musings on running, life, and everything in between


7 Things I learned from the Chicago Marathon

In no particular order

  1. It’s awesome running with a purpose and running for a charity. I ran for Team in Training through the “Your Way” option. I was already registered for the marathon so all proceeds went directly to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. IMG_2087As I’ve talked about, my running group Best Foot Forward, lost one of its members this summer to complications from leukemia and another member’s 5 year old daughter has been fighting it since her diagnosis earlier this year. In just 3 weeks, folks stepped up and $800 was raised!
  2. I’ve read alot about runners running by feel and not relying so much on their watch (what some people call “running naked”). I was too afraid to actually do this before. However, using the pacers at the Last Chance Marathon and then approaching the Chicago Marathon as fun, I didn’t use my watch (well, that and the watched went bonkers so it wasn’t even an option in Chicago). Also, when I got lost recently in the Wisconsin woods and ran probably 13 miles instead of the 6.5 my watch said and didn’t realize it right away…I’m thinking I rely too much on technology. Interestingly enough, I also just read an interview with Deena Kastor, who just set a new women’s Master’s record for the marathon at Chicago. She did it with just a regular watch, and she calculated the splits. She wasn’t wearing a GPS watch that was ticking off each mile. And that seemed to work for her. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be wearing my watch for just logging miles and such, but it’s good to rethink what I’m trading off or gaining by wearing it or not wearing it.
  3. Wait for it… Running can be FUN. I know. GASP! It’s not just a “race” against the clock. Or beating someone else (well, it can still be that…ha). I technically approached Chicago with that mindset, but I was still not 100% sold on it the first 6 miles. Then I realized that I was going to hate it if I didn’t pull back and just take it easy. And then seeing Jen at mile 20 or whenever it was, and finishing the race together was awesome. AND, there is photographic proof that you can run and have fun. Us at the finish line. Snip20151014_1Don’t worry. I’ll be buying the picture. And maybe putting it on a t-shirt for Jen to wear everywhere. Or a coffee mug. Or a tote bag. Or all of the above.
  4. The marathon is always such a mental thing. There is definitely the physical part of it. Most people (because there are always a few anomalies) can’t just go out and run a marathon without training at least partly for it. However, all the training in the world isn’t enough if you’re not mentally ready to do it. There’s alot of psychological chatter you have to do to keep yourself moving, to tell yourself that the pain is worth it, that all your hard work WILL pay off. Like I wrote about yesterday, I used the memory of Lauren to keep myself moving. That was more meaningful than just running for my own personal achievement.
  5. You have to run your own race. I had a friend who was trying to qualify, and it was getting in my head that I should try also. And like I said, I thought I was going to the first few miles in. But then I realized that I was tired and that this would be my third marathon this year, the second within a month. I wasn’t feeling great, and it would be dumb to push myself. A year ago, I wouldn’t have made that choice. I would have kept pushing myself and had a horrible time. Maybe hurt myself. The beauty of running (for me) is that it is a individually-located sport. Meaning, every goal, race, whatever, is about what you want/need. At my level, I am not winning races, so why am I out there? What do I want from this? I even read a piece a while back about having 3 goals for a race: 1) your ultimate, ecstatic, pie-in-the-sky goal, 2) your happy with it goal, and 3) your low-hanging fruit, assured goal. By having these 3 goals in mind, you’ll always accomplish it. My first marathon, my goal was to just finish, which was probably 2 and 3. This time, it was BQ, finish under 4, and just finish. It was good to be able to slide from one goal to another without feeling like a failure.
  6. The other day, someone was telling me about a book called You Win or You Lose Learn (I guess the cover actually has the word crossed out like that). I don’t know this book, but I guess it’s big in business. I like that idea for the marathon (or any race) as well. Each race is a learning process. Whether it’s about pacing strategy, fueling, hydration, sleep. I feel like that’s the allure of running multiple marathons. It’s such a huge endeavor with so many moving parts that you learn something new each time. And, for me, I want to get right back out there and try something different to see how it plays out. I think for several of us this time around, the learning process was alot about learning to listen to your body and understanding when you can push beyond discomfort (because running a marathon is not about comfort, ha) and when you’re pushing towards injury.
  7. Finally, I am totally blessed with some crazy-ass, amazing women in my life. From the folks who donated to TNT to the golden sparkle cheer sign emblazoned with “WWJD: What would Jung do?” on my lawn to the 22 pound bag of ice personally delivered to my front stoop. I do not feel worthy of the love and support of all these women. I got so many text message from BFF members the night before and morning of both the Last Chance Marathon and the Boston Marathon–some from women I haven’t seen or talked to in months. I had a friend order a BQ/Boston Qualifier necklace charm the minute I qualified and sneak-drop it off my house later that week. Even seeing random women from the group along the course–like Andrea who totally scared me by jumping in for a second and screaming my name–was amazing. When I first joined the group 2.5 years ago, I wasn’t sure about it. I am not a joiner and definitely not great in spaces where I don’t know alot of people. But I stuck it out, and it’s been one of the absolute best decisions of my life. But like all humans, sometimes I forget to be grateful and to remember to say thanks. So to all my crazy ladies, I love you.


