Running pic

Running pic
Yup, that's me!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zooma Half-Marathon recap

I think I started this blog too late to bitch and moan about the massive hill (1.2 miles, 116 foot incline) that started the River to Ridge half-marathon that I did on September 24th, but compared to the hillfest that was the Zooma Great Lakes Women’s Half it was nothing.  Keep in mind that I’m usually the one to groan going up what I consider to be a hill around here – a highway overpass bridge.  Pretty sad. The Zooma race was this past weekend and I couldn’t be happier that it was on Saturday – otherwise I’d still be at home popping Advil and clutching my glutes.  I ran this race with my sister-in-law and a friend from college (both faster than me) and we all had the same thought – it MUST to flatten out eventually.  Alas, not.  We started out with the 5K crowd and ran out pretty much a mile and a half straight up then turned around for the descent.  My foot was still bothering me enough that I ran with a cheap-o ACE bandage/ankle support thingy on and I’m not sure it helped any.  It twinged on the uphills and just plain hurt on the downhills.  After the 5K runners split off, the course continued as an out & back with a small lollypop loop.  I accidentally left my Garmin on overnight on Friday so it was dead for the race and I can’t get the elevations from it but if you want to consider my aching quads and glutes as an indicator then you can divine that the course had virtually no flat spots. I did not come in under 2 hours – I felt lucky to have come in at all, but I’ll take the 2:06:XX and try to better it in the half I have coming up over Thanksgiving weekend which is mercifully flat. Since I’m all about the gear, I can tell you that I wore a Brooks long-sleeve top, a Brooks Glycerin bra, a pair of cheap-o shorts by Layer 8 (I think that’s the name) that I picked up at a Marshall’s and now wish I’d bought every pair they had, Under Armour socks, a SportHill baseball cap, Tifosi sunglasses, my Amphipod pack (no chafing this time thanks to liberal Glide application), my iPod shuffle and my Kinvaras.  It was chilly at the start, but not cold enough to wear the windbreaker I’d brought.  I saw some ladies heading out to the start line dressed like it was January and I figured that they would be sorry when they heated up – I know by the end of Mile 1 I was toasty and warm except for my hands which remained pretty cold for the whole race.  I need to swipe a bunch of the thin inspector’s gloves they use at work to use as throwaways. Since it was a women's race they had a nice gimmick - instead of a (most-likely) fugly and non-functional medal we received a very pretty sterling silver necklace - nice touch. 
I was really concerned about my foot the morning after the race – it absolutely ached and there was a shooting pain going up my Achilles tendon when I walked.  Luckily I iced it for 30-45 minutes and it went away so it couldn’t have been much of anything more than generally soreness and abuse, but I’ll take it easy and not run for a couple of days. 
Next up is a Halloween 10K on Sunday – should be fun and I’m hoping, hoping, hoping for nice weather, a wide course, and a new PR.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spirit of the Marathon

So, the weather here in Chicago is pretty shitty.  Cold, rainy and windy.  But, our outing for tonight to Goose Island Brewery is still on! I figure this will give me a chance to try out the Sugoi Hydrolite jacket that I found – AT THE SALVATION ARMY. Yes, that’s right, THE SALVATION ARMY.  I picked it up when I went in to find a throw away shirt for the marathon and in addition to a decent throw-away tech shirt, I scored the hydrolite jacket for $5 and a like new Mountain Hardware shell for $12.  Who knew?  What’s funny is when I was picking up my Bucktown 5K packet I was oogling the hydrolite jackets at Running Away Multisport but couldn’t justify spending $90 for a jacket that I’d only wear if it happened to rain when I had a run scheduled.  Yeah, yeah, the new ones are shiny and white and mine’s the old grey version, and yes it’s a men’s XS which fits – just barely – but you can’t beat it for $5. Anyway, the run is only 4 miles so how bad can it be?
