349. Marathon Monday: Week 6

Before we get to my marathon Monday post, I wante to let you all know about the raffle Cassie at Back to Her Roots (one of my favorite blogs at the moment) is hosting to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer walk she’ll be completing with her sister’s in June. Go check it out, make a donation to an awesome cause, and get chances to win awesome prizes.

Cook for the Cure Raffle

Now, on to my post…

I don’t have much to say about this week’s training since I’m still in “familiar” territory so I thought today it would be fun to take a look back on how the hell I got to this point. I mean really, if 10 years ago you told me I’d be training for a marathon I would have laughed in your face.  Heck, if you’d told me a year ago I would be training for a marathon, I would have laughed in your face.

I was not a runner at.all. I was a swimmer through most of grade school and high school, and I absolutely hated running. My chief complaint during land work-outs was that if I wanted to run, I would have joined the track team. Sometime in college, or maybe it was shortly after college, I found myself a little bit envious of those people who would just get up and go for a jog. I still subscribed to the “run only when being chased (by something life threatening)” theory, but a tiny part of me secretly longed to be one of those runners. I’d try to go out running every now and then, but I would always end up going too hard, too fast, or too far. I’d be sore and miserable the next day and decide I just wasn’t cut out to be a runner.

I tried to find the exact date I decided to start the Couch to 5K program, but I couldn’t.  Truth is, as I’m trying to look back at it, I actually haven’t kept a very thorough record of my running history.  Maybe I should change that….

Anyway, I know it was sometime in early 2009.  It might’ve even been January or February when I decided running was going to be the drug of choice for my new healthy lifestyle and weight loss journey.  I started the Couch to 5K program on the treadmill at the gym, and I don’t even remember if I finished the whole program, but I remember bits and pieces and celebrating small victories along the way.  I remember how frustrating and difficult transitioning from treadmill to street was.   (Hard to believe how much I loved the treadmill back then considering how much I absolutely loathe it now!)  I remember celebrating every mile further I was able to run on the street.  I remember the indoor track at the Oak Lawn Pavilion being my summer in Chicago running “safe-haven.”  I was so excited the first time I ran 4 miles on the indoor track that August, and after my longest outdoor run that September.

I ran my first 5K in October 2009.  I was so terrified to even sign up for a race that my friend Sarah, who was my racing buddy until she up and moved to Austin on me, basically told me ‘Sign up, or I’m signing you up.’  Even after I was signed up, I was terrified of not being able to finish.  I buckled down and trained hard.  By the time race day rolled around, I was probably well enough trained to have run a 10K.  I had already run 5 miles.  I ended up having an amazing race that day and actually set a 5K PR that I didn’t touch for nearly 2 years.

That was also the day I spent an obscene amount of money on my first pair of “real” running shoes forever sealing my fate as a runner which is good because I also became addicted to races that day.  I ran the Girls on the Run 5K a few weeks later and the Santa Shuffle a couple weeks after that.

Less than 6 months later I was registered for my first half marathon.  As you may remember, that race wasn’t my finest moment.  My training was derailed by my personal life.  However, despite a less than stellar first half marathon, I was officially obsessed.  I quickly signed up for the Dallas 13.1 half marathon when Laura suggested it in November 2010, and since October 2011 wasn’t nearly soon enough, I went ahead and signed up for the Wisconsin Half Marathon as well.

Sure there are times when I’m totally disinterested in running, but ultimately, I love it.  To date I’ve run (at least) 15 races including 4 half marathons.  When I started running in 2009, I had no idea where it would take me and what it would teach me along the way. But in the last three years I’ve learned so much.  With a dedication and focus, and maybe a moment or two of temporary insanity, you can accomplish things you never thought possible.  I’ve got a long way to go to cross that finish line after 26.2, but I’ve come this far so why stop now?

Total Weekly Milage: 16.0
Total Monthly Milage: 30.55
Total Training Milage: 46.55

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344. Marathon Monday: Week 4

As I mentioned on Friday I decided, after much deliberation, I was going to go ahead and run the F^3 Half this past Saturday.  Let me tell you, I could not be happier that I went through with this race.  It was and absolutely awesome experience all around.

I had little to no expectations for myself other than to not hurt myself or relapse into sickness.  I’m happy to report I was extremely successful on both fronts.  In addition to not hurting myself, I actually had a REALLY great race, and I made a new friend!  I ended running with a girl who I happened to meet while standing in the starting corral.  We ran together and chatted for the entire 13.1 miles, and she was an awesome running buddy.  We even exchanged info so we can meet for lunch or coffee or runs in the future.  Running with someone > Running alone.  Always.  My official finish time was 2:43 which is not only better than I was hoping for (I expected to be right around the 3:00 mark.) but also just about the pace I hope to average for the marathon.

