Friday, October 29, 2010
I haven't done much running this week other than Monday. Work has been busy (so no running at lunch) and other than going to a Pilates class on Tuesday night I haven't had the free time in the evening to work out.
That's partially because on Wednesday night we had our "end of track" party! Our coach and his wife provided the food and the rest of us provided the wine. We had a great time talking about next year's race plans and ideas for future club meetings. Speaking of which what kind of topics would you be interested in hearing about at a meeting for runners?
Of course we also talked about more than just running. Including Broadway shows. The reason I couldn't run on Thursday night after work was because Jason and I had free tickets to see Billy Elliot. My review? Sadly, just a "meh". Not bad, but I'm glad I didn't pay $100 a ticket for it. Although I do have Solidarity stuck in my head today.
In addition to wrapping up track for the season, I thought my interview about the Chicago Marathon over at Melinda's blog was a great capstone to the experience. Check it out for a nice summary of why and how I managed to run my first marathon.
So although track season and my marathon season has come to an end, I'm not totally done racing quite yet. Although I passed on the Chicago Monster Dash half marathon, I am tentatively planning on running the Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 10K with people from work as well as running the Rotary Santa Run 5K with Kim.
And then the season will really be over. At least until January when training for spring races starts. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday night was probably our last decent night weather-wise until spring and I definitely took advantage of it by going for a run. Originally I'd thought about doing 8 miles but since it was also my running club's "run of the month" I wanted to get done in time to change and make it to the restaurant without having to rush too much.
So I ran 5.5 miles and for much of it I was hanging with the 3:30 marathon crowd.
Impressive, right? Well, they WERE recovering from racing so they were taking it easy while I was pushing it. However, I was still able to carry on a conversation while running negative splits for the first 4 miles. The conversations mostly revolved around our various marathons, upcoming races, future plans, and who was running the half marathon on Halloween. I took it nice and easy on the last 1.5 miles although I could have pushed harder.
I admit, I thought about running the Monster Dash half marathon on Sunday. I really did. But, as I told Maribeth, I'm SO CLOSE to breaking two hours in a half marathon that I'd be afraid of being mad at myself if I went out there and missed it again. I think I'd rather focus on keeping my speed over the winter and making a spring half marathon my goal race.
After our run a group of us went to the local Greek restaurant where we chatted about skiing (both downhill and cross country), duathlons and triathlons.
All in all it was another great night with the running club. I didn't even mind that I didn't get home until almost 10 PM. I'd had a crazy day at work and was totally frazzled when I got home but the run followed by dinner relaxed and refreshed me. Amazing what a good run and good company can do.
Note: Just ignore that strange extra line there. I accidentally turned the Garmin back on when I got home. Oops.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Kim asked me at the end of last week if I wanted to run 8-10 miles with her on the weekend. Well of course I did! She even suggested a new-to-me trail: the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway. I'd been jonesing for a nice run that wasn't marred by having to stop for traffic or watch out for cars and this was the perfect solution. Company and a beautiful trail? How could I say no?
We met up around 8AM and it was much warmer out than I'd thought it was going to be. I felt sort of silly in my long sleeved shirt. I think it was warmer outside than it was in my house.
The first few miles of the run felt tough. I was really struggling but Kim kept me distracted with conversation and together we oohed and ahhed at the trees. I mean, look at them:
Between mile 4 and 5 I started to get a weird feeling in my stomach and I had to stop and walk. Of course that's when we got passed by a group of bicyclists who shouted "WALKERS UP!" Okay, we might have been walking right that moment but we are runners! Ah, well.
I felt better after eating some Shot Bloks so I think it was just a case of not enough pre-run fuel. In fact, I felt so much better that other than stopping to take some photos during mile 8 we ran negative splits for the second half of the run. Woo hoo!
Towards the end of our run we got passed by a Team in Training coach.
"Hey, ladies! How's it going?" He asked.
"Good," we responded.
"You know," he said as he ran past, "if you answer 'Forward' you're never lying!"
We laughed but I think he made a good point. I'm going to remember that for the future.
At the beginning of the run I didn't know if I would make it all 10 miles. But by the end I felt pretty good. Have I really become the type of person that now takes 5 miles to warm up? Perhaps I have.
Kim and I have plans to keep our weekly mileage between 20 and 25 this winter and to meet up at least once a month for a long weekend run. The seasons don't stop going forward and neither will we.