Chicago Marathon Race Recap

Because Chicago is such a monstrous race, I think I’ll leave out the crazy detailed reporting and just talk about my own experience. I feel like you’ll either want to run it or not. It’s a race of 45,000 people.

This was my 5th Chicago Marathon (and my friend Patty’s 14th). Yet, I have never attended the Expo with a friend. EVER. And I’m not sure Patty has either. So we did all the cheesy things that we would never do otherwise, like take a picture under the welcome sign. It really changed my experience at the Expo being with someone else. It was super-fun and I would definitely recommend going next time with a friend and not being all business about it.  We have been joking and calling Patty “Radar.” She, along with many others in my group, have been stalking the weather like crazy. She’s also the friend I was roommates with at the Champaign Marathon. After lights out the night before the race, I had to yell at her to turn her phone off because I could see the glow of her screen as she continued to track the weather.
We got to the Expo right after 9 am the first day when they opened. It was super-easy and lightly busy. Perfect time to go, as it started to get more densely populated when we were ready to leave later.   I saw a booth with a spinning wheel for prizes. I don’t usually do them because it’s usually not great prizes. However, since there was no line and I’m a sucker for free stuff (former classroom teacher and grad student in me) we took a spin. Patty won a free hotel stay at a boutique hotel downtown!! I was super jealous because I’ve stayed at that hotel and it’s nice.
I cross my fingers. And got a McDonald’s gift card. Better than the pen my friend Jen got the next day. Ha.   Giddy with our luck at the booth, we did a very systematic sweep of all the booths at the expo, hoping to recreate our good luck. Alas, no. However, we did get to see Sara, one of the cofounders of Another Mother Runner.

Patty actually got me this shirt, and I can’t wait to wear it. My kids can’t read it so it’s ok. 🙂We were also super-cheesy and took pictures with the Mariano’s cup (?) guy.   All in all, it was a great expo and totally fun! I realize now how much I’ve been missing out all these years going solo

