It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

October 28, 2013

The Smallest Race - Maybe Ever

If you've been reading my blog awhile you know a few things about me.....I'm pretty slow and I love, love, love to race.  Big, small or in between, if I could figure out a way, I would probably race every weekend and well frankly sometimes do.  I think I've had some sort of race for about 7 of the last 9 weekends....and they still keep coming.

Beautiful blue sky and railroad on the Little Blue Trace
Anyway, since I have decided to attempt yet another marathon...yes I guess I haven't officially said that.  I will be doing another one.  I of course have to keep on training.  So this weekend I found a great little race close to home that would serve as a great training run. 

Frozen grass after a hard frost...steam coming off the water
The Blue Springs 50/50/Larry Mattonen Marathon and Half Marathon.  For a small race it has a lot of options:  a half marathon, full marathon, marathon relay, 50K or 50 Miler.  Based on the 2012 results there were about 50 people in all events - 13 in the half marathon.  Based on the # of people on race morning, I "think" there were about 30 at the starting line for all events, but you could start early so I'm not sure how many people were already out there.

This is the most informal race I've ever done.  There was a bib - from a different race - there was a shirt - but not for the race, for the running club that put it on - it has a turtle on it though, so I really liked it even though it is a men's medium and a little too big.  But there was no start line or timing.  There was literally a sign that said "Start/Finish".  You wrote your name down if you wanted to be counted as starting at 7:00 and then they counted down from 3 to Go and off you went.  If you wanted to start early - you just had to leave a note for them with your start time.  Yes, this was an honor system race.

Sun rising over a foot bridge
The race is held on the Little Blue Trail which is basically a well maintained gravel bike and running trail.  It is very, very fine gravel.  It was very dark when we started at 7, so luckily it isn't a technical trail at all.  It's also very flat, which is always welcome in my book.

I had decided that since it was flat I would run it a little harder and wouldn't really do my run/walk pace even though it was technically a training run.  I wasn't going to go all out by any means, but I would run a little harder than I would a training run.  The first two miles I went out a little too fast, but I really wanted to stay with at least a few people, it was pitch black on the trail.  But by about mile 3 or so it was starting to lighten up and I found myself running with a group of 3 other people.  It was barely daylight and this guy said "Wow look at all those deer over there" I can't see very well, but I was thinking "deer - where...isn't that water" but I didn't see anything.  As we got a little closer, he said "no wait, maybe that's just some turkeys"...and I look again, and I still don't see anything.  Finally we get right up on the area, and he said.. "oh I guess that's just a bunch of stumps in the water".  Lol, we all had a good laugh and kept running. 
One of the self serve aid stations

I stuck with them a for a little bit longer and then pushed ahead.  In a race this size, this is always dangerous.  I didn't want to be embarrassed and have them pass me back.  I stayed a short ways ahead of them until the turnaround, and then one of the men broke from the pack (same one who saw the deer) and he passed me right at the turn around.  I then followed him back to the road - where we took a wrong turn and added in some extra mileage...this guy really didn't know what he was doing lol.  Anyway, I stayed in front of the other girl and guy for most of the rest of the race, but barely.  A few times I would look behind me and they had gotten very close. And at the turnaround I realized it was pretty much them and then one more guy behind I was only 4 places from last place (at least for the people who started at 7).  This actually pushed me to keep going, as my pace was starting to fade.  Finally we reached about half mile to go and one guy in the group breezed right by me...crap I thought and turned around to look behind me.  I couldn't see the girl, so I knew she was a ways away, but couldn't be too far behind.  I pushed it though, because I didn't want to be last...or probably next to last.  I ended up passing another girl in that last half mile - I have no idea where she came from.  She either went out way to fast and totally crashed at the end or she started early and was just finishing but I couldn't remember seeing her the entire race.

Not my favorite race picture...

Anyway I crossed the "finish" in about 2:35...still no results published so I have no idea where I finished, but I definitely wasn't last :)  There were a couple people there that said good job and that was about it.  They had a table with a few snacks and some instant coffee - ugh...and you got to pick out a race souvenir - different varieties of solar dancing things.  I picked a scarecrow, of course...what else.

