Wandering with a Purpose

Category: Running (Page 1 of 4)

My running journey started late and is slow, but I really enjoy it. I started to believe that I can get better, so I am documenting the journey. I believe anyone can run if they start and don’t push unrealistic expectations on themselves. It really is a fun sport and challenge.

Race Recap: 2021 Abbott Chicago 5K

During my marathon research, I found out that major marathons host a “shake out” run the day before the big event. Chicago Marathon’s is called the Abbott Chicago 5K. Even though I was nervous about running the day before the marathon, much of my research showed that it’s a positive thing, assuming you take it easy.

Course Map

The course is a one-way 3.1 mile run through the heart of Chicago’s downtown loop area. It passes major landmarks and is just a fun way to see the city.

The course itself was very cool and a fun way to see the city. The race highlights different countries so many people had flags to run with to show their home countries.

The Start

I arrived too early because I had a hard time sleeping. It was a pretty morning and fun to watch people arrive. My guess is that many of the people running were also running the next day.

The Race

There’s not much to report on a 5K race going at a really easy pace. I felt strong the whole time but really was there to take it all in. The coolest part of the race was around a mile going up an exit. There was a group of people and I heard some rumblings. When I turned around, it was Shalane Flanagan walking up the ramp with some girls from Girls on the Run. A bunch of the runners freaked out and tried to take pictures as we passed. My pictures didn’t turn out, but it was really cool to see her on the course.

fun bag of snacks post race

The Finish

I felt great at the end. The run gave me a lot of energy, and they gave everyone a cute bag of snacks at the end. My final time was 35:24 which was about an 11:24/mile pace.

If anyone is doing the Chicago Marathon and is considering the Abbott 5K, I would highly recommend it. Not only was it a fun course, but it was a nice way to get out race jitters before standing at the start line. I think I would have been much more nervous on Sunday if I didn’t get this race in the day before. To read how the marathon went, check out my race recap.

Race Recap: 2021 Chicago Marathon

I completed the 2021 Chicago Marathon on October 10, 2021. When I signed up and started training, it seemed like that day would never happen. That it was so far away, but then, all of the sudden I was waiting at the airport to fly to Chicago.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Travel and Logistics

I flew to Chicago on Friday morning and arrived in the afternoon. O’Hare was really busy, and you could see people wearing running shirts from past races. Once you got into the lobby for the L, there were signs that advertised marathon weekend. It made me really excited. The ticket even advertised the 2021 Chicago Marathon.

After taking the L into the city, I found my hotel, HI Hostel, which was a quick walk from one of the stations. While I understand this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I cannot say enough great things about this place. I was luckily able to book a private room with a shared bath before I was confirmed for the race (free cancelation) and paid $253.85 for the entire weekend and it is a literal block and a half walk to the corrals. It was perfect.

Once I settled in, I decided to take the Metra train from Millennial Park to McCormick Center. The cost was $4 round trip, but an Uber was $30 one way. Uber’s were incredibly expensive all weekend, so I opted for walking or public transportation the entire time. The train was easy, and I didn’t feel too uncomfortable. I think it was about 3 stops away.

Marathon Expo

I went to the expo on Friday afternoon. I’m not sure if it was like this all weekend or if that was the time everyone decided to go, but the line was absolutely ridiculous! There had to be thousands of people there.

Once I was in the expo, I found the packet pickup location and received my bib. We then proceeded to another location and picked up our t-shirts.

I’m not sure how the expo compared to previous years, but it was smaller than Disney (obviously) yet I thought it was still really big. I didn’t buy any gear because it was all a bit overwhelming. I focused on getting my bib and a picture before leaving.

Evening Entertainment

Then it was time to make my way back to the hostel on the Metra to create my dinner plans. I decided on an Italian restaurant called Osteria Via Stato my brother recommended in the River North (I think) area. I took the L there, and after getting lost for a few blocks, found my way to the restaurant. Since it was race weekend, I treated myself to an appetizer (burrata) and Cacio de Pepe, which I hadn’t had in a long time. I really enjoyed the burrata, but I should have chosen a different pasta. Since I didn’t feel comfortable on the L, I walked home and saw some beautiful sights. I think it was my first time being downtown at night.

Then it was time for bed to wake up for the Abbott 5K.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Abbott 5K

I slept okay but was up well before I needed to be to get ready for the Abbott 5K. The start line is in the same area as the marathon, so it was a quick 1.5 block walk to the start. Read more about this race in the race recap.

Riverboat Cruise

After showering and getting ready, I found a coffee on my way to Michigan Ave for the start of the architecture tour. I thought this would be a good activity to see the city but stay off my feet. I had been on one when we lived here in the early 2000s and remember it being awesome. It was the most perfect day, and I got some amazing pictures!

