RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between


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Blergh

It’s been a bit, right? There are some things going on in life that are taking a lot of energy out of me. It leaves little room or desire to write about running. Part of this might be combined with the fact that I turned my ankle two weekends ago on the trail.

I was about 4 miles into an 8-11 mile run with some friends at Bull Frog in Palos. Ironically, I had stopped to re-tie a shoe tighter because it felt like it wasn’t support enough. As I got up to start running, I hit a big rock in the path and turned my ankle. I wasn’t in horrible pain, but I felt a momentary flash of panic. Ok, maybe not momentary. Just panic. The worst part was that we were just before the turnaround point. And this is trail. Which means, short of getting back to a road and waiting for someone else to run back and get the car, I’d have to run back. It wasn’t great, but I found I could bear weight on it without screaming in pain. So I ran back 3 miles–Kelly was able to configure a slightly shorter route back. Gorgeous picture of the lake from the BEGINNING of the run. Sigh.

I saw Craig that day and had him work on it. He actually didn’t think it was too bad, and I babied the heck out of it, wrapping it tight and wearing an ankle brace. I think that all helped. I can run on it, but 50k on it is a different thing…The amount of mental self-abuse I’ve been doing is outrageous. I just checked the cutoff time, though, and I’ll have almost 10 hours to finish the 50k. Hopefully I won’t need all that.

It just continues to remind me, on multiple levels, that our weaknesses–physical and otherwise–need constant monitoring and intervention. I had stopped doing my one-legged squats while brushing teeth awhile back, filled with false confidence in my ankles. And this is what happened. It reminds me of the same character defects I have, my willfulness, anger, etc. also need to constantly be worked on as well. They never really go away, just wait for an opportune moment. Seems exhausting thinking about it. But that is how we become stronger.

And one thing I’ve learned over the years is when I get stuck in self-pity, get outside yourself and go do something for someone else. So I did. A slew of my girls were running the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha, including Jenny’s first comeback race after over a year of injury. It didn’t occur to me, until really late in the game, that it would be great to go cheer for them. I found out two other friends–Jen H and Doreen–who also came to Boston were heading up, so I hitched a ride.

Andrea, Emily, Michelle, Jenny, Michelle

I am SO glad I went. The course was windy as HECK. It ran alongside the lakefront, which sounds great, until the wind picks up sand and scours you with it. The temperature was perfect, and it was somewhat cloudy at moments, but the wind was probably upwards of 30mph at times. The course was also really desolate. There were almost no spectators, and even the most “crowded” sections had just over a dozen. And they were QUIET. There was almost no cheering. So this made the 3 of us cheer even louder and act even nuttier. Two women even came up to us after the race to thank us for cheering. It was also weird because there were parts of the course that weren’t really closed off so people were driving ON BOTH SIDES of the road. Someone even pulled a boat down the middle of the course. I think based on the crowd support (or lack thereof) and the weird course stuff, I would not run this marathon. Jenny did say, though, that it was well run and the aid stations were great.

The girls had a really hard time, but the Michelle’s stuck together for most of it. Although Michelle R (left) pulled a Jen and finished about 20 second ahead of Michelle N. Ha.

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Despite all these brutal conditions, most of them finished ahead of my Boston time. Sigh. It was awesome, though, to go root for someone and not just be on the receiving end. I swear my “cheering high” carried me all day through rooting for my oldest’s tball game. Haha.

Andrea, Jenny, Emily

Whitecaps!!

Alright, that’s all for now. I’m gearing up for the 50k. It feels really weird because I’ve essentially been in a 6 week taper now. I’ve been actually weightlifting to try and do some less impact stuff that should help me with the hills and such.


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Boston

I hear a lot of people talking about feeling humbled by others’ praises. So often it strikes false. The humble brag of, “I’m so undeserving of this really competitive amazing thing, and I just can’t believe people think I’m so amazing (like I think, ha).” And it’s probably the cynic in me for thinking this. However, I truly was humbled by the outpouring of support from my friends. I was actually embarrassed that people were paying attention to me and thought I was doing something awesome. I mean, Boston IS awesome, but I am very uncomfortable receiving compliments or accepting support or acknowledgment from others (*cough, crazy family, cough*).

