Motivating Others

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A few months ago, I came across this article on Runner’s World website.  It was a debate about whether or not you should offer encouragement to other runners on a race course.

Each runner on the course has a personal goal, but we all have one goal in common: to cross that finish line.  I always felt like offering someone words of encouraging and motivating people was the thing to do, until it came back to slap me in the face.

I was at the tail end of the Chicago Marathon.  I knew this part of the course well because I had lived near it for two years.  We were approaching the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan and I knew the finish line was up over a hill and to the left.  The adrenaline had started to kick in as I got closer and closer.  I remember passing by a few runners and saying, “We did it, we’re almost done!” Not so much to keep them motivated, but to keep my own spirits up.  One girl (who was walking) was not so receptive.  She started yelling at me, saying that she was very familiar with the course and that she knows where the finish line was.  That shut me up quickly and I just kept running.  Since then, I have kept my motivating words to myself.

Last weekend, I was doing a marathon build up run with the Badgerland Striders.  We were approaching the end of our 10 miler and had a slow climb up the hill near UW-Milwaukee.  My goal was just to keep running as long as I could.  I got about 1/2 way up the hill before my legs (I thought) couldn’t do it anymore.  I had started to walk, got a few steps into it before I had a fellow strider say something to me, “We’re almost done, you have a 1/2 mile left you can finish this strong.”  She was right.  I had already run 9.5 miles what’s another half mile?  Instead of yelling at the runner, I said thank you and finished out the rest of my training run in a near sprint.  It was the words that I needed to hear to give myself that extra push.

So when it comes to running, or life in general, where do you stand on the motivation issue?  Would you rather people just keep to themselves or do you enjoy having a complete stranger come up and motivate you to finish strong?  

Rock N Sole 1/2 Marathon Recap & a PR

I hope everyone had a great week!  I decided to take a break from my busy life and sit down and write a race recap.  Last Saturday I ran my 6th {and best!}  half marathon.  A co-worker of mine and I have been “training” for the Rock n Sole Run in Milwaukee.  I use the term “training” loosely because I didn’t really stick to a plan this time around but I did make sure to get a few longer runs in there.  The longest run I did was 10 miles and that was the week before our race.  I didn’t have any real expectations for this race, given the winter we had.  My goal was just to go, have fun and do the best that I could.   RnS Half 2014This was my second year participating in the Rock n Sole Run.  Last year, I ran the quarter marathon.  The course was very different this time around, but it was a major improvement.  We started in the Third Ward, ran south toward Bay View, came up the Hoan Bridge from the south end, down Lincoln Memorial drive, up Lafayette hill, back around the Oak Leaf trail, back down the hill by UWM, south on Lincoln Memorial drive until the finish.  The course had a few serious hills but also had some nice declines where I was able to make up my time.  The Hoan bridge was by far the worst climb.  It was an uphill climb for about a mile, after we made it over the bridge, I turned to Jen and said the “worst part is over”.  She reminded me that we still had to run up Lafayette hill.  Although that one’s steep, it’s really short so in my mind I’d rather take the short and intense hill over the long uphill one.  I lost my running partner at the decline from the bridge.  I always use the momentum on hills to guide me down faster, whereas she keeps the same speed-something we already knew about our running styles going into this race.  We said from the beginning that we’d stay with each other as long as we can, but if one gets ahead, it’s not a big deal.  The course flattened out on Lincoln Memorial drive as we ran past the Calatrava and along the lake front.  Even after the run up the bridge, my legs felt really good.  I looked down at my watched and saw that I was averaging 9:18 min/mile.  Something that I’ve never done for a half marathon.  I thought about slowing down because I didn’t want to burn out but I was already 1/2 way through the race so I just kept with it.
RNS SplitsBefore I got to Lafayette hill, I started to slow my pace because I knew what was coming (the awesome advantage of being very familiar with the course!).  As I ran up it, I shortened my stride and took my time.  I felt my legs start to tighten up and my breathing became short.  I made it up that hill without having to stop and walk but at the top of it I told myself that I needed to slow down my pace and get my breathing under control otherwise I was in a for a tough finish. I slowed down for about a block or two, got my breathing under control and was back at it for about a 9:14 min mile.  As I was running on the Oak Leaf trail and I kept thinking about my running partner and how I wished we could’ve kept pace with each other.  Just as I was about to head downhill back toward Lincoln Memorial Drive, I felt a tap on my shoulder…it was Jen!  I was so thrilled that she caught up to me!  As we were making our way downhill I told her to just let the momentum carry you down…like running downhill when we were kids!  It worked and she was able to keep up with me for the rest of the race.  I looked down at my watch and knew that I was right on pace for earning a PR.  Shortly after mile 10 I spotted some port-o-johns.  I had been needing to use the restroom from about mile 4 and couldn’t hold out any longer.  I told Jen to just go ahead and that I would catch up to her.  I finally caught up to her when we had a 1/2 mile left to go.  I finished the race in 2:03:54, shaving about 7 minutes off my best time.
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              Time for a mani!

