Howdy! I just flew in from Chicago and boy are my arms tired!
Chicago was almost two weeks ago and I’ve been back for a while. I just haven’t had the time or desire to put this down on (e)paper. I *think* the ego bruising has healed and I feel mostly better about my day, if not still a teeny, tiny bit bummed.
Let me preface this by saying, racing and finish times are all relative. My slow is someone else’s fast, and my fast is someone else’s turtle crawl. I’ve never been one to post “Oh, I am so slow!” or “Oh, I am so fast!” as I know you can easily be putting someone down OR making yourself look like a jackass. I’m comfortable with my ability and just like every runner out there, I want to get better. I am proud of another marathon finish and extremely proud that I gutted this one out to finish because there were moments of “just go jump in an Uber and get the hell out here.”
As mentioned in a previous post, my training was good. It was steady. However, in the last few weeks of training, there was a bigger taper with less speed than both I or my coach would have liked. We did this because I had some hip/groin pain that was lingering and we didn’t want to make it worse. So I headed into Chicago very, very rested and feeling good.
I got to Chicago on Thursday, hung out with my dude and then spent Friday and Saturday doing short, non-walking tourist stuff and resting. We did the expo, and pasta dinner, and yadda yadda. My goal for this race was to run anywhere from 3:59:59 to 4:15. I felt this was reasonable and I would see how the day started. I did have pep talks to myself ahead of time about how I could run nine-minute miles for 26.2, no problem. I didn’t feel unconfident, but I didn’t exactly feel confident either. I was, as they say, cautiously optimistic. The weather was looking good, save for rain, but I don’t worry about rain. I’m from Florida. We know all about the rain.
On race morning, I got up and ate. I said goodbye to a still sleepy-eyed S.O. and headed down to the start shuttle. I walked quite a bit from shuttle to my gear check area and then I just kinda hung around. It was drizzling off and on so I headed over to slap on more Vaseline to avoid Thunder and Lightning (my thighs) from chafing. I didn’t feel nervous at all. No crazy porta potty struggles or anything. I didn’t feel super excited either. In fact, you all remember that scene from Sex and the City where everyone keeps asking Miranda how excited she is for the arrival of her baby? And she’s just like Meh. I felt like this everytime anyone asked me about Chicago. I wasn’t jazzed about it and I don’t know why. I think maybe part of it was that everyone kept telling me how amazing it was that I was hoping to get there and be like ZOMG! But that never came. It’s very unlike me. I promise I am in no way, shape or form too cool for school. I am the nerdiest, run Geek around, but I just couldn’t get to that Jessie Spano level of “I’m so excited!”
Where was I?
Oh yeah, gear check. Jeez, I better speed this up or we’ll be here all freakin day.
Ok, so I got to my assigned corral and was shivering. I was cold, for sure. But I only had on a long sleeved t-shirt and I knew as soon as I got going I would warm up quickly. The temps were in the low 60’s with a dew point to match. Not bad racing weather at all. I met a very nice woman in my corral and we chatted for a bit. We had similar goals and were both ready to get going. It felt like we had been standing around forever. (I did get up at 4:30 and didn’t start running until 8:00ish.)
Announcements, anthem, fanfare, wave 1, wave 2, FINALLY my corral!
I got started and was shuffling a bit due to the massive amounts of people. Chicago is a race of 45,000 runners and boy can you feel that. It’s like a sea of shorts and spandex and sweat and other s-words. Swords? No, I didn’t see any.
I knew it would be hard to get on pace at first and I was A-Ok with that. I wanted to start about 9:40-9:45 and then ease my way down to 9:09. Unfortunately, due to the Chicago buildings and massive amounts of folks all trying to hit satellites at the same time I never knew what pace I was running. From start to finish my Garmin was all over the map. I knew this going in as well and had to do the dreaded maths. Not a big deal as I’m an old school runner who used to run with a -gasp- watch. I knew I was doing ok at mile three and that I just needed to pick it up a bit. And I did.
But then, by mile five, my feet were on fire. I was thinking I had something in my socks and I couldn’t imagine how I’d gotten something in my socks just standing around but man it felt bad. I wondered if my socks were bunched up or if I had swollen feet. It was so bizarre. And the pain grew. And it hurt every step. It was really fucking dumb. That’s the best way for me to describe it at this juncture. Fucking. Dumb.
