plan I received. It was personalized, incorporated two races I’d already registered for, and had me feeling stronger each week. Getting back into training mode was much more difficult mentally and physically for me this year – I was honest with the coach creating the plan that I needed a slow ramp up and that it would take me a solid 5-6 weeks for my legs to come around. I think no matter what kind of coaching situation you’re in (self, one-on-one coach, or following a plan), you have to be honest about your current situation.

Getting back to a training cycle felt like pulling teeth there for awhile. And then it very slowly started to click again. (This is *definitely* correlated to the change in weather – I begrudgingly forced myself to the gym in Jan & Feb, but started to feel more motivated to train in March when the weather slightly improved.) I worked up to a solid base in January and February (up to 40 mpw) and then began a 12-week half plan at the beginning of March.

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We’re nearing the end of “Runch Season” now that the temps are increasing!

These were my favorite workouts of this cycle:

  • March 11: 3 x 1.5 mi at tempo pace (each segment faster) with 3 min 30 sec recovery: 6:46, 6:36, 6:33. This felt like a breakthrough workout – it was the first relatively warm day of the year & I felt strong for the first time basically since November [10.83 mi total at 7:12 average]
  • March 19: 60 min thirds progression run (20 min easy/medium/hard): Splits: 7:51, 7:35, (7:33)/7:13, 7:12, (7:07)/ 6:47, 6:44, (6:46) [8.34 mi total at 7:11 average] I really liked focusing on 20 minute segments instead of mile segments. I’ve always liked progression runs but had never divided it quite this way. The last 20 minutes was HARD but I finished knowing that it was a good strength-building session
  • April 2: 10 x 45 sec hill sprints hard (paces fell between 5:35 and 6:10 pace) – I can’t believe I’m saying that this was one of my favorite workouts. It was HARD. Plus, running hill repeats in Chicago means finding an ugly highway overpass & dealing with traffic (because a treadmill isn’t pleasant either). I felt my form start to “click” a bit more because of this workout. [7.4 miles total at 7:10 average]
  • April 12: Cherry Blossom 9.5 Miler (Ha) – Shamrock Shuffle and Cherry Blossom were built into the training plan as workouts – they both felt really tough for different reasons but I felt like being able to sustain tempo pace for 9.5 miles when I’d only tempo’d for 3ish miles in the weeks leading up to the race was a big win [9.5 miles at 6:50 average). Besides, it was just a gorgeous day to run in DC with my sis!

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  • April 18: BEST long run! [17.22 miles at 7:32 average] I was so sleepy going into this run, so I was shocked when I reached the lakefront feeling like I could run for days. The wind was pretty bad going north and gave me a wind-aided fast finish once I turned southbound, with the last 6 miles under 7:15 pace. After this run, I wrote this in my training log: “Things are clicking again! Rustbusters Shamrock and Cherry Blossom apparently worked their magic. Sat’s long run felt amazing – I know wind helped finish but my legs felt strong”. My longest run of the cycle was 18 miles, but this one just felt the smoothest. CUE RUNNER’S HIGH.

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It’s funny how the simplest workouts seem like the best ones at the end of a cycle. In fact, none of my workouts this time around were all that complicated.

Another small addition to my training was a yoga challenge organized by @runnersloveyoga on Instagram (#runnersloveyogaHIPS). I had been following Ann’s account for awhile and thought about committing to one of her 14-day challenges. She decided to focus the challenge on hips and I thought “why not?”. I did each day’s challenge and often did the entire sequence as each daily challenge was added if I had time. I always tell myself that yoga should be more of a priority, but I struggle to devote a whole hour to it 1-2 x a week. It just feels like another thing I have to schedule. But, I really liked committing to 15-30 min a day at night while watching TV before bed. It was more manageable and I 100% feel like it made a difference in my running. So, for anyone that follows me on Instagram, this means that you were probably sick of “hyperlapsed yoga” at the end of 14 days. (But at least #BarkleeAnn even played a starring role in one of the videos! Does that make up for it??)

My mileage this training cycle was fairly conservative:

5 runs per week – 2 easy, 1 tempoish, 1 speedish, and 1 long run (pretty much what I’ve done the past 18 months).

Honolulu to Bayshore

Week 50 is the Honolulu marathon with my sister. Bayshore training didn’t begin until Week 10 and the base building in weeks 1-9 included all easy miles with only short tempo or speed intervals. I’m not a high mileage runner – I’ve only peaked at 60 mpw during marathon training. At this point, 40-50 mpw is a range that I feel comfortable running. I don’t really remember finishing any week with trashed legs, but just like I put in some good work. I’m anxious to see how this fitness translates into training for Chicago over the summer and into the fall!

The Man and I are driving up to Traverse City on Friday morning. And I seriously can’t wait to hang out with a badass group of runners all weekend. Sure, the race is going to be great (and the weather conditions look ideal right now!), but spending Saturday, Sunday, AND Monday surrounded by runners I’ve either known for years or will meet for the first time this weekend is something I’m really looking forward to! (Not to mention the # of breweries in Traverse City… I’m going to dive head first into a yummy stout as soon as possible after I finish…. hopefully with a PR to celebrate!)

– J

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Cherry Blossom “10 Miler” Race Recap

Last weekend, I flew to DC to catch up with my twin sis, meet her new puppy, hang out with family, and run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday morning. I’d been looking forward to this weekend for awhile because it felt like some sort of marker that spring was finally arriving. Apparently, the cherry blossoms haven’t peaked on the weekend of the festival since 2007. Good timing!

I flew in on Friday around 4pm and went straight to the expo with my suitcase. Kirtana, a mutual friend, was planning on meeting me there along with my older sister, Brittany. Kirtana and I have crossed paths countless times in Chicago – I can’t believe we hadn’t met until this past weekend! I grabbed my bib and old school cotton race tee at the National Building Museum before we drove over to Eastern Market for some margs and food.

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The next morning, my mom, sister, and I were all incredibly lazy. We slept in past 9 am (which I guess isn’t that bad for me, considering that would be 8 am CT) and made plans to meet Lindsey for lunch/brunch. I had a 30 minute shakeout to do so I went out to get that done while they walked to lunch down the street. As usual, the shakeout felt like complete crap and I just wanted to be done with it. I’m sure the windy day and the slightly rolling hills around the neighborhood didn’t make it feel any easier. Still, a shakeout is a shakeout and it always feels good to move after a flight, even if it was the day before.

My route was pretty random. Can you tell?

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The rest of Saturday, we spent spectating a roller derby. Having never been to one before, Lindsey and Nick had to explain all the rules. Dude, those chicks are hardcore. Beyond wearing wrist and knee guards, I think they should also be sporting some kind of chest armor because I saw many elbows to the … bosom. Also, I’m not sure how anyone can move so quickly or change direction so swiftly on roller skates. Mad skillz.

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We walked a fair amount all weekend but this was the perfect activity to put our feet up and rest a bit. Later, we ordered pizza and chilled at my sister’s place.

I prepared my race things and gear check bag for the next morning and finally went to bed around 11 PM. Well, I laid down but I probably didn’t fall asleep until after 12:30 PM. I purposely put my phone on the other side of the room so I wouldn’t be tempted to check the time. I wasn’t nervous about the race, really, but I just couldn’t turn my brain off. And all of a sudden, my 5:20 AM alarm was buzzing (4:20 AM CT….woof).

Race morning was very chill. There was no rush and everything was so easy about it. Lindsey and I met each other on the train (she took it 1 stop before I hopped on, as I was staying down the street from her apartment) and were on the mall before the crowd hit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a race so organized with plenty of bathrooms to use before the race. We avoided waiting in line by getting there early, though, so I’m sure the lines were long and slow closer to the start time. Lindsey watched my things for a few minutes as I did a 15-minute trot down the National Mall. In Chicago, it can be difficult to find an open area to warm-up before races sometimes. I didn’t have to dodge around many people and you couldn’t really tell that it was race morning on my warm-up. Lindsey and I swapped places as she did a quick warm-up, we changed into our racing shoes, and dropped our bags at gear check.

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Twinsieeeeez.