The night before, I started putting my outfit together. I was running/fundraising for Team in Training, but I was concerned the t-shirt would be too hot for me. I decided to go with my regular tank and make a little purple TNT ribbon to go along with my “in honor” ribbons with folks’ names.  And to remind myself that I was supposed to be running this race for fun, I decided to make myself a spectacle and wear my sparkly skirt as well. I also made a Girls on the Run foam tiara that I ran with. I’m not sure why it didn’t make its way into the picture. Because my GI did so much better last marathon not taking the Gatorade, I decided to run with my water belt. My friend Swati was going to be at around the halfway point and I dropped a refueling bottle with her. This, I think, had a huge impact on me staying hydrated. A number of my friends were dehydrated and cramping up this marathon even though they felt like they were drinking enough. I drank four 10 oz bottles of fluid plus water from probably at least 5-6 aid stations. If I had relied on just the fluids from the aid stations, I think it wouldn’t have been enough.
The morning of the race, Patty’s amazing husband, Bob, drove us (me, Jen, Emily, and Patty) to the start. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. I was proud of Chicago for putting out her best weather behavior (minus the warmth obviously).   We got there about an hour beforehand, which of course is spent hopping in and out of portapotty lines. I was super-excited to see Michele from the blog NYCRunningMama washing her hands. She was there representing the 26 Saucony Strong program as a coach for a first-time marathoner. She was super-energetic and friendly, and TINY. You can see in the picture that I look like a hulking beast next to her. It was funny seeing her because I saw her and she looked familiar but I couldn’t place her right away. Then it clicked, and like a fool, I shouted, “Hey, aren’t you NYCRunningMama?” I was behind on my blog-reading so I had forgotten she was running AND she just ran an awesome PR (like 3:12 or something) the previous week at the Wineglass Marathon in NY. Amazing.
Emily, Jen, and I were in the same corral, C. Patty was in corral E (still first-wave) so we parted ways. We actually ended up running into 3 of our other friends before the race too, which was nice. I think there were so many professional photographers taking pictures that I forgot to actually take any. So I have no pre-race photos of our little group 😦We ended up wedging ourselves somewhere around the 3:40 pacers and got out the gate about 7 minutes past 7:30.

Emily scooted forward chasing the 3:35 pace group (she was gunning to BQ). Jen and I settled in at the 3:40’ish pace. My Garmin kept crapping out, though, and would eventually just stop around mile 13, which was annoying. I let Jen be the almighty timekeeper. As typical, we started out faster than the pace we should have. Most of our first 5 miles were 8’s. By mile 7, I had decided that I wasn’t going to be able to (nor wanted to) hold that pace. I was tired and realized that I would really be hurting later if I kept it up. So I let Jen drift ahead a bit and then lost sight of her.

Marathons, in many ways, are singular endeavors of individual battle. It’s so mental. Beyond the physical preparation, it’s your ability to will yourself forward and talk yourself through not giving up. By mile 10, my left ankle was starting to bother me. Seeing Swati and her refueling station right past the halfway point helped alot. She had put my bottle on ice and having that cold drink really helped. Plus seeing a smiling face. She is awesome. She had bought a bunch of bananas and was passing them out. Just for fun. Because that’s how she is.

At mile 16, the thought that I had 10 miles left was alot. Even the record number of spectators was irritating me. They were going to witness my humiliation. My ankle was starting to really bother me, and I was nervous about whether I was doing any real damage to it. I debated DNF’ing (did not finish). I’ve NEVER done that. Even my first marathon where I was doing an Elaine-like dance move and throwing my leg weirdly because I was in so much pain and took 5.5 hours to complete…I finished. But this is when I started thinking about Lauren and the names I was literally carrying on my back. And I thought about how Lauren wouldn’t be able to run anymore. And it helped keep me going. Don’t get me wrong, I think if I really thought my ankle was messed up, I would stop. I’ve learned enough now that I need to listen to my body. But I also knew I could keep going.

Sadly, I was so delusional that I totally missed my girls volunteering at the aid station around mile 18. I was bummed.

Right after mile 20, I think, I saw Jen. She told me her leg was really bothering her and she had actually stopped to wait for me because she wasn’t sure she’d be able to go on. That was all I needed to help me keep going. We ran a pace we were ok with, took a couple walk breaks, and helped push each other to finish. And because the theme of this marathon was cheese, I made her hold my hand when we crossed the finish line. It hasn’t come up in the race photos, but I will definitely be buying that!

Here’s me in my full ridiculous outfit after the race. I was actually so warm post-race that I didn’t even take a foil blanket.
The dynamic duo with our matching crowns! I can’t believe we kept them on the whole time.   We ran into my friend Anna afterwards too. Emily didn’t make it into this picture, but she BQ’ed! Can’t believe she was able to hold that pace in that heat. Just under 3:37
Gotta love the Chicago skyline. See that completely cloudless sky (I did shudder in horror for the back of the packers scorching under that sun).