As I ran I looked at the enormous amounts of spectators. I tried to follow the blue line that marks the course. I saw some pretty awesome signs. And I definitely could not get over how many damn people were in this race. The biggest race, besides this one, that I’ve run is the Marine Corps Marathon. And that was a while ago so I remember that one being crowded too, but maybe not as much? I dunno, I be forgettin.
The rain wasn’t bad, or at least I don’t remember it being bad. I just remember that my feet hurt. Badly. And I tried to ignore them, but I finally stopped around mile 10 to adjust my left shoe and sock. I swore that sock was bunched up. It wasn’t. The ball of my feet were just blistering. And there wasn’t much I could do but run on. My legs didn’t feel fresh and I kept thinking about how I’d run 20 milers where my legs didn’t start to hurt until mile 19! I was also feeling very warm, hot almost.
When I got to the half I had successfully sped up the pace and hit it at a 2:04. I saw the S.O. and friends just beyond the half. They were awesome! Rocking signs for me and another friend and dressed as sumo wrestlers.
I stopped for a hug and said, “This isn’t going too well.” But I hurried along and I did my best to pull myself together. I’m not sure where I crack. It could have been 14, it could have been 15. All I know is that at this point, my feet and my legs were furious. I couldn’t understand what was going on. As an aside, I’m listening to Deena Kastor’s book, “Let Your Mind Run,” and she talks about these thoughts at her national track meet in high school. The whole book is about the power of our thoughts and trust, me, I’m all about fixing these thoughts I have when shit goes south. (I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ll get you all a book report!)
Back at the marathon, I was legit driving the Struggle Bus. I tried to smile. I tried to enjoy the course and the people and blah blah blah, but again, for whatever reason, I. Was. Done. My feet continued to kill me and my legs were almost as angry. I saw my friend Sylvia several times along the way and she gave me encouragement and used it as much as I could. (I didn’t see her with the unicorn, but her headband and sign were adorable!)
I knew if I made it to mile 19 I had salvation by way of a small redheaded gal. I could not wait to see her! I knew she and Spike, her husband/my friend, plus their adorable twins would be there. With signs and a bullhorn and she was going to keep me company for a few miles. I desperately needed it. I’d have probably run with just about anyone at that point, but the fact that it was my long-time running bestie made me that much more desperate to get to mile 19. In fact, I was chanting it in my head. “Get to 19, get to 19, get to 19….”
That is the face I made when I finally saw them! I was relieved and immediately told Red I was suffering. She was fantastic. She just told me about their morning and what Spike and the kids were yelling to runners. This, of course, made me laugh because they are supreme spectators. Also, please note that she is wearing tiny bat earrings. I heart this girl. 4-eva.
Things were still mostly ugly in my legs and feets and I stopped twice to use the potty. The first time, that porta potty was locked. Hilarious. The second time I just wasn’t moving very quickly, but there wasn’t a line, so hey, there’s that.
I did enjoy running through all of the neighborhoods of Chicago, but I think the section of Korean spectators with their flags and Gangnam Style blasting was my favorite. Also, the row of charity groups was really awesome. Those folks were super happy when they saw their runners and it made me happy to see so many people running for great causes. That area definitely lifted my spirits.
After what seemed like a damn eternity I saw the finish line. Regardless of how I felt, I still felt that surge of happiness in seeing that big, huge FINISH LINE sign. I will always heart finish lines. I was relieved I had finished and yes, more than a little disappointed in my day. My final time was 4:39:43.
I hobbled through the chute and promptly dropped my medal and yelled, “OH NO!” at the thought of bending over to pick it up. A lovely volunteer chuckled and handed it to me. I shuffled on to the gear check where no less than five volunteers looked for my bag and walked away without finding it or telling me they hadn’t found it. In hindsight it was hysterical, but at the moment I was cold, wet, and dying to get in a warm Uber. The last volunteer who got my borderline meltdown request was very nice and finally found my bag. I sat my butt down and called the S.O. I admit that I had a big lump in my throat and wanted to cry but felt silly in doing so amongst so many very happy finishers. He and I decided to just meet at the hotel since I was in no shape to walk anywhere but straight to a warm car.
