An Injury Update & What Life is Like without Running

Last time I posted, I talked about my sore foot. At the time, I was confident that it was a fairly minor and very temporary situation that would be fixed with a few days off of running. I “rested” for 5 days and then ran an easy 5 miles with friends who were in town visiting. {By rested, I mean that I did yoga (not good for the foot), spin (not great for the foot, but not bad) and finally swimming (great for the foot!).}

During the test run, my foot was sore. It felt similar to how it did during the week that I ran on it after I first felt the pain in Miami: 2-3 on the pain scale and completely tolerable, but after the run it was super sore for 2 days.

I decided to go back to resting, this time promising myself a full week to 10 days off of running. The timing was good because I was also leaving for a European work trip, where the workload would be heavy and time to run would have been limited. When I got to Norway after flying all night, instead of my usual slog of a run (which is actually a really good way to cure jetlag), I went for a walk around the beautiful city of Bergen.

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Looking down on Bergen from the mountains that surround the city center. My foot was not happy with the walk up to get this view.

This would have been a great substitute…except my foot hurt. I cut the walk short and headed back to the hotel.

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This super cute row of colorful buildings was right next door to my hotel.

The next morning, after a great night’s sleep (<–this is important), I woke up to ride the stationary bike and do some strength work…but my foot hurt. Once again, I stopped almost immediately. So that night, without any decent exercise, my body decided that it didn’t want to sleep. And so the swim planned for the next morning didn’t happen and again, without any exercise, this cycle repeated itself for THREE days. By Thursday, not shockingly, I got sick. And well, I guess the universe really knows what the hell it is doing, because then I rested. Like completely fully rested with the most activity being the 100 yard walk from the elevator to my hotel room every night.

And while I felt like crap, because no exercise + no sleep meant no appetite and just general sluggishness, my foot was feeling pretty good. But on the 9th day in a row with no running, (7 of those days with complete rest), my foot started hurting again. I traveled home in the same boots I had worn over with no problems, but for some reason, they killed my foot this time. The next day (yesterday), my foot was sore just walking around the house and standing and felt like it did the first weekend it started hurting.

So now, back at square one, I have a doctor’s appointment at The Running Institute tomorrow. The doctors there are foot and ankle specialists and, (obviously by the name), they specialize in seeing runners. I am super disappointed and frustrated, but hopeful that I can get some answers and direction on treatment from real doctors that don’t have Google behind their credentials.

I have always known what an important role running and/or exercise in general plays in my life, but I am not sure that I could have anticipated just how much of an impact it would have on my body when it was taken away. In the past, my ability to flip time zones when I travel internationally was on point and I never could empathize with coworkers who suffered badly from jetlag. I always just assumed that it was because I like to sleep and can sleep almost anywhere that I did so well. But after this week, I am starting to believe that my just-off-the-plane runs and forcing myself into a schedule by getting up early to run before work has more to do with it than I thought. And the trickle down of it all affected my appetite and, um, (TMI alert) bathroom-related things. Now that I am back home, I have settled back into a normal sleep pattern (if you call 10+ hours a night normal…catching up) and have been able to swim a couple of times and voila! all is right with my body again.

I hope everyone else is feeling good, sleeping good and getting ready for some Turkey Day miles! I didn’t have a Turkey Trot planned this year, but will still be sad not to join the family for some miles around the neighborhood Thursday morning.

Posted in bike, Food, injuries, running, swimming, training, work travel, Yoga | 6 Comments

Off-Season Aches & Pains

Isn’t it a little odd how sometimes when you aren’t running much or training hard, little aches and pains start to pop-up out of nowhere? I have read at least two  posts about this lately and talked to some friends who were also experiencing post-training niggles. While it seems counter-intuitive, after understanding what’s going on with my body, it makes a little more sense.

As I mentioned, after the marathon I took it SUPER easy for the first two weeks with very little running and lots of yoga. I was feeling really good and my body seemed to be bouncing back faster than ever.

