Monday, September 26, 2016

It Finally Feels Real

I've put in the miles and followed the training plan, but while everyone else I know has been freaking out during the beginning of taper, I've been feeling strangely calm and distant. I've been watching others countdown the days to the race, but it didn't feel real. It still felt like something distant on the horizon. A "someday" kind of thing.

Until today.

When this arrived:

And suddenly it all feels far too real, and all the terror of the past several months of training has come rushing back.

My 20 miler was rough. Actually, it was more than rough. It was a horrible and demoralizing experience, but completing it still felt like an enormous achievement, and the next day an odd sort of serenity had descending upon me.

Finding the participant guide in my mailbox tonight and reading through it has brought the real world crashing back down around me more than any of my runs this week could have. This is a real thing. This is happening. And it is happening soon.

In 12 days I'll be making my way through 26.2 miles of my city.

I don't know if I'm ready for this. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

5 Ways I Get Out the Door When I Don't Want to Workout

Let's be real. Some days just feel harder than others. I know that for me, those hard days see me wanting to spend as little as time as possible doing...well....everything. On those hard days, I just want to hang out with my cat and watch Netflix.

Who wouldn't want to lazily hang out with this furry face all day?
Don't get me wrong. Everyone needs a rest day now and then. Rest days are important. But a whole bunch of rest days all in a row? Not really the best idea. Here are five things I do regularly to help get my butt out the door for a run or workout on the days when I really really really don't want to exercise.

1. Set yourself up for success. Lay out anything you need for your workout the night before. I'm heading to the gym in the morning before work for some cross training, so I have my workout clothes, shoes, headband, inhaler, and water bottle ready to go. Sometimes, if I have a morning workout planned, then I'll even sleep in my workout clothes. By making my morning as easy as possible with as few decisions to make as possible means that I'm more likely to follow through with my plan in the morning.

2. Workout with friends. Set a specific date and time to meet with your workout buddies. Write it down and commit to being there. Knowing that I have a friend or a group of friends who are expecting me means that I will show up. And once I'm there, it is nice to have someone cheering me on, especially when my self talk turns to the negative side. Having someone telling you that you can do it can make a huge difference. I honestly don't know if I would have gotten through my whole 18 miler without the awesome runners I was with that day.

These awesome people kept me going for those last few miles when I really wanted to give up.

3. Create accountability. Find someone or something that will hold you accountable on a regular basis. I have a friend who has been having trouble sticking to her workouts recently, so now she texts me every time she works out, and if too many days go by without a text, then I check in with her to remind her about her goals. For me, simple keeping a training log helps. I have a written plan for each day of the week posted next to my door, and everyday I mark if I complete the workout or not and why or why not and my thoughts/feelings about the outcome. Having to write down that I didn't complete my run because I was feeling lazy doesn't feel good and is usually enough of a motivator to get me out the door.

4. Treat yo' self! Rewards are awesome! Creating a reward or a series of rewards for working out can help give you that extra little push you need. Last year, I put a dollar in a jar after every workout. Once I had enough cash in my jar, I treated myself to some new running clothes. Right now, I treat myself to either coffee or brunch after each long run. I've come to associate exercise with these delicious things. Positive reinforcement isn't just for our pets. And if I miss a long run? Well, then there is no brunch for me that week.

The chocolate smoothie at Starbucks is delicious when you can't stomach solid food after a long and hot run.
5. Give yourself a specific goal. Exercising for the sake of being fit and healthy is fantastic. After all, I started running because I wanted to improve my health. But that wasn't enough to keep me going. I had a lot of starts and stops. Some of us just need a little something more. This is one of the reasons that I run races. One of the ways I was able to establish a consistent running routine when I first started running was by signing up for my first 5k. Even now, three years later, I use races as goals to keep me running on the days that I would rather just wear pajamas and hang out on the internet. Would I have run 18 miles last weekend if I wasn't registered to run the Chicago Marathon next month? No. Absolutely not. But knowing that I have to run 26.2 miles on October 9 has kept me going all summer. Today I overslept, had a long and hard day at work, and really didn't want to run when I finally got home at 9pm. Then I thought about the race, changed my clothes, and went for a run.

Monday, September 12, 2016

18 Miles

I ran 18 miles yesterday.

I've never run that far before.

I did something new! And it feels great!

It was a little rough, especially the last 3 miles when all the muscles in my legs decided to start hurting at the same time, but I did it. And I really wanted to give up and walk the last mile, but I didn't stop.

And the view! Sometimes I forget how beautiful Chicago can be. That is something that even my not so good long runs give me, a chance to see views of my city that I don't always get to see, as I'm rarely by the lakefront unless I'm running.

Today is a rest day, and boy do I need it! I've been making a point to walk and stretch and foam roll today, because my legs, especially my calves, are tight and sore from yesterday's 18 miles (did I mention that I ran 18 miles?).

I'm still scared of the marathon, but I'm feeling a little bit better with each long run that I complete.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Trying to Look on the Bright Side

The Chicago Marathon is one month away. 

Yeah...I'm terrified. 

My training this summer has not gone very smoothly. I'm been plagued by injury and illness, and I've been really frustrated as I've had to slow down considerably while I struggling through heat, humidity, and pain. In fact, I've been questioning if I'll actually be able to finish the marathon in October. 