The Solar Dancing Scarecrow

I found Jim who "thought he might have won the race"...but wasn't sure and still doesn't know.  It was an interesting experience but still fun.  It was a beautiful morning and I was out running among the gorgeous fall colors. 

Me & Jim post race

Have you ever done a race this small???  My first for sure.

And just for kicks....a Fall picture of Jack :)

Jack in the back yard, not at the race :)

October 17, 2013

A Rebound Marathon, Project 40, and THANKS!!!!

First off I would like to sincerely say Thank You to all of you guys out there who read my blog, tracked me in Chicago, took time to wish me Good Luck before the race or who responded to my last post.  And just in general, all of you who have followed my blog and my craziness over the past couple of years.  I was going to respond to all the individual comments, but Jim says I do that just to look like I got a lot of

It never ceases to amaze me what a wonderfully supportive community there is out there.  I was disappointed with my race, but you guys all made me feel GREAT!  Seriously GREAT!  Based on the comments, you'd practically think I won the Chicago Marathon.  Just being able to participate and finish the race is a major "win"!

Ok, so I'm "thinking" about a "rebound/redemption" marathon.......I know, probably about as good of an idea as that rebound boyfriend....but here's the deal.  I am signed up for the Richmond Half Marathon in 5 weeks.  Even before Chicago, I was considering switching to the full because I'm already trained.  It's really hard to get to this point.  It's much easier to maintain marathon fitness than it is to build up to it.  The race is 5 weeks away, so I have some legitimate time to recover from Chicago, but also enough time to hit some good training.  I really would just need to do one more long run of about 20-22 miles in a couple weeks, then I could taper again and be ready for race day. 

My goal of course, would be to run faster than Chicago, and get that bigger PR that I was expecting.  But I know a lot of people have tried this before and ended up with slower times.  I realize that's a possibility...and I know I would be disappointed, but I really think I would still like to try.

What do you guys think??  Honest opinions please?  I'm seriously open.  If I did it what are your thoughts on the next 5 weeks?  I was thinking 8 miles this weekend, 20-22 next weekend, then 12, 10, race day.  I was also thinking 5 miles this weekend (maximize recovery), 14 next weekend, then 20-22, 10, race day.  I'm not sure if I should ease in more for recovery purposes and not taper as long, or just assume last week was just a typical long run and keep going on a normal training cycle.

Lastly, this old gal turns 40 next April!  That's right folks freaking 40!  I can't believe it.  My goal is to be in the best shape of my life when I turn 40.  I have just under 6 months....about 24 Operation 40 will start soon.  I'm not exactly sure what Operation 40 looks like just yet, but I know I want to lose 15 to 20 pounds, run faster, and be stronger.  Any advice for how to accomplish this would be more than welcome!!

Thanks for reading my nonsense.

Please help me :)

And literally minutes after I posted this post, MissZippy posted the following.....mind readers out there :)

The "Why it's not the best idea to run marathons close together"


The "If you are going to do it anyway, here's the suggested way to train"

October 15, 2013

The Chicago Marathon - Sometimes A Race Doesn't Go As Planned

I want to start and end this blog on a positive note, but there will be a little crying in between.  It's a long one...sorry.
Jim & I in Millennium Park...hanging with the pigs.

This weekend I was privileged enough to be able to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  I know it's a bucket list race for many people, and I know that I was very lucky to have been able to run it this year (for a multitude of reasons as most of you know).  It was an absolutely amazing experience overall and I wouldn't trade a minute of it, but the race in general did not go as I hoped, planned, or trained.

Jim and I arrived in beautiful downtown Chicago early Friday morning.  We walked around the city for a bit, and then I met a friend from high school for a brief lunch.  It was awesome being able to see my friend Patrick who's apartment is also right on the marathon he came down to cheer me on too.

Shortly after lunch my amazing friend Coy cruised in to town and we all headed to the expo.  The expo was about 3 miles from the hotel, but they offered free shuttles from 4 different locations around the city.  There was a shuttle not too far from us, but the overall process took quite a while.  Once we arrived the process was pretty seamless.  They scanned your "packet pickup ticket" that you received in the mail, verified your ID and then by the time you got to your assigned location your packet was ready to go.  It was pretty cool and super fast.