After more walking, an Uber ride as close as it could get to my hotel, and more walking, I made it to the hotel room. I got in the shower while the S.O. headed down to the hotel quick casual restaurant to grab me a grilled cheese. I stayed in the shower until he returned. Then, I decided I was going to live in the shower and never leave it. It hurt to move and standing there was, in my mind, the best option. I ate my grilled cheese like a sad Kramer in the shower. I got crumbs everywhere in the tub and was so beat that I neglected to even rinse them out for my poor Celiac having boyfriend. (I promise I wasn’t trying to kill you, honey.)
I finally got out of the shower and gingerly got myself into bed.
After my nap, we got up to meet our friends for dinner. I wanted to keep sleeping pretty badly, but once we sat down and got talking and laughing I am so glad I got my busted ass up. The best part of this race was seeing all of these people the whole weekend. I got huge boosts from seeing friends spectating and I love eating pre and post race meals with friends. Congrats to everyone who ran and thanks to everyone who cheered us on. They definitely aren’t lying when they say the crowds in Chicago come out in full force!
My feet were kind of wrecked with blisters in between my big toe and second toe on both feet that extended down to the balls of my feet. It was not a pretty picture the next few days. I couldn’t even wear flip flops when I got back to Florida. The horror.
I can’t say the Chicago Marathon was my favorite but mostly because I just didn’t feel good for the majority of the race. The course, the spectators, the volunteers (even the special gear check ones), and everything was top notch – I just wish my body and brain had matched it. I can’t pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Maybe it was negative thoughts that I didn’t realize I was having? Maybe it was too much taper? More than likely it was a combo of several things. I can only move forward and chalk this up to another learning experience. The marathon will highlight any weaknesses you have. If it’s your legs, your feet, or your mind – you better believe the marathon will find it. I’m not done though, the marathon hasn’t seen the last or the best of me.
Until next time…
Thanks for reading.
As I was thinking about this post, that scene from Billy Madison where he’s being a total child in the bathtub and yelling at an inanimate object kept popping into mind. That’s sort of how I have felt this week. Irritable and childish, and not in a cool Gambino way. I am chalking it up to taper madness. I don’t normally feel grouchy during taper but work has been extremely stressful and my decreased miles mean no stress relief. Thus, childlike behavior. I haven’t thrown a shoe at anyone yet, so there’s that.
The million dollar question, considering the Chicago Marathon is next week… What is my goal?
If I’ve been asked this once, I’ve been asked it 1 million times. And while I have discussed pacing strategy with my coach, I’ve also shied away from really locking down a goal time on this one.
I will say, I told her a time and she told me I was nuts and said a faster time. Heh.
As a coach, I know that not having an exact goal can be frowned upon, but I know the marathon. And I know that, for me, so much depends on how my legs feel for me those first few miles. I am trained and ready to go, but I am also taking this one as a marathon refresher. This marathon is part of a bigger picture. I want to keep running marathons for a bit and try to qualify for Boston before I’m 90. I mean, I’ll still be happy to run Boston at 90, but I don’t necessarily want to wait that long. And to do so, I think I need to really hone in on the distance and keep chipping away at it. I’ll work hard and see if Boston and I can’t meet somewhere in the middle. Plus, since I’m keeping it real, I love the marathon. I am happier running now than I have been doing triathlon in a while. Again, I’m not quitting triathlon, we are just on a break.
Am I giving myself an out in case I have a shitty day? No. I have had shitty days and I am happy to own up to them. I just know that the marathons where I have had fewer expectations and didn’t put crazy pressure on myself, I’ve done much better. Am I tricking myself? Sure. But it works for me, and when I work with athletes I am A-Ok to let them use this same strategy. Not every race needs to be set on time goals. I have one athlete who likes to set goals more on how she feels and I think that’s awesome. She’s allowing herself the room to be an artist and not be so stuck into a Garmin pace. And, we’ve seen it work time and time again. I know that sometimes during a marathon when I’ve seen paces on the Garmin that I didn’t like it’s upset me and instead of lighting a fire it’s done the opposite. Not everyone is a racing robot and there’s no shame in that. Ultimately, we learn what works for us in breaking through those tough spots and what doesn’t.
