Happy Dance

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Published on: November 9, 2012

This race report is about, oh, a year in coming, but I figured you deserved to know.  You’ve been waiting a year, right?

So, without further ado, my Chicago Marathon 2011 race report:

The day started out ominously enough with a migraine. Blinding headache, nausea, shaky hands, the inability to open my eyes beyond little slits.  Yup – that’s exactly how I would have planned out my perfect marathon morning.

My normal pre-race Poptarts weren’t playing so nice with my stomach, so I opted not to be smart and not antagonize my stomach any more than I already had.  I wandered around the pre-race area (I had signed up with the running group CARA to train with and they had a spread out), trying not to puke, and after about an hour started to feel the meds kicking in … thank God.

I managed to force down half a banana and a few bites of a plain bagel and called that a victory! Headed out of the hotel to wander the streets — it was going to be another warm marathon — and once again was thankful for paying the money to train with CARA: they had special porta-potties just for us.

After all the pre-race rigamarole, I made my way to my 9m/m pace starting corral and bounced around nervously.  I was going to DO this!

The day started out ominously enough, but that all ended up being a non-factor, surprisingly enough.  I met the migraine with a “well, I’ll just have to deal with this” kind of attitude and I think that helped… getting all worked up about it certainly wasn’t going to make it better.

Went into the race as well-trained as I’ve ever been for a marathon. Nursing injuries that were only bothersome rather than worrying. The only downside: I had gained a good 5-7 pounds in the 2-3 weeks before hitting the start line. I’d like to have a mulligan on that, please.

Anyway – crossed the start line about 8.5 minutes off the clock time – not too shabby! I had lined up with the 4 hour pace group, but as we shuffled forward, I somehow ended up with the 3:55 pace group. This was *not* in the plan, but I just went with it. I had wanted to stick with a pace group, and ya just gotta roll with things, sometimes.

The 3:55 pace group disappeared by the third mile or so — I wasn’t really working to keep up with them — and I found myself all on my own. At that point my strategy was to keep as close to 9m/m pace as possible, without feeling like I was working too hard.

I was expecting spectators around the 3.5 mile mark, but they didn’t make it out — disappointing, but looking for them certainly kept me occupied! — and I knew that I’d have a long slog north and then back south before seeing friendly faces.

This first stretch actually went pretty well. I was feeling fatigued, but I thought it was “just enough” … meaning, I was pushing but not so much that I couldn’t keep this up. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t supposed to actually feel “easy”.

Saw my posse around mile 11.5 and that was a huge boost! They were screaming and yelling and had great signs they made, too! I stopped and chatted for about 30 seconds while they kept urging me to keep running. :)

Got through the half marathon mark at around 2:00:50 … so, less than a minute off my goal pace. It was at this point where I acknowledged that sub-4 probably wasn’t going to happen, though I still figured I would keep pushing until I couldn’t and see how the chips fell.

Miles 13-16 kind of flew by. At mile 16, I think I made a mistake — I tossed the water bottle that I had been carrying. Since it was warmer than planned, I wanted it with me, especially during the early parts of the race where the water stops are fewer. After mile 16, I knew I could count on there being water at least every mile, so I tossed it. Never should have done that, in hindsight, because it slowed me down (I had been stopping for Gatorade, but drinking my water from the bottle on the run). Oh well. Lesson learned.

And a note about the heat: the race started out in the lower 60’s and was in the low 70’s by the end. Definitely not ideal marathon weather. But, while I know I probably could have gone faster with cooler temps, I also didn’t suffer any major consequences from the heat, either. And plus, it was PERFECT spectating weather!

Somewhere between 16 and 17, I saw another friend who was watching out for me — total surprise to see her there! I almost missed her, in fact, despite the fact that she was screaming at me like a crazy person. Lesson: if *I* don’t know you’re there, it might not matter if you see me…

The wheels started falling off this marathon around mile 19 — I could feel my legs starting to tighten and cramp. And I basically told myself, “Don’t suck. Just do it.” like the Nike t-shirt said. Remarkably, I think that kept me moving forward more than I might have otherwise…

I didn’t allow myself to walk except during water stations. Of course, as the race progressed, I stopped earlier and walked longer, and you can see that in my split times.

I knew my parents were going to be at mile 22.5 and it was awesome to see them. I stopped for a bit, and both of them just kept snapping pictures of me standing there. Hee. My family doesn’t understand my desire to do these things even one bit, so it meant a ton to me to have them out there in support.