The Evening

Alert from Chicago Marathon - one more sleep!

After the tour, I walked really fast to the train station to catch a Metra train to the suburbs to visit my best friend from high school. I spent the rest of the day with her family before taking the train back and walking to the hostel. Then I laid out my gear and tried to get a good night’s sleep.

After all of the early mornings and hard work, I couldn’t believe the day was almost here. I had a really hard time sleeping, but I just had to trust that it was all going to be okay.

2021 Chicago Marathon Run Flat

Sunday, October 10, 2021 – MARATHON Sunday

Getting Ready and Start Line

Whew. I was terrified when I woke up in the morning. I knew I had everything, but I was still so nervous. For breakfast, I ate my granola bar around 6:00 am and saved my Honey Stinger waffle until the start line. I got dressed, put on body glide, sunscreen, and my bib. It was finally time to do the actual race. My plan was to run 60 seconds and then walk 30 seconds after running for the first 1 or 1.5 miles as a warm-up.

I left my hotel around 6:30 am since they suggest arriving at the gates at that time. It was a long time to be at the start line, but I knew I wouldn’t relax anymore in my room. I wandered around the corrals for a while. I was originally in corral M, but I requested a change to L. Because of the temperature, I knew there wasn’t a snowball’s chance I would get below 5 hours (wishful thinking) and felt guilty about going to L. It all ended up working out because I couldn’t even figure out how to get to the L group from where I entered. Also, I will note, that I shouldn’t have felt guilty about starting in an ambitious group. I think people do that often.

Anyway, my conscious felt better starting in my initial group of M. I went to the corral after checking my bag, using the restroom, and decided to just wait. I had a long time left to go. Slowly but surely things started and we made our way to the start!

Marathon Strategy and Goals

As I was visualizing the course, I put a strategy together that split the course into 6 sections.

  • Section 1: Miles 1-3 > the downtown warm up
  • Section 2: Miles 3-8 > going north
  • Section 3: Miles 8 – 13.1 > south to halfway
  • Section 4: Miles 13 – 17 > the west side
  • Section 5: Miles 18 – 23 > going south and banana time
  • Section 6: Miles 23 – 26.2 > home stretch

I thought this would give me shorter mile markers to focus on and phases for focus. I knew I needed to go slow for the first three sections because I had to feel good at the 13.1 marker or things wouldn’t go well. Sections 4 and 5 would be the hardest and most boring. I wanted to evaluate how I was feeling at section 6 so I could decide if I wanted to pick it up and push towards the end.

Marathon Goals

  • Run in at least 5:15
  • PR (I should have confirmed this time before the race, but I knew it was just under 6 hours)
  • Run a steady 60/30 pace
  • Change to a 30/30 pace at mile 20, if I can’t sustain 60/30
  • Run some after mile 18
  • Finish even if I have to crawl

Section 1: Miles 1-3

The race was off to a good start. I read a lot of race recaps from previous years on blogs and what they say is true – GPS doesn’t work and it’s crowded. Everyone was running faster than I felt they should be, but it was just so darn exciting! There were so many crowds with funny signs. I really tried to force myself to stay slow for the first 1.5 miles, but I was feeling good. When I started my run/walk series, I felt really out of place. Even in my back-of-the-pack crowd, no one was walking. I tried to stay on the edge and out of people’s way. It was a challenge because I knew I had to run my race. I couldn’t follow what other people were doing. I needed to feel good and not tired when I came back down to the river again.

Section 2: Miles 3 – 8

Irish band at the 8K

Shortly after passing the 5K mark, the city becomes less congested and more residential. I keep on my 60/30 pace and was surprised by how strong I was feeling. I couldn’t get my podcasts to work, which was frustrating, but I ended up taking in the crowds and the experience. Around mile 5, you get into a park. I stopped for a restroom break and also got down a little bit of Gatorade for some electrolytes. I hate it so much, but I felt like I needed to do it.

Mile 8 and time to turn south

As you make your way further north, the neighborhoods change, but there were crowds the whole way. Even though it was warm out, it didn’t feel that bad. There were gusts of wind which made you feel cool. I tried not to think of that, but I took water at every aid station to drink and also put a few on my head to try to keep me cool. One of the things I learned during training is that your heart rate increases as you get warmer, so it is important to cool yourself off (thus, why I bought a pair of shorts).

Mile 8 was when you make your turn back south. I reached the most northern part of the course. I just kept chugging along. Slow and steady.