The race as a whole was very organized.  I ran with my own water belt, but there seemed to be enough aid stations, port-o-pottys and entertainment along the way.  The only thing I could recommend that they do differently is to have a cover over the gated bridges…I hate running over those!  Also, at the start of the race, I saw a girl fall into a construction hole…the cone wasn’t enough of a warning to keep her from taking a tumble.  Luckily, she was okay.  All in all, it was a great race and I’d be back for it again next year.  The course was beautiful and the weather was perfect…everything you need a great race!
And of course there was beer and live music at the finish line :-) WIN & WIN! Not a bad way to end week 1 of marathon training either.
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I Think I Did it Again…

For someone who was planning on taking a break from training this summer, my race calendar is sure filling up:
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I have my sights set on a few half-marathons and like I said earlier in this post, I still want to focus on getting faster.  A few night ago hubs was watching Chicagoland and they were showing highlights and behind the scenes from 2013 Chicago Marathon.  I became really sad that I turned down the opportunity to run this year.  Since then, I’ve thought long and hard about my goals, what my life could like in the next year or two: this could be last year in a long time that I’ll even be able to run the marathon.  We’re not guaranteed another day, much less a year and who’s to say that I won’t be deployed next fall.  So, started looking into fundraising again for Salute, Inc.  I know that I can beat my time if I train a little smarter this time around.  I can sit here and think of a million reasons not to do it, but ultimately I’m sure I would regret it come race day.  I was talking about it with my boss a few days ago and he offered me this advice: “You know what to expect this time around and everything gets easier with more practice”.  So I came up with a training plan that I believe was attainable with my schedule and that would get me to the finish line, ran it by hubs and he said that if I want to do it, I have his support 100%.
I was still on the fence about it when I got to work today.  I was talking with a co-worker about signing up for distance races.  He was hesitating about signing up for his first half with no really great explanation not to.  Just a lot of excuses and I said to him, “Sometimes you just gotta do it without thinking, rip the bandaid off!” All the while my Team Salute application sat on my desk, filled out just waiting to get e-mailed.   What gave me the final push to “rip the bandaid off”?  This video.  It almost brought tears to my eyes.

There’s no other feeling like crossing the finish line after running 26.2 miles and enduring months of training.

My biggest hesitation about training for the marathon is the one thing I’m most proud of: My daughter.  I’m having a hard with “the mom guilt”.  Part of me feels like I should be spending every free moment I have with her since she’s growing up so quickly, but I also know that I need to make time for the things that I enjoyed prior to having her.  When I went back to work, my mom told me this: “It’s not the quantity of time you spend with her, but the quality of time that matters.”  I try to keep reminding myself of this when life outside of the home gets crazy busy.  With the way my training schedule is set up I have Sundays to give her and Larry my undivided attention.  No barre, no running.  Sundays will be designated family time this summer and I’m looking forward to it.

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Question of the day: Active Moms out there…how do you balance work, home and a training schedule?

Kinda like Christmas

Happy Monday!  How was your weekend?  Ours was pretty jam packed over here: birthdays, baseball games and the discovery of a new to me running store…10 minutes from my house {DANGER!}

PROAfter work on Friday, I headed over to Performance Running Outfitters (PRO) to get fitted for running shoes.  Last time I got fitted for shoes was shortly after Madelyn was born.  I kept buying the same pair when the previous ones wore out.  This time, I wanted to talk to a professional because, since training for the marathon, my left calf and heel seem to get really tight after my runs.  The lady who helped me had me do a few exercises and then got me on the treadmill to video record my feet while I ran.  I have neutral pronation, my foot rolls in very slightly as it lands on the ground.  My running form has gotten tremendously better since the last time I got fitted for shoes so the shoes I was running in had much more stability than I actually need anymore.

