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

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

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

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

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

——

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honolulu- Pacing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014 Monumental Marathon: RACE RECAP 3:11:07

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles 1-5 

Mile1-5

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

Miles 6-10

Mile6-10

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

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Photo credit: Lindsey H.

Miles 11-15

Mile11-15

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

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

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

Miles 16-20

Miles16-20

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

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Happy after running through the IMA 🙂

Mile 18 was fast for two completely unrelated reasons:

1) It’s a long downhill section.

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

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

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

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

Miles 21-26.2

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

ENTER: 100% pain face.

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

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

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

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

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

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Pic credit: Lindsey H.

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

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

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

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

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Unreal.

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

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

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

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IT WAS THE BEST DAY.

-J

Monumental Marathon: Training Weeks 3 & 4 of 12

Playing major catch up over here, folks! It’s been hectic the past few weeks to say the least. The week of August 25th, I spent packing up my apartment and preparing for a move that weekend (no Labor Day relaxation for me). As if moving wasn’t stressful enough already, I had a trip to DC for work that’s been part of a big year-long project Monday- Thursday of the following week. I literally unpacked my apartment for 4 hours before heading to the airport and didn’t have a chance to even sleep in my new apartment until Thursday night. It’s like I don’t even live there….yet. 🙂

Pro tip: If you ever try to squeeze moving, work travel, and marathon training into a condensed time frame, you will need way more coffee than you ever thought you would need in a lifetime. Also, you will be hungry and tired for approximately 2 weeks. But hey, that’s just normal marathon training right?

So, here’s my attempt to recap two weeks of training!

Week 3 – August 25th Training Recap:

Week3

Monday: [Easy 6, 8:01 avg] Just an easy 6 around the neighborhood. Nice and cool-ish evening after the rain came through today.

Tuesday: [Speedwork 8.3 miles, 7:24 average] 1 mi, 4 x 400, 1 mi

This was a big reminder that I’m not in shape yet. Annnnd I’m in that phase where I’m trying to run paces I feel like I should be able to run, but I’m definitely not there yet. These paces are misleading due to stops to tell myself to “woah nellllyyyyyy”. (reverse pep talk? Is that what you would call self-talk to slow down?)

~3 mi up (bathroom stop)
1mi- 6:19 (wayyyy too fast)
4 x 400 with 2 min RI – 1:29, 1:33, 1:27, 1:30
1 mi- 6:25 (again too fast, but convinced myself to cruise a bit)
~1 mi down

Wednesday: [Easy 9 mi, 7:56 avg] 

Gorgeous, peaceful morning out there on the lakefront. I stopped a few times just to take pics (carried my phone so I could track bus home). It was especially calm and quiet because I ran without music. The legs are starting to notice higher mileage weeks.

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Thursday: [Steady state 9.44 mi, 7:27 avg]

Wahooo! Either my legs are coming back or the low temp & humidity really helped me tonight (hopefully both?!). Last week I struggled with a short tempo run and tonight, a steady state felt relatively easy. It actually turned into an impromptu progressive tempo because I was feeling so good – and I clearly celebrated in those last two miles. 🙂

2.4 up
Steady splits: 7:11, 7:05, 7:04, 7:00, 6:46, 6:46
1 down

Friday: “REST” 

Rest is relative. Packing and everything that goes along with it is exhausting. I’m so glad we started packing on Monday and gradually put everything into boxes.

Saturday: [15 mi long, 7:53 avg]

This just felt like a slog. My legs didn’t really bounce back after Thursday’s workout (and especially Wednesday’s hip strength session). I stopped a few times today just to stretch my hip flexors out – each time, it helped. It was unexpectedly hot today too. Probably should have hydrated more last night. Just a mentally and physically hard week I guess- but solid mileage! Gu at Mile 6 and 11 – plenty of water stops.

I was incredibly stressed and tired the rest of the day. The little odds and ends always take the most time when you’re packing. I thought we’d be done packing have time to relax by 7 or 8 pm but I was still packing at 10 pm. Still, packing beers helped. 🙂

Sunday: MOVING

The movers were on time and everything was loaded into the new place by 11:30 AM. It’s a long story, but we didn’t have a place to stay that night so Corey and Brad were very kind to host us. After a super hectic week, it was so nice to spend time with friends playing Would You Rather, drinking beer, and eating a delicious dinner.

