Tag: chicago marathon

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: Chicago Marathon 2017 race report

 

Chicago Marathon 2017 post race party

“Do you really want to run another marathon in a month? NO. So keep up this damn pace, Karen.”

 On Sunday, I ran the Chicago Marathon. It was my tenth marathon and this was what I asked myself a few times around the middle of the race. I’d been toying with idea running another marathon in early November if Chicago didn’t go well.

The last time I ran a marathon was two years ago in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2015. It is the longest break I’ve taken between marathons. Prior to that, since starting racing that distance, I’d done two a year (and one year I ran three).

Because of this longer than usual break between fulls, I wasn’t quite sure how my race would go. This time I changed my training a bit. I ran more frequently: typically five times a week versus my usual three times a week (mostly it was the addition of two runs either at a recovery pace or easy pace). I also did a few random workouts other than running, such as hip hop dance class, yoga and Spinning.

I was pretty diligent with my five runs a week, and got all my hill training done but faltered a bit once it came time to focus on speed training. Speed training is my least favourite, plus I had a few road trips that distracted me. And then about three weeks before race day, I caught a cold, which put me out of commission for more than a week. So I missed my 23k long run, and all of the other training that would’ve happened in that 10 days. All of which made me fret about not being prepared for the race.

 Chicago Marathon 2017 starting chute

I’ve run Chicago once before and it remains my marathon PB. And even though I’d run it before, I recall very little of the race, other than there being so many great spectators, and that the route is flat.

I ate more carbs than usual for the week prior to the race. And worried about the weather forecast, checking it once a day starting two weeks prior and working up to checking it multiple times a day.

Having registered so many months before, I don’t recall entering an estimated finish time or a past marathon time, but somehow I ended up in corral D (aka a 3:40 marathon), so either I was ambitious or they based it on my 2014 Chicago Marathon time.

And so Sunday race day finally arrives:

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Race day morning, we didn’t budget enough time to get into the race area, check a bag, and use the portapotty so ended up having to race to our corral, which we got into right before they closed it off at 7:20 a.m. There was time for a quick photo, though, and that beautiful glow to the buildings behind us is due to the beautiful sunrise glow.

I had printed a pace band for 3:45 in kilometres, and also put on the Nike pace band in miles for the same time. I would have many technical difficulties that day, though. My Apple Watch did not have the NRC app because I’d had to reset it a couple of weeks prior and I had issues redownloading the app, so I had prepared to use the app on my phone; however,  I did use the stopwatch on it so that I could check my time at each mile marker and compare to my pace tattoo. Also, I usually listen to Google Play Music when I run, and I had issues getting a phone signal for the first few k.

My music app did work when I tried it again a few kilometres into the race but it just stopped playing music around the halfway point. The NRC app on my phone also stopped alerting me of my distance and pace. Also, I must accidentally hit something on my stopwatch on my Apple Watch as it started timing laps and I didn’t know how to get out of that mode. So from about the halfway point to the finish, I had no clue what pace I was doing. So many technical difficulties! On top of that, I could feel a blister starting on my left big and second toe (and I rarely get blisters) and on my right foot, I felt like I could feel the plate inside the sole (that makes the shoe similar to a track spike — I blogged about the shoes on iRun). It made me wonder if I hadn’t tried out the Zoom Fly shoes enough before doing this race. I’d only had them a few weeks and missed some runs due to that cold…

 Chicago Marathon 2017 selfie

The first 27k or so went really well, though! My pace was quick and I was anywhere from two to three minutes ahead of the 3:45 goal time. I wasn’t sure if I could maintain that pace but I figured I had to try.

“This is your race to lose, so just don’t, you got this,” I told myself, when I could tell my strength (both physically and mentally) started to falter.

After about 27k, as it got later into the morning, it got very hot and sunny. My legs were feeling tired and I grabbed Gatorade at each station (I had been relying on the Gatorade I had with me — I used a fuel belt), while also splashing myself with water to cool down. I watched those few minutes I’d banked slip away from me. And then I could tell I wasn’t even going to PB, but I had no idea by how much time I was losing given my technical difficulties with my phone and my watch.

On the bright side, I never experienced that feeling of not wanting to go on (in past races, I’ve often felt like it was just crawling by). I focused on just trucking on through and watched as each mile marker announced I was closer and closer to the finish. In that way, the race went by nice and quickly for me.

The race attracts runners from more than 100 countries. And the sidelines are packed full pretty much the entire race. I watched runners stop to hug members of their family. And was boosted by the exuberant spectators with the cheers: the group of women cheering, “You got it, you got it, you got it, let’s go!” The signs with creative messages like “Run like millennials do from commitment!” and “Run like you forgot to turn off the frijoles!” and more than a few making fun of Trump.

Chicago Marathon 2017 medal

 

As for the route, I’m not super familiar with Chicago and I know the race goes through more than two dozen neighbourhoods, but I don’t feel the route is that scenic. To me, it all melds together as non-descript streets, other than one leafy residential area (I believe it was Lincoln Park) and of course, the skyscrapers of the downtown portions. It’s the spectators and that made certain parts of the route stand out. The huge Mexican contingent cheering and running was amazing, and there were people handing out paletas to runners. There were also at least two spots where people handed out beer, and one station with Jello shots. The cheerers, they make this one great race. And the post-race party afterwards was just fun, with live music and there was a free beer you picked up in the finish chute area, plus another free Goose Island beer (there was a ticket attached to the bib) at the post-race party. Everyone hung around in the sunshine and celebrated their accomplishment. I loved watching runners and family find each other and there were big hugs and joy all around.

Chicago Marathon Goose Island beer

So how’d I do???