After running in a few pair of shoes, I decided to go with the Saucony Guide 7…and a pair of Newtons.  I’ve been eyeing up Newton’s since my mom’s friend told me about how much she loved running in hers during the Get Lucky 1/2 Marathon.  I initially went to PRO with every intention on just getting the Newton’s, but because they’re more of a natural running shoe, there’s an adjustment period with them so I needed another shoe to rotate out.  Lucky for me PRO gives a 10% military discount and they also honor Newton’s 20% military discount.  After looking at their website a little bit more, I later found out that the woman who helped me, Jessica, was actually the owner of the store.  She was so nice and down to earth.  I’ll definitely be back for all of my running gear :-)

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Another awesome benefit of shopping at PRO?  For every $200 you spend, you get $25 back to use on your next purchase. I went back the next day and bought this $70 Brooks running jacket for $17.  It was marked down on clearance and I had my $25 to spend.  WIN!

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On Saturday morning, I headed out the door to break in my new Saucony’s.  I did 6 miles, out and back and my legs felt great!  A little sore, but nothing like what I’ve been experiencing.

first6milesI had my route mapped out and kept an eye on my pace the whole time.  That was the first time I focused on my pace as opposed to the distance, and I think it worked out well for me :-)

After I was done running, I had a bunch of errands to get to(including heading back to the running store!) for someone’s birthday!! Larry turned 30 this weekend and we were having a little party at our house to celebrate him.  I purchased cupcakes from Miss Cupcake and a dozen vegan cupcakes from Classy Girl cupcakes.  I picked out the “manliest” cupcakes I could find: Beer Nuts, Stout, and Maple Bacon.  The vegan cupcakes were banana with chocolate-Madelyn LOVED them and all weekend I kept hearing a little voice saying, “cupcake, cupcake!”

cupcakesHubs knew about his party, so I surprised him with an awesome gift…Cubs VS Red Sox in BOSTON!!! We’ll be heading to Beantown at the end of June and I can’t wait!  We haven’t boarded a plane for a trip since our honeymoon three years ago.  He was really excited as well.

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After the party, we headed out to the bars for a little bit and then woke up in the morning to get to the Brewers/Cubs game.

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Note the water in Larry’s hand :-) We just can’t hang like we used to…nor do I want to :-)

It was a great weekend with awesome friends and family.  30 looks good on him if I must say so myself ;-)

I’m excited to break in my Newtons.  I think I’ll take those for a little spin on the treadmill tomorrow!

What’s your favorite piece of workout gear to go shopping for?  Nothing beats a good pair of shoes and a supportive sports bra!

Get Lucky Chicago Recap

I am happy to announce that I survived a 1/2 marathon with very minimal train (6 miles was my longest training run-on a treadmill) and while breaking the rule-”nothing new on race day” and I have very little soreness today.

My mom and I completed the Get Lucky Chicago 1/2 marathon yesterday.  It was my 5th one and her first.

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I was very nervous for this race for severals reasons:  the weather in the Midwest has been less than stellar for outside running, so most of my running was done on a treadmill.  I had only trained up to 6 miles when the normal amount is 10.  I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my mom since she did properly train.  Needless to say, I am grateful that muscle memory kicked in and I was able to complete the race with my mom.  Today we both said that we will do longer runs on the weekends so that we don’t lose any base training for upcoming races.

Weekend Details

We drove down to Chicago on Friday afternoon with two of my mom’s friends who were also doing the race with us.  We stayed at the Congress Hotel, which was Team Ortho’s host hotel.  It was an ideal location because packet pickup was right at the hotel and there was a shuttle for us on race day to take us to the starting line since it was about a 20 minute drive away.  After we picked up our packets, we walked down to Garmin to say hi to my friend Kristine and then it was off to Eataly for some carb loading.  I decided on pizza-it was pretty amazing.  After dinner, we ventured downstairs to check out the desserts.

eatalydessertsWe took a cab back to our hotel and spent the rest of the evening getting our gear ready to go and catching up on Runner’s World magazine.  I was in bed by 8:45 and it felt great :-)

Race Day

We walked to closest Starbucks and hopped on the shuttle at 7:30.  The race started in Jackson park, near the Museum of Science and Industry.  I was excited to run a new part of the lakefront path.  When we lived in Chicago, I usually ran more north of museum campus so it was nice to see the skyline coming from the south.