Section 3: Miles 8 – 13.1

The last part of the first half was upon me. At some point during this stretch, I picked up another Gatorade and choked it down. Yuck! The city started getting more condensed as we made our way back into River North.

But I just kept chugging along. I couldn’t believe I was feeling so good at the halfway mark. At some point, I passed the police car doing the 15-mile pace for Wave 2. I felt really good about that and felt confident that I could PR this race. I thought with all my training it would be no issue to PR, but maybe I would do better than expected.

Stopped to get a picture with the Sears Tower

But I knew I had to keep my mind calm. Just slow and steady, 60/30. Just keep going. Don’t get excited. Just be steady. After all, this truly was a marathon and not a sprint!

Then we started getting back into the thick of the city and back to the river when we made it to the halfway point!

I just couldn’t believe that I was feeling good and not too exhausted. Just stay steady!

Section 4: Miles 13 – 17

In my visualization, I knew this part would be hard. This was just an out-and-back going west. I wasn’t sure what would be out here to look at, but it wouldn’t be like the River District. Around mile 15, I started to not feel well. I decided to walk for a little bit, took a Huma gel, and stopped at the restroom again. Nausea just wouldn’t go away so I kept walking. When I tried to run, I just couldn’t. I started to get really frustrated with myself. What happened? Why couldn’t I run? I stopped at the restroom again another time or two but nothing was helping. I was so angry and upset.

As a note, you do pass the United Center (I think Chicago Bulls) and the place where the Blackhawks play.

Section 5: Miles 18 – 23

Section 5 did not go well at all. I was so angry. At some point, I walked over to a side street hoping I could throw up but I couldn’t. How did I start out so well for it to go so not well? I was scared I wouldn’t be able to finish because I felt so ill. I got my banana, but I couldn’t even think about taking a gel (the last one I could take was the one I had at 15). Should I just pull over and be done with it? No, I wanted the medal. I worked too hard. I told myself that my last goal was to finish – even if it was crawling over the finish line at midnight – I would get to the end, so I had to just put one foot in front of the other. Just keep going.

This section was just miserable. Just focusing on one foot then the other.

Section 6: Miles 23 – 26.2

Only a 5K remained. This was when I was supposed to evaluate to see if I could push myself further. I couldn’t I tried to run; whether it was 30/30 or just a little run. I struggled so much. By the time I made the turn back north, I started to feel hot. It hit me that it was quite hot outside. There also wasn’t any shade. My Apple Watch died around mile 24. Around mile 25, I was desperate for a water stop. I was feeling dehydrated, but I was almost there! Almost done.

Then I got to Mt. Roosevelt. I wanted to tackle this. It felt like I was running, but I doubt it looked that way. My “run” sustained until the very top when I had to walk, but I was almost there. After the top, you turn left, and just like the other recaps said – and there it was – THE FINISH LINE! I was so close. “Run, Kristin,” I told myself. “Keep going. You’re so close.”

Marathon Finish

I finally crossed the finish line and was overwhelmed. My emotions were everywhere – I was angry with myself, relieved that I was done, proud that I had completed a marathon, tired, dirty, hot. I couldn’t sort it all out. All I could focus on was finding water and then my medal. They had a cool rag which was AMAZING!

Look at that beauty!!!

Once I got my water, I made my way to bag claim to get my things and find a place to sit down.

In Conclusion

My final time was 5:53:38, which was a lot worse than I had hoped. I thought it may be a PR, but once I double-checked my first marathon was 5:52:32. Just one minute would have made a huge difference. I was so disappointed because I trained harder for this marathon than I did for my first one. The pace was about 13:45 minute/mile. I was doing closer to 11:30/mile at the beginning before it went down to 14-16 minutes during the rough time.

Marathon Goal Update

  • Run in at least 5:15 – nowhere close, but I think it wouldn’t have been in my reach if I didn’t get sick
  • PR – off my 1 minute!!
  • Run a steady 60/30 pace – oh sigh…
  • Change to a 30/30 pace at mile 20, if I can’t sustain 60/30 – even 30/30 was too much
  • Run some after mile 18 – I tried to do some running, but I couldn’t sustain anything
  • Finish even if I have to crawl – Achieved this one
me with my medal

At the end of the day, as people remind me, I did finish a marathon and my first world major. It was an amazing experience and is just further motivation to improve in the future.

Celebratory Dinner

Since I signed up, I knew I wanted to celebrate with a Chicago-style pizza from Giordano’s and a Magnolia Bakery red velvet cupcake. Mission accomplished and it was delicious!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Flew home and wore my medal in the airport with the other finishers. I was ready to go home and see my puppies.

