Training update: 9 weeks to go

I haven’t posted in awhile as my training got turned a little upside down.  So here’s an update on what I’ve been doing.

At the beginning of August I went to Fort Lauderdale for a week long vacation.  While we were there I found a 5k called Dash Back to School nearby.  I was really excited because we never find races down there to do, so I signed us right up.  We arrived on Saturday, picked up our race stuff, and drove to the race super early Sunday morning.  It was already in the 80’s so I wasn’t expecting much, but I pulled off a decent 5k time and ended up placing third overall female.  I was so excited.

I did some easy miles along A1A on Monday and a long run of 10 miles on Tuesday.  Then we went to the Sawgrass Outlet Mall.  It started pouring while we were there and we ended up running to the car.  I was wearing really old flip flops and ended up slipping.  I saved it, but went down hard on the step.  I landed on my butt with my weight on my leg, forcing my right night to fully flex really hard.  I felt an awful pulling sensation and then a pop.  I sat on the ground in shock for a moment, and then quickly stood up, immediately feeling both nauseous and like I might pass out.  At first I thought I broke something, but I hobbled to the car and got back to the resort.

I hobbled through some very painful single miles to maintain my streak while still down there.  I went to my PT when I got back, who immediately checked me for an ACL tear and insisted I go to a doctor as I had a lot of pain on all of the tests.  I got into UB Ortho that day and was told they thought it was a meniscus tear.  I was scheduled for an MRI the next morning.  Only ninety minutes after the MRI was done I got a call from UB Ortho that they wanted me in the next morning to meet with an orthopedic surgeon and my mind immediately went to the worse.

Photo Credit: Sarah Anderson

Luckily, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.  The doctor immediately set me at ease by telling me that he used to be skeptical of runners, but recent studies have proven that it is not detrimental like doctors used to think.  All of the other doctors I have seen recently have not been as receptive.  Then he began discussing my results, revealing that I had a contusion of the tibial plateau.  Apparently that can be really bad, as my PT who received the MRI results the night before had warned me, but the ortho looked at me and said it’s going to hurt.  For awhile.  But, if I could handle the pain, I could continue to run.  The relief I felt was indescribable.  I was envisioning surgery or immobilization and no weight bearing, which would be a bear with going back to school and teaching, and now I was being told I could still run.  My PT has been pretty cautious, keeping me reigned in on my running plan, but I am relieved that I have been able to at least train a little bit.

Last week I had my first race back, a little 5k that I ended up winning with a 22:11.  Then I made the poor choice of trying to race the next morning and had one of my worst 5k times of the year.  I was also battling some major GI issues between the two races, which didn’t help.

Right: July 2018, Left: September 2018

Monday of this week I had PT and my PT video taped me running and then put me back on the treadmill and began really stressing form changes that I need to make, number one being that I need to lean more.  Apparently I run to upright, thanks to my dance and gymnastics background, and I need to fix this to help me run more efficiently.  He’s been mentioning this to me for awhile, but now it seems to be a priority.

This last week was a big week for me.  I finally was allowed to do a 10 mile run again, and I did it at an 8:09 pace after our first day of school with students.  I was flying high that day.  Then I followed it up with a six mile run at 7:43 pace.  Saturday was 2.5 miles, and was a little bit of a struggle after the two other runs.  Yesterday I ran my final race in the 30-34 age group, and took third in my age group and sixth overall female with a 22:34.  Not my best time, but slowly coming back.  Today’s 10 miler was the exact opposite of my previous one, likely because it was already in the 80’s and a feels like 91 degrees, so hopefully as the fall brings cooler temps and faster paces for me.

Week 2 Training

Sometimes plans change.  This week I made the decision to switch my marathon.  I was originally planning to do the Philadelphia marathon in November, but I realized that it just wasn’t the right choice for me for a number of reasons.  The first and biggest reason is the way my knee/IT Band/fibula is handling the increase of mileage I’ve been given.  My PT slashed my mileage for June and the beginning of July, and we have been increasing it the last few weeks.  I don’t like how sore it has been, particularly after longer runs.  The idea of working towards 20 mile long runs right now has me nervous, and I’d be heading in that direction in just a few weeks.  I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

I also had been watching the excitement building for the Disney marathon weekend registration and was sad about not being apart of it.  I’ve done that marathon the last two years, and have also done it during the first year of Dopey.  It’s by far my favorite marathon, and I realized that if I decided to register for that marathon instead, then I could have extra time to prepare and rehab my leg prior to training.  The cost was also actually cheaper for me to travel to Disney to do that marathon than it would be for me to go to Philadelphia.  So on Thursday at noon, I hurried to register.  The registration process was pretty frustrating as the new system RunDisney has in place wasn’t prepared to handle the onslaught of eager runners, and this resulted in a number of issues.  People were being kicked out of the process, placed in queues for hours, charged twice, and some not knowing if they were even registered.  In the end I was able to get my husband and friend registered for the half (her first RunDisney event!), and I registered myself for the marathon.  After I received my registration confirmation I knew it was the right decision.  I am looking forward to the extra training time, the money I’d save, and of course, running in Disney, my favorite place!

