Nov 4, 2014

So long, farewell....

Yep, here's that inevitable "I'm quitting my blog" announcement.

In case no one has noticed, I haven't exactly been on top of my blogging game for the past year or so. Really, since joining the Navy I haven't been updating consistently (or doing anything with Daily Mile or Twitter) and as a result, I'm pretty sure I've lost all my readers and blogger interaction. I still get plenty of google hits from people researching races that I've recapped, but that's about it. Part of the reason why blogging is so much fun is because of the comments and responses other people give, but I think the last sliver of social media interest in this blog has finally died. And really, how much fun is it to talk to an empty room?

Don't get me wrong, I'm only blaming myself. And I also fully admit that I don't have the drive or motivation to get back in the game. So I'm saying good bye to this blog, and to anyone who might still be reading it (if there are any left). It has served as a great tool in documenting my journey to becoming a runner and hopefully it can be an inspiration to others who are in the same place I was four years ago. I'm not going to take it down completely, but I won't be updating anymore.

David and I will probably start a joint blog in the coming months to document our lives living in Italy and to keep in touch with friends and family. If you're interested in a link, drop me an e-mail!

It's been fun, guys!

Oct 15, 2014

Prairie State Marathon Race Recap

On Saturday, I completed my sixth marathon. Some long(er) time readers might recall I ran the half marathon option last year. This year, I ramped it up to the full. Now, it's been a while since I've done a race recap (or a blog posting in general), so excuse me while I dust off my story telling skills...

Shortly after the Wisconsin Marathon, I decided I wanted to run another marathon, in the state of Illinois, and with my dad. My dad has been my biggest supporter with this running thing, and he saw me across the finish line of my first marathon some three years ago. It was really important to me that he see me across the finish line of another marathon before we move out of the country in the coming months.

We were going to run Chicago, but that turned into a lottery system with a whole bunch of hoops you had to jump through. There was no guarantee that we'd both get in, so we settled on a local, yet equally as awesome (if not more awesome) marathon- The Prairie State Marathon.
Why waste energy on my own snark when I can steal someone else's?
My training for this marathon has been less than stellar, as anyone who has had any interaction with me in the past couple of months could tell you. So as race day loomed closer, I grew more leery of a successful run. I didn't get my 20 miler in. In fact, the longest run I did wasn't even 17 miles. As I toed the starting line, I prayed experience and determination would get me through the 26.2 miles with as little agony as possible.


A new rule this year forbid anyone from parking at Independence Grove where the start/finish line is. Even if you had a parking pass to the park, you had to park at the fairgrounds and take a bus to Independence Grove. Aside from this little gem of stupidity, the race went pretty smoothly (sorry, but if you've PAID to park someplace, you should be allowed to park there!).

We arrived at the fairgrounds around 7 and hopped right on a bus that got us to the start in about 20 minutes. Since it was pretty chilly (30s), we decided to take advantage of gear check and wear a jacket right up until the last possible minute. Because the race was so small, it was a cinch to toss our gear bag into the check in 5 minutes before the gun went off.

Yep, totally stole this photo from the event's Facebook page. I'm not even sorry.
The full and half marathon starts together and shares the same course for the first 6.5 miles. After that, the half turns around and the full keeps going until mile 9 where the turn around is. Around mile 18, we were led back through Independence Grove and the hubbub of finish line activity, which was a great mental boost. From there were ran a couple miles south before another turn around that brought us back into the park and to the finish line. There were a handful of people cheering for finishers, but otherwise it was pretty low key. The only food left at the finish was water, grapes, gummy chews, and granola bars. It was, in one word, underwhelming (ya might want to work on that for next year's race, RD!).

The course itself was gorgeous. The Des Plaines trail, in the middle of Fall, is amazing.

This isn't the course, but it's pretty.
Don't get me wrong, Chicago would have been fun to run, but that course can't hold a candle to Prairie State. Because the course was an out-and-back, you got to see everyone running (including the lead runners!) so it rarely felt secluded or lonely. Aid stations were every couple miles apart and served water and Gatorade, with two stations handing out energy gels.

Given the circumstances, I was pleased with how I ran. I didn't expect rainbows and unicorns, I just wanted to finish without feeling like death warmed over, and under 5 hours.

Check, and check!

Around mile 18 my stomach started to feel sour. I had been drinking Gatorade and water, had taken one Gu, and was occasionally nibbling on a cliff bar. But for some reason, my stomach wasn't having any of it. I stuck mostly to water for the last 6 miles and only ate when I felt it was absolutely necessary (I nibbled on a small piece of a snickers bar). If you're any good at math and adding up calories, you'll see that my intake was rather abysmal.

After reassuring my legs they didn't have to run a single mile ever again after this marathon, I crossed the finish line in 4:51. Not a PR, but not a PW. I've had better days, but I've certainly had worse. And in all honesty, I'm happy with any time that has a "4" in front of it!