It was hard to get moving after that, but I did. And felt the blinders go on and the focus just be on one step after the other. Move forward. Go faster if possible. At this point, I was shooting for sub-4:10…

The rest of the marathon after seeing my parents was tough: I had thought I’d have some posse on the course, but never saw them (to their credit, they were there, but since I didn’t know WHERE they were, I ran right by them, oblivious to the screaming). But I knew I was just SO GLAD to almost be done with this thing.

Going up the bridge on Roosevelt and then turning the corner to see the finish line? Best feeling ever. But I knew I still had work to do — I was running right up against the 4:10 demarcation point that I had made up in my head somewhere down the line. So, I dug deep, upped the pace and stumbled across the finish line, 20 seconds ahead of the 4:10 mark.

And then I just about collapsed. And then I started crying. And then I started thinking, “damn, if I hurt this much NOW, I’m not even going to be able to walk tomorrow!”. Hee.

Got some water, got some food, took pictures and the sloooooowly made my way back to the hotel, where I was meeting up with everyone.

All in all, this was — by a huge margin — my best marathon.  I never gave up.  I never gave in.  I trained as well as I ever have and I know that I left everything I had out on the course.  Absolutely no regrets.

At this point I can say: I’m satisfied with my results and I’m never going to do another marathon ever again!  Yay!

(do you believe me?)  :)


Starting again. Again.

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Published on: October 31, 2012

Seems like this is where I always up:  apologizing for not keeping up with this blog.  Acknowledging that I fell off the writing wagon.  Yea, well… this probably won’t be the last time, I s’pose, but I’m going to give it another go.  Maybe it’ll “stick” this time.

So – I finished my marathon last year (just in case any of you were hanging on the edge of your seats waiting for my victory post) — and it was as good a marathon experience as I could have hoped to have.  I was trained, I dealt with race day variables (another warm marathon day), and can honestly say that while I didn’t hit my sub-4 hour goal, that I pushed as hard as I could, every step of the way.

I’m proud of my 4:09 finish and happy to finally say that I did a marathon the right way, to the best of my ability, and I feel absolutely no need to have another go ’round with it to prove anything to myself.

(don’t quote that back to me when I sign up again…)

Now, a year later, I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck I’ve been up to.  Right?

Well, this year has been tough in terms of training — some personal stuff that I’m just now taking care of has kept me off the roads.  Things are starting to turn around, though; I’ve signed up for a fun little 10-mile race that’s coming up in a couple of weeks… and I’ve even gone through some training spurts to get ready for it (it’s still gonna be ugly, though).

This year has also provided me with a new way to get rid of my money:  I’ve fallen in love with mountain biking.  On a whim, I went down to Brown County to partake in a women’s only mountain biking camp (they gave me a bike to use, how could I refuse?), and after just a day, I left there determined to buy a mountain bike sometime before the very next weekend so I could start hitting the trails.  I’ve never denied being an impulse shopper!

It’s a great sport — I usually don’t know what I’m doing, but I haven’t broken any bones (yet) and I’m having a blast with it.  The best way to describe it is that it’s like being a kid again:  all adrenalin and speed and dirt and fun.

On the nutrition front, I’ve had a similar arc to things:  started out great, took a dive bomb around March, and since then I’ve been battling my way back from my highest weight in years.  I’m about 6 weeks into eating whole, healthy foods, and am about 10 pounds away from my goal weight for the year (which is 7 pounds lighter than what I weighed on January 1st).  I’ve been logging over at MyFitnessPal.com and that’s been a great site for me — the community is really keeping me accountable for maintaining good eats (meaning: they yell at me when I get too far off plan…heh…).

Now that I’ve caught everyone up, I promise I’ll start putting together posts that are, you know, interesting and funny and all that other stuff. I’ve been saving it up for a year now, right?

Another (last) go round

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Published on: October 8, 2011

(yes, yes… it’s been awhile… forgive me… please?)

This morning I watched the sun come up on Lake Michigan, with the city skyline at my back. Despite being a life-long Chicago area native, I’m pretty sure that this is the first time I’ve experienced this, and I’m glad that I hauled my butt out of the hotel bed to get out there.

I looked at both the sun coming up and the streets already prepped for the 45,000 marathon runners who would take over the next morning, and couldn’t help but reflect on the journey. I don’t know what it is, but sunrises and rows of virgin port-a-potties make me all contemplative, it seems.

So – yes – I’m running the marathon tomorrow. I know that I had proclaimed on a number of occasions that I was done with marathons… but, I knew I wasn’t quite done. I needed one more shot — one more go at not even necessarily hitting my goal time (and PR’ing the race), but going into it knowing that I did my homework and finishing knowing that I gave it 100% effort. My previous 3 marathons had extenuating circumstances of some sort — GI issues, heat cancellations, injuries — and I knew that for my own peace of mind, I had to have one “good” marathon.

