2015-07-21 19.16.53-3

Update on Chicago Marathon 2015 Training: T Minus 12 Weeks!

After the blunder at Bayshore, I took a full week to sulk and run whenever I felt like it. My uncle suddenly passed away the same week. I slowed down, shed some tears, and ran less than 10 miles that week. I felt like moving, but not moving. Processing both the race and Uncle Jim’s passing was tough.

The next week, I hit reset. With 18 weeks to Chicago, I felt like I was ready to get back to it. I don’t think I’ve ever had this big of a base leading into a marathon training cycle before.

OH! BEFORE I FORGET… July 20th was the horrible summer day last year when I tripped and fell straight on my right knee cap a half mile into a 15-miler. This and this will give you an idea what recovery from bursitis was like. I still can’t believe that happened or how long it took to get back to normal (or that I hobbled to/from/through a photo shoot with Competitor and Saucony the very next day). So, be mindful of tricky patches of trail/sidewalk and pick up those feet, people!

Week of 6/1: 36 miles, 5 runs, long run 11.76 mi [1 mile time trial: 5:35]

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Week of 6/8: 40 miles, 5 runs, long run 12.8 mi [10 x 400, 4 mi steady state]

Week of 6/15: 43 miles, 5 runs, long run 14.7 mi [16 x 200, 4 mi steady state] + a fun run on the West Side with Jocelyn while I was in town for work

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Week of 6/22: 40 miles, 4 runs, long run 15.0 mi [10 x 30 sec strides, 4 x 1 mi cruise] + Saturday flight to San Juan for vacation

Week of 6/29: 39 miles, 4 runs, long run 15.0 mi [10 x 2 min at 5k pace, 8 mi with fast finish 3 mi sub 7 min/mi] – 5 nights in San Juan and 3 nights in Holland, MI with my family for the holiday

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Week of 7/6: 46 miles, 5 runs, long run 17.0 mi [4 mi steady state]

Week of 7/13: 45 miles, 6 runs (1 double day), long run 15.25 mi [5 x 1k]

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And that brings us to this week! I can’t believe I’ve been in ‘training mode’ for 7 weeks already. I’m making a few changes to my training this time around.

I’m extending my mid-week recovery runs to 8-10 miles. In the past, I’ve just run 5-6 miles easy in between hard workouts but I feel ready to bump that up a little bit. Getting a solid 1 hour – 1 hour 20 minutes on my feet on a Wednesday for the past few weeks was tough. At first, it felt like running through sand (and I started with 8 mi). I’m starting to get into shape again and yesterday’s 75 min run on the lakefront felt actually really good! I’ve also been wearing my heart rate monitor more on recovery runs to be sure I don’t run them too fast (goal bpm: 150-155).

Another change I’m making is seeking out others to do speed workouts with. I’ve been to a few workouts with Syndicate and I’m really excited about what can happen in the next 11ish weeks if we continue to push each other. I think the danger in training with others is pushing *too hard*, so I’m reminding myself that running my own pace on a certain day is just what I should be doing. This Tuesday, I ran a 2 x (800, 600, 400, 200) workout that left me feeling surprised and confident for the first time in months. I saw times on my watch that I’ve never seen before. Soooooo that’s exciting!

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I’m also being more consistent with how I recover – including recovery shakes and ice baths. If you saw how I ate during my first marathon training cycle, you’d probably barf. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing ….OR why I was so hungrrrrrrryyyyy all the damn time. I was also really good at ‘being too tired to cook’. I’d come home from a hot, long run and crash on the couch for like 3-4 hours before I considered eating a full meal. It’s a wonder how I got through that cycle or race, really. Taking the time to plan what I’m eating for dinner 3-4 nights a week instead of sitting around and wondering what I should order from GrubHub or Seamless at 7:45 pm is a good switch, I think. (Runner’s World Cookbook is where it’s at, guys. Most of the recipes don’t require bizarre ingredients or more than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.) As much as I’ve been cooking lately, I also have a confession. I’ve been ordering delicious dinners from Sprig probably 1-2 x a week. Can’t argue with the price point, quality of the food, or the speedy delivery. It’s saved me from extreme runger approximately 7x already so I’m sold.

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Dare I say I enjoy ice baths now? Don’t get be wrong. Those first 2-3 minutes are pure torture, but once you can’t feel your appendages everything’s gravy. I’m making my weekly trip to CVS on Fridays for two bags of ice and I’m sure the cashier thinks I have a decent sized party with a full cooler every Friday. I won’t argue.

Summer temps and humidity have finally arrived in Chicago. The whole city complained about how cold the summer was (myself included) and then we couldn’t stop talking about how gross and muggy it was outside. During a normal summer, we’d all be acclimated by mid-July so it’s a weird feeling to be fighting through it so much now. A slight lakefront breeze always helps.

