So…Now What? Or, Accepting that Chicago is Over

This past weekend I went to cheer on my dad (and a bunch of other people I know/don’t know) at the Duke City Marathon.  I came bearing big race signs and I wore my Chicago marathon shirt so people wouldn’t think I was a non-runner just because I wasn’t racing! (just kidding…sort of…).

My dad had a great first half and finished in 2:06:something! AND he wasn’t even sore the next day! Pretty sure an addiction was created.

I rarely spectate at races (I know I should probably be volunteering more), so it was interesting to experience it from the other side.  For one, cheering is kind of awkward.  I have the same two phrases, and I was stressing the whole time that I was saying the wrong things and causing runners to lose motivation in the home stretch.

I was also pretty stir crazy, standing there with my race signs watching all of the runners coming into the finish line area.  I wanted to be racing!

But two weeks after Chicago, I’m still not able to run.  I have nagging issues in my calf/shin area.  As far as I can tell, it is just muscle tightness, but it is pretty annoying.  I’m doing all the usual rehabbing efforts, but I have to keep in mind that supposebly it will take 26.2 days for me to be all better.

Luckily, I don’t have anything to train for until the second week of November, so I’m able to not run without affecting any future race times.

I’m trying to really enjoy this time off, but boy am I really taking it off.  My workouts have included walking the dog, “weight lifting” (and by weight lifting I mean squats and curls), a single elliptical workout and my 1st swim lesson (attempting to put my head underwater without plugging my nose with my fingers…I think progress was made!).

I’m amazed at how sluggish I’ve become just from not working out regularly.  I always feel tired and I can feel my body slowly getting more lard-esqe.  Luckily I think I’m over the post marathon blues because of the excitement over the upcoming holiday season (OMGSOEXCITED), otherwise the combination of not working out and depression might have driven me to eat lots and lots of ice cream and potato chips.

On the plus side, all this lack of activity has given me the chance to reflect on what I’m going to do now that Chicago is over and establish what my goals are for my upcoming races.

First, in mid-November I will start half marathon training for Rock n’ Roll Arizona (January).  I’ve decided I want to train into running a fast half (1:35 or 7:15 average pace).  9 of my marathon miles were sub-8, so I feel like this is a reasonable goal to reach for.  It will require a lot of speed work (more 400’s instead of 800’s! Hooray!), but it is nice to have a base established.

I will start training for Boston the week following Rock n’ Roll.  I want to have a completely separate training plan for each of these races.  Instead of the 16 week training cycle, I’m going with a 12 week cycle.  After a training into a fast half, I should have the speed, so I’ll just have to work on re-building the endurance and focusing on becoming a strong downhill/uphill runner.  Unlike Chicago, Boston is not flat.  That little tiny hill felt epic at the 26 mile marker at Chicago.  I’m dreading the Newton Hills.

I’m not quite ready to call my Boston time goal.  I obviously want to put in my best effort and train hard.  EVERYONE is fast at Boston so I’d at least like to not feel like the one slow person in the bunch.  But now that I’ve qualified, I don’t know if I want the same pressure to hit a certain goal. I kind of want to see how Arizona goes before I start thinking about whether I’m ready to prepare for a sub 3:30.

I do also want to learn to swim by the end of the year, per my bucket list.  Saturday showed that I really have a looooong way to go.  But with coach Aaron leading the way (did I mention he’s also an accomplished swimmer?) and a new-found confidence that I can do anything I put my mind to, I think it can be done.  I’ll consider myself sufficiently schooled in swimming if I can make it across the pool and back using proper free-style stroke, and employing a solid breathing strategy that doesn’t include keeping my head above water at all costs.

I also want to get back some of that muscle definition that I’ve lost ever since I started running half marathons last year.  It was near impossible to do any quality weight lifting while training for a marathon because my muscles always felt fatigued, but now that we’re back in half marathon land for awhile, I want to focus on a supplementary workout program.

I’m also excited (surprised but excited) to see most of my marathon buddies signing up for a second round! We must all be nuts.  But it will be awesome to follow everyone’s training again come spring!

What’s your winter/spring race schedule?  (or, if you’re in the southern hemisphere…your summer/fall schedule!).  

I hope everyone is having a fantastic week!

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Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

So, a couple of weeks ago we went to Chicago.  The marathon was obviously the whole point, but seeing as how neither Aaron or I had ever been there, we decided make a vacation out of it and do some exploring.

Vacations include testing out the regional flavor.

For Chicago, this means deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs.

Don’t mind if I do!

In the days before the race Aaron was really keeping to a gluten free diet, but after the race, when stomach issues wouldn’t ruin mile splits, his inner garbage disposal came out and the Chicago style gorging began.

I will say this though.  Chicago is lacking in the local microbrew department.  We did find PBR at every restaurant (like, even the really snazzy ones) but since we can get that here for 75 cents on college night, we refrained.  Even though 75 cent PBR was the first drink Aaron bought for me before asking me out.  Big spender even bought a round for the whole table. Ah, memories.

Also to be noted that in addition to the 38,000 + people in town for the marathon (and their loved ones), a big football game between Miami and Notre Dame was held on Saturday, so the city was PACKED with runners and football fans.

Amy and Aaron’s Adventures in Chicago Eating

I forget the name of the restaurant where we got these martinis, but it was some sort of chop house a few blocks from our hotel.  It was an “Amy” type of place as evidenced by the the photos of my best friends on the bathroom wall.  They had a cool martini menu.  I’m usually a dirty martini type of girl, but who can resist a martini with chocolate swirls?

An added bonus was witnessing a lady trying to get a very drunk man she met at the bar to ask her out. I mean, he couldn’t figure even out how to spell Julie in his phone. How romantic.

On Saturday we stopped by The Berghoff which was down the street from our hotel.  Turns out it was a German themed microbrewery and the building has been there since the late 1800’s.  The beers were actually pretty good, and the Reuben sandwich was perfect.   

So happy to be at Berghoff’s!