I’ve been watching the documentary Spirit of the Marathon on Hulu in bits and pieces over my lunchbreak and I have to say it was very inspiring, especially since it was filmed in Chicago and I recognize the course and the paths that the runners trained on.  I know I should embrace all the runners profiled, but I thought the guy who hurt his knee and couldn’t run was sort of douchy.  He exemplified the sort of driven ultra-competitiveness that some guys seem to have and that attitude seems to suck the fun out of running.  And Deena Kastor came off somewhat badly, but I think that was mostly editing.  There were all the shots of her getting world-class training and support put right next to shots of people making do with whatever they had and the one really bad comparison was when this older runner was talking about how he needed to buy a new pair of shoes because his pair was miles overdue for replacement paired with a shot of Deena Kastor opening a big box of free shoes and gear from Asics.  I mean, I know she’s a professional athlete and for chrissakes, she WON the Chicago Marathon that year (1st woman), but she seems to not realize how special that is – to get free shit, access to awesome training facilities and top-notch medical care, and have a crew of (mostly hot male) pacers to keep her on track timewise. Also, Jesus Christ lady – eat a sandwich.  Paula Radcliffe looked positively plump compared to Deena Kastor. OK, enough complaining.  If you haven’t seen Spirit of the Marathon it’s on Hulu for free (just a few ads) and it’s a really nice documentary.
I’m starting to get worried about the half I’m running on Saturday.  Apparently one of the hills is called Killer Hill.  Hills with names are bad news.  When I did my first 20 mile run, this huge hill on the Sag Valley trail almost killed me. As I dragged my sorry ass up a woman passed me and yelled at the top, “Suck it Big Bertha!”   See? Hills with names = despair.  Despair with a side of exhaustion topped with a big swirl of doubt.  On the up side, my foot doesn’t hurt anymore - which is good because I’m figuring that everything else will after Saturday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Corn Maze 5K

Oof. Bank audit at work keeping me too busy to write a post, but I can squeeze in a little one.  I did a 5K on Sunday entirely in a corn maze.  It was surprisingly well run considering the number of things that COULD have gone wrong.  There was no pre-race packet pick-up so my husband and I got to the farm just early enough to get our bibs and t-shirts.  Running the shirts back to the car put us a little behind our expected start times – the organizers started people every three seconds by their expected finish times.  I think I may have started one group back from where I should have, but that made it kind of fun because I got to pass a few people on the course.  They had roped off the aisles that were not part of the course so that you wouldn’t accidentally get lost, but that left over 250 twisty turns and two stair/bridge crossings.  All the turns made the race really fun and kept my mind off of the distance.  I managed to finish close to my 5K PR, so that makes me think that if I could find a 5K with a flat, wide course (i.e. no Bucktown 5K) in cool weather I could probably get a new PR.  After the race I was walking back to the car and some guy told me that I blew by him which made me feel pretty good because that doesn’t happen too often.  I guess it was pretty easy to pick me out considering I was wearing obnoxious compression calf sleeves with hearts printed all over them – mostly I admit, for the warmth and not the compression. 
I’d definitely do this race again next year, but I’d consider running in trail shoes.  The dirt was pretty packed down and the bumpy soles might have given me a little more traction.  At some point I almost wiped out on a corn leaf or husk but managed to pull through – I’m not sure if trail shoes would have helped in that situation.  It rained early in the morning so I wore an old pair of Kinvaras because I didn’t want to trash any of my clean shoes.   Short spikes would be ideal, but I don’t think I can justify buying a pair of spikes just to run one gimmicky trail race a year although as I have said many times in the past, I’ve spent more money on stupider things – one look at my eBay buying profile would tell you that.  Still unless I can miraculously get my 5K time under 20 minutes (wait – you should hear the laughter right about……now) I think I’d look pretty silly in spikes.