Then two weeks to the day after the marathon, I was making beds in my house and I bent over and felt a sharp pain in my lower back. It hurt to stand up or bend over and I was on the couch for the rest of the day. The next day I saw a chiropractor for the first time in my life. Dr Jen came highly recommended by Jenny and after only one session I understood why. Not only did I feel almost immediately better after she adjusted me, I also had a huge ‘a-ha’ moment when she explained what was happening with my lower back/hip/glute/hamstring. It made so much sense in context with what I had experienced in those areas for at least two years. In short, tight piriformis = pressure on joints/nerves = pain & misalignment. With reduced running + yoga, my quads relaxed and all of that tightness/misalignment pulled on my lower back causing more pain. With some daily stretching and core work, I was 100% after less than a week and was able to keep running through the whole ordeal. No big.

THEN I went to Miami. And I wore heels. And I walked. Alot. Within the first hour, I started to feel intense, sharp pain in the ball of my right foot. I could barely stand on it at the cocktail party, but was stuck in heels all night. The next morning I didn’t think much of it and went for a run. I felt it a little, but could easily run through it. Afterward and the rest of the day the ball of my foot was really sore and walking in heels was excruciating.

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I am smiling but I was limping around in my evil (but fabulous) heels. Also, it was windy (see: Sofia’s veil).

I switched to flats for dancing and it felt fine and I kept running on it all week. It was annoying at times, but not so much that I thought I should stop running.

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My first November Project Workout the week after the wedding. I did the workout plus 6 miles. My foot was fine and only a little sore while box jumping.

When I started to noticed that after my runs it hurt pretty bad and didn’t improve after a week, I consulted Dr. Google. I diagnosed myself with metatarsalgia, which can be caused by running but also by wearing heels where all of the weight is in the ball of your foot. It appears to be not a big deal and is resolved by rest. So…that’s what I decided to do. Hrmph.

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Brunch after the last time I ran (last Saturday). Sore foot but still not thinking too much about it. Also: 9.5M @ 8:02 avg. & felt A-MAZING…to zero week. Womp. (Photo credit: Jenny.)

I am now on day 5 of no running and it seems to be better. I notice a little soreness at the end of the day after walking around on it, but generally it doesn’t hurt. I would go crazy without ANY sweat so I did yoga Sunday and a spin class on Monday. After talking with Molly, I decided swimming was the best way to really stay off of it but still get a solid workout. It’s been good to force me back into the water for the first time since the outdoor pool closed in August. It also feels good to be able to push myself and work really hard in a workout, which I haven’t done since the marathon. I’ll probably try a test run tomorrow or Saturday and then try to still get in a decent long-ish run (~8M) if it feels good.

On one hand, I am grateful when little niggles that keep me from running pop-up during non-training periods rather than during a dedicated training block. But on the other hand, it’s really annoying to have to take time off of running ANY time. Not only because I want to be able to build on the fitness I have gained, but also because, well, sanity. And because honestly, I just would rather be running than doing anything else. But I am trying to practice what I judge others on (not being stupid) and let myself get 100% healthy so that I can run all the miles very soon.

Who else has off-season niggles? Do you take advantage of the time off and REST or are you crazy like me and keep trying to find a way to sweat?

Posted in friends, injuries, running, swimming, training, Yoga | 4 Comments

Friday Fun XV

There isn’t a great deal going on in my running/training world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other things to talk about! This is what I am loving this week:

