Filed under: Fitness Swellness

Fitness Swellness: 5 things I’ve learned training for the 2018 Chicago Marathon

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As I mentioned last week, this training season for Chicago Marathon has been rough. And I’m not feeling like it’ll be a strong race for me. I think I’ve run enough marathons to have a good sense of what I can expect from my body. While I don’t think I’ve gotten strong enough physically, I feel like my brain has been working against me, so I’ve been working on looking at the positive aspects of this upcoming race. Because otherwise, I fall into thinking, “Why bother?” with completing the race if I won’t PB. And that is not the right mindset when running 42.2 kilometres!

So, here’s what this Chicago Marathon and this training season has going for it when it comes to my running goals:

  1. Chicago Marathon is where I do well racing the 42.2k distance. I’ve run it twice before (in 2017 and 2014) and these are my two fastest marathons (and that’s even with the intense heat we had for 2017’s race). I remind myself of this all the time.
  2. I discovered NRC Guided Runs thanks to Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran adding a few to my training sched, and they’ve improved treadmill training by making them less boring. I avoid the treadmill as much as possible as I find it about as dull as Outlander (don’t @ me) but having the coach talk me through each interval in the NRC Guided Speed Runs helps to break up the workout nicely. The one with Kevin Hart and Coach Bennett (remember when he told me I needed psychiatric help for running two races one week apart, haha) had me laughing.
  3. I’m getting better at replacing dreading runs with being grateful. When Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran heard I dread each long run, she reminded me that a lot of people aren’t able to run, and I know how awful I feel when I’ve been told to lay off of running (due to issues like my formerly overactive thyroid, or not being able to wear contact lenses).While those long runs in nearly 40 Celsius weather this summer have been grueling, I am thankful to be injury-free and physically capable of completing runs short and long. “To be honest, I’m jealous,” said a friend who’s taken a break from running about me running Chicago.
  4. I now think “fun” not “fast.” In the NRC Guided Run Run with Mo, Mo Farah instructs you to think not about going fast, but having fun, I now make a deliberate effort to think that when I do speed work. Rather than repeating, “This is freakin’ brutal and my heart feels like it’s going to explode and I can’t possibly run harder or faster,” I think “Let’s have more FUN.” I can’t say it works entirely (it still hurts to push hard through a tough workout and I know I really just need to try my best to hit the pace I’m aiming for), but thinking “fun” helps to shift my focus into a more positive space.
  5. Running gives me quality time with Billie Jean. I’ve been mostly training solo, which can be draining. But with my work schedule and travel, and with me not being a morning person (which is when most run crews run), the flexibility of running solo is often what works best for me. To help me make it through long runs, I usually run 22k alone and then pick up my dog, Billie Jean, for the last portion of my run. She’s run as long as 14k in the past with me, but with the intense summer conditions, I limit her distance to be on the safe side.

A friend who’s completed Ironman gave me a little pep talk the other day, too. She reminded me that even if Chicago 2018 isn’t my best marathon, it’ll help me prepare for future marathons, I can use it as an opportunity to experiment (whether I want to use a pacer or not, for example, in future marathons when trying to BQ) and that even if it’s not my best time, I’ll know what my current marathon time is to gauge my fitness level going forward. And last but not least, she reminded me that I may just surprise myself and it’s possible that every element comes together (nutrition, rest, weather, gear, mental state and crowd support), and I may just BQ.

I may BQ. It could happen. After all, in 2014, I was less than two minutes from BQ-ing and I totally didn’t expect to finish with that time (I’d anticipated finishing about 13 minutes slower!).

Plus, I have an excuse to go get a killer manicure again.

It’s only a crazy dream until you do it, after all. That’s what I learned at the Just Do It HQ Chicago I visited last week. And besides, PB or BQ or not, there is some very rad Chicago Marathon Nike gear this year.

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Also, while at the Just Do It HQ last week, I got the chance to customize a Chicago Marathon tank, which I will wear proudly after the race (once I’ve earned it!).

Nike Chicago Marathon tank

Leave a Comment September 24, 2018

Fitness Swellness: 3 reasons I’m anxious about the 2018 Chicago Marathon

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I’m about nine weeks into training for the Chicago Marathon and why’s it taken so long to post about this? Well, in part because training takes up a lot of time (leaving little time to blog…) and because I’m pretty nervous about this race.