Our carb loading on Saturday took us to Elephant Castle, another pub across from our hotel.  I wish Albuquerque had more pubby type places because I enjoy a good black and tan surrounded by British memorabilia.  It proved to be a great “pre-race” choice because of their special marathon menu.

We ran into a very drunk man who said as long as he stopped drinking by 10, he’d be ok for the marathon the next morning.  I wonder how that worked out for him.

The official beer sponsor of the marathon was Goose Island which is a Chicago microbrewery and it seems like the pride and joy of Chicago beer.  Aside from PBR.  Apparently they have a tasting room in Chicago that we didn’t get to.  The 312 Wheat Ale was pretty good as was the Matilda.  Aaron tried out the Bourbon County Stout at a restaurant which was AMAZING.

Our post marathon dinner on Sunday was at the infamous Lou Malnati’s (sounds suspiciously like Illuminati…I kept thinking we were in a Dan Brown novel).  Thanks Allison for this suggestion! This place did not disappoint (and with an hour long wait, we weren’t the only ones vying for some pizza goodness).   Fantastic deep dish pizza, and some great people watching.

A bunch of former frat boys in town for the Notre Dame game (who still were acting like idiotic 21 year olds despite being about 30) kept trying to pick up a pair of British marathon runners. Very unsuccessfully.  Made me a bit embarrassed to be American. Luckily the pizza made me happy again.  And seriously, even though it was good…I still prefer thin crust. Sorry. 

Monday evening we stopped by Paddy Long’s (I think it was in the area by Wrigley Field).  This was the bacon and beer bar.  They had an ok beer selection, but the bacon board was heavenly.  It was also the first place we went to that wasn’t crawling with people.

This place was also really cool because if felt “local.” So many of the other places we went to were overridden with tourists.  I felt like a Chicagoan! On Monday for lunch we headed to Portillo’s (thanks Hyedi for that suggestion) for their famous hot dogs and chocolate cake.  The place was a bit overwhelming and set up kind of like a food court (it took us a few minutes to figure out where to stand in line), but there were a lot of fun pieces of Chicago memorabilia.  And it was CHEAP. And tasty.

Aaron, staring dreamily at the hot dogs.

Monday night, on the recommendation of our Paddy Long’s bartender who understood our plight to find good beer that wasn’t IPA (way harder than it sounds), we headed to Clark Street Ale House.  I think Dominick, may have also recommended it, but I can’t find evidence of that conversation.

The beer selection was big, but most of the stuff we found was stuff we could buy in Albuquerque. The place was really empty too.  Apparently people in Chicago are too responsible to go out partying on a Monday night? We still made friends though. 

These dudes were like, “take a picture of us!”  I would kind of be surprised if homeboy actually knew what Livestrong was.  The other guy actually had a job similar to Aaron’s  and had lived in a similar part of Phoenix (and he was relatively sober), so they were able to talk for a bit.

“Seriously?” Or, “Bitch, please.”

NOT PICTURED: We had a post marathon breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s which was a cute mid-century diner.  I was seriously too sick to enjoy the meal (or take pictures), but it was a really cute place that has apparently been in a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

IPO was the hotel restaurant.  REALLY trendy interior but the food was TOO trendy.  Oh, and pork belly is just pure fat. I didn’t realize that.  I was hoping for a bacon sandwich.  BLECH. The hotel (The W City Center) also had a really swanky bar/lobby, but it was pricey.

Chicago isn’t a cheap place to eat/drink.  We were really surprised every time we got the bill.  But people watching was better here than it has been anywhere else we’ve gone.  And I did love the feel of being in places that had been there since the turn of the century.

Thank you, Chicago, for feeding these very hungry and thirsty runners!

The W Lobby/Bar.  They had giant lamps.

Weekly Race Shout-Outs and My Feelings on Boston

FIRST: HUGE AMENDMENT to yesterday’s Chicago Marathon Recap.  I accidentally added 10 minutes to Aaron’s finish time.  He actually came in at 3:27:21.  If he had come in at 3:37 I would have passed him, and I was not so focused as to leave my poor distressed husband on the side of the road just so I could BQ.  Goals are fun. Being a supportive wife is a top priority.  But non-issue since he came in more than 6 minutes ahead.  Sorry, Aaron for making people think you were so slow.

Also, the recap has a few photos added to it that came from Aaron’s phone.  They really aren’t exciting (I guess my mind is somewhere else pre-race).

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

Jen who is going for a Half PR in Wine Country!

Christina is running a half in Baltimore!

Julie is earning her Tiffany’s Necklace at Nike Women’s

Laura is going for a big 10 miler PR!

Good luck to you ladies and everyone else racing!

**********************************

(I realize that this post will probably make me sound like a jerk).

On Monday, we were sitting in our Bacon and Beer Bar (Paddy Long’s), and I saw a message come through from Julie letting me know that Boston registration was open.

Confusion.

On Sunday evening when I went to the site, registration was closed because the max field had been reached.  I actually wasn’t too heartbroken.

But Boston made a mistake that they blamed on an IT issue.  The max field had never been reached (well, until yesterday.  It is really closed now).

But here it was, a renewed chance to run Boston in 2013.  I sat in this bar deep in conversation with Aaron in tears, trying to figure out if I really wanted to register.

HUH?

But Amy, the whole point of this blog for the last 4 months was for you to qualify for Boston. What the heck is going on here?

Well, I realized something about myself and my goals on Monday.

I made the goal to qualify truthfully independently from actually running the marathon.  I mean, I did want to run it, kind of, but more than anything I wanted to run an awesome marathon.  I wanted to reach for the stars and attempt the impossible because it isn’t something that I get to do very often if ever.

Also, at the time I didn’t think I’d get in until 2014.  2014 is a long time from now.  And running Boston hasn’t been a lifelong dream.  I only found out about it 2 years ago, and I only started caring about 10 months ago.  But I wanted to be really good at something, and Boston qualifying times seem to be the standard of what constitutes a really good runner (self-satisfaction just never does it for me).

