Chicago Rock’n Roll Half Marathon

It has taken me over a week to get this blog up for several reasons. It was a tough race for me, and for once my SI joint was not the main culprit. Sometimes, life pops some surprises on you…. and sometimes those surprises are the week before a race.

I can’t exactly explain why I bombed this half marathon without giving a little background on what has been up with me (trust me, I tried to think of a way to avoid it). Matt and I broke up after 4 years together. Even though it was mutual and I’m doing much better now, it is a pretty big life change that threw major kinks in my routine. People handle stress in odd ways; some people drown in junk food. I, on the other hand, can’t even look at food without wanting to barf. So I didn’t eat much for a few days, and that contributed to my energy being lower than it has in about a year. Pair that along with apartment searching and all that comes with moving, and I went to Chicago in vacation mode rather than racing mode.

I woke up ready to go on Sunday morning, bright and early at 5:15. We took a cab from Mallory and Tessa’s apartment to Grant Park with plenty of time to spare. I was surprised by how well organized the race was considering how large it was.

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I was in a good mood and happy to be at such an exciting race with two of my best friends, the 6:30 start time was no problem. I was going to start in Corral 4, maybe move back to Corral 5, but I somehow ended up in Corral 3. Oops!

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I knew at the first mile with all the tunnels that my Garmin would be inaccurate. It was an entire mile off by the end, and according to Strava I ran 15 miles. It kept saying I was running miles in the 6 minute range… which was so far from the truth. Garmin, go home, you’re drunk.

I have never run downtown before, and despite the fact that I’ve lived my entire life pretty close to Chicago, I rarely visit (this will need to change). It was a whole new experience running through the city and the crowds were great! I don’t mind small races with little to no crowds, but it really did help to have so many people out supporting the runners.

The only thing I really did not like was the fact that parts of the course smelled like used toilet paper. But hey, thats Chicago. Nobody ever claimed it smelled like fresh country air (and if anyone does, they are also drunk and should go home).

I was running nearby a guy, and I’m probably way off, but he looked Kenyan and like he could have finished in the top-something, but instead was helping his friend through the race. He kept asking me how I was doing, if I was feeling alright, and was making sure I was hydrating. I lost them later on as I was fading, but it was just more proof that runners are a really great crowd.

Mallory and Tess were at Starbucks and caught some creeper pictures.

Mallory and Tess were at Starbucks and caught some creeper pictures.

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I can’t exactly remember the point in which I started to fade. I knew from early on I was going to be struggling. At the halfway point, I was trying to keep positive but my body was hitting the wall. It was perfect, cool weather, so I was extremely upset that life got in the way of taking advantage of the weather and flat course. I told myself that I simply have no control over what life throws at me, and there will be more half marathons to PR at. I was looking forward to this race, and I deserve to enjoy the experience without stressing about my time.

I realized at the GU stop at about mile 8 or 9 why I hate GU (the salted watermelon flavor was very good though)… my sweaty hands and nasty mouth can’t open the slippery packets near the end of a race. I was almost past all the water before I got it open :-( {please please make GU easier to open like the Clif Shots!!}

At mile 10 we turned around and ran mostly along the lake back. It was here that they started playing some trippy dance music and had flashing lights lining the path. It was at about this point that the stress of the past week was really catching up to me and consuming my head, so I was thrilled to enter a pumped-up atmosphere for the last 3 miles. I picked up the pace for a short time, but I really didn’t have any gas left in the tank. If I had been running a PR, those last 3 miles would have been so epic.

I could see the finish line from about a half mile away, and it was killing me! It was so close, yet so far, and not seeming to get any closer.

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I finished in 1:49, 9 minutes off my half marathon PR, but still not my worst half marathon by any means. It feels like I bombed it because of how horrible I felt, but I’m pretty proud of managing to stay under 1:50 considering all that has been going on and the fact that my SI was likely slightly out of alignment. As soon as I finished, my right groin began to hurt.

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"That sucked. Just hold me."

“That sucked. Just hold me.”

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It sucked, but was still tons of fun, and I realize that only anther runner could understand that statement.

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Oh yea, and because I ran the 5K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday, I got the Remix medal. Woohoo! They give out such awesome medals here, I love it.

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There was so much stuff going on in Grant Park, we wandered around a little and hit up some booths before heading to the beer garden.

