Keeping Up with Your Fitness During the Holidays

Believe it or not, the holiday season is upon us.  I’ll be kicking off the holiday season tomorrow by hosting almost 20 people at our house for Friendsgiving.  Then Thanksgiving is next week.  And then before I know it Christmas and New Year’s will also be here.

There’s no denying that this time of the year is one of the busiest periods of the entire calendar year.  There’s a flurry of activity as we each try to spend time with friends and family.  But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean that you can afford to let fitness go to the wayside.  Although you may not have the time to workout for as long as you’d like to, its still important to stay active for both your physical and mental health during what can be a very stressful time of the year.

So what can you do to help make sure that continuing to exercise remains a part of your schedule during the busy holiday season?

1.  Schedule your workouts and pencil them into your calendar.  You’re more likely to exercise if you plan ahead when you’ll work out.  Even if holiday activities require you to modify your normal exercise routine and schedule, planning time for your workouts in advance will help ensure that you’re still able to get your sweat on.

2.  Recognize that any working out is better than none at all.  With a lot of extra activity going on, it might be difficult to keep up with your regular exercise schedule.  However, a shorter than usual workout is better than not being able to workout altogether.  And getting your body and mind will thank you for stepping away from the flurry of activity to focus on yourself for a short period of time.

3.  Find like minded people to help support you, and help support them.  Whether its an online challenge group or a friend of family member, there is always strength in numbers.  Finding at least one person to help hold you accountable will increase the likelihood that you’ll keep up with your workouts.

4.  If you usually work out in the afternoon and/or evening try to shift some of your workouts to the morning.  Because of work, I fall into this category, however, I also recognize that the majority of holiday events occur in the afternoons and/or evenings.  On those days, I plan to get my workout in in the morning, and then I won’t have to worry about remembering to make time for it later in the day.

5.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a workout.  Its bound to happen at this time of the year.  Missing a workout here and there isn’t the end of the world, and isn’t going to have a huge impact on your health overall.  Just make it a priority to not miss multiple workouts in a row.

QOTD: What tips do you have for keeping up with your fitness during the holidays?

I’m linking up for the Friday Five 2.0 linkup.  Many thanks to the wonderful ladies at Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for hosting!

Looking for some more tips for staying active and healthy during the holidays?  Check out some of my previous posts for more ideas and suggestions.

Tips for Staying Motivated During the Holidays
Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays
Tips for Staying On Track During the Holidays

Posted in Motivation, Training | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Finding a Healthy Life Balance

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, my presence here on the blog is far from what it used to be.  Less than two years ago, I was able to keep up with writing and responding to five blog posts per week.  That was pre-child.  Since little man was born, I’ve tried my best to keep up with three blog posts per week.  Most of the time when he was an infant I was able to keep up, but as he’s gotten older and more active, its become increasingly difficult to find enough time for it, especially while also balancing the demands of being a full time teacher and a wife to my husband.

I have found it even more difficult since the start of this school year to keep up with my blogging.  Part of my responsibilities as a teacher includes teaching an Advanced Placement course, which adds to the amount of time that it takes for me to grade assignments.  This is my tenth year teaching, my fifth teaching AP, and this school year for multiple reasons has been more taxing on me than recent years have been.  I leave work more mentally and physically exhausted than I have for the past couple of years.

As of this semester my husband is also in grad school, which has added more responsibility for little man to my plate.  While I love my son, the amount of time and effort that it takes to chase an almost two year old around makes for one exhausted mommy, especially on the nights when its just myself and little man.

I love this kid, but boy does he exhaust me!

The point of all this rambling is that something has needed to give.  One of my goals for November is to find a better life-work balance.  Despite my best efforts and intentions, I cannot do everything.  One thing that I think will help me find a more healthy life balance is to eliminate the pressure on myself for routine blogging.  I am so incredibly thankful for all of the opportunities that this blog has afforded me, especially the networking and people that I have connected with online.  However, as many of you know, blogging takes a lot of time and work, and time is something that I just don’t have a lot of right now.  I think that eliminating the pressure to blog X number of times per week will help me right now.  I know that this goes against all of the advice that I have provided about growing a blog, but focusing on your own needs is sometimes more important.

Blogging used to be one of the things that I looked forward to most each day, but often times now I see it as a chore.  Many evenings after getting little man to bed I would much rather go to bed myself instead of sitting down at the computer to write.  It has caused me to get behind on many scheduled blog posts.  Last week I finally wrote one of my September race recaps, and I still have another one to write.  I have a couple of product reviews that are currently sitting on my calendar, but I keep pushing the date back on because I just don’t have it in me to focus on writing them.  I’m hopeful that if I eliminate the pressure on myself that I need to blog X number of times per week that I’ll eventually find the joy in blogging again that I once had.  Right now it feels more like work than anything else.

