Just a little bit o’ precipitation

Wow, how time flies. I can’t believe Memorial Day has come and gone. After this week, I have completed 4 months of base-building and preliminary training for the Chicago Marathon. I have run 3 races (after this weekend, 4), PR’d several times, met a lot of great people, and realized that any schedule can accommodate this type of training. It’s honestly all a bit nerve-wracking when you begin to consider that you’re that much closer to the mother of all races, the marathon. My countdown app on my phone keeps ticking down to zero. Just 130 days until the big day.

This weekend I did a whole lot of nothing and a whole lot of something at the same time. My boss surprised everyone in the office with a company-wide e-mail at 11 am on Friday saying that we were free to leave around 3 pm to start the holiday weekend. Great surprise! Manny and I walked downtown and did a bit of vacation shopping. I got a cute cover-up to wear poolside, grey-slip on shoes to wear through airport security, and (finally) a pair of aviators that actually fit my face. Manny was able to find some board shorts at Nordstrom Rack too. That’s really all we’ll need once we get there right?…Bathing suits?! Yes! Friday night was random and fun. Manny and I were feeling uninspired when it came to going out that night so we decided to have people over. Our friends never seem to disappoint–it’s always a good time when you get people together that know how to have a good time. Needless to say, we didn’t get to bed at a decent time and I knew my long distance run the following day would probably not become a reality.

…And it didn’t. I spent all day Saturday lounging in the apartment, watching movies, reading a book, and thinking about absolutely nothing. Apparently it was needed because I didn’t get that ‘cabin fever’ I typically get after spending the whole day in the house (minus walking the dog briefly, of course). I was feeling a bit guilty about not going for my run that day, but I knew I’d rather be rested, hydrated, and motivated to have a good run than slosh through it toward home.

Well, I guess you get what’s coming to you because I spent Sunday morning trying to time my run perfectly in order to avoid severe thunderstorms. After checking the radar and fueling up, I left the house at noon hoping to finish before the really bad part of the storm was to hit at 2 pm. I knew I’d be running through the rain, but I honestly didn’t mind. I love running in the rain and didn’t want to wait to run in the evening (or take a chance on the rain continuing throughout the day). Five minutes after I left the house, the thunderstorm warning sirens sounded. My plan was to run at least 12 miles–approximately 2 mile warm-up, 3 sets of 5ks at an increasing pace, and a 2 mile cooldown. Looking back on it, 12 miles was probably a bit overzealous considering I have another half marathon this weekend. And luckily, Mother Nature knew what was up because I ran into torrential rain just about halfway through the run. This was not a sprinkle–a sprinkle I can handle. I can probably handle even a steady rain and feel pretty good. But this, this was something else entirely. Rain was hitting me sideways, puddle jumping was no longer worthwhile, and I felt like my body weighed 10 pounds more because of all the rain soaked into my clothes. There were rivers flowing across the sidewalk on the Lakeshore Trail and I knew it probably wasn’t wise to go the entire distance, so I made a beeline for the Roosevelt station to find shelter. To get there, I ran under the overpass near Museum Campus. There must have been 100+ people standing there waiting for the rain to stop so that they could spend the day at the museum. And for some reason, right then, the adrenaline kicked in. I took my headphones out of my ears, started to high kick it through the “river” I was running through, and shouted :

“DID YOU KNOW IT’S RAINING?!”

These people must have thought I was absolutely insane. But I kind of like that feeling. I looked like a wet dog after that run, but I honestly could care less. It was invigorating and motivating to know that I’m still crazy enough to run like a maniac. And besides, the rain made me run faster.

-J

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Inspiration Friday: Week 1

Yesterday I came across the inspirational video and highlight reel of the Chicago Marathon 10.10.10. If you are a runner, strive to ‘become’ a runner, or love the atmosphere that the marathon brings to the city, I suggest you watch it here. But be sure to have some Kleenex ready because you might just shed a tear or two.

Side note: the runners themselves aren’t the only ones to cry during or after a race. I’ve experience a lot of emotion watching loved ones run and my twin sister confessed to me yesterday that she cried when she saw me run by her during my first half marathon. There are probably countless reasons to shed a tear in this situation, but I have a feeling it all boils down to feelings of pride–whether it be for your own hard work or for others’.