I also realize that some of this, particularly in regards to athletic accomplishments, is particular to women. I remember from my first Ragnar Relay, we were literally one of the first teams in the entire field and a bunch of us were marathoners and a guy from another said, “Wow, so you guys are pretty serious runners, huh?” We all hemmed and hawed like, “Oh, no.” We couldn’t accept the label that we WERE awesome and we WERE serious. I think back on that, and how I have to learn to accept support and acknowledgment gracefully. And, while I don’t want to get a big head, I can also admit that I’m doing something pretty amazing and it’s ok for people to say that. With that said, I will say that I did choose to NOT wear my marathon jacket and medal on the air plane ride home. Baby steps, people.

My awesome running group brought (to my kid’s preschool musical performance no less) balloons and a care package for the trip. Highlight of the bag? Trashy magazine! I also got a yard sign!

My good friend, Misty, also gave me Wonder Woman knee high socks and chocolate. Don’t worry, I didn’t run in them. 🙂

I escaped Chicago’s airport with little trouble. I felt a little guilty leaving the kids for the second time within two weeks, but it’s the last bit of traveling for a long while so they’ll survive. I stayed for most of the trip with my dear friend, Swati, who just defended her dissertation! She’s officially joined the ranks of Dr.’s that can not medically help you. We got to go out solo (she’s also a newish mom to Asha, who’s about to turn one year old) for dinner and ice cream. Like tourists, I made her take a picture with me and the cow at the famous J.P. Licks.

I have some other photos and stuff about my time in Boston, but I’m going to stick to marathon stuff for this one to help keep it from being a tome.

Saturday morning, Jen, Patty, and I decided to meet at the expo. Actually, Patty’s in-laws were awesome and picked me up so we rode together to the convention center. It was massive. You get almost 30,000 runners and their families and it’s going to be crazy. To be honest, I actually wondered about fire code because some of the exhibit lanes were narrow and tended to bottle neck up…Total mom mode, right? Anyhow, we took the requisite cheesy photos at the five million various photo op possibilities. Because the packet pick up and expo were on different floors, there really were a crazy number of opportunities to take photos. One of my favorite ones was the huge wall of names of every single runner. We each got free posters of it. Mine, sadly, got left behind in Boston at Swati’s house, but she promises to mail it to me.

Because this is the big mama of marathons, there were quite a few celebrity sightings at the expo. So…like total creeps, we took photos of these unsuspecting individuals. On the left is Shalane Flanagan promoting her new cooking book; top right is the back of Katherine Switzer (white jacket), first woman to officially run the marathon, and bottom right is a cardboard cutout of Meb. Ha. He was in town, but we didn’t see him live.

Patty and I did the bus tour of the whole marathon route. I was surprised to see that there were tents with souvenirs and food and things at the start already. For those unfamiliar with Boston, it’s a point to point course, which means you take a bus out to the start ~25 miles west of the city to Hopkinton and run your way back to Boston proper.

I took the obligatory start line photo. Some people were taking photos kissing the ground. Um, unless it’s like the foot of Jesus (and I’m not even religious), I’m not kissing it.

Riding the route, I was simultaneously nervous AND calmed. There were way more hills than I had thought, but they also seemed somewhat flatter than I had imagined. The tour guide, who was formerly a competitive runner, stressed the importance of really taking it easy the first half of the race, which has a net downhill. Most people take it too fast and trash their legs before the hills of Newton.

The night before was “dinner” at 4:30 at Vinny’s in Somerville. Good food, and we were glad to have time to hang out and lounge instead of eating and then going straight to bed. Jen and I were staying at friends, but we shacked up with Patty in her hotel room for the night before the marathon. Jen ended up using a great deal of her waking hours trying on the same two tank tops over and over, trying to determine which one would or would not chafe. We also went back and forth because the weather was supposed to be in the upper 60’s when we started. Trust me, Patty aka “Radar” was giving me minute-by-minute updates on every degree change in temperature and wind.