The last time Lindsey and I raced together was probably a Thanksgiving Day dash a few years ago (we really can’t remember) so it was fun to hang out with her beforehand! She’s training for the Chicago Half in May and was using Cherry Blossom as a training run – it’s been fun to be her “Sister Coach” the past few months. I jumped into my corral about 10 minutes before the start. About 5 minutes later, the race organizers announced that the course would be short due to some emergency or crime scene on the planned course. They couldn’t do an official measurement in time but estimated that it was 400m to 800m short. I was kind of bummed standing there in the corral, knowing that it wouldn’t be an offical 10 mile time but figured it wasn’t my goal race anyway and I was just looking for a nice, solid effort leading in to Bayshore in May. The only time-related goal I had was to hover as close to goal half marathon pace as possible. After a poor race at Shamrock 8k two weeks prior, I wanted to see if 6:40-6:50 pace was doable.

Mile 1: 6:50

There’s never much to say about the first mile :) I was warned that the first 2-3 miles would be pretty crowded but I didn’t have to dodge that much (probably relative to Shamrock).

Mile 2: 6:42

I spotted my family spectating and even heard a vuvuzela after I passed. I felt strong running across the bridge and felt like I was getting into a rhythm.

Mile 3: 6:35

Highlight of the race: @runfastandfab ran up to me and said, “Are you Jenny P from the internet?!” Ha! The running world is crazy awesome. I said yes! and we chatted for a few seconds. She seemed to have more energy (read: ability to speak clearly) than I did but we said we’d meet up after. It made me think back to running Chicago in 2011 when I met Jefferson for the first time during the race.

Mile 4: 6:30

I didn’t even realize I was pushing the pace a bit this mile. I had already missed a few mile markers & hadn’t lapped my watch so I wasn’t relying on my splits much. My friend Michaelene and her boyfriend James were spectating the race but I didn’t know they’d be around Mile 3-4 until I saw them, once on either side of the road before and after the turnaround.

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Also note, the race directors told us at the start that the mileage difference would be between miles 4-6, but that once we reached the Mile 6 marker, the distance would be as planned through to the finish, so that was another reason not to rely on my watch too much. I liked this section, running down Independence toward the tidal basin. It was open and clear and everyone around me seemed to be running the same pace.

Mile 5: 6:41

Just kept chugging along at the same effort, as we ran toward Hains Point.

Mile 6: 7:01

This is where I think I took a bit of a mental hit. I was starting to fatigue and let myself get into a little bit of a funk. Potomac Park was absolutely beautiful with the canopy of cherry blossoms reaching over the path. There are few spectators here so you really have to grind on your own.

Mile 7: 7:04

I lost my rhythm and resigned to keeping my legs moving at this point. I don’t even think I looked at my watch more than 1-2 times from Mile 7 to the finish. I had a sip of water in Mile 7 (or maybe 8?).

Mile 8: 6:54

At this point, I was practically rejoicing that the course was short (but obviously not because of the emergency that caused it to be shortened). I remember thinking, “ouch, this feels like the end of a marathon”. Probably a bit dramatic but I felt like I was seriously fading even though my splits don’t show it much.

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Mile 9: 7:05

Just willing my legs to keep moving and hoping that they’d stay on. :D

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0.4 – 6:53 pace

The last section is up two small hills but they felt gargantuan (kind of how “Roosevelt Mountain” feels at the end of many Chicago races). It’s a bit of a struggle too because you look up hoping to see the finish line but you really don’t see it until you’re less than 400 m from the actual finish line. The crowds were awesome here!

Official Splits:

5.7 M – 38:15, 6:43 pace

Finish – 1:04:49 6:49 pace

Overall place 680

Place in gender 152

Place in division 56

At the finish, I saw Ellen, Mary, and Allie. It was nice to finally meet Ellen and Allie in person and to catch up with Mary before she runs Boston next week. No matter where you race, there always seems to be someone that you “know” — or just feel like you know after some mutual stalking.

Overall, I think it was a good effort. I know where I’m at in my training and what kind of pace I can sustain on a good day. I’ve really only been focusing on tough workouts for 6 weeks now (after a decent base-building period), so I’ll take a solid 6:49 pace for 9.5ish miles as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction. And, if anything, it’s a bit of redemption after running 6:55 pace at the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. Running Cherry Blossom was a good reminder what race pain feels like and I’m looking forward to giving my workouts 100% in the next 4 weeks or so. I know I need to get some pace practice in and get comfortable with being uncomfortable — be willing to hop on the pain train in the last couple miles of the half. I think I would have felt much better during the race if I had started closer to 7:00 min/mile and worked my way down to 6:30s by the finish. There’s just something about a perfect spring day that makes you want to run fast and I clearly botched my race strategy in the first 5 miles. You race and you learn.

Oh! And Lindsey surprised herself (and me!) by running an amazing negative split! Her first half was around 8:30 pace and she ended up running 8:06 average by the finish. I mean, we miiiiight just have to adjust her goal time for the Chicago Half (duh). :D

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Brittany, my mom, Lindsey, me — and not be missed, Apache! (16 week old Chesapeake)

-J

2015-03-29 09.44.28-1

Shamrock Shuffle 8k 2014 [34:22]

First race of the year = rustbuster workout.

I’m making more of an effort to just get to the start line this year and the Shamrock Shuffle 8k was my first go at it. Considering I raced TWICE in all of 2014, this year is going to be very different. I didn’t have a big plan going into Shamrock. The longest tempo I’ve run so far is only 3 miles so I knew there would be a decent amount of grinding if I wanted to run 6:40-6:45 pace. As much as I wanted to run a certain pace, I was also fighting my 3rd cough/cold of the winter all last week. Huge bummer. I was completely drained by the end of the work day and all I wanted to do was crawl in bed and dose myself heavily with Nyquil. By Saturday, I felt decent but not 100%. And then add in the crazy weather forecast and I kind of threw a time goal out the window:

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Once you see that wind icon (especially in Chicago) you know it’s going to be a doozy. I met Corey and Chanthana at 7:30 AM so we could each do a quick warm-up before walking over to gear check and changing into racing shoes. CT was generous & offered to watch our bags while Corey and I ran a 20-minute warm-up a few times around the block. We knew there was a headwind from the south but we realized during the warm-up that there was also a crazy wind swirling from the west. Running north was effortless with a strong tailwind, at least!

I felt congested during our warm-up and the cold wind wasn’t making breathing any easier. As usual, despite thinking that we would have enough time to relax, get to gear check, do a few strides, and get into the corral in time, we were rushed to get there! Corey, CT, and I huddled together in the corral to try to stay warm before the start.

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Annnnd we were off.

Mile 1 – You can never trust your Garmin in the first 2-3 miles so I didn’t look at it. There was a lot of dodging and shuffling (heh) in the first mile and I felt like I was flying past so many people that had a slower goal pace that I did (big corrals will create that problem, and I started in the middle of the corral). I felt like I was running smooth – breathing totally normal. Once I manually lapped my watched at Mile 1 and saw 7:10 flash on my watch, I thought “what? That can’t be right! I thought I was running closer to 6:50!”

Mile 2- Running south on State St. was surprisingly not against a strong headwind. I was still fighting to pass people (and trying not to elbow people in the process) but found more of a groove in this mile. Split 6:45 – “ok, closer to goal pace at least”.

Mile 3- By the time I got to mile 3.5, my breathing was really labored. Despite feeling calm and controlled until that point, a lot of congestion was building. Breathing through my nose was basically impossible and the cold headwind went straight to the back of my throat. Derp. Still, I tried to push the pace and clocked a 6:42 here.

Mile 4 – the “holy headwind mile”. This was a big mental WOOF. I looked up at one point and saw everyone tucking their heads down and bracing against the wind. Effort was high here even if pace wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be. Those 40 mph wind gusts that were predicted became reality. Split: 6:53

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Mile 5 – Just tried to pull it together. Once we made the turn back south on Michigan, my lungs and legs were burning. The headwind was still strong here and I had to stop to blow a snot rocket. :) Everything was backed up and I just wanted to be done. After the left turn to the finish, I tried to kick it in a bit but not sure if that was all in my head. Split: 6:51.

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All in all, these were pretty crazy conditions for the first ‘spring’ race of the year. I’ve only run the Shuffle one other time and that was 4 years ago when it was 75 degrees and sunny. This year, the weather turned the opposite direction. The effort was there on race day but the goal pace wasn’t. My legs felt good and my form felt strong, but the wind and my congestion made racing difficult. I’ll consider this a good rustbuster (and my first 5 mi tempo of this training cycle) and hope for real spring temps to arrive soon.