We got to the race pretty early, so hung out, stretched and beat the long port a potty lines :-)

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At 9 am we were on our way!  I told my mom from the beginning that I would be staying her pace the entire time.  We started off at comfortable pace.  I kept one ear bud out so that I could talk with my mom and communicate with other runners if I needed to.  It was a great idea since there was ice on the path and runners ahead of you would yell out “Ice” so that you were aware of what was ahead.  The path was also very narrow, so it was nice to be able to hear if other runners behind you were trying to pass.

The course was an out and back and I was little surprised to see the turn around point at around mile 5.  It wasn’t until about mile 7 that my mom wanted to stop and walk for about a minute.  It was then that I started to feel my quads cramp up.  We ran the rest of the course and maybe stopped for walking breaks about 3 more times.  Even though it can be difficult to run at someone else’s pace, I’m really glad that I stayed with my mom.  It was nice to be able to have someone to talk to and keep your mind distracted.  While I was motivating her, I really actually just trying to keep myself motivated.  The race was route was really well laid out, until the end.  There was one point where we ran past the finish line, saw mile marker 13 and still had to keep running.  I was not a fan and it totally messed me up mentally.  That last mile was a tough one.  My Garmin was right on track with the mile markers until about mile 10, then it became slightly off, but still close enough.  At the end of our race, my Garmin told me I ran 12.95 miles in 2:18 minutes.

I’m so proud of my mom and the timing we got for her first 1/2!  She’s addicted :-)  This was my first time running with compression socks from PRO Compression and my calves feel awesome today!  Normally, my calves are what bother me the most after a long run because I tend to run more on my toes.  I’m not sure if it was the compression socks or the fact that it was a nice and easy pace, but my legs feel great today and I will definitely be wearing these for all longer runs.

The Get Lucky Chicago 1/2 marathon was a great way to start off the 2014 racing season. My goal is keep logging longer runs on the weekend and to earn a new 1/2 marathon PR at my next run which is the Rock n Sole on June 14th!

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So it Begins

Happy Friday!!!!  I’ve got my bags packed and in just a few hours, I will be Chicago bound to run my first race of 2014 and my first one since the Chicago marathon.  The Get Lucky half will be my 5th half marathon!  It should be interesting, since training for this was pretty nonexistent and the running that I did do, was mostly all treadmill.  BUT I am happy to be doing what I love in my favorite city :-)

getluckychiThis race is particularly special because I will be running it with my mom and it is her first half marathon.  My mom is pretty amazing.  A few years ago, she got really sick.  Everything that could possible go wrong with a person, my mom had pretty much dealt with.  She was thought to have MS, Celiac disease-in which she got her gull bladder removed.  She is a nurse and it was a struggle for her to just make it through the day.  She lost hair, suffered anxiety, muscle pain, extreme fatigue, heart palpitations etc.  This went on for over a year.  She was a medical mystery and no doctor could find out what was wrong with her, until she found a naturopathic doctor that specialized in Lyme disease.  My mom had been tested previously for lyme, but her tests always came back negative.  Well her new doctor, ran a different kind of test and found that my mom was positive for chronic lyme disease.  For years, the lyme disease went undiagnosed.  After finding out what her illness actually was, she began her road to recovery.

It has been pretty awesome watching my mom get her health back and watching her become so active!  She bikes and runs…two things I NEVER saw her doing while growing up.  I’m so excited that I get to be there when she crosses the finish line and complete something I’m sure she never thought was possible.  I may not be ready for this race, but I know she is and her positive attitude about everything will keep me running to that finish line with her.

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Clean house, Happy House

Happy Monday Friends!  Did everyone enjoy a long weekend?  I feel like weekends are never long enough.  I had Friday off of work.  Instead of doing something fun and enjoying the day, Madelyn went to daycare and I went to a quick workout class and then home to clean.  It’s much easier to do a deep cleaning when there isn’t a toddler running around destroying everything in her path.  After 5+ hours of cleaning, I promised myself that I would never spend a Friday off of work cleaning again.  Enter the long awaited chore chart.  cleanhousehappyhouse

I’m surprised this wasn’t done sooner.  But it is here and I’m really hoping that it works, because spending your whole day cleaning is zero fun.