Chicago Marathon gear I clearly couldn't live without
The expo was HUGE and NIKE got plenty of my money.  We got to meet and get a picture with Ultramarthon Bad a$$ Scott Jurek.  He was the nicest person you could imagine.  I would have loved to have stayed at the expo longer, because we really only got to walk to a few booths, but Jim and I had dinner reservations at 5:15...early birds :)  It took a long time to get a shuttle back, and we barely made it back in time.  It was kind of stressful.

That first day went by in a blur.  It seemed like we walked a million miles (7.8 to be exact according to my FitBit) and tried to cram in a million things.  We had both been up since way early so we were crashed by 8:30 that night.  I slept like an absolute baby, one of the best nights sleep I'd had in a long time.  I have to say the Chicago Renaissance Hotel has super, super comfy beds.
Me & Jim with Scott Jurek

Saturday we had decided to try to take it pretty easy so we'd be rested for the race on Sunday.  We headed to Millennium Park to take the obligatory "Bean" pictures and enjoy the park a little, and then we planned to go to the movies.  Well, me being me, I start wondering if I wanted to go back to the expo.....we really hadn't gotten to spend a ton of time there. In the end I decided it just wasn't worth the 3 hours it would probably take to get there and back and actually look around.  I opted to hit the Nike Store on Michigan Avenue instead and of course found a shirt I couldn't live without.
Jim and I at the "Bean"

On our way out the craziest thing ever happened.  We were actually standing in front of the Garmin store getting ready to take a picture of me in front of the "Swim, Bike, Run" sign when this lady walks up and says "I read your blogs, both of your blogs, I never comment but I read them, but I did just leave a comment".  I said "Are you Theresa?" and she said "Yes"!  Just that morning before we left, I was reading her comment to Jim.  I said this lady is from Kansas City and she's been reading our blogs and she's doing Chicago too - her first marathon.  It was unbelievable in a City of that size, with over 50,000 people running that race that we just happened to be at the right place at the right time to meet up.  It was so COOL!  Makes you realize what a truly small world it can be.  And Theresa - huge shout out-------I looked up your time and you kicked my BUTT!!!  Way to rock your first marathon!
Meet up with Theresa!  Crazy!
After that we just hung in the room the rest of the afternoon until we met Coy and her family for dinner, where Jim accidently ordered fried chicken for his pre-race meal....I'm sure he'll share the details of that one on his blog.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel and got ready for race day.  I surprisingly had another pretty good night's sleep with the exception of a sneezing fit somewhere during the night. 

The next morning was RACE day.  I was excited, and nervous.  I was feeling pretty good.  I had been sick with a cold all week, but it was pretty much gone by Sunday.  Jim's race started at 7:30, but mine didn't start til 8 so we weren't leaving together but I followed him downstairs to wish him luck and get a couple of pictures.  I had grabbed my hotel key on the way down and put it in my jacket pocket.  When I got upstairs it wouldn't work.  I took it downstairs and said it wasn't working and the hotel clerk said, "Well, that's an Embassy Suites key, and you are staying at the Marriott".  Ooooppppssss...I had been in DC for work earlier in the week and didn't realize I still had that key in my purse.  I had to go upstairs and wait for security to let me back in the room...not exactly how you want to start your day, but at least they were quick.  I finished getting my stuff around and met Coy in the lobby.
Race morning, I was feeling ready...and a bit nervous

We walked to the starting location and chatted.  I was starting to get a bit more nervous, but I was so ready for this!  There were volunteers everywhere to assist you in getting to the proper gate, etc.  There were just people everywhere!  It was so cool.  The environment was just invigorating.  We stopped at the forever porta potty line and then got in our corral.  It was pretty chilly.  It was right at 50 degrees with a light wind.  It was going to be a beautiful day.  Within just a few minutes it was finally time to begin the race.
Coy & I before the race

Within the first few feet I said "hmmm....I don't feel as good as I would think I would, everything feels really tight"....this was going to be the first indication that the race was not going to go so hot.  Within the first minute of running, I had a terrible cramp/side stitch in my left side.  I rarely, if ever get side stiches, but I did have a few bad ones during training.  The race had literally just started so we weren't going fast at all, it wasn't a speed issue.  I don't know what the deal was.  I ate the same thing I ate before every training run.  It was pretty annoying because all I could focus on was getting it to go away, and not the race or talking to Coy.  The stich finally went away about mile 2.5, but these would come back to haunt me the rest of the race.