  1. Miami. Remember a few weeks ago when I went to Sofia’s bachelorette party? Well, I am now on my way to Miami for the wedding! Chicago fall has been amazing until the last couple of days, but I won’t pretend I’m not a little excited for some beach weather before the cold really settles in for good. The weekend with new and old friends will be full of love and laughter and I know the wedding will be absolutely stunning. Brad and I used saved up hotel points to stay at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach, which is amazing and my first time ever staying at a Ritz.
  2. My Dress. While we are talking about the wedding, let’s just go ahead and talk about the dress situation. Although the wedding is “black tie optional”, Sofie has a vision of all of her friends in elegant long dresses dancing the night away. I had a great (but more casual) long dress that I originally planned to wear, but after understanding her vision, I decided to see what I could find that truly fit in the realm of black tie. I toyed with the idea of Rent the Runway, but hated the thought of getting something the day before I left that I didn’t love. So last Saturday I set out to go shopping, with not much hope for the outcome. It turns out that VERY FIRST dress I tried on was absolutely perfect! I tried on a few others to be sure, but knew that this was my favorite.FullSizeRender (5) FullSizeRender (7)
  3. Bears Game. The weekend before last, Brad’s brother and family came into town for a few days. While they were there, we took our nephew, Jackson, to his first ever Bears Game. It also happened to be MY first NFL game. Unfortunately the Bears played like shit and lost to the Dolphins but it was awesome otherwise. Jackson had a blast and the atmosphere was incredible. FullSizeRender (8)
  4. Recovery. I am never quite sure how marathon recovery will go. I have had soreness that lasted for 10 days (Boston) or no soreness at all (Bayshore). I have also had recovery periods where I wasn’t incredibly sore, but it took a really long time for my body to feel like it wasn’t working really hard on every easy run (New York). For Chicago, it has been a little different. I was pretty stiff after the race, but not super sore and day-to-day activities felt normal after only 2 days. I took 4 full days off of running and 3 days of complete rest. I went to yoga on the 4th day and that felt awesome. On the Friday and Saturday after the race, I ran for 5 minutes and 10 minutes respectively, with a whopping total of 1.7 miles for the week. The second week I ran just under 20 miles, all really easy and also got a little ART for my hamstring and calf. This week, I will be back to around 25 miles and I feel really good. I did have a little scare with my lower back last weekend, but it turns out that one quick visit to the chiropractor did the trick. So all of that to say that recovery is going really well and I am looking forward to pushing my body in both running and other ways after a few more weeks of rest!
  5. Ragnar Florida Keys. The day after I posted my “What’s Next?” post and said I had zero plans for this winter/spring, I got a call from my sister-in-law asking me to join her team for Ragnar Florida Keys this February. No one on her team has ever done this race (or any relay) before so Kate and I have been chatting about it for several months when she was looking for tips and advice. Last weekend she mentioned that they might need more people and I told her that I was happy to run with them if they did. When she called, I said yes without hesitating. One of the things that I love most about not training for a big A race in the spring is the ability to easily say “yes” to opportunities like this when they come up. It will be fun to meet new runners and spend time with Kate for a few days in a van ;) Not to mention, South Florida in February will be a GREAT time to get out of Chicago’s bitterly cold temps.

Alright friends, that’s all I have this week. The biggest GOOD LUCK wishes to everyone running marathons this weekend. Most especially two of my closest running friends, Elizabeth and Jenny. Elizabeth is going to absolutely crush her PR in NYC this weekend and Jenny is set up for a super solid, confident race at Indy Monumental. I think both of them are going to surprise themselves with the outcomes and I can’t wait to follow along from Miami!

Posted in Chicago, Ernie, friends, life, Races, running, swimming, training, Travel, triathlon, workout clothes | 4 Comments

Marathon Lessons

In my Chicago Marathon Recap, I talked about how I have learned something from every marathon I have ever run. The funny thing is though, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. It seems like I am able to take even more away from each subsequent race. So I thought it might be fun to go back through each marathon one-by-one and think about the lessons I learned from each one and how they have manifested into where I am as a runner today.

Marathon #1: Indianapolis Marathon: 4:23:35

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Oh, where do I even start. In your first marathon, no matter how experienced you *think* you are, in reality, you have no idea what to expect. The main things I learned:

  • Don’t do every single long run at marathon pace. (yes, this happened)
  • Don’t go out too fast.
  • You never know what will happen in those last 6 miles.