Also done this weekend?  My longest run since the Chicago Marathon.  After the marathon, I look a very long, much needed break from running.  It was nice to casually get back into it and run for fun not because I had to.  I had been keeping it around 3 or 4 miles each run, mostly because that’s all I could muster for the treadmill.  But on Saturday, I was feeling really good and I just kept going.

5miler5 miles done.  Now to increase my mileage and get ready for a half marathon in March.

Here’s what’s on the workout and dinner schedule this week:

Monday: Barre & leftovers from date night in (Recipe coming this week!)

Tuesday: Easy 3 miles/pasta with italian sausage, veggies and sauce

Wednesday: Barre/roasted chicken and butternut squash

Thursday: Run 3.5 + core / Fish tacos and beans

Friday: Much needed rest day! No set dinner plans.

I’m off to go get dinner prepared for Madelyn and then to get studying for my NASM test.  I hope everyone has a good week!

What’s the one household chore you hate the most?  Mine would be cleaning the shower!  Luckily, I came across a very helpful pin that will hopefully make it less painless.

Cold Weather Running

How is the weekend over already?  Normally, I have Mondays off, but with the Thanksgiving holiday and wanting to have off on Friday, I am adjusting my work schedule a little bit and having an extra long weekend :-)

This weekend was another packed one.  On Friday, I went out with my sister and our wedding photographer/friend.  We ate some good food and went and listened to a band at The Knick.  On Saturday, Larry and I participated in the ‘Stache Dash 5k in Hart Park.  We finished in 28:26.  The freezing cold weather was our motivator.
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Bloody Marys before the run…a little pre-race fueling ;-)

This race was the run that I think set the tone for the upcoming winter season.  I used to HATE running in the cold.  My lungs would burn, I could barely breathe…it was awful.  But last year after having Madelyn, something changed.  I don’t know if I was playing catch up from not being able to run while I was pregnant, but I started to run past November (usually a turkey trot would be the last outside run for me) and well into December and January.  Something about completing a run in the bitter cold is very empowering, once you get past the initial shock of cool air.

The most important thing about running comfortably in the winter is proper clothing.  The first thing you need is a base layer.
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My base layer is from the Champion line at Target.  Nothing fancy.  Just make sure that it’s moisture wicking/dry fit.  Whatever you do, avoid cotton.  Sweaty cotton=cold cotton and that’s no good.  The thumb holes really help to keep the shirt sleeves in place.

Next, you’ll need a mid-layer.
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I chose my Under Armour Wounded Warrior project hoodie.  I got this last year from hubs for Christmas.  I usually splurge a little more on quality mid-layers because they are also great to wear alone for Fall weather runs.

And because the weather was in the teens on Saturday, I wore a running jacket over my hoodie.
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This was another C9 Target purchase.  It’s waterproof and blocks the wind fairly well, but I do want to look for something a little thicker.  I saw a few women with running jackets this past Saturday that looked really warm.

Pants are another item worth investing in.  For this particular run, I wore my New Balance Windblocker tight.  In temperatures below 30, I wouldn’t wear any other pants.  They are amazing.  I also own a pair of lululemon fleece lined running tights, but these definitely take the cake when it comes to blocking wind and staying warm.

And of course you have your hat/ear warmers and techie gloves :-) I will admit, Saturday’s run was a tough one for me.  I was already toying with the idea of just calling it off on Friday.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the wind.  The start of the run was the worst, and once I got past that 1 mile mark things got a little better but a hot shower never felt so good.

After the race, I rewarded myself to a trip to the new Athleta at Bayshore to pick up something cute to wear for a fun, special event that I’m participating in on Tuesday :-) Check back for more details on that.

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So cold weather runningYay or nay?  Do you bundle up and hit the pavement or are you a treadmill runner in the winter?