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We met up with Mike and Chelsea in the beer garden… they were in my van at the Chicago Ragnar Relay! Unfortunately, that is the one thing Mallory did not snap a picture of. She is the best race photographer ever.

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I was in absolutely no rush to go home, so we spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. It was beautiful, and so relaxing! I fell asleep for probably about two hours.

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I really did not want to come home. A weekend downtown with friends and lots of running was exactly what I needed. This race couldn’t have come at a better time for me, and I think I needed the break from life more than I needed a PR. There will be many, many more half marathons in my future.

Chicago Rock’n Roll 5K

Nobody was more surprised than me to hear that one of my close friends, Tessa, wanted to start running and wanted some advice.

Since she is living downtown with her sister Mallory (who came with my to the Wisconsin Dells Marathon), and I would be staying the weekend for the Rock’n Roll Half, I suggested doing the 5K together the day before. She agreed and said that it would motivate her to not give up.

Considering Mallory and Tess have dispersed themselves around Illinois a bit (AKA they have lives while I sit in my hometown and do nothing), I don’t see them as often as I’d like to, but the time together counts for a lot. After meeting them at the train station on Friday, we bolted right to the McCormick Place for the expo. I have never been to a Rock’n Roll expo… and it was everything I had hoped it would be!

I was pretty proud of myself for not buying anything extra. I’m usually a huge sucker for race swag. The three of us walked around for awhile and left with lots of samples in our stomaches and lots of freebies in hand.

We made an effort to go to bed early because the 5K started at 8 AM, and we wanted to have plenty of cushion time to get ready and take pictures.

Mallory is, by the way, the best person imaginable to take to a race. She is a full-on runner’s assistant. She takes the best pictures, knows her way around the crowds, and always has whatever you might need in her purse. I just want to bring her to every race with me.

The 5K started across the street from Grant Park by the lake. It was a very pretty course. I was happy and pumped up because the 5K was my easy day, and I also wanted to use it as a warm up to see what my body might have in store for me the next day.

The image of inspiration.

The image of inspiration.

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Tess was a little nervous, it was easy to see as the start time approached. It was her first race ever, and I could tell she was thinking something along the lines of “oh shit, what did I sign up for??”

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We started running at about a 10 minute pace, which I thought was great. Tess had never run more than two miles, and had not run more than about a mile consecutively. She looked awesome that first mile! I was impressed. I announced when we had hit the mile mark, thinking (in my long-distance brain) that she would think “wow! A mile already!” the response I got instead was “We’ve only gone a mile!?” Oops.

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At about 1.3 we started to walk a little until we hit the 1.5 mile mark according to my Garmin. I knew without me there she would be walking most of it, so I wanted to push her a little bit. She was tired, but I could tell by her breathing she still had some gas in the tank. We ran from 1.5 to about 1.75 for water, then made our way back along the lake towards the start/finish.

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With less than a mile to go, Tess insisted on a couple more walk breaks, and I insisted they be short (at one point I believe I was dragging her). There was a small child nearby, and I wanted to make sure that she didn’t let that kid beat her.

We hung around after we finished in the beer garden. It was a fairly small 5K, and I thought it was a lot of fun. Tessa ran more than she ever had, and even though she said it sucked and won’t ever do it again (whatever, she’ll totally do it again!), she felt pretty accomplished. We ran most of it and finished in 36 minutes, and that is something for her to be proud of. Many people can’t run or they choose not to.

This picture was 100% unplanned!

This picture was 100% unplanned!

You'd think it was a marathon!

You’d think it was a marathon!

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It was an early night for us because we had our alarms set for 5:15 to go back for the half marathon!

Green Bay 8 Hour Ultra Marathon 2014

I was a little bit nervous going into this race. Still recovering from the SI problems that destroyed my BQ at the Wisconsin Marathon, my pain was minimal but my endurance left a lot to be desired. My longest run since the marathon was 7 miles. My SI also screwed me over in the week leading up to the ultra, which I caught before it gave me any lingering damage.

All these factors considered…. I was not expecting my best performance.

My parents and I also left for Green Bay Friday night at 11:30, arrived at UW-Green Bay before 4 AM, and were off on the trail at 5 AM.

That means…. all nighter!

I went out on Friday afternoon for drinks and snackies with a friend, and it just did not feel like the day before a big race. I’m used to being in a hotel or somebody else’s house the day before a race. It wasn’t clicking that I would be running soon… and no sleep would precede that run.