As part of the pre-marathon freak out, having to register for 2013 was put on my plate.  But, I didn’t think registration would still be open by Sunday afternoon, AND I really didn’t think I’d come in under 3:40.  It was something else to stress about like tornadoes (Chicago is in the Midwest) and the apocalypse.

I was relieved when registration was full on Sunday.

But then, on Monday evening I faced the decision. And this is when all the emotion came loose.

This is not how I wanted it to be.  I am supposed to run Boston with Aaron.

Running has become a source of personal enjoyment, and I’ve realized that even on the blog I talk about Aaron less and less (he’s still here all the time by the way).  But without a doubt, the whole reason I run is for our marriage.  It is our thing to do together.  I know some of you know this story, but after Aaron and I had been dating for a few weeks, he asked me to be his girlfriend and at the same time asked if I would run a half marathon with him because he wanted me to understand his lifestyle and his passions and interests.  And now, 4 years later, running and active living is really our thing.  The thought of training for and running the world’s most prestigious amateur race without him literally brought me to tears.

So, we had a serious discussion in the Bacon/Beer bar.  I could use my time for 2014 still.  But that is a long time from now. Who knows what could happen in our lives between now and then.  I may only ever get this one chance at Boston and I’d hate to think I passed it up if something happens in those many months.  Also, just because my 1 minute and 5 seconds below BQ got me in this year doesn’t mean it would get me in next year.  People are out for revenge after a hot spring racing season.  Plus, the chances of Boston hitting temperatures like that again are like 1 in a million.  And people are getting faster.  And there are so many new runners kicking butt.  I would hate to run a qualifier and then NOT get in.

Plus, we had to realistically assess Aaron’s ability to come in at 3:04:49 in the next 11 months (and can we just discuss for a minute how much crazier men’s qualifying times are?  I think I got off pretty easily).  Possible? Yes.  I think he easily had the ability to come in at a 3:10 even after missing a month of our training due to injury.  And he is out to kill a marathon if it’s the last thing he does.  But there is no guarantee.

And on top of all this is this horrible, nagging feeling of guilt.

I don’t deserve this.

I feel like Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls when she’s giving her prom queen speech and breaks the tiara.

Some people spend years working very hard to reach a BQ.  People run marathon after marathon in an attempt to run Boston only to be unsuccessful.  Most people who want this will never get the chance. And what? I waltz in here like a cocky B and do it in one try.  I’m talking people who’ve run their whole lives and people who could run faster than me any day.  Real runners who give up beer for 4 months or who never miss a workout during training.  NOT FAIR.  Not fair to the people who have worked so much harder for so much longer just to run a marathon with a unicorn as it’s mascot (for the record, I really like unicorns).

I’m not looking for affirmation of my hard work and dedication.  I know I trained well and pushed myself and made sacrifices and haven’t slept in on a weekend in months.

But I can’t help feeling like I didn’t pay my dues.

So, if you’re keeping track…I talked non stop about qualifying, made it my obsession for 4 months, QUALIFIED, got in a year ahead of schedule and I’m not happy about it???  Royal jerkdom.

I decided to register anyway, and I ‘m trying to make myself be more excited about it.  The least I can do is be appreciative of this opportunity and go out and run hard for the people who may never get the chance.  And I’m sure after the initial shock has worn off, I will be talking non-stop about how crazy excited I am to run Boston.

And please let me know about Boston (the city and the race if you’ve done it).  I literally know NOTHING about Boston aside from what I’ve seen in Good Will Hunting and The Town.

ANYWAY.  Thanks for letting me share that with you.  As much fun as crying over my bacon platter was.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  CRUSH your long runs and races!

Bank of America Chicago Marathon: The Recap

So, I am probably the last person out there to offer up my Chicago Marathon story.  26.2 is a lot of miles to process.  The drawback is that the mile by mile play by play is fuzzy and making way for a more general race memory.  So, unfortunately you won’t get the most detailed report of what I felt during 3:33:55 hours of pure marathon goodness (and not so goodness).  BUT I think you’re probably cool with that. Even though this is still over 3000 words long.  It WAS 4,000 words long. And I think all of the pictures of the race (rather before and after the race) are on Aaron’s phone which is with him at work right now.  So, you may have to check back tomorrow!

THURSDAY

We arrived in Chicago on Thursday afternoon to temperatures much warmer than we’d been anticipating.  Our hotel was about half a mile from the start line, so our cab drove us right by the starting area.  I was amazed at how huge the marathon village was, and how many porta poties were lining the streets (this would seem like a lot less on Sunday morning while waiting our turn to pee). As I started unpacking, I realized that I had forgotten some essential items like  running socks, pajamas, iPod shuffle, and toothbrush. Oops.

FRIDAY

We went out for a 2.5 mile easy run along the lake front.  Temperatures were still warmish, though not as warm as they had been the day before.  The temperatures were predicted to get colder until Sunday.

Then we headed to the expo.  I love expos.  They combine running AND shopping! The expo was well organized and everything was labeled and easy to find.  But wow, were there a lot of people, and Friday was the slow day.  I’m scared to think what Saturday looked like! Nike had a whole store set up, and I bought myself a special marathon shirt (and some socks because I forgot mine).  I also signed up for my 3:35 pace group, and got a 3:35 bib to pin to my back.

SATURDAY:

We did a 2 mile shake out run, however this one was much colder.  But really, a few minutes in, I felt overdressed in my winter gear.

We opted to do the Art Institute Museum on Saturday morning.  Coach Aaron wouldn’t let me wear heels, but my jeans are all too long, so I had to walk around Chicago in my running capris and running shoes.  THE HORROR.  Seriously.  But the museum was huge and we were on our feet for easily 3 hours, so I’m glad I wasn’t in stilettos.  We also carried a water bottle and focused on drinking obscene amounts of water.

I did insist on changing into boots for dinner on the condition that we eat at the pub across the street from our hotel.  Awesomely enough they had a special marathon menu so I got my pasta carb loading fill! Aaron ate something with mashed potatoes (how does one carb load on a gluten free diet?). Bedtime was 9:30.