My training this week was also a bit all over the place.  I decided this week that I was going to run three races this week, which was put into the original schedule.  I wanted to do a trail race as well, but my PT was against it.  I continued to plea for it and eventually decided that I would run it anyways (disclaimer- listen to your doctors, don’t be like me!).  I had never done a trail race and I would have friends there, plus my family was going to travel to Ellicottville to see the village.  I finally told my PT I was going to do it, and he attempted a new taping method to try and keep my IT and fibula happy, which actually might have helped a bit.  Thursday’s race resulted in some pain, but I was not bad after the other three races that I was taped up for.  This is huge as I have tried other taping methods in the past that haven’t seemed to do much.  I’m hopeful that it might help and will try taping it for my 10 and 9 milers this week.

Monday: 3 miles

This run was nice and easy.  I decided to stick to the treadmill to help with pounding issues.  I was still beat from the heat and pounding of my 15k run on Saturday and with 10 slated for the next day, I figured that would be the smartest choice.

Tuesday: 10 miles

This was my first double digit run after the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Women’s half marathons at the beginning of June.  I was super nervous about it, but it ended up going way better than I had hoped!  It helped that the temperature was a little lower and humidity was down, but I averaged almost a full minute lower per mile than Saturday’s long run disaster.

Wednesday: 1 mile

To maintain my run streak I ran just one mile.  It was easy paced and I worked on form.

 

Thursday: 4 mile race

My goal was to run a PR.  I had run a 30:06 a few years ago, and I achieved that goal by running a 29:10!  I was pretty psyched to run that fast on a hot night.  I also came in as third overall female and second in my age group.

 

Friday: 5k race that ended up being 3.4

Some issues on the course lead to roughly three different course lengths.  Some runners ran under 5k, some hit the 5k, some went over.  When I realized that I was running longer than a 5k and that other people were running a shorter course, I definitely gave up a bit.  It was hard to push when you didn’t really know how far you were going to be running.  However despite the fact that I ran long, I was still able to snag first in my age group. The award was a cool bowl with the race on it and first place.  It was also another hot night.

Saturday: 5k race

We thought this one was going to be a cooler race, however temps were near the 80’s and it was full sun at race start.  I loved the Christmas theme of the race, and participants dressed appropriately.  I was excited to win my age group and place third overall female, even though I struggled to maintain pace during the run.  I think racing three days in a row was taking its toll.

 

Sunday: Supposed to do 8, was rebellious and did a 4.6 mile trail race

I had always said I didn’t want to do a trail race, but as people predicted, I finally decided to give it a try.  Apparently I picked a difficult course to start on.  It was the EVL 4, and it took place at a ski resort, where you ran up the mountain for roughly 1.5 miles, before you hit some  technical terrain as you wove around a single track in the woods.  Then you did switch backs down the mountain heading towards the finish.  The post race party was fun, with food and beer from 42 North.  All finishers of the 4 and 9 mile races received an awesome finisher medal and then top three in ten year age groups received a pint glass with the race logo on it.

My experience was interesting.  In the first 1.5 miles I noticed some fibula pain, so I ended up walking some of the uphill because I was nervous that this was happening at the start of the race.  My PT’s warning of trails not being good for my fibula issues was echoing through my head.  Once we finished the climb and got to the technical part I felt a little better, until I made a wrong turn.  The course was well marked, but I was so concerned about my footing, that I missed an arrow and went off on my own.  I ended up in a huge mud bank, because of course we had our first major rain in weeks the night before, and the mud bank decided it wanted my shoe, ripping it off while I was running.  I had to go back and pry it out of the mud and then go and try to find the correct path.  Luckily I hadn’t ventured off too far, and was able to get back into the race.  I also had two instances where I nearly fell, but managed to save both at the very last second, avoiding slamming into the ground.  I enjoyed the switch backs, and was able to make up ground, though a few times I felt like I was being pulled sideways down the mountain.  I was definitely relieved when I saw the finish line and was able to zip across it.  I was already feeling muscle fatigue in my hips and quads from using stabilizing muscles I don’t need when road racing!  I was pretty shocked when I found out I still placed second in my age group, despite all of my issues, and I placed seventh female overall.

Everyone started talking to me about future trail races, but I am going to go back to listening to my PT and putting them on hold.   I am glad I decided to do it.  It was a different experience and I did enjoy the challenge and my mishaps definitely made me laugh, but I can see why my PT was so concerned about the races and will wait until I get permission to do another one.