This time around marathon training snuck up on me. A few months ago I’d talked to Nike Canada (one of the race’s sponsors) to explore whether running this race again would be possible (I ran it last year and in 2014) . Before I knew it, the race was three months away and boom, I met with Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran, and I had a three-month training schedule and had to kick things into high gear immediately.

For my personalized training plan, Brittany chatted with me about how I’ve trained thus far for the 11 marathons I’ve done, and asked me about my goals for this race. My goals (A, B and C) are all to PB.

When Nike sent me a magnet detailing my three months of training, with my goals boldly printed on the top, I started hyperventilating. Seeing it in print, with an intense schedule of training, well, shit just got real. I texted a few friends “Goodbye, see after October 7!” since it appeared I’d be doing nothing but running for the next three months.

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When I had a chance to have a more careful read of the training plan, I realized it wasn’t that much more in terms of frequency than my training last year. Brittany’s training plan has me running mostly five days a week. She’s made some of the recovery runs longer than the ones I added in 2018. She also has my longest run, this week, at a distance of 34k (up from the usual 32k distance I’ve done in the past). In addition, she’s made some of them a little tougher (a few of the long runs, I’m to pick up the pace at the end, for example).

I’m very much a realist when it comes to most things. Perhaps that makes me approach things with less of a lofty, optimistic view, but that’s just how I think I’ve been wired. Is this a Capricorn thing?

In any case, my A-goal is to PB with a time that will guarantee I qualify and get into Boston. My B-goal is to meet the BQ standard. C-goal is to marathon PB (my marathon PB is from Chicago 2014).

And here’s the thing: right now, with three weeks to race day, I don’t feel like I can PB. There, I said it.

3 reasons why a PB feels out of reach to me:

  1. I’m basically going from couch to marathon. Typically, I maintain a certain level of running fitness year round, regardless if I have a goal race. But this winter and spring, I ran very sporadically. Then right when I was going to ramp it up and train consistently for the Lululemon 10k race in Toronto, I caught a cold and flu that knocked me out for three whole weeks. Then, finally well enough to run again having recovered from the flu, my eye doctor ordered me not to wear contact lenses for two whole weeks. I’m too nearsighted to run without lenses and running with my glasses would be very uncomfortable and awkward with my prescription so I took those two weeks off of running. Five weeks of no running meant I was a starting from zero. And I still haven’t gotten my strength and pace up again to what I used to run.
  2. My marathon training schedule is three months-long. I usually train using a four-month training plan. It wouldn’t normally be as much of an issue if I were in good shape to train over three months (…but see point #1 above regarding starting from scratch!).
  3. This summer’s brutal heat and humidity has drained me both physically and mentally. It’s been an incredibly hot and sticky summer. I know it affects everyone’s training, but if you’ve ever seen me exercise, I sweat a lot and am miserable when drenched in sweat. The conditions mean my runs are even slower and difficult than ever and I just spend a lot of the run thinking of how unhappy I am in that moment. What have summer weekends consisted of? First I spend a lot of time dreading the long run I have ahead of me and then the rest of the time I am feeling sorry for myself in a pool of my own sweat as I pound the pavement. I even cancelled plans to play tennis one weekend because I’m done with drowning in a pool of my own sweat all the time.

I know this isn’t the optimistic, I-can-do-it post that’s fun to read. But this is what the reality is for me right now. REAL TALK, that’s all the rage now, isn’t it? 

I swear this isn’t just pre-race jitters…I’ve thought this for weeks now, and runs that I think should feel effortless are still hard work.

On the bright side, I have learned a few things and can recognize the silver linings, too, with regards to training for Chicago 2018, and I’ll post about that in Part II of this blog post.

Are you running Chicago this year or another fall marathon? How’s your training going?

 

Leave a Comment September 18, 2018

Fitness Swellness: 2018 Ultra Night Run 10k race recap

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You guys, I’ve found the secret morale booster for when you’re having a really tough season of marathon training:

Run a fun run.