Splits: 7:10, 6:45, 6:42, 6:53, 6:51

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My next race is the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on April 12! I’ve heard so many good things about this race and I’m looking forward to putting in another solid effort before Bayshore at the end of May.

-J

2015-03-22 22.19.23

{Currently} March 25, 2015

Reading: If there’s one book that I’ve read lately that’s made me want to get in bed at 8 PM just to spend a few hours reading, it’s this one.

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I’ve had this book on my shelf for a lonnng time and I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up sooner (probably because there’s always a massive stack of books just waiting to be read around here). I found the receipt from the book store at O’Hare tucked in its pages; turns out I bought the book in October 2013! It’s a fast-moving adventure about a 24-Hour Bookstore, it’s owner (Mr. Penumbra) and a sort of secret society that the new store clerk is trying to learn about. If you’re in a reading slump, I really recommend this book.

Practicing: Nerd alert! A few years ago, I became obsessed with sudoku puzzles. I happened to pick up a Red Eye a few weeks ago and flipped to the last page to complete the puzzle. And then I bought a desk calendar with a daily sudoku to complete. Clearly, I have some catching up to do since it started Jan 1. They say that the most productive people have a solid morning routine and lately mine has been suffering (beyond my consistent coffee addiction, of course). I’ve been doing my puzzle in the morning, along with 750Words (when I remember) and I feel like my brain is ready to start the work day — as opposed to jumping head first into work right after waking up.

Running in: a new to me shoe! I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Nike Pegasus in the past. I’d been looking for a new shoe since I started base-building in January and I jumped on a pair of Pegs for $69 on Nike’s clearance section in February. (Who could resist that price?) So far, I’ve put 90+ miles on them and I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised. I’ve been running most of my long runs in them and some recovery runs. They’re heavier and more cushioned than my longtime favorite, the Saucony Kinvara. I’m not a fun of ‘pillowy’ recovery shoes (the Saucony Triumph really didn’t work for me); I like to feel the road/pavement. The Pegs have a good amount of cushion but I can still feel the road. I even wore them for a tempo interval session and felt like they could be a decent racing shoe if you’re into something a bit heavier.

Eating: with new friends at Underground Social Society. The Man and I are trying out new things this year. It’s probably because we had some crazy cabin fever this winter (and one can only watch so much HGTV before going insane), but we’ve been looking for unique things to do and places to see. He heard about Underground Social Society from a bartender/friend. The concept is smallish, intimate, 6-7 course dinners that are only put on monthly (for now). You subscribe to updates for their next event on their website. The next email will be for the event, along with details on the theme and instructions on how to researve a seat ($50 per person). The theme for this dinner was Asian and was titled “Chopsticks Only”. You receive an email the day before the dinner with details on the location. And then you just show up! We went this past Sunday and had a blast — and we might have had too much fun for a Sunday night, because Monday morning was most certainly difficult. The group that founded it all met at Little Goat – think badass people that just their ‘customers’ to experience a new way of dining and interact with different types of people. The menu was insanely delicious and the cocktail pairing was spot on – and I don’t even like gin. :) I’m introverted when it comes to groups where I don’t know anyone but everyone was so open and inviting. By the end of the night we actually felt like we had been close friends with the people we sat next to for more than one-two hours.

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Excited and nervous about: racing! The Shamrock Shuffle 8k is this weekend! I keep forgetting it’s race week, to be honest. At this point, I usually have some idea of what I’m wearing and what kind of pace strategy I’ll use. Haven’t thought about either of those. I just finished a stamina block of training and this week is the first week of speeeeeed, so it’s probably best that I go into it with zero expectations. Annnd then! Cherry Blossom isn’t that far away either. I’m getting my legs back and I’ve had several encouraging workouts the past few weeks – ones that make me feel like I’m back to where I was this time last year. Last week’s 60 min progression run and 15-miler felt smoooooth & fluid. It’s also encouraging to have spring temps come around every now and then. Chicago is on a weather roller coaster between winter and spring lately but I can deal with 40s for long runs each weekend. (Crossing my fingers that the forecast for Sunday changes soon though — supposed to be 30 degrees, with real feel of 17, including 20 mph winds from the south. DERP!)

Whatcha been up to lately?!

– J

2015-02-28 10.56.10

Base Building for Spring Racing: To Bayshore!

I haven’t been posting weekly training updates because it seemed silly to recap a relatively boring schedule (base training isn’t exactly the most exciting thing to write or read about). But a small recap seems fitting because I just wrapped up my 8th week back to normal and consistent mileage after the craziness of Monumental and Honolulu.

This winter has been so different than the past two years – mostly because I’m not training for Boston. Props to all of you fighting through the winter to peak for a great experience – it’s no small feat! I’m personally not missing hilly 20 milers and brutal speed workouts against a Chicago headwind but I’m really excited to follow those of you running in April. [I’m sure I’ll get the itch to run Boston again at some piont but maybe after some recent memories fade away and I’m ready to fight with the weather.] I’ll stick to my 90 minute long runs and a fairly amicable relationship with the treadmill for now.

So, the past 8 weeks have been a slow build to relatively normal mileage and I’ve gradually added in speed and tempo workouts. The first week I ran 20 miles total and this past week I rounded it out with 40 miles (and one 5-day streak, which hasn’t happened since Octoberish!). The first 4 weeks or so were full of easy peasey miles and the only ‘speed’ I did included workouts like 10 x 1 min surges with 1 min recovery or 5 miles easy with 10 min up tempo to finish. Getting back into shape has been tough but every week I finish feeling more and more like myself. My first longish run was only 7.6 miles and that felt incredibly tough (granted, it was 10 degrees and Corey & I had to fight through 20-30 mph winds for over half the run). I think no matter how many marathons I run, it’s always surprising to me how difficult even 3 miles feels after a recovery period. It’s the nature of the marathon training beast, I suppose. I haven’t had any “oh my goodness life is beautiful and running is the greatest and I ran so fastttttt” kind of runs yet but I have a feeling they will come if I keep putting in the work.

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I’m proud of the consistency in my running and my strength training so far this year. I haven’t skipped my hip and glute strength routine (wahoooo!) and I’ve done core workouts at least 2 times each week. (It’s always easier for me to commit to these routines in the winter, when I’m usually already at the gym.) Staying out of the “more and more mileage is better” trap isn’t easy but I know I can’t focus on shorter distances (and tough speed workouts) without cutting mileage (easier said than done especially after dedicating so much time to the marathon the past two years).

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I had one of those DERP “WHY ARE MY LEGS SO HEAVY?!” long runs last weekend. At least the sun was out!

So! This week kicks off a 12 week training cycle leading up to the Bayshore Half in May!  12 weeks seems like a long time to get fit for 13.1 (or so I keep telling myself) and I’m excited about some workouts that I’ve never done before. The Shamrock Shuffle 8k is coming up in a few short weeks (eepers!). I’m already starting to get nervous — probably because, in 2014, I only raced …..wait for it…. TWICE! [New York Half in March and Monumental in November; paced my sister at Honolulu]. I’ll be getting to more start lines in 2015 – I’d rather just get out there than be greedy about racing when I feel like it’s “worth it” (AKA when I feel like I can PR). I haven’t decided if I’ll be racing it all out or treating it as a tough tempo workout yet but either way it’s going to be a good tune-up, along with the Cherry Blossom 10 miler in April.

17 days til spring!

26 days to Shamrock 8k

40 days to Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

and 80 days to Bayhore.

What’s coming up on your calendar? How are you dealing with the winter weather in your area?

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{Currently} February 12, 2015

Reading: I just finished reading Station Eleven, as one of the books on my list of books I aboslutely must read in 2015. My sister pushed me to read it and I’m glad she did. I don’t normally pick up sci-fi-ish books but this one didn’t seem so other worldly. If you’re looking for a good book to read, I recommend it. Now…what should I read next? (as if I don’t have enough to choose from on my Goodreads lists…)

Obsessed with: This isn’t really a new obsession but I’ve found myself watching a LOT of Fixer Upper lately. I get sucked into design and renovation shows on HGTV all the time. I think it’s because my mom is always decorating and redecorating the house and I think I’ve somehow acquired that design gene. Once a room is ‘finished’, I always seem to find a way to justify changing it. Fixer Upper is entertaining mostly because Chip and Joanna are a hilarious couple. I appreciate that they don’t take themselves too seriously. I’m contemplating moving to Texas just to befriend them…and their kids… and their puppies (don’t tell Barklee Ann).