The rest of the night, we ended up buying a movie, How to Be Single, to watch in the hotel room. It was predictable and a bit young for us, but Rebel Wilson was funny and it was perfect for a group of women looking for a distraction. Patty fell asleep during it and had no trouble sleeping. I tossed and turned for over an hour, but eventually fell asleep and slept solid. Jen woke up throughout the night several times, so I guess it’s good we went to bed early!

Because there are so many stages to getting to the actual start line, we all got up around 6 am. We were going to take our hotel’s shuttle to Boston Commons to take the marathon shuttle to Hopkinton (which was supposed to leave at 8:15 for our wave). When we got outside the hotel, though, the line was like 30 people deep for a 14-person van. One of the door guys suggested we pay $5/person for a private shuttle. We thought it was a little shady, but we were also getting nervous about having to wait for several loadings of the shuttle so we did. Well, actually I had no cash and Jen only had $10 so we haggled that for the 3 of us.

We got to the Boston Commons and met up with Kelly, a colleague’s wife who was also running. Coincidentally, she was in the same wave and corral as Jen. I was actually in the wave before Jen, but I had decided to drop back so we could run together. Sadly, Patty was in the wave after us, almost 20 minutes later. We all got on the school buses and headed out to Hopkinton. We arrived at the high school and the athlete’s village was out on the fields. It was a huge area with tents (for shelter), free bagels, Gatorade, water, and coffee. We had over 2 hours to kill, which we spent mostly going to the bathroom and people-watching. We were surprised to see that some people still had their gear check bags, as gear check happened in Boston by the finish lines. I’m not sure what they ended up doing with them.

Finally it was time for us (sans Patty) to start moving towards the entry point. We gathered together in the parking lot before heading down the chute, which was probably over a quarter mile through the streets of Hopkinton. Before we started moving, I noticed what looked like sharp shooters on top of the high school. While I appreciated the safety concerns, their presence actually made me more nervous.

Along the way, right before people headed into the corrals, there was an area designated with the last port-a-potties (which they call port-a-johns out there). This was like two concentric circles of over 100 potties–a human waste Stonehenge of sorts. With all the waiting in between, we ended up doing another last ditch effort. Despite that, I still saw a woman squatting next to a light pole. Once we got into the corral, Jen did her obsessive shoe-tying shuffle. First it was too loose, then too tight, then the other one was weird. All while trying to keep moving along with the crowd.

We were off, and I got nervous right away. Between the heat and downhills, the run felt like a struggle right away. And I would struggle with hitting a rhythm for a good deal of it. I perked up a bit when I saw a runner up ahead wearing an Every Mother Counts shirt. My friend, Ayesha, is an ambassador for them and our Ragnar team ran miles for them last year. (Side note: Ayesha is running the Big Sur Marathon as a relay for them this weekend). It’s a charity that works to make pregnancy and childbearing safe for women. I had remembered reading that Christy Turlington, its founder and former supermodel, had qualified and was running Boston to raise funds. This could be Christy up ahead, and next to her was a tall, curly-haired man with a bandana–perhaps Scott Jurek? I couldn’t be sure, though, and when I mentioned it to Jen, she suggested we speed up to check. I couldn’t fathom pulling up any speed, though, and shrugged off such crazy talk. I would actually end up leapfrogging with them throughout most of the race and did end up chatting with them a couple times. Also, like a total creep, I took a running selfie with them. Marathon of creepy celebrity photos. Ha. At one point, Jen also said that her goal was to beat a supermodel. Spoiler: That dream didn’t happen. Christy beat us by 2 minutes.

This is me at mile 13. You can see I look pretty tired. I was beyond grateful to see Mr. UnRunner (he’s been demoted recently). I was mentally really struggling with the idea that I was going to be doing this for hours. HOURS, people. I just wanted to lay down and go home. I was really struggling with the heat and the downhills. Seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar place was amazing.

I really had to suppress my urge to punch him, though, when he told me to “go catch Jen.” By this point, Jen had left me behind. She had spent a good deal of the first several miles a few yards in front of me, constantly checking over her shoulder that I was still there. I told her that I did not want to watch her doing that for the next several hours so go ahead. Deja vu to Chicago.