Why yes, carb loading included beer.  This means beer + marathon = BQ! And one of the few moments I got cell phone service! Aaron was annoyed. 

SUNDAY:

The alarm went off at 5 am.  I did my pre-race ritual of showering (one can’t dominate marathons with unshaven legs), and ate some Luna bar and some banana and layered on the winter gear. We got out the door at 6:15.  The city was dark but alive with thousands of shivering runners walking to the start.  We felt like cattle.  We may have moo’d.

The first thing we did was get in the potty line which was already pretty long (we waited about 20 minutes).  Gear check drop off was easy, but at this point it was time to head to the corrals (they closed at 7:20, no exception), so I didn’t get in my second ritual pee.  Aaron and I said our goodbyes as he headed to “B” and I headed to “C.”

This was post race, but it gives you an idea of what I look like when I realize that my husband is photographing me coming out of the porta potty. 

I couldn’t find my pacers.  And since everyone was wearing sweatshirts over their clothes, I couldn’t find any 3:35 bibs.  I kept inching up until I found a nice looking man and asked if he’d seen the 3:35 signs.  He said he was in the 3:35 group and as far as he could tell the people surrounding were all in it too. A few people turned and nodded in agreement, and grunted a “welcome to the pack.”  I took off my long sleeve and tied it around my waist because I knew I would get warm pretty fast and I didn’t want to attempt undressing while running.  I was cold in my racer back, but not miserable.

Looking around I also realized that Chicago was a pretty male dominated race.  And let’s just say I was one of very few women wearing hot pink, sparkle headband, and a running skirt.

The race started, and while I was anticipating a good 10 minutes before we crossed the start line, we actually approached really fast (within 3 minutes).  And we were off!

The first 3 miles

This is the official start line photo.  I found Aaron (he has a red circle around his head).

So, the first thing you do is run uphill into a tunnel.  Tunnels are dark.  Tunnels also have dividers in the middle. Someone ran into someone who ran into me and I ran into the next person because someone didn’t see the divider in front of them until it was too late.  Luckily nobody was actually knocked down in the confusion, but it was pretty funny to see.  I guess you had to be there.

We emerged from the tunnel, and I looked down at my Garmin to see that it had lost signal.  Fantastic.  I spotted the pacers way ahead so I figured I would just hang out with them since I no longer had pacing function. It was awesome (and warm) to be running with so many people (over 38,000 at the start), but hard to get anywhere.  I saw the pacers but I couldn’t actually get near them.  Luckily, my Garmin got it’s act together pretty fast.

I saw some soldiers with amputated arms, and the crowd went wild every time they ran past.  I saw a lady with a prosthetic leg.  I saw people in wheelchairs.  I saw people going out of their way to support other runners.  Marathons restore faith in humanity.

I allowed myself to not worry about pace (pointless since maneuvering around people was impossible), and take in the sights.  A huge shout out to the city of Chicago and the spectators!  I felt nothing short of  rockstar status because these cheering people with their crazy signs were amazing. Also amusing were the people starting to shed clothes.  They would attempt to throw them into the crowd, but 75% of the time the clothing article would bop a runner on the head.

After trying to get myself next to the pacers for the first few miles I finally succeeded at about mile 3.  Everyone was de-clothed and I could see the huge group of 3:35ers emerge.  The crowd started thinning, and I finally got myself into a rhythm.

Miles 4 to 16

Crowd support was amazing.  Every neighborhood/church/school had bands or DJs and motivation was high.  So high that I suddenly found myself running sub 8 miles with no effort, and the pacers were somewhere far far behind me. I knew I needed to slow my ass down.  But I couldn’t.  The energy was too much to handle.  I was on track to run a 3:30 marathon (noted that at mile 6 this is hardly confirmation of anything), yet here is where I made the decision to run a Boston qualifier.

Gangham Style was being played by three different groups (including a Korean church with nice Korean middle aged ladies in track suits doing the dance).  Aaron, who at that point was about 15 minutes ahead of me, said that those same groups were playing that same song so it must have been on repeat.

The pacer bibs turned out to be quite the conversation starter.  I had people come up to me saying I was ahead of schedule (as a compliment, not as a warning that I was running too fast). And indeed I was.  While there were a few 3:35er’s I was surrounded by 3:30s and 3:25ers.  But I was feeling great. Instead of wishing desperately to be done at the 13.1 sign, I was like, hey, half way done! Hooray! But I was still stressing that I was running too fast.

The course was awesome! So many cool neighborhoods and so many cool sights.  For several miles, the Sears Tower was in view. And the weather was perfect.  I was cold at a few points, but overall, I was feeling wonderful.

There was uphill.  Not anything crazy, but there are rivers to cross and bridges aren’t at street level, so we did have to go up them.  I figured if this is what the last hill at the end looked like, I should be in ok shape.

Mile 16: 

Potty break. My pre-race ritual calls for 2 stops at the porta potty, but I only had time for one.  I had to pee the entire time,  and while it was annoying, it wasn’t affecting my pace.  I put it off as long as possible and was looking for a pee station right off the course (a few required some detour efforts).  I had my chance at the mile 16 aid station. By the way, Chicago gets a HUGE thumbs up for their stations.  They were almost every mile and 2 full city blocks long.  A nice person yelled out where things were upon approach so no guess work was involved.

According to my Garmin, I was stopped for well over a minute which makes me sad.

Miles 17-22

I was still feeling good, and amazed that I was SO CLOSE to finishing.  But, this is when crowd support went from super energized on steroids to non existent.   I REALLY wished I had my music to turn on at this point, but alas my iPod was back home in Albuquerque.

And people started dropping like flies starting at mile 20.  Up til this point I hadn’t seen anyone have any major problems.  Now people were puking on the sidelines, stopping to stretch, and stopping to walk.

Meanwhile I was gaining a whole new crazy confidence.  I calculated along the way that I needed to be at the 20 mile point by 2:40 to be on track for a 3:30.  I hit 20 miles at about 2:41.  CRAZINESS.  I was going to pull this off!