 

June Race Summary

As a teacher, June is always a hectic month as we approach the end of the school year.  I added to the chaos by doing a fair number of races, more than I would normally do.  I also faced mileage cutbacks, running about half of what I normally would, which were imposed by my PT to see if we can get my fibular/knee to calm down a bit, so that was a little bit of an adjustment for me as well.

First up was a race in Alden.  I was running a half marathon two days later and it was only five days after my Buffalo Half PR race, so I took it easy.  It took some mental restraint because during the race I really thought I could go for it, but I made myself hold back.  I ended up first in age group, which was still nice.

Niagara Falls Women’s Half

The next morning I coached my school’s track team and then booked it to Niagara Falls with one of my running besties.  We arrived at the expo for the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon, which gives a ton of swag.  It is an extremely small expo, with only one vendor, but it was cool because Katherine Switzer was there signing autographs and taking pictures.  She’s truly a very nice woman and showed genuine interest in each person she spoke to.  It was neat.  After the expo we headed to our little no name motel that we stayed overnight in, got some pasta dinner, and then walked down to Niagara Falls.  Then we came back and crashed early.

The race itself had its ups and downs.  You had to pay for parking, but there was plenty and it was pretty stress free.  There were a decent amount of portapotties at the start, which were super clean and had flowers in them.  There were women walking around with various products that women might need prior to the race.  The start line was pretty cool as a drum/dance group performed.  There was some talking and then off we went.

The first four miles were pretty good.  You run to the Falls, turn around, and pass them again.  There was an awesomely refreshing mist coming off the water that felt amazing and there was some downhill time, so I got moving pretty fast.  It was getting warm already, though, and the humidity was creeping up as you approached where the 5k went to the finish line and the half marathon continued.

The next out and back was more boring.  You run along the river, however you can’t always see it and the crowd support in this area was sparse.  There was also very few water stops, I believe you went from mile 7-10 without any water.  In an out and back, it wouldn’t have been hard to add one more stop, which would essentially be two chances.  As it was becoming warm, it would have been much appreciated.  This was the area that really started to get to me.  Without any distractions, I started getting in my head too much.

 

The finish was pretty nice, with the announcer calling people in, and I was pretty happy to be pretty close to my half PR from a week before.  I crossed the finish line and Katherine Switzer was the one to give me my medal, which was also a pretty neat experience.  I was mildly disappointed with the lack of after party.  I sat and recovered for a few minutes before heading back out to run in with my friend, but it was kind of boring and lacked the excitement I was expecting.  After my friend finished in epic style, sprinting triumphantly to the end, we grabbed some food, took some post race photos, and just kind of left.  It was missing the fanfare and celebration aspect that a lot of half marathons have.

Thanks Sarah Anderson!

The rest of June consisted of a lot of 5k races crammed in, with decreased training mileage.  I only waited five days after Niagara Falls to race again.  I did the Mount Mercy Academy 5k, being thrilled to run a 21:48 on a warm evening.  I ended up winning my age group at that race, and it was a good confidence builder with a great after party.  I highly recommend this race.  Then, a few days later, I ran the Corporate Challenge, struggling in the race, but coming in as the top finisher for my school.  Three days after that I ran an extremely hot race, Father Baker Father’s Day 5k, and ended up winning first overall female.  This was a nice little race in Lackawanna, my first time ever doing it, but I would definitely do it again.  It was a multi-loop course around the Botanical Gardens and had a great downhill finish.

Four days later I ran the Black and Gold 5k, coming in as second overall female and first age group.  What made me the most excited is that I won two Bath and Body Works raffle baskets!  I never win things, so to me this was super exciting.

I took a two day break and then ran the Bills 50 Yard Finish 5k.  My PT wasn’t overly thrilled that I wanted to do this race, but I was super excited.  Who doesn’t want to finish a race on the 50 yard line of their favorite football team?  It’s a tough course, very hilly, and I was really hoping to pull off an age group placing.  There was a finishers medal, which was cool, but I would totally geek out if I actually placed.  I ran hard, pleased with a 22:06 on those hills, and was ninth overall female and pulled off third in my age group!  I got a super cool football, which I was able to get some former Bills players to sign.  I was so happy that day.