2021 Chicago Marathon: Training Week 18

AHH! Marathon week is HERE! Mileage on the training plan is really low this week because the focus is on making sure your muscles are rested so you can power through on Sunday.

Monday

My massage therapist was available for a massage and it was so needed. I had a really tight muscle in my lower right back. I didn’t realize how bad it was until she was working it out. That is going to help my legs a lot for this weekend.

Tuesday

Running after my massage did not go well. My back was so sore that I couldn’t move my legs fast enough to run. My three miles were very much a walk averaging at 12:16/mile. I know this week I need to go slow and not push it.

Wednesday

My neighbor ran 4 miles with me today, and we practiced my 60/30 pattern. This went well, and I felt really good. I averaged a 13:00 pace because we walked a lot at the beginning. Again, the goal was to take it really easy this week.

Thursday

AHH! This was my last run at home before I flew to Chicago. I completed an easy 2 mile run at an 11:09/mile pace in the morning and then all thoughts turned to actually packing everything on my packing list. I was so nervous I was going to forget something. I couldn’t believe I completed all of my training runs and tomorrow was time to go to Chicago.

my completed marathon training plan

I should also note, I tried to eat more carbs this week, and while I never have a good diet, I felt really yucky this week. I know I didn’t do it right, and this was something to figure out in the future.

Friday

I flew to Chicago in the morning and took the “L” to my hotel – HI Hostel. I couldn’t have picked a better location as the start line was literally a block away. More on trip details later. After settling in, I took the Metra to McCormick Place for the Expo. I got my bib and then went to dinner before getting a good night’s sleep.

Saturday

The Abbott Chicago 5K started at 7:30 am. I wanted to experience the race and just take it easy. I ran the whole thing averaging 12:07/mile pace. Read the race recap for more details.

Sunday

Today was the big day! Bottom line, I finished the race. I didn’t meet a goal time, I didn’t PR, but I got my medal. I’m frustrated with myself, but I know the areas I need to improve. Completing a marathon is a big accomplishment no matter what the time is. I’m proud of myself because I stood at the start line feeling proud of my training and the dedication I put into this race. For more details, read my Chicago Marathon Race Recap.

me and my 2021 Chicago Marathon medal

Summary

It’s funny. I put in 18 weeks of effort and still didn’t do as well as I wanted to. It probably will always bother me. I’ve never stuck to a training plan as I did here. I’m really proud of myself for that. I know I must be in better shape than I was before, but I don’t always feel like it. What I do know is that I want running to be part of my life for the long term. This won’t be my last marathon, but I am going to focus on losing weight and getting strong with shorter distances. Once I feel like I have a more solid base, then I’ll work to attack another marathon – and hopefully earn a new PR.

2021 Chicago Marathon: Training Week 17

The last training week before marathon day! I look back on where I started on Week 1 and can’t believe I’m actually here.

Monday

Something I really need to focus on is finding a strength routine that I will actually do. Why do I hate doing it so much?! Sigh…no workout again.

Tuesday

I finished my 4 scheduled miles at 11:07/mile pace, and I felt really good.

Wednesday

Today was rough. I was supposed to do 6 miles, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I went out and got in 3 at a 12:15/mile pace. While I’m happy I did something, I was really frustrated with myself for not being able to commit to doing all 6. What if I “wasn’t feeling it” on race day? That night I read about running mindset because I have been feeling really nervous. This was helpful and tried to get me to think more positively.

Thursday

Since I had 3 on the schedule today, I did the 6 that I should have completed yesterday. This went well and I averaged an 11:07/mile pace. I was pleased with this and happy to see trying to change my mindset was helping.

Friday

Today I did get in some bodyweight exercises and stretching, but nothing serious.

Schatzi checking out my results

Saturday

This was my last long run before race day. It’s hard to believe 8 miles seemed daunting at the beginning of my training, and now it was a lower mileage day. I averaged 8 miles at a 12:00/mile pace. Not sure why this was the first time, but I tried a 60/30 run/walk style which worked out well. I felt strong and somewhat consistent, so I think this is what I am going to do for marathon day. I felt like I could probably sustain that for a good period of time.

Sunday

I rode my bike but otherwise took the day easy. Trying to make sure I don’t get hurt before the big day which is in ONE WEEK!

Summary

I can’t believe next week is race week. I’ve been stressing a lot about the race and worrying, but bottom line is, I have worked hard for this. Even though I am nervous, I am excited and that is what I need to focus on. This is such an opportunity. An opportunity that was taken away last year, and I don’t want to waste the opportunity again. It’s such a unique experience to run a World Major Marathon and the Chicago Marathon.