Is cutting back on blogging going to instantly make finding a healthier life balance possible?  Of course not.  But I think that for me at this point it will certainly help.  This rambling is far from a “I’m leaving blogging entirely” but more so putting down in words how I’ve been feeling.  And now that its in writing, I almost feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.  I have felt so guilty about not blogging regularly, but hopefully I’ll start to see that guilt fade away now.

QOTD: How do you find a healthy life balance?

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , | 17 Comments

2017 Dulles Day 10k on the Runway Recap

Back in September, our family participated in the Dulles Day races.  Having previously run the 5k in 2013 and 2015, and the 10k in 2014, I knew that this was a fun and exciting race for people of all ages.  Since airplanes are not only visible from the race course, but an airplane is also pulled out and right on the course itself, I figured that this would be a fun race for little man to “participate” in since strollers were allowed on the course.

The course itself was on one of the runways at Dulles airport.  Race courses can’t get much flatter, and thus faster, than that!  Given that I was at the height of marathon training, I opted to run the 10k, while my husband opted to run the 5k.  He wound up being the one to run the race while pushing the BOB stroller, and thus, took little man along for the ride with him.  And like I had predicted, he had a blast out on the runway seeing all of the airplanes.

Photo Credit: PR Races

The 5k started ten minutes before the 10k did, so I saw them off before I lined up for the start of my own race.  Since my pace had slowed down a bit due to marathon training, my goal at Dulles Day wasn’t to PR, but was simply to have fun while out for a 6.2 mile run.  And that’s exactly what I did, I had fun.

Just past the start line
Photo Credit: PR Races

The runway was actually harder to run on that I had remembered it being.  It was super sticky from the melted rubber from the airplane tires, and the sun beat down on us runner that morning.  Its a good thing that I wasn’t trying to PR, because I would have been incredibly frustrated and disappointed if I had been.

The race started on a service road just off of the runway, behind the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at Dulles.  Less than a mile into the course we were on the runway, and just past the one mile mark ran past a full size jet.  It always amazes me how large airplanes really are, and how science allows for them to work the way that they do!

Splits for Miles 1-2:
10:01, 10:10

The further that I ran along the course, the more that I felt the impact of running without any shade on black tarmac.  I wound up running slower than I would have liked to given how flat the course was, but I reminded myself that not every run is meant to be a speedy one.  So instead of getting frustrated by my pace I focused on enjoying the thrill of running on the runway and took lots of pictures.  I mean, how many people can say that they’ve run on an airport runway?

Split for Miles 3-4:
10:11, 11:08

The closer that I got back to the start/finish line, the more that I tried to push myself.  I tried my best to make up for the couple second stops that I had made during the race to take pictures, and just before the finish line I saw my husband and son cheering me on.

Nearing the finish line
Photo Credit: PR Races

Splits for Miles 5-6.28:
10:36, 10:33, 2:48 (last 0.28 miles)

I crossed the finish line at 1:06:15 (10:41 pace).  This was about seven minutes slower than my current 10k PR, but was “fast” for a marathon training long run.  Given that it was on the faster side of my long run paces, I was quite pleased with my finish time.  Sure, it would have been nice to PR given how flat the course was, but not every race is meant to be run with a PR goal in mind.  More importantly, my husband and son were at the finish line cheering me on, and my son had a huge smile on his face when he saw me.  That smile was priceless, and it was clear that he was quite happy to see me, as well as proud of me.

Post race with my boys and our medals

Thanks again Dulles Day for hosting another fun race.  I’ll be back again in the future!

QOTD: Do you try to PR at every race, or do you run some races just “for fun”?

Posted in Races | Tagged , | 31 Comments

November 2017 Goals

I’ll be honest, I completely forgot about most of my October goals about halfway through the month.  As I sat down last night to write this post, and pulled up my October goals, I could barely remember writing them.  That just tells you how crazy, stressful, and busy the month of October was.

1.  Log at least 75 miles.

Grade: A

My October mileage total was 72.7 miles.  I hate seeing just how close I was to fully reaching my goal, but I also keep reminding myself that I cut way back on exercising after the marathon and just in the past two weeks have started ramping my exercise back up.

My October miles brought my 2017 mileage total to 985.2 miles.  That means I am just 14.8 miles away from reaching my initial 1,000 mile goal for 2017!  However, you may recall that in early October I increased my 2017 goal to 1,150 miles, which means that I have a very manageable 164.8 miles to log in order to reach my updated goal for the year.  I’m confident that I can do it.

2.  Run my first marathon.

Grade: A

I ran Chicago, crossed the finish line, and officially became a marathoner!