The training started about 4 months ago. Well, actually, the training started shortly after my credit card got dinged with the impossibly high entrance fee, I suppose. I started building base, running here and there so I could get trained enough to even START the marathon training.

A new thing I did: I joined CARA (Chicago Area Runners Assocation) and signed up for their marathon training program. And without even knowing my results, I’m crediting my success to them. Doing the long runs with them not only made me accountable for the weekend miles, but the weekday miles, lest I not be able to keep up with my pace group.

Throughout the last 20 weeks, I’ve come to the same conclusion, though: I simply do not enjoy marathon training. Especially this time, when I did things right and really upped my mileage, I just get sick of running so much. Not only that, but everything else I do is prefaced with the question, “Will this affect my marathon training?” I’ve back off all strength training and other sports for fear of hurting myself, and I miss the variety that NOT marathon training offers.

But, when all is said and done, I did this one up right. In 2007, I thought I was well trained, having run about 335 miles over the course of my training. This year? 477 miles.

I’m as ready as I can be. My goal is sub-4 hours and a half marathon that I did on a whim a few weeks ago translates out to a 3:52 marathon. So – this is possible.

Really, the only thing that will keep me from this is me. This will be hard; it’s SUPPOSED to be hard. The biggest struggle will be mental. The urge to quit, to slow down, to make excuses why it might not be my day… the temptation is overwhelming sometimes. To not succumb, that is what a marathon is all about.

But, I’m stronger now. I’m determined that whether or not I hit my goal is second to whether or not I leave everything out on the course. I have friends and family coming out to watch (thanks, everyone! I appreciate y’all responding to my guilt trips!) and I can’t let them down any more than I can let myself down.

And this is my last shot at it. (really!) And I’m gonna do it.

Like a Nike sweatshirt told me, “Don’t Suck. Just do it.”


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Published on: April 12, 2011

…my new running partner!

Her name’s Belle, and while she might not look like she’s ready to run, believe me — I’ll be struggling to keep up with her!

As you can tell, she’s a tough-nosed dog, born on the streets, made for fightin’…

…or maybe not.  Maybe after her tummy rub.  Perhaps she’s just the cutest thing ever.  It’s also possible that I’m slightly biased.

Belle came to me in a roundabout kind of way:  a story of No-Good people and Do-Good people.

I had gotten an email from a friend of mine:  her co-worker — the Do-Gooder in this tale — had found a dog muzzled and tied up to a bench outside a laundromat.  The dog was hungry and scared, and when Do-Gooder inquired, found out that she had been there for days.  She had very recently given birth to a litter; she still was carrying milk.

Now, don’t get me started on the No-Gooders:  the person who abandoned her after she gave them the puppies they wanted.  The people in the business who KNEW that she had been out there for days (and it’s the Midwest in March!  It’s not like it was a balmy 65 degrees outside).  It really is beyond my comprehension how people can be like this.

But Mr. Do-Gooder, he took action:  untied the poor girl and brought her home with him.  Took her to the vet, fed her, got her all cleaned up.  And wanted to keep her, but realized that the best thing would be to find a good home for her, as he already had another dog and a small living space.

The email went out to me.  And it was like the stars aligned:  when I moved last month, one of the big upsides was that I’d be able to get a dog.  But – I wanted to wait. Wanted to get settled in and unpacked. Wanted it to be the “right” time.

It seems as though the “right” time picked me … so after exchanging a few emails with Mr. Do-Gooder, I went a met her and was immediately smitten.  She was friendly and curious, energetic, athletic and sweet. Everything I had been looking for.

And so, I brought her home with me.

It seems like she’s settling in nicely, too.

It’s been a joy to have Belle around (though – admittedly – she can be a little shit from time to time – good thing she’s so dang cute!) and I think I might have hit the jackpot with the universe dumping her in my lap, without me having to do one lick of work to make her mine.



Does moving boxes count as a workout?

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Published on: April 1, 2011

I hope so, because that’s been the bulk of my physical activity the last two months or so.

Which seems like a long time to be using that as an excuse for not training, doesn’t it?  And even LESS of an excuse for not blogging, I suppose.

But – it’s what I’m going with.  I’ve never claimed creative excuses as my strong suit!

My life’s been all manner of chaos for awhile, and just seems to now be settling down into a new normal, a new routine — something that I’ve been desperately waiting for.

I’ve got my old house rented out, so there are no more trips back out there to check up on it, which I’ve appreciated.

My (human) roommate has been moved in for almost 2 months now and we’ve managed to not only not kill each other, but actually co-exist pretty well.