Attempts at napping before we left and napping in the car only left me more tired because I couldn’t fully fall asleep. After my dad’s best friend arrived, we started getting ready to run. It was too dark for any pictures, which is a shame. UW-Green Bay is a beautiful campus (I almost went to school there!). It got light as we wandered towards the start. It didn’t even cross my mind to take a picture or ask our cheerleader (my dad’s bestie’s wife) to take pictures.

Less than half an hour to the start, this was how dark it was. My failed attempt at a picture of campus.

Less than half an hour to the start, this was how dark it was. My failed attempt at a picture of campus.

I have a whopping ZERO pictures from this race. I am a terrible photographer and rely far to much on others to take pictures for me. Sorry everyone!

Map of the course from the Green Bay Ultra facebook page.

Map of the course from the Green Bay Ultra facebook page.

Since this was a “green” race, they asked runners to carry water bottles or hydration packs. I can’t handle much more than my Flipbelt around my waist, so I used a handheld water bottle. I used it one time before race day, but it didn’t bother me as much as I was afraid it would.

What did bother me though was my Garmin! It kept losing signal throughout the course and would pause if I slowed to almost a stop (a feature I didn’t think to turn off!). I was getting so mad at it… next time I might have to just use an old fashioned stop watch.

The trail around the campus was beautiful. It was mostly dirt and wood chips (easy on the feet), and mostly shaded. There was a nice view of the bay, and even though there were a couple short yet steep hills, the views were pleasant. Less than 100 people total participated, so I found myself very much alone for long periods of time. It was peaceful, but I missed the energy that is present at other events, especially around the 4 hour mark when I was slowing up. If the two aid stations on the course had boom boxes… I wouldn’t complain!

The picture of me from the Green Bay Ultra facebook page.

The picture of me from the Green Bay Ultra facebook page.

Besides walking the hills, I ran the entirety of the first 15 miles. This was more to boost my ego than anything else. It felt good to know that I still have some endurance left in me. I started to walk chunks of the 4.75 mile loop at this point. The loop felt extremely long, and it was difficult to mentally gage where the mile markers were.

To run 40 miles would mean 12 minute miles for 8 hours. Much harder than it sounds! I had some faster loops in the bank early on when it was cool and I still felt good. I thought that 8 loops might be possible (38 miles), but set a goal for the day of 35 miles. Like I always do, I started doing math in my head in the last several hours. When the 6 hour runners finished, the trail was even more empty than it was before. I started breaking it up in my head… to do 35 miles, I would need to walk 6 miles in 2 hours. 4 miles in an hour and a half. Thanks to my strong first half, I could reach my goal at a power walk.

Another stolen picture....

Another stolen picture….

also stolen.

also stolen.

stolen. Sorry, I'll work on being a more responsible photographer in the future.

…stolen. Sorry, I’ll work on being a more responsible photographer in the future.

Power walking was about all I could do after loop 6. Running just felt terrible, and by the time I got to loop 7, I realized that I could easily finish 7 loops and be able to at least make it to the first aid station on an 8th loop (runners could finish at an aid station and have the distance count toward their total miles without finishing the loop, making it less risky to start a new loop with not much time on the clock). However, in order to finish 8 loops, I would need to run almost the entire loop at an 11 minute pace, which was not going to happen.

I made it to the first aid station and ate a few pieces of watermelon while the volunteers told me how much time I had left and my total milage if I made it to aid station 2. They also told me that they were giving rides back to the start/finish at aid station 2 (good enough reason for me to keep going!). I had about half an hour to walk 1.8ish miles, so I set off pretty pleased with myself.

Leading up to aid station 2 (between 400-800 meters away) was a sign that said “Don’t poop your pants! Port-a-potties ahead!” and I had been calling this the poop sign. As soon as I saw the poop sign, there were a couple twists and turns, and then I could see the aid station through the trees and I was there. On loop 8, however, I was starting to panic. My Garmin was a few minutes off due to it pausing and losing satellite, and I knew I was cutting it close. I couldn’t find the poop sign. It seemed further away than ever! So I mustered up all I could and started running until I finally saw it. The few twists and turns to the aid station also felt longer than ever.