It’s funny looking back now because the list of things I did wrong could be MUCH longer, but at the time, once the initial disappointment passed, these are the things that I knew to be true.

Marathon #2: Kiawah Island Marathon: 3:46:00

Char and Corey Kiawah running

  • Fueling is everything.
  • Long runs are for training not tests. (And one bad long run doesn’t kill the training)

My first BQ attempt (when 3:40 was the qualifying standard). My last 20-miler was a disaster. Going into the run, I looked at it as the one true test of whether I could BQ or not. That pressure combined with traveling for work, being up late the night before and not eating a good dinner resulted in me walking most of the last 4 miles. I lost all confidence and almost gave up on my goal. Thankfully Char talked me into going for it anyway (sound familiar?!). While I hit a wall after mile 22 and didn’t BQ, I was still very proud of the race and knew that fueling was the key to finishing strong in the future.

Marathon #3: Houston Marathon: 3:43:59

There is Nuun in that handheld!

  • Stay off my feet the day before the marathon.
  • I need to learn to be mentally tough in the last 6 miles.
  • Sometimes changing one little thing can change your attitude and turn things around.

The Olympic Marathon trials were in Houston the year I ran the marathon. I woke up really early the day before the race to spectate the trials (i.e. standing on my feet), walked around the expo for a few hours with Laura, then ended up at the mall later that afternoon. It’s no wonder that I never felt fresh from the beginning. I had a low point at mile 13-14 and took a cup of Gatorade and felt immediately better for several miles, which was a great lesson for me at the time in “getting a second wind.” This was also the marathon where I finally didn’t bonk super hard, but in the last 6 miles, when I knew I would PR but not break 3:40, I kind of gave in. I could have given more at the end. I knew I had to learn how to get mentally tougher when it hurts if I wanted to run a strong marathon in the future.

Marathon #4: Eugene Marathon: 3:57:12

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  • Stress causes very real fatigue.
  • Strong training does not guarantee marathon success.
  • Never take a marathon finish for granted.
  • Don’t stop for the bathroom until I am sure I really need to.

My second BQ attempt. I ran this marathon the week after moving to Chicago and my body was just flat out exhausted. Despite an excellent training cycle, I did so many things wrong before the race. The one thing I did right was finish. From mile 15+, I questioned whether I could keep moving forward and I was very happy I finished instead of taking a DNF.

Marathon #5: Bayshore Marathon: 3:30:04

bayshore chute

  • Lose the Garmin.
  • I have a good feel for pace when I don’t obsess over the watch.
  • It is possible to feel amazing in a marathon.
  • Running a redemption marathon CAN work, but only under the right circumstances.
  • Having a pacer is game changing.

There isn’t a great deal to say about this…It’s as close to a perfect race as I can imagine and having Molly pace me gave me the confidence I needed to have a big breakthrough day. I do want to note that I don’t at all recommend running another marathon 6 weeks after the first one (it took a toll on my body). BUT since Eugene wasn’t a *real* marathon effort (i.e. 11+ min/miles after mile 18), I believe that my body wasn’t as fatigued as it normally would be after a typical marathon effort.

Marathon #6: New York City Marathon: 3:33:38

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  • No really, DITCH THE GARMIN. Running on feel is fun.
  • I can lock into a pace without a watch telling me how fast I am running.
  • I can run a solid marathon without running a 20-miler in training (if I race smart)
  • Cross training works.
  • I still need to learn to get tough in the final miles of the race.
  • Don’t cut the start of the race too close. 