Miles 23-25.9

Um….WALL.

Training at elevation made it so that I never felt out of breath or without energy in low altitude Chicago.  But at mile 23, my legs said NO with the stubbornness of a two year old.  My feet felt fine, but my calves tightened and I realized that I was ready to be done with this thing.

The whole race my pace had stayed pretty consistent   Here it dropped to about 8:30 (the same as my pee mile) and it never came back down. But this was also when I had the most support from my fellow runners. A nice man came up to me and said, “way to go 3:35! You’ve got this!” Another lady came up and said something about girl power. But, despite the encouragement, the marathon became a completely personal battle.  I had to make a decision to keep going or stop and no amount of course support or inspiration could do the work for me.

Last week Kelly left me a comment that said to “trust myself.”  I decided that I would use that as my mantra, and in my time of need, that was the only thing my mind could come up with.  Trust yourself.  It literally got me through.

Regardless, at mile 25 I wanted to stop and walk.  I was beyond ready to not be running anymore.  But then I realized that if I kept going, I only had about 10 minutes left.  With 10 minutes left I would hit my goal.  If I didn’t keep going, I would literally miss qualifying by mere seconds.  The prospect of coming in at 3:35:02 was far more painful than sucking it up for the last 1.2 miles.

So, I sucked up (after taking the last water station very slow). And wow.  A mile has never felt so long.

Somewhere near the end

Miles 25.9-26.2

I saw a sign that said “only 800 meters to go!”  I HATE 800’s.  Not helpful.

We turned a corner and there it was.  THE HILL.  It was humongous.  Much bigger than the rest. At the top was the  mile 26 sign.  But I had to get there first. I felt like I crawled.  It was the longest minute? 30 seconds? of my life.

I felt a huge relief in my legs and I knew that I had reached the top. The course turned and the giant FINISH sign came into view.  I couldn’t move any faster, but I ran in (no sprint possible).  My life turned into a movie with the Rocky soundtrack playing in the background (in my head) and the roar of the crowd somewhat muted behind my racing heart. I crossed the finish in 3:33:55!

The crossover was pretty uneventful.  I know I was happy.  My goal was met.  But I didn’t have the energy to be super excited about it.  A girl that came in right behind me screamed BOSTON! And I wanted to turn around and give her a Boston Sister high five.  But I didn’t because I needed to focus on forward motion. I didn’t cry at the end.  Strangely, aside from complete contentment, I experienced very little emotion until hours later.

Aaron spotted me pretty fast (hot pink does have it’s advantages), and we proceeded to go through the longest post race walk EVER (about a mile worth of walking).  We did get our medals and our space blankets, but it would have been ok with me if the walk had been shorter.

Aaron’s Race

Aaron had such a strong and awesome first 21 miles.  He was holding a really fantastic pace and should have come in right about 3:10.

But then he got muscle cramps.  He had already run through the world’s ugliest blister (2 inches in diameter and YUCKY to look at), but running through muscle cramps just isn’t very easily done.  His last 5 miles involved a lot of walking and stretching.  And at the end of that hill at mile 25.9, a medic asked if he needed her to walk him in, so apparently he looked pretty pathetic.

He politely declined (people actually started cheering for him when he got moving again) and made his way to the finish in 3:27:21.

When he found me after I finished we had to stop on about 3 occasions during that long, long walk for him to sit down and stretch.

He wasn’t in good shape. He was understandably frustrated and really has been playing out what he could have done differently in his mind.  But he still had an awesome finish time that he’s happy to brag about!

After:

Gear check pick up was kind of a cluster-f and it took a good 20 minutes for us to get our stuff.  Not impressed.  It was arranged by bib number and bib numbers were arranged by pace, so each line was bombarded by people finishing at the same time.

After that, we still had another half mile walk to the finish line festival. We redeemed our free beer ticket then started the long walk back to the hotel with all the other limping people.

About an hour after finishing my left calf tightened to the point that I couldn’t walk on it (and couldn’t for the next few days).  And my stomach which thankfully held up so nicely during the race, decided to go crazy on me in grand style for the rest of the day.  I may have reached my goal but I paid for it.

In Conclusion:

Chicago organizes a great race.  I’ve heard some complaints, but my experience was fantastic! Volunteers, aid stations, the course, the signage, everything was spot on (they did run out of medals for the last few finishers but I think most of them were in past the cut off time).

The crowd was so amazing, and I appreciated all the support, all the signs, all the costumes and all the music.

I was amazed at how my legs just knew what to do and did it and at a much faster pace than I thought I could do.  I don’t think I would have been able to go faster at the end if I had slowed it down during those sub 8’s and if I had slowed down, I probably wouldn’t have met my qualifying time, so I’m happy that I ran faster than advised.  And really, my pace was so consistent throughout which really makes me happy.

I don’t think this will become a lifestyle.  I still enjoy halves far more, and I’ve never had such a long recovery period.  I’m still walking with a limp and trying to get my calves to loosen up.  And even though I am already forgetting the pain, I remember thinking how wretchedly awful it was to be at mile 25.  I’ve had some mean thoughts during the later miles in races, but I’ve never hated my whole existence as much as I did toward the end of the marathon.  It did make for a very sweet feeling when I pushed through it anyway but really, humans aren’t designed for this.

BUT, I will run Boston in April and earn my Unicorn (more on that tomorrow).

Thanks again for all of your amazing support this weekend!  I thought of all of you each time I passed a time sensor, knowing that you were getting a text message or seeing my little stick figure along the interactive map! It helped me so much going in to know that you were coming along with me. It was a great experience and I enjoyed getting to share it with you all and with Aaron, obviously the best running coach ever.  I questioned him many times throughout training.  We were running too much.  We were running on courses that were too hard.  We were running in the heat.  But in the end it helped me have a relatively uneventful and goal crushing marathon.

It was the proudest moment of my life to cross that finish line under my goal time, and THAT was worth all the training and pain.