2021 Chicago Marathon: Training Week 16

We’re down to the tail end of training. It’s the first week of tapering and quite a disappointing week for me. Trying to stay focused on being healthy, staying strong, and prepping for the big weekend.

Monday

Another strength day that I was determined to do. I did a short yoga stretch workout on Apple Fitness, but that was about it. I didn’t even close my rings. This continues to be a struggle that I need to figure out.

Tuesday

This is where the week really went south. I had 5 miles on the schedule and laid out my clothes the night before; I was ready to tackle all of my runs this week. Unfortunately, I got about two miles in, and I couldn’t ignore the pain. More than a goal of getting my runs in is making sure I’m healthy when I get to the start line. I’ve struggled with back pain and spasms for years. The Sunday or Monday I was supposed to leave for Florida for Dopey 2020, I had a spasm start which caused me to walk most of the 48.6-mile challenge – not what I wanted at all!

For this reason, I shortened my distance to 3 miles and walked the remainder. My new goal was to reduce the spasms to make sure it didn’t get any worse. This is a combination of stretching, icing, Biofreeze, and moving slowly.

Wednesday

Needless to say, my 8 miles was a no-go. My back still had sharp pains. I spent the morning trying to stretch and do light core workouts. This pain could be avoided if I would do yoga and strengthen my core. It all comes back to this – why do I avoid it! I was really nervous and mad at myself since it was a beautiful fall morning.

Thursday

Still trying to be gentle, I didn’t go out for my 4-mile run but did a light walk on my 1.5-mile path. It went okay, and it was a nice morning. I iced my back and continued to stretch and do my core exercises. Even though I did an Epsom salt path after my 20-mile run on Sunday, I’m sure this flare-up was from that and not stretching enough. I vowed to myself that I would take strength training and core work more seriously. If I want to keep running and get better this MUST be part of my routine.

Friday

The sharp pain was gone when I woke up on Friday, so I decided to try to get my 4 miles in from yesterday. I told myself I must walk and call it short if the pain came back. Luckily, it didn’t, but I knew I needed to move slowly. Because of the beautiful weather, I averaged an 11:33/mile pace and kept my heart rate to 156 BPM. I did some core exercises and stretching when I got home. I wanted to make sure I was feeling good for Sunday’s 15K + 3 miles.

Saturday

It was such a beautiful day, and I didn’t have any plans for the day! The pups and I had a lazy morning. I read an article in Runner’s World about Ryan and Sara Hall. Sara will be racing the 2020 Chicago Marathon, so I will be at the same race as her! She was interviewed on a podcast I listened to a few weekends ago and I instantly liked her. This article made me like them even more – they are a Christian couple who are complete rockstars in the running community. What wonderful role models! Who knows, maybe I will even pass them in person on race weekend!

Sunday

As part of my training, I researched races I could do to make my long runs more entertaining. One I found is an annual race the Lake Norman 15K and 5K. It takes place in Cornelius, NC, and is one I have tried to do in the past. Today, I had twelve miles on the training schedule, so it worked out perfectly. I did 1.6 miles before the race, about 9.3 miles for the race, and finished with a final mile. Read my race recap to hear how it went!

Other Updates

Bib and beanie for the Abbott Chicago 5K

The race keeps seeming more real! On Thursday I got my bib and fun beanie in the mail for the Abbot Chicago 5K, which I plan on doing the Saturday before the marathon. I love this hat and absolutely cannot wait to get there for race weekend! During my research, I decided to book an architecture river tour for after the 5K. Time is getting close, so I need to finalize my itinerary!

Race Recap: 2021 Novant Lake Norman 15K & 5K

The Novant Health Lake Norman 15K and 5K was held on September 26 and is an annual race as part of the Charlotte 6 Pack Race Series. This was my first time running this race, and it was my first 15K. Automatic PR! I signed up for this as part of my Week 16 long run of 12 miles. I thought this would be a great way to make my last double-digit run of the Chicago Marathon training season more exciting.

The Course

The race takes place in Cornelius where you run through the Peninsula, an upscale community on Lake Norman. In addition to running through the neighborhood, you run through Jetton Park. The views are nice and peaceful, but the course is incredibly hilly! There are very few flat stretches.

Run Flat for NH 15K

The Race

There weren’t a ton of people signed up for the race, but it was still a good crowd. This makes me nervous because I don’t want to come in last place and have the event crew wait for me. My goal going into this was to be slow and steady. I needed to get the miles in and feel good about it.