The Chicago Marathon on 10.9.11 will be my first marathon. And I have a feeling I will be bawling at the end, proud of myself for dedicating at least 9 months of time and effort to training for the big day. What inspires you to do the same?

The Home Stretch

I’ve been calling my next half marathon a “redemption race” after I finished the Flying Pig on May 1st with a finishing time that was 45 seconds away from Corral C Chicago Marathon qualification time. My goal for the Pig was to finish in under 1:50 in order to qualify for Corral D, a slower corral. Apparently I didn’t know what I was made of because I pushed myself extremely hard on a course that is known for rolling hills from miles #4-9 with a total time of 1:46:45. When I finished I was extremely happy–happy that I had dedicated myself to training 4 days a week for three months and felt like I had become stronger and faster in such a short training period. I was happy that what I had set out to do was actually accomplished. I couldn’t wait to get into the office the following Tuesday morning early just to fax in my results to be officially be placed in Corral.

But then I looked at the corral qualifying times and realized something. I was 45 seconds away from placing in a corral that I hadn’t even set my sights on. Naturally, I decided to find another half marathon to train for in order to shave the remaining time. I decided I was SO close that it would be silly not to try for a sub 1:45:59. I was hesitant in the beginning. I didn’t want to overexert myself and place too much strain on my knee, which acts up from time to time. I decided to ask the experts and pose the question to my Dailymile support system:

Consensus: “suck it up and just do it, Jenny!” I figured all I had to do was sustain the level of training I’d already acclimated to and add some more speedwork to build up more muscle. It’s weird to think that I made this decision just 16 days ago and already I feel like I’m prepared mentally and physically to run closer to a 1:43 half marathon. Five months ago, I wasn’t this ambitious and never would have thought that I’d be racing as much as I am. But I’m the type of runner that needs a race to train for, the motivation to keep up with a regular schedule.

Last week, I had my first Dailymile Tweetup and realized how great the support system has been. It’s definitely been nice to know that there are always going to be words of support and encouragement from people that are going through the same type of training. Meeting people that I have been following online in real life has allowed me to realize that Corral C is the place for me–not just for the sense of accomplishment, but for the camaraderie of running with friends! A fellow #runnerd (@timragones) I’ve connected with on Twitter (through Fleet Feet’s new ambassador group, FFCheer) offered to help me reach my goal by pacing me through the race. He ran his first marathon about a month ago and ran the first half in 1:44 and suggested that he help me just out of the blue! It will be his first time pacing someone and my first time having a pacer for a race. I have a feeling we’re going to blow our goal time of 1:45 out of the water!

The next 10 days will be a good test leading up to race day on June 4th. Plenty of Yassos will be run and I’m sure I’ll go through the infamous “taper tantrums” for a mere few days before the race. Another race, another milestone, right?

-J

Weekend Daydreaming

This weekend is the first weekend in a month that I’m not traveling and I can’t wait to stay in the city for the weekend. Having the time to do just about anything you want is liberating most of the time, but what if you don’t know what to do with the time?! If you’re like me, you spend the week thinking about places you want to go, food you want to eat, stores you want to spend your money at, and friends you desperately need to see (after all, no girl should go a month without seeing her girlfriends!). So, besides going for a long, slow, mandatory run on Saturday, here are my ideas for FREE TIME:

Spend the afternoon in a coffee shop I’ve never been to– at this point, I don’t really care where or which one. All I’d like to do is nestle into a comfy chair or booth with a delicious cup of coffee and spend the afternoon thinking about something other than trying to figure out how I’m going to squeeze my workouts into my schedule, when I can manage to enjoy a good book and be able to finish it in less than 4 weeks, or when I can see friends I haven’t seen in forever! Yup, a coffee shop sounds like the perfect place to think about nothing right about now.

Go wanderin’ with Manny— When we have the time, we tend to wander around certain neighborhoods in the city. It’s always nice to have a change of scenery for a day. And while staying home for a relaxing Saturday might be a good idea as well, I’m feeling a little more adventurous lately. And if the precipitation holds up this weekend as I hope it does, maybe a long walk home from wherever we decide to wander is exactly what we need.