Race Shout Outs and Last Post as a Non-Marathon Finisher

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

Fellow Chicago Runners: Brandi, Scott, and Lisa.  We are going to dominate this city!

Hyedi is running her first marathon at the Twin Cities Marathon.  We’ve been pretty much doing the same workout every weekend…we even got sick at the same time! And I think she is just as excited as I am to not have taper anxiety!

Jon, Ellie, and some other 2FNers are running their first half marathon at the BAA half (the 13.1 version of the Boston Marathon).  It has been awesome watching this group progress from 5-K’s to half marathons over the last year.  I’m very excited for them!

Good luck to you all and everyone else racing! (This was written a few days ago late at night, so I apologize if I missed you!).  

Well, folks, next time we talk, I will have (hopefully) crossed the finish line to my first marathon!

What a crazy journey the last 4 months have been.  Ups, downs, happy times (hearing my Garmin beep at 20 miles and realizing that I JUST DID THAT) and sad times (we won’t dwell on those too much). After a great run, I’d feel so accomplished only to have my confidence completely shattered the next day after a really bad run.

Training for a marathon is no joke.  It was far more physically AND emotionally taxing than I ever imagined.

It shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone that I’m likely still stressing about everything.  I have a big goal I want to meet, and I’ve really talked it up so much that I will feel a bit foolish if I don’t come in anywhere near it. But, life will go on and there will be other marathons if I don’t BQ (maybe….).  This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try my darndest.   I promise that I will remember to enjoy the experience!

There isn’t anything left to be said that I haven’t babbled about already over the last 4 months.  I’ve worked hard for this, and truthfully, I have never been more proud of myself.  I am doing something on Sunday that up until a few weeks ago was beyond my wildest imagination.  I never knew that running a marathon would be a dream of mine, and now I can’t imagine a life without it.

And you guys have been with me every step of the way.  The running community is so awesome, and I can’t imagine that this would have been as much (dare I say) fun? without my internet friends (and real friends!) and your encouragement.  I’ve enjoyed following your journeys and I’m excited to see everyone conquer goals and cross finish lines!  You’ve helped me in my quest more than you’ll ever know!

So, enjoy your weekends, enjoy your long runs, race hard, and enjoy the fruits of your labor however you feel appropriate (I know for most of you, this means a big fatty meal and a tasty beer…I know I fit into this group).

Catch you on the other side of 26.2!

I Mean, a Bacon and Beer Bar?!?!

Thoughts on my brain at the moment (all marathon related, naturally…as if I could be expected to have other thoughts right now.  Oh, aside from the fact that Christmas is 12 weeks minus 1 day away.  That’s pretty exciting!).

1. I was made aware of a bridge somewhere around mile 25 on the Chicago course.  This bridge is higher than the road, so there will be a slight hill going up.  I’m prepping myself to power up that little hill right now.  When I was running the US Half in San Francisco I was on track to PR at mile 12, and then a little hill came up out of nowhere that literally crushed my spirit to the point that I ended up finishing more than 2 minutes behind where I was going to finish. I don’t want this to happen on Sunday.  You better watch it, little hill.

{San Francisco elevation profile: the little bump at the end ruined me}

2. Boston registration is still open.  Assuming most people in the last few weeks have registered immediately after Sunday qualifying races (i.e. not waiting until the Wednesday after qualifying when spots could be going fast), my guess is registration will remain open for races this weekend.  I’m not holding my breath.  Chicago WILL fill it up if it doesn’t fill up prior.  But I almost want to try extra hard to qualify for 2013. At the same time, I kind of want the spots to fill by Friday so I can have that added stress lifted off my shoulders. I mean, I’m not above limping my dead self to a computer to register right after crossing the finish line, but I don’t want to be that person necessarily.  This is all assuming I actually qualify in the first place.

3.  COLD.  Likely 36 degrees when we arrive at the race.  Yes, I know I complained so much about the heat all summer.  But having to stand for an hour or so in 36 degrees sounds sad. Another consideration: frozen GU is extra thick.

4. I’m really looking forward to sleeping in once we get to Chicago.  I haven’t been getting an adequate amount of sleep this week.

5. I did 4X400’s for our workout last night.  Oh 400’s how I’ve missed you.  Looking forward to traveling back to half marathon land after this race is done!

6. Aaron just found a place called Paddy Long’s, the Best Bacon and Beer Bar.  “Must Do” doesn’t even begin to describe it!

7. I secretly hope to run into SkinnyRunner.  I wish she made herself more stalkable. But then I wonder if it would be really weird to go up and talk to her.  I mean, she isn’t like, a real celebrity unless you read running blogs.  Maybe I’ll just take a picture on the sly and then post it on here.  This feels significantly less weird.

8. In the event that you would like to spend Sunday morning tracking my progress, you can sign up to do so at http://tadpole.textingforward.com/portal/tf_marathon_login_social?pvRaceId=1481. Incidentally, my name actually is Amy Lavender.  If you don’t, rest assured I’ll update everyone on a daily basis for at least a week.  Which is about as long as I’ll wear my finisher’s medal.

9. I can’t decide if taper time is a hypochondriac’s dream come true or worst nightmare.  (I am a hypochondriac).  I have plenty to be anxious about: sore throats, phantom injuries that come from nowhere, congested lungs, upset stomach.  But, this is a little hard to handle.  Too much potential, life threatening sickness!

10. Inspirational Quotes of the day:  It really isn’t my style to quote the Bible to strangers. To each his own.  But I found this the other day and I thought it was so appropriate and applicable to anyone regardless of beliefs:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

I hope you  have an inspired Wednesday! BREATHE! (talking to myself right now!)

A Pre Inspired Marathon Mental Workout

5 DAYS!!!

Today’s Marathon Mental Workout Inspiration brought to you in part by:

Steve Prefontaine

Steve Prefontaine was a track runner for the University of Oregon back in the 70’s, the original Nike spokesperson, and an Olympic contender at the Munich Olympics (the one that got ruined by terrorists).  He died tragically at the age of 24, and from what I understand, the Eugene Marathon plays a great deal of homage to him.