On this bigger picture plan, I have a few other races lined up heading into the winter and spring. I’ve been having that groin/adductor twinge so I will definitely need to see how that holds up during Chicago. I don’t think it’s one of my phantom injuries, but I say that before every marathon, don’t I? Ha.
I’m excited to run my 10th marathon in what is shaping up to be really nice conditions. It’s been nothing short of hellish training in this Florida heat so I’m thrilled to see temps in the 50’s and 60’s! I always want colder, but going from 85 to 60 is pretty damn excellent. I know I complain about the temps, but the company during this training could not have been better! I’m looking at you – Haley, Judy, Hugo, Jiri, Jeanette, Kelly, Dow, Celeste, Amy, Tori, Jeremie, and all my Safety Harbor Crackadawn and Tribal peeps.
I will promise to write a post after Chicago and give you all the mile by mile run down. And of course, all the ways I reward myself after.
Let’s do this Chi-town!
Now that I’m back in the blogging business, let’s talk about my marathon training thus far. I’ve been working with a new coach this go round and thus far, it’s been a great fit. I will pat myself on the back and say that I’ve been very regimented during this training. I would have liked to get higher volume but damn if I don’t recover the way I used to. Plus, this summer long-run crap is definitely not helping in that department. But – what I have been being is consistent. I’ve been working with a new coach who specializes in the marathon and while she’s forced me to slow down on some runs, she’s also pushed me harder on getting in more runs and really sticking to the paces on tempo runs. Plus, she gets my version of nutty and gives me the gold stars I am fond of.
My typical week is about one rest day and six days of running, one day includes strength training. Since I started hosting a Tribal strength training session in my hood, I’ve been able to keep those sessions going weekly. I love coaching them and really enjoy implementing new exercises. I, of course, stole almost every move from Coach Jon and credit him for teaching me everything that I know in that department. I’ve still got a lot to learn but I’ve really enjoyed these sessions. Plus, if anyone ever tries to carjack me, I can club them with 13 different sets of hand weights.
In looking back at my Myrtle Beach Marathon training – which was only so-so, I think I maxed out volume wise at 50 miles. But that was one week. I then went up and down on the miles with only one 20 mile run and several 16 mile runs. I was fairly inconsistent and as I look back in Garmin at those months, I’m not quite sure what I was thinking. Probably the old “I’ve got lots of time to train!” and then BAM no I didn’t. Fortunately, Myrtle Beach was cold that day and I managed a 4:06:28.
With four weeks to go, I’m over by 42 miles in comparison to where I was in during this time while training for MB. I actually wrote this all out on paper to directly compare the two. Nerd alert! It also shows more runs over 16 miles (two 20 milers and two 18 milers, thus far) and way more consistency. While I haven’t hit a 50-mile week yet this time, I definitely think my training is much better. My pace/tempo runs have been a bit shakey but are getting better as I go. Some of this is from ye olde lack of confidence. And some is from the heat. And some is from flat-out stupidity. Like not eating before one. #Oops
All of the looking back makes me feel
cautiously optimistic good going into Chicago. Sometimes, you just gotta pull out all the stops to boost your confidence. Like a handwritten side by side training comparison. On a notepad. In light blue ink with swirly lettering. Did you know that Garmin Connect will not do this for you? Rude.
It’s not been all sunshine and rainbows, it’s been a mother freaker getting in the miles during this summer heat. And I’m starting to get the pre-marathon little aches and pains. I got a massage today and will be foam rolling religiously from here on out. It’s often the small maintenance things that I push to the side during big training cycles. And as we know, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. No, wait. That seems wrong. Uh. Whatever. You know what I’m saying.
And I know what you all really want to know. The big question.
Do I miss my bike?
Not even a little.
I am alive.
I know it’s been quite a while since I posted, but trust me I have written at least a dozen witty posts in my head. My athlete, Alex, gave me a friendly reminder the other day. She said she was patiently waiting. I have been getting a lot of creative outlet time at work so the blog fell to the wayside. As it does. BUT! I’ve also been running and coaching and livin.’ (Side note: I interviewed a young man for a job and when asked what he had been doing lately his response was, “I’m livin.” Cracked me up!)