More important than my better than expected time though was the huge confidence boost I got when it comes to training for my marathon.  After Saturday’s race, I really feel physically and mentally ready to start training for 26.2.  I was definitely tired when I finished the race on Saturday, but I didn’t want to die.  I was starting to get sore, but I could have run another mile or two if I absolutely had to.  My new running friend was a great help too.  She was incredibly encouraging and helped instill more confidence in myself.

I honestly haven’t thought of the last two or three weeks as marathon training.  I also didn’t spend much time running the last two or three weeks.  Yes, I was sick for a good chunk of time this past month, but deep down I know I also milked that for all it was worth.  In my mind, the F^3 race was really the starting point of my marathon training.  I’d been training (if you could even call it that) for this half, and I had to get through that before I really started marathon training.  It was a way of letting fear, or lack of confidence, or whatever, take hold and mentally tricking myself.  I was delaying accepting the inevitable.

That feeling is gone now though, and for the first time since I signed up for the Wisconsin Marathon, I feel ready to take it on.  I feel like this is something that is actually doable, and I actually want to do it.  I’m excited for training rather than dreading it.  Someone remind me of this post in 5 weeks when I hate myself for thinking 26.2 was a good idea. 😉

Total Weekly Milage: 16.06
Total Monthly Milage: 24.06
Total Training Milage: 24.06

323. 13.1 Dallas Recap or Seriously? Another PR

Writing this recap was surprisingly difficult.  I sat down at the computer and the words to explain my feelings just wouldn’t come.  So instead I took to my journal and ended up with two pages of stream of consciousness writing that probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me.  It was a start though.

The Dallas 13.1 half was a far different experience than my previous half marathons.  For the first time, I went into the race feeling totally confident and prepared to run the full 13.1 miles.  My training had been complete and consistent.  I felt myself getting stronger, and I saw myself getting faster (hello multiple 5K PRs!)  As you may remember, I was grossly under-trained for my first half marathon, and I trained for my second one using 5 to 1 run-walk intervals.  I felt prepared for the Wisconsin half marathon, but I could not have run the entire thing. (Although running the entire race was not my goal anyway.)  This time around I knew I was ready to run. 

And run I did, I managed to achieve my goal (Mission 101 Item #88: done and done.) of running an entire half marathon.  I actually did end up talking a few walk breaks in the last mile.  I’m beginning to get the feeling that race organizers find it amusing to make the last leg of any race a literal uphill battle. The last mile of Dallas 13.1 took us up a pretty intense hill, and training in Chicago just does not prepare you for a hill of that caliber.  (I don’t care where you live; I would bet it’s not as flat as Chicago.  Therefore pretty much every hill is intense for me.) 

I also had my very own spectator in Dallas.  I’ve never had someone come cheer me on at a race before.  This time I had Laura there cheering me on the whole way.  I swear the girl was a ninja with a bike.  I’d look up and bam! there she was again.  It is an amazing motivator to hear someone calling your name from the sidelines, cheering you on, and making sure you’re doing okay.  You can check out Laura’s recap of the race from the spectator’s POV here.

At the end of it all, I finished the race with such a feeling of happiness and pride.  I was proud of myself for completing my first two half marathons, but this time the feeling of happiness and pride was just a little different.  I felt like I worked hard and really earned it.  My goal for the race was to come in under 2:30, and I managed to crush that goal finishing the race with an official time of 2:24:22, and my time even included a mandatory bathroom spot at mile 11.  (Mandatory as in, if I didn’t stop immediately I was going to have a serious issue.)  I knocked a full 10 minutes off my previously half marathon time.  I think this can be contributed to my efforts, both physical and mental, from the start of training to crossing the finish line.

I’ve always known running is more mental than physical, but this proved especially true during this race.  I ran with Laura’s cousin Jennifer for the first 5 miles or so before I pulled slightly ahead of her.  I picked pretty much the worst part of the race to pull ahead because shortly after, I encountered (the first) two substantial hills on the course.  Running these hills took a great deal out of me, and from that point forward, I was struggling against myself.  Physically I was kind of tired since, as I mentioned, hills are the devil I’m not used to hills, but my real issue was mental.  I was starting to defeat myself.  Running with others is a great distraction from mentally defeating yourself (as is seeing your personal spectator.)  Thankfully, I hooked back up with Jennifer shortly after mile 11 and was able to tackle that final mile and murder hill with her and her friend.

Overall, I could not be happier with my Dallas 13.1 experience. 🙂

P.S. Thanks to Laura for all the photos!

319. Habitat for Humanity 5K Race Recap or the Biggest Running Lesson I’ve Learned to Date

I was planning to tell you about the awesome way I’ve been incorporating strength training lately.  I had the post all written and ready to post.  Then something incredible happened…something I never expected.  I ran the inaugural Northwest Indiana Habitat for Humanity 5K.  Well, okay, I actually expected to run the race since my friend and I had discussed it a month earlier, but what I didn’t expect was another 5K PR and a first place ribbon to boot!