I went running with a couple of friends later in the evening – 6 slow miles – and the bottom of my right foot was bothering me a little bit – probably from one of the turns in the corn maze.  I didn’t run yesterday but took spinning and weights classes instead.  The foot is still bothering me today so I’m taking the day off and I have it wrapped.  I’m hoping it’s nothing more than a pulled muscle because there’s a Fleet Feet Chick’s Night outing on Wednesday night and we’re scheduled to run 4 miles to a local brewery for a tour and tastings and I don’t want to miss that!  Then I have to lay off the running – maybe just 4 miles or so on Friday morning because I have a half-marathon scheduled on Saturday up in Lake Geneva.  Aren’t I just the glutton for punishment?  I keep getting e-mails from the race organizer that warn of the hilly course – oh joy.  I did a hilly half last month in Janesville, WI that was really hard (picture a 1.2 mile hill that climbs 116 feet right at the start of the race) but I managed to keep it under 2 hrs (barely).  I’m hoping to keep this one under 2 hrs. as well – we’ll see, I’m not the greatest hill runner by a long shot.  I have another half Thanksgiving weekend that has a pretty flat course so I can try for a new PR there.
I’ll be back for sure next Monday with a report on the half.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicago Marathon recap

Ok, so I’m a liar.  I said I’d post a marathon recap on Monday and here it is Tuesday and all, so sue me. Let me start by ruining the suspense: I finished.  Now I can start at the beginning. I woke up at 4:10am to the lovely sounds of my gang-banger neighbor coming home blaring his car stereo.  Thanks asshole for taking away the last 20 minutes of sleep. This on top of my asshole neighbors who thought it would be fun to get drunk and play bags in their front yard until 3am.  I stayed in bed until my alarm went off at 4:30 and quietly tiptoed downstairs.  I pushed the start button on the coffee maker and put my slice of multi-grain in the toaster and hit the head to pee.  I put on my shorts and glided up the spots where the seam is at the bottom of the compressions shorts and then I put on my sports bra and glided up the band that goes under my boobs.  Then I looked in the mirror and was dismayed by the fact that with my super-short haircut I look a bit like 90’s self-help guru Susan “Stop the Insanity” Powter. Oh well, nothing to be done about that now.  I put on my tank and sat down to glide up my toes, put on my socks and shoes and headed back to the kitchen to eat.  Then the waiting game begins – will I or won’t I?  I did.  I had the PRP (pre-race poop) that I consider so crucial.  At 5:40 I put on my .96 cent throw-away long sleeve from the Salvation Army (it was actually a nice shirt) and headed over to my running buddy’s house to share a cab down to Grant Park with a few other people.  We made it in plenty of time - she gear checked a bag, we used the port-o-potties, and got into the open corral somewhere between the 10 and 11 minute mile pace areas. 
We crossed the start line about 20 minutes after the gun and pretty much immediately pulled over in lower Wacker Drive to pee behind a concrete embankment.  Despite being illegal this was a good move because there were no lines and it was the last time I needed to think about any bodily function for the rest of the race.  I was running with two of my training buddies and we managed to stick together for the first 17 miles.  If you were running and you heard three annoying women yelling, “Wolfpack,” that was us.  Anytime we got a little strung out the lead runner would yell Wolfpack! and then the other two would yell the same so we’d know where we all were.  I’m sure the runners around us were thrilled.
Like I mentioned in the last post I’m not great at remembering things mile by mile.  I remember being disappointed by Boystown – I didn’t see a single cheerleader in drag. Seeing three running friends volunteering at the Fleet Feet aid station was a huge boost. I saw my friend/support crew at mile 13 where she handed me delightful frozen water, I remember I remember the looooong straight stretch heading west towards the United Center – that was where I started to be pretty sure that there was going to be some sort of foot/toe issue.  My husband joined us at mile 17 and this is where I told my friends to go ahead – I needed to slow down a bit and I didn’t want to hold them back.  At mile 20 I was still OK, but from 21 on it all kind of fell apart.  I never hit the proverbial wall, but I just kept getting slower and slower.  It was a combination of the heat, the direct sun, and the volcanic blister on my left pinkie toe.  I remember at mile 24 my husband said, “C’mon – only 2 more miles!” to which I moaned out, “but those 2 miles will take me 30 minutes.”  Yeah, it was ugly, but I finished.  My time was not great, not what I expected or hoped for, but it leaves plenty of room for improvement.  Right after the race I swore up and down that I would never do a marathon again but I’m already considering Marine Corps in DC next year.  Sucker.