I finished at 3:55:07, and given the hot conditions, I’m happy enough with that. I know a few runners who had bad races, and a few with great races. It’s my second fastest marathon, and I placed 9,407 out of 44,472 runners, and 2,637 out of 21.476 women, and 414 out of 3,543 in my category.

Chicago Marathon 2017 at Cloud Gate

After the race, and on Monday, there were loads of runners wearing their medals and/or race t-shirt, and we would congratulate each other, there was a beautiful friendly vibe that I somehow forgot about from the race in 2014.

And now what? Well, I have to decide if I will run another marathon this fall… (gulp).

 

Leave a Comment October 13, 2017

Fitness Swellness: Chicago Marathon 2014 race report

at the race expo

“I got this.”

This is what I told myself as I started the Chicago Marathon on Sunday and throughout the race.

And whaddyaknow? I killed it.

I don’t mean to sound too boastful…although I am proud. To be honest, even three days after running the race, I’m still rather stunned over how this race played out.

As I mentioned earlier, training was going quite well up until about a month and a half ago. I was often doing an additional fourth short training run, I’d incorporated a tiny bit more crosstraining (by regularly attending NTC classes once a week). Then a few curveballs threw me for a loop, and while I continued with three runs per week, my heart wasn’t into the race anymore and my focus was off and I even found myself regretting having registered for this destination race…

I became more and more anxious. And even in good times, my sleeping habits are poor; now, being stressed out, I lost a ton of zzz’s. I got a prescription for sleeping pills, but was wary of trying them and then didn’t want to be experimenting with them so close to the race.

With my growing anxiety came a growing need to do really, really well in the Chicago Marathon. With a lot going on in my life that I felt I had little control over, I needed something to feel strong and good about, so I became fixated on running a personal best. I felt it was something I could control and be in charge of.

Could I have chosen something I could have even less control of?? So many minute factors have to be aligned to have a great race. From the weather, to my stomach/appetite, the other runners, etc. etc. So even though my rational self knew I’d chosen a silly thing to feel in control of, I couldn’t help it. Friends I spoke to and interviews with running coaches kept stressing that all you can do is your best at that given time in a race. And yet, still, all I could think was “PB or die.”

I tried to remind myself of that but still remained a big ball of stress leading up to race day. Given that I’d also traveled to Chicago four days before the race, I was eating foods I was unfamiliar with, and drinking a decent amount, and walking probably more than I should’ve. All things not conducive to running a great race.

my pace band

I’d printed a pace band for what I thought was the best I could run: 3:57. That is two minutes faster than my personal best of 3:59 in Philadelphia last fall. This works out to a 5:37 min/km pace.

The morning of the race, I could tell conditions were going to be ideal in terms of the weather. Blue skies, and 9C at the race start, warming to about 15C by midday. I was buoyed by the happy and excited runners at the race start and just tried to focus on running my best race.

I have a habit of starting out too fast, so I’d  promised myself to try my best to stick to my 5:37 pace dictated by my pace band. So I took it easy for the first few kilometres…and then I realized I was actually slower than my pace band. Doh! So I focused on speeding up a bit. I also decided (a bit on a whim) to run steady (without a one-minute walk break) for at least the first 15k or so.

And, then, as I often do in races, I broke the rules I’d set for myself. I was feeling good, and didn’t feel I needed the walk breaks just yet, and had settled into a 5:21 pace, which was very comfortable, so I just decided to keep going as is.

As it got further into the race, I realized taking a walk break at that point might be tough–stopping to walk would allow me to realize how my legs were feeling tight, so I made the decision to keep going as long as I could into the race without a walk break.

I remember being about three minutes ahead in terms of total time. Then it grew to seven minutes, then nine minutes. But even up until about 25k, I fully expected to crash and burn for the last part of the race. Like when I ran the Goodlife Toronto Marathon in the spring–I was strong and too fast for the first half, and then slowed down a lot for the second half of the race.

But in Chicago, I forget what point of the race I was in but I saw that I was a solid 10 minutes ahead of my pace band. I remember triple checking the numbers as I was so stunned. This was also when I realized that my finish time would be verrrrry close to what I need to qualify for Boston, and I was shocked. I already knew that no matter what I would have a personal best, but a time close to my BQ qualifying time was blowing my mind.

The crowd support and entertainment along the Chicago route is phenomenal. There were very few spots without a steady stream of people cheering. A sign with Grumpy Cat saying “I tried running once. It was horrible,” made me laugh, as did the one of Justin Timberlake.

In a less charming, more desolate part of the route, I followed a tip I’d read in Runner’s World about dedicating each mile to someone. So I thought of everyone who’d ever wished me good luck in a race, or liked my Instagrams of running; of my good friend who’d traveled with me to Chicago, who’d helped distract me from driving myself crazy about the race, made sure we weren’t doing too many tiring activities, hunted down some carbs for me to eat for breakfast; of friends at home who I knew were cheering me on and who’d dealt with my stress-y texts in the weeks before the race; of my running partner who did nearly all of my training with me, and who I knew wished she could’ve been in Chicago to run me in, so I envisioned her beside me; and I thought about how lucky I was to be able to run and take part in this race.

As I crossed the finish line, I was beyond thrilled as I knew I’d likely run sub 3:47. And sure enough, my running buddy had already texted me congrats and told me how proud she was of me. I couldn’t log onto get my finish time, so she texted me:

3:46:51

Which places me 384 out of 2,953 women in my division; and 2,082 out of the 18,389 women who ran that day.

post Chicago Marathon

Everything, from the mostly flat route and fun spectators, to the weather and my mindset must’ve all aligned Sunday. And I ran my best marathon so far.

Now, onto a bit more recovery, before tackling the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in San Francisco this Sunday. FOUR days from now! Let’s do this.

 

1 Comment October 15, 2014

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