The second I saw the white pop-up through the trees, the first thing in my head was “EXTRACTION POINT!” I have clearly been watching too much Naked and Afraid. It was strange to finish somewhere other than the finish line.

I finished with 8 minutes to spare and with 35.85 miles!

Another runner finished a few minutes after me, and a volunteer drove us back to the start/finish. It felt so wonderful to be done!

I also took the opportunity to sneak up on my parents and their friends, who had their eyes glued to the path where they were expecting me to finish. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity.

We got our belt buckles for finishing and had our free lunch at the golf club (I almost thought I would go hungry until an employee ran off to get me a veggie burger… thanks golf club employee!) Around this point, the fact that I had been awake since 7 AM Friday morning was starting to make an impact, though surprisingly the lack of sleep ZERO sleep didn’t have much of an effect on my running.

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There were only awards for the overall winners, but I was happy to find out that I was in a three way tie for third; meaning only two women ran further than me.

I know that I originally had a goal of 40 miles, but all factors considered, I’m thrilled with how I did. I also did not feel nearly as crappy afterwards like I usually do after marathons. I think that the soft footing helped but I think my body is also getting used to the abuse I give it on a fairly regular basis. I think that getting more long runs in would have helped me at least finish my 8th loop, but there was nothing I could do about that. I have been trying to build up since being recovered, and wasn’t ready for anything long yet. Now that I know that my body can handle the stress (NO hamstring pain, NO hip flexor pain, and my SI stayed in place and didn’t cause ANY pain), I’m excited to start getting some longer runs and some speed work in for my half marathon in July and my fall marathons.

Three days after the race, and I was able to use the elliptical at the gym, and I’m feeling pretty good! It took me a week and a half to feel this good after the Wisconsin Marathon.

The bad news, though, is that my right big toenail separated from the toe during the race. I thought it was be ok, but putting my running shoes on today made me think otherwise. So my dad removed it… not fun. However, snap chatting a short video of the removal to a bunch of friends cheered me up. It was worth the friends I probably lost. I knew the nail would need to go, and the sooner it was off the less runs I would have to miss. Meanwhile, I’m hobbling around with a bandaged toe. Thank baby Jesus I don’t work as a dog groomer anymore…. a psycho dog jumping on me and landing on that toe would be a perfectly reasonable excuse for me to slit a throat (sorry dog lovers, but thats the cold truth)!

Oh yea, I hope nobody was eating while reading this blog...... Anyone who has run an ultra can sympathize.

Oh yea, I hope nobody was eating while reading this blog…… Anyone who has run an ultra can sympathize.

So now its time to get some long runs in so I can do 40 miles at Howl and get ready for Chicago Rock’n Roll in less than 3 weeks! As soon as one race is finished, I get so giddy for the next one, so I’m loving all that I have planned. I convinced one of my close friends (who has always hated running) to do the Chicago Rock’n Roll 5K the day before the half marathon, so I’ll be run/walking that with her. It should be a fun event and I hope she gets hooked on running!

Great swag at this race... cool shirt in an unexpected girl cut, nice embroidered backpack, and belt buckle for finishing.

Great swag at this race… cool shirt in an unexpected girl cut, nice embroidered backpack, and belt buckle for finishing.

 In case anyone was wondering… 35.85 miles in 8 hours is a PR for me!

Happy Running!

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Just a Few Updates Before Green Bay….

Tonight at about midnight we’ll be leaving for Green Bay to run the 8 hour ultra tomorrow at the UW-Green Bay campus. I almost went to that school!

a bit of the course I stole from the GBRC Ultra Marathon facebook page

a bit of the course I stole from the GBRC Ultra Marathon facebook page

It does not feel like the day before a big race to me. There isn’t much to do today besides make sure I have everything packed and make sure I don’t eat too much junk food. I already failed at that by polishing off my jar of Nutella…

My runs have been going great ever since Ragnar, until last weekend. My left leg started to feel ‘off,’ and my IT band was hurting. I’ve NEVER had IT band problems. I suspected SI problems again, and made a physical therapist appointment. Thank god I did; my entire left leg became achey.

My left hip was misaligned, leaving my left leg a half inch longer than my right. I’m upset that this happened again (and now it has happened to both hips), but I’m happy that I was able to feel that something was wrong and catch it early. Hopefully nothing was damaged and I can at least come close to my goal of 40 miles tomorrow.