Also, I splurged on a pair of new booties. Obsessed. They were really comfortable right out of the box.

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Restocking: my supply of Nuun. I think the last time I placed an order was October (gasp!), so I bought a ton of different flavors this time around. I’ve been trying to drink *at least* 24 oz of water before noon every day. After I stopped training for a specific race and dedicated time to recovery, I fell into the bad habit of sipping coffee all morning (it takes me a long time to finish one cup) and realizing once I sit down to lunch that I haven’t yet had any WATER. Morning workouts are few and far between these days but I’m doing myself zero favors by waiting to consume water until so late in the day.

Happy about: how I’m responding to training lately. It’s only my 6th week back to consistent mileage and I’m slowly but surely starting to feel like myself again. My PR at Monumental feels like such a long time ago (and it kind of was); I keep reminding myself that running isn’t necessarily going to feel that great in the beginning, but each week seems to improve. The first 4 weeks back in a routine were a slog with plenty of easy miles, zero true workouts, and a fair amount of cross training. Besides an angry piriformis and a few visits to the chiropractor in January, it was a standard little base building phase. At the end of February, I started adding small workouts like: 4 x 1200 at tempo pace with 400 m recovery and 10 x 1 min surges.

I like the routine of my hip strength and core strength routines, spin, yoga, and 5 runs per week (between 25-35mpw) right now.

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My sister and I ran a few miles together over the weekend. Looks a little different now doesn’t it?

October vs. February

Spending time: in Holland, MI with my family. Last weekend, I took the Amtrak up to Holland to spend the weekend with my mom, sister, and brother. We all had a free weekend and made plans to go up there and relax. The state park there is busy in the winter, with residents checking out the frozen lake. I couldn’t believe how far out people were walking – you could barely even see the water beyond all of the ice. Can’t wait to go back and enjoy it this summer :)

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Surviving: the winter blues. When Chicago received 22 inches of snow last week (one of our biggest blizzards ever), I thought, “okay, this isn’t so bad.” But the next day I woke up with a big old ‘deeeeeerrrrrrrrp’ & thought, “when the heck is this going to end?!”. I trained through the past two Chi winters to prepare for Boston so I’m no stranger to dealing with the elements. There’s something about just making it happen that makes you feel like a badass while everyone is inside running on the treadmill. Last year, I would do anything just to get to the lakefront and get a solid workout in. But I don’t have Boston on the horizon and I’m fine with ‘resorting’ to the treadmill for most workouts (the only run I’ve consistently done outside is my long run, mostly because I have the time to get to and from the lakefront path). It’s been fairly sunny lately, but those grey days are a big downer. I increased the amount of Vit D I’m taking and treating exercise like it’s my own personal sunshine. 35 days until spring, folks!

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Relaxing with: hot epsom salt baths. Summer = ice baths. Winter = epsom salt baths. I bought Dr. Teal’s salt bath for tension and fatigue a few weeks ago. I add in a little bit of bubble bath (because why not?!) and take a hot epsom salt bath after most of my long runs. Winter training is so different from training through the summer. In the winter, I sleep in and have a lazy morning drinking coffee while I procrastinate my run. In the summer, I chug a half a cup of coffee and get my butt out the door before the temps climb too high.

Are you surviving the winter? Are you loving it or are you over it?

-J

2014-12-14 11.37.44

Honolulu Marathon: My Sister’s 26.2 Debut with #Saucony26Strong

On Sunday, December 14th, my older sister Brittany and I ran 26.2 in Honolulu. That means that this recap is approximately 45+ days “late”. It was Brittany’s first marathon and we had the crazy cool opportunity to be a part of 26 strong women all going for 26.2 in 2014 with Saucony.

After a long, luxurious week in the sunshine (we soaked up all of the vitamin D we could), we grumpily boarded a plane bound for home. And while I grabbed my iPad to load a movie and try to entertain myself for the 8-hour flight, Brittany sat for a few hours typing away on her race recap. I kept peeking over at her to see if she was even close to finishing; she had so much to say (because, duh, she should. She ran a marathon)! I was so curious about what moments stood out, the things that made her laugh, and how she interepreted her first marathon. All of our racing experiences can be so different — and how we interpret them is so personal, especially when it’s a distance you’ve never run before. When she felt like she was done with her first draft, she nudged me, passed over her iPad and asked me if I wanted to read it.

This is what she had to say, just 6 days after racing her first marathon. I’ve filled in some details (in italics) that stand out to me; moments that make me proud and happy …and giggle with laughter at the moments that I hope we’ll both remember for a long time to come. You did it, Brittany!

——

“The alarm went off at 3:00 a.m.  With the time difference, it felt like 8:00 a.m. to us, which worked out well.  I had laid out all of my gear the evening before so that I was sure not to forget anything.   I ate some oatmeal, drank water with nuun, and packed a banana to eat closer to race time.

Either Brittany really was calm and collected or she really concealed her nerves well. I think I was more flustered that morning than her!

Despite a recent minor calf issue, I opted to forego the single calf sleeve I was given by my PT and went with full compression socks instead.   I figured since I have tight calves to begin with, they might both need a little extra support.  I put on my bullet shorts, sleeveless top, and Monumental Marathon running cap (that was my first half marathon, which I ran with my other sister, Lindsey), and laced up my Kinvara’s (my favorite shoe by far).  I loaded up my side pockets with gu, put my iPod in my back pocket, and plugged in my recently-purchased yurbuds.  I was glad I had bought them because my last pair was well beyond its useful life.   Also, they seemed to stay put much better than my old pair.  Couldn’t have any gear malfunctions on race day!  Two puffs of the inhaler and some quick stretches and we were out the door.

Brittany’s recent minor calf issue came just 3 weeks before race day, at the end of peak week and just 7 miles into her 20-miler. Her PT was able to see her within a day of stopping her run short and experiencing some sharp pain. He diagnosed her with a minor calf sprain and we rolled with the punches. She received 3-4 Graston treatments and she (luckily) experienced absolutely no pain while cross-training on the bike and elliptical. I know how frustrating an injury so close to race day can be — but she handled it well and her calf was 100% ready to go the morning of the marathon. I remember telling her that the beginning of taper was probably the best time that a little niggle could happen.

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Can you tell Britt is almost 6 feet tall? I didn’t get that gene!

The other 26Strong coaches and cadets met in the lobby of our hotel around 3:30 a.m.  It was very apparent how nervous most people were.  I was both excited and nervous, to be honest.  I’d been working hard for almost 7 months and now race day had finally arrived.   (“Can we get this show on the road already??”).  We left the hotel around 3:45 a.m., just as a light rain started to come down.  A few people we saw were smart and had brought trash bags to keep dry but it was a warm rain and not very hard so I didn’t mind it much.  As far as race conditions go, I would gladly take cloudy and raining over 74 and sunny*.  It was about a 1.5 mile walk to the start so it served as a good warm-up.  We were grateful not to have to take a shuttle there because it would’ve just complicated things. 

Spoiler alert!: I think it was to our advantage that Brittany and I both love running in the rain.

When we got near the start, I really had to pee (hello hydration!).   The lines for the port-o-potties were super long, as usual, so we kept walking while we looked for another option.  Not finding one, we got in what appeared to be a shorter line and waited our turn.   Until that morning, I didn’t have a full appreciation for how many Japanese people were in Honolulu for the race.  Jenny and I were easily the only blondes in the crowd :)  After about 20 minutes, it became obvious the lines were NOT moving.   Maybe it was the added complexity of getting the trash bag off before they could pee but everyone was taking their sweet time!   Thankfully Jenny spotted some public restrooms that seemed to be a well-kept secret so we jogged over to them.  No line.  Phew!  We were in and out in minutes.

*I can’t overstate how ridiculous these bathroom lines were — After a bank of 7-8 lines didn’t move an inch during our 10 min wait, I ran across the field to stand in another line. Brittany could see me (barely) from across the field and I told her I’d jump up and down like a crazy person if my line moved faster. Neither of us moved. (The runners in those lines must have started 30+ min after the official start of the race, I swear.) I saw people running in and out of this group of trees so I decided to run over there to see if there were ‘secret bathrooms’. Success! After another run across the field to grab Britt and back to the bathroom and THEN to the start line, we finally made it. Phew.