The first three miles were great. I felt fantastic. It was a beautiful, almost chilly morning. We ran on the road and through the park. I opted to just run and see how I felt instead of doing a formalized run/walk pattern. (Spoiler alert: this was a mistake!) The next three miles involved walking, but I hung around an 11:22/mile pace. Then I got to a huge hill around mile 6.5. It was so big that I couldn’t run. It was a walk…and walk…and walk. I really felt tired around mile 7 and wondered if the race would ever end. Mile 8 was along the main road, so it was pretty boring. I just did a run-walk until I face another HUGE hill. Finally, I got to mile 9, rounded the corner and saw the finish line. I was done!

Other Details

When this race was originally planned, it was going to be virtual. I signed up in September when I noticed it was in person. Even though it was in person, they gave you your medal when you picked up your shirt. There was something really anti-climatic about already having your medal and then crossing the finish line and not getting one. I brought it with me and snapped a shot.

Instead of a race shirt, they had these GREAT zip-ups. This may be one of my new favorite shirts. It’s so comfortable. I’m going to wear it when I go to Chicago next month.

Me with my medal

In Conclusion

This is definitely a race I would do again to see if I could improve my time. I finished it in 1:46:20 with an average mile of 11:23. 15K is a challenging but attainable distance.

2021 Chicago Marathon: Training Week 15

The race is getting closer, and I feel it getting more and more real. This week was “peak week” where I would complete my first 40-mile week and finish a 20 mile run. While I had slacked the last few weeks, I was determined to complete all 40 miles this week. I’m excited about the race, but I’m definitely nervous. This was like the last night to study before a big exam…YIKES!

Monday

Even though I had good intentions for the week, I went on a bike ride but didn’t do an actual strength workout. I had a lot of fun on my bike, so I need to keep doing that going forward – it’s hard!

Tuesday

I ran 5 miles with my neighbor doing a little bit of a speed workout. I still only averaged a 12:05/mile pace, but I was running at a 9 minute or below pace for my 0.25 mile sprints (then walking for recovery).

  • 1.5 mile warm up
  • 0.25 mile sprint / 0.25 recovery walk (repeat this until mile 4)
  • 1 mile steady to finish

Wednesday

Of all the runs on the training plan, this was one of the top three that made me nervous; the other two were the 18 mile and 20 mile runs. For many of these Wednesday semi-long runs, I think the mental hurdle may have been the hardest. This one, 10 miles, was quite daunting. I laid out my clothes the night before, had a plan, and made sure to get out the door on time. I just had a Honey Stinger waffle beforehand then took two Huma gels at miles 4 and 7.

In the end, I did my 5-mile run twice. My average pace was 12:08/mile, which is pretty good. Doing loops of my common paths has been really helpful for me. I think it helps to take the mental hurdle away.

Churchill and me before his haircut

Thursday

When I went downstairs on Thursday, I was dressed and ready to go. I opened up the door to take out the dogs and…it was raining! Such a bummer. I just couldn’t bring myself to run 5 miles, so I snuggled with the pups instead before they haircut.

Friday

As I mentioned, I was determined to complete all 40 miles this week. I got out early on Friday morning and did a 5-mile hill workout. I hadn’t done a hill workout in a long time, but I felt great! Even with a hill workout, I beat all of my other paces this week. This run was done at an average of 11:49/mile, which made me really happy.

Saturday

This ended up being a hangout day. I paddle boarded for a while, which was great exercise, but otherwise, was pretty lazy.

Sunday

Planning

20 Miles. The most scary run on the training schedule. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to finish it. The furthest I had trained in my two previous marathons was 18 miles for the 2018 Disney Marathon and 16 for Dopey 2020. I never completed my training plan, and I was never confident at the start of the race. Even if it took me all day and I had to walk the entire way, I was going to finish 20 mile milestone.

I think one of the best things I learned during this training cycle is planning out my running path. It’s daunting to say “I’m going to run 20 miles” and not know how far that is. I’ve enjoyed doing loops of my common routes, and I feel like this has mentally made longer distances easier. So, all week I toyed with doing 4 loops of my 5 mile path or doing 3 of my 6 mile route with an extra two. In the end, I opted for the latter.

The Run

This proved to be very effective. I went out at 6:20 am knowing it would take me around 4 hours to finish. Having a realistic time in my head also helped with the mental challenge of running. I lined up podcasts from Bigger Pockets, Dave Ramsey, Marathon Training Academy, For the Long Run, and I’ll Have Another. Podcasts are a great source of information and inspiration, and best of all, they are FREE! Listening to Trevor from Marathon Training Academy discuss his grueling marathon in the Italian Alps was very entertaining as I attempted my own grueling workout. I discovered running podcasts a few months ago, and it has challenged me to think differently about my running, much like running blogs did at the beginning of this training cycle.