If I don’t reach my goal, it isn’t the end of the world. Word on the Facebook page says the trail has some hills (but will be shaded), and I’m still not really up for hills. Why would I? Chicago RnR Half, Fox Valley Marathon, and Chicago Marathon are all pancake flat. I really have no reason to do hill training with no hilly races in the near future.

Also, I can hit my goal of 40 miles at Howl at the Moon in August. I don’t have to live in agony for a year and seethe at what I could have done differently.

So hopefully my next blog will be a happy race report about how my SI being misaligned and realigned within the week did not result in a terrible race!

also stolen from GBRC Ultra Marathon facebook page.... and possibly my new favorite motivational quote.

also stolen from GBRC Ultra Marathon facebook page…. and possibly my new favorite motivational quote.

 

Woodstock Challenge 10K

I love to sign up on impulse for races. I came home from Ragnar and signed up for Woodstock Challenge!

I ran this local race many times when I was really young, back when they had a 2 mile race. I ran the 10K once or twice in high school, and ever since then it has flown under my radar. This year I didn’t forget about it, and I was anxious to see how I would do in a 10K so I know where to go from here with my training.

It starts and finishes at Emricson Park… my main hood! The rest of the course loops around a very pretty area of Woodstock; an area we used to run on a regular basic in high school for cross country. Its little things like this that make me happy!

I saw plenty of people from high school track and cross country here… and Lisa found me at the start!

Now, Lisa was a straight up beast in high school. She set school records in swimming and track. Her junior year, she switched from swimming to cross country, and continued to kick ass. She continued her beastly ways by running track in college.

There weren’t very many people running the 10K, I guess the 5K was the popular event. Lisa and I took off…. or, Lisa took off and I couldn’t help but try to tag along. I looked down at my Garmin, which said we were rolling at a 6:55 pace. I nearly died… I haven’t run that fast since high school!

I was able to stick with Lisa the Beast until mile 4. I still can’t believe that I was able to keep up with her and didn’t finish too far behind her. She was so beyond my league in high school. I know that she definitely didn’t get slower, I got faster!

But seriously, the pace was so close to suicide pace it was sort of ridiculous. I was almost laughing at myself. Not only had I no intention of running that fast, but I didn’t know that I had it in me.

Before mile 5, there is a gigantic hill on Kishwaukee Valley Road, and I could tell that Lisa was struggling (not many hills on a track I guess). I was struggling too, but I managed to make it to the top and pick up the pace for the last mile. I knew at this point that I was going to hit a new PR, so I just decided to roll with it.

There was a young guy just ahead of me who had horrible “running” shoes; his feet rolled in so much that it was painful to watch his stride. And I could hear his stomach slosh if I ran too close to him. Another guy around me was a mouth breather to the tenth degree. I surged a little just so I wouldn’t throw up.

Of course, my parents were nowhere to be seen at the finish because I told them to expect me around 52-54 minutes. Nobody expected me to PR by two minutes.

Mile 1….. 6:57

Mile 2….. 7:07

Mile 3….. 7:23

Mile 4….. 7:38

Mile 5….. 8:28

Mile 6….. 8:06

.27……. 1:45

FINISH TIME…… 47:27.2 (7:34 pace)

my official chip time was 47:32, and a 7:39 pace… but I’m gonna agree with my Garmin on this one.

 

Then....

Then….

......

……

aaaaand now! Almost 7 years later and we still run like teammates :-)

aaaaand now! Almost 7 years later and we still run like teammates :-)

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I was the sixth overall female and 23rd overall finisher. I won 2nd place in my age group 20-29 (Lisa won 1st).

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I have no words for how freaking happy I am with this race. Can Lisa please come with me to all my races? I double checked my 10K PR before I left for the race, and knew I had no shot of breaking it in the shape I’m in. Today, I learned that I’m in better shape than I think, my body is bouncing back, and I can rock my fall marathons and hopefully PR at Chicago Rock’n Roll half marathon!

If Lisa happens to be the lucky charm then I’m in for at least one great marathon… she’s also running Chicago in October! It’ll be her first marathon, and she seems nervous about the distance (she’s a sprinter), but she will do fantastic. I love seeing my old teammates still running and racing. Too many athletes quit under the pressure they are under, especially in college.