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Unplanned dress coordination.

Week 4 – September 1 Training Recap:

Week4

Monday: 4 hours unpacking + flight to DC.

Monday-Thursday: work + flight home Thursday evening

Friday: work + near nervous breakdown + family arrives!

Saturday-Sunday: fun in Chicago + Chi Half Marathon as workout

(next Monday: flight out to DC for the week again)

This week was really tough. I had to shift around a few runs and do a double to get some easy miles in. I tried to get as much sleep as possible and still fit in plenty of training. I was super stressed out trying to manage some of the logistics after moving apartments – probably more difficult to do that long-distance than it would have been at home.

Monday: REST 

Tuesday: [Easy 6, 8:09 average]

I had about an hour between finishing the work day and meeting my sister for dinner. It’s HOT here this week – heat index was over 100 degrees today – so I ran on the treadmill for the first time in months. It’s a crappy hotel treadmill but it was likely better than running outside. I didn’t run from Saturday until today, so any kind of movement made me happy.

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Look what my sister showed up with! First time seeing it in person!

Wednesday: [4 easy miles in AM + 10 easy on Rock Creek Parkway in PM]

4 mi easy (around 9 min/mi pace?) Led some clients on a monument tour this morning. I’ve led a few runs with this client before and haven’t had that great of a turnout. I had 5 people come this morning! I’m sure it didn’t have anything to do with me and more to do with how close the hotel is to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. We ran up the steps to Lincoln in a giant herd of folks at November Project. 🙂 (crossing my fingers and toes that I can do a workout tonight)

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10 mi on Rock Creek Parkway: 7:32 avg. All hope is not lost on this week’s training! As much as I really did not want to go running tonight, I’m so glad I did. I’ve never run the Rock Creek Parkway before, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. I sort of knew where I was going and planned an out-and-back route to be safe. I had about an hour of sunlight left so that helped me churn out these 10 (I got back to my hotel at 9 miles once the sun set and went to the hotel gym for the last one – anything to get those miles in!) I had a fartlek planned with 10k pace surges but that was thrown out the window when I realized how hilly the parkway is. Basically just ran by effort up and down the hills and tried to keep an even pace. Will definitely run through there again.

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Big hill = moment to stop and take in the view

I’ve never done doubles as part of my training. Running 14 mi in one day wasn’t the easiest way to get the miles in but I enjoyed getting out there for the sunrise AND sunset today.

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Thursday: [Easy 5.4, 7:46 avg]

I was most definitely tired today, but when I woke up and checked the weather for Chicago for this evening, I figured I should get out there for an easy run before I fly home. It wasn’t even 70 degrees but still fairly humid. I did loopty loops around the mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol. Lots of runners out there this morning! I really love running in DC. I’d always heard that Washington D.C. is a runner’s city but I didn’t really believe it until this week. It’s nice to have different options – the Rock Creek Parkway is a completely different run than the National Mall. As much as I love the Chicago Lakefront, it would be nice to have more options.

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Friday: REST 

I had planned to run today but I was a) super tired and b) super f*&^%ing stressed out from unpacking and setting up the apartment. I probably wasted a good 15-18 hours of my life talking to Comcast within 4 days and I nearly reached my breaking point on Friday morning. It’s not worth sharing here, but I’m sure 90% of Comcast customers have similar stories to mine. The good news? I finally talked to someone that could help me and our service was restored by 1 pm.

I had family visiting this weekend so I wanted to make sure the apartment was at least a bit like home before they arrived. We went to Piece for dinner and drank entirely too much beer at the Emporium Arcade Bar that night.

Saturday: OFF 

Shakeout was planned before Sunday’s half but spending time with the fam won out.