Just as you start the race you go underground where I immediately lost satellite reception on my Garmin, and for some reason, my Garmin was flaked out after that.  Within just a few minutes we hit "mile 1" on the Garmin.  It beeped and I was like we are already at mile 1?  No way.  I looked at the time a 9:50 way....we were going much slower than that, I knew it had to be wrong.  We couldn't even see a mile marker.  We kept going and about a quarter of a mile later we hit mile 1 at 12:05 - that was more like it.  But, my Garmin would be off that quarter of a mile for the rest of the race, which was really annoying, because I didn't know my overall pace.  It always showed it as much faster than we were actually doing.

I was having fun and having a great day, but I really just wasn't feeling it from almost the get go.  I kept thinking this just feels much harder than it should.  Within a few miles I had another terrible side stich and this time it was on my right side.  It just wouldn't go away, I had it until about mile 10. For the rest of the race it was off and on side stiches, I have no idea why, but they were so painful and the only thing that made them better was to walk a little longer than planned.  Even with the side stiches, the first half went by quickly. 
Millennium Park & "The Bean"

Somewhere during mile 12, we stopped for a bathroom break.  The porta potty lines were ridiculously long.  That's my one major complaint about this event, a bathroom stop shouldn't cost you a ton of time.  They needed far more porta pottys for 50,000 runners.  I normally wouldn't stop, but I kind of had to go and Coy really had to go, and I had  yet another side stitch so I thought the rest might do me some good.  The stop ended up costing us about 6 minutes and I knew I couldn't make that time way.  We ended up losing about 9 minutes over the course of the race for stops...oh well...I needed them anyways.  While I was at the porta potty though I checked in on Jim and saw that he was at about mile 18 and was having a fantastic race!

My friend Patrick was somewhere between mile 13 and 14 so after we passed the halfway point I started looking for him.  I finally saw him and stopped to take a quick picture.  That was pretty cool!  I so appreciate him coming down to watch for me.
Patrick snapped a pic of Coy & I coming down the street
Me & Patrick around mile 13.5 - one of my best friends from high school

Up to the half I was feeling "ok" and we were maintaining a good pace.  Other than our bathroom break at mile 12, we'd averaged 12 to 12:30 miles for the first half.  At the half marathon checkpoint I was at 2:45 - a 12:35 pace - spot on for a 5:30 finish.  But then it started getting really hard.  At mile 14, I was not feeling great.  It was warming up.  I was fighting the side stiches, the heat, and was starting to feel a little sick to my stomach.  At Mile 14 I had my first 14 minute mile. I thought if I stopped and walked a bit more I might feel better and be able to pick the pace back up. 

I checked my phone again, and saw Jim had finished.  He had set a huge new PR and BQ'd.  I knew he would be thrilled.  I was so happy for him.  I congratulated him and told him I was struggling a lot more than I'd like to be at just past mile 14.  After the extra rest in mile 14, I was able to pick the pace back up for mile 15 to a 12:38, but then they just got slower from there.  It was a bummer.  Honestly, I wasn't having that much fun and by mile 17 I just wanted to be done.  I remember thinking, and saying aloud to Coy that "9 more miles seemed like a punishment worse than death"....yes a little dramatic.  But at this point we are over 4 hours into the race.  It's 12:30 and the sun is directly overhead.  There is very little shade, and it feels pretty warm.  My next several miles were in the 14s.  I was trying to maintain my run/walk, but was doing more walking than I wanted to.  My legs felt fine, well conditioned, and ready to go...but my stomach and head would not agree.  Around mile 21 or 22 my legs started feeling it too.  Miles 22 and 23 were the slowest of the entire race with paces in the 15s.  I was really, really struggling.  Coy was amazing the entire time!  I felt so bad. I kept apologizing because I didn't want to ruin her race experience.  She can run sooo, soooo much faster than me, and I kept urging her to go on ahead, but she wouldn't budge.  She kept telling me it was hard on her too, but I really think she was just saying that to make me feel better.  She's a great friend.  She kept saying we came here to do this thing together and that's what we were going to do. 