My next race will be the Green Bay 8 Hour Ultra. The complete polar opposite of a 10K! I’m not sure how I’ll do with endurance, but I’ll be fighting as hard as I can to hit the 40 mile mark :-)

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Chicago Ragnar Relay 2014

I’ve waited a week to blog about this race because it was so much fun I just didn’t want to admit that the weekend was over…. and nothing says “its over” like a blog to wrap it all up. This was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had at a race!

I didn’t know anybody on my team except for my sorority grand-big, Sam. So I made a lot of new friends!

We went up to Madison on Wednesday afternoon, which gave us all of Thursday to explore the city. We rented bikes and rode by the lake and to the botanical gardens. Most of Van 2 was from Boston (one person from Portland), and they had never been to Madison before. They were all excited to explore Madison, and I was happy to be apart of it… the last time I visited Madison was in college, and I wasn’t really sober enough to appreciate it.

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Thursday night we decorated the vans, had dinner with most of the team, and went to bed. Van 1 (which I was in) had an 8:15 start time, and I was runner 2. It was so difficult to sleep because I was too excited!

Team "We're Only in it for the Deep Dish"

Team “We’re Only in it for the Deep Dish”

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I was super happy I wasn’t the first runner. Since there are many different start times, the waves were pretty small. Everybody knows I don’t do well with wave starts (high school cross country flashbacks!). My left hip flexor was really bothering me, and I was really nervous about how my 4.5 mile leg would go. I decided last minute to wear my compression sleeve (meant for my recovering right hamstring) on my left leg, and it ended up being a fantastic decision.

Just less than a week before, a 6 mile training run was excruciatingly difficult. My fitness wasn’t back, and my hamstring was tight, so I had no idea how my leg would go. When Chelsea came in with the slap bracelet, I took off… the energy of the exchange definitely got to me! I could’t believe the pace my Garmin was showing, but I wanted to hold it as long as I could. I made a lot of “kills” during my leg.

It wasn’t a scenic run, just city streets. Nothing special. At least a mile of it was up hill, and my pace dropped like a rock. Even before my SI joint setback 2 months ago, I wasn’t really doing any hill training because Wisconsin Marathon was pretty flat. The heat had almost no effect on me like it did other people; running on a treadmill can be like running in a sauna, and I spent the entire winter on it. But that hill…. oh boy.

As soon as the hill mountain was behind me, my pace bounced back to the insane speed I didn’t know I still had. As I finally came into the exchange, my brain was so mushy I couldn’t find Sam, or figure out where I was supposed to go. I was so happy to be done and thrilled with my time!

Mile 1…… 7:19

Mile 2….. 8:07

Mile 3….. 9:00

Mile 4….. 7:58

.46 ……….. 3:45

FINISH TIME….. 36:11.9

I was not expecting an 8:07 pace, and it made me really feel like I’m finally moving on from the whole mess than my SI caused. I had a blast the rest of the morning and afternoon cheering on the rest of my van. It was so hot outside, but everyone did great and was running ahead of the pace calculator. All the runners were so friendly; everybody cheers for each other, no matter what team they’re on. It was a positive environment.

exchange #3

exchange #3

Our last runner, Mike, KILLED his 9 mile leg at the hottest point of the day with a 6:52 pace, and then Van 2 took over.

During our off-time, we got lunch at Olive Garden (where they stuck us in a section away from all the other diners, we must have really been fragrant..) and picked up some snacks at Target before heading to our next major exchange. There was no way I was ready to sleep yet, so we killed a couple hours walking around and tagging other vans. After getting tagged by other teams, we thought it was time to retaliate. Our graffiti was a pizza slice. Anybody who found a pizza slice on their van was SLICED! (trust me, stuff like this is hilarious when you’re sleep deprived and high on running.)

We spotted the problem before Chelsea took off with the slap bracelet… the parking lot was packed, and everybody was trying to get out at the same time. She was running a short leg, so we didn’t have much time to get to the next exchange. It took us about half an hour to get out of the parking lot! I got out of the van at my exchange and ran, putting on my SI belt, knee strap, and compression sleeve on the way (hip flexors were miraculously better after first leg, so it went back on my right leg). I got out of the port-potty and was adjusting my SI strap when I saw Chelsea waiting– eek! I grabbed the slap bracelet and ran for it. Fortunately, she was only waiting about a minute.