Sunday: [18 mi total- 13 mi steady state (close to GMP) at Chicago Half + 5 w/up & c/down] 

Manny signed up for the Chicago Half months ago and I realized this fit into my training plan really well. My schedule had 13-14 at GMP to GMP + 20 sec and I did a total of 5 mi as warmup and cool down. First 18 miler of this super short training cycle! I didn’t get my tempo workout in this week, so I guess this steady state replaced it! I felt pretty flat the entire 13 but that’s to be expected with no shakeout yesterday and poor sleep all week. My goal was to start out closer to 7:30 but I got caught up in the race atmosphere and ran 7:10-7:20 for the first few miles (definitely felt that later on!) I took my time at water stops (1 min) and made sure to pour water over my head in the later miles when it started to get hot. I’ve run this course once before as a training run and remember it being more fun- seemed boring to me this year. Still, it’s a well run race. Met up with Lynton K. and Pete afterward for a “delicious” Mich Ultra. After 4 shakeout miles, it actually did taste good but I’m convinced anything would at that point.

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A 12-week training cycle isn’t ideal but I think I’m making progress.

Phew! Tough cookies the past two weeks. I’m a bit disappointed that my training didn’t have as much quality as planned, but I was probably a bit naive to think that I would be able to fit it all in this week and still have plenty of energy for that small thing we call work. I really enjoyed running in DC and knew that I would be able to stick to more of a routine the following week. I have to keep reminding myself that 4 weeks ago, I wasn’t even sure if I could train for a fall marathon. I’m so happy that the bursitis subsided and I’m beginning to feel like myself again. I figure this cycle is just one big experiment anyway. 4 weeks ago, running an easy 13 miles felt like a 19 or 20 miler. I knocked out 18 with a solid workout on Sunday – progress! #realitycheck

Spoiler alert: my legs started to come back this week!

– J

Squashing the Post-Boston Blerch

Oh hey there! It seems I either forgot I have a blog or had no inspiration to write. I think both happened, to be honest. 

Now that I’m a month removed from the sting of Boston, I’m beginning to get more excited about running and racing the rest of this year. I spent a few weeks feeling pretty bummed about my race. It took me awhile to process and, I think, for good reason. Marathon training and racing can be so tough because you have to work your a** off in order for the fitness gains to follow and then you still have relatively little control over how the race actually goes. Not to mention you spend months avoiding even entertaining the idea that you won’t meet your goal — you have to think you will run your goal time when you spend hours, days of your life training. Because that’s how you get through it. You hope and believe it will happen.

And then, when I didn’t run my goal time, I let myself feel bad about it for a relatively short while. And now, just this week, I feel excited to just … run, with no real attachments or concrete goals. 

On Thursday, I went to a spin class in the morning. I haven’t gone to a class in awhile and I was looking forward to creating a pool of sweat under the bike. It was just what I needed. A longggggg hill along with plenty of sprints & jumps — and an hour later and I felt like a million bucks. And then, I realized that The Man had a workout to do after work. And I thought, “yeah, I could join him”. So, we ran to the lakefront together and started his workout shortly after. We ran 4 x 3 min “surges”. I let him set the pace on the first repeat and then we alternated. (So I guess I’m now I’m a rabbit-coach-girlfriend.) And damn! That dude can run! I wasn’t expecting to see a “6” on my watch that day, but it appears he has a lot more pick-up than I do these days. Note: He may or may not have given me the middle finger on one of those repeats. But this only means that I’m doing my job as Coach, right? I’m not sure I’ve ever gone to a spin class AND run in a single day before. It was my first ‘workout’ since Boston – and while it felt a wee bit creaky, it felt so good to run fast again. 

Sunday’s run was even more fun. I didn’t really have much of a plan, but I thought I’d run 10-12 miles. I had an extremely lazy morning after sleeping for approximately 10 hours (what kind of heaven is this?!) before heading out. It was a GORGEOUS day, fairly warm with a breeze off the lake. The lakefront was BUSY. It’s officially the season of dodging tourists on Segways (I must have seen 50 of ’em on this run) and yelling at cyclists that are riding slower than I am running (no, I’m not kidding). I promise I was happy to see a busy lakefront but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t let a few curse words fly. I ran 2 miles to the lake with Man and then ran south. After mile 5, my legs started to feel super energetic. I had so much ‘get up and go’, I was shocked. By mile 8, I felt amazing and I thought it would be fun to see what the legs could do the last few miles. My last three mile splits were 7:01, 6:50, and 6:34 (say what?!), so I basically ran an impromptu 11-mile progressive. CUE RUNNER’S HIGH. I’m not sure where the pep came from but I’m glad it returned. I was beginning to think most of my runs would continue to feel like running through sand.