Instead of a recap of what I’ve been doing lately, I will just give you all a list of things I have re-learned during this marathon training cycle. Way back in 2017 I ran my ninth marathon, and while that doesn’t seem quite so long ago, I haven’t trained for a fall marathon since 2010! And back in 2010, I swore I’d never run a fall marathon again! Summer in Florida is BRUTAL. It’s humid and hot as hell! In order to train for a fall marathon this means slogging an ass-ton of miles in the smack dab hottest months of the year.
All that changed, of course, when I was selected to run the Chicago Marathon via lottery entry. Again, training for a fall marathon in Florida is like running on the sun, but add in the humidity of 10,000 swampy swamp swamps. With the exception of one glorious 20 miler in Iceland, I’ve been slogging my way through marathon training. Unfortunately, I have made some rookie summer running mistakes along the way. But I have learned my lessons (again) and want to share these tips with you. On the plus side, I only have five weeks to go until race day!
Here we go….
- Everything chafes extra when you are super sweating for a prolonged time. So after about three longs runs of some of the worst chafing ever, I realized that even if I start a summer long run with copious amounts of Body Glide – it’s not gonna last! And trying to reapply Body Glide onto a sweaty body doesn’t work! The only thing that does work is a big old glob of petroleum jelly. But you have to reapply mid run or else be prepared to scream in the shower.
2. You are going to have to slow down. No matter how much you want to hit all your amazing spring running times, it just ain’t gonna happen. And that’s OK! I’ve made my peace with slowing down while it’s as hot as an oven outside. I take myself inside on a treadmill when I want to really nail those paces on longer runs.
3. You need to both HYDRATE and FUEL more. I read here and here that you burn more calories when it’s hot and this makes total sense! Typically I can run for about an hour and feel fine on an empty stomach. However, the more humid and hot it is outside the more quickly I feel depleted. I’ve started eating small meals before even hour longs runs and I feel much better! This also includes eating and drinking enough while on your runs.
4. The earlier you run, the earlier you’re done. (And not running under full blown sun fire.) At the beginning of this training cycle I was trying to start my long runs at the late, late hour of 6 AM and I realized quickly this would not do. I suffer a lot in the heat and even though 4:30 AM is basically still night time, it is awesome to finish a run by 8 AM!
5. Socks matter! The right running socks can make or break your long run. On one long run, that wound up being cut two miles short, I had a blister on the ball of my foot that was killing me! I realized I was running in my everyday running socks. What I needed were some heavy duty wicking socks that would work harder to keep my feet dry. I have yet to find socks that are capable of this – but I think Swiftwick does a pretty good job. (I plan to change socks half way for this weekend’s 20 miler.)
6. Always carry hydration on the long runs. Ugh, I hate carrying things while running! I’ve never been a fan of having to carry my own hydration so I avoid it whenever I can. I try to run routes with plenty of water fountains, but in this heat – plain water at random intervals ain’t gonna cut it. In order to have hydration at the ready, I found this tiny handheld that is perfect for me. It’s not too heavy and I do typically have enough fountains on a route to re-fill after I’ve gone through my Infinit. And of course, I replenish my Infinit when I swing back by my vehicle.
7. Don’t plan a day full of activities after your long run if you can help it. After one particularly grueling run, I had planned a bunch activities for the day and let’s just say that did not go well. Normally, on long run days, I can mow down some caffeine and enjoy my Saturday. However, these long runs in the summer are straight kicking my ass. I have thus re-learned not to plan anything until after I get a solid nap in!
8. Take a trip north for at least one long run. While not everyone is going to pack up and head to Iceland like I did, it is recommended you get somewhere cooler for at least one long run. I swear that 20 mile run in Iceland was such a HUGE relief. I felt good and not only enjoyed running in cooler temps (54!!) but I also loved exploring by foot. Next summer, plan a trip and get your cool run on!