Marathon Virgin No Longer

There’s something to be said about your first time.  You’re nervous, excited and scared.  You don’t know what to expect.  What will it feel like?  What if I don’t finish?  How do I keep from going too fast too soon?  Did I prepare enough?  The marathon distance can be very intimidating for a first-timer, but the high you experience when you reach the finish line is unlike any other.  And just like with anything else, it gets better with time and practice ;-) (Or so I hear…)
finisherLooking back at my months of training, I can honestly say that I did not give my training 100%.  There were times when I’d adjust the mileage and skip out on the occasional buildup run-once when I was on our anniversary trip to Michigan and also the weekend of Madelyn’s first birthday.  If I could do it over again, there are some things I’d do differently-both in preparation and on race day.
  1. Follow the marathon plan you’ve chosen.  Bart & Hal know a thing or two about marathon training.  It’s okay to move your long run around (doing it on Sunday instead of Saturday), but if you want to be successful, don’t skimp out on mileage.
  2. Get serious about nutrition.  During marathon training, I was not a carb queen much to my surprise.  I did eat relatively healthy but my breakfast before most of my workouts consisted of coffee, water and a banana.  Post workout would be a protein shake.  No good for those longer runs.  The week before the marathon, I loaded up on the good carbs as best as I could.  Next time I’ll plan out my pre & post run meals/protein & carb ratios out a little better.
  3. Have a hydration plan in place and use it on those long practice runs. Toward the end, I switched over to Endurolyte tablets by Hammer.  I liked them because they were just little electrolyte capsules I could just chug with water or Gatorade and I didn’t have to worry about carrying chews or trying to suck down a gel packet.  I used them a few times on my practice runs and my system worked well.  However, you tend to forget about replenishing your electrolytes when you’re running the streets of Chicago, high on life.  There were a few times when I’d pass by a water stop, chug my water and continue on my way without even giving my electrolytes a second thought.  Do whatever you can to try and remember to get the proper nutrition in during the race.
  4. Don’t forget your sunglasses/visor/hat.  The whole time I trained, I wore either my sunglasses or visor and low and behold, on race day I left both of them in hubs’ car.  Don’t do that.  Squinting is no fun, it causes headaches and wrinkles.  The last thing you want to do is weave in and out of the course to get to the shadier spots.  Which brings me to my next point.
  5. STUDY your race course and hug the corners as best you can.  A few weeks prior to race day, Larry posted this article stating that if runners don’t hug the corners of the courses 36 turns, they could possibly add up to a half mile to their race.26.8miles
  6. Set multiple goals for yourself.  You never know what can happen on race day and if you only set one goal (i.e. a finish time) and you don’t achieve it, it will take away from the awesomeness that was just accomplished.  Look back at your training.  You had good days and not so great days.  The same thing can happen when it comes to marathon time.  Not to mention other things you can’t control.  Like the weather.  Or the sun.  Goal #1 for me was just to finish.  Goal #2 was to finish in under 5 hours.  Goal #2 didn’t happen, but I did achieve my main goal and now, I can take everything I learned and put it into practice when it comes time for marathon numero 2.
  7. Write your name somewhere visible on yourself.  I wish I would’ve done this!! I saw lots of people with iron ons, bright tape & black sharpie (if you don’t want to ruin a shirt), and people who wrote their names on their arm with sharpies.  Strangers will call out your name and cheer you on during the race and it’s really motivating.
  8. ENJOY every single moment!  The marathon was honestly the fastest 5 hours of my life.  There will be times on the course when you’re on top of the world one mile and the next mile, you’re hating life, questioning your sanity and wondering why you thought this was a good idea.  Then you’ll hear Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful as you approach the finish and realize that those few miles of agony were totally and utterly worth it.