The start wasn’t organized into corrals of any kind.  Instead, there were signs posted, each with a target finish time.  It was essentially a “seed yourself” scenario.  It was really crowded but we managed to get near the 4:00 sign and only waited a few minutes before the official start of the race (complete with fireworks, believe it or not).  Just before the start, the Darude song “Sandstorm” started playing on my iPod and that’s when I finally felt ready to race.  Music was one thing that really helped me get through my training so hearing a song I love to run to really fired me up!

I’ve never seen fireworks at the start of a race — that was exhilarating! I’ve also never been at a start line and wondered, “when are they gonna say something in English? I wonder if there’s important information they’re sharing.” Because over half of the participants are Japanese, at least 75% of the annoucements were in Japanese. The only thing I heard in English before we started was “You’re going to runnnnnnnnnn!”. :) 

The first couple of miles we had to weave in and out between people while trying to keep as steady a pace as we could.  It was frustrating to be wasting energy going side to side in the crowd rather than just forward, but there’s no helping that when you’re in one of the largest races in the US.  It took patience, but going out too fast would’ve been disastrous anyway.

*The amount of weaving that we had to do was pretty frustrating, but we kept tabs on one another and worked our way through the crowd. It would have been much easier if it hadn’t been pitch black outside. 

The crowd opened up a bit around mile 4.  I remember seeing some goofy-looking Christmas lights downtown Honolulu (that’s just weird to me).  The streets were wet from the rain and we were still 2 hours from sunrise so I tried to really pay attention to my footing.  Hawaii also has rows of raised plastic reflectors separating traffic lanes, which were annoying to dodge.   One wrong step and someone would roll an ankle.  I’ll pass, thank you very much.

We had agreed to look for Lindsey and Manny around mile 5 since that was the closest point to our hotel.  Those two are quite the professional race spectators by now (especially since they’ve done quite a few themselves).  We spotted them and we were all smiles.  I ran towards them and yelled “sweaty hugs!” before they even knew what was happening (mwahahaha).  Eh…they were already wet from the rain, right? ;)  It’s always a boost to see friends and family along the course.

Next, we began the climb up Diamond Head.   I knew there would be some uphill portions of the course, but I didn’t have a full understanding of how steep it was going to be.  “Small, quick steps,” Jenny said to me.  I didn’t have too much trouble and to my surprise, even my calves behaved themselves.

The wind and rain really started to make things difficult around mile 8.   It was so windy I felt like we were practically standing still.  I couldn’t get a full breath.  It was at this point I was extremely glad I’d worn a hat.  I put my head down in an attempt to block the wind.  My Indiana training definitely didn’t include wind and I think it affected me both mentally and physically.  I thought to myself “if this keeps up, there’s no way I’ll finish!”

I’m not sure I was even ready for the wind, even after training in Chicago. Wind is one thing, but wind and rain is another. We dealt with the rain and wind for the majority of the race, with the most annoying section between mile 8 and 14-15. 

2014-12-14 07.24.01Here’s what we were dealing with. Straight headwind for at least 6 miles with a heavy downpour. 

At about the halfway point, Jenny suggested we use a race/walk strategy, as it was obvious we wouldn’t finish in 3:xx.  We would run for 4 minutes and walk for 1.  “Yes please.”  She had me follow right behind her and just focus on her feet and matching her stride.   It sounds odd but it worked.  It took my mind off of everything else that was going on and I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  We used that strategy the rest of the race. 

I knew we were working too hard to maintain goal pace in tough conditions; I wanted to make sure Brittany was able to run those long legs across the finish line and ENJOY her first 26.2 as much as possible. She said to me, “Jenny, I’m running across that finish line no matter what.” I kept my eye on my watch so she could focus on maintaing a rhythm and watching my heels. It’s funny to think about how I was completely convinced that I was blocking even a small amount of wind for her — I’m 5’6″ and she’s 5’11”. I still like to think that I helped a wee bit — even if it was only a mental boost. 

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I don’t remember much of miles 15-22.  I know I was struggling, needed to stretch a few times, and was cussing up a storm.   (Sorry to anyone I may have offended.  lol).  I hardly checked my Garmin at all, thinking it would just discourage me to see my pace.  I vaguely recall there being a rainbow everyone was snapping pictures of.  All I could do was focus on the task at hand.  Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.  

This is where the race really got interesting. We maintained our run-walk strategy and I knew Brittany was feeling comfortable doing that. But when I heard her say “oh f***, oh f***”, I knew we were in for a treat. I couldn’t help but laugh — I totally knew what she was going through. She was swearing not because she thought she couldn’t do it; she was swearing because it was a totally new sensation. She likely heard people say “you won’t know what running a marathon feels like until you run one” a million times leading up to her race — and now she was really experiencing that dead-legged exhaustion that sets in. As her pacer and sister and coach and friend, I took every opportunity to try to make her laugh, to remind her to look at the views (which improved toward the end, thanks to the rain stopping), and to dance to whatever song was on her iPod. I knew she was staring at my heels to keep her legs going, so I waved and made silly motions to her as she followed. We joke now that she spent 26.2 miles staring at my butt. 

2014-12-14 07.59.332014-12-14 08.27.34This rainbow showed itself around miles 18-21. The rain had pretty much stopped and we were delirious.

Once we reached Mile 18, Brittany said “hey, longest distance I’ve ever run in my life!”. Her longest run was 18 miles (due to her calf sprain, she wasn’t able to complete her 20-miler), so every mile marker after 18 was a milestone. We maintained our run-walk strategy really well, I think! We stopped a few times to stretch our quads and calves and get our Gu down. 

Honolulu- Pacing!

The people from Saucony and Competitor (Sean, Brandon, and Erin!) who helped organize the 26Strong program were spectating and taking pictures at mile 25.  Luckily this was a downhill part of the course or they may have gotten to see just how slooooooow Brittany can move.  We attempted to smile for the camera and I’m 100% sure Jenny was more successful than I was. 

When Brittany says that she was running slow, she really means that she was at mile 25 of a freaking marathon and she was tired. Because, duh, running a marathon is hard. :) I 100% remember her having a spurt of energy here – seeing people you know on a race course always gives me an adrenaline rush and we knew all we had to do was continue running down the hill and straight through the park to the finish line. 

Shortly thereafter (near mile 25) some people were handing out ‘shots’ of beer.   I hadn’t spotted them yet when Jenny asked “do you want a beer?”  I responded “heck yeah!” before I realized she meant now and not at the finish.  Haha!  No beer for me….I have a race to finish… Back to business…

I, for one, was completely serious about taking the beer offer. Next time, Brittany, next time. ;) 

On the final stretch, we again spotted Lindsey and Manny.  This time they were joined by Jenny’s friend, Chanthana (a fellow marathoner).   I remember hearing them cheer but don’t recall exactly what they said.   I was soooo exhausted and just wanted to cross that finish line!  I know I was able to keep picking up my legs but just barely off the ground.  I do remember Jenny saying “You’re doing it!  You’re running a marathon!” which made me smile (more so on the inside than visibly showing it). 

VIDEO: That moment when you are just meters away from finishing your first marathon. *Also, I’d like to give a shoutout to Chanthana’s incredible lungs and vocal chords. 

When I think about running Honolulu with Brittany, I think about this moment. Lindsey, Manny, and Chanthana ask Britt “who’s a marathoner?!!! … You’re a marathoner!”

Jenny and I held hands as we crossed the finish line, which made me feel so incredibly proud.  We were congratulated and each given a seashell necklace.  How appropriate!  As I bent over and held my knees, a woman asked if I was okay (thinking to myself: “Does it look like it?”)   But I did feel “okay” relatively speaking.  We kept walking through the finish chute looking for water but no such luck.  This was a huge race organization fail in my opinion.  I know they wanted to keep the line moving but making you walk another half mile for water wasn’t cool.

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Lindsey, Manny, and Chanthana soon found us and were all smiles and high-fives.   “You’re a marathoner!  You’re a marathoner!” they kept saying.  :D. After getting our race medals and t-shirts, we found a place to sit (woo!) and take off our shoes, get some water, check our phones, and all that stuff.  One unique thing about the Honolulu Marathon finish is that they have malasadas*, which are the Hawaiian equivalent of donuts covered in generous amounts of sugar   (“Sign me up!  I’ll take a dozen”).  It may not have been the smartest move to eat that right after racing but at that point, I didn’t really care :)

*Malasadas = pillowy sugary doughnut slice of heaven. All other races need to take note!