We did alot of recovering, drinking, and catching our breaths afterwards, then set home on the el. My friend Regina is awesome (seriously, I am undeserving of these amazing friends) and brought over a 20 pound bag of ice and a Portillo’s chocolate cake shake. When I was training solo last year for my trifecta of marathons, that was my go-to training recovery regimen. Usually I got a smaller bag of ice. I have to say that the 20 pound bag was INTENSE. Note: I did eventually open the bag. But I was afraid…

My ankles are swollen and stiff. I think they were just overloaded with all that pounding on the concrete. But we’ll see how they feel the rest of the week.

Overall time, 3:47 and some change. My lofty goal was to qualify again, but my happy/ok goal was to get under 4. It was a tough race, and I definitely felt tired. I realized that it was my 6th marathon since last September. I need a break and a rest so I can be recharged for Boston. It was one of my most fun Chicago marathons as well. I saw a bunch of friends along the course. I got to actually finish with a friend, and I’m really looking forward to the official race photos (I’ve seen some and there are some horrible ones, but some good group ones too).

Chicago is always a great marathon with an awesome course (in terms of route. There were still a few potholes along the route), amazing spectators in great neighborhoods, and a well-supported course. The one thing that bothered me this year was what they offered at the aid stations. I like regular Gatorade ok if I can dilute it heavily, but Gatorade Endurance is too much for my stomach and tastes. The blocks they were offering were also by Gatorade, which was totally new to me. I actually didn’t bother even taking any (and I love free stuff!). I wish they would pick stuff that people actually regularly trained with.

I hope everyone who raced had a good experience. Chime in with your own thoughts and experiences!

P.S. My most hated cheer sign was “I don’t know, but I’m feeling 26.2”  What does that even mean?! I spent alot of negative energy thinking about that sign. HA

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Preparing for Chicago

I’ve been home for four days with alternating sick kids. It’s been awesome. Screams of “mommy” and demands for more television shows. Refusals to eat. Parenthood truly is rewarding.

That’s given me some time, at least, to work on my various banners for Chicago. Somewhat last minute, I decided to run the Chicago Marathon in honor of a woman who died recently from complications from Leukemia. I was already registered for the marathon so all proceeds will go directly to Team in Training. I am honored to run in Lauren’s name, and for all those who touched by blood cancers. As part of my fund-raising, I promised individual ribbons with names (as designated by the donor) for donations above $25. So I spent some of my time home to work on those ribbons. And it’s not too late to donate! You can still give here. All amounts are appreciated and nothing is too small!

I also worked on my Black Lives Matter ribbons. I was originally going to make armbands, but I decided that most random people–if they take one–are more likely to pin a ribbon on their shirts than fuss with an armband. This is particularly true since it’s going to be rather warm Sunday (high of mid-70s) and the likelihood for chafing is greater. I’m planning on still making some armbands for myself to wear and for a few friends. So look out for the black ribbons and armbands!

I read some follow-up about the Black Lives Matter protestors at the Minneapolis Marathon. Reports described the size of the group from 65-100, and the protestors did not disrupt the marathon. I was heartened to read that there were several runners spotted on the course wearing Black Lives Matter shirts and shouts/fists of solidarity during the marathon.
 In practical matters regarding preparation for Chicago, I’ve ramped down my training a bit from what was planned. I was originally following the Advanced Marathon multiple marathon plan, but the mileage this week was too much to fit in with kids at home. I was also feeling a bit tired on Wednesday’s run, which means I’m not tapering enough. I’ll probably do a short shake-out run on Saturday and leave it at that.

In other preparations, I’ve been trying to eat pretty simply. I’ve also been getting very cozy with my foam roller. Coincidentally enough, NPR just did a report on the scientific benefits of using the roller. I like to know I haven’t been wasting my time 🙂

I’m also trying to force myself to drink alot of water. While the race is predicted to start in the mid 50’s, it’s supposed to be in the upper 60’s by the time I’m likely to finish. And potentially sunny. i.e., HOT for a marathon. This has made me reconsider my marathon goals some more. Unless I am feeling absolutely amazing and like a horse raring to go at the gate, I plan on running the marathon at a decent pace but not racing it. My family is going to come out. It’s a great way to see the city. I’ve already qualified and gotten into Boston. I should try to actually enjoy a marathon–although, truth be told, I had a pretty good time at Last Chance.