And I’m slated to get my new (doggie) roommate on Tuesday!

So – everything’s falling into place.

This weekend will be the final push to get everything unpacked — I had gotten around to everything that I needed on a day-to-day basis, but had gotten tired and mostly bored with the process once that had been accomplished.  But this weekend?  I’ll be a an Unpacking Whirling Dervish!

I figure I should — even in the midst of the cardboard and bubble wrap flying! — be able to cobble some workouts together this weekend (if for no other reason than to have a legitimate excuse to not be unpacking for a bit).  And then starting next week?  At it full-time, with gusto, zeal and a resolve not seen around in here months.

And my 4-legged roomie-to-be is an energetic tyke:  she should force me outside even if I don’t exactly feel like it.

That’s the plan.  Just trying to get it done.  Yet again.




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Published on: February 6, 2011

Why are things so difficult sometimes?

I was just telling a friend about how it is when you get in a good groove:  everything’s easy, the decisions are like second nature.  It’s as though your first instinct is to do the healthy thing… and everything else falls away, because it doesn’t support your long-term goals.

And when that groove eludes?  Man, it’s the pits.  Every healthy choice is a struggle.  It’s not even as though I WANT the ice cream… it’s more a basic need.  Like I might not survive without it. Which is ridiculous (well, maybe).

When things are going well?  I can’t even remember how much of a challenge it was, pre-groove.  And when things aren’t going so well?  It’s beyond my ability to even think in the long-term and how what I’m doing sabotages what I truly want.

I’m such a black or white, all or nothing person:  I don’t live in between on any level.  All in or all out.

Anyway – I’m really trying to find that groove.  Monday starts official half marathon training.  And Hal (of Hal Higdon fame, for those new folks here) will be pretty disappointed in me if I don’t step up and do it up right again.  And if I’m being honest?  I’m scared.  Scared to fail.  Maybe scared to succeed.  Or scared because I know how much work succeeding will require and I wonder if I even have that in me.

I surprised myself last season with as dedicated as I was to my half marathon training — that literally had never happened before.  And so I approach this race — with a similar goal in mind — with a little bit of trepidation:  do I have it in me to do it again?

Right now, this is my plan:  to take it just one week at a time.  When I contemplate the plan in its entirety, I get all freaked out about the mileage and the difficulty and the consistency required (especially with 2 feet of snow currently on the ground!).

So, I’ll break it down.  Next week, I have 6 runs that I need to get done.  I’ve got my schedule and plans in place to make sure that I get it all in.  And I’ll see where I’m at by the end of the week.

And then, I’ll take a deep breath and move on to Week 2.  That simple.

Time to start that groove.

Thundersnow! Snowmaggedon 2011!

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Published on: February 2, 2011

Yup – the big one finally hit the Midwest.  The east coast has been hit a few times this winter season already, but we’d been mostly spared, and probably spent too much time laughing at those poor folks out there.

But now?  Chicago is looking like a nuclear white-out.  And it’s pretty damn awesome (at least from my viewpoint… sitting here, warm in my kitchen, power still on, lots of food and wine in the fridge).

I mean, really how often do you get to see Mother Nature at her most ferocious?  Probably only a couple of occasions in a lifetime, right?  Last night, between the 60+ mph wind gusts and thundersnow and lightning (yes, you read that right:  “thundersnow”), it was a great performance.  And it definitely shows you who’s in charge, no matter what kind of 4-wheel drive truck you might own.

So, for the time being, treadmill and bike trainer workouts (swim?  who does that anymore?) are on hold in lieu of shoveling workouts.  And – this is going to be one long, ongoing workout, that’s for sure.

See, I’m just one girl with one crappy shovel (I refuse to buy a snowblower – or even a better shovel since I’m moving to a maintenance-free townhouse in just over a week…) and it will literally take me hours to dig out of this.

I spent 45 minutes this morning just removing the hip-high drift that had snuggled up to my garage.  Well – scratch that – I actually only removed a truck-wide swath of the hip-high drift.  I should have worn my HRM so I could tell you exactly how hard I was working!  Cardio and strength-training, all rolled up into one chilly, convenient package.

The snow seems to be slowing down a little, and while I’m actually working from home, I think I’ll sneak out for an hour over what would be my lunch to try and make another small dent in the snow so I have some hope of being able to drive out tomorrow morning.  When I was last out there, I have 2-3 more hip-high drifts to deal with down the driveway, as well as the foot of snow in between the drifts.

So, I’ve got my work cut out for me, that’s for sure, though the sun’s come out which is making it look deceptively nice outside (next up?  arctic temperatures…) which makes me *almost* want to get out there and dig in.