Looking back on the whole experience, it definitely was the chance of a lifetime and I can’t believe I even had to think twice before I said yes.  Many people run marathons (about half a million Americans actually) but not many get to go about it quite the way we did.   Lots of new shoes and gear, a magazine cover, the support of 24 other women, free race entry and travel expenses, and most important to me – having my incredible sister as my coach.  Jenny and I often joked that we were dreaming.   This just doesn’t happen.  But it did happen.  And it’s something I’ll always cherish.

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When asked if I will ever run another marathon, I’m not sure.  It was a bucket list item of mine and now it’s complete.   Training for 26.2 is a huge time commitment, not to mention the mental and physical discipline it requires.   For now, I only know one thing for sure.   I won’t ever have another FIRST marathon.   So I’m going to bask in my achievement a little while longer.   Mahalo Honolulu.

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2014-12-16 14.46.18

{Currently} January 8, 2015

The last time I posted was over two months ago?! How the heck did that happen? Between the holidays, getting sick for a few weeks, running the Honolulu Marathon with my sister (and spending a week in paradise), I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. I’m sure everyone is feeling the same way these days — in Chicago, we’re mostly feeling cold and depressed about the crazy negative temps and too many treadmill runs.

Reading: All The Light We Cannot See. My mom recommended this book to me before I left for Honolulu. (And along with the other 2 books I bought for the trip, not one of them was read!) I’m about halfway through it and I’m sucked in. I like books that flip between two different view points — and you know that at some point the characters’ lives are going to intersect. The chapters are short, but you really get to know each character – and the writing is absolutely beautiful. I’ve seen this book on a lot of ‘Top Books of 2014′ lists so the ending has to be good, right? I’m also going to make more of an effort to read regularly this year. I read almost 30 books in 2013 and only 12 last year – not sure when the habit kind of dropped off, but I’ve felt like snuggling up with a good book lately and started to make a list of books I want to read this year. [If you could recommend ONE book to anyone in the world, what would it be. Yes, just ONE.]

Dreaming about: Spring of speed! After 5 consecutive marathon training cycles (Twin Cities 2012, Boston 2013, Grand Rapids 2013 [injury], Boston 2014, Indy Monumental 2014], I decided to take this spring to focus on shorter distances. It’s been so long since I dedicated a cycle to a half marathon and I’m excited to see what happens when I do. My PR at the NYC Half last spring was so much fun and I have a feeling I have more speed in these legs somewhere. I’ve been lucky enough to PR my half as part of marathon training the past few years. I’m all signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago, Cherry Blossom 10 in DC, and the Bayshore Half in Traverse City, MI. I’d like to throw in a 5k or 10k at some point, but that may be difficult to squeeze in, especially with the weather conditions in Chicago. We have a fair number of short distance local races in the spring, but ice and snow are always a concern and I’d like to avoid injuring myself. :) I’ve been working on putting the final touches on my training plan. Hope it’s a smart and tactical plan without being too conservative. I’m slowly easing back in to running regularly. I took a full 2 weeks off all exercise following Honolulu. I didn’t have any motivation to get back to it quickly and I know that I put more stress on my body than I ever have with 6 weeks between my PR at Monumental and Honolulu. My knee (the infamous knee!) was cranky after Honolulu and I totally babied (baby’d? LOLZ) it to let the inflammation settle down. I’m focusing a lot on core and strength work, and adding in 4-5 runs per week for the next month. I’m hoping my patience pays off and I feel 100% ready to dive into speed work and tough tempos in February.

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Can’t stop laughing about: this video of my nephew on Christmas Day. He’s a pancake lover and he had us all cracking up. I mean, that little shoulder shrug totally says, “oh man, these are yummy!” doesn’t it?

I've watched this video of my nephew eating pancakes on Christmas approximately 107 times. And it's not enough.

A video posted by Jenny Poore (@jennypoore) on

Can’t get enough of: Live DJ spin class at my gym. Seriously, I feel like every time I go to this class I have a near religious experience and all I wanna do is hug people and give high-5s. The instructor and the DJ are (I’m 97% sure) dating and I swear I wanna be their best friend. Mandee, the instructor, is no-nonsense and she pushes you without being all corny about it (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever had a bad spin instructor). It’s a really difficult class despite being 50 minutes and I’m excited to squeeze this into my training plan when I can the next couple of months. There was no way I could commit to this class every week if I were training for a spring 26.2, so I’m excited to make this routine. Anyone else always choose Bike #26?

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Playing: Scrabble with The Man. We used to play this all the time, the first few years we dated. Back then, I think we played it so often because we were poor college students and didn’t have money to go out (much). My family always played it when I was younger and things could get quite competitive. (That’s you, Mom.) Manny and I are making a routine of playing it on Friday nights. Helloooooo game night. He actually beat me by 3 freaking points last week because he blocked a FORTY-EIGHT POINT WORD that I had queued up! Rage. I’ll get him next round.

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Reminiscing about: Hawaii. We flew back from Honolulu 2.5 weeks ago but it feels like it’s been months (time warp = holidaaaaaze). I’m not sure I’ve ever been so relaxed before. It was such a fun week with both of my sisters, Manny, Chanthana, and Kim. We left feeling like we did everything we wanted to do, like we didn’t miss out on anything. I promise to do a proper recap of both the marathon (#6!!!) and the rest of the trip soon – there’s lots to share (namely, how freaking proud I am of my sister’s 26.2 debut in crazy conditions!)

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What have you been up to?

-J

2014-11-09 09.43.40

{Currently} November 10, 2014

In my post-marathon haze, I’ve realized just how boring a blog can be when LIFE isn’t really included in the whole training rundown. I used to be good about including life’s happenings in the weekly training recaps, but last cycle was anything but normal. I really enjoy reading Erin’s “currently” posts, so I decided to steal the concept. (So thanks for the idea and I apologize for stealing it, E!)

So, currently this is what’s happening!:

Reading: Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. I’m almost done with the book and I think I still have mixed feelings about it. She’s received a lot of attention because of some specific passages and apparently had to cancel some book signings because of how they were received. I started watching her show, Girls, on HBO after seeing her film Tiny Furniture a few years ago. Most of the time, my reaction to her writing and to her show is somewhere between “omg this is a train wreck and I can’t look away” and cringing in embarrassment. That said, I think it’s refreshing that there is a show out there that portrays at least a few real life situations that 20-somethings have to deal with — even if it is a bit exaggerated. Next on my list of books to read? Wild by Cheryl Strayed (*finally* getting around to it!) and The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. I have them both on my iPad and now I just have to find the time to read them. Shouldn’t be too hard now that I’m not training, right?

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Decorating: Now that I’m not training and starting to feel like recovery is happening post-26.2, I suddenly have so much energy at the weirdest times. I go from being so sleepy to super energetic and back again. I have to do something with those spurts of energy and lately it’s been all about decorating and furnishing the apartment, two months after moving. I went on a cleaning rampage on Friday night and was going to go crazy if I didn’t hang some of our artwork and decor up on the walls. (Reverse taper crazy?) We finally decided on a look for the dining area & stumbled up on a customer furniture maker online, thanks to an ad he listed on Craiglist. This guy has been great to work with and had us choose the wood, stain, and style of our custom dining room table. I’M SO EXCITED ABOUT IT! It’s going to arrive just in time for Thanksgiving. We’re going for the rustic, industrial look.

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The chairs I bought online …

2014-11-07 12.35.59…and an example of the table that is being built this week!

Can’t stop smiling about: My sister’s half marathon PR at Outer Banks this past weekend! I woke up at 7 AM yesterday when I heard my phone ding. I had a few texts from her husband, updating the family on how she was doing. I signed up for text updates from the race but they never came through (until 1 hour after she finished the darn thing)! She looked so happy and relaxed at Mile 8 and I was so anxious to hear how she did! She ran a super strong and consistent race and I couldn’t be more happy for her. It’s been a crazy training cycle because she’s been dealing with chest congestion and an annoying cough for over a month (not kidding). Her doctor thinks it may be a specific allergy that she deals with at the same time every year but an allergy test didn’t come up positive. The fact that she ran such a strong race with breathing that wasn’t 100% clear is so awesome! I’m really excited to see what you do in the spring, Lin!