Seriously, who am I?

I went from not being able to touch my very first 5K time to shaving a full 2 minutes off of it!  I finished the Habitat 5K in 27:30.  My Garmin did come up a bit short on distance (3.05 miles), but my official time matched.  A 5K in less than 28 minutes?!  I think it’s safe to say item 75 on my Mission 101 has seriously and officially been checked off.  The funny thing is when I set that goal, I was expecting to have to do some serious speed work training if I wanted to actually achieve it, but more on that in a bit. 

I’m still kind of shocked about the whole thing.  The course was much hillier than I’m used to.  These weren’t major hills, but it was a pretty consistent up and down.  And let’s face it, I run in Chicago where the closest thing we have to hills are viaducts.   Plus the course was two laps around the Lake County Fairgrounds which meant each hill had to be tackled twice!  It wasn’t until about half way through the second lap that I really started to feelthe hills or the pace at which I was moving. 

Truthfully, I have a pretty good idea of why my running has been so top notch lately.  For the first time since I started running, and training for that first 5K, my running has been incredibly consistent.  I’ve been running three days a week nearly every.single.week.  I’ve been upping my distance in consistent intervals.  I’ve had overall kickass half marathon training. 

I’m sure the aforementioned increase in strength training has helped, but what I’ve really come to realize is when it comes to running, consistency is key.  You don’t need to kill yourself trying to go further or faster.  If you stay consistent it will come…or at least it did for me. 

Now if only I could figure out why it took me two years to figure all that out.

Oh and about that ribbon.  I came in first in my age group (25 – 29).  It was a tiny race with about 60 people told and only 2 or 3 others in my agen group, but I was so shocked when I found out I was first.  When my friend told me my response was “No shit!?!  Are you sure?”  I haven’t gotten a first place ribbon since I squit swim team so I’m pretty darn proud of myself.

316. Mad Dash to Madison 2011 Recap

Remember back in May, when I claimed a new 5K PR because I was convinced I was never going to touch the PR I set running my very first 5K?

Remember September 16th, when I mentioned my runs had been super speedy last week?

Well guess what?  (I’m sure you can guess where I’m going here…)

I set a new PR during the Blackhawk’s Training Camp Mad Dash to Madison 5K!!  My official time was 28:48 averaging a 9:18 minute/mile pace.  My Garmin indicated I actually ran 3.21 miles which puts my pace around 9:08 minute/ mile.  I’m actually still having a hard time believing I ran that fast!

The whole event was amazing.  I got to be there to watch my friend Colleencross the finish line and cheer her on as she finished her first 5K.

Mad Dash to Madison 2011

I got to hang out with the boy and good friends while watching my favorite hockey team practice.

Training Camp Scrimage 2011

I got my very first Blackhawks bobblehead!

P1020007

But I’m not going to lie, the PR made it that much more awesome!

Oh yeah, and it just so happens this helps me cross another item of my Mission 101 list.  #75 – Run a 28 minute 5K

288. Race Report: Fleet Feet Chicago’s Women’s 5K & 10K Presented by New Balance

Two weeks ago I ran my very first 10K race: the Fleet Feet Chicago’s Women’s 5K and &10K presented by New Balance.  Obviously with two half marathons under my belt, I’m not stranger to 6.2 miles, but this was my first official 10K race.  I was actually supposed to run this race last year as part of my half marathon training, but due to break-up induced slacking, I ended up bailing on last year’s race. 

While being a slacker was my primary skipping the race last year, heat was another factor.  Boy, I should have sucked it up and run the race last year because the heat this year was miserable.  I was a soaking wet, sweaty mess by the end of the race, but I had a great time!

The more races I run, the more I realize just how much I really hate big races.  This definitely made me a bit…nervous? hesitant? relucant?  I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to enjoy myself.  However, as far as big races go, this one was really enjoyable!  The race took place at Montrose Harbor which is a pretty common race site in Chicago.  I was a little concerned the course wouldn’t be big enough for the number of people running, but for the most part, it was spacious enough to accommodate the number of runners.  There was plenty of water and Gatorade available during the race, and even more popsicles at the end! 

Start Line

My friend Jenn and I planned to run the race together.  I definitely run faster than her, but with the heat, it was nice to have someone to slow me down a bit!  Truthfully, 90% of the time, I would rather run slower with a friend than run faster alone.

Girl Can Women's 10K Finish

We didn’t really stick around for the post-race festivities since it was so hot, and we were both sweaty messes, but it seemed awesome.  There was a TRX setup I wanted to try, but the overwhelming urge to get home and shower won out over my desire to try TRX.

My official finishing time was 1:31:13.  This is definitely slower than I would have finished if a) it hadn’t been a gazillion degrees outside and b) I had been running alone, but I’m perfectly content with that time since I was never planning to run for time in this race.  Plus, I look forward to setting a PR at my next 10K race!