Just one of the pics of Jim and I from the weekend
Even though I was slowing down big time, I kept thinking in my head maybe there was still a chance I could finish around 5:45 (which would be I thought at the time a 7 minute PR).  I had come into the race thinking I should easily be able to do 5:45, but with any luck and a great day I might be able to squeak out a 5:30-5:35.  Well, around mile 23 (I think) the 5:45 pace group passed us.  My heart sank.  I wanted to cry.  Coy said let's try to keep up with them, I bet we can, and for a minute I did....and then I realized, wait they started probably 5 minutes after even if I can keep up with them my finish time is going to be around 5:50 and I couldn't keep up with them.  Then my heart sank even more.  Not only was I not going to get the time I wanted, I finally realized my time was probably going to be even slower than my first marathon.  Major disappointment.

All I could think about was the Fox Valley 20 miler a few weeks ago.  I had such a great race.  I felt so wonderful.  I knew my hard training all summer was paying off....but here I was when it really mattered and I just didn't have it.  In my head, the entire time, I thought I had done a 5:52 at Disney.  I knew that was my time to beat.  I told myself to dig deep and do all I could.  Around mile 23 when I really started doing the math though I realized it would be impossible.  I'd have to do a 12 min pace those last few miles and it wasn't going to happen.  I guess I could have really given up then...just walked the rest of the way realizing it wasn't going to be a PR, but I pressed on and decided I was going to finish as strong as possible.  Miles 24 and 25 I managed a 14:30 pace...not great, but better than the 15s I was doing.  Mile 26 was a 13:30 and then my final .75 miles (my Garmin ended up saying I did 26.75 miles - off .25 from the start) was a 12:30 pace.  I was proud of myself for digging in those last few miles.

Shirt & Medal
We finally crossed the finish line.  My official finish time was 5:53.    Coy and I grabbed our medals and post-race snacks and quickly found a place to sit down and stretch out and locate our husbands.  We chatted a few minutes and then went out separate ways :(

I was disappointed, but happy at the same time.  I had just finished the Chicago Marathon - my 2nd marathon.  I had a friend by my side, and a husband waiting for me.  It was a good day.  I thought I had blown my PR...but I looked up my Disney time and it was actually 5:54.  I had a PR after all....a small one, but still a PR.  This made me feel a "little" better. 

I realize it's not all about time, but that was only a small part of the disappointment.  The biggest disappointment was the way I felt.  I had trained so well, had such a great race just a few weeks before and I expected so much more from myself.  It was so hard to enjoy the experience when I was fighting with the way I was feeling for most of the race.  I felt a little bit like the awesome race day experience I was expecting was stolen from me.  But it really wasn't.  I still had a wonderful time.

I found Jim and tried to be upbeat.  I was so happy for him and proud of him.  He has worked and trained his butt off all summer and he deserved such a great race.  I was congratulating him, but he wanted to talk about my race.  It wasn't long before the tears started flowing.  I tried to hold them back, but the disappointment and exhaustion of the day just took over.  I didn't let it last long.  I got it out and moved on.  We then walked the what seemed like 10 miles back to the hotel, though I think it was only about 3/4 of a mile.

Jim & I after the race, he'd already showered and changed

After I had stretched and took a minute to just sit down, I was shocked to realize it was already 3:30.  Holy crap, it had been a long day.  I jumped in the shower so we could go get some lunch/dinner.  We went to Giordano's for a famous "stuffed pizza".  It was delicious, but even after basically not eating the entire day, one piece was plenty.  We walked back to the hotel where I promptly passed out.  It would be up early again the next morning for a 7 am flight out of Chicago.
Who needs a plate when you are this hungry?

Overall, I can't say anything negative about the race itself (besides the very frustrating registration process).  It was truly amazing.  It was so well organized for an event of this size.  The volunteer and spectator support are like no race I have ever done before.  The views of the cities are spectacular.  The shirt is pretty decent, but I have to say the medal could use some improvement.  I've gotten nicer 5K medals here in Kansas City.  But, at the end of the day, the event is just unbelievable and one I would encourage everyone to put on their running bucket list.