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This is Lindsey at Mile 8, screaming “I think I’m going to PR!!!!” Wahoooooo!

Drinking: A lot of beer (too much? never). Duh. #recovery

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Corey & CT

“Brunching” at 2 pm with these two (and Jacq!) normally turns into a long afternoon over a few drinks. It’s the best kind of Saturday.

Listening to: Serial! I first heard about Serial on the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast. I listen to a few podcasts off and on whenever I have the time, mostly on a lazy Sunday afternoon or right when I finish up work for the day. The story is already fascinating to me, only 1 episode in and I’ve heard it only gets more intriguing. It’s interesting to hear about people ‘binge-listening’ to this podcast just like they would binge-watch a show on Netflix. Has that ever happened before? I like it. Also, it’s the best kind of listening for an easy recovery spin at the gym. 53 minutes of spin with 53 minutes of Serial.

Planning: Our trip to Honolulu! In 5 weeks, my sister Brittany will run her first marathon with Saucony’s #26Strong program! We’ve been talking about and looking forward to the marathon since February of this year and I can’t believe we’re actually planning what we want to do, see, eat, and drink while we’re there! The plan is to run every single mile of the marathon with Brittany, as long as she wants me to. I am in full support of her racing it on her own if she really wants to OWN it. I’ll help her in any way that I can, for as long as she wants me to. My plan is to recover and slowly build some mileage in the next few weeks. I’m taking recovery seriously, now 8 days after 26.2. I haven’t run a single step (except to catch a bus the other day!) since the race so this week I’ll add in a few easy runs with some recovery spins at the gym to get back into a routine. I don’t plan on doing any tough speedwork & my longest run will probably be around 16 miles before we head to Honolulu. Brittany’s training is going so well and I’m really excited to share the experience with her. We nerded out about running Honolulu together when we were in LA for the Competitor photoshoot in July. Note: lots.of.makeup! Also, that’s an interesting facial expression.

So, what should we do while we’re there?! AKA, what *can* we do after running 26.2?

What have you been up to lately? Doing things you didn’t have time for during training, like me?

-J

2014-11-03 08.49.06

2014 Monumental Marathon: RACE RECAP 3:11:07

I spent 12 weeks of training worrying, obsessing, and wondering whether or not I’d be able to run a PR in Indy last Saturday. I’m exceptionally good at thinking about these things. I do it so often that it’s a surprise to me when I am able to turn off my brain.

That happened on race day. I didn’t think. I just RAN.

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My sister asked me last night to tell her all about the race, about every single mile. And I couldn’t. I don’t have a lot to say about each mile of Monumental because I didn’t obsess over the details, I didn’t question my pace, I didn’t get ahead of myself, and I didn’t calculate my finish time early on. I had a conservative plan going into it, but ended up running closer to feel than by pace than I ever have before.

I ran a 3 min, 30 second PR with a time of 3:11:07. IT WAS THE BEST DAY EVAHHHHHH! 

The big headline: I ran my 5th marathon, with a 3 + min PR, peed my shorts for the 2nd time in a marathon (it was awesome) and totally surprised myself on Saturday. 

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I’m so happy I showed up with a “ok, let’s just see what happens!” kind of attitude because it took the pressure of a PR out of my mind. Manny and I drove down to Indy on Friday morning after dropping Barklee off. I hydrated like crazy before and during the drive and we had to take 2 pit stops in the 3 hr drive. Somehow I managed to get 50 oz of water in before 11 AM. I also came dangerously close to finishing an entire large bag of pretzels on the drive. Hey, salt content, people! The drive down was cold, wet, and windy. We even saw snow come down during one of our pit stops. I was nervous about the race day forecast, but kept telling myself that I could deal with the cold – there was no rain in the forecast, thank goodness!

We drove straight to the expo at the Convention Center to meet Scott and Meghan. (Note: I first met Scott at Twin Cities 2012 and he’s raced every marathon I’ve raced since: Boston 2013, Boston 2014, and now Monumental 2014! Let’s keep this streak alive, dude! #TRWU for the win!) The expo is no-fuss, so we were in and out within 15-20 minutes. And the only reason we were there that long was because of an orange sticker on my bib that read “Seeding Group 3. My bib number was #519 so that didn’t sound right. Scott didn’t even have a seeding sticker on his bib so we walked over to Solutions to ask them about it. I asked them what my sticker meant and the woman said “you entered a time when you registered that said you’d run a 3:30 marathon”, to which I replied, “Oh no, that’s definitely wrong.” She was willing to help but she said “That’s ok. You can just move back if that’s not right”. {uhhhhhhh….}. I responded, “No, I’ll be running a much faster time than that tomorrow.” So she gave me a different seeding sticker. In hindsight, I may have sounded like a brat but there was no way I was going to let a silly sticker have an affect on my race (mentally, mostly). We made a plan to meet up in the morning & left the expo.

Manny and I met my brother for a beer and some lunch at Upland that afternoon. I had a beer because a) you shouldn’t change your routine, even on race weekend and 2) it was my brother’s birthday. It was delicious and oh so worth it. After relaxing for a bit, we stopped at Target for some throw-away items and oatmeal for my pre-race breakfast. I had a small headache and started to feel pretty tired from the drive so we went home to watch a movie and eat dinner. Pro tip: find a movie that will hold 100% of your attention the night before a race. I watched Divergent and didn’t really think about the race at all!

I went to bed at 10:30 after laying out my things. The forecast didn’t change much during the day on Friday, so I decided to wear shorts, compression socks, a long sleeve shirt, a hat, and gloves. After tossing and turning for 30 minutes or so, I fell asleep. And then it was 5 AM and it was go time! I slept well and felt really rested. I slept a LOT in the weeks leading up to the race, especially after peak week knocked me on my butt – I know that extra sleep helped prepare me for the race.

Side note: I didn’t even get a pre-race shakeout in on Friday! I thought I’d be able to fit in 2-3 miles after the drive down (because running before the drive would be pointless), but it was cold and windy and gross out. By the time I had an opportunity to run on a treadmill, it was already 4 pm – pretty pointless to shake out that late. Instead of stressing out about fitting it in, I just rested. I’m glad I did! I ran Mon, Tues, and Wed but Thurs and Fri were total rest days.

So, snuggle up with your favorite beverage and get comfortable, folks! This recap turned out to be 275% longer than I originally thought! 

I thought I’d be able to squeak by with a small PR. My plan was to run 1:36-37 through the half and then see if I could negative split. I divide the marathon into 5-mile segments, so I thought I’d run 7:35/mile pace in the first section and target 7:30, 7:25, 7:20, etc for each section after that. This plan would get me to 3:13 and change – if it all went according to plan. We found parking just south of the convention center and start line by 6:45 am. I’m so happy they had the Convention Center open so I could stay warm and do some dynamic stretches before walking 1 block to the start. Gotta love that about small races! Scott, Meghan, and Jeff met up with me and Manny and we chatted for a few minutes while we got ready. The nerves kicked in about 15 min from the start. I said goodbye to Man 5 min from the start, took off my throwaway clothes, and got ready!

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(Likely the closest Jeff will ever come to smiling in a picture.)

It was 30 degrees with a strong headwind from the north, which meant that we’d deal with the majority of the wind in the first half. I wasn’t that worried about the wind considering that’s my normal in Chi, but I knew I should try to tuck in to a pack and draft a bit off some big dudes if I could find them. From the start, it wasn’t crowded (again, small races ftw!). I’m used to jostling and dodging a bit in the first few miles of most races, so this was a welcome relief.

Miles 1-5 

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So, that 7:35 initial pace I mentioned? Yeah, that never materialized. I was definitely excited to be racing in the first mile and tried to focusing on letting my legs warm up. My quads were the most exposed part of my body; they didn’t really warm up until toward Mile 4 or 5. I felt comfortable running closer to 7:20. By mile 3, I realized that I was running a wee bit too fast and that I needed to let the 3:10 pace group pass me. They did at Mile 3.5 and I put my head down and focused on my own race. The pace group would be within my view until about Mile 8. I took my first Gu at Mile 5. Mmmmmm….root beer flavor!