The Wellesley girls were out and screaming, but the way the literature described it, I thought it was going to be like Beatles-style screaming hordes of hysterical coeds. They were out and yelling and had the “kiss me…” signs, but, shh, I gotta say I wasn’t THAT impressed. I don’t know that I would call them legendary. I did see two girls who appeared to be naked under their posters, which read, “If you run fast enough, I’ll drop my poster.” My favorite sign along the course, though, was “You’re running better than our government.” This is particularly true in Illinois.

Another welcome break was seeing these girls around mile 17. These are the super fans that came from Chicago to cheer for us (mostly Jen, but also me and Patty): Dorene, Michelle, Michelle, and Jen. They are all runners and the two Michelle’s are training for a May marathon. Michelle (with sunglasses) ran Boston years ago in her youth and hopes to return again one day.

I got some very welcome hugs from the girls, although someone totally rammed their shoulder into my throat at one point, which was AWESOME. Choking and running. Good combo.

At some point between miles 17 and 19, Jen and I hooked up together again. She decided running alone sucked (again, deja vu to Chicago) and waited for me. We did conquer Heartbreak Hill together (next pic is us at the top). I have to say that Heartbreak hill wasn’t all that bad. I mean, it sucked, but I think the million OTHER hills were what were quietly crushing my soul. By that point, Jen and I just wanted to be done. We joked about rolling each other down the hill. Joked. Not really.

We split up again. See a pattern? Fortunately, I saw Mr. UnRunner and my friend Swati around mile 21 at the Boston College gates. (on a side note, the race goes through THREE college campuses, Wellesley, Boston College, and Boston University AND it’s a state holiday so the crow support along the route is crazy). Again, I was really excited for a reason to stop and see happy, familiar faces. Mentally, knowing I was more than half done, I was doing a lot better than the first half even though it was physically more challenging. Knowing I had a dozen marathons under my belt helped me push through. At one point on the course, I do recall chanting mentally, “I know I can” to get me over a hill.

The physical demands of the downhill and the heat took its toll on runners. I saw A LOT of runners down at medical tents along the way, on the side of the road, and even a runner in the middle of the course with medics towards mile 21. Two of the running bloggers I follow had to stop and receive some medical aid before being able to finish the course. I think they still beat my time. Sigh. I even saw one runner just completely stop and stand in the middle of the road, teetering. I stopped and asked him if he was ok or needed help. He said he was fine, even though he kept standing there teetering. I decided his male ego would be bruised by a chick helping him and we were only a few yards from a medical tent so I figured he’d be ok.

Jen and I did hook back up around mile 21 I think in time to see the super fans one more time. She was really struggling mentally and pulled ahead again a couple miles later. I could tell she just really wanted it to be over, though, and wasn’t going to be stopping again for me. She finished about 30 second ahead of me.

You can see I didn’t do a great job with the tangents, running .3 over. Thanks for the BLM bracelet, Bill! The personal is political!

The finish line was akin to the starting line, a long chute stretching out over a couple blocks to get your medal, water, bag of food (nice stuff!), banana, thermal blanket, gear check, and then finally heading out to the family reunion section. Jen and I got massages while waiting for everyone to meet at the designated spot. We were pretty out of it, but it helped getting to lay down and worked on a bit. The massages were inside and there were probably like 40 tables in the room, with massage therapists from all over. The guy working on me was from 2 hours away, and it was his fifth year in a row volunteering at the marathon.

Patty finished (on the clock, since she started later) only about 15 minutes behind us. She said she had a GREAT race, which just shows who’s the best runner in our crew. We got to take one big group photo before everyone head their different ways. The super fans were heading home, Jen was going to meet back up with her friend, and Patty and I were going to dinner together with her family.


Patty, our spouses, and I went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and hang out before having dinner with Patty’s family at Morton’s steak house. The dinner was AWESOME, hot shower was divine, and the company was stupendous. Morton’s even had the menus printed with our names on it (gotta find the pic I took). By the end of the night, I was dead on my feet and looking forward to bed.