The 1st Spring Visit of the year to a Farmer’s Market— It seems like all of the farmers markets and green city markets have opened because I keep seeing advertisements for them everywhere.  And even though I can get my favorite natural yogurt at Whole Foods now, getting it from the Green City Market in LP is just way more fun. After I returned from a family trip in Michigan last weekend, Manny and I had a domestic day and decided to do some major cleaning and shopping to fix up the apartment a bit. Hopefully we can find some nice plants at a market this weekend to keep it goin’.

Spend a few hours reading a good book– I haven’t had much time lately to read for pleasure and I definitely miss it. Last night I read a few pages of This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper and I already know I’m going to like it. I have a feeling it’s going to be witty and sad and thoughtful all at the same time.  It’s about time I got lost in a book… (For those of you who have a  hard time keeping track of the books you want to read or have read in the past, check out Goodreads. You can swap books with other members for the price of postage!)

Plan (ok, fantasize about) vacation in Cabo— The vacation has been booked for June and, honestly, I’m reluctant to make any sort of ‘plans’ because I’d like to spend the majority of the week horizontal next to the pool. But, I know I’d regret not doing something exhilarating or special while we’re there. Top of the list is ziplining, but I’m sure there’s more adventure in store for us. It’s just a matter of figure out what that adventure will be!

Paint the bedroom— This one is a “maybe”, but we’ve put it off for so long that I think it would be fun to change something in the apartment a little more drastically than rearranging furniture or hanging artwork. Besides, who doesn’t love an afternoon of painting? (As a general rule of thumb, a case of beer should always accompany a painting project. I say this based on past experience.)

What do you like to do with your precious free time?

-J

A Lot Can Happen In 365 Days

I’ve lived through one year as a post-college graduate. And in that time, a lot of things have happened. So many things have happened, that I most likely can’t remember all those tiny moments that helped shape the year and how I’ve changed in that time. Graduating with a degree in International Studies and a concentration in  Environmental Policy, I really had no idea what I was going to do. I had dabbled in dreams of graduate studies in Urban Planning, lightly considered some fellowship options that would allow me to travel (even if it was within the U.S.), and spent countless hours searching sites with job postings that I didn’t think fit my personality/interests. And, just like many college graduates in recent years, I was feeling pretty uneasy about not knowing what I was going to be doing day-to-day for the next couple of months.

It all began at the coffee shop down the street. For three to four months following graduation, I worked as a receptionist at the alternative health center I’d worked at through college and devoted my remaining free time to scouring job postings from every possible source available. I edited and re-edited my resume while sipping down delicious bottomless cups of coffee at The Jumping Bean Cafe–all while gradually becoming hopeless in my job search. Several months went by and I finally began to get any type of consistent response from a couple companies, 4-5 phone interviews, and 3 in-person interviews for me to land a job in an industry that didn’t quite ‘fit’ with the aspirations I had for my future. I guess you could say I was persistent…and willing to put some larger dreams on hold in order to begin paying off those dreaded student loans. All in all, it took 5 months of dedication to land a job with a company with employees that are relaxed, courteous, responsible, and fun.

I wouldn’t have been able to keep my cool or ease the tension of my job search if it hadn’t been for creating some secondary goals for myself in the interim. In January of last year I decided I wanted to run my first half marathon. Registration for the Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon had already closed by the time I made my decision (the race is the largest half marathon in the United States and is notorious for closing out registration 5+ months before race day). Transferring bibs from someone no longer wanting to run the race would be invalid as well. But I was determined and wanted to run the race even if someone else’s name was displayed on the bib I was wearing. I didn’t train terribly hard for the mini marathon–but I don’t think that was the point. I needed a distraction. I ran somewhere between 12-15 miles each week and tried to get ‘serious’ about training but had difficult squeezing in the time to run between working 30 hours a week and going to school full-time (and sometimes having a social life). I was running myself ragged with every endeavor except for actually running, but still wanted to add the mini marathon to my list of accomplishments.