Annnnnd because I’m just letting the good times roll, I signed up for the Soldier Field 10-miler this weekend. I’ve never run a 10-mile race before, so the automatic PR will be joyous. I’m planning on skipping the free post-race beer and heading to a beer fest that afternoon instead. Run hard, beer hard right? 

Speaking of beer, here’s a fun fact for you:

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So, post-Boston “blerch” has been squashed & I’m looking forward to a fun summer and fall. Who’s with me?

-J 

 

A New Challenge

I’ve been struggling with one fussy left hip the past few weeks. I can feel it ache when I lay on my left side in bed, it’s vocal during portions of easy runs, and it, in general, feels like it needs some TLC. Like most runners, I don’t like to rest. I feel like that’s all I’ve done since the Twin Cities Marathon over two months ago. My mileage is somewhat laughable and enormously inconsistent. All I want to do right now is jump into a solid training cycle and challenge myself again. My heart says yes but (right now), my body is saying no.

So, this week. I am going to NOT run. I am going to cross train and strengthen. I went to a 90 minute vinyasa yoga class during lunch today and felt incredibly challenged. Lunges that I did two days ago are still locking up my quads and there are definitely muscles that needs to lengthened and strengthened. I feel like I’m going to go stir crazy, break down, and hop on the treadmill for “just a few miles”. I don’t want to. I want my hip to be kind to me and stop bumming me out.

I foam rolled and stretched right when I woke up this morning. Foam rolling the area seems to help for a bit, but then the muscles lock up again (I sincerely hope this is a muscular issue, as opposed to a skeletal one). I’m more conscious about how I sit when I’m working. I’m hoping this is something that a deep, sports massage can take care of.

Ok, I lied. I might go for a birthday run this weekend. But it definitely won’t be the 12-13 I was hoping to log.

Self-imposed challenge accepted.

Kickin’ in Kinvaras

After a long awaited trip to Fleet Feet, I am finally sporting some new Saucony Kinvaras and I am head over heels happy with them. My ‘coach’ recommended them to me as a nice low profile, lightweight training shoe and he couldn’t have been more right about it. This was my first time buying shoes at Fleet Feet (I had only previously walked through their doors when picking up my race packets for other races I registered for), but I felt extremely confident in the fact that they would know what they’re talking about because of friends’ reviews. The last time I bought a new pair of running shoes was December of 2009 after returning from my study abroad trip to Belgium–I was determined to run my first half marathon the following May after being deprived of some sort of athletic culture and overindulging in Belgian fries and samurai sauce and delicious Belgian brews. My dad bought them for me as a Christmas present and I was all too happy to strap them on and hit the pavement. Since the Indy Mini Marathon last May I have continued to use the Brooks and probably should have bought a new pair months ago. [I’m not sure what their mileage count was but I can tell you from the shin and foot pain I was having, they had to have been long gone for plenty of miles now.] I walked out of Fleet Feet tonight after trying on some Mizunos, New Balance, Pumas, and finally the Saucony’s.

They felt so incredibly light that by the time I got on the treadmill I realized I was more motivated than I had originally planned to be. (Yes, some days I PLAN to be motivated. Others…not so much.) I was thinking that I would do an easy 5 mile at pace, but instead I did a tempo run with my fasted mile being at a 7:30 min/mile pace. I haven’t run that pace in an extremely long time. In fact, I probably can’t even tell you when that last time was! I had no tightness in my hips which is the first place to feel fatigue during an ambitious workout. I’m looking forward to more runs like this one–they’re the ones that keep you going. It’s funny how all of the struggle is relative; Mile 5 was at a 9:00 min/mile pace and it felt to drag on and on and on!

And when I got home I was happy to find my welcome packet to the ACS Team DetermiNATION with a nice training tank tucked inside. Nothing like some nice apparel to get you motivated, right? [Anyone else look forward to collecting race shirts as much as I do?]

I’ve found myself so distracted at work lately, just itching to lace up my shoes and go out there during the day when the sun shines through the office windows. One of these days maybe I’ll go for a run during lunch if time permits. It will sure be nice to run along the lake as the sun sets in a couple of months. 🙂

-J