The next day was uneventful, with a chill lunch with Swati, and an early departure for the airport. It was funny seeing the sea of stiff-legged runners in their aqua?/teal? marathon jackets tottering towards the gates. I didn’t wear my jacket cuz I’m weird like that.

I came home to this loveliness. Cuz nothing says I love you like toilet paper strew on your lawn. Ha.

Even though I’m not in this photo–actually it’s only the super fans and none of the actual Boston runners–I love it and wanted to end the post with it. I’m still processing my emotions from the race, but I couldn’t help but love the connectedness of the ladies. I did not get to Boston on my own, and I couldn’t have finished Boston on my own. I am blown away (again) by these women and (and men) that have encouraged me, supported me, and praised me. All of the texts, Facebook messages, calls, and well wishes. I don’t feel worthy of any of it, truly. It was such a communal effort and can only offer my warmest thanks and love for everyone that’s been part of this. Patty is already concocting what to do for next year. Good luck with that, I’ll be supporting you from home, haha. I’ll follow up this post with some of the other things I did in Boston, but for now, signing off.


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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.


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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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It takes a village to qualify for Boston–my love letter for BFF

I am breathing the rarified air of Boston Qualifiers, and I am dumbfounded. This was hands-down the best marathon experience of my life. I ran solid, never took walk breaks (except once through an aid station), and had a big kick at the end. I’m not even as sore as I usually am the day after.

And it’s because of this group. [Note: I’ll do a real race recap later]

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Despite all my threats and grumbles about people showing up to watch me potentially fail, they showed up anyway, and I DIDN’T fail because…surprise…support helps you. I know. Shocker. Trust me, I’m still trying to puzzle that one out.

I knew these two crazies, Jen (as in my partner in crime this spring) and Patty, both already qualified this year, were going to be there early.

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Early, as in early and dark. When the sun was just starting to think about rolling out of bed.

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I knew they were coming and saw them at the end of my first lap. But then imagine my surprise when I saw these guys further down.

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Stephanie Harri left after the race to get ready to play TWO weddings (she’s a violinist…AND a chiropractor). Crazy!


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Swati Saxena, REALTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE, is the lovely lady in green who owns her own personal megaphone. 

She also baked me several vegan treats. AND drive me home in my own car to save my legs.

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Julianne, on the left, is from Massachusetts and was secretly working to coordinate the ambush of love.

And just in case you think we’re a classy bunch of ladies, here’s a sign to disprove it.

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My dear Jenny, standing tall in the middle with her ever-present blonde ponytail, ran with Jen for my last loop. I don’t think I would have kept up my pace without them that loop. She actually ran her first 13 miles since this winter. Jenny also realized that I had lost a hair band halfway through the race (which is why I went from two French braids to a single pony tail half French-braided) and tried calling some of the girls on their way to see if they had an extra!

And, finally, on the second-to-last loop, or maybe it was the last loop (it was hard keeping track), I saw my family. And seeing my husband and kids cheering me on (well, Wyeth was kind of crying and trying to grab me, but I’m sure he was cheering on the inside…) helped push me through. I abandon them in the early mornings to go run these distances, smoothed over with sugary promises of donuts. But sometimes they still cry when I leave the house. So I ran to make it worthwhile.

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And then there were people who were supporting me from afar, sending texts and messages, and even ladies that weren’t there race day but helped make the signs (Aimee, Erin F), and I still used some of Coach Lizs speed workouts. I have never felt so awash in love and support. Like EVER. These people have endured my countless rants, obsessions, early mornings, late nights, annoying FB posts, and anxieties about running and about this race. Seriously, I am humbled beyond words, and feel that I am not worthy of this. Really. I mean, I think I’m funny and mildly amusing, but I will admit that I really am not such a sparkling personality to warrant such an outpouring of affection (I’m awkward and can seem standoffish, I’ll admit it. I’m also prone to handshakes and sideways hugs vs full-frontal hugs.). It goes to show you how much we all need one another, and how much more can be accomplished with the love and support of others. IF you just let them in at least a teeny, tiny bit. So to all the amazing women of BFF and my awesome family, this time was for you.