I was injured 7 weeks out from the race. I never ran over 18 miles in the cycle and never ran over 15 miles in the 6 weeks before the race. But I had more fun in this marathon than I ever thought I could and I was shocked how well my body held up in the later miles despite a lack of long runs. I still think I could have pushed harder from 23+. And also…I missed the start of my wave – I don’t recommend that to anyone :)

Marathon #7: Boston Marathon: 3:41:45

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  • Adjust goals based on weather.
  • The Boston Marathon course is brutal.
  • Don’t try to do too much in the days leading up to the marathon.
  • I need to try to keep my emotions in check until I really need them for a boost or after the race.
  • Sometimes the body you want to race just doesn’t show up (I seem to need to keep re-learning this one).

Oh boy, this was a tough one. I did many things wrong in the days leading up to the race and I could feel how tired I was emotionally. I even told Kevin a couple of days before the race that I was feeling a little like I felt in Eugene. That, combined with the weather, should have given me the information I needed to have to make major adjustments to my race plan.

Marathon #8: Chicago Marathon: 3:26:52

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  • GET OUT OF MY OWN HEAD.
  • Stop thinking so much and just run.
  • Working together with someone helps a ton.
  • Hometown races are amazing.
  • Sometimes running a little faster feels better than slowing down.
  • A mid-race low point can be turned around (hmmm…seems to be the second time I have had to learn that one!)

It’s kind of fun to look back through each of these races. It shows me how far I have come (57 min. from #1 to #8), but I also know my marathon days still have so much more to teach me. And hopefully faster times to come along with it…

It also reminds me that there are a few lessons that I have had to learn more than once. I might have to revisit these thoughts before #9 so that I can put these little lessons in my pocket and remember them when things get tough.

Tell me…what is the biggest lesson you have learned from a marathon?

Posted in Goals, Races, running, training | 17 Comments

Final Chicago Thoughts & What’s Next

After I published my marathon recap, I thought for a while about why it was so hard to write. Usually a PR race recap is easy. It’s puppies and rainbows and everything that was right leading up to and during the race. Right?!

I think the reason that this one was hard to write is because it was a PR. It’s hard to talk about being really happy with the time, but not really happy with how I reacted to things getting hard. On paper, it was almost perfectly even splits (1:43:20 & 1:43:32) and the last 5k was the fastest of the day. But the race was anything but perfect.

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In the recap, I wanted to fully capture where my head was and truly how much my race was changed by Char coming along when she did. I am still not sure if I did justice to that. It was hard to find the words to describe the mental let down that I had during the race. I talked about being in a “dark place”, but that description really isn’t completely accurate.

When I think about being in a dark place during a marathon, I think about how I felt in Boston…where I was absolutely miserable and mad about it. During Chicago, I was never miserable. When I backed off the pace for ~15 sec/mile in those middles miles, it was a 100% conscious decision. And that’s really the part I am most disappointed in…It was like I gave myself an out. And the more I dwelled on the slower pace, the deeper I fell into a mixture of feeling sorry for myself: “Why didn’t my super fresh legs show up today?” “It’s not fair that I had the ‘perfect’ training cycle and am not having an incredible race to show for it.” and questioning myself: “I don’t think I can hold this pace for x more miles.” “I don’t know if I will be able to pick it up and make up the time I gave back.”

It really comes down to just thinking WAY too much. And then when Char came along…I had no choice. I was either going to let her go, which I didn’t truly see as an option. (I am WAY too competitive for that). Or I was going to move my feet as fast as she was and stay with her. And then once I made that decision, all questioning, thinking and analyzing was done. After that it was all about running with the only thinking focused on what it would take to keep moving at that pace (nutrition, hydration, etc.) I must have told her 100 times during and after the race how happy I was that she was there. I knew immediately what she had done for me and I was (and am) very grateful for her “saving my race” as I told her over and over. It also made those last miles of the race a whole lot of fun :)

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And in reality, that is really why we do this, isn’t it?

So, What’s Next?

I think for the first time since I started running I can honestly answer this question with nothing. Of course, there will definitely be something, but it is the first time in a long time that I have finished a goal race with no races on the calendar. There are truly no registration confirmations in my inbox and I still have no idea what my spring training and/or racing will look like.

I do know that there won’t be a marathon. After 4 back-to-back training cycles, with three of those cycles all focused on a 3:23(ish) marathon, I think it is time to step back from this distance for a bit. It hurts my heart a little to think about not running a marathon for a whole year, but I know that if I really want to make progress then it makes more sense to step away. This winter I will focus on my 5k and 10k times and later in the spring, I will probably run a half marathon. I want to get faster and stronger (back to regular yoga, strength workouts and maybe some new stuff?) and see how that translates into a faster marathon next fall.

I have tossed around some half ideas with friends, but haven’t committed to registering for anything yet and I don’t even have a target 5k or 10k in mind. For now, I’ll focus on recovery (boring) and then once I am ready to start training again, I will work with Kevin to figure out what the right races will be. I do know that I am excited to mix things up a little and happy that I can race without having to recover for a month+!

Posted in Chicago, friends, Goals, Races, running | 8 Comments

Chicago Marathon: A Mental Battle

I am not sure why it has been so hard for me get my thoughts down about this race. Sure, I have been busy with work and family in town, but I have sat in front of my computer or had time to sit in front of my computer several times and the words just haven’t come. The race feels like it was ages ago, when in reality it was just over a week. But finally…here we go:

If anyone would have asked me a few months ago if I thought I was a “mental” runner, I would have told them absolutely not. I love to run. I like to believe that I train hard, but smart (Thanks to Coach) and have been running long enough to know that one bad run (or one bad week for that matter) can’t make or break a training cycle. I would have said that I have learned how to run on feel in the marathon and can find a pace and lock it in like clockwork. And because of that I don’t over-analyze Garmin data every other minute or get too worked up about “too fast” or “too slow” during the race. I would have said the mental part of my running wasn’t where I needed improvement. Boy, was I wrong.

In the last few weeks leading up to Chicago Marathon, I found myself in my own head way too often. During every run, I was constantly thinking about how my legs were feeling and worrying if I was fresh enough. Despite everything I know about taper, I definitely let it get to me. I even wrote a note to coach telling him I had no idea where all this mental BS was coming from, but I just couldn’t shake it. I would like to be able to write this race report and tell you that what was happening in my head before the race didn’t affect my race, but that’s definitely not the case.

BUT, I am very happy that something changed and I was able to walk away with a race (and PR!) that I am very happy with. I can’t take the credit myself..I definitely didn’t have an “Aha!” moment and pull myself out of a negative place. The credit absolutely goes to a very good friend {and maybe a little bit of my competitive (stubborn?) nature.}

Race Weekend

The weekend leading up to the race couldn’t have been more perfect. I was surrounded by a small group of close friends to share lots of laughs but also some quiet time relaxing at my house.

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Saturday  shake-out with my house guests Jocelyn, Char, Holly & Walter!

It may sound odd, but there was something about doing dishes and laundry the day before the marathon that made me really happy. It meant that I was in my normal routine which is about the most relaxed I can be. Being at home made the whole race not seem “real” in some ways. I never got really nervous or overly excited, which is a different feeling, but I have learned keeping my emotions in check is important for me (see Boston 2014 for “everything Corey shouldn’t do before a race”.)

Race Morning

I slept well and when my alarm went off at 5 a.m., I felt refreshed. I had plenty of time to do all the pre-race things, eat, get last minute items for everyone who needed them (safety pins! Gu! warm clothes!) and still be out of the house by 6 as planned. Major public transit fail when we walked up to the train and realized we missed it by less than a minute and had to wait 15 minutes for the next one. But we still had plenty of time and there was no reason to get worried. We chatted and laughed nervously while we waited on the train platform and I was very grateful to have my friends there to share the time. Once we got off the train, it was chaotic and kind of crazy trying to stay together with Char, Jocelyn and Batch to get to baggage drop and then to our corral.