Friday, October 22, 2010
For the past 24 weeks (if I counted right) I've spent my Wednesday nights at the track. So where did I go this Wednesday night? Well, the track of course!
Except, with a twist. Track with the group is over (sadly) but I finally managed to do something I'd thought about all summer: run from my house to the track and then back home.
I wanted to get in 6 miles and I knew it was 3 miles from my house to the track if I followed the route I'd taken on my bike a few times. So I strapped on my reflective gear and left the headphones at home and headed out.
My goal was to do 6 miles at a 10:00 pace and I hit it directly on the head. Of course, that doesn't mean it was easy. Oh no. For some reason this run felt tough. My knee was fine but my legs felt like concrete and my breathing never did feel easy. Perhaps I overdid it a bit on Monday and Tuesday? Perhaps I didn't fuel right during the day (work has been a little crazy these past few days)? Who knows. Still I did my 6 miles at the pace I wanted and I got to see a few new streets as a result.
On Thursday I went to the gym and did 30 minutes on the stepmill followed by 30 minutes of strength training and ab work. Oh, I also raked leaves. Let's just say my obliques haven't quite forgiven me.
And what about my knee? The doctor wrote me a prescription for physical therapy if I want to go. She thinks my meniscus might be slightly inflamed and said we can do an MRI if the PT doesn't make it better. So far, though, it's behaving itself so we'll see.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
After running the corn maze "5K" on Sunday I had an appointment for a massage. I'd been carrying around a free one hour massage coupon for months and figured that post-marathon was the best time to use it. Plus, I knew that a good deep tissue massage would help me ward off the IT band issue that were starting to crop up.
The massage therapist was amazing and dug into my glutes and my IT band with so much force it felt like she was jamming flaming needles into my muscles. Yes, it was painful but painful in a good way. And it worked! My knee felt better immediately! It's still not 100% but it's definitely getting better.
I really needed it to feel better, too, since I was in charge of doing announcements at the running club's Monday night run. I mean, sure, I could have done announcements and then not run but I really wanted to run.
My legs apparently really wanted to run, too. Without meaning to I ran an awesome tempo run. The only time my knee acted up was when I had to move laterally to dodge a pothole and even then it just twinged for a second. The guy I ran with laughed when he asked me about my knee and I responded as if it was it's own entity: "It doesn't really like going down stairs."
Which is true. Especially all the stairs I have to navigate during my commute. And, yes, I made a doctor's appointment for Friday to make sure I'm not doing any serious damage by running on it. Maybe the doctor will prescribe more massages!
In the mean time, I've decided to get back on the strength training and Pilates bandwagon. When I printed out my strength workout last night it very nicely informed me that as it had been over three weeks since my last workout my weights had been reduced to make my comeback "more comfortable". I'm still sore today, though. Although that may be because I also took a 45 minute Pilates class last night. The new-to-me instructor had us do some new-to-me things that made it very clear it's been awhile since I've taken a Pilates class. Time to get crackin'!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Kim had been talking to me about the World's Largest Corn Maze 5K for months but since I didn't know how I would feel after the marathon I waited until the last minute to decide. Either way I figured that this would be a nice race to run post-marathon. Not too serious, no chance of holding out for a PR so no need to worry about time, and on hard-packed dirt instead of asphalt or concrete.
My knee felt pretty good on Saturday after copious amounts of foam rolling and stretching so I dragged myself out of bed at 6AM on Sunday and drove to meet Kim, her husband, and her brother-in-law for the race.
The set-up was a little strange since they only let one runner start at a time. Apparently if you pre-registered you were supposed to pick your finish time from a list and they based your start time and bib number on that and had people line up in bib number order. If you registered day-of like I did you essentially just got put at the back of the line. Your bib number corresponded to how many seconds after the official start you got to start. Which meant that because I was number 414 I didn't start until 34 minutes after the first person. Which also meant that I got to see the first half-dozen finishers cross the line. Amazingly the first guy finished in like 17 minutes! Of course, there's a reason for that that I'll get to in a minute.
Once it was my turn to go I quickly realized that this was more like a trail run than anything else. A trail run surrounded by corn.
The path was rutted and bumpy and there were corn stalks and husks everywhere. And there were stairs!
Yes, we ran up and over two sets of those stairs. Fun! And as you can see, the course was marked with orange tape to make sure we didn't get lost.
At one point I thought about how this reminded me of a horror movie where the heroine is running through the corn field trying to escape the chainsaw wielding murderer. Now THAT would be motivation!