The medal and our half-zip up long sleeve tech tee. It'll probably fall apart after two washes like last year's tech tee did...


May 5, 2014

Wisconsin Marathon Race Recap

I'll cut to the chase- this weekend I completed my 5th marathon and finally broke my cycle of slowness! It was a good day for me and I ran strong!

One big smile and two thumbs up!

If you couldn't tell from my previous couple of posts, I had a tremendous amount of doubt going into this race. My training was a far cry from what it should have been. The winter killed not only my desire to run but also the safety of the sidewalks and roads in which I would be running on (snow and ice removal is nonexistent here in podunk-ville where we live). Add in two foot "injuries" and all of a sudden half my training schedule disappeared. 

I was definitely going into this race undertrained. Or well rested. Yeah, we'll go with well rested.

On Friday after work, I drove up to Kenosha for packet pickup. It was a pretty low key event- I walked into the back of the Best Western where a table of bibs and race shirts were set up. There were a couple of other tables set up, just your standard race and chiropractic advertisements, and one table selling those huge headbands women wear that say things like "will run for wine" and crap like that.

Since we're less than a half hour from Kenosha, race morning didn't come too early for me. I was on the road and arrived pretty quickly. I thought parking would be an issue, but there's a ton of street parking available (albeit a fair distance from the start/finish) and the Race Director made it abundantly clear where we could and could not park. Parking was a cinch. (that .70 mile walk back to the car after the marathon would be the death of me though…)

At the starting area, porta-potties were in abundance with relatively short lines, and runners were huddled together in a large tent to escape the cold wind. About 15 minutes before the race started we headed over to the starting corral, listened to a pretty decent rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (high praise coming from a military musician) and were off.

The course was very beautiful and scenic. The full and half were together for the first 11 or so miles. We ran a few miles south along the water, then back a few miles north along the water… every time we crossed the central point of the course (where the starting line was) the crowd support was great.


What wasn't so great was the wind. But to be honest, I was expecting much worse. I've been training along Lake Michigan for the past month and in my training, I seemed to only hit headwind at the end of my long runs. While I cursed it then, I'm sure glad I had the added 'resistance' training.

After the halfers broke off, the atmosphere changed completely. There were over 2000 runners in the half, but less than 850 in the full. The course went from a dense high energy to a sort of calm, focused no-nonsense feeling.


The second half of the course meandered south of Kenosha through residential neighborhoods, some rural, dirt road communities, and back up a water front road. The wind was relentless on the open road sections next to the water, but otherwise it wasn't too bad. It was sunny, which felt bizarre since we haven't seen the sun up here in almost a week. I actually got sunburned, which hasn't happened in, oh, 10 months? ::white people problems::


For the entire race, I had that sickly feeling in my stomach that at any moment, I was going to crash and burn and feel like absolute trash. I was bracing for it. I kept repeating that age old saying, "pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." I took two cups of water at every aid station, drank from my Gatorade camelbak religiously, and stayed on top of fueling (Gu at mile 7, 14, 20 choked down a piece of Snickers bar and a few bites of a PB&J around 22).

The result? The first 24 miles actually felt pretty good. Well, good for a marathon. The last 2 miles were everything you could expect from a marathon ;)

Because I have no modesty I share this photo with you...
The last few miles brought us back into Kenosha and closer to the finish line. I've had an emotional marathon finish before (due to feeling like absolute crap), but I experienced a different kind of emotion for this finish. So much has changed for me in the past year and a half, and I guess I've been struggling to find my "runner's identity" again. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and the life I have now, but I also dearly miss the life I had before joining the Navy. Crossing the finish line to this marathon strangely connected those two lives.

I chose the men's shirt because the women's was LSU coloring… gag
When they announced my name and I crossed that finish line, I proved to myself that I've still got what it takes, whatever 'it' is. Determination? Perseverance? Stubbornness? The ability to endure stupid amounts of discomfort? This marathon served as revenge on all those other marathons that I've completed with progressively slower times. In fact, this was almost a PR for me.

commence the passing out...
So I guess this would be a good time to mention that the mile markers didn't exactly agree with anyone's Garmin watches. The course was long (my GPS said 26.6 miles), which considering all the turn arounds we did, is completely understandable. But still, to miss a PR because the course was inaccurately measured? That stings!

Regardless, I still consider my finish time a personal victory: 4:45


The post race party was about as lackluster as I've seen, with the exception of the Polka-holics band. Bless their hearts, they did their best to entertain the crowd, but not many people wanted to stick around with the gusty cold wind.


Unsurprisingly, there was very little left of the post-race goodies by the time I crossed the finish line. I guess having 2500 runners finish before you will do that. Though as a fellow marathoner said as I sat down next to her, "plenty of refreshments were available when the fast people finished." Thanks, lady! 

David came to cheer me on at the finish, so I gave him the brat that accompanied the food voucher on my bib. The only beer they had left when I finished was Miller Lite, and let's be honest- that can hardly be considered beer (sorry, Dad). There was a cheese tent set up, but the idea of eating fancy stinky cheese after almost 5 hours of running made me want to vomit profusely. Guess I'm not a true mid-westerner ;)

Despite these short comings, this was actually a really great race. I'd recommend it to anybody and if we're here this time next year, I would not hesitate to sign up for the full again!

Here, let me rearrange this for you!

Apr 14, 2014

All the Long Runs

It's less than three weeks until the Wisconsin Marathon, which means it's officially Taper Time!

(get it?)
I know you've all been wondering how those long runs of mine went. I'm proud to say I got 3 out of 4 of them done, which is nothing short of a miracle given how much Chicago weather sucks and how low my motivation has been lately.

LR #1 - A 16 miler I got in about 3 weeks ago. It was COLD and WINDY. I'm so freaking tired of the cold. If there's one thing I've discovered living up here in the great tundra of the Midwest, it's how much I loathe winter running. It's just not for me. I hate every part of it. I did this run on an out-and-back course with the out being magical and the back sucking the big one. Can you guess which one was into the wind? I averaged about 9:45 per mile, which I thought was pretty flipping fantastic.

LR #2 - An 18 miler that was ever so slightly more enjoyable than the previous 16 miler, even though looking back on my Garmin stats, it said it was 34 degrees (good God my perspective of 'pleasant' weather has been morphed into something sick). Again, I did this run on an out-and-back, but a different one (variety is the spice of life). The snow had just melted on the crushed limestone trail and I felt like I was running on wet sand the whole time. I picked Crazy Face up for the last 3 miles. I averaged 10:09/mile, which considering the sand I was running on, isn't too shabby.

LR #3 - The elusive 20 miler… this run was hands down the most terrifying run I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Again, I chose an out-and-back path, except this time I had to drive to the start, which was in a forest preserve (read: middle of nowhere). The weather was quite delightful to start out with- 50s and sunny. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. The further out I got, the cloudier it became. As I neared mile 8, I had this awful feeling that I needed to turn around. I pulled out my phone to look at the radar, and then I saw it: my impending doom. The wind picked up, it got dark, and thunder started rumbling. My sunny (dare I say happy) 20 miler turned into a 'sprint for my life back to my car so I don't die from a lightning strike' run. Here, have some Garmin stats!


Mile 11 is when I saw the first flashes, mile 12 is where I hid underneath an overpass contemplating if I was going to call David to come pick me up. Mile 13-14 was me trying to 'tough it out' and mile 15 was me basically running for dear life and screaming every time a crack of lightning flashed through the sky.  


After 5 excruciating miles (hello speed training!) I found cover in the visitor's center of the forest preserve. I wasn't sure if I wanted to cry, vomit, or pee my shorts. It's a strange feeling being out in the middle of nowhere, in a thunderstorm, knowing that there is no safe place to take cover. One I'd really love to never repeat. I returned soaking wet, but I was safe. And more so, I found cover just in time before the hail came down. 

Look closely, you'll see those evil balls of ice on the ground behind me
I waited the storm out before I ventured out to my car. At that point, I was too emotionally frayed to finish the last five miles outside (stop judging me), so I drove home and finished them on the treadmill. They were not a pleasant 5 miles, but they got done.

Overall pace for these 20 miles- 10:15/mile.

So there you go. I've built a decent base for this marathon, but I've only been able to get three decent long runs in. I really have no idea what to expect on marathon day, other than the standard pain and torment of running a marathon. 

(just because)

Mar 25, 2014

Opinions

Alternatively titled: The Post Where I Get Out All My Snark.

As a wise man told me when I was growing up, "Opinions are like butt holes. We've all got them, and they all stink just a little."

(that wise man was my dad)

I try my hardest not to always be that person that goes around freely offering my advise to people around me who probably couldn't give two flicks of a rat's tail about what I have to say (do you like how I censored that?).

As someone who refrains from eating meat (I hate how pretentious the word vegetarian sounds), I've heard so many one liners from people who feel it's God's mission in life to tell me the truth about my diet. And on top of that, I'm a runner and people always have to tell me how I'm slowly killing my joints and how I'm going to have degenerative arthritis at the ripe old age of 40.


Not that I'm saying it's easy to keep your mouth shut when there's something you really want to say.

One thing I really like about my job is how we are encouraged to be healthy (well, forced to adhere to certain physical standards, but whatev…). As a result, everyone is an expert on healthy living, eating, and exercising.

Everyone.


For example, back when I was NROLFW-ing (ha, remember that, way back when?!) I had someone come up to me in the gym and tell me, "you know, if you ever get serious about weight lifting, you'll get the right shoes." I looked down at my beloved Brooks, and looked back up at him. Really, dude?!

As well intentioned as I'm sure he was, I doubt he realized he was being both judgmental and condescending at the same time.

1. I'm not wearing the gear you think is right therefor I don't know what I'm doing.
2. Because I don't know what I'm doing, I'm not serious.
3. Because I'm not serious, I don't care about the health of my body.


I have a point to my ranting ramblings, I swear.

Maybe the next time you see someone weight lifting in a pair of running shoes, just give them a thumbs up because hey, they're actually at the gym trying. When you see a friend running in cotton, give them the runner's nod because let's be honest, running is not easy. When your colleague pounds a protein shake after 20 minutes on the elliptical, don't roll your eyes because at least they're trying to be conscious about what they're eating <---- that one is for me, honestly.

Everyone has their opinions, but unless they ask for yours, maybe keep your mouth shut, because I'm pretty sure even yours smells. Just a little.

Got some snark you want to let out? Let me have it!

Mar 16, 2014

Adapt and Overcome

Adapt and overcome.

Two words that couldn't hold more truth to me right now.

When I registered for the Wisconsin Marathon nearly three months ago, there was no way to know that we were in for a $h!t-storm of a Winter here in the Grand 'Ol Midwest.


Apparently, this has been the third coldest winter in history for Chicago. I had no idea the sidewalks or running trails would be unusable for three months straight and I would be confined to the treadmill (maybe people closer to the city have better sidewalk cleaners….).

There was no way I could have known that I would have to take three weeks off from running due to a highly irritated achilles tendon as a result of three months of 30+ treadmill mile weeks. Actually, there might have been a way to know that running 30 miles on a treadmill was a bad idea. I just didn't possess that knowledge. I do now.


I haven't touched a treadmill in so long and thankfully, my foot has calmed down. I did 10 (pain free) miles outdoors yesterday and I'm so sore today that I can barely walk. My cardiovascular endurance was great, but my muscles feel like death. How will I be able to get in an 18 or 20 miler in just a few weeks?

I say these things for this one reason- I have no idea if I'm going to be able to run the Wisconsin Marathon in seven short weeks. And there's nothing I hate more than failing to achieve a goal.

But alas, adapt and overcome. 

I can't change the weather, nor can I change the past three months of my training. All I can do is focus my sights forward and press on. Hopefully the Universe will align and all the unicorns will bestow me their magical powers and my next 5 long runs will be miraculous.



Yeah, just like that.  

Feb 21, 2014

Ode to Cottage Cheese

I'm going to post a photo that's so entirely original of a healthy-living blogger that it's going to blow your mind. No, really. Brace yourself for this totally new idea never seen before…


OMG IT'S A SALAD!!!


Ok, now that I have the sarcasm out of my system… why am I sharing a picture that you've already seen a million times before on the internet? Well, because of what's on top. I've finally rekindled my relationship with cottage cheese and I thought I should tell you about it.

Tell you more? Well ok!

Did I ever tell you guys about how I got sent to the hospital while in bootcamp? Yeah, it was great. On day three I passed out in the chow hall and got a chauffeured ride in an ambulance to the ER for a luxurious two day/two night stay. Something about an immune system that was already run down (running a marathon with bronchitis 2 weeks before wasn't the smartest idea), going three days with no sleep, being exposed to germs from literally all over the world, and OH YEAH BEING FORCED TO EAT MEAT when you haven't done so in over 10 years was just too much for my poor little body to handle. I believe the medical term for what I had was "acute gastroenteritis." But in laymen's terms, it's called "OMG MY INSIDES ARE EXPLODING OUT OF MY BUTT."


So after two days of needle-torture (IVs, blood tests, everything) and more Imodium than I care to admit, they sent me back to bootcamp with strict orders to remain meat-chaste and get as much bland protein in me as possible.

So in a fit of desperation, I plopped a spoonful of cottage cheese atop my salad and ate that every.single.day for two months.

After I graduated bootcamp, I never touched the stuff again. Until today, that is.

Welcome back, cottage cheese!

PS- I recommend mixing cottage cheese with a little bit of barbecue sauce and using that instead of salad dressing. Barbecue sauce makes everything taste better.

****************

In running news, I have officially completed by third outdoor run this winter season. I'm proud to report I covered 4 miles and didn't fall once, which is pretty impressive given the amount of black ice, aka death, that we have right now.


Running on the sidewalks was completely out of the question (see above photo), so I stuck to the roads. And even they were pretty slick. There were many times I had to stop and tiptoe through an icey patch. Thanks to the rain from yesterday and the freezing temps today, I believe my 14 (!!!) mile run will have to be on the treadmill tomorrow. Please think of me as I drive (or rather, run) myself insane.

Spring, where art thou?