Chicago Marathon Recap

Brace yourselves people, this will be a long one. So grab some coffee or wine, sit back and enjoy.*
And just like that, it’s over and done with.  After months of preparation, training, sweat and tears, the Chicago Marathon weekend came and went in the blink of an eye, and it could not have been more amazing.
Larry, Madelyn and I met my mom and sister at a park & ride on the way to Chicago on Saturday at 8am and they followed us to our hotel in Rosemont, which is right near O’hare airport.  Months ago, I had looked up hotels in downtown Chicago, including the marathon host hotel, The Hilton, and even with “special” marathon deals, I couldn’t believe how outrageous it was.  It would’ve cost us over $600 for a two night stay.  Luckily, my husband has some  connections in the hotel industry and was able to get us a really great deal at the Aloft Hotel.
aloftAfter we dropped off our bags and got settled into the room, we all piled into one car, headed to Panera for a quick breakfast and drove down to the McCormick Place to brave the race expo.  When we got off the expressway, you could feel the buzz and energy that the marathon created in the city.  There were people everywhere carrying their clear, plastic expo bags.  I was getting even more excited and slightly nervous.  The packet pick up at the expo was very well organized.  The only issue I had with it, was the way they had the BIB pick up and T-Shirt pick up on two completely different ends of the expo.  Since I was planning on walking around, I didn’t mind so much, but for someone who wanted to get in and out, I could see it being a hassle.
IMG_2151The expo wasn’t too insane and Madelyn was being the perfect angel, so we were lucky enough to get through all of the booths.  I wish we would’ve had a little bit more time to spend there because there are some booths that I would’ve liked to have spent more time at but the little one did start to get antsy toward the end.  The main thing is, I was able to give my remaining donations to Team Salute and visit my wonderful friend, Kristine, at the Garmin booth.  I was having a crisis with my foot pod the night before the expo and lucky for me, Kristine and the people at Garmin were able to fix it.  What a lifesaver!
IMG_2170The expo also had a lot of fun & interactive stuff set up:
Take a magnet, write a message
take a magnet & write a message
IMG_2160 IMG_2180After the expo, we headed to the Niketown on Michigan Ave to pick up some Chicago marathon swag.  The Nike clothing exhibit at the expo was INSANE!  Niketown had a much more stress-free atmosphere plus they had a DJ spinning and the employees were all dancing.  It was a lot of fun and it helped pump me up for race day.
When we were done shopping and mom and Melissa were done standing in line for popcorn, we headed to Scoozi! for a pre-marathon dinner.  Before we left for Chicago, I “googled” Chicago marathon pasta dinners and Scoozi! was one of the restaurants that came up as having a special pre-marathon dinner.  I had a couple of Italian restaurants in mind that I would’ve liked to have taken my mom and sister to, but I wanted something that was definitely kid-friendly, as Madelyn’s behavior in restaurants is very unpredictable these days.  And of course, she was on her best behavior.  We even received a compliment from the people next to us about how well behaved she was :-) {Proud mommy moment}.
Back to food.  Scoozi! was offering a family style meal.  We picked what kind of salad we wanted (Caeser-soooo good!), two pasta dishes, and tiramisu for dessert.  Everything was phenomenal and the service was excellent.  The only thing missing was a glass of wine, which I wanted so badly, but decided to wait until after the marathon.
scoozi
After I carbo-loaded, we headed back to the hotel, organized all of my stuff for race day, and was in bed by 8:45pm.  It was awesome getting to that early.
The next morning, I woke up at 4am.  I got ready, drank some coffee, and we were out the door and in the car by 5am-bagel with peanut butter and banana in hand.  We drove to the CTA blue line stop, parked for $5, and took the blue line all the way to the Monroe stop.  It was super early for everyone (not so much for me, since 4:30 is my usual wake up call), but my cheerleaders were excited and in good spirits!
lpicWe arrived at the Monroe stop at around 6am.  I couldn’t believe how many people were up and around.  It was pretty neat to see Michigan Avenue buzzing with so many people at that time of the day.  We walked to the Hilton Hotel where Team Salute had a room set up for their runners and at about 7am, I said good-bye to my family and I was out the door to my start corral.
startIt was a brisk morning, so I brought a light jacket with me.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve just sucked it up, or better yet, bought a cheap jacket at Goodwill to just toss because I really liked that jacket!  Oh well, I just keep reminding myself that all the tossed clothes went to a good cause and that hubs needs to take me back to San Francisco so that I can buy another one ;-)
By the time I got through the gates and past security, I waited in my corral for about a half hour.  It was nice to talk to other people around me and shake off some nervous energy.  At exactly 8 am we were off and running!
IMG_2197