It was just starting to get dark when I started. This leg was on the Glacial Drumlin Trail, and was very pretty; at least while it was light enough for me to see. My right hamstring was tight from running less than 8 hours earlier, and I didn’t have time to stretch because we were almost late to the exchange. This 4.5 mile leg was more of a struggle than the first one, even though it did feel like it went by faster.

It was completely dark and there were no others around me when I realized that I knew exactly where I was…. with about 2 miles left, I was on the part of the trail I used to run on when I was in college! This knowledge put a little pep in my step. I knew that I would be entering Waukesha on this leg, but actually running onto the Carroll University campus on my favorite college running path was incredible. I definitely picked up the pace and made a few more kills near the end.

I ran past my old apartment buildings, up the hill I walked up every day to get to campus, and down the hill to the exchange next to the football field. I was shocked to find out that my team was worried about me and that Sam was ready to send out a search party to find me; I didn’t think I was that slow! It turned out that the entire team had slowed up and was lagging behind our projected time; it wasn’t just me.

I tried to take a picture of campus... but it was too dark. I settled for a selfie.

I tried to take a picture of campus… but it was too dark. I settled for a selfie.

MILE 1….. 8:01

MILE 2….. 8:41

MILE 3….. 8:41

MILE 4….. 8:46

.49……….. 4:22

FINISH TIME….. 38:32.7

The buzz I got from my second leg carried over for the rest of Van 1’s legs. Running at night is such a thrill. After Mike finished, the energy in our Van disappeared. It was about a 45 minute drive to the next major exchange at the Racine YMCA, and I was the luck one awake enough to drive. I was extremely thankful to have Steven awake to give directions, because I was completely pooped and my contact lenses were threatening to pop out of my eyes… not good when you’re driving on an interstate.

When we arrived at the YMCA, we were welcomed in as if we were refugees; the employees and volunteers seemed to feel so sorry for us, and directed us towards showers, food, and sleeping areas. I was too tired to think about food, and a shower seemed silly with another run left. We got, at most, 3 hours of sleep in the YMCA’s boxing ring. It wasn’t too bad at the time, but sleeping on my side left me with a sore back for a week. Before 5AM, I was waking up the rest of Van 1 to get ready for our final legs… and rounding everybody up when they aren’t all morning people can sure be a difficult job!

At the exchange for my final 6.2 mile leg, I was feeling rested but stiff. I was anxious to get started. Sam, being the amazing grand-big she is, said she would have a cup of coffee ready for me when I finished. Finally Chelsea came in and I was off; a little slower this time.

I knew that I would need to focus a little more on keeping an even pace. I wish that I didn’t have my longest leg as my 3rd and final, when my body was already tired. I stayed on the Glacial Drumlin trail the entire time, and it was a lovely course. I enjoyed the scenery, and with one mile left, I saw Carthage College on my left…. I was on the Wisconsin Marathon course! Once again, I was 100% familiar with my surroundings. I knew that a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan was right around the corner. This sent a jolt of happiness through me, and picked up the pace to finish up strong (with at least 4 kills in the last half mile alone). I ran down the hill to the exchange, and didn’t see Sam, so I yelled her name…. and she popped up with a cup of coffee in her hands. I wasn’t even at a complete stop before Sam had the slap bracelet and I had that coffee. A group of men nearby commented that I got the better end of the deal… I would have to agree with them :-)

Mile 1….. 8:38

Mile 2….. 8:42

Mile 3…… 9:00

Mile 4…… 9:15

Mile 5…… 9:05

Mile 6…… 8:33

.34……….. 2:49

FINISH TIME…….. 56:04.2

They must have been pressed for time coming to the exchange, because I wandered around for a few minutes trying to find the rest of my team. I was walking around for a minute before I realized that I had forgotten to stop my Garmin…. oops! I was too distracted by delicious coffee. My time was actually in the 55 minute range.

It felt fantastic to be done! I no longer had to worry about what I ate or whether or not I was staying loose. Between every exchange we were stopping for coffee. I had consumed 3 coffees before 11 AM… but it still didn’t stop me (and everybody else in the van) from dozing on the way to the finish line in Chicago.

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tagged by our own team :-(

tagged by our own team :-(

We had hours to kill before our final runner in Van 2 finished… so we cleaned off the van, moved our stuff to Sam’s apartment, and waited at the finish. It is remarkable how close we all got through this experience; we sat in the beer garden and chatted until van 2 came and we waited to run through the finish chute with Jessica, our final runner.