I finished the mini with a solid time of 1:56:xx and a solid, even pace of about 9:00 per mile. I had shocked my system and forced myself to be bit by the running bug. Two weeks ago I PR’d  at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati with a time of 1:46:45 to qualify for Corral D at the Chicago marathon. Post-race, I realized that I was 45 seconds away from Corral C (woohoo!) and have decided to run a second half marathon this year on June 4th. The running bug doesn’t give up easily. Now, a year later I have accomplished much more than I thought I would in a year’s time–whether they be personal, educational, professional, or physical–they all allowed me to grow. Running just happens to be the momentum behind all of the memorable events of the past 365 days.

A brief (and most likely, uncomprehensive) list of 365 days worth of accomplishments and happiness:

  • Ran my first (and second) half marathon
  • Celebrated my grandma’s 90th birthday (and counting…)
  • Graduated college
  • Witness my friends become employed, move around the U.S., and fall in love (all while smiling!)
  • Got a precious puppy!
  • Celebrated 3 years with Manny(4th in June!)
  • Got a ‘grown up’ job
  • Learned lots from my twin sister’s travels backpacking around the world
  • Saw my older brother get married!!!
  • Cheered on my brother at the 2010 Chicago Marathon
  • Inspired myself to do the same + add to my stack of running bibs in 2011

Once you look back on the past year, I’m sure there’s more to your own list of accomplishments than you originally thought!

-J

Flying Pig Half Mary Race Recap

Writing a race recap takes more energy for me than I think it should. In fact, 4 days ago (and 4 days after the Flying Pig Half Marathon), I began this post by writing half a sentence: “After three days of rest,…”. That’s it! That’s literally all I could muster at the time! I sat in silence staring at that half sentence for a few seconds and close the laptop. Digesting the race and trying to put the experience into words is hard to do because, honestly, I was so determined to cross the finish line by a certain time that I didn’t have any other thought running through my head than “I think I can, I know I can”. While I had only been training for this half marathon for little over 3 months, I feel like I’ve had a broken record repeating my goal over and over in my head. “You will run the damn thing in under 1:50! You will qualify for a corral at the Chicago Marathon. You will accomplish this goal on May 1st.” I’ll save you the broken record and provide you with the details I can muster exactly a week post-race.

I left Chicago for Cincinnati on late Saturday morning with a bag full of running clothes for every sort of weather situation. At the beginning of race week, the forecast was to be sunny and a high of 75. Each day leading up to Sunday, the forecast changed towards cooler temperatures and precipitation. I was definitely happy the temps were to drop–I don’t handle heat well and would rather run in cooler temps than in hot ones. My “rock” and “cheerleader” for the weekend (and throughout my training), Manny, and I went to the French Market for some snacks to eat on the bus ride down to Indy. I had a delicious ham and cheese filled croissant as part of my carbo-loading program and enjoyed every bite! We met my sister and mom in Indy, hopped in their car, and started the second leg of our trip. Luckily we arrived in Cincinnati around 5 pm and got all of our swag at the expo before closing at 7 pm. I have to say, I haven’t been as excited for a charity race bag more than I was for the Flying Pig. I’m in love with my Asics backpack and plan to use it when I travel to MI next weekend with family. Kudos to the race organizers!

I was really happy to meet up with an old friend from high school at the expo and swap expectations of the next morning. Meghan went to Xavier University and had run the Flying Pig Half Mary the previous year so she was well prepared for the total elevation of the course. For about three or four weeks before the race, I began to get nervous that I wasn’t prepared for such a hilly course. Plenty of DMers and vets of the race warned me about miles 4-9, which is exactly the point at which I naturally wouldn’t want to push uphill in a half marathon race. During the 5.5 hour drive down to Cincinnati, I made a list of target times and paces for 4 different phases of the race, which helped immensely. The four phases were: Miles 1-5, 5-9, 9-11 and 11-finish. I wanted to make sure that I remained realistic about how I would be feeling for the middle part of the race (the hilly ones at miles 5-9) and not become disappointed if my average pace dropped by 20-30 seconds at that point.