I couldn’t believe how fast the first mile went.  I looked at my watch and realized that I was running a lot faster than what I was planning for.  When I first set out to train for the marathon, my ultimate goal was just to finish.  I had never ran a marathon before so I didn’t know what to expect.  As it got closer to race day, I thought maybe I’d like to try and run it under 5 hours.  In planning for that, at mile 2, I slowed down my pace and kept it up the first half of the race.  Miles 1-13 were a breeze.  The weather was gorgeous, the crowds were AMAZING!  My favorite neighborhoods to run through were Boystown and Old Town.  There was a point in Boystown when the cheering of the crowd completely drowned out the music I had going in my right earbud.  I couldn’t stop smiling!  The crowd was just as amazing in Old Town and the Lululemon cheering squad was so much fun.  I love all of their signs!
When I approached the second half of the race, I had never been so excited to see a 13 mile marker.  I was at the halfway point and well on my way to finishing within my goal time.  At about mile 16, the top of my left foot started to hurt.  I ran through it because the pain wasn’t too bad, but by mile 17 I had stopped to check it out.  I thought maybe I had tied my shoelace too tight, so I retied it to be a little bit looser and continued on my way.  It seemed to have helped until mile 18 when it started to hurt a little bit more and instead of powering through the pain, I stopped to walk.  I alternated walking and running for the rest of the race, but by mile 20 I knew that my goal time was not going to happen and at that point, my main goal was just to finish this thing with all that I had.  I saw my family again (the first time was in Lakeview at around mile 7) at mile 23, and I told them that I wanted to die! A little dramatic I know.  I thought to myself, “okay only 3 more miles to go-you run that all the time!)  I tried my hardest but my legs (and injured foot) could only take so much.  It wasn’t until mile 25 when I got my second wind after a spectator shouted, “You only have one more mile! You can do anything for a mile!!”  With that encouragement and Salt & Pepa’s Push It blasting in my ear, I got my second wind and gave that marathon everything I had left.  For anyone who’s ever ran the Chicago Marathon, you know how awesome the turn is at Roosevelt.  As I was still running on Michigan Avenue, approaching Roosevelt, Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful” came on my playlist.  I lost it.  To hear that song while making the turn on Roosevelt, up the hill to the finish line is scene that will forever play in my head.  When you make that turn, you know you’re almost there.  The cheering section is out of this world.  You know that when you make that turn, nothing else is standing in your way to the finish line.  I cried when I crossed the finish line.  I had made it!  I set out to accomplish a goal and to fulfill a dream of mine for 4 years and I did it.  I wanted to hug the stranger next me I was so happy, but I refrained.
After I sprinted to the finish, my legs were completely useless.  I could barely walk.  I texted my husband to tell him that I had finished and, because of security, he wanted me to walk to meet them.  I had to sit in the grass and stretch a bit before I could set out to find them.  When I did eventually get to him, I hugged him and with tears in my eyes, I said to him, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”  Which is exactly what I said to him after 6 hours of natural childbirth :-)
After a lot of stretching and usage of “the stick”, I was able to muster up the strength to head back to The Hilton to change clothes and freshen up.
winner
Looks can be deceiving.  I’m smiling on the outside and crying in pain on the inside :-) It took me forever to walk to Lou Malnati’s for pizza, but that buttery deep dish and 312 were totally worth it!
postracemeal
Drooling as we speak.  Later that night, I added a charm to my necklace that my mom had bought for me at the expo the day before.  I earned this runner girl necklace at the Zooma 1/2 marathon where I PR’d and took 15 minutes off of my time.  I waited until I had completed the Chicago Marathon to add the 26.2 charm-I didn’t want to jinx it.
necklace
20 minutes after I completed the marathon, my sister asked me if I’d be signing up for another one.  I laughed.  It’s like asking someone who just went through childbirth if they were ready to have another baby.  I told her I couldn’t answer that in my current state of being :-) But that night, I knew the answer.  Looking back at my training, and even race day there are some things that I should’ve done differently (saving those details for a different post).  But yes, I do want to sign up for another one because I know that I can do better.  I remember the first 1/2 marathon I ever ran.  I didn’t train as properly as I should’ve.  My time was not what I was capable of, and my body felt like it had been hit by a truck.  3 half marathons later, I felt just fine after my most recent one in August.
I completed my first marathon in 5:07:41.  The one thing that I learned that day is that the body will do anything you set your mind to.  If you believe you can do it, you can!  If you sit and doubt yourself and you don’t try, then you fail.
Chicago has, once again, stolen my heart.  I’m so happy that I was able to run my first marathon in the city where I truly fell in love with the sport of running.  I miss the city and the lakefront running path a little more every time I have to leave.  Hubs and I talk about how when we retire, we’re going to buy a condo and retire in the city, which is completely opposite of what people do.  Until then, I’m lucky enough to be a 2 hour car ride away.
ChitizzleP.S. Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win the KIND bar giveaway!