Each lap was hard, but I kept going. I got really tired in the middle, but was able to stay strong at the end of my final lap. In the end, I averaged a 12:43/mile pace, which I was very pleased with. I was most happy that I finished my 20 mile training run and that I got in the miles!

Looking Ahead

This was the final high-mileage week. Tappering starts now, and I’m only 3 weeks away from the big day. An exciting update from the week was that Chicago Marathon put out the participant’s guide, which was my bedtime reading Thursday night. It’s becoming more and more real! Time to focus and start my visualization exercise from my first marathon to think about how I will feel at each stage of the race.

2021 Chicago Marathon Course Map

2021 Chicago Marathon: Training Week 14

Another training week is done, and this week marked 30 days left in the countdown and less than 1 month to go. I’m getting really nervous, but I am just trying to stay focused. I got in most of my runs but came up 4 miles short because of my Sunday long run.

Monday

This was a pretty lazy day, and I didn’t even close my rings. No strength training again…sigh.

Tuesday

My neighbor came out with me to run 5 miles. It was a really great run! We walked a few times, but I averaged an 11:34/mile pace. The weather was a bit humid but nowhere near where it was.

Wednesday

Today was supposed to be 9 miles. I went out and got in 0.5 miles before I heard thunder. I changed my mind to do another 5 until I saw lightning. I’m trying to push myself to run in the rain, but storms are a no-go. I turned around getting 1 in. Then I looked at the weather and decided to finish the remaining 4 in the evening. My average pace was slow at 12:51/mile.

Even though I finished the miles, I was reminded why I run in the morning and not the evening. It was so hard to fall asleep!

Thursday

I had to get my 9 miles in; I didn’t want to, but I’m too close to race day, and there would be a lot of regret if I didn’t. Things were going okay until I took my gel around mile 4…and it was a major malfunction! Usually, I eat a little then hold it before taking some more. Unfortunately, I must have squeezed it, and Huma apples and cinnamon was all over my hand, and watch! I tried to wash off by dumping water from my water bottle, but I was nervous about ruining my watch. I kept on going until mile 5 or something. When I looked down, I had forgotten to restart my watch from the fiasco! I was deflated. I finished the 5.5 miles but went home to clean my watch and call it a day.

Then I saw my training plan on the fridge. I NEEDED to get my 9 miles in! It was only 3.5 miles. Even though I was frustrated, I knew I would be more upset to not finish it. I would regret it later. So I went. And I finished. I’m proud of myself for sticking it out and doing so many miles on a weekday. Also, my watch seems to be okay.

Friday

It was an early morning for travel to Denver. Needless to say, there was no strength training. I did get some walking in, but nothing strenuous.

Saturday

I walked around Denver for some morning exercise. It was about 5 miles overall, and a nice way to see the city.

Sunday

I was supposed to run 14 miles. This would be my first run at altitude, so I needed to make sure to take it slowly. I wasn’t sure how I would feel, and I didn’t want to get stuck somewhere. My friend told me to make sure to drink a lot of water, which I could do because I remembered my water bottle!

The Airbnb was not far from City Park, which is a large park in the middle of Denver and where the marathon/half marathon starts and finishes. It’s also where the Denver Zoo is; this reminded me a lot of Central Park Zoo, even though I didn’t get to go inside. It’s not a large zoo, but it has smaller animals and was advertising a new penguin exhibit. I wish I could have arranged this in my itinerary.

Anyway, back to the run. Jetlag and me being an early bird had me waiting for the sun to come out so I could go out. This was around 6:30 am, and it was a beautiful morning! The sunrise appeared over the golf course, and there was a slight chill in the air. I kept to a sub-13 pace, which was feeling like a nice, gentle trot. Then I just wandered. Eventually, I came across Ferrell Lake, and wow. Just wow. “Purple mountain majesty above the fruited plain” was shown in the distance. I took a lot of pictures but had to sit with it for a while. It was just too unbelievable. Probably the prettiest sight I have seen on a run.

I felt fine, but eventually, I ran out of water. That I felt and it did not feel good. I cut my run short at 10 miles. It was a bummer and probably not the right thing to do so close to race day, but I couldn’t keep going. I really needed water. I had to walk the last mile.

Always Remember

Yesterday, several people posted a 9.11 mile run in memory of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I paused and said a prayer when I reached this distance. It’s so important for us to remember the fear that was created that day and the unity and pride that came from it. We are Americans, and we are strong.

Summary

There are only 4 weeks until race day. Next week is my peak week, and I am getting really nervous. I don’t feel like I’m in good shape, but I know I’m better than when I started. Trying to stay the course. Here’s to 4 more weeks!

