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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