The after effects aren’t nearly as bad as I thought they might be.  My hips are a little sore and the blister is tender, but I’m mobile and it’s nothing a little ibuprofen can’t handle.  I’m taking 2 days off and then it’s back in the saddle again – running at Chick’s Night on Wednesday.
Next up is a crazy gimmick race – a 5K held entirely inside a corn maze.  If I don’t trip on a corn root and kill myself I’ll be back to let you know how insane it was.

Friday, October 7, 2011


So the bib & goodie bag is all picked up.  The expo was better than I expected.  I’ve been to a few small expos for half-marathons and for the Shamrock Shuffle, but they weren’t nearly as large as the Chicago Marathon expo.  I was a sucker and I bought a couple more pieces of official Nike merch, a Saucony commemorative t-shirt, and a pair of compression calf sleeves that have hearts all over them.  I tried countless nutrition bars and hydration products, got a great sample of frozen Kefir, registered for a January half-marathon in Chicago (Really? You’ll let me have my fleece now and then you’ll mail my bib to me? Sign. Me. Up.), and took numerous pictures at all the photo ops.  Brooks gets the nod for best booth – tricked out like heaven to showcase their new Pure Project line of shoes.  I’m glad I got to see it when the shaggy white carpet was still clean and fluffy.  I bet that by the end of the expo it’s a hot mess.  It was nice to go early when all the people staffing the booths were still fresh and excited to be there.  Having had to do similar duties before for the animal shelter where I volunteer, I know all too well that by then end of the shift you start to get a glazed look in your eye and check your watch every 2 minutes to see if it’s time to go home yet.
I’m going to take it super-easy tonight.  Dinner will probably be a rice bowl of some sort from Whole Foods and then I’ll catch up on last week’s episode of Glee and head to bed.  I contemplated taking a candlelite yoga class, but it doesn’t end until 9:30 and that’s when I’d like to be heading to bed.  I’m debating taking a sleep aid since I don’t have to wake up until 8am on Saturday.  It’s probably a bad idea, but I’d love to get a great night’s sleep.  My running buddies and I are meeting at 9am for a 3 mile shake-out run and then I have a busy Saturday to keep me distracted.  I have to pick up a Groupon box of baked goods, get my hair cut (buzzed in lightning bolts because I’m a dork), pick up some pasta sauce with another Groupon, clean the house up a bit and then make dinner.  I’m planning on eating at 6pm and having a chicken breast, some whole wheat pasta with a vodka sauce, bread, and a salad – it sat well before my last 20-miler so I’m not going to monkey with it.  Then it’s off to bed again to get up at about 4:15 when – I’m just going to say it – I really, really hope I poop.  So much of how a race or really any long run goes depends on the almighty dump.  If you have it before, you’re golden.  If you don’t (or at least for me) you worry and then inevitably have to stop on-course at a port-a-potty.  When I did my first long race – last year’s Hot Chocolate 15K – I had to stop mid-race at the p-o-p and then I got hit again as I came through the finish chute and had skip the finisher’s chocolate to scurry through the barricades and find another p-o-p.  Not pretty, but I think I didn’t know then about the importance of eating the right meal the night before.  I’ve got my marathon outfit all planned: black Nike Tempo 2-in-1 shorts (the kind with the built in compression shorts), black Brooks glycerin sports bra, aqua Under Armour tank with my name sewed on, Under Armour socks, Kinvaras, Amphipod clip on pack w/CTA card, $10, tissue, and 2 vanilla Cliff shots (I’m taking them at 7, 14, and 21 but I don’t need three because they give them away on course at some point so I’ll just take the third one there and stow it until I need it), my Garmin, my iPod shuffle (only to be used in case of emergency), and Tifosi sunglasses.  I’ll slather on the Glide and hope it all stays chafe free. I’m heading down with my running buddies and we’re all meeting at the L station at 5:30 to head down to Grant Park and then it’s just waiting around for the race to start.  I don’t have a goal time – I just want to enjoy the experience and then the next marathon I do I’ll set a goal for myself.  I want to be able to gawk at the cheerleaders in drag in Boystown, hug my friends who come out to see me, and not die in the above average heat expected for the day.  I’ll be back on Monday with a recap – not mile by mile because my memory for that kind of stuff is for shit, but I’ll try to remember most of it and report back on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bucktown 5K recap