3.  Foam roll, foam roll, foam roll.

Grade: C

Although I did some foam rolling, I should have done more than I did.  Foam rolling is one of those necessary evils, and even though my foam roller is in my bedroom and is very easily accessible, I need to be better about doing it more often.

4.  Listen to my body.

Grade: A

I think I’ve done a really good job of listening to my body post marathon.  After taking a week off from exercising after Chicago, I have been slowly easing back into a fitness routine.  I’ve only run three times since the race (once per week), and have been enjoying being able to dedicate more time and energy to cross and strength training.

5.  Don’t push myself too hard.

Grade: A

Even if I had wanted to do more exercise than I have over the past three weeks, work stress and things at home have dictated otherwise.  So while I have been physically resting, my brain has been going nonstop.

Now that I have recovered from the Chicago Marathon, I’m working on getting back into a regular fitness routine again.  Although I’m not currently running 3+ times per week, I am trying to exercise at least 4-5 days per week.  With only two months left in 2017, I’m very ambitious about finishing the year out just as strongly as I started it.

1.  Log at least 80 miles.

This is just under half of the miles that I need to log into order to reach 1,150 miles for the year.  I know that with hard work, focus, and determination that I can do it, even with having cut back on running.

2.  Run at least two times per week.

Since the marathon I have only been running once per week, but with the Princess Half Marathon coming up in February I need to start running more miles than I currently am.  I will be running this race purely for fun, and still am not sure when I will officially start “training” for it, but until that happens I do want to make sure that I maintain a strong running base.

3.  Strength train at least two times per week.

Now that I am not training for a major race, part of my fitness shift has been on spending more time on strength training.  This was one of the things that I failed to keep up with during marathon training, particularly at the end, and I know how incredibly important it is, especially for helping to prevent injury.

4.  Find a work-life balance.

Between meetings, professional development, and end of the quarter craziness, work has just been nuts for the past two weeks, and at times it feels like it has taken over my life.  Yesterday I made a point of pointing my work down and spending an hour at the gym to take a mental and physical break from the stress.  I know how important it is to try and find a balance with everything, and I need to make this a priority this month.

5.  Enjoy the month’s social activities.

As part of finding a work-life balance I need to make sure that I take the time to enjoy the social activities that we have planned for the month.  I am especially looking forward to hosting Friendsgiving this year.  Its going to take a lot of time, work, and energy to get ready for it, but I cannot wait to enjoy an afternoon and evening with friends celebrating all that we have to be thankful for.

QOTD: What are your goals for November?

I’m linking up for the Friday Five 2.0 linkup.  Many thanks to the wonderful ladies at Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for hosting!

Posted in Motivation | Tagged , , , , | 45 Comments

I’ll Be Back in 2018!!!

Since crossing the Chicago Marathon finish line three weeks ago, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.  While some of that reflecting has been about what worked and what didn’t work during both my preparation for running my first marathon, as well as the day of the race itself, I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about when and where I will run my second marathon.  After a lot of thinking, some soul searching, as well as talking with family and a couple of friends, I’ve decided that I’ll be returning to Chicago again in 2018, once again running with Team Ronald McDonald House Charities!

I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to run with Team RMHC again.  Running this year’s Chicago Marathon with the team made my marathon training and racing a very powerful and meaningful experience.  I feel like my work with RMHC isn’t done and that I’ve been called back to run with the team again next year.  And just like this year, I’ll once again be running in memory of my childhood friend Tammy, who during her four year battle with cancer stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Memphis during her treatment at St. Jude.

Once again, I will be running Chicago in memory of one of my childhood friends, Tammy, who is third from the left.

Despite my own physical struggles the day of the race, the Chicago Marathon itself is an incredible experience.  From a runner’s standpoint, the race logistics seem almost flawless.  The crowd support along the course is like something that I’ve never experienced before.  Even in the back half of the course, which is away from the heart of downtown Chicago, there were still some spectators cheering runners on.

The Charity Block Party at mile 14 of this year’s race

Logistically, early fall is the ideal time for me to run a marathon.  Not only does it allow for me to do the bulk of my training during summer break when I don’t have the same level of work responsibilities to also balance in addition to being a mom and a wife, but the timing of the race itself fits really well with my school calendar.  Race weekend is far enough into the school year that the initial beginning of the school year craziness has died down, but is also early enough before the end of the first quarter at the end of October/beginning of November when end of the quarter stress kicks into high gear.

The Chicago Marathon also gives my husband, son, and I a perfect excuse to spend a long weekend with family.  My parents and sisters live just two hours south of Chicago, and it was wonderful to spend some quality family time together in Chicago this year.  We’re all already looking forward to doing the same again in 2018.