After eating a delicious plate of spaghetti and meatballs with my mom, sis, and boyfriend on Saturday night, we headed to the hotel to wind down for the night (after a quick stop at Target for snacks, of course). I felt pretty calm and laid out my race day clothes as I always do. Britt and I planned to wake up by 4:15 am and walk outside to get a gauge on the weather. After doing that, I decided it was going to be warm enough to wear shorts without leggings and a light-long sleeve shirt so that I didn’t get too cold should it happen to rain. I also filled my new gear belt with Clif Shot Bloks and made sure I was clear on my nutrition plan for the race. I’m not used to eating while running and was honestly a bit nervous about getting it right. I put two packages of Shot Bloks in my gear belt and planned to eat 2 bloks every 3 to 4 miles. After eating 2 at the third mile, I had acid and my stomach wasn’t feeling calm so I decided to just hydrated the rest of the distance. Gatorade tends to aggravate my stomach as well and I’m assuming the sugar is the one to blame. Can’t go wrong with water!

The rain started to worsen as we headed to our corrals. After avoiding the horrendous line for the bathroom at the stadium and opting for an ‘untended to’ port-o-let for construction workers at a site next to the stadium, we got to the corral with 3 minutes to the start. I tried to loosen my legs enough beforehand, but knew that it might take me a few miles to open up to my target pace. We started jogging and Britt gave me a ‘good luck’ before we took off. I was in such a ‘go go go’ mode that I didn’t even return the ‘good luck’ to her! I felt so bad when I realized this 3 minutes after beginning the race and thought about it repeatedly throughout the race. Sorry, Britt! (But in all actuality, you didn’t need luck to accomplish what you did last Sunday!)

I remember thinking at Mile 5 that I was feeling better than I thought I would. Maybe mentally overemphasizing the total elevation for weeks prior allowed me to consider it easy (or at least easier) on race day. Miles 7 and 8 were the toughest miles of the race, during which I posted 8:30 minute miles. I kept telling myself that it would all get easier after mile 9, when the course turns downhill. Before reaching the start line, I forgot to change the audio cue settings on the Runkeeper app and realized after a quarter mile that I would be hearing these updates for every quarter mile for the remaining 13 miles. Rather than stop and change the settings I decided it might be to my advantage to know my average pace every 3 minutes. And, as it turns out, half of the time I tuned out during the audio cue and kept my legs moving. In races, I always find it helpful to give other runners high fives as I run with them. I like when I can fall into pace with someone and share a brief moment with them–this is the camaraderie a lot of distance runners tend to mention. Whether or not we continue to run together, I think the high five gives both of us encouragement to keep going. I think a lot of other runners don’t expect encouragement from someone going through the same kind of ‘pain’ they are–and that’s just why I like doing it, I think. For example, I gave a guy a high five at mile 8.5 and he was so shocked that thirty seconds later he said, “Thanks! I needed that!”. What he didn’t know was that I needed it just as much as he did.

After mile 10, I knew that I was running a good enough pace to post a time under 1:50. I just had to keep running at the same pace or faster! After a brief pit stop at mile 10.5, I started to kick it towards the finish line. It was weird because I still felt like I had plenty of juice left in my legs and I was able to keep my form nice and calm. Mile 12 was my fastest with a time of 7:20. I’d like to say that the celebration began long before the finish line, but the reality of what I had just accomplished didn’t kick in until I wrapped myself in mylar and proudly received my medal. It sounds really corny but tears welled up in my eyes and all I kept thinking was “all that hard work and time was so worth it“. I wanted to see my boyfriend and tell him thank you for putting up with my training schedule and supporting me in the first of many goals on the road to the Chicago Marathon, my first. To all those best friends and significant others out there that support their runners–YOU are amazingly patient, kind, understanding, and supportive of what we do. I couldn’t do it without friends and family, that’s for sure.

Some may call it a mantra–I call it a broken record that typically doesn’t stop playing for months before a big race. Either way, repetition works! I finished at 1:46:45 with a new PR after my first half marathon last year (old time=1:56). I was 45 seconds away from being able to enter Corral C at the Chicago Marathon, so I may have to work in another half marathon into my schedule in the near future (potentially as soon as June 4th!). I will not let 45 seconds (caused by a silly loose shoelace and a short pit-stop) stop me from being in a faster corral. That’s what happens when you hit one goal…you gotta get after another one, right?

<<<<———-P.S. A true spectator will look like that after getting up at 4 am to watch some crazy runners in the rain.

-J