The very next day I ran another 5k, Run Jimmy Run, and my legs were dead.  I don’t know how people to do 100+ races in a year.  It was rainy and gross out, though it cleared up for the start of the race.  Usually this race is great because you run around Buffalo, finishing at the Bison’s stadium.  You get a nice little buffet style lunch, and then tickets to the game.   This year was messed up a bit due to the weather.  Even though it dried up for the race, the rain didn’t go far, and they waited about an hour after the posted start time for the game to finally call the game.  As far as the race, I just didn’t have it in me.  I started off ok, but slowly fell apart.  I backed off and still came in third overall female and first age group, but I wasn’t thrilled with my performance, particularly how I fell apart mentally.  Three days later I ran the Loughran’s Alumni Run, snagging another sub 22 5k, but

Next up was the Seneca Hickory Stick 5k.  This was on my last day of school, so it was a nice way to kick off summer vacation.  I decided to race last minute, so the hubs and I rode out with two of our friends.  One did the race with me, while her husband hit some golf balls with my husband.  It was hot, near 90 at the start.  I went in with the plan that I wasn’t going to go all out.  I wanted to start strong, and then pace from there.  At about 1.5 miles there was a turn in the course, where I could see who was behind me, and I realized there wasn’t another girl near me.  I slowed a little bit at that point as the temps were getting to me a bit, and slowed even more after another turn closer to the finish indicated that I was still holding on to my lead.  I ran a 22:27, winning first overall female, and earning a cool hand crafted beer caddy.  My husband was pretty happy with that because it was stocked with some craft beer, and as I am not really a huge beer drinker, he would get them.

 

 

Week 1 Training

Well, it’s that time of the summer when I start trying to increase mileage to begin to prep for fall half and full marathons.  Luckily, my PT has allowed me to start increasing mileage again, at least for this week.  I’ve been restricted to roughly 15 miles a week for about a month, so getting to run more than three mile runs is pretty exciting to me.

My goal half marathon is the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in Disney in November.  I know, a lot of people think it’s silly to try and PR at a Disney race, but I’ve decided that is the race I want to go for.  I am shooting for a pretty big time goal- I’d love to go sub 1:40.  That would be just over a three minute PR, which doesn’t sound that major, but for some reason saying 1:39 makes me really nervous.  My current PR happened on a really hot morning, so I’m hopeful that I can shave four or so minutes off my time with some solid training.  Goal pace is 7:33.

My full marathon for the fall is still up in the air, but I am leaning towards the Philadelphia full marathon the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I’ve read good things about it, it times well because Wine and Dine could lead into a hard two week taper as I don’t like long drawn out tapers, and I like that time of year because I love racing marathons in cooler weather.  Give me 30’s or 40’s for a marathon any day.  So I’m not making it official yet, but that is the one I am eyeing.  I am undecided on my goal time for this race.  Based on my goal half time, I should be shooting for a 3:28, however that would be a 32 minute PR, and I am not sure how I feel about shooting for that.

Week 1 Training

Monday: 1 mile.  This was the day after running the Boilermaker 15k in Utica, where I somehow PR’d off of very little mileage.  This hills took their toll, however, so I needed a short day to recover and maintain my run streak.

Tuesday: 4 miles.

Still rough, and my knee is still sore, with pain traveling down the fibula side of my shin.  So I stuck to the treadmill and got through the miles, throwing in some spurts at 7:30 pace to break it up a bit.

Wednesday: 5 miles. 

Stuck to the treadmill again.  Knee/shin was still sore, though not as bad as it was on Monday.

Thursday: 3 miles.

However, I asked if I could run a couple of track races that day, expecting a big no from my PT as I haven’t been allowed to run any interval or track workouts in a long time.  He surprised me with saying yes, so that was a change in the plan.

Friday: 1 miles.  

I had PT nice and early and did my mile to maintIn my run streak there, followed by a trip to Starbucks and a relaxing float in the pool.  I’m enjoying my quiet Friday mornings at PT and will be sad when I have to return to hectic night ones.

Saturday: 9 miles

I decided to do a group run that did the course for a 15k in August.  It was an urban trail run group and I had been wanting to get out and join them for the last few runs and finally could attend.  Only problem?  It didn’t start until 11 am, and the temps were already into the 80’s and the humidity was pretty high.  I rode the struggle bus for much of the run and was truly grateful to be running with a group to keep me going.  It was definitely a huge help! 

Surprise!  3 extra miles

So my running club did a group run/walk/bike to different restaurants in the area.  I missed the first stop, but was able to meet up for the second place and on.  It was a lot of fun, but that was three more miles added on for the day, and my legs, and my right knee especially, were feeling it.

 

Sunday: 7 miles: actual 5

I decided I was going to skip another group run and put some miles on my treadmill to give my legs a rest from Saturday’s adventures.  Plus it was super sticky out there again, so I decided my body would be better off inside so that the run wouldn’t be as strenuous as yesterday’s.  It ended up being rough even on the treadmill, with knee pain becoming pretty prominent in miles three and four so I decided to call the run at five in order to save my knee a bit.  It just wasn’t worth pushing onward this early in a training cycle in order to log some easy miles.  This is an unusual decision for me as I often push myself to finish all miles listen in a plan, but I am trying to learn to listen to my body and give it the rest it needs.

Buffalo Half Maraton 2018

This year was my seventh time running the Buffalo Half Marathon.  It was my first half ever back in 2012, when I really didn’t know what I was doing and just decided to sign up for a half marathon at the beginning of my running journey.  I ran/walked my way to a 2:13 and got hooked on running half marathons, running a 1:58 in September and a 1:57 in November of 2012.  I ran a 1:45 at Buffalo in May 2013, and sort of flattened out from there.  I was able to chisel my PR down to a 1:44:27 in October of 2014, but after that I couldn’t seem to break 1:45 again.  I did a lot of half marathons since then, but they never seemed to go right.

A lot was mental.  I started doubting myself, pulling back when it seemed hard.  If conditions weren’t perfect, like the weather wasn’t the best or if my training was subpar, I would stand at the start line overanalyzing the details.  This of course led to disappointing results and leaving the race bewildered.  I started running half marathons for fun, enjoying the sights and the experience, which isn’t a bad thing, but made my times slower than they normally were.  Then, when I registered for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in Disney for this November, I realized I had relaxed so much that I didn’t have a decent proof of time to submit for corral placement.  Things had to change.

Progress Since January

Photo Credit: Sarah Anderson

After the high of the marathon, my PT pulled back my mileage for the rest of January and I was doing a max of three miles a day for a few weeks.  However, he didn’t mind if I pushed the speed on these runs.  So between PT, joining the RunSmart Online community and getting even more strength and functional training, and running shorter, faster runs, I started to see my 5k times drop.

I entered a 5k in February.  It was my first one since August, where I had had an abysmal performance and stopped racing them.  I was ecstatic with achieving a 23:20, over two minutes off of my time from August.  A few weeks later I got a 23:40 at a windy race, coming in as second overall female.

In April I stood at the start line of a chilly 5k and a friend looked at me and told me he thought I could win this thing.  I laughed and told him no.  I had never won a race before!  I had no confidence in myself when the gun went off, but he was right (thanks, Paul, for having confidence in me when I did not).  I ran a 22:40, not far off from my 5k PR from 2015, good enough to take first overall female.  It was really exciting and I was overwhelmed.  I had always wanted to experience winning a race, and I was blown away that I finally had.  The next day I was at another 5k starting line, this time running a 22:53 and taking second overall.  I was pretty excited to run two sub 23:00 5k’s back to back and started to feel my confidence grow.

Two weeks later I won another overall female award at a hilly 5k with a 22:22, a new PR, finally breaking my PR from 2015.  I was a little nervous that I had run so fast because I had a half marathon the next day that was also hilly, the Flower City Half Marathon in Rochester, NY.  I wasn’t planning on racing it, but I was hoping for around a 1:50.  Luckily the weather was perfect and I felt pretty good, running a 1:44:49.  I ran by feel that race, only occasionally looking at my watch.  I was shocked as I neared the end and began to realize how fast I was going.

I ran the Seneca 7 relay race around Seneca Lake the next weekend, which left my knee angry, but I continued on with my planned races.  I had my goal 10k that next weekend, wanting to take down my 46:55 PR from 2015.  Again, perfect weather conditions helped me along the way to a 45:52, good enough for third overall female.  I did a 5k the next day that my husband wanted to do and was shocked to get my first sub 22 5k, earning a 21:58 and taking second overall female at that race.  The following Friday I entered a 5k that I REALLY wanted to win because the award was a gold plated laurel wreath brought here from Greece, which was really enticing because I married into a Greek family.  I ran that race hard, and was blown away when I crossed the finish line in 21:17 and was told I was first overall.  I couldn’t believe I had done it!  I ran another 5k the next morning, getting a 21:52 and another first.  I was feeling overwhelmed by how well I was running, by how my running had changed from the year before.

The next weekend, the weekend before the Buffalo Half, I ran the Kelly Tough 12k, a hilly race in Orchard Park, NY that supported the Hunter’s Hope foundation.  It was exciting to see Jim Kelly speak to the runners, inspiring to see a man who was fighting so much adversity come out and continue to persevere and even start the race and walk it.  I ran too hard in the first two miles, underestimating the hills, and struggled through the rest of the race.  It was the first rough race I had had this year.  I finished in 56:21, 11th overall, 3rd female, but didn’t feel great about my performance and hoped I would turn it around for Buffalo.

The Goal: Buffalo Half Marathon

Like many runners, I anxiously watched the weather forecast for race weekend.  At first it was calling for rain and potential thunderstorms, though that forecast diminished and was replaced by heat and humidity.  This left my anxiety elevated as we hadn’t had that kind of weather going into that race.  We had been cool for most of the spring, so this was going to be a shock for local runners.

The hubbie and I decided to splurge and stay in a hotel close to the start line to help alleviate some of the morning stress.  We left the hotel a little after 6 am and were lined up ready to go for the race start at 6:30 am.   I lined up around the 1:40 pacer and took off at the start, pacing around a 7:27 and 7:12 (downhill during that mile) for the first two.  I stayed around a 7:30 pace for the next two miles, but noticed that I was already starting to struggle and that I should back off a bit.  I started inserting 20-30 second walk breaks during water stations, and a few when I was feeling particularly rough.  Knowing I have another half marathon in a week, I didn’t want to do anything too stupid during the race.

I was mentally beating myself up a bit.  I couldn’t believe that this was how my race was going.  I had a ton of support along the sidelines and during the race.  That’s what is amazing about the WNY running community, they are incredibly supportive of everyone.  I had friends cheering me on from the sidelines and a few runners cheer me on and check in with me during the race, which definitely provided me with a bit of a boost, but I was still extremely disappointed with myself.  When I hit mile 8, which is a major water stop that I knew a bunch of people were volunteering at, I started doing mental math and trying to decide what time I would be happy with.  I thought a PR was out the window at this point, and I definitely wasn’t hitting my low 1:40 like I was hoping for, so I started bartering with myself.

I oddly started feeling a bit better at this point and threw down a 7:36 and a 7:45 mile after some 8:10-8:20 miles.  I noticed that I had a shot to still PR if I could finish relatively strong.  I made the final turn and saw the finish line, which in reality was really still about a half mile away, but that propelled me forward.  I ran the last part at around a 6:48 pace, pushing to the finish line and being relieved that I finished in 1:43:07.  That wasn’t near what I had been shooting for, but it was still a PR of 1:20 and salvaged a bit of the race for me.  Later I looked at my data from my Garmin and noticed that my heart rate was high for most of the race, which is why I felt so physically off during the race.

Using the tracking app, I was able to cheer my husband into the finish and locate a friend on the course to support and run in.  Then we all stood at the finish line, cheering in friends as they crossed, again showing how supportive the running community is here.  We hung at the after party for a bit, touching base with friends, celebrating victories and lamenting set backs.  I think that’s one of the best parts of running, is all of the amazing people I have met while pursuing my goals.  We all push ourselves to the limit and struggle together, therefore we can relate and understand each other.  We build friendships and comradery based upon this little past time of ours, which only helps make each of us stronger.

 

 

2018 WDW Marathon Weekend

A rocky road to 26.2:

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that Chicago was a disaster for   me.  I finished, but in agony, and took myself to a PT and signed up with a running coach.  I had the Disney Marathon in three months and I wanted redemption.  Initially at the PT we were treating it as an IT Band injury, and it was going well- I had run the Wine and Dine half relatively strong and finished a local Turkey Trot in a much faster time than I had anticipated.  I was pretty excited as we were approaching one month to go, until my knee started really acting up again during my two peak weeks.

My PT re-evaluated my knee and threw out a word no runner wants to hear: meniscus.  Of course my mind started whirling.  He wasn’t saying that was it necessarily, but some of the tests he did were indicating a tear and he wanted me to go get an MRI.  He kept saying I’d still be able to run, but I was anxious as I was in a fair amount of pain from even short runs.  How was I going to run 26.2?

Then I went to an orthopedic, who spoke of legs exploding due to stress fractures or needing surgery because my meniscus would be so far gone.  I left there frazzled, scared, and unsure of whether I was going to be able to run.  Thank god for a PT/running buddy that helped keep me somewhat grounded during this whole ordeal!  She put up with a lot of anxiety and panic over the course of about ten days.

I went to get my MRI done, but then couldn’t get back in to see the ortho before I was supposed to leave for the race, so we also sent the results to my PT.  The MRI was clear of any signs of a meniscus tear or stress fracture, which was a relief.  I was still in pain, but at least I didn’t have to have the image of my leg shattering haunting each running step.

Then, on January 1st, less than a week to the race, I woke up with a 101 fever and feeling like I was hit by a ton of bricks.  I was really frustrated.  We had just ruled out some major concerns for running the marathon, and now I was going to be sick.  Last time it went into a full blown case of bronchitis which had lingered for a long time, so I went to immediate care and they gave me antibiotics.  I’m not sure they did much, but at least they were something else to help battle whatever was making me feel like garbage.

WDW Marathon Expo

My husband went to Disney early than I did and went to the expo on day one.  It was insane.  Lines everywhere, and he went later in the day, so it wasn’t just the mad rush of the opening.  They did seem to have plenty of merchandise out, but none of the marathon stuff was overly appealing this year.  The Dopey and Half stuff were much better, which was disappointing since this was the first year I was only doing the full.  He bought me a couple of things he thought I’d like and we went back on Friday morning.

Friday wasn’t a big deal.  There weren’t really any lines, and we got there shortly after opening.  We went to the merchandise area first, which was still pretty well-stocked.  It was relaxing and not very stressful, so if you are not in a rush for any particular merchandise, I definitely recommend waiting to go.

I was excited when I found the race weekend Alex and Ani bracelets and bought one of those.  It was super cute and a nice new addition to the merchandise.  The race merchandise was separate from everything else again, which I still think is a great idea.  It has a much larger space now, which allows for easier browsing, and it clears up space in the main expo building.

After hitting up the race merchandise and getting my bib and shirt, we wandered the expo for awhile.  I wanted to get a black long sleeve to have as an option for the race and Raw Threads had one on sale, which made me happy.  I really love their stuff, it’s really comfortable to run in, so I was glad to pick up a new shirt for a decent price.  I also grabbed three pairs of ProCompression socks from their booth.  They were having a big sale, buy three for $60, and they had some styles that they haven’t had in stock online in awhile.  My husband also picked up some race fuel because he had forgotten to bring his.

Race Day

I was really anxious going into the race.  During my shake out run on Saturday I had felt a lot of pain in my knee, and I found this to be very concerning.  I spent a lot of time with my leg propped up, icing or using my TENS unit.  The only time I really was on my feet was when we went to Disney Springs to get lunch/early dinner.

We woke up at 2 AM and I meticulously applied my kinesiology tape.  I was worried it would fall off while I was running, which has happened on a few long runs, so I was very careful when I applied it.  After getting ready, we wandered to the bus stop.  We stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter, so there was only one bus stop at our resort, but then we went to every stop at Riverside, so it took forever to get to the staging area of the race. I found this annoying at the time, but it helped lessen the time we had to stand out in the cold, so I guess it was a good thing in the end.  We didn’t get in line for any prerace pictures because the lines were already really long, so we just hit up the bathrooms a few times (I am such a nervous pee-er, lol) and then checked our stuff.

We were in corral B, so luckily we didn’t have to wait too long.  I huddled in a ball under a thermal blanket for awhile, and was not happy when I stood up to start warming up and realized I had to pee again.  There were not any portapotties near the corral so I realized I would have to stop on the course- my first time ever having to stop in a marathon, but there was no way I was going to make it through the race.

Disney sent us off in its usual extravagant fashion, and we went off on a rather slow start.  I was right at the front of one of the waves, but I had to do a lot of dodging in the first mile of the course, which I’m not used to.  It was actually pretty frustrating.  I did get lucky when we got to the first bank of portapotties since I found an open one right away, which meant I didn’t lose much time, and then I set out on my way, running up the shoulder of the road a bit to be able to get back into my pace.

The Actual Race

After stopping for the bathroom, I really felt like I was able to get into a rhythm.  I wanted to stay around 9:00 miles for the first thirteen miles.  If I did that, I could drop to as low as 10:00 for the last half, keeping in mind that my knee tended to get worse later in the run, and still get my second fastest marathon time.  My PR was a 4:04, and I wasn’t sure that I would have that in my legs, but I wanted to beat a 4:18 so I could at least have my second fastest time and take over a half an hour off of my Chicago time.

The first few miles ticked by, and I was happy that I was maintaining a decent pace without much effort.  Besides the first mile being about 10:00 with the stop, I had an 8:44, an 8:37, and an 8:50 for the next few.   You hit the Magic Kingdom area around mile three, though it takes a few more miles before you actually hit the park.  I slowed down once actually in the park, stopping for a picture at the castle, and enjoyed the sites and cheering crowds.  That’s always such an exciting part of the run, with everything lit up and so many people there to support the runners.

After leaving Magic Kingdom, where my splits were at or just over 9:00, I returned to sub 9:00 pace, stopping for a few more pics on the outskirts of the park.  However, I was noticing knee pain starting during mile five, and it became more apparent as I left the distractions of the park.  I kept telling myself to push through, that it wasn’t that bad yet and I could slow down at mile 10 if I really needed to, but to try to keep to the plan because I was doing so well thus far.

I continued on.  Animal Kingdom was slower with the hills, sharp turns, and sites, but I was still below pace and was noticing less pain in my knee, so on I went.  I hit the halfway point still going strong, only walking for a few seconds at water stops to make sure I was adequately hydrating.  I have a tendency to choke on my water if I drink while running, ruining my breathing and rhythm.  It’s really classy when I start coughing and dying, so I figured I’d avoid that at all costs, especially since I was still feeling the effects of being sick all week.

The stretch after Animal Kingdom is quite boring, and I   made it to ESPN still going relatively hard, but I could feel myself struggling a bit.  I stopped for a pic with Minnie at ESPN, and with Joy and Sadness, and felt my gait shifting because my right upper IT Band was getting annoyed.  I noticed my pace was dropping, but I was near mile 20, so well beyond mile 13, where I had initially told myself I could slow, so at this point I started doing the ma  th in my head, figuring out what pace I needed to finish at certain times.  There are a few overpasses after you leave ESPN, and I cursed one of them out loud, leading someone nearby to encourage me up it.  I smiled at her and was thankful for some moral support.  It helped pass the time as I approached my favorite portion of the course- the stretch in Hollywood to Boardwalk/Beach Club, and into Epcot.