I so don’t understand people who bitched and moaned about having to take public transportation to this race – the North Ave bus drops you about 3 blocks from the start line and it was way better than driving and having to park more than 5K away from the race.  So, it was cold.  I wore Capri length tights for the first time this year and a long sleeved lightweight half-zip.  My friends and I got to the race early and we had to stand around for about 45 minutes during which time I pretty much stiffened up - this did not bode well for a speedy time.  The race was crowded which I expected – at least 6,000 people.  The corralled runners started a few minutes late and then they funneled the rest of us schlebs into the start chute and you just started as you passed over the timing mats – I probably didn’t cross the start line until at least 8 or 9 minutes into the race.  The course was very crowded and as is par for RAM races there were many, many non-runners and new racers on the course who aren’t familiar with the race etiquette so for the entire 3.1 miles it was like playing dodge ‘em as I wove around walkers, strollers, little kids, slower runners, etc. I completely forgot my iPod which was probably for the best since it would have made me less aware.  Like a moron I also forgot to start my garmin and I also missed the first mile timing clock entirely so I had no idea how I was doing pace-wise.  I could tell the first mile was slow partially because the crowds were worse at the beginning but also because it took about ¾ of a mile before I warmed up enough to be completely able to feel my feet.  This is one race where it would have behooved me to do a little research and at least look at the course map beforehand so I would have had some idea where I was in relation to the finish line.  Ultimately I didn’t PR, which I wasn’t expecting to, winding up with a time about 2 minutes slower than my best time.  I did wear racing my spiffy new racing flats and while they felt nice and fast, I don’t know that I’m tuned in enough to notice the difference of a few ounces from my regular Kinvaras.  Meh – I’ll keep using them for 10Ks & 5K’s but I don’t know that they’ll help much.  The post-race celebration/food situation was kind of a shit show.  The lines were super long and disorganized and the portions were pretty small so we skipped it entirely and went to a local diner, snagged the last three seats at the counter and had a delicious breakfast.
The day before the 5K (Saturday) I did my last ‘long run’ before the marathon – 10 miles.  I went to a weights class at my gym on Friday night and learned myself a valuable lesson to CUT BACK on the heavy leg stuff during taper because my legs didn’t feel so hot for most of the 10 miles.  The weather was perfect – chilly but not much wind since we were on the North Branch trail which is pretty protected. We kept to about a 9:30/mile pace which is a little faster than I plan on going at the big race but a little slower than I would regularly run 10 miles.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was a little nervous about the marathon, but the last 20-miler went well and the weekend after that I did a half that had monster hills and I finished that race in better than expected time.  Since this is my first full I’m not setting a time goal for myself – I just want to enjoy the run, be able to greet the people who are coming out to watch me and not be disappointed at the end if I don’t meet a specific time.
I’ll check in again later this week – I haven’t looked at the weather for Sunday so I’m still not 100% positive what I’m wearing and I’m sure I’ll also want to write about the packet-pick-up and expo.