9. Be kind to yourself. Ok, so this goes without saying, but running in the summer is hard! When paces that normally feel easy, feel extremely difficult there’s a tendency to get down on yourself. Don’t do it! You just have to understand that everyone is suffering and your hard work will pay off as soon as the temps decrease. After all, it IS running. If it were easy, everyone would do it! Give yourself a gold star for getting out there – no matter the pace.
St Anthony’s was was two weeks ago and I’m just now getting some time to post my race report. I am going to keep it brief as I really don’t have a whole lot to say about it. I had a 10 second PR over the last time I did the distance in 2014. Yes, a whole 10 seconds! I should probably go pro now.
I was really happy to have company all weekend in that an athlete I coach named Alex came to race and stay with us! I had never met Alex in real life as I coach her remotely, though we have had lots of phone calls, texts, and Training Peaks communications. Alex is a joy to coach and we had a lot of fun showing her around the Tampa Bay area and introducing her to more of the Tribal Multisport team!
Hugo, Alex, and I race morning.
On race morning we got up suuuuuuuuper early, as you do, and loaded up the car. We were both a little nervous and a lot excited to race. I don’t believe that one shouldn’t get nervous at all pre-race. I also don’t believe it should be so nervous that you can’t perform, but nerves give the body that adrenaline boost it needs. I have gotten much better at managing the nervousness and it tends to fade into “let’s do this!” the closer it gets to go time. I highly recommend a pre-race run or swim – and give it some gas. It helps!
St Anthony’s is known for having an unpredictable swim. In 2014 it was going ok until we turned away from the shore, the swells got big and my swim went wonky. I remember feeling a bit stressed about it and not enjoying the swim. Fortunately, this year was much better. The water was glass and though the start was, as always, a little chaotic, I had a much faster swim. I admit that I probably slacked a touch on my swim training, but I didn’t feel tired exiting the water, just ready for it to be over.
29:18 – 17th/50 in AG
Tiny pink arrow indicates my face.
I did my best to limit sandwich making, but with the wetsuit and a transition that was pretty dirty, I probably still made at least a PB & J instead of my usual paninis. (If you are totally confused by this reference just know it means that I tend to be slow in transitions.)
Welp. What can I say? Me and the bike have remained about as close as Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Like, we patched up our issues but we aren’t probably going to be besties. I know, I know. Trust me, I know. I’ve tried and tried. I’ve had seasons of alllllll the cycling and seasons, similar to this one, of meh. I was definitely forcing it before St A’s and my coach could tell. And naturally, it shows in my bike split. I’m taking a break from the bike in order to focus on Chicago but I’m sure I’ll come back around it eventually.
Oh, and lest I forget, the St A’s bike course is the bikiest bike course of all time. It has everything: u-turns, tight left turns, tight right turns, speed bumps, speed humps, train tracks, and a man outside on his exercise bike, etc. I tried my best not to be a granny on the turns, but I do what I do. I didn’t not enjoy the bike portion, but I wasn’t like YAY CYCLING either. I did get to see a lot of friends out there and that is always fun!
1:20:46 27th/50 in AG
I had big goals in my brain for this run, but my legs weren’t on board. And neither was my back. I’m sure I was grinding out there on those pedals and when I got the run my back was having no part of it. I told myself to just keep running and it would eventually loosen up, and thankfully it did. It actually loosened up enough for me to do the typewriter past a group of spectators playing McHammer.
Actual footage of me.
Anyway, I ran and ran. And I saw the bestie Tori with her babay on the route. She yelled, “You look good!” I yelled back, “You’re lying!” and then laughed and kept on moving. Coach Jon passed me at some point and said “let’s go girly” or something and I told him I was coming. No way I was keeping up with his gazelle ass. I was very fortunate to have an early start so it didn’t get hot until mile four, and by then I was almost to the finish line. I was really happy when I finally saw it and I tried my best to crank it up a notch to get there.
I crossed the finish line and was happy to be done! I joked that it was my triathlon retirement, but I know I’ll be back again. I just have some running to do first.
51:12 11th/50 in AG
Total Time: 2:46:17 20th/50 in AG
Alex had a big PR of 6 minutes and survived her first ocean race swim! In fact, she kicked a lot of ass out there! Until next time everybody. Peace!