So, that’s where I’m at! I’ll probably update every few weeks. I really like looking back on recaps once I get closer to a goal race, so read if ya want. :)

– J

Strength Training Resources I’ve Found Recently

Strength Training Resources I've Found Recently

I admittedly fell off the strength training wagon this spring. I was deliberate and diligent about it in January and February when I was going to the gym a lot. It’s easy to spend a lot of time there when the weather is sucky and you have to go there to use the treadmill anyway. You say, “While I’m here, I might as well get strong.” But once the weather shifted a bit, I spent less time there and only managed to do core routines when I felt like it. Which, let’s be honest was probably just once a week on a Sunday night before the week ended.

I really like the strength work that I’ve done in the past. If you want a quick summary, here you go.

There are so many strength training routines out there – most of them are 80% identical and you kind of have to wing it, combine them, and hope for the best.This cycle, I’m committing to strength training 2 x a week and a core strength routine 3 x a week. Here are a few strength routines that I’ve come across lately that look promising (I’ve done all of them, but only for a week or two!):

I did this routine for the first time this week and all I can say is I’d like to install some handicap bars in my bathroom. I did many of these in PT a few years ago and have been doing clamshells like it’s my job since. The other exercises activated not only the glutes but also hip flexors and core. I bought the mini bands they recommended in the blog post (1 green, 1 blue). Thanks to Kristy for tweeting this resource!

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  • The Dozen – I think I’ve had this saved in Evernote for at least a year and a half.

I just didn’t implement it until now. I’ve used this other core routine for many years, but the dozen challenged me. I think I’ll do a mixture of both routines to keep it interesting. I normally set a timer on my phone and do this while watching TV at night or right after a run.

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Hallelujah! I think one of the things that can seem overwhelming about strength training is that it takes up so much time. (It really doesn’t.) If you have already have a hard time squeezing your scheduled runs into your day, it can be daunting to try to do more than that. I’m thinking this 7 minute video done 2-3 x a week would be a good solution.

I keep all of these routines and others that I find tagged as ‘strength training’ in Evernote and pull out my iPad when I get back from a workout. I try to keep hard days hard and easy days easy by only doing strength training that will make me sore on workout days. So, with the above routines, that means doing 1 set of all 10 mini band butt exercises + the Movement 108 video on a workout day and doing core strength  on easy/recovery days.

I thought I’d share! Enjoy!

– J

Bayshore Half “Race” Recap

“Racing” didn’t really happen at Bayshore. I was hopeful for a PR and sub 1:30 the weeks leading up to the race but it was just one of those days that didn’t go as planned. The last time I ran a really disappoiting half marathon was 2 years ago; I might have been due for another reality check.  Bayshore was a similar experience but in completely different racing conditions. It was 45ish degrees at the start with a slight headwind. Really, perfect racing conditions for a spring race. Give me 40 degrees and sunny and I’m (usually) ready to crush it.

But b mile 5, I knew sub 1:30 wasn’t going to happen. I felt like I had bricks in my shoes and couldn’t find a single rhythm to my running. I tried my best to stay smooth but just didn’t have the right gear and couldn’t switch to a faster one. My goal pace felt like a sprint and my right hamstring started to talk by mile 5-6 (the slight cant to the road might have had something to do with that.)

I’d like to point to specific evidence in my training that explains why 13.1 was a strugglefest. I do remember thinking that the elevation change in the first 1.5 miles was harder than expected. The race directors changed the course since I last ran it (in 2012). The start now runs east toward the bay and has several rolling hills before you reach the flats on the bay. I knew that there was one large hill that I should be prepared for but I didn’t expect the 2-3 rollers after that. Once we reached the flats, I felt good but knew I should settle into more of a rhythm. It just didn’t happen.

The absolute highlight of the day was being able to run the last 6.5 miles with Corey. We both had similar days – after I made a pit stop near mile 6 (I took advantage of a pit stop because I knew my race was over already), I saw her coming and we decided to trot it in together. Well, we trotted. And walked. And bitched. And took a shot of beer at mile 10. [We saw a big sign that said NOT WATER and made a bee line toward it. Because that’s what you do when you run the last 6 miles of a half at your long run easy pace!]

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There wasn’t a race photographer this year, but a local photographer snaps pics during the race and provides free prints at the local running store. Found one of me and Corey — this is clearly during one of our running segments…after a walk break. :)

 

I know that I would have been really disappointed and in a sour mood if I finished Bayshore solo. I’m bummed that we both didn’t have the race we trained hard for, but running the last half with Corey was my favorite part. OH! And….Manny beat me! He’ll never let me or Corey live that one down, that’s for sure. Spending the rest of the long holiday weekend in Traverse City with new and old friends was so much fun. As Corey and I trotted to the finish, I remember us talking about how we were totally fine with lackluster races as long as Holly and Elizabeth had the best days. And they did! They’re both heading to Boston and I can’t wait to cheer them on (either from Chicago or in-person! TBD!)

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I took this winter/spring as a break from training for a marathon…and I’m so so so glad I did. I feel more energetic; I have a really strong base going into Chicago training. After two years of training for Boston through tough winters, a step back and a refocusing was just what I needed. I’m sure I’ll fit in a half marathon into my schedule somewhere this summer, but I haven’t decided on anything. I’m enjoying the process of training and ready to jump into a fresh cycle.

Onward!

– J

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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

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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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2015-02-28 10.56.10

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?

2015-02-08 11.30.46

{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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