Miles 6-10

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The plan targeted 7:30s here, but every single time I looked down at my watch, I realized how comfortable 7:20-7:25s felt. The half marathon splits from the full course at Mile 7. I looked ahead where they had a sign directing the marathoners to the right side of the course and remember thinking, “welp, I’m going to be all alone now!”. It seemed like 1 runner for every 10 in the half were moving to the right. I knew the wind would be a factor in these miles and that I should find a small group to draft off of but it never materialized. It was likely strung out a bit between the 3:10 and 3:15 pace group. Every time I felt like I found a big dude to draft off of, I felt like they were just going slightly faster or slower than I wanted to. It would be pointless to spend energy surging to catch a small group of runners and I wanted to run my own race. Around Mile 8, a small group formed. These two women were talking pace strategy and I could tell that the leading woman was pacing the other. She looked incredibly fit (and *freezing*, judging by her decision to wear just a sports bra & capris in 30 degrees) and they told me to tuck in behind them. It was nice to have something to focus on for a few miles; I kept my eye on the pacer’s heels and dodged sketchy potholes when I could (ahem…no falling on my knee this time around!). They were running even 7:20-25 so right where I wanted to be. And the men in our group seemed to be the ones trailing so that was also also a confidence boost. You could tell they were letting the women do the hard work. The wind seemed more manageable for these miles, but we still had a few gusts that felt strong. I ended up running with them through Mile 15-16. (Fun fact, I looked one of the women up and it turns out she also lives in Chicago!) I took my 2nd Gu and waved to Lindsey Hein (AKA spectator extraordinaire!) near Mile 10.

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Photo credit: Lindsey H.

Miles 11-15

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I just kept moving through the half. My mom, sister, and Manny were planning on spectating at 13.1 and I started to worry when I didn’t see them there (There was no way I’d miss them.) I looked at the clock as we ran across the timing mat at 13.1. I was right on pace-  It read 1:36:30. I remember thinking, “Just keep this rhythm going”. Every time I started to tense my shoulders or hands, I’d take a deep breath and relax. My form felt really strong. I saw my mom and my sister here at Mile 14 — no Manny! They were loud and obnoxious on a quiet part of the course, which was exactly what I needed. The only thing I said to them was, “where is Manny?!?!” Turns out he got stuck behind traffic related to the 5k after the start. Derp!

At this point,  I started to get annoyed by the two women – the pacer and her friend. They were talking a lot (too much!) and they were completely obsessing about the pace. The one racing told the pacer, “Ok, next mile I just need 2 seconds back.” Yeah, 2 seconds won’t make a difference. I knew I was having a good day and I didn’t want to get stuck depending on them for 7:20-7:25s so I left them around Mile 15. There’s a slight uphill there, the only noticeable one on the entire course. It was shorter than I thought it would be. Short, quick steps up the hill and onward! I took my next (3rd) Gu just after 15.5 along with a few swigs of water. (I’m really proud of how easily I got each Gu down, along with water every 5 miles.)

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Out of 26 race pics, this is the only one that looks somewhat attractive. You’re welcome.

Miles 16-20

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My legs TURNED ON in this section. The sun was out so I started to feel more warmed up and we had an ever so slight tail wind (although it really wasn’t that noticeable). People were starting to string out even more and I felt like I would be running by myself for the rest of the race– and that’s pretty much what happened. At 18, near the IMA, I saw my mom, my sister, and (surprise!) Manny. It was so nice to see them one more time before the miles really became lonely. I gave Manny a side-5 and a thumbs up to all three of them – my legs were rolling and I knew the next time I would see them would be at the finish line.

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Happy after running through the IMA :)

Mile 18 was fast for two completely unrelated reasons:

1) It’s a long downhill section.

2) I purposely peed my shorts and IT WAS COMPLETELY EXHILARATING. Don’t worry, folks. I’ve done this before. Been there, done that. And this time was just as hilarious as the first time. There was no way I was stopping just to go to the bathroom. And once you make that decision to pee your shorts, there’s no going back. I was gliding on this downhill section, the sun came out from behind some clouds, I looked down and practically snorted at myself. It was heavenly. I can only imagine the view that that dude running behind me had. It was glorious, until it was cold. Even then, it was worth it. I remember thinking “oh no, what if my calfs cramp because of all the pee in my socks?!”. Thankfully, that didn’t happen (and I finished the race with zero blisters!).

If you’d like proof that I was thoroughly hydrated and my pee was essentially water, here you go:

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See that? White compression socks are STILL WHITE, post-pee at the finish. And yes, I’m keeping those socks.

Despite the obvious adrenaline rush, I started to feel like the last 10k would get really interesting once I passed Mile 20, where I took my 4th and final Gu (mmmm Caramel Macchiato- just as delicious as Espresso Love). I wanted to stay close to 7:10s and hopefully dip under in the last section of the race.

Miles 21-26.2

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At 21, I couldn’t believe how empty the course was. During race week, I watched the time lapse video of the course several times and realized this section would be tough without spectators. I wasn’t running with others at this point. This one dude and I went back and forth a few times between Miles 17-20 but he likely saw me pee my shorts at Mile 18.5 and decided not to get near my kind of crazy. There.was.no.one.near.me. Just me and the road. This section is a parkway and close enough to the finish that spectators are few and far between. Once you make the turn onto Meridian at Mile 23, the energy starts to pick up a bit again. The run-walkers in the half marathon were clustered in groups on the left side of the street. Marathoners were running on the right but I honestly only remember seeing 3 or 4 others. I stopped after 23 to take a few more swigs of water before continuing on because I knew it would be my last one (I never really felt thirsty the entire race – proper pre-race hydration and regular sips of water the entire time helped, of course). I really had to pull myself together in Mile 23.

ENTER: 100% pain face.

I didn’t know my face could do that, but I’m willing to bet I looked like this for the better part of the last 3 miles. (These are in the finish chute.)

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By the time I reached Mile 24, I was entirely ready to be finished. I didn’t have much, if any, kick left. I wanted to dip closer to 7:00 min/mile but that wasn’t really happening. I was just trying to keep it together. I stopped to walk for 5-10 seconds and immediately thought, “no, Jenny. That’s not happening.” (Low point- so close!) With 2.5 miles to go, I started to calculate my finish time. That’s always a dangerous game to play, but, after some tough math with a brain that didn’t really want to function, I knew that I’d PR even if I just had to keep up with 8:00 minute miles. I still had 7 min miles in my legs; I just had to keep telling myself that.

I WAS GOING TO PR. PR! Peeeeeeeee (your shorts) -RRRRRRRRRR! 

Ok, hold it together. It’s happening. Just keep the legs going. Come onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, Jenny.

We made a right hand turn, I looked off to my left, and realized the finish line was in sight. This dude on my left yelled, “YOU’VE JUST GOT TWO TURNS LEFT. TWO TURNS LEFT UNTIL YOU FINISH!”. I was like shit, I can’t make it two turns! I literally had 0.2 miles left and I felt like I was going to fall over. I made the first left and tried to focus on the second.

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Pic credit: Lindsey H.

I made the final turn and somehow there was a tiny kick left in my legs. I don’t even remember seeing people run near me but knew they were there. It’s amazing I didn’t run into anyone through the finish chute. I heard the announcer say  “and we’ve got Jenny Poore from Chicagoooooooo coming through!”.

As usual, cue the water works, folks! I crossed the finish line, stopped my watched, and looked down. It read 3:11:07. 

THREE ELEVEN OH SEVEN! Like, what?! That couldn’t be right! My pie-in-the-sky goal was 3:13. That’s the time that I thought I was capable of on Saturday.

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I put my hands on my knees, fought to stand with shaking legs, and volunteers asked me if I was okay. I said yes and started to cry. It was all worth it. I didn’t know how badly I wanted to PR until I did. And I didn’t know how fit I was until I raced. All that worrying, all that agonizing about the short training cycle and silly knee issues from a ridiculous fall in July. I made it. I fucking made it.

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Unreal.

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I couldn’t even manage a smile for the post-finish line photo. Water.works.

5 days later and I still don’t think it’s quite sunk in. All I know is that I’ve got the fire back. I want that sub 3:10 now — you know, because I’m addicted to running and racing and what the finish line feels like when you conquer that distance. I’ve run 3:17, 3:14, and now 3:11 in the marathon. I can’t help but think, “why not just keep the pattern going and run sub 3:08 next year?”.

My favorite two photos of the day are these two. I’ll never get sick of the “I can’t believe I just did that” feeling and happy hugs at the finish line.

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IT WAS THE BEST DAY.

-J