Of course, I wouldn’t complain if a snow-blowing neighbor or enterprising kid wanted to do it for me…

Friday PSA

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Published on: January 28, 2011

When your trainer greets you with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, and says, “So, can we work your legs hard today?” under no circumstances should you say yes.  Well, not unless practically needing a walker to get around for the next few days appeals to you.

Just trust me on this.

January 1st, take 2: an update

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Published on: January 26, 2011

Just a quick note.

I’m 3 days into my second try at starting my New Year’s resolutions.  And how am I doing?

Not too shabby, actually.  I’ve hit the treadmill every day so far — nothing jaw-dropping, not even close — but I’ve gotten it done despite the fact that I had absolutely no desire to sweat at all.

And you know what?  I felt better for having done it.  Lesson learned?  Perhaps.

My nutrition hasn’t exactly been spot-on, but at least I’m no longer consuming crap like it’s about to be outlawed.  Or heavily taxed.  Even just a little moderation in my diet has trimmed a few pounds off.

So far, so good…

Of course, today I’m close to dead on my feet (or, dead on my ass, since I basically sit in front of a computer all day).  The last thing I want to do is train.  But, sweat I will.  It helps that I have a trainer beatdown scheduled (this is why I pay for someone to inflict pain… it’d be too easy for me to skip otherwise)… and while I’m there, I might as well run a little, right?  Make better use of my time?  Exactly.

I suppose that’s MY state of the union address.  At least for right now.  Let’s see if I can keep this going for a few more days at least…

January 1st, take 2

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Published on: January 23, 2011

I’m big on New Year’s resolutions.  For years now, I’ve taken time as the year changes from old to new, and assess how the previous year went and figure out what I want to do for the next 365 days.  I like having a plan and all that.

Sometimes it feels a bit cliche, but I don’t know – there’s just something about a new year that seems like it’s a good time for a fresh start.  It’s all holiday good cheer and twinkling lights and optimism for the year ahead and it seems like there’s no way the pie-in-the-sky plans will fail.

And then, all of a sudden, it’s mid-January.  Dark.  Cold.  A little depressing, to be perfectly honest.  Not exactly the kind of month that inspires you to be a better person, is it?

I laid out 10 resolutions for myself this year.  Some personal, some race-related, some that address my overall well-being.  And while I’ve got an appointment with myself at the end of every month to review the resolutions and see if I’m heading in the right direction, I thought it might do me some give myself a good mid-month ass-kicking… because, as I said in a previous post, the ice cream is winning.

It seems like every year features some sort of resolve to eat better, lose weight, be more healthy… however it is that I decide to word it for that particular year.  And that hasn’t changed for this year — I’m determined to focus on eating healthy, cutting out processed food and drop some weight by sticking to that. So far this January, I haven’t been doing anything to help myself out here.  Toss in a lot of stress (the whole buying/selling a house thing) and swirl it up with not getting nearly enough sleep (and remember – sleep is The Secret to me being happy) and I can’t seem to stay away from the crap food.  So far it hasn’t really hurt me too much — my weight just seems to bounce around in the same 3-pound range — but this needs to change.  Just think how far along I could be if I had been doing things right?

The other main set of resolutions involve getting faster.  Shaving a few minutes off my half marathon PR.  Finally kicking the marathon curse off my shoulders and going sub-4.  You want to know what helps with all this?  Actual training.  Huh.  Whodda thunk it?  Up until this past week, life has been a big ball of chaos, and time when I wasn’t getting my house ready for market was a rare commodity.  Ironically, running is the one thing that HELPS me deal with stress… and it was (is?) the one thing I wasn’t doing.  And, you know – I love running, but does that stop me from getting into a bad cycle where I don’t run because I’m stressed even though that’s the one thing that would relieve the stress?  Nope – I’m completely capable of being a dumbass, it seems.

So, starting tomorrow (since I’m currently snarfing down a Calzone for dinner), I’m back on the wagon.  I ran this weekend… and even further than a few miles.  I’ll continue this week:  good training sessions, at least 5-6 runs, food decisions geared towards making me feel better.

Because that’s what it’s all about:  it’s not really the losing weight, or the specific race times… it’s about making me feel good about myself and what I’m able to accomplish.  I think I sometimes forget how when you start making decisions that are good for you, that this can steamroll just as easily as the bad stuff can.  And once you get yourself going back in the right direction, that good feeling becomes it’s own self-propelling cycle.

So – hold me to the fire here:  keep me honest, keep me accountable.  I know exactly what I want and what I need to do to get there, I’ve just got to get this butt back in gear.

Right after I finish this calzone.

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