Once again, I cannot thank all of you enough for your support in my running the Chicago Marathon this year, and I thank you in advance for your support for next year’s race.  I would greatly appreciate any and all donations made to RMHC on my behalf.  Please consider visiting my fundraising page.  $25 can pay for dinner for a family, and $80 covers the cost of a room for one night.  No donation is too small.

I had nothing but an incredible experience running with Team RMHC this year and cannot wait to run with the team again in 2018!

QOTD: How do you make your running a meaningful experience?

I’m linking up with Deb for the Race Linkup.  Be sure to also check out her post for more race ideas.

Posted in Races | Tagged , , | 36 Comments

What I Learned from Training for and Running My First Marathon

Since crossing the Chicago Marathon finish line almost three weeks ago, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on what went well, as well as what didn’t, in preparing for as well as running my first marathon.

1.  Marathon training is hard, especially during the summer when the heat and humidity provide an additional challenge to what is an already taxing task.  It is both physically and mentally demanding, and it requires a lot of adjustment to your personal calendar, especially on the weekends when you hit the high mileage long runs.

There were several times over the summer when I questioned my sanity about running in the heat and humidity. Thankfully, all of that hard work helped me on race day.

2.  Training for and running an early fall marathon works best for me.  Marathon training takes up a lot of time, and being able to do the bulk of it during the summer when I am not at school helped significantly with being able to balance training and spending time with my family.  Not being “in training” when I hit one of the high stress points of the school year (which I’m currently in right now) was also incredibly helpful.  So although summer marathon training is certainly a physical challenge, it works best for my family and I.

Training during the summer also means that little man and I get to spend a lot of quality time outside together. Thank goodness he loves going for runs and walks in the stroller!

3.  Its okay to miss a workout or two.  Although I completed almost every planned run during my 18 weeks of marathon training, there were times when either because I was sick, little man was sick, or my body was physically exhausted that I decided that it was best to skip a planned run.  There were also times when my schedule during a particular week didn’t allow me to complete all of my planned cross training and/or strength training.  In the long run, missing a workout here and there didn’t have a major impact on my training overall, and sometimes things other than working out needed to take priority.  Although I always feel guilty about missing a planned run or trip to the gym, I know that listening to my body is incredibly important, as is balancing my training with the needs of my family.

4.  Don’t do things differently on race day that I haven’t been doing during training.  Looking back on race day, and the indigestion that I battled during the race itself, there were two big errors that I made.  The first one was eating a heavier breakfast before the race than I did the mornings of my long runs during training.  I was incredibly worried about not having enough energy to complete the race that I ate more than my body was used to.  I have no idea if this was part of the cause of my indigestion, but I know better than to have fueled differently on race morning than I am used to.  The second thing that I did differently was to drink Gatorade at almost every water station along the course.  Although I do drink electrolytes while training, I usually only drink them post run, and only drink water while I’m actually running.  But since I was worried about the heat on race day, and again having enough energy for all 26.2 miles, I drank a small cup of Gatorade at almost all of the 20 water stations along the course.  The next time that I train I need to try drinking some electrolytes during my long runs, which will help me to determine whether or not this was part of what contributed to my tummy issues during the race.

Receiving some much needed fruit snacks from my husband at mile 21 of the race. Fruit snacks wound up being a saving grace during the race.

5.  Running a marathon deserved to be celebrated, no matter how the race goes.  Although I was initially disappointed when I crossed the finish line because I hadn’t run the race that I had hoped to run, I pushed through the challenges that I faced and still ran a marathon.  I had pushed through and didn’t give up, and after some initial disappointment turned to focusing on celebrating my accomplishment.  After all, I ran 26.2 miles.

Celebrating at dinner the evening of the race

QOTD: What lessons have you learned from your training and/or racing?

I’m linking up for the Friday Five 2.0 linkup.  Many thanks to the wonderful ladies at Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy for hosting!

Posted in Races, Training | Tagged , , , | 43 Comments

2017 Chicago Marathon Recap

Two weeks ago I ran my first marathon.  After 18 weeks of hard training I had done all that I could to prepare for my first attempt at running 26.2 miles.  Overall, my training went really well, and I felt really prepared going into race weekend.  Even though I did cross the finish line, I unfortunately wasn’t able to run the race that I had hoped to.

The morning of the Chicago Marathon I woke up about 15 minutes before my alarm went off, full of excitement but also nervous about what lie ahead of me that day.  After showering and getting dressed I was on my way to the closest L stop by 5:30 that morning.  On my way to the L stop I ate the bagel with cream cheese that I had saved from the hotel’s continental breakfast the day prior, and also started hydrating with water.