I think he’s also quite famous because Jared Leto played him in a movie back in the 90’s.  If you haven’t seen Without Limits, I recommend renting it if you’re looking for a bit of running inspiration!

Admittedly, I don’t quite know if he’s the best role model for inspiration.  Incredibly fast runner who is one of the biggest reasons why running is so popular today? Absolutely.  But he never did get his Olympic medal (went out fast ended up placing 4th…although the day before he did witness the terrorist attacks which was probably pretty traumatizing), he did die because he was driving drunk, and the movie doesn’t  portray him as the most humble person so I’m not saying that he’s the type of person I necessarily want to be like.

But boy did he know how to make some quote-worthy statements.  And he absolutely had a passion for what he was doing.  He started off as someone at the very back of his high school cross country team.  He wasn’t a naturally fast runner.  His speed was 100% the result of dedication and hard work.  He wanted to be the best, and he hated when he wasn’t which is something I can relate to.   He pushed himself to the limit, and, despite leaving Munich without his medal was the best American distance runner in his time.

At 5’9, he was also a smaller runner! It can be done!

So, for his passion, dedication, and hard work, I will be inspired by Pre as I run my marathon.  It won’t be easy, and I may not reach my goal, but I will put everything I have into finishing strong.

And my personal favorite:

Have a great Tuesday!

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal and Mental Marathon Workout #1

First things first:

Today is Foodie Pen Pal Reveal! 

This month I was paired up with Sonja.  She had recently visited New Orleans, so my box was full of regional NOLA favorites that she picked up while she was there!  New Orleans is on my list of places to explore, so the package made me a little bit more excited to experience it first hand.  I mean, sweet potato pancakes and waffles??? Too much!

She also shared some recipes from the New Orleans Cooking School where she took some cooking classes.  What a neat idea for a vacation activity!

Thanks, Sonja for adding some spicy flavor to our kitchen!

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So….SIX DAYS!!!

It is pointless to pretend that I have anything else going through my head right now.

Also, thanks to some alert blog friends, I realized that I can check the weather report multiple times per day for updated forecasts! Right now race day is looking great! However, I’m a bit worried about the 36 degree temperatures on Saturday night.  It might be a very very cold pre-race experience.  We have added a trip to Goodwill to our to-do list for this week, because my little Lulu outfit isn’t quite enough to keep me warm if it is near freezing.

I was good this wedding weekend and tried to keep marathon talk to when people asked me about it first… That’s a lie.  I snuck it into a few conversations! But I did make a huge effort.

{Every once in awhile we change out of our running clothes and talk about things other than running!}

{Cupcake Heaven!}

But now we are down to business.  We did our final 8 mile run this weekend. I was taking it very easy, but did the last miles at marathon pace, and felt ok.  I’m having some pain at a weird spot on my upper calf/under knee/side shin area that I never knew existed.  After some analysis, it seems that my IT band is so tight that it is pulling stuff (muscles? ligaments? I’m not too sure), causing pain in a whole different area.  As long as that’s the problem, I can hopefully fix it in the next couple of days. Apparently weird pains are another symptom of the taper madness.  FUN.  I remember when I used to dream of the taper.  Now I just want it to be over.

This week we have 3 really easy workouts, and then after Wednesday we are done aside from a shake out 2 miler the day before race day.  So, this has all the makings of making me EXTRA crazy.  I should be a ton of fun to hang out with this week!

Literally all I can do now is my mental workout routine.  I must make the decision to keep going and push through pain since now, because I’m fairly certain that when it comes to miles 20-26.2, I won’t be as dedicated to anything spur of the moment.  The more I prepare now, the more likely my body will follow on race day.  At least, that’s my hope.

Back in January, right before Rock and Roll Arizona, I was trying to talk myself into a good race. I hadn’t trained as well as I wanted to (I think my longest long run was 8 miles).

I wrote the following a couple of days before the race:

Aron Ralston sawed off his own arm with a dull pocket knife after drinking his own pee for “127 Hours.”

THEN homeboy scaled a 65 foot wall to get out of the cave and deliriously hiked for 8 miles with his self-amputated arm before running into somebody who could help him (Lord knows how long he had to wait to actually be rescued after that). 

If he could do all that, then surely I can run through 13.1 miles of muscle tightening, side stitches, stomach discomfort, and blistered feet after not training into it. 

….Right?

(Since I haven’t done the adequate physical training to run a 1:40 half, I’ve been doing a lot of mental training for it!).

(I didn’t hit 1:40, but I did PR and I actually felt really good doing it!)

I also remember a lady who pulled her groin in the early miles of the RnRAZ marathon, and STILL came in 3rd overall.  She literally couldn’t walk up the stairs to get her award.  She was in pain.  A lot of pain.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like to run that fast and that long in complete agony.  It makes my little battle to run moderately fast miles (hopefully without a pulled groin…KNOCKS LOUDLY ON WOOD) seem insignificant.

So, when I’m struggling to keep going, I will remember Aron and his 8 mile walk with a freshly self-amputated arm and the lady who came in 3rd despite after pulling her groin   They experienced pain far greater than what I will be experiencing, and they kept going.

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Race Shout Out and Marathon Musings

Sending Fast Thoughts To:

1) Rachel is running her first marathon on Sunday!!! I’ve been sending her good luck vibes for the last couple of weeks to make sure they make it to Scotland in time.  Through this whole process, I think Rachel and I have been on the same page.  Every weekend, after the long run, we’re both like, “WHY THE F**K are we doing this?”  Followed immediately by “GIVE ME A BEER!”  I’m excited to see her recap and race bling!

Surly that can’t be it?  I’m so sorry if I missed you.

GOOD LUCK, RACHEL!

So, for the past couple of days my life has been busy with non-running related activities (what are those again?).  Two of our best friends are getting married tonight (the continuation of the bachelor/bachelorette parties from a few weeks ago), and there will be cupcakes, and there will be wine.  Tomorrow (AFTER the post wedding BBQ) I will restart my clean eating.  I am not strong enough to pass up cupcakes and wine.  And I’m not sorry.