I wasn't paying much attention to my pace since the hairpin turns were a little rough on my knees and I wanted to take it easy on the stairs as well. However, I still wore my Garmin since I wanted to have the map it produces. Strangely, though, I noticed it was significantly off of the mile markers. I think when I saw the mile 1 sign the Garmin thought I'd only gone about .8 miles. Maybe it was all the turns?
Soon enough, after passing quite a few people, I emerged from the corn and decided to sprint to the finish.
I met up with Kim and Co. and enjoyed the post-race bagels, cookies, and bananas. Then we goofed off by climbing the stairs to the top of the observation tower and playing on the kiddie zipline.
We also joked that we should go run another half mile to round out our 5K distance. Of the three of us wearing Garmins, we registered 2.61, 2.62, and 2.7 miles. No wonder the first person finished so quickly! The course was a half mile short!
On the plus side, I was running it for fun and it was definitely fun. And even though I registered the day-of I was still able to get a t-shirt in my size. However, I have to say that the $35 registration fee ($30 prior to race day) was a little steep for a "5K" distance although the shirt was nice. But it was the inaugural year so if they do it again hopefully they'll work out the kinks.
And what was my official "5K" time? 24:21.3 A new PR! Except, not really. It's a good thing I wasn't running this race for time. I ran it for the unique experience and the company both of which were great. It was the perfect way to start my post-marathon running.
No, I'm not standing in a hole. I'm just that short.
P.S. Thanks to Kim for the photos!
Friday, October 15, 2010
Well the first thing I did was run a bit on the track on Wednesday night. I didn't take my Garmin and I didn't count my laps but I'd guess that Maribeth and I ran for 30 minutes at an easy, conversational pace. Amazingly my knee felt just fine even without wearing my knee strap.
Of course, my knee hurt most of the day on Thursday but maybe I'm just not ready for dress shoes quite yet.
I think the first thing I'm going to do is make an actual doctor's appointment and get some feedback. I'm still not sure what kind of cardio I can do safely (and don't say swimming. Sorry, swimmers, but blech) and I'd like to get a medical professional's opinion on my knee. For whatever that's worth, anyway.
Then, if I can, I'll spend the rest of the running season doing some easy 5Ks and 10Ks. No worrying about breaking any PRs. Just running for fun. And working in some more cross training and strength training.
But next year? My goals are as follows:
1. Cash in my CrossFit bootcamp Groupon.
2. Do at least one duathlon (run-bike-run)
3. Break 2 hours in a half marathon
4. Run another marathon
There's a rumor that my running club is thinking about organizing a trip to Las Vegas to do the marathon there in December 2011. I'd be down for that.
In the mean time, I'll be enjoying the spoils of finishing my first marathon.
From my brother
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From my friend W
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P.S. You know those top 10 things I learned while running a marathon that I thought of while running and then promptly forgot? I remembered one. It's that the Mythbusters were wrong. Banana peels are very, very slippery. Especially when combined with heat, water, and Gatorade.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
As promised in my pre-marathon thoughts post, I'm doing a follow-up of the top 10 things I learned while actually running the marathon.
The funny thing is that I spent a good portion of the marathon coming up with things to put on the list and trying to remember them. How many do I actually remember? Approximately none.
But here's a list anyway.
1. You run the race you're given. Don't spend your time thinking about the "what ifs".
2. Even someone with almost 30 races under their belt can still go out too fast.
3. Don't let yourself get talked into something you're not 100% sure of. I knew I could finish that race but I wasn't sure I could finish it in 4:30. I let the excitement get the best of me.
4. Adrenaline helps but it is not enough. It will get you to the finish line but it won't be pretty.
5. No matter how fast or slow you run, when you look back on the race it will seem like it was over in the blink of an eye.
6. Try to figure out the official race shirt color ahead of time. Don't wear the same color if you want your friends and family to be able to easily pick you out of the crowd.
7. Sun and heat are humbling. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
8. If you feel like you have to walk, try to come up with a plan and stick to it.
9. It's not supposed to be easy. If it were easy everyone would do it. Tell yourself this when it gets hard.
10. Remember to smile and laugh at the funny signs, shirts, and spectators.
Bonus 11. Don't let yourself get beat by a guy in a bear suit. There are some things a guy in a bear suit can't do.*
P.S. I beat the guy in a bear suit.
*P.P.S. Does anyone other than me remember that Late Show with David Letterman skit?