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One of the worst selfies in history (Char, Me, Batch, Jocelyn)

We managed to do it all by 7:10ish and were in the corral area with 20 minutes to spare. Unfortunately the porta potty lines were really long and there was definitely some panicking over whether they were going to shut the gates of the corrals while we were standing in lines only a few feet away. People were peeing everywhere and I lost Jocelyn, Char and Batch, but I decided to wait for a porta potty and take my chances. It ended up being completely fine and I was stripping off throwaways and squeezing into the corral with Nicole (who we ran into in the porta potty line) like a herd of cattle with well over 5 min to spare.

{I am going to break the recap into beginning, middle and end rather than in 5 mile increments like I normally would. It will tell the story of the mental part of my race most accurately.}

The Beginning (Miles 1-9): 7:50, 7:53, 7:50, 7:55, 7:46, 7:58, 7:46, 7:57, 7:46

Those first few steps of a marathon are always surreal. You work so hard and wait so long for the day to come and then you are finally running and it is always a bit like an out of body experience. I tried to take a deep breath and take it all in.

I was super happy to clock mile 1 EXACTLY on target, thinking it was a good sign that I had settled in right away. I stayed to the left and got a big wave and smile from Jenny and Holly right after the 1-mile marker. Over the next few miles, I focused on locking in the pace and getting to the next place where I knew friends were cheering. I saw both Char and Jocelyn on the course between miles 2 and 3. I missed Jacqueline and George at mile 4 and somehow missed Brad and the dogs at mile 6, but I passed my teammate, Vicki, around mile 7. It was nice to see a friendly face and fall into step with her for a few minutes.

The next few miles were by far my absolute favorite part of the race. Running through Boy’s Town was amazing with the enthusiastic crowds, loud music and people watching. Huge bonus that the whole section from 6-10ish is basically my own neighborhood. Running through familiar blocks where you know every storefront and curve in the road makes the miles fly. This was also the section where I saw the most friends! I heard my name and got a solid side-five from Jeff around mile 8, then saw Brad, our neighbor, Joe, and the dogs around mile 9 and got lots of cheers and side fives from Jenny, Tim, Holly and crew at 9.5.

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Photo Credit: Jenny. Hand Credit: Carla

At that point, I was flying high. I got a huge adrenaline boost from from seeing everyone and the crowds in the next few miles were fantastic.

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Side Five Perfection. Photo Credit: Jenny

BUT…I noticed pretty early that while the pace felt comfortable, it didn’t feel like I was necessarily holding back to keep it there. I had hoped that I would have to force myself to slow down to keep it around 7:50, but that definitely wasn’t the case. I tried not to let it concern me and to just focus on taking it all in and having fun. 

The Middle (Miles 10-18): 7:56, 7:55, 7:55, 7:56, 16:11 (14&15), 7:53, 8:03, 8:05

Not worrying about the splits worked for the first section of the race, but as I got to the middle miles, my head took over and I stopped trusting myself. When I hit 4 miles in a row at 7:55-56, I basically freaked out. I felt like I was putting down the same amount of effort and was steadily getting slower. These middle miles were definitely the darkest moments of the race. I knew that if my body was slowing down already that the last 10-12 miles would be rough.

I got a small boost at mile 11 when I saw Jacqueline & George and then looked forward to seeing and giving Kevin a big wave and smile at Mile 13.5. But shortly after that, I made a decision…I am not sure if it was a good one or not, but it did give me some mental relief at the time. I consciously decided to back off the pace. I felt like I kind of shook my own shoulders and said “Why are you pressing?” I thought by slowing slightly meant that I had a better chance of having something left from 20+. It did help a little and I also got a boost when I realized that I missed a mile marker so that I saw Mile 15 when I was expecting 14 to come next. Then I got another small boost when mile 16 was back down to 7:53. And I even thought to myself, “I am going to be okay. I am going to finish this strong.”

That didn’t last too long and by the time Kevin fell into step with me at Mile 17ish, I was back at 8+ min/miles. When he asked how I was feeling, I tried to stay positive. I told him I didn’t feel bad, but that I didn’t feel great and that I had backed off the pace. He told me that I looked really good and relaxed and that I needed to focus on getting to 20 and then laying it out for the last 10k. I left him with a smile and a “Yep! That’s the plan!”.

The next two miles took me back to a dark place again. I felt like I had given up on the race a little and was content to just sit at 8:05’s and just hold on.

The End (Miles 19-26.2): 7:54, 7:52, 8:00, 7:41, 7:49, 7:45, 7:47, 7:43, 7:25(0.2)

Shortly after I passed the 18-mile marker, I heard a voice behind me that said, “We were meant to finish this together.” It was Char. She came up behind me charging fast and with a ton of energy. She was feeling great and even better when she realized that we were going to get to run together. I was so so happy to see her, but as I picked up the pace to fall into step, my mind immediately went back to questioning. Can I hold this pace? Should I let her go? I told her I hadn’t been feeling great and that if she felt like she could run faster she should go. She told me that she was fine right at that pace and just said, “You can do this. Let’s just work together.”

And so we did. We ran every single step after that side by side. At some point I stopped questioning whether I could do it and just made up my mind that I would do it. It got hard for both of us a different times, but we just fed off of each other. When we would get separated at water stops, neither of us slowed. Whoever was behind would pick the other one up and use that momentum to keep pressing. We smiled and told each other great job every time we hit a mile marker at 7:4x. But other than that, we talked very little except the occasional “You/we have got this” or to announce what was happening next: “I am taking a Gu here.” “I am getting Gatorade at the next water stop.”

It was the most familiar and comfortable feeling. I have run thousands of miles next to Char and it seemed so natural and perfect that we would be running together in the final miles of the race. Having her there gave me the confidence that I was missing in the first 18 miles of the race and finally allowed me to get out of my own head and just RUN.

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Happy Runner. Mile 24.5. Photo Credit: Charlyn

We smiled and waved at Jenny at mile 19, heard Jacqueline and George again at 21, big smiles for Charlyn and Annabelle at mile 24.5, a big yell for our mutual friend, Liz, at 25.5 and then fist pumps and smiles for Kevin and Tim at mile 26.

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Side by Side. Photo Credit: Charlyn.

We crossed the finish line together, followed by the biggest hugs.

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Chicago Marathon: 3:26:52 (3:12 PR)

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I learn something from every marathon that I run and #8 was definitely not an exception. In fact, I think overcoming my own mental battle is one of the biggest lessons I can take away from a marathon up to this point. In the future, I am going to have to learn to do that on my own, without the help of Char. And to remember that the feeling of pressing might just be all in my head. It might not mean that I need to back off, but actually maybe to speed up slightly or just change something. While I wish that I hadn’t given in during the middle miles, it’s hard to say whether it was the right decision or not. The push that was there to make the last 5k the fastest tells me that there was definitely more left in my body than I thought at mile 16. But maybe the 15 seconds per mile I gave back for 4 miles is the reason?

Overall, I absolutely loved the race. Running through the streets of Chicago with the spectacular crowds, amazing volunteers and friends all over the course made me fall even more in love with this city.

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Chicago Marathon Results

3:26:52

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Photo credit: Charlyn

I have spent the last few days celebrating and enjoying time with friends. Now I am in Peoria for work and with family so it will be a few days before I’ll get to the race report.

But as always, there were lessons learned and I have a lot to say about the day. The race didn’t go at all like I thought it might, but I am beyond happy and proud of the results and a PR is something I will NEVER take for granted.

Back soon with more!

Posted in Chicago, Goals, Race reports, Races, running | 5 Comments