{Currently} August 2, 2016

Well well well. Back at it again.

I’ve had absolutely zero motivation to blog this year – considering I’ve only published two blog posts so far (!) and it’s already August. But for some reason I thought “yeah, I miss that little corner of the internet” today and decided to share what I’ve been up to.

Reading: I just finished reading Modern Lovers by Emma Straub last week. I’ve read fewer books this year than I have in the past 5 years (for real, I normally read about 25 books a year and I can count the books I’ve read this year on one hand…). I was so happy to pick up Emma Straub again after reading The Vacationers a few years ago. Her writing is witty and genuine and I feel like Modern Lovers could make for a great romantic comedy — fingers crossed Hollywood picks it up if they haven’t already.


Obsessed with: 

  • Coconut LaCroix — I love coconut and I can’t get enough of it at work.
  • Stranger Things — the hype is real, people. I started it on Friday night and finished the entire season by Monday evening.
  • Beautiful Anonymous podcast with Chris Gethard – the concept of this podcast is that a stranger calls in to a hotline, which Chris answers. They have 60 minutes to have a conversation about literally anything they want, but they can’t share any information that allows Chris to find out who they are (beyond their name and where they live). Some of the conversations are hilarious and others are sad and deep—it’s sooooo good.

Training for: Chicago Marathon – round 2! Chicago was my first marathon in 2011 and it was the most amazing experience. You may recall that my goal race was Chicago last year — before I experienced a stress fracture in my foot. When I decided to pick a fall goal race, I was a bit hesitant about the idea of Chicago again. I mean, what if I got injured? What if Chicago’s cursed for me? But it’s a special one. This will be Lucky #7 and there’s nothing like running 26.2 through the city you call home. I get goosebumps and my heart starts to pitter patter just thinking about it. So far, training is going well and I’m in *much* better shape 10 weeks out than I was before Carmel. Last Saturday, I ran 18 miles and spent the afternoon recovering at EDGE. I really should do that more often – after the cold/hot contrast baths and an entire hour in the recovery boots, I woke up on Sunday feeling like a million bucks (no soreness!).

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I have my first 20-miler this weekend and I’m surprisingly not anxious about it. The long runs have been going okay so far, with only slight hiccups caused my the heat (especially last weekend, when the heat index was over 100 degrees later Saturday). I feel like July is always a tough month for training — the combination of getting back to fitness AND dealing with the heat and humidity can be brutal. I’ve realized over the last year and a half or so, that I am no longer a morning runner despite my best intentions and I’m fine with it for now. I’d rather get 8-9 hours of sleep each night and fit in longer workouts after work (on the treadmill, if I really have to). That said, I’m pushing myself to get out the door much earlier for long runs from now until early October. I need to beat the heat, get the run done, and enjoy the best naps ever for the rest of the summer.

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Trying not to stress out about: wedding planning (!!!) We have most of the big things crossed off the list: venue, caterer, photographer. I’m making headway on a few other things (like dress shopping) and sleeping accommodations for guests, but sometimes it’s really hard to stop thinking about all those other little details that need to be nailed down eventually. We’re going for a very low-key day so I know that, in the end, it will all work out. The Man and I are getting married in June 2017, so we definitely have time to make those decisions — and I’m thinking the winter is going to be the perfect time to dedicate to that stuff. So now, focus is on marathon training, sleep, and work. Come November and December, I’m hoping I have more motivation to cross some more items off the wedding planning list. 🙂

What have you been up to lately?





A Race Recap Unlike Any Other: Two “Firsts”

Well, it’s now well over 3 weeks post-Carmel and I’m finally starting to process the race and the weekend. A few days before the race, I wrote that I wanted to give a solid effort and not focus as much on the time on the clock. Coming off my stress fracture in the fall, this training cycle was already a success. I committed to the training in a relatively mild but difficult Chicago winter and surprised myself (and Coach Dan) with plenty of runs longer than 16 miles. (My “long run” was only up to 9 miles in January…) Making it through the cycle with a smart build-up and few aches and pains was such a relief. I was myself again!

So race day was to be icing on the cake – an ‘exclamation point on the training cycle’, if you will.