P.S. One funny note. Someone asked the group how many people they knew in the race. They said one. HA.


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For those that were disillusioned/dissatisfied/disappointed in high school

I had had alot of doubts about attending my high school reunion. Based on a quick poll of my high school friends from Facebook, I realized most of them weren’t going. Still, I thought it would be fun to see the high school (there was a tour of the school and then a picnic) and reunite with folks I was friendly with but hadn’t stayed in touch with. It was an odd experience. The turnout was smaller than I expected for the two daytime events–I had decided to forego the evening bar event. There were a handful of folks I chatted with, but the majority of folks weren’t people I really knew or hung out with in school. And then I realized the groups I had been most involved with–band, debate, orchestra, and even track–weren’t there for the most part.

I wasn’t a loner in high school, but I was also extremely unhappy then. My parents were extremely strict, stereotypical Asian parents, and being the oldest, I got to be the pioneer of challenging their rules. I had also moved from out of state at the end of 8th grade and struggled with adjusting from a small Catholic school to a large public school. In retrospect, I realize that I was spending alot and effort trying to figure out who I was and where I fit it. And my high school was extremely stratified into groups and there was alot of posturing and judgement–even my husband was surprised by how little folks interacted with each other at both daytime events. Being back in that context brought back all my unhappiness and awkwardness again. It’s funny how you think you’ve grown so much beyond a certain point in your past, but there are still things that can bring you back to that time. Maybe I should just wear my race medals to the next one, ha.

Mr. UnRunner and the 5 y.o. (in brown) in my high school gym

I was talking with another running friend yesterday about it, and she pointed out how for some people, high school was the height of their lives–the “best years of their life” (the theme of a 70’s video we actually watched at HS freshman orientation…seriously)–and for others, it’s just a time you’re passing through. Coincidentally, she was also in orchestra. If you want me to make a cheesy running analogy, I can say that life is a marathon and not a sprint.

Ha. I think it’s true. I took a long time to figure out who I was and what I was good at or what made me happy. And to accept that. And alot of that has come from running. I’ve learned that I won’t be an elite runner, but I can explore my personal bests. I know I won’t be a sprinter, so I’m developing myself as a distance runner. Yes I have bigger legs than “ideal” (as put forward by society), but they provide the strength I need to run like I do. And I even have learned to accept other aspects of my body as strong and able, and not something to poke and critique constantly for not being perfect. I have a tattoo on my wrist, “I am not yet.” It’s based on a statement from Maxine Greene, an educational philosopher. It’s based on the idea that I’m always developing and learning, that I’m a never-ending project (until I die anyway, ha).

On a somewhat related note (though not really), one of my friends shared a recent interview with the rapper Eminem about his significant weight loss after an overdoes in 2007. He realized how unhealthy he was after being hospitalized and started a whole weight loss regimen. Ironically, he realized at one point (when he was running 17 miles a day) that he was merely replacing one addiction with another and that it was a compulsion. He’s in a healthier place now, but he says he still struggles a bit with balance. I am not by any stretch saying that Eminem is a role model, but it’s interesting to see that we all have our demons to wrestle and that even success doesn’t shield us from them.

Speaking of balance, I’ve been trying to eat a little better. Honestly, I’ve given up reading the Racing Weight book as it just feels too much right now. Still, I can choose better foods and healthier options. I’ve been eating way too many fries lately…So here’s a lovely picture of a salad I threw together the other day–spinach, an Indian spiced veggie burger from Trader Joe’s, a bit of red pepper, and a handful of granola with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

In order to start addressing some of my GI stuff, I’ve decided to start taking in some more probiotics–primarily through Kefir, but I also got a jar of kimchee from my friend Regina. Fermented foods, it turns out, has a ton of probiotics. Nothing like going back to my native foods for healthier options. Yummmmmmmm. Coincidentally, Regina is a friend I made in BFF 🙂

To end on a more positive note and going back to the whole self-care thing, I’m posting two things that made me happy. First, some coloring. The whole “adult coloring books” has exploded. Seriously, just do a Google search. I actually find them TOO intricate to color, but most of my kids’ coloring pages are too easy. I was excited to find this one, which was a nice balance of both. And who doesn’t love Octonauts?I was also in a funk and almost decided to forego my running club’s annual picnic. But I knew that wouldn’t help me feel better, so my husband helped me rally and head out with the family. It was a ton of fun! One of my ladies helped put together some awesome relay events for the kids and parents. I love my BFF’s 🙂 Truly.