Van 1... me, Sam, Mike, Chelsea, Steven, and Bridget

Van 1… me, Sam, Mike, Chelsea, Steven, and Bridget

We're Only in it For the Deep Dish.... front row, Sam, Lily, Jessica, Bridget, Chelsea. Back row, Tristan, Brittany, Steven, Matt, Danny, me, Mike

We’re Only in it For the Deep Dish…. front row, Sam, Lily, Jessica, Bridget, Chelsea. Back row, Tristan, Brittany, Steven, Matt, Danny, me, Mike

I would do another Ragnar, no questions asked. I would travel happily across the country to do another. It was just that much fun. It was a combination of pretty much everything that I enjoy…. friends, road trips, exploring new places, and running. It made me realize that there is a big world out there to explore and a lot of people out there to meet… and running happens to be the best way to experience a new place, and runners are some of the coolest people ever. Ragnar has a culture of its own that is unique from other races. Not everybody who participates is exceptionally fast or experienced, and the environment is competitive in a friendly manner.

It also gave me a huge confidence boost to know that my legs went much better than expected, and I was able to keep the pain under control. I had listed my 10K pace as 7:40, which was true before my SI injury (projected finish times are calculated via 10K pace), and I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to deliver. Yet it is so satisfying how far I’ve come in a short period of time, which means that my hard work is paying off.

 

We’re Only in it For the Deep Dish…. 34:04.00

434th/502 teams

Ragnar Prep && Dropping the “Dead Weight”

A lot has been going on with me!

My runs have been excruciatingly difficult and slow. My hamstring has been super tight, but with ice, stretching, and my dad suggesting a compression wrap around my thigh, it is feeling better! I have also been mixing in lots of elliptical-ing. Today I was on the elliptical for an hour, and was so proud of myself… I get bored so quickly on those machines!

I currently have my SI belt, knee strap, and my thigh sleeve packed for this weekend’s Ragnar. I’m a big hot mess!

I’m trying not to get too impatient with getting back to my would-be-BQ shape, but it is difficult. I just keep reminding myself that each run I complete is one step in the right direction. I’m super excited for the relay, not just because it will be an overall fun experience, but I want to see what my body can do.

I haven’t signed up yet, but I am planning on running a 10k in Woodstock a week after Ragnar. I haven’t run Woodstock Challenge since high school! I think that a 10k will be good for me. It will be slightly challenging without completely murdering my body.

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I have also noticed a new trend. Before I left for the Wisconsin Marathon, I spent an afternoon out doing relaxing stuff. I saw a movie, got my hair cut, stuff like that. We are leaving for Madison tomorrow, so today I went out to do some last-minute errands, and it ended up being a similar day of relaxation. After my errands, I ate lunch on the Woodstock Square.

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I’m not usually the type to post a picture of everything I eat… but the falafel wrap from Expressly Leslie was probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I feel like falafels and hummus are the most misunderstood foods. Depending on who makes it, they can be either the best thing in the world or the grossest thing you’ve ever eaten.

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I tried to catch up on the Bachelorette online at Starbucks, but it takes a week for ABC to put up full episodes (I was not a happy camper), so I took my coffee and went for a short walk at Emricson. It was too nice outside to just go home.

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Yes, I did all this alone. I have no guilt or awkwardness eating alone, seeing movies alone, or doing anything in public alone.

 

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There is another reason I was so relaxed and happy today.

I finally quit my job!

Working as a groomer at a major pet store chain (won’t say which so I won’t get sued) has got to be the worst job. It is definitely not a job meant for a person with high self-esteem and low tolerance for BS.

For at least 6 months (going on probably 9 months) I have dreaded each and every day I go into work. It is a difficult job that only pays minimum wage. It was the least professional workplace imaginable, and after a long time of saying I wanted to quit, I decided it was time to just do it.

A little bit of a leap of faith, since I have no for sure job lined up yet… but I am so relieved and happy. Minimum wage was not worth the stress, anger, belittling, and snotty attitude that I got each and every day. Nothing about that job benefited me or contributed to my well-being… so I no longer see any need to include it in my life anymore. The friends that I have made there will still be around whether I work there or not.

It feels really good to weed out the bad things in your life to make room for the good things!

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^^ BINGO! ^^