My family and I stayed just off of the Magnificent Mile, which meant that I only had about a 10 minute ride on the L that morning.  After getting off the Red Line at the Harrison stop, I walked less than two blocks to the closest Starbucks so that I could get a Chai tea, my go to caffeine source.  Starbucks was almost empty, and I was in and out in less than five minutes.  With my tea in hand, I made the five minute walk to the Ronald McDonald House Charities hospitality tent, which was located on Michigan Avenue just outside of the southern most security checkpoint for the race.  Inside the tent I had a piece of toast with peanut butter to get some protein into me, as well as a banana.

Excited to run on behalf of RMHC!

While I ate the second part of my breakfast, there was no denying the enthusiasm that was present in the tent.  The DJ helped get everybody ramped up for the race, and the Team RMHC team leader provided us with last minutes words of motivation.  I took advantage of the private porta potties available to Team RMHC runners, and then right after taking a team picture at 6:45 I met up with my friend Kathleen outside of the tent.

The 2017 Team RMHC team

Kathleen, her mom, and I made the short walk north on Michigan Avenue to security checkpoint 1, which was the recommended access point for our corral, corral H.  We said our goodbyes to her mom, and then stood in what seemed like a non moving security line.  Given the recent shooting in Las Vegas, it wasn’t surprising that security was very thorough that morning, but we were anxious to get through the checkpoint and to get in line for a porta potty.

While in line for a porta potty, we watched the time tick away.  The entrance to our corral was set to close at 7:45, and since corral H was the last corral in our wave we were anxious about ensuring that we made it into the corral in time.  I was able to use the porta potty one last time and then we bolted for our corral, getting into it right at 7:45.  Talk about a close call!  We slowly moved towards the start line, and at 8:21 finally crossed the start line.  I was off running my first marathon!

Kathleen and I ready to cross the start line in Chicago

Kathleen and I had planned in advance to utilize the 4:1 intervals that we had each trained doing.  Our plan for the day was to run the entire race together, but since she had a big focus on finishing in less than five hours that I’d give her the go ahead to run ahead of me if I started to struggle.  I honestly thought that we’d be able to run the majority, if not the entire race, together, but unfortunately my body had other plans for me that morning.

We spent the first couple of miles weaving through the crowd, and at times I pushed my pace a bit faster than I should have.  I let the excitement of running Chicago, as well as keeping up with Kathleen (who was feeling great that morning), get the best of me, and a couple of my splits in those first miles were way faster than I should have let myself run.

Splits for Miles 1-3:
10:24, 9:40, 9:11

It was hard to not be excited and run faster than I should have early on in the race while running past iconic scenes like the Chicago Theater

Part of the drive to run faster was because my family had planned for their first cheer point to be between miles 3 and 4.  However, they wound up not being where they said they would be in time, and I missed seeing them.  I let myself get frustrated and upset, which was a huge mistake.  I don’t know if this contributed to the indigestion that I started to develop over the next couple of miles, but I shouldn’t have let them not being there affect me as much as it did.

Over the next couple of miles I struggled to keep up with Kathleen.  For a couple of miles she was just ahead of me on the course, well within my sight.  At almost every walk break she turned around to see where I was, and I eventually gave her to go ahead to run ahead of me.  I was starting to struggle from an upset stomach, and I didn’t want how I was feeling to get in the way of the sub-5 finish that I knew that she desperately wanted.  We wound up getting separated around mile 7.

Splits for Miles 4-7:
10:24, 10:27, 10:56, 10:45

Despite how I physically felt, the views and the crowds during the first miles of the race could not have been more incredible.  It was a beautiful morning to run (it was sunny and 57 degrees when I crossed the start line), and running past Lincoln Park Zoo and along Lake Shore Drive provided for gorgeous scenery.

Running north out of Lincoln Park and along Lake Shore Drive

The crowd support as I ran through Boystown and down Broadway during miles 8 and 9 were beyond fabulous, and helped to temporarily distract me from my indigestion.

Splits for Miles 8-9:
10:57, 11:22

Just after passing the 15k mark, I knew that I had to stop at a porta potty, and of course there was a line.  I stood in line for about 5 minutes, and wound up standing next to a woman who was pregnant and due in December.  We talked about how her running while pregnant was beneficial, and I shared some of my experiences with her from when I ran while pregnant back in 2015.  I eventually got to the front of the line, took care of business, and was finally on my way again.

It took my body what seemed like forever to overcome the porta potty stop and get back into a good running rhythm again.  Thankfully, my family was at their second planned stop for the day, just past the mile 11 marker.  My husband gave me a couple of packages of fruit snacks, which I was incredibly thankful to receive since I was fearful of using my Gu packets due to my indigestion.  (I wound up only taking two that day, one before the start of the race and one around the 5k point.)  Although I had Clif Shot Bloks in my hydration vest, my stomach was needing something even more gentle.