We had a beautiful day to run with a cool start and light winds.  It might have gotten a little warm towards the end, but I don't think the temperature impacted me too much.  I'm really not sure what happened.  I guess that's the most frustrating part.  I ate well leading up to the race.  I ate the same thing for breakfast that I've eaten for months before my training runs and used the same race day nutrition that I've used on my training runs.  I trained well and did 3 20+ mile runs.   The only thing I can really account for is that I was sick all week.  I was taking allergy medication and using a nasal spray and maybe it impacted me more than I realized.  But I guess sometimes it doesn't matter how perfect the conditions, it's just not your day.
Coy & I running with the elites at the expo..we wish we were this fast :)

So, at the end of the day, I still did it.  I finished my 2nd marathon and with a 1 minute PR.  I got to have yet another wonderful experience with my husband.  I got to be there for him when he BQ'd again and set a new PR.  I got to run with my friend Coy.  Got to see an old high school friend.  And got to enjoy a great weekend in Chicago.  So there's really nothing to complain about right?  Nope, I guess not.

Did I own Chicago?  Probably not, but I still had a great time!

I had really hoped we'd get to meet up with Terzah while we were there, but we just couldn't seem to get timing right.  I do hope to meet her next summer when we are going to be in Colorado.

What an amazing experience overall.....I am one lucky girl!

If you want to see more pics, I have a ton posted on my personal FB page.  But don't forget to also like Slowly Tri-ing on FB too!

October 09, 2013

The Chicago Pre-Marathon Blog

Well, it's finally almost here.  The Chicago Marathon is just 4 short days away.  I can't believe it.  I've been thinking about and planning for this day for over a year. 

First I watched the website like a hawk for the registration date to be announced, then I waited for registration day....only to be shut out....then I waited for "the lottery"....only to be shut out....and then we managed to get spots in the race through Marathon Tours (for double the cost)...and then finally began months and months of training.

And finally it's here!  I wish I felt 100% ready to go....ready for a perfect race, but there's probably never really such a thing.  So here's the Good, The Bad, and the Is What it Is

The Good:

  • I have had a great (mostly) injury free training cycle.
  • I completed 3 20+ mile runs and I feel like my training plan has prepared me for the race
  • I get to see my AWESOME friend Coy in a few days and run with her
  • I also hopefully get to see one of my good friends from High School Patrick
  • And also hope to see the amazing Terzah of BQ by 40 (even though she's not blogging much these days)
  • I get to have another great experience with my husband and I know will get to be with him when he sets a new PR
  • And I get to run the FREAKING Chicago Marathon!
The Bad:

  • I unfortunately had to travel earlier this week for work.....and now I have come down with a cold!  Worst timing ever!  I started taking Airborne about a week and a half ago to try to avoid getting sick, but it's happened anyway.  I've been so worried about it I probably made it happen.  I'm alternating Airborne which is mostly Vitamin C with Cold-Eze which is mostly Zinc and hopeful that it will be short lived.
  • I've had a little issue with my left foot for over a year and it's gotten a little worse these last few weeks.  A couple of days walking in DC in heels and it's seriously not happy.  I think it's going to be fine though.  I really doubt it will be an issue (I hope).
  • I've gained weight yet again...I'm up about 10 pounds from where I was a few months ago.  I'm running this race much heavier than I would like. Totally my fault, but nothing I can do about it now.
Is What It Is:

  • The weather looks like it will be "ok".  Current forecast calls for low 50s to upper 60s with a 30% chance of scattered showers and about 10 mph winds..  Not great, not bad, but ok.  It might be slightly warm, but it won't be hot. 
  • The taper....I always enjoy the first week of taper because by the time it comes I need it.  I'm tired.  The second week of taper make you freak out a bit.  It does seem like FOREVER since I did a long run.  I mean 10 miles last weekend...that's nothing.  Trust your training, trust your training!
So that's it.  Come Sunday morning I'll line up at the start line.  I know it will be a wonderful and amazing day no matter what.  It may not be the perfect race I was hoping for, but it will be a great day.  I am trusting in my training and ready to go.

If anyone is interested they do have runner tracking.  I'm Bib # 45710.  I'll be the one taking all day :)