Race Recap: 2021 Around the Crown 10K

This is my second time running this race. This is such a well-run race and has a cool concept. The highlight for ATC10K is that you get to run on I-277 which is Charlotte’s inner belt. The views are awesome and it is just funny to run on a big highway. 

I achieved a PR when I did this race in 2019. I knew I wanted to do it again, but I was pleased that it fell on my 18-mile training date. When I got down to thinking about logistics, I wasn’t sure how to fit 18 miles in around it. ATC10K had an 8 am start time. Ultimately, I decided to run 12 miles the day before and then do my 10K the next day. I’m not sure if this is okay for marathon training, but I decided to go with it and then just make a good effort at the 10K. 

The Expo

The race is held on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend which is a paid because the expo was Saturday and no bin pickup on Sunday. If you want to do something else that weekend, it is difficult to get your bib. I went to the expo at Camp North End towards the end on Saturday. I’m not a fan of Camp North End, so I may be biased when I say it was just annoying. They planned other activities and such, but I must have arrived at a bad time. To support some of the local restaurants there, they have everyone a token for $5, but most of the food stalls were closed. I got my bib and shirt, and after exploring for a little, decided I was just going to leave. You also get a NoDa beer with a custom can. I’m not a big beer drinker, but I love when they do this!

Course map for 2021 ATC10K

Race day was really well organized. Lots of porta-potties. Music was playing. Started at First Ward Park. The weather was lovely. Since I would be done by 9 am, I left my hat at home. This was definitely a mistake. I was really nervous but just aiming to be slow and steady. Ideally, I would run most of it, if not all, but I knew there was a killer hill around mile 4.

The Race

I listened to a Bigger Pockets podcast and just went. We ran through Uptown, past the Knights and Panthers stadiums before making our way down the ramp to 277. I was feeling really good, so I had to really watch my pace to not go too fast. I needed to save my energy to the end. Every time I looked down, I was below an 11-mile pace, which made me nervous. 

Once I was on 277, I laughed. It is so funny to run on a big road like that. Totally different perspective when you’re not in a car. You notice things you wouldn’t normally notice. The views are pretty since Charlotte has such a pretty skyline. When you make your way around the city, you start to feel the hills. I had to walk for a little after the 3-mile marker then kept going steady until the BIG hill. This hill is just awful and it’s long. Once I passed that, I resumed my run and just kept going. About 5.5 miles in, I knew I was going to finish and have a decent time. It was time to stop holding back my speed. I ran the rest well and sprinted once I saw the finish line. I felt so strong! Man, was I proud of myself!

When I looked down to stop my watch it said 1:06 something. If that was true, I thought it could be a PR. I didn’t confirm before but I thought my 10K best was 1:08 something which I earned at the 2019 Around the Crown 10K. I couldn’t wait to get home to check. (Spoiler alert, I did PR!) My official time was 1:06:51.

In Summary

The thing that makes me most excited is how good I felt. I wasn’t too tired. I felt strong. It was night and day from the Emerald City Half (which was also half the distance). I’ll continue to do this race in the future. It was such a good time and a really fun course to run. The race organizers do a wonderful job. It would be cool to see them host another race in Charlotte. 

2021 Chicago Marathon: Training Week 13

Monday

Didn’t do a strength workout…again!

Tuesday

A solid 4.5 mile run today. Average pace of 12:41/mile

Wednesday

I didn’t run today. It was raining, and I just couldn’t think about doing 9.

Thursday

9 miles on a weekday – this run was a major accomplishment! This is as much of a mental hurdle as it is a physical one. I did the run at an 11:51/mile pace.

Friday

1.5 miles. Just wasn’t feeling it…I couldn’t get myself to do the 5 miles the training plan had scheduled.

Saturday

My training plan called for an 18-mile run this weekend. I went back and forth on this a lot. I’m not sure if it was the right thing to do, but ultimately, I decided to run 12 miles today and race my 10K on Sunday. It was tricky to figure out how to get 18 miles in with the race on Sunday starting at 8 am.

I felt good about this run which I did doing a 3/1 run/walk pattern and averaged a 12:09/mile pace. Afterward, I even played 15 holes of golf before having to leave to get to the expo before it closed.

Sunday

Today was the big day! I was really excited about this race. The Around the Crown 10K is a really run event. The weather was great (even though I should have brought a hat because it was sunny!) I felt good and strong during the race which resulted in a new PR for a 10K. Read my race recap for more information.

Summary

Overall, I am proud of my performance this week. I PRed the 10K and completed my first 9-mile run on a weekday. I’d say that’s pretty good!

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