Chicago Marathon Race Recap!

“When the wall hits, you climb over that wall.”

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..and climb we did!

Chicago Marathon – you were amazing.  The crowds, the runners, the volunteers, the view, the flatness…everything was perfect. A great races will always feel good, but they feel even better when you go into them with fears and can use the achievement as a reminder to yourself that bumps in the road are just bumps – they are not dead-ends – keep fighting to get over them and use the setbacks to propel you forward.

“The course is is flat and fast! It’s a PR for sure!”

I heard this sentence numerous times, and although intentions were good and meant to be inspirational, I could not help but feel more and more overwhelemed and worried every time I heard it.

What if I don’t PR? Is it embarrassing to not PR in Chicago? Oh, the pressure.

I ran a 5k two years ago that was hyped up as the ‘fastest 5k course’ and was basically a PR ready to happen.  Naturally, I thought that meant you can just start off in a sprint.  Funny thing about that is, a 5k is still THREE MILES, not a nice little lap around the track.  I may be able to run 26.2 miles but that does not mean three miles feels like an 800. If my sarcasm hasn’t sold you on what happened, let me help you out by saying…I DIED….like at mile 1. So I had 2 lovely miles of hating myself for that decision and basically feeling humiliated by my initial thought process and now the fact that I was getting passed left and right.  So yes, the phrase “It is so fast!!”…does not bring back the best of memories.  I also like to think that my muscular body and strong legs give me advantage on hillier courses.

Fears aside, I arrived in Chicago ready to race, embrace the challenges, and fight to stay with the lovely Bethany (@babfitrun). We discussed our race plan on Saturday and I was ready and willing to take on the challenging pace because I wanted, more than anything, to replicate Philly where we pushed each other and did not stop fighting for the sake of the other person.  Running for yourself is one thing, running for someone else is something far greater and is an indescribable experience.  And that 3:15 is something I was not letting go of and was going to continue to fight for regardless of how San Francisco went.

I gave myself plenty of time the morning of the race to get ready, eat and stretch.  In my last post, I touched on the importance of keeping everything as rush-free as possible so that you are not stressing and wearing down your mental game before the race.  Going along with my plan to keep everything stress-free, the first thing on my morning to-do list was to treat myself to some high-class dining for breakfast…

img_0529…so I took my oatmeal in the hotel hallway and sat down on the floor 🙂  My fancy breakfast came to an end along with my kindness of being quiet so my boyfriend could continue sleeping.  It was time for the most important part of the race…THE OUTFIT.

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After I put on my super cute outfit that was planned to match Bethany, played a fun game of ‘Twister’ in an attempt to apply my KT tape to my backside, and made sure to snap pictures for my parents, Snapchat story and Instagram story, I was ready to catch an Uber and make my way to Bethany’s hotel.

img_0555In the midst of stretching and taking more pictures, we talked about how amazing Philly was and how ready we were to do it all again.  We are never sure how it is going to unfold once our legs get moving but we never speak those thoughts.  What makes our friendship so special is our ability to push each other and keep each other confident.  We do not train the same but we trust that our training is what works for us and trust that no matter what the other person is doing, we will show up on equal terms – two strong, motivated and determined girls ready to fight for ourselves and for other person.img_0534We made our way to the start line and had plenty of time to hit the bathrooms and chat with other runners.  You know it is going to be a great race when you talk to multiple people who casually say, “this is my 10th Chicago!”..making even more excited to run the streets.

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 The gun went off and we were on our way to embark on the 26.2 journey.  There is so much uncertainty of how the remaining 3 + hours are going to play out and this uncertainty is what makes the marathon so intriguing – it’s scary, concerning, exciting, beautiful, fun, awful all at the same time.  It is 26.2 miles of staying in constant check of your body and mind and consistently self-regulating.

A few days prior to the race, I listened to my favorite Running to the Top podcast with Tina Muir  while doing some yin-yoga and the speaker said that the best advice she had ever received was, “You just take negative thoughts throw them in the fire.  You just gotta keep throwing these negative thoughts out of your head and into that fire for it to burn.  I know there is nothing poetic and fancy about that statement when you read the words but when you think deeply about the meaning and the action, it truly is so powerful.  Negative thoughts can make or break a race.  In order to excel in the marathon and life in general, you need to have strategy for how you will bounce back when you feel yourself getting knocked down.  This was my strategy on Sunday.  I was not going to succumb to any of those thoughts.  Every time I heard myself saying something doubtful or negative, I literally was like “NOPE.  Crumple up…into the fire….GOODBYE”.