Also, as a result of this wedding, I was fixing my toe-nail polish, and after stripping the old stuff off, I realized that the corner of my big toe was black.

EWWWWWWE.

I don’t know the rules of losing toenails (I tried googling it, but couldn’t handle the images/descriptions for more than a few seconds), but I’m hoping that a black corner does not equal a total loss.  I’ve been so proud of my feet through marathon training because I’ve only gotten 1 big blister, but I’m scared that this might ruin everything.  Also, it sounds painful.  Can one run a marathon without a toenail and be comfortable?

Let’s talk about something else.

In other news, I can now stalk the Chicago weather on a daily basis.  I’ve been looking at weather.com for the last few weeks to track any trends, but now I can obsess over day-of statistics! So far, things are looking great! In fact, this whole time I’ve been worried about excessive heat…looks like I may have to worry more about colder temps instead.

I think I’ve also calmed down a bit from my I’m Going To Have a Marathon Induced Heart Attack! episode thanks to blog land.  Turns out, taper madness is a real condition that makes you truly experience symptoms of paranoia/anxiety/obsession.  I kinda thought it was just me, but when I started seeing everyone else writing posts about the same things, I realized that I am not alone.  So thank you, blog peeps! Luckily I’ve had this wedding to help get my mind on other things.  Next week I’ll have to create another distraction.

Speaking of next week, I will be doing my marathon countdown, and I plan on having one long “Get Your Head in the Game” week with lots of quotes, Pinterest finds, and general “pump me up” inspiration. I have no doubt that I can run the marathon I want physically, but I need to get my head on the same wave length.

I hope you have a good weekend!  What are you up to?

Which One of You Pace Groups Wants Me?

I’m allowing myself to have a minor freak out over details this week.  Next week, assuming all of my fears and concerns and worries and general anxiety have been soothed and solved, I will move on to pep talks and inspiration and some loud Chariots of Fire music (extra points if Mr. Bean shows up).

But today. Today is Amy is Freaking Out Over Her Marathon #1.  Please consider this as an open invitation to give me honest and unsolicited advice, because oh my goodness am I listening! Not that I’m ever NOT listening. But you know what I mean.

Marathon Dilemma #1: Pace Groups. 

So, before I get into that, I was doing my daily stalking of the B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association).  (Congratulations to all of you who got accepted for 2013!).  Registration is still open, which is pretty crazy.  We are currently into the 2014 qualifying window, and spots are still open for 2013.  Apparently, yesterday morning, there were still 2500 openings available.  I have never entertained the possibility of running Boston 2013 because it didn’t occur to me that spots would still be open this far into registration.  Even though I’m certain after this upcoming weekend’s races and the roughly 1 billion people hoping to BQ at Chicago that I won’t be getting in, there exists just a slight glimmer of hope.  Just maybe.

However, I stumbled upon this little tidbit of information on the Boston Marathon facebook page.  I don’t know how I missed it until now, but this makes my heart happy!

I set my 3:30 goal assuming that the times would be reduced by 5 minutes as they have been the last couple of years.  But, the times will remain the same! So, to qualify, I have to run 3:34:59 or 8:11 mile splits…5 minutes slower than I have been anticipating!

Herein lies my dilemma.

I’ve been planning on running with a pace group.  I figure when the going gets tough and I lose the ability to think, and I start fading away physically and wanting to curl up in fetal position , I can say to myself, “just stay with the pacer, and you’ll be ok.”  That’s it.  Just stay with the pacer.

I am of course hoping that the pacers know what they’re doing.  I’ve read some blogs of pacers who kind of screwed over their groups, but those were for smaller races.  I’d like to think that Chicago would have a competitive process for choosing these people who fearlessly lead hopefuls to victory.  Maybe?

Also, apparently the pacers keep a consistent pace throughout the race.

Luckily, both the 3:30 and 3:35 time groups are offered in my corral.   But which one do I choose?

(First, I’m being confident and positive Amy and assuming that I can keep up with these groups at all.  Obviously there is a HUGE chance that I won’t be able to hang after the first 15 miles.  But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there).

Should I go with the 3:30 group and give myself five minutes to fall behind pace?  This gives me wiggle room to not make some mile splits at goal time, or use the bathroom if necessary, or stop to walk, or curl up in fetal position for a bit, or whatever.

OR

Do I go with the 3:35 group and hope that I’m feeling good enough the last 4-5 miles to pick up speed and come in somewhere around 3:33-3:35 since I saved so much energy by going 11 seconds slower per mile?

For me, going out too fast usually means that I start out about 6:45 and run my first few miles in the 7:00 range (not the best idea).  I don’t think starting at 8 or 8:11 will make or break me energy wise.  Plus, the one time I tried negative splits, I didn’t feel like it helped me at all.

So, do I give myself a cushion or do I conserve a bit of energy and hope that I have it in me to go crazy the last few miles?

My inclination is to go out for a 3:30, but I feel like everyone will say to go out slower and then pick it up for the last few miles.  But what if I’m too tired to pick it up?  I’m not giving myself any wiggle room if I go out slower.  But what if I really can’t handle 8 minute miles. I think I know what Pre would suggest!

I don’t know what I’m going to do.  What would you do and why?

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Also, the problem with following all of the “big” running blogs is my envy over their participation in all of these cool relays.  The running social media world was recently taken over by Hood to Coast coverage (thanks to the 3 Nuun sponsored blogger teams who were tasked with talking about the race and Nuun as much as possible), and I added it to my bucket list.  It looks AMAZING!  Mountain AND Ocean views!

So, this race just happened, but they are already getting people pre-registered in anticipation of real registration in a couple of weeks.  Apparently this thing sells out in 1 day…10 months in advance! If only we could find 10 other people willing to commit to something 10 months in advance (and you know, running at night and living out of a van for a couple of days).

I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday!