Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chicago Marathon 2015 recap

Six days ago I ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for the third time, and this one was definitely a test of my will and strength. My dad, one of my biggest supporters (even though he thought I was crazy), had passed away 16 days before I was set to run another 26.2 miles. I kept finding myself getting choked up just even thinking about how I would have loved for him to have had a chance to watch this amazing marathon.

My training this summer had been so much better than in previous years, and I had PR'd at the Fox Valley Marathon three weeks before. But with everything going on with services and having to drive 1800 miles total, I was exhausted and had run a total of two times in between marathons. I knew I could cover the distance, but I figured it was going to be ugly as sin. Luckily for me, I had a special angel watching over me.

The weekend of the marathon was a little crazy, between managing the boys schedules and figuring out how I'd get downtown for everything. It all worked out, and I made it to the expo and then to the hotel with time to spare. After a great meetup with my sorority sisters who were running for Team RMHC, we  joined several hundred other runners for a wonderful dinner. Afterwards I headed back to the hotel to relax and unwind. 

Marathon morning dawned without a cloud in the sky, and with the prediction for warm temps I knew it could be a long day. However, I've trained in the heat and humidity all summer, so I felt ready for it. Plus, I was hoping that would mean there would be even more spectators - and I was right!

I ate a quick breakfast in the Team RMHC tent, and after some pictures with Team ADPi we headed off to our corral. I was blessed to meet another sister who was about my pace, and we decided to stick together. Finally, after a long wait in the corral we crossed the starting line and just had 26.2 miles in front of us.

The miles seriously just flew by...I've never had an experience like that in a marathon. I saw Chad at mile 1 and mile 12 (where I told him my foot was killing me but I was having a blast), and also caught sight of Andrea and some friends volunteering at aid stations. 

My awesome friend Christine found us at mile 21, and joined us for the next four miles. Having her there helped more than she'll ever know!! We had slowed at that point, but I knew I'd still beat my best Chicago time. Before I knew it we were turning onto Roosevelt Road, and were less than a 1/2 mile to the finish line. I turned the corner onto Columbus and there it was...the best sight ever! I was just steps away from completing my fifth marathon! My time was 6:14:03, so over 4 minutes faster than my best Chicago time.

There were many tears shed as soon as I finished. My dad was on my heart and with me every step of the way, and I know he's the reason I made it through. The pain in my foot (most likely some angry tendinitis) was rough, but it wasn't until I stopped that it became extremely painful. Had it felt like that during the marathon, I probably wouldn't have made it.

Back at the Team RMHC tent I was greeted by Jen Webb, our amazing ADPi supporter, and my husband. And just as I got in to get food I was joined by two amazing friends - Christine and Cindy. I was beyond thrilled to see them! I know waiting on a slow runner like me isn't the most fun, and I hope they know how much it means to me.

So...less than a week has passed and I have already said I'll be there again next year. The only lingering issue (besides peeling thanks to the lovely sunburn I got)  is my foot...but I know with time that will heal. And who knows - maybe next year I'll finally come in before the 6 hour mark!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Halfway there!

I can't believe how quickly this training season is going! I just finished up week 11, and it's going really well (*knocking on wood*). Even with the craziness at work, and helping my parents as they get ready to move, I've managed to keep up with my weekday runs and the weekend long runs. It's hasn't been easy, but after last year's horrible marathon experience I've done my best to make training a priority. 

That being said, my cross-training hasn't been too stellar. With the next two weeks being cutback weeks for our long runs, it's time to focus on other forms of exercise. My plan this week is to finally join XSport so I'll have some great new options. Luckily one of my new benefits with the new company is reimbursement for health club memberships, so I'm definitely taking advantage of that!

This past Saturday started with a strong 14 mile training run with Christine. We started off in North Aurora for a change of scenery, and headed north towards Geneva. The stretch from North Aurora to Batavia on the west side of the river seems to go on forever, so we got that out of the way at the beginning. Of course, that meant we had the hilly stretch through Red Oak on the way back...oops! The first 9 miles seemed to fly by, and we both felt great. Around mile 10 or so the heat and humidity, plus some extra hills, made us both feel like we were running through quicksand for a bit. But we stuck to our run/walk plan, did a great job fueling, and finished strong. Oh man - it felt wonderful to get this one under my belt! And it felt even better to get changed and join Christine for a delicious breakfast at Egg Harbor!

What amazed me was how good I felt when I woke up this morning. In the past I'd be moving slow, hurting all over, the day after a long run. Other than a bit of calf soreness when I first got out of bed I felt fabulous. I think all the midweek work I'm doing, along with the monthly massages, is paying off. And I have to say I'm still enjoying training! I know there will come a point where I'm going to want to throw in the towel, but knowing that I have wonderful supporters (and that I get to share this with Christine!) is giving me the drive to stick with it.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

First Fox Valley Marathon training run of the season

Today marks the end of week 8 of training for Christine and me, and it was also the first Fox Valley Marathon training runs. I love that our volunteer team and race directors put them on each year (there are 6 total). So I was up about 5:00 this morning, preparing for the 10 miles we had on deck for today. 

For some reason I was a little nervous about this one. I've never really given training runs a second thought, but today felt different. Maybe it was because we were hitting double digits, or maybe it's because I felt like I needed to prove something to myself - I wanted to finish strong today. That's because last week I was asked to pace the 5:30 or 6:00 marathon. Our training has been going really well, and each long run gets better for us. Our pace keeps improving, and we will start increasing the running time and shortening the walking portion. So after discussing this with my most awesome training partner we said we would pace the 5:30 group. 

We were blessed with great running weather when we started out from Geneva Running Outfitters, although it was a touch humid and my allergies were kicking in. Christine and I settled into the back of the pack, and once we hit mile 3 we found a great pace for us. The first half of the run passed very quickly, thanks to great conversation and lots of laughs. We ended up turning around about mile 6.5, not really knowing exactly how many miles it would take us to get back to Geneva. We figured it was at least 3 miles, and we were both okay with going a bit over our planned miles. 

About mile 7 I tried out Huma gel for the first time, and went for chocolate. While it didn't bother my stomach at all, and tasted really good, it was pretty thick. My water was running a bit low, so that didn't help. I took it over two walk breaks, which ended up working pretty well for me. It has a bit of caffeine, and it did give me an extra boost.

Right after we passed the Fabyan Windmill we hit mile 10 - yeah, we were off by a bit with our turnaround! We decided we'd keep with our run/walk until we hit 11 miles, which luckily was just as we hit State Street. That gave us a nice 0.3 mile or so cool down walk as we made one way back to GRO. We ended up with a 12:33 pace, and it was so nice to see that several people were still hanging out behind the store with the training run group! After enjoying a yummy freezie pop we headed over to Starbucks for some much needed caffeine and Greek yogurt.

Poor Christine is having to deal with me freaking out a bit about pacing. We'll have to maintain a 12:35 pace, which we did today. And after looking at our splits I know we can keep this up with no problem. After mile 4 we stayed just a bit under that pace, and our last mile was actually our fastest. I'm committed to training hard, and training smart. And with such an amazing group around me for support, it's going to be an amazing season!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On to Week 6 of Marathon training!

Tomorrow marks the start of June (how did that happen already?!), and I'm moving into week 6 of marathon training. And I have to say it's going amazingly well so far! I have had to mix up my run days during the week since I'm working with my church's Run For God group, but I'll be able to go back on plan in about 8 weeks. Luckily we're still at lower times for the weekday runs, so it's not interfering with the training. 

So far I've been able to do my weekend long runs with Christine, and that has been my saving grace. I've actually looked forward to getting up early on Saturdays, even on the days when it's been cold or threatening to pour at any second. The miles together have flown by, and leave me feeling ready to take on this challenge.

This week my plans had to change a bit, though. Matt (my 13 year old) and I signed up to run one of our favorite races - the Ozzie's 5K , held at the Kane County Cougars stadium. We've run it every year they've had it so far, and with the great perk of a free ticket to a game it's a win-win. Ok, so the free beer and brat doesn't hurt either...that Summer Shandy tastes pretty darn good after the race! Matt ended up shaving almost 10 minutes off his time from last year!! As for me, I took close to 2 minutes off my time, which I'm really happy with. The course was hillier this year, and was an out and back on a trail that was primarily gravel. 

Afterwards we hit Colonial for breakfast with the family, and I decided to go ahead and tackle the rest of the 8 miles I had to complete for my long run. It started off great, but by mile 1.5 the wind shifted to come barreling down from the north, and the sprinkles turned into a steady heavy drizzle. The temps dropped about 15 degrees while I was out there, and when the wind gusted it was downright cold! That probably explains why my splits were 12:29, 12:16, 11:51, and 10:57 - I just wanted to be done!

I still had one more run to complete this weekend, and that was the Answers for Emmett 5K. This race honors the memory of Emmett, and raises the awareness of sudden unexplained death in childhood. I can't even begin to imagine what this family went through, losing their son like that. I normally wouldn't do back to back races, but this was a great cause to support.

Amy and Chris were both there, and it made my day to see them again. It was pretty darn chilly, but that made for great racing weather. Luckily I wasn't sore from running yesterday, but I honestly didn't know what this race held for me. The plan was to give whatever I could, and finish upright. I felt great, so I just kept pushing. My official finish time is 34:09, and that was just 15 seconds slower than yesterday's race! My Garmin said I actually did 3.19 miles, so my pace was actually better. 

This year's marathon training is already off to such a better start than I've ever had. I'm focusing on strength training, and working on building a strong core. I can already tell this has helped, and it's pushing me to keep up with it. There is a whole lot more work to do, and I can't wait to keep pushing! Now on to 9 miles this weekend!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Let the training begin!

It's been a loooong time since I blogged, and mainly because there hasn't been a whole lot to tell. I guess I did do the Country Music Half in Nashville (which was just one tiny part of an amazing weekend!), but I've been very inconsistent with my running. Some due to coming back from an injury, and some due to lack of drive to go more than a few miles in a run. 

Luckily all that seemed to change a couple of weeks ago. Our church started a Run For God group, which is like a Couch to 5K program, and I've been mentoring the new runners in our group. It's opened up my eyes to see this whole running thing through their eyes, and the joy and love of running worked its way back into my heart. 

Then my awesome friend Christine commented that she wants to train for a Fox Valley race!! She and I have been running together on Saturday mornings with then DPA group, so I was beyond thrilled to hear this. All runs with her just fly by, so I can't wait to train with her. And thanks to her training plan, I am confident we'll both do amazing. 

I've started ramping up my miles, and had 7 on the schedule for today. But due to a family event, I didn't think I'd be able to get them done. Thank goodness Christine agreed to meet me at 6:00 this morning so we could actually get all 7 in. Of course, that idea sounded soooo much better Friday night. 

But meet at dawn we did! It had rained earlier, and it was still horribly humid when we started. We have been following a run/walk plan of 3 minutes running and 2 minutes walking. We settled in to our run, and knocked out three miles before making it back to Dick Pond. We got there before the run club took off, and I had a chance to try out Newton Motion shoes for the next four miles.

We had a hilly route for the rest of the run, and we managed to keep our pace right on target for the entire run. Our last full mile was actually our fastest! The rain started to come down pretty hard when we had a bit less than a mile to go, and it was so welcome at that point. We made it back to the store, and I really felt amazing. I know a big chunk of it was due to the fabulous company...I couldn't have done this without her with me for all those miles. 

This run was exactly what I needed. Yes, I'm a bit sore tonight, but a lot of that is due to being stuck in the car for 4+ hours. I feel ready to tackle the next four months of marathon training, and can't wait to see how incredible this will be.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

5 weeks feels like an eternity

It's been nearly 5 weeks since my hamstring issue became enough of an issue that it pretty much stopped me in my tracks (I blame the snow...sort of kidding). Since then I have run only one time, for a short two miler. Shortly after that last run I haven't even been able to walk, except for my day to day life. It's sad when a trip to Walmart is the most exercise I get. 