When I did the Boston and San Francisco Recap, I grouped the miles in the sections based on feelings and how/when things unraveled because in both races, I did find myself unraveling.  In Boston, I was able to hold it together a bit more than San Francisco.  Chicago was different.  I felt like it was a consistent 26.2 miles. We stayed relatively composed and consistent just about the entire time.  Our GPS watches were not very accurate with our pace so there were times where we weren’t completely sure if we were too fast or too slow, but we did out best to go by feel in those moments.

I will do my best to group the miles, but these are loose grouping because there really were no points that stood out.  Miles passed, doubt came and went, and we just kept pounding the pavement.  We both admitted to feeling moments where we weren’t sure we could hang with the other person but what it came down do was sacrifice.  I was willing to risk hitting the wall to stay with Bethany.  Attempting to PR involves risk-taking.  I took that risk in San Francisco and was smacked in the face by the hills.  In Chicago, I took that risk and it paid off.  Miles passed by and I never really felt myself letting go. In fact, there were moments I had to tell myself to GO. You’re not hurting, you feel better than at any other marathon, you’re prepared for this..why are you holding back? If you want it, you NEED to get out of this comfort zone and step it up.

Miles 1 – 13: Things felt good.  I had minor little aches that ignited some fear but I brushed them off and kept going.  The City was beautiful, I was doing what I love, I was keeping my mental game on point, and was doing consistent ‘body scans’ to make sure nothing was tensing up.  (A tactic I read from the book ChiRunning)  I would consider these miles, the ‘vigilant‘ miles. You just got to hit your splits and can’t really think/plan too much because it is still too early to make moves.

Miles 13 – 18:  My stomach was beginning to act up and I was getting nervous about potentially having to stop.  I was bummed that I was running into this issue again but I just told myself to ignore it and keep pushing.  Bethany and I caught up to the 3:15 pacers which was exciting because we started behind them meaning we were running a sub 3:15 gun time.  At mile 17/18, I told Bethany that I did not want to pass the pacers until mile 20. As soon as that statement came out, I felt a bit ashamed. I knew it wasn’t because I wasn’t feeling ready to pass them, it was because I feared that San Francisco would repeat itself.  This wasn’t San Francisco and I needed to run without being tainted by that experience.

Mile 19 – Well that didn’t last long. I was so sick of being elbowed by the people in the pace group so I sprinted out of that pack and in front.  Bethany – despite being confused and probably despising this abrupt change in speed – followed!

Mile 20 – 23:  These miles were spent talking myself up.  You need to start to go.  6 miles, 5 miles, 4 miles…this is nothing.

Mile 23 – 26:  I went.  Feeling pretty good at mile 23 with no cramps is something a marathoner does not experience very often.  I knew that this was a rare occasion and if I didn’t capitalize on it now, I would 100% regret it.

26 – 26.2 – A HILL. REALLY!?  I surged, grunted, surged, yelled and did just about every other embarrassing thing I could do approaching that finish line….Needless to say, I will not be buying the race photos.

The finish line was incredible.  I DID A 3:13.52!!! I was shooting for a 3:15 so this was just unbelievable.  Making this even more unbelievable was seeing Bethany cruise in seconds later for a 4 minute PR.  Everyone is deserving of a PR but she deserved this more than anyone I know. She spent winter, embracing the snow and embarking on long, cold runs..only to be confronted with heat at Boston causing her to run conservatively.  Admirably, she took that day with pride and fought on.  She spent the summer, fall and the 26.2 miles through Chicago fighting for something she earned on April 18th and she got it!

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Race photos and I just do not get along.  I really do smile and wave!

I feel blessed more than I do proud.  I could not have achieved this time without having Bethany by my side pushing me to keep and hold the pace.  Celebrating the final product and the entire experience was so fun and I can’t wait to do it again soon!

Chicago Marathon 2016 – you were unforgettable! 🙂

 

Chicago Marathon Weekend

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Chicago Marathon weekend was incredible for so many reasons. The Friday morning 2am wakeup and 5:30am flight was not one of the reasons but after a great night of sleep Friday night, I felt much better and the fun really began!

I tackled the expo Friday afternoon while we were waiting for our room to be ready.  We were dragging after an early wakeup, packed flight and long Uber ride to the hotel but the loud music and the awesome Nike fired me right up…and lit a hole in my wallet.

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The Expo was exciting, fun and not too crowded.  It was the perfect amount of craziness – crazy enough to get you pumped up and race-ready but not elbow-throwing crazy.  Once I got my bag, made my rounds for the free-samples and justified my expensive Nike purchases with “But it’s the Chicago Marathon so I need it…”,  we were back in an Uber back to the hotel for a much-needed, shades drawn, relaxing afternoon.  We had reservations at the highly recommended restaurant, Summer House – Santa Monica, and tickets to a Comedy show for Friday night.  The comedy show was one of my attempts at making this weekend with my boyfriend not all about running because sometimes you can’t rely on free-samples at the expo to make a race weekend sound appealing 😉  Needless to say, an attempt was all it was… we walked out halfway through because I was exhausted and didn’t want to be out late.  At least the first half was hilarious and we were able to walk out knowing that we got a solid 60 minutes of laughter!

Bethany and I initially planned on joining a group for a shakeout run but after a long day on Friday, sleeping in and getting some much-needed rest took priority over an early, group shakeout run.  A good night’s rest and coffee in bed later, I was ready to get back out on the Chicago streets and made my way to Bethany’s hotel.  3 miles under the beautiful sun and along the water was perfect but not enough time to catch up on everything since seeing each other in Boston.

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We spent the rest of the morning catching up over coffee..and water.  I eventually made my way back to the hotel to slide into my Normatec boots, read, hydrate and relax.  I made dinner reservations at 4:30 because I was not about to repeat my mistake at San Francisco of eating too late.  I also switched to pasta and plain tomato sauce rather than pizza.  I will talk more about additional small changes that can and should be made within my pre-race nutrition to hopefully assist in eliminating my GI issues that I have been experiencing.

An early dinner gave me plenty of time to hit the fitness center in the evening to do some light foam rolling and stretching to loosen up and flush out my legs, as well as, relax my mind.  7:00pm on a Saturday = fitness center to myself to just play my music loud and do every obnoxious/awkward yoga pose.  Just having the time to myself, relax and give my muscles some last minute TLC was already giving me confidence and making me mentally ready for the race.  In San Francisco, I did not get home until about 9:30 and was frantically running around getting my stuff together.  The negative thoughts were already seeping in and I hadn’t even made it to the start line.  In an event so mental as the marathon, preparing your mind is just as important as preparing your body.  You need to be ready to fight and ward off every negative thought.  Being ready to fight that battle, for me, requires a good night sleep, time to myself to stretch and relax, time to lay my gear out and just chill out in bed with a good show to take my mind off everything before I go to bed.   The confidence I felt from just allowing myself some “me” time in the evening was so great and something that may seem so small but evidently makes a huge impact on my performance.

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I made it back in my room by 7:30, laid everything out, took a quick shower and was in bed by 8:30.  The ‘night before’ was perfectly executed and I went to bed stress-free and ready to race!

I will talk more about the morning and the race itself in my next post so lets fast-forward to after the marathon.  Bethany invited me back to her hotel to shower and hang out before I made the trek back to my hotel.  Katie (@Katiefitscript) joined in on the lounging around the hotel room and we all just hung out, drank some pumpkin beer (except for me because I am lame and just can’t stomach beer after a race), and chatted.  It is so funny how we follow each other on Instagram and virtually cheer each other on but when we get the opportunity to hang out in person, it feels as though we know each other so well and we can just talk about anything and everything.  I have said it before and I will say it again – social media can get a little crazy and we can get over consumed about others simply based on pictures they post – but then you meet people that are so inspirational, kind and fun.  These friendships may seem strange when you think about how they originated but they are real and they are what make these weekends memorable and more than just the race.  I really am lucky to have met some of these ladies and I hope to meet more because there are a ton of genuine, hard-working and wonderful people that I follow and admire.

I eventually made my way back to my hotel to meet my boyfriend and get some FOOD!  I was freezing and didn’t look up much on my way back to the hotel but I did spot the cutest bakery along the way and had to check it out.  I don’t know what sold me the most, the beautiful assortment of baked goods or the HEAT but I was not about to leave.  “Cookies” was all I had to say to get my boyfriend to join!  A celebratory mimosa, cookie and sandwich later, I was back in my hotel bed curled up and relaxing before heading out on the town for some night time exploring.

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I surprisingly felt great after the race and was eager to see Chicago at night without stressing about resting my legs.  We started off at the (packed) Nike store to checkout the ‘Finisher’ clothing..as if I realllllly needed to add to my already large Chicago Nike collection. We then ventured on to find a good restaurant.  Let’s just say, that is not an easy decision in a city like Chicago, but we chose a cute Indian restaurant. We ended the amazing day just walking around the city until we realized that our 6am flight requires a 3:00am wakeup and decided to call it a night.  I went to bed with the fullest heart and surprisingly not-so dead legs.  It was a weekend that I will never forget. I had moments of doubt in my training that led me to have thoughts of not even wanting to do Chicago and times where I thought my boyfriend would not be able to come and I would be alone in this adventure.  It feels exceptionally good to see that despite the 2 weeks of rocky training and doubt, it all came together and was better than I could have ever imagined.

This would be a great place to end this post but I do want to touch back on my pre-race nutrition for a couple reasons…1.) someone may actually care. 2.) I would greatly appreciate any advice or input on this issue and am hoping someone may reach out and provide some additional insight.

My pre-race nutrition continues to be a work in progress but the early dinner and not over-stuffing myself is certainly a step in the right direction.  I’ve done a ton of research and have listened to numerous podcasts that touch on marathon nutrition and am working to find what works for me..and then actually implementing it.  One thing I have taken away from all the researching is that carb-loading is not and should not be a night-before thing.  It should begin 3-4 days prior to race with increasing carbohydrates and decreasing fibrous and high-fat foods.  I have certainly begun to incorporate this with each additional marathon I tackle.  Most of my meals leading up to the race include oatmeal, sweet potatoes and rice cakes.  However, I could do a better job at decreasing my nuts, seeds and fibrous food intake the closer I get to race morning.   As for my nutrition in everyday life, I try to have a well-balanced, whole foods diet consisting of nuts, seeds, legumes, yogurt, a small amount of red meat, sweet potatoes and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  In the 1-2 days leading up to a race, despite knowing what I should be eating, I continue to find it challenging to break away from my standard diet and just eat a bagel, pretzels, crackers, etc.  I am certainly not saying that these foods are bad, they are just not foods/snacks that I go for or particularly want in my normal diet.  If you know me well, you know that I am a creature of habit, I like to have things structured and consistent.

I’ve probably had Siggis greek yogurt mixed with chopped frozen banana and mixed nuts just about every morning for the last 2 months.  Since school has started, my students can attest to the fact that I come into the lunch room everyday with a big ol’ salad filled with lettuce, cucumber, avocado, chopped walnuts, strawberries and a little bit of feta cheese with some balsamic vinaigrette.  When I get home from school, I blend up VegaSport protein, frozen spinach, mixed frozen berries and top it with some rice puffs.  Dinner is probably the only thing I switch up for the sake of not totally boring my boyfriend to death, but even so, I often get the “Woahhhh you’re making steak? On a Wednesday!?! You always make lentil pasta on Wednesday.” haha, I don’t even realize these small things but my brain just operates this way subconsciously.  What is comes down to is, I find foods/meals/a schedule that I like and that works for me and I don’t really find myself wanting to deviate from it. The first thing I wanted to get in Chicago was a big Acai bowl with all the fruit and nuts!!  Of course, I enjoy going out on Saturday nights for a good burger, fries, and ice cream and I won’t pass up a family dinner or night with friends but at the end of the day, I like the structure and the consistency of my diet and the way it makes me feel energized and nourished.  With all that being said, the downfall of this structure is, 3-4 days worth of changing things up is not always the easiest.  And then, of course, there is the theory of not deviating too much from your normal eating habits the days before a marathon. haha. I guess the take away from all of this is, I have had some struggles with GI issues in the last two marathons but they have not been terrible.  I do not need to make drastic changes but there is room for small changes and I need to do a better job at testing things out during training!

This marathon stuff is a constant learning experience but I love to run and I love to learn so I am in for the ride! 🙂