Those events were tough! I was secretly glad I hadn’t worked out that day. I really should have done some yoga or stretching, but it was a busy day.

Alright, have a great start to your week. I got 6 miles later on the docket. Thankfully it rained and it’s cooled off a bit.


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Pool running and proof that Jen still runs with me

I’ve had ALOT of friends deal with injuries the last year or so. I honestly think that my semi-regular massage work and my fixation with foam rolling can take a good deal of credit for me being relatively injury-free. That is not to say, though, that I’m not constantly aware of every extra bit of tightness or creakiness. I really like all the “prehab vs. rehab” stuff I’ve been seeing lately. That’s why I found this post about pool running so fascinating. It actually starts with a story about two ultra runners that do a fair bit of pool running as part of their cross-training. Pool running is usually relegated to the domain of those who CAN’T run and are already injured. These folks use it regularly as part of their running/training regimen. I was fascinated. I like the article alot because it provides a variety of ways you can tackle pool running from my version–running back and forth in chest-high water while pushing/pulling my kids (i.e., sneaking in a workout without them knowing) to the more familiar weighted vest/best deeper water to ankle-deep water running. Either way, if you’re in the pool a good amount this summer, there’s some things to try out!

This morning was a 10 mile run with 5×1000’s at 5k pace with recovery in between. Yup, Fun times. In 80-degree weather with alot of humidity. Thankfully Jen had 5×1200’s on her plan with a 2 mile warm up and 1 mile cooldown, so we did most of my 10 miles together. For those uninitiated into the joys of track workouts, most standard tracks are 400 meters and 4 laps are a mile. Usually with intervals, a good recovery is half the distance or half the time of the interval (depending on your goals, etc.). Today’s recovery time for me was supposed to be 50-90% of my interval time. Here’s the splits. My goal 5k time (according to this convertor for my marathon goal time) is 22:22, which translates into a 7:12 time. Based on my over-involved calculations, I think that means I needed to hit a 4:30 for 1000m.

Lap 1   4:29

Lap 2   4:37

Lap 3   4:41

Lap 4   4:41

Lap 5   4:41

Sadly, you can see that I only hit it for the first lap. To my credit, I had a different time in mind based on a different calculator I was looking at before I left the house (ahem, at 5:45 this morning, sigh). But I realized prepping for this post, that I was looking at the wrong thing. I think I could have pushed it a little harder for at least a few more laps if not all of them. I really dislike intervals, but nothing works up a sweat like some nasty fast runs on the track. I’m not a naturally fast (nor inclined towards fast) runner, and I often find them somewhat demoralizing. In some ways, that’s why I like speed/interval workouts based on feel rather than specific times. On Bill’s marathon plan two years ago, his speed workouts were based on just going as hard as you (un)comfortably can. I might go with a combination of time and feel this time around.

Anyhow, here’s a lovely shot of the sun rising behind Jen on the track.

On a side note, we talked about how her form is pretty good. She has a good natural lean forward (something she didn’t know was actually good) and good stride. One thing I’ve noticed is that she tends to shrug her shoulders up a bit, which gives her a cute “little engine that could” look, haha. It doesn’t seem to impact her too much, though. You lose a little bit of energy, but there are worse things (like my swinging arms across my body, ha). 

Anyhow, I forced her to take a selfie with me, so we took turns looking goofy.

It’s going to be a hot one today, so stay cool!

What kind of speed training do you do? How do you mentally work through hitting splits (or not)?

P.S. My husband has been mentioning that he sees a fair amount of “grammer” (sic) mistakes in my writing in these posts. I will need to proof them better! I follow some blogs of former teachers-turned bloggers and when I see typos/grammar stuff/etc it drives me nuts. Feel free to point them out!