I've been in physical therapy for almost three weeks. After the first session I felt amazing! My hamstring felt so much better...I could actually sit without wanting to cry because of the pain. Unfortunately the relief was relatively short-lived. My doctor and PT had set the expectation beforehand that this is common, so I did my best to roll with it. I've kept up with my homework, and I work my butt off during my appointments. I'm starting to see some glimpses of more progess, but man...this is tough.

It's not so much about not being able to run. The weather has been less than ideal, so at least I haven't missed great running conditions. I've still been heading out to meet my awesome running family, living vicariously through their training. They've helped to keep me sane, and I so treasure them for this.

It's just that I'm so, so tired of being in pain 24/7. The intensity level of pain comes and goes, but it's always there, reminding me that I'm broken. Yes, it has improved some with therapy, but it's still present. I want so badly to wake up in the morning and be able to get out of bed without having to limp to the kitchen. I want to feel whole again...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On the I.R.

For the last couple of months I've been dealing with a couple of nagging injuries, and it finally got to the point where I knew they weren't going to get better on their own without some outside help. The initial issue was a pain in the top of my felt like I had dropped something on it, like it was bruised. I've rested it quite a bit, and there hasn't been any change at all. Then my hamstring started to get a lot worse after a snow walk, so I decided it was time to get in with an orthopedic doctor to hopefully get some answers.

Luckily I was able to get an appointment with a wonderful sports med Ortho, who happens to specializes in working with runners and endurance athletes. His first question was: "What are your running plans, and your target races?". It's great to have someone who gets it, and understands the drive. He spent about 30 minutes doing a full exam, going over all of my issues in detail with me. 

My X-rays showed that I didn't appear to have a stress fracture (whew!), so my doctor recommended the next step of an MRI to get a better look at what's going on. The results of that came back, and show that I have bone marrow edema within the medial sesamoid with stress reaction. My first thought was "what the heck is that?!". 

Basically it's swelling in the sesamoid and bone, without the fracture. So my instructions for the next 10 days are no running and I have to wear a lovely pad on the bottom of my foot to relieve pressure. On top of no running, I also can't do any weight-bearing exercises during this treatment. And since it's too cold and icy right now to ride my bike I'm trying to find other ways to keep exercising. I would do yoga, but that brings me to my other injury...a high hamstring strain (oh joy!).

My doctor gave me a few options for treatment, ranging from continued rest up to pretty intense physical therapy using the Graston technique. Graston is deep manipulation of the injured area with tools that I'm pretty sure we're used as medieval torture devices.
Yeah...those look a lot of fun! I already know I'm most likely going to come out pretty bruised, and it's probably going to hurt - a lot - but the doctor believes this will be the solution to my hamstring issues. With this the therapist can really get into it and work out the scar tissue that's built up over the last couple of years. They'll also do some additional massage and electric stim, and I can't wait to get started on Monday! 

Even though I'm injured, I'm really okay with this forced time off. The only reason I'm a bit frustrated is that I've been working on losing my marathon 15 lbs. I've done well so far, and have lost about 5 lbs over the last three weeks. I may look at joining XSport so I can swim and ride the bike, as well as add in some strength training. I'm keeping up with my routine of getting up early on Saturdays and heading to Run Club at Dick Pond Athletics, and helped set up for the Valentine's Day Love Run they had today. It gives me a chance to see my awesome friends, and helps me still feel like a runner.

My hope is that I'll be well on the road to recovery soon. I'm planning to run the Shamrock Shuffle 8K for the fifth year in a row. This is the race that got me to fall in love with running, so I'm crossing everything to be well enough to run it. Especially since they're giving out medals this year :-)! Then I'll move on to training for the Rock & Roll Half in Nashville the last week of April. Now it's time to step up that cross-training!