Splits for Miles 10-11:
12:18, 11:10

Seeing my husband, son, parents, and sister, and eating a package of fruit snacks, seemed to give me the push that I needed to find my rhythm again.  Although my pace was slower than it had been in the first miles of the race, I finally started feeling a tad stronger for the first time since my indigestion had started.  The closer that I got to the halfway point, the more confident I was about finishing the race strong.  After crossing the half mark, I was even able to push myself to run a sub 11 minute mile.  I don’t know where that energy came from, but I tried to hold onto it for as long as I could.

Splits for Miles 12-14:
11:33, 11:12, 10:10

Just past the 20k mark on the course

That mile 14 split was the last fast split that I saw that day.  My tummy troubles started back up again early in the 15th mile, and before the mile 18 marker I had to make another porta potty stop.  I really hate that I had to stop twice during the race, but I really had no other option.  I’m sad and disappointed because I had been able to complete several long runs, including my 20 miler, without any bathroom stops.  But I couldn’t control my indigestion and there was no way around it, I had to stop.

In addition to my indigestion, my legs also started to tighten up around mile 17.  This slowed me down even more.  At this point, all I kept telling myself was that Tammy never gave up during her cancer fight, and that I couldn’t give up either.  I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and drew on the enthusiasm from the crowd to help me keep going.

Splits for Miles 15-19:
11:53, 11:57, 11:54, 11:57, 13:28

By this point, the sun was shining brightly and the temperature was in the 70s.  I was incredibly thankful for the couple of “sponge stations” that had been set up along the course.  In addition, a couple of Chicago fire trucks were brought out and the hoses were connected to fire hydrants.  Wiping myself down with the sponges and running through the mist from the fire truck hoses was incredibly refreshing.  Some spectators were also handing out small water bottles.  Even though I had water in my vest, and there were more than enough water stations along the course, drinking the very cold water from the water bottle that I received really helped in quenching my thirst.

Thank goodness for those cold, wet sponges

The cold water was incredibly refreshing with how hot and sunny it started becoming late in the race.

Right at the mile marker 21 my husband and sister were there cheering, and I received another couple packages of fruit snacks.  My sister snapped a quick picture of me in front of the mile marker, since it was at that point that I had hit my farthest run ever.

Splits for Miles 20-21:
12:25, 12:34

Receiving some much needed fruit snacks from my husband

Celebrating one of many milestones for the day

After saying goodbye to my husband and sister I very shortly afterwards arrived in Chinatown.  I had a blast running through Chinatown, where the crowds were slightly bigger than they had been since leaving the heart of downtown at the half mark.  In Chinatown I got a banana from a food station (the two stations prior had been completely out of bananas), and continued to push myself as much as I could.

Korean drummers just prior to entering Chinatown

You know you’ve arrived in Chinatown when…

Entering Chinatown

The closer that I got to the finish line, the more my confidence grew the reality that lied ahead of me: crossing the finish line of my first marathon.  I slowly but surely made my way towards the finish line.

Splits for Miles 22-26.98
12:17, 12:21, 13:48, 12:29, 13:37, 12:15 (last 0.98 miles)

One of the Chicago Fire Department “hydration units” that I passed during the last miles of the race

I ran the blue tangent line as closely as I could, especially during the second half of the race when the course wasn’t as crowded as it had been during the first half of the race.

Just 0.2 miles away from crossing the finish line of my first marathon

I crossed the finish line of my first marathon at 1:44 p.m.  My official finish time was 5:23:35 (12:31 pace), though according to my Garmin, which paused during my two porta potty stops, I ran 26.98 miles in 5:13:27 (11:37 pace).  Given the indigestion that I faced during the race, and knowing that I pushed through the best that I could, I cannot be disappointed in myself.  After all, I ran a freaking marathon, and my Garmin pace was right on track with my average pace during my longest training runs.

After I crossed the finish line, I was excited to meet up with my husband and sister (my parents had taken little man back to the hotel for a nap), relax, and refuel.  After eating some lunch inside the RMHC tent, changing into dry clothes, and getting a massage, we made our way back to the hotel to meet up with my parents and little man.  We had a big milestone to celebrate!

I’m a marathoner!!!!!

I had nothing but an incredible experience running with Team RMHC

QOTD: Have you ever dealt with indigestion during a race?  What did you do?

Posted in Milestones, Races | Tagged , , | 80 Comments

The Day Before My First Marathon

Since we flew into Chicago midday on Friday, and the marathon was on Sunday, we had a full day in Chicago before the big race.  Even though I had 26.2 miles to run the next day, we kept quite busy the day before my first marathon, and I wound up walking over 5 miles that day.  I was on my feet way more than I wanted to be, but such is life with an active toddler.

First on my priority list for the day was checking out the finisher merchandise at Niketown.  After seeing on social media the day before that the finisher gear would be available at the Nike store starting Saturday morning, I made it a point to get there as early as I could.  I thought that getting there shortly after opening (8 a.m.) would result in an empty store, but to my surprise there was a shake out run that started at 9 a.m.

Even though I was initially disappointed about the crowd that I found at the store, I was excited to find out that Paula Radcliffe was there for the shakeout run.  Nike coaches did a short interview with her to kick off the run.  It was incredibly motivational to get some last minute marathon advice from a world record holder.

Nike coaches interviewing Paul Padcliffe

Once the shake out run started the store emptied out and it was much easier to browse the finisher merchandise and take advantage of the photo ops available there.  There were three finisher items: a jacket, half zip, and t-shirt.  My favorite of the three was the half zip, though I wish that it had been available in a color other than black.  After purchasing my finisher item, and taking lots of pictures, I headed back to our hotel, which was conveniently right around the corner from Niketown.

Although we had initially planned to take little man to the Chicago Children’s Museum Saturday morning, my mom, sister, and I decided that since the weather was as beautiful as it was (it was sunny and in the 70s) to instead take him to the children’s play garden at Maggie Daley Park.  He had an absolute blast!  During our walk between the L stop at the park we passed by the start line of the race.  Seeing the start line made me that much more excited for the next day.

The race crew assembling the start line less than 24 hours in advance of the start of the race

After leaving the park we met up with my husband and dad, who had stayed behind at the hotel to get some work done, for pizza at Gino’s East, one of the famous Chicago deep dish pizza restaurants.  The pizza did not disappoint, and it was a delicious way to fuel up for the marathon the next day.


After lunch we all headed back to the hotel since it was little man’s nap time.  I also wound up taking a nap, an over two hour nap to be exact.  I cannot remember the last time that I napped for that long, but it was a great way to relax and rest up for the next day.

Since I wanted a lot of protein the night before the race, and one of the things that Chicago is known for is its steakhouses, we decided to head to a steakhouse for dinner.  Little man wasn’t feeling well that evening (it turns out he was in pain from the beginning of yet another double ear infection), so my sister and I took turns entertaining him out in the lobby.

Reading with my little man in the restaurant lobby

After dinner, we walked back to our hotel, and after putting little man to bed I prepared my gear bag for the next morning.  After taking my flat Kathryn picture, I headed to bed, excited and anxious about the next morning.

Flat Kathryn ready to run the streets of Chicago!

QOTD: What do you prefer to eat the day before a goal race?

Posted in Races | Tagged , | 31 Comments

Now That I’m a Marathoner, What’s Next?

Since crossing the Chicago Marathon finish line last Sunday, I’ve been asked some fairly expected questions:

What’s your next goal race?
Was Chicago a one and done, or will you run another marathon?
Will you ever run Chicago again?
Will you run with a charity group again?

Maybe its because I’m delirious from the runner’s high of having run my first marathon, because I’m thinking that someday I will run another marathon.  I’m not sure when that will be, but it definitely won’t be anytime soon.  After spending 18 weeks training for Chicago, the bulk of which was during my summer vacation, I’m realizing that despite running long distances in heat and humidity that training for a fall marathon fits best with my schedule.  It was incredibly challenging to balance school, family, and marathon training once the school year had started.

Just 0.2 miles away from crossing the finish line of my first marathon

Running Chicago was an absolutely incredible experience, which is part of why its taking me so long to put my race recap together.  Despite it being a challenging day for me and not being able to run the race that I had hoped to run, I had such a fun time running Chicago.  I loved the course, the crowd support was nothing short of amazing, and I’m beyond thankful that I had the opportunity to make my marathon experience meaningful by running for a charity.  I will most certainly run the Chicago Marathon again.

Not only will I make it a priority to run Chicago again, but I will also run with a charity group again in the future.  I had nothing but a positive experience running on behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities, and running with a charity group made my first marathon that much more meaningful.

At the RMHC booth at the Chicago Marathon expo

As for what’s next, my focus in the short term will be on continuing to recover from Chicago.  I went for my first post-marathon run last night, and it was obvious from the start of my run that my legs are still tight and tired.  I plan to resume regular exercise this week, but will be putting more time and focus into cross and strength training over the next couple of weeks.  I plan to run once, maybe twice, a week during this break from being “in training.”

Last night’s run with little man was more challenging than I thought it would be, but it felt good to get back out and run again.

I am not currently registered for any other races this year, and if I do run anymore races it’ll be a local 5k or 10k.  My next big races are in February, when I’ll be traveling to Disney World with my friend Kathleen for a girls weekend.  We’ll be running the Princess Half Marathon, as well as the Enchanted 10k the day prior.  The focus of both of these races will be on having fun, and although I’ll train for these races the focus of my training will be on crossing the finish lines safely.

Kathleen and I ready to cross the start line in Chicago

Although I have a long list of possible races for 2018, I haven’t committed to any yet.  My family already has quite a bit on our spring calendar, so it’ll be a matter of finding the right race that fits into that calendar.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the mental and physical break of being “in training” and am excited about shifting the time and focus that training takes to other things.

QOTD: What race is next on your calendar?

Posted in Races, Training | Tagged , , , | 40 Comments

2017 Chicago Marathon Expo Recap

The excitement of Chicago Marathon weekend kicked off one week ago today.  After one last visit to the chiropractor before the race, we headed to the airport for a lunch time flight to Chicago.  At the airport it was clear that there were lots of other runners on our flight.  Between seeing other people wearing race shirts and jackets from other races, and seeing others carrying foam rollers in their arms, you could feel the excitement of the race in the terminal at Reagan.

We arrived at Midway around 1pm, and after a short wait for my parents, who also joined us in Chicago for the weekend, we were on our way.  We had planned for them to drop me off at the expo at McCormick Place on their way downtown to the hotel, and during our drive I excitedly texted my friend Kathleen, who was at the expo waiting to meet up with me.

Walking into McCormick Place, I could tell that the Chicago Marathon expo would be different than other expos that I have been to.  Between the sheer number of people and all of the race decor, as well as the excitement that you could feel resonating through the air, I could tell that this was going to be an expo experience like no other, and it did not disappoint.

My first stop was packet pickup, where I received my bib and other race credentials.  Just outside the entrance to the expo itself was a monitor displaying the video of the course, which was exciting to watch while holding my bib.  After watching the video for a few minutes we walked into the expo.

The Chicago Marathon expo was by far the largest race expo that I have ever been to.  Kathleen and I spent just under two hours wandering the expo floor, visiting numerous vendors including Asics, Brooks, Fleet Feet, North Face, Sparkly Soul, and Sweaty Bands.  It was fun to be able to see all of the different brands’ Chicago merchandise, although by mid afternoon a lot of merchandise was already gone.  Kathleen had arrived at the expo when it first opened that morning, and said that there was a much wider variety of Chicago specific merchandise available at the vendors when she first arrived.  I wasn’t too disappointed, though I did find it interesting that after only being open for a couple of hours, and with another full day the next day, that some vendors were already starting to run out of their merchandise.

One of the booths where we spent quite a bit of time was the Ronald McDonald House Charities booth.  Since I ran Chicago with Team RMHC, this was a necessary stop in order for me to check in with them and receive my access sticker to the RMHC tent.  I also picked up support crew shirts for my family.

RMHC support crew gear

I found the expo itself to be quite organized.  The participant bag and t-shirt pickup lined the far back wall of the itself.  Although some might have seen it as an inconvenience to walk the entire length of the expo floor in order to get to it, by taking up an entire wall at McCormick Place allowed for there to be plenty of space in between the lines for each shirt size, and it didn’t feel crowded whatsoever.  In the back corner I also picked up my official race poster.

My bib, participant shirt, race program, and poster

Prior to leaving the expo we made a stop at the Nike area, which was the official merchandise for the race.  I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed in the merchandise options for this race, and liked the other vendors’ shirts a lot better.  However, I knew that I would kick myself if I didn’t pick up at least one official item to commemorate my first marathon, and decided on a blue tank with the 40th anniversary race logo on it.  I know that I will get a lot of use out of it and that it wasn’t a waste of money, or just “settling” on something to buy.

The North Face shirt, Nike tank, and Sparkly Soul headband that I bought at the expo

As we walked the expo floor we took advantage of all of the photo ops.  It was a fun way to get excited for the race itself.

After spending just under two hours at the expo, we called it a day.  Kathleen and I said our goodbyes and I headed downstairs to catch the free shuttle downtown.  After waiting in line for about 15 minutes, and then the twenty minute ride on a school bus, I was dropped off just behind the Niketown store on Michigan Avenue, which was right around the corner from our hotel.  I met up with my family who had already checked into the hotel, headed out to dinner, and afterwards called it an early night.  I was exhausted, but excited about being less than 48 hours away from running my first marathon!

QOTD: What is your favorite thing about race expos?

Posted in Races | Tagged , , | 32 Comments