Monday, October 11, 2010
At mile 24 I saw the following sign:
You are no longer just a runner. You are now a MARATHONER.
I am now a marathoner. But it wasn't easy.
Kim and I went to the expo on Saturday afternoon to get our bibs and shirts and to check out the booths. My favorite part? The free commemorative photo:
After that it was home for dinner and last minute race prep. Kim and I watched Spirit of the Marathon which is about six runners running the Chicago Marathon. A little inspiration, no?
I could not fall asleep on Saturday night. Finally, after about 5 hours of sleep I dragged myself out of bed and choked down my usual bagel with peanut butter. Then it was off to the train to meet up with some people from my running group.
Jacob and I had run our 20 miler together so we planned to run the marathon together as well.
The start areas were crowded and chaotic but that's what happens when you cram 40,000+ people plus spectators into one area. Thankfully I was able to get into my office building which is near the start so we could use the restrooms there instead of the portapotties. Gear check was a breeze, as well, and before we knew it we were saying good luck to Kim and Jacob and I took our place in the start corral.
We ambitiously placed ourselves near the 4:30 pace group. That means we hoped to finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes. For reference, my original goal when I started this whole thing was to do it under 5 hours but when my 20 mile run went so well I started thinking maybe 4:45 or even 4:30.
Ominously, when I picked up pace bands for friends at the expo the day before the guy handing them out told me that because of the heat everyone should expect to add at least 30 minutes to their goal finish time. I sort of blew him off but, like in any good story, there was some foreshadowing going on.
The race started at 7:30 and it took us about 17 minutes to cross the start line. I texted Jason so he could start keeping track and we were off!
The first mile went by in a flash and before I knew it we were at mile 2 and approaching the first spot where Jason told me he would be. We turned a corner near my office building and I saw Jason and then my parents. And although this photo didn't turn out great, I think it probably embodies the craziness of the first few miles.
As we headed north of downtown the sun came out to play and I could feel the air heating up. We cruised through the miles feeling pretty much on pace and to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger" as well as thousand of screaming spectators. I was still feeling good and strong as I walked at the 10K mark and took my first Shot Bloks.
At mile 8 Jacob needed a restroom break so I stopped with him. The sun was starting to take its toll on me and he wasn't feeling so great either. But we knew his family was up ahead and mine was at mile 11 so we soldiered on.
He saw his family and a few miles later I saw mine.
Let me tell you: knowing that you have spectators out there cheering and waiting just for you is such a great motivator. When Jacob looked at me at mile 12 and told me I should go on without him I knew that my family was going to be even more important.
That sun was brutal and I was fading fast. When I hit the halfway point I really had to give myself a pep talk.
"Jason and my parents and my brother are at mile 17. I just need to make it to them."
"My running group is at the mile 18 aid station. I need them to see me running strong."
"If I can make it to 18 then I can totally finish this thing."
The pep talk worked for a bit but after that my pace went to hell and I decided that I wasn't even going to worry about it. Although, I have to admit, I really wanted to keep the average under 11 minutes/mile. But when I saw it creep closer to 12 I forced myself not to care.
My mom says when they saw me near mile 17 I gave her a look that essentially said "shut the f@%# up." I promise you I was probably trying to smile. It probably came out more like a grimace.
Still, it was really exciting to see my brother and my husband scouting for me from a distance.
The crowd got a little quieter until I hit the mile 18 aid station. By this time I was doing a random run/walk pattern and searching out all the people with hoses, electronics be damned!
I was walking through all the aid stations as well as a tenth of a mile after every mile marker. As I walked through mile 18 I saw several people from the running group and stopped to talk to a couple of them. They agreed with me that it was hot and that's when Geri looked down and realized I had goosebumps. "Drink more!" she ordered. "Get going!" Yes, ma'am.
I wasn't expecting to see anyone else I knew until after mile 20. When you wear your name on your shirt lots of people yell it. Lots of people say, "Go Erin! You got this! Looking good!" and such. I always tried to wave and smile at anyone who shouted my name but I never recognized them. Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of mile 19, I hear someone scream my name and I look up to see someone from work! I might have been walking at that point but it gave me a much needed boost.
Someone at some point near there had been handing out orange slices but by the time I got there they were no more. Just tons of orange slices on the ground and the smell of oranges in the air. I would have killed someone for a nice, cold orange slice right then. I was so tired of Gatorade and water (both of which I was drinking at every aid station) and my Shot Bloks. I also saw someone eating an icy pop. I would have killed for one of those, too.
I was hoping to see my family near mile 21 but when I texted them at mile 20 (while walking) they said they would miss me. Darn. But mile 21 was so crazy with the people and dragons (yes, dragons) in Chinatown that I didn't even notice. I also didn't even notice that I was now running further than I had ever gone before. I never once let that thought cross my mind.
I finally got a text from Jason that said they were at the 40K mark. Being an American who is bad at math I had no idea what mile marker that was. So on I trudged. I thought about texting back that it was now quite the death march but I didn't want to scare them. Although my knee had been holding up quite well it started to hurt when I walked but I was so hot and tired that sometimes I had to grit my teeth and walk through the pain.
Miles 22-23 were not pleasant. When I saw the 35K marker at mile 22 I realized I had 3 more miles before I would see my family. The sun was beating down on us. I saw more people walking than running. My goal time was shot. But it was at that point that I realized I was going to finish this thing.
At mile 24 the DJ was playing what sounded like Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" which made me laugh. If there was a wall to hit I hit it long before mile 24. He also admonished us that there was a woman up ahead who'd done an Ironman 4 weeks before and were we going to let her beat us??
And that's when I saw the sign telling me I was going to be a marathoner. I got a little choked up and had to fight back the emotional anxiety-induced asthma. Instead I thought about what I was going to say when I saw my parents in another mile.
"You've got this!" my mom screamed as I approached the 40K sign.
I slapped her hand. "It won't be pretty, but I'm GONNA DO THIS!" I screamed.
If you need evidence of what a good spectator interaction can do for you, just watch me look strong when I feel like hell.
I ran until the 800 meter sign. Just twice around the track, I told myself. But I stopped to walk to gather up my strength. When I could see the big screen tv just before the hill up to the finish line I started running again. I wanted to see myself running on tv, not walking.
I turned the corner onto the hill and tackled that thing. This isn't so bad, I thought to myself. Just a little bit longer than the overpass I run by my house. No big deal. And then I turned the final corner and I could see it.
I can't wait to see my official finish line photos. I threw my hands up and opened my mouth in a silent scream. I'd done it. I made it 26.2 miles. I was a freaking marathoner!!
I had no idea what my time was. My Garmin died shortly after I crossed the finish line. I was stumbling around looking for ice for my knee and wondering where to get my medal.
Finally, after getting my medal I realized that there was no more ice. I got a ton of texts all in the space of a minute. Jason asking me where to meet. Friends saying congrats. I was hot and tired and I wanted nothing more than to sit down but I knew I needed to get to the runner reunite area. And that's when I started to cry. I stood there for a minute and tried to compose myself before continuing the walk to meet my family.
My final time? 5:14:10. 30 minutes off my revised, not-as-ambitious-as-4:30 goal pace. That guy at the expo was right.
When I made it to the meeting spot my mom gave me a big hug. And she took one look at me and said, "It's okay. Let it out." I'm not ashamed to admit I bawled. Not out of sadness. Just out of pure exhaustion, frustration, and a total feeling of being overwhelmed. After a few minutes, a cold cloth wrap for my knee (still no ice, though) and finally getting to sit down I felt better although I had a killer headache. I knew I should eat something but absolutely nothing sounded good. So, while my parents headed back to their hotel, I got a massage instead.
While in the massage tent I saw Jacob walk by! "JACOB!" I screamed. I honestly didn't think he was going to finish the marathon so when I saw the medal around his neck I practically jumped off the massage table to hug him.
When I left the massage tent Kim was waiting for me. Sweaty hugs were exchanged all around and we posed for some photos.
We also discussed how when each of us came upon the Eiffle Tower guy we decided we were NOT going to let him beat us. I mean, could you let yourself be passed by this?
Didn't think so.
Today my quads are so sore it feels better to walk down the stairs backwards. My knee aches some when I bend or straighten my leg. My shoulders and upper back are sore. My calves still feel like they have rocks in them. But I'm up, I'm walking and I freaking finished a marathon.
I am so thankful for every single person who shouted my name either in person or virtually. For my friends who trained with me for the past 18 weeks. For my husband who made dinner when I had to run and who ran around the city of Chicago to support me on the big day. For my parents and my brother who came out to cheer. I couldn't have done this without all of you.
Now, who's ready for the next one?*
*Preferably somewhere colder
P.S. Huge thanks to Kim for several of these photos.
P.S. And a big thanks to my friend Rae for sending me the 26.2 car magnet.