But I'm trying to be positive. I'm trying to look on the bright side.

Yes, I've struggled with my training, but I've also set new personal records for longest distance run, finally learned to embrace hills rather than dread them, run with some awesome people, gotten some great advice from more experienced runners, and found some fueling options that work well for me.

Some mornings I question why I'm up and running when it is still dark out, but then I get to watch the sun rise. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Super Quick 2016 Summer Race Recaps

Between all sorts of weirdness with work (received a job offer, then the offer was rescinded, then there was a different offer - just all sorts of craziness) and marathon training (so tired, so hungry, everything hurts), this summer has felt like a whirlwind. So much so, that I chose to limit my time on the internet. I've been spending my summer running, working, eating, running, cross training, running, working, doing jigsaw puzzles, sleeping, and running.

I keep trying to write up recaps for races I ran, but then I start to panic when I realize how long I've gone since last writing a post. I finally admitted that I'm never going to get full recaps posted, so here, for your entertainment and my own peace of mind, is a quick and dirty recap of the races that I ran this summer but never posted about:

Ragnar Relay Chicago

Ragnar was an experience. It was my first time running a Ragnar Relay, but I had heard about this relay series before from friends and from running bloggers, and it always looked like a lot of fun, so it wasn't too difficult of a decision when I was approached by a friend who was putting together a team.

12 people. 2 vans. 200ish miles. Good times!

Each runner runs 3 legs of the race, and mileage can vary greatly for each leg, so some runners will end up running more than others.

You really get to know people well when you are running with them and spending the entire weekend together in a van. Although we had a lot of fun, enjoyed the scenery (running somewhere new was amazing - and my night run was pretty much the best thing ever), and were happy that we ran the relay, we did experience all sorts of problems.

The weather was unusually hot and humid, which caused problems for everyone, slowing people down and creating some dangerous conditions for the longer legs. I got sick shortly after finishing my first leg of the race. We experienced a lightning delay when a surprise series of storms rolled in and there was very little communication from the race about how to handle things. And, the big one for our team, one of our vans broke down, stranding 6 of our runners and causing them to miss their 2nd round of runs.

Even with all the problems, we still finished!

Would I run Ragnar again? I think so. Now that I know what to expect, I would be better prepared for the craziness. I would pack lighter, plan food better, and would train for the race rather than relying on my training for other races that happened right before or after the relay.

Proud to Run 10k

Proud to Run was my first 10k, and it has become a bit of a tradition for me, so I knew that I would be running the race again this year. I love that it is entirely volunteer organized and run. There was lots to see and do both before and after the race, with various sponsor/vendor tents set up, a group warm up before the race, and post race entertainment.

As was to be expected for a summer race in Chicago, it was hot and humid. I ran, hoping for the best, but I was still having problems with my legs and feet, so I ended up having to do run/walk intervals throughout the race. My finish time? 1:12:38, giving me an average pace of 11:42, which is much much much slower than my usual 10k pace. 

I was slow, but I finished. And sometimes you need to celebrate even the small accomplishments.

Why do I continue to run this race every year? It is well run, the volunteers are awesome, the other runners are some of the nicest and happiest that I've encountered, it benefits worthy causes, and it is just a lot of fun.

Esprit de She 5k

Finally, we have the Esprit de She 5k. Another tradition. Another hot and humid race. So hot this year, that the 10k that was supposed to accompany the 5k was canceled shortly before the race began, so all runners ended up doing the 5k. So hot that for the first time since I started running, I seriously considered not running a race for which I was registered. A friend and I convinced each other to still go to the race, planning to walk it if needed.

The heat index was well over a hundred degrees when I arrived at the race site. There were multiple announcements about the heat encouraging runners to slow down, walk if needed, and take advantage of the water stations.

I don't think I have ever moved so slowly in a race before. I ended up having to walk a lot more than I ever have before because I kept feeling sick. I have some amazing friends, though, and they walked with me and kept me moving. I finished with an average pace of 13:55.

I'm glad I finished, even if it was with my worst ever 5k finish time. I've been feeling really down about running before the race, and even the simple act of making it across the finish line felt like a huge achievement.

They had ice cold wash cloths, bottles of water, and, best of all, popsicles at the finish line. Sadly, due to unfortunate timing, my friends and I didn't get to enjoy the post race party. My slow finish meant that I made it to the party just in time for it to be canceled due to a quickly approaching thunder storm. I felt a little bad for my friends, because I really played up how great everything at the finish line was - bubbly bar, snacks, swag, and after party - and because of me we finish too late to take part in the post race festivities. We got our bags from gear check and then parted ways as we tried to beat the storm. There were already strong winds, and we could see lightning and hear thunder. I made it to the bus just a second before the downpour started.

As usual, the Esprit de She was a really well run race. All of the problems (canceled distance, canceled post race festivities, etc) were due to problems beyond the race's controls. They did a great job in communicating everything clearly to participants and making sure that everyone was safe. I'm not sure if I will run the race again, but that is more because I've learned that I don't do well in the heat, and this is a summer race. 

Boom! Quick and dirty race recaps! I won't slack off in the future when it comes to recaps, but I do feel better having gotten these out of the way, even if they aren't very detailed.

I did a lot fewer races than usual this summer because I've been concentrating on marathon training. I've learned that heat and humidity are not my friend, so summer and I don't tend to get along well.