It didn’t quite turn out that way and it’s taken me a few weeks to understand why and to explain why I’m not upset about it. Long story short, by the time I got to Mile 10, I realized that I was already starting to overheat. This isn’t the first time I’ve started to salt out so early, as Boston 2014 was almost exactly the same experience. I saw Glenn Hein at the start line and realized he was pacing the 3:15 group. I thought I’d hang behind them for a bit and then maybe latch on later in the race. 3:15 sounded doable, but tough. I ended up running closer to 7:30 min/mile for the first 10 and I could probably blame that for overheating so early. My plan was to stick closer to 7:45 and then gradually work my way down. No matter how many races you run, I think you’re always in danger of overshooting by 10 seconds per mile— and that’s energy that you should conserve early on. We all have that number in our head – the pace that *should* be easy on race day. But every cycle is different and our bodies usually tell us far before we realize what’s happening. I think in cases like these, we choose to ignore those signs. After dumping water on my head and taking sips of water at almost every single aid station (I think I only missed one), I was still hot at Mile 11-12. When I turned the corner and realized that the 13.1 timing mat was on the ground, I made the quick decision to call it a day. I debated dropping at the half for a good 3-4 miles before it actually happened.

And just like that ‘Lucky #7 marathon’ turned into my first DNF in the marathon. I walked over to a volunteer to make sure I was headed the right direction, toward the finish line and gear check. Thankfully, I stopped at a convenient place on the route because the trot back to the finish area was only about 1.5 miles. I unpinned my bib from my singlet, rolled it up in my hand, and jogged back to the finish area.

In every other half marathon or marathon I’ve ever raced, I think that I’ve been more emotional about the race itself. When I DNF’d that day, I wasn’t upset. Normally I would be crying and really disappointed in myself. I’m not sure how to explain this other than to say that it just wasn’t my day. I shouldn’t have felt like I had run 20-22 miles at the halfway marker. I should have been in a pace groove and anxiously waiting for the chance to run just a wee bit faster.

Why is it that factors that go into a poor race experience always feel like ‘excuses’? I think most runners, myself included, feel like you need to be a superhuman and overcome whatever obstacles come your way. Some days, I think we can. Some days, you can’t…but that doesn’t mean that you have to beat yourself up about it. Looking back, I can say that there were several big factors that resulted in a poor day to race. First, I was PMS’ing HARDCORE before Carmel (increased body temp, etc.). I felt off all week. Second (and most importantly), life dealt me and The Man the worst card before the race. A death in the family meant that we slept very poorly and we were emotionally exhausted for an entire week. It’s bad enough when you lose someone, and it’s arguably twice as exhausting when you see someone you love so much go through something so difficult. I didn’t sleep more than 5 hours per night until Thursday that week and I spent most of race week trying to catch up, put the pieces back together, and be somewhat productive at work. I underestimated the toll that grief and emotional exhaustion would take on race day.

The training cycle for Carmel had a whole lot of LIFE happening. I started a new job, put my running legs back together post-stress fracture, experienced a loss, and dared to dream about a perfect race day.

So Carmel wasn’t Lucky #7 when it comes to the race. But I am one lucky woman.

After I got back to the finish area and borrowed a stranger’s phone to call Manny, who was anxiously waiting for me on the course, past the halfway point, some more LIFE HAPPENED.

Manny, my mom, and my sister walked up to the area where I was stretching in the grass. Knowing that I’d probably be emotional and upset, they all asked “what happened?” and “are you ok?” several times. I explained that it wasn’t my day and that I *genuinely* wasn’t upset about it. I just wanted to go back to the car, change into my dry clothes, and grab a beer with friends and family. It may not have been a good day to race, but it was definitely the perfect day to enjoy some warm sunshine and relax with people I love.

The one person that kept asking me if I was okay — incessantly! — was The Man. After the 5th or 6th time, I said, “I promise! I’m fine, Manny!”. And in hindsight, I can understand why he asked so many times.

Because, as I was in the process of taking my shoes and compression socks off by our car, he told me that he’d had something planned that morning. I asked him nonchalantly, “what did you have planned?” and he proceeded to get down on one knee and ask me to marry him. I was standing there with tears streaming down my face, salt on my forehead, and in complete disbelief that this was happening. Of course, he had a plan and I completely messed it up by not finishing the marathon.


Carmel wasn’t Lucky #7 because of the race. It was Lucky #7 because Manny and I get to spend the rest of our lives together. That’s bigger and way more important than any race I have ever or will ever run. But I’m sure there are plenty of races in our future, too. Two “firsts” in one weekend. That’s life. 🙂

What I learned at Carmel:

– Love the good days, learn from the bad days. Don’t beat yourself up about life and BE OKAY with *not* being superhuman.
– Just because you didn’t run 26.2 miles doesn’t mean that you won’t get a blood blister or two.
– 10 seconds per mile is substantial. Cool your jets!
– Just because The Man has ruined every single surprise he’s ever planned in the 9 years we’ve dated, doesn’t mean that he’s incapable of surprising me when it really counts. 😃

Carmel Marathon: T-Minus 4 Days!