Alright, going to head out to packet pick up shortly. Hope to say howdy to the Mother Runner ladies and score some free stuff if possible. Although I did see that Saucony will have Chicago-specific Kinvaras… Don’t forget to review my marathon packing list from Last Chance if you’re running a race this weekend!

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Back to Wisconsin Dells and Getting Lost on Trails

We went to Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells this past weekend. It was…family time. I don’t love being in water, or the echoing chambers of the water park, or the far-from-healthy eating I tend to over-indulge in. HOWEVER, I do love the trails that are just under a mile from the hotel.

Cows. I know. Such a novelty in Wisconsin. Whenever I’m in the Wisconsin woods, I can’t help but think of Robert Frost’s lines, “The woods are lovely dark and deep…”
The trails I ran on were in Mirror Lake State Park. This is Mirror Lake.   Because someone showed me how to use the self-timer function, and I’ve read that other bloggers use it for those great action shots, I tried it on my own. It took a couple tries, but it turned out pretty well. Jen has already ridiculed me for being a selfie queen. I think she’s just jealous…
I was surprised to discover that fall has arrived. I know it’s gotten colder, but I didn’t realize the leaves had already started changing so much.  I loved all the little croppings of ferns I saw everywhere.
If I were handier with editing, I could figure out how to lighten myself in the picture. However, the leaves look glorious.   Case in point
I loved running on the softer trails. It was a nice break from the pavement, although I definitely got a workout with the hills and unevenness.

 And because I can’t resist pictures or “open roads.”  Also, I was obsessing over why so many corn fields looked unharvested. I finally gave in and Googled it. Turns out that it’s just starting to be harvesting time. I thought it would have been late summer.   

The end of this run was rough. I wasn’t paying attention to the time and was going by the distance on my watch. I realized at one point, when I was getting tired that my watch said that I had run 6.3 miles in TWO hours. I know trail running is slow, but it’s not that slow. And not on these non-technical trails. I had to then figure out the quickest way to get back to the hotel and I was TIRED. I figure I ran a bit over 13 miles. I was slated to run 11, but had thought about cutting down to 9. FAIL.

In other news, I’m running Chicago on Sunday. I have mixed feelings about it. For whatever reason, I’m feeling slow and mushy. This makes me reconsider what my race strategy will be. Right after the Last Chance Marathon, I had thought I would consider trying to BQ again because I felt so strong. However, I’m not sure I want that pressure. Maybe I just want to run for fun…but that’s so outside my nature too. It probably won’t be until the last minute–same way I plan my race outfit 🙂 Patty has already been updating radar screenshots. I refuse to look until Friday.

in the meanwhile, here’s my plan for the week to get ready. 1) Drink alot of water. 2) Get alot of sleep. 3) Eat a good number of carbs and eat SIMPLY/PLAINLY. 4) Stretch and yoga like a mofo. 5) Start visualizing the race. The nice thing about having run this race a bunch of times is that’s easy. This will include “running the tangents,” which I tend to be bad at.

Oh, and one last thing. I decided to run representing Team in Training in honor of Lauren Bovis and my friend Erin’s daughter, Emily. Lauren was in my running group and passed away this summer from complications from leukemia. Emily is five and was diagnosed last winter/spring. If you are interested in donating, whatever amount, you can do that here. If you donate $25, you can signify a name, and I will make a ribbon with that name to wear on my shirt during the race.

Alright, folks, happy running!

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A Call to “Arms” for Justice-Minded Runners

There is a big controversy in a small intersection of American current issues right now–marathon runners and some Black Lives Matters activists. It’s going around that Black Lives Matters protestors are intending to disrupt the Minneapolis Marathon runners this weekend. They will attempt to disrupt the race to get their message out in a way that can’t be ignored. I won’t get into whether I agree with this tactic or not. As a person of color who supports the #BLM movement AND as a distance runner, I can see both sides. What I can’t see is how runners can be SO vitriolic, hateful, racist, classist, and awful in their reactions to this possible action. There are many many examples of this online, but here are a few from a few Facebook groups I am part of.Snip20151001_1

People deriding this “peaceful” protest as not peaceful, but then threatening the protestors with violence.


Out of the hundreds of comments, I only saw a few that even attempted to engage with why people might feel the need to do this (first comment).
Snip20151001_3What hurt me more was that this was Facebook, not “anonymous” Internet comments. You have a name and picture attached to your comment (I debated not blurring them out, but i wasn’t sure what legal protocol was). And while I didn’t find the same violent reaction from one of my own local running groups, I did find a reticence to engage with the desperation to be heard and a desire to trump the rights of runners over the protestors–going so far as to call the action “sad and ridiculous.”

I can’t stand by and do nothing. I can’t talk about my sympathies with the movement and not address the ugliness of some of the running community’s response to this. I’m not running the Minneapolis Marathon, so I can only speculate what I would do if the race got stopped by protestors. I would like to think I would stop and march alongside. It is one race. One race in a lifetime of races. A lifetime that people like Michael Brown don’t have anymore. A race that some people can’t even afford the registration for to “jump in and run alongside.” But I AM running Chicago. And I have the opportunity to show that I can be a runner AND raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter cause. So I’m going to run the Chicago Marathon with a black arm band with #BLM. And I ask those of you who believe this issue is an important one to run your next race with one as well. In fact, bring others. Let the world know that not all runners are so awful and hateful. That we can also work and run for peace and justice.

For practical purposes: I cut up a tech shirt and used white paint to mark the letters. I intend to Body Glide the heck out of it to make sure it doesn’t chafe. I also thought about using my black arm warmers and may if it’s cold.

It won’t be the first time running and race have collided. OLYMPICS-BLACK-POWER-SALU-008


Don’t fall asleep in front of me

FIRST, a piece of exciting news. I’m going to run Chicago. I was back and forth about it because of the cost (the cost of two smaller marathons), and I’ve run it four times before. However, it’s fun to do your hometown’s big race, and my family can come see me run without it being a big deal. Plus, I love Chicago. They call it the city of big neighborhoods (whoever “they” is), and you get to run lots of them, from Chinatown and Pilsen (a mostly Mexican neighborhood), from north to south. Awesome. And the final kicker was that, this year, they guaranteed entry for women with a time under 3:45. I squeaked in with a handful of seconds. Literally. HA. I submitted my qualifying time from last fall and just got my approval. Hooray!


I joke that one of the reasons I run is to eat. It’s not really a joke. More like THE TRUTH. Anyhow, I’m pretty sure I read that you should have a good mix of protein and carbs before a run. I think chicken and waffles fits that description…Although I also decided to have poutine the night before a marathon once. I realize now that poutine is not a good pre-race meal (for all those who don’t know what poutine is and are too lazy to Google it, it’s french fries with cheese and gravy–mostly hailing from our neighbors to the north, and I’m not talking about Wisconsin).

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We went to dinner tonight with some friends (yes, Anne, I am publicly calling you a friend). My daughter fell asleep in the car and promptly submerged back into sleep when we got to the restaurant (she awoke long enough to walk from car to restaurant). I tried valiantly to keep her awake with graham crackers in the car, but all that led to was a crumby preschooler (ha, get it? crumby/crummy?! yeah yeah, puns are a dying art). Lately, she’s been complaining about being tired but refuses to nap. When she falls asleep, though, she is out like the dead. As an immature and childish individual, who also happens to be a parent, I could not resist the lure of Legos that my husband had brought with him for the kids and my nearly comatose daughter. Thus I present my photo submission for mom of the year. Gulliver’s Travels-style Legos and child.

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Years ago (but when I was still an adult), my younger brother and I were play fighting and my mom just looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you’re a teacher.” Snarf snarf.

Today’s run was cut a little short. It was supposed to be an easy 7, but my day got too busy and it was late in the day. I cut it to 5 to save my leaden legs a bit before tomorrow’s 20. I inhaled some more bugs on the trail. Gross. How is it that they emerge out of winter hibernation so quickly?! That is one thing about warmer weather I didn’t miss.

Do you ever act more ridiculously childish than your children?

Worst pre-race meal idea?