By that I mean a short distance race where the focus is more social; there’s usually a theme (in this case, it’s the #liveultra life) or there may be some costumes involved, for example, or rainbow colours (as in the Color Run). I’m not talking about the often larger in scale races (in Toronto, that’d be the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon or the Sporting Life 10k, as two examples). See, those more conventional races draw the elite runners and serious running folk. Fun runs? You’ll get a small group of dedicated runners, but you’ll mostly get a lot of weekend warriors. Not to diminish less frequent runners who are more drawn to a race by the social aspects; I fully support that, too!

In fact, that’s why being an ambassador for this race was the perfect fit for me, if I may say so myself. I am typically quite committed to my training, but I also don’t have my entire life centred around running. My friends and enjoying good times with them is just as important to me as running marathons. I have a fairly relaxed approach when compared to other marathon runners.

Disclosure: while I am a Michelob Ultra Ambassador for this summer’s race, this post isn’t part of my partnership. I’m posting because, well, I like recapping my races. It helps me to track my training and learn from my races…however…

Let’s get real. The main reason for this recap: so I can not-so-humble brag: I finished 1st in my division, and 8th woman out of 332!

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How did I finish so well in this race? The elite runner types don’t do these fun-run type races, so more moderate runners (like me!) can place high in the race standings. There’s no chance I’d ever finish FIRST in my division in a more serious race.

The race vibe:

As for how Saturday night played out, kudos to Michelob for putting on a great and fun-filled event! There were glow  in the dark bracelets, Brooks had lights to attach to your shoes, and mandatory high-quality headlamps (which I’ll now use for camping!) Along the route, there were a few DJs and a live band or two, along with a few fun displays, like a section lit up in red in the shape of the Michelob ribbon.

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And last but not least, there was the Michelob beer garden at the finish, where my friends and I had a cold beer and hot dogs and bananas (a strange post-race fuel combo!) and a  live band playing (the first song I heard them play? Backstreet Boys “Everybody”! That was the best and funniest thing to happen after the race — I LOVE BSB, in case you’re unaware).

How my 10k race played out:

The temperature had dropped overnight so it was, in my opinion, the perfect running temperature, maybe about 14 degrees (I heat up a lot, and quickly, so I opted to run in a sports bra and shorts, however most people were dressed more warmly). The route through Sunnybrook Park was quite dark,  making it seem a bit dangerous (the path was narrow and there were some fairly sharp turns). This was new running experience to me, I’ve only run one other night race before.

I started in the corral practically right at the start line (the closest I’ve ever been to it ever; my gun time and chip time only differ by four seconds) and I planned to run it as a tempo. My legs were tired going into the race; I’m currently training for the Chicago Marathon, so I’d run all week, including 32k on Thursday night, and 6k on Friday morning. These were not rested legs, whatsoever. I wasn’t expecting or trying to PB, but just ran it comfortably hard. I suppose I could’ve run it “easy” and actually as a “fun run,” but as I explained to my friends Aylin and Anna Lee as we waited for the race to start, I don’t function like that. I put pressure on myself in most scenarios… (I’m type A, what can I say.)

Ultra Night Run with Aylin

I could tell from the start that I was one of the few women in the front of the pack, so that was a bit of motivation to keep my pace going strong.  With everyone’s headlights on, it made for a bit of a blinding glare when you had runners coming towards you so I tried to keep my head down but I inevitably found my eyes drawn to the lights.

I hustled at about an intensity of 7 or 8 out of 10 and completed my race in 49:30, which is a far cry from my 10k PB, but a decent time given my marathon training-weary legs and mind. I finished in 52nd place out of 605 runners, 8th out of 332 women, and 1st out of 93 in my division. As for what I’d have done differently? I’d have brought my earphones for some entertainment as I ran (there were some stretches of the route without entertainment and I like as much of a distraction from the sweaty task at hand as I can have!).

Would I run this race again? Most definitely yes. It’s renewed my optimism for my upcoming races and my enjoyment for running in general. Post-race beer garden hangs with friends and goofy things like flashing lights on your shoes are a refreshing departure from my usual stressed out status when it comes to doing a race, and, well, it’s kinda great to finish in the top 10.

Cheers! See you at the next race! And I’ll post soon about my marathon training!)

pre Ultra Night Run

 

 

 

Leave a Comment September 11, 2018

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