Well, well, well. Here were just 4 days from the Carmel Marathon and I have yet to share a single update on my training. So much has happened in the past few months – and one of the first little outlets to drop off was this little corner of the internet.

First, I started a new job in January. After a bittersweet transition to the new gig in late December (made slightly more stressful by the holidays), I’m happy where I’ve landed. One of the biggest changes to my routine, though, has been working in an office again after working remotely for over 4 years. [#BarkleeAnn pretends to be upset that she has the apartment to herself throughout the week, but I know she’s just messing with me. I really do miss talking to her like I would a coworker, though.] In my previous job, I took full advantage of having a flexible work schedule and would often squeeze in an easy run in between conference calls or get a workout done during lunch. Now, I have to slot my workouts in before or after work like a normal human being. I’ve never been good about running in the morning, especially during the winter, so I spent a lot of after-work hours in the gym on the treadmill this cycle. I’m getting the hang of it. I even did a fair number of run-commutes home from the office just to save time and get miles in on the lakefront.



The second big change is that I hired a local coach! I feel like I can be hot and cold when it comes to enlisting someone else to direct my training. I think that both approaches have worked for me, as I’ve PR’d with a coach and my current marathon PR is from a training plan I created. I’ve been really happy working with Dan W this year. Aside from the physical work I needed to do to get back in shape after my stress fracture last fall, I had a LOT of mental work to do (more than I realized, actually). It was really easy for me to wimp out during workouts in the first few weeks. Everything felt hard. I was grinding and needed to do consistent work to get my stride back. Even short intervals at my ‘old tempo pace’ and mile repeats at my old marathon pace seemed ridiculously hard. But I slowly started to feel like myself again. The variety of workouts I’ve done this cycle has been refreshing. It kept me on my toes. It’s nice to work with someone with a long-term approach — and especially with someone that experienced several stress fractures as a young athlete. He quickly reminded me that patience was key and that if Carmel is to be a success, it’s because we were smart and didn’t rush the training progress.

After 11 weeks on a return to running program that started with very very easy run-walk segments and finished with 4 runs and 24 mpw, I started my Carmel cycle in the last week of December. (New job and new cycle started within days of each other!) 16 weeks of training + this week’s full taper looked like this:

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My 10 mile long run felt sooooooooo lonnnnnng in January. Despite my best efforts to maintain endurance while injured, you can’t deny the running fitness that you can lose when you’re out. On the flip side, I am *thrilled* with the number of long runs that I was able to do once the pieces started to come together: 15, 17, 13, 18, 19, 20, 13, 19, 20.

I don’t know if any other Chitown runners feel this way, but for a very mild winter, I still dealt with crazy weather the past few months. It felt like every time I had a scary workout or long run, the weather made a turn for the worst with tons of wind and rain. And then, cruelly, the next day would be gorgeous and calm. I’m proud of myself for fighting the elements and doing what I can with what I’m given this cycle.

Luckily, all that training in the wind and rain should make the current forecast for Carmel feel easy breezey. It’s a little warmer than I’d like but I’ll take it. (I’m super excited about the fact that it’s going to be a beautiful afternoon to celebrate on a patio with a few beers :))


So, what does this all mean? And what are my goals for Carmel? Well, I’m not tied to a time goal, but I do have a number that sounds good in my head. I think this marathon, lucky #7 (!!!!)  will be more about a feeling. I want to feel strong and consistent — mentally AND physically. In the past 5-6 weeks, steady states and tempo efforts have felt surprisingly good. After grinding and grinding and grinding, the hard work started to pay off in March. I think there’s a chance that some kind of magic could lead to a kickass time on Saturday, but I’ll be happy crossing that finish line knowing that I fought hard to get back to my ‘old self’. From run-walking in October and November, to 10 mi ‘long runs’ in January, to now — I think 26.2 will be an adventure.

The first time Coach Dan and I met, he told me that we’d work together to “sneak up on getting fit again”. And that’s what we’ve done. I feel like I did put my head down and just got the work done this winter. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want to see sub 3:11 on the clock this weekend, but this cycle was never about running the fastest time on April 16, 2016. This cycle was about setting up some dominoes for a strong summer and fast fall. An exclamation point on running a healthy cycle.

For those of you interested in tracking my race this Saturday, you can sign up for text or email updates here!

– JP