By this point I had definitely slowed down, and took a slightly longer water stop walk break at the hill going into Hollywood than the others, but I kept plodding on, doing math and enjoying the scenery, stopping for a picture with Oswald.  I love the cheering crowds in this section and knowing your so close to the end.  There’s always lots of people as you run by Beach Club, and I recognized some signs that I had seen earlier on the course now gathered there.  Upon going back towards Epcot, they shuffle you backstage, where the final water stop is, before you enter near the UK in the worlds.

I had one mental break down in mile 25, where I allowed myself to walk without being at a water station.  My leg hurt, I was mentally exhausted, and I was getting discouraged as my mind was starting to tell me I wasn’t going to get my goals.  Then I did the math one more time and realized if I hauled butt, I could actually go under four hours.  I hadn’t really thought that would be possible, not with the injuries going in, and being sick that week on top of it.  But the math didn’t lie, I just needed to keep running.

I urged my legs to move and continued around the world in Epcot.  As I passed Spaceship Earth, I looked at my watch again.  The pace I was holding wasn’t going to be enough.  My legs, dead as they were, needed to move faster if I was going to go under 4:00.  It took everything I had to move faster.  My watch beeped for 26 miles, but I knew my mileage was off at this point.  I continued on, feeling inspired by the choir that I knew stood near the finish line.  We turned the final corner and could see the finish line and I gave my watch one more look, realizing I had less than a minute to get there.  I laugh, because the last split after my watch hit 26 averaged 8:27 pace, but man did I feel like I was doing a 100 meter sprint.  I moved my legs as fast as I could, watching the clock above the finish line, which didn’t match my start time, but I used it to pull me forward.  When I realized I was going to do it, I almost started crying.  I high fived Chip or Dale (I was freaking out mentally too much- no idea which character), and stopped my watch, frantically checking my time.

3:59:42.

I covered my mouth with my hand and could feel myself wanting to cry, and also wanting to pass out, so I moved to the side and bent over for a minute as my mind raced with my time and my body was growing accustomed to not moving.  A medic came over and hung with me for a minute, and I assured her I just needed a minute to collect myself, and then I moved on.  I got my medal from a girl near the end of the line, and collected the rest of the stuff Disney gives runners.  I was really excited to get special Mickey ears for running the 25th anniversary race and I was beaming in my I did it picture.  I was euphoric.  After everything that I had been through prior to this race, the ups and many downs of my training cycle, I couldn’t believe that I had gotten a PR, way beyond my goals.

I had some time to get character pictures at the finish line while I waited for my husband to finish, and my phone/Facebook/Instagram were blowing up from people who were either tracking me, or saw my ecstatic post when I finished.  I really appreciated all of that support at the end.  It was nice to have people to share my accomplishment with.

After the crappy running year I had in 2017, I can’t believe that 2018 has started off so amazing already.  This race, even with all of the curveballs that I had to endure, beat my expectations and gave me a new PR when I haven’t PRed in any race distance in years.  I really have to thank my coach, Melina from Next Level Running, for creating a training plan for me that helped me get there, and for my PT, Scott, for putting up with me and helping me become strong enough to make it through the race.

Now I’m not sure what my goals for 2018 will be, I have so many things I want to do and need to prioritize.  It’d also be nice if my knee could heal up, but I am just so happy to have finally experienced some success at running and am looking forward to what this year might bring.  🙂

Race Report: Wine and Dine Half Marathon

On the first bus out of Pop!
As I mentioned in my expo post, I miss when the Wine and Dine half was at night.  It used to be so fun to start at ESPN, hit up a bit of Animal Kingdom, and then arrive at Hollywood Studios and run through the Osborne Light Show.  There was something so magical about turning the corner and just being completely immersed in Christmas lights and cheer.  It was a great way to start the last third of the race.

Then the race got moved to the morning, and with all of the construction in Hollywood Studios, the course has changed drastically, with the start moving to Magic Kingdom.  I wish there was a way you could actually run IN Magic Kingdom for a bit.  It’s like they taunt you a bit, brining you so close to the park, but then have you running away from it towards Animal Kingdom.

This race always has characters out dressed in restaurant or chef gear, and it’s fun to get prerace pictures with them.  We were able to get Donald, Minnie, and Mickey before we decided to jump in the bathroom line.  This seemed to be a bit of a mess.  there was a cue for the portapotties that wrapped back and forth and ended in the middle of the line of portapotties, rather than the lines that people usually form.  This wasn’t working well because there were often bathrooms left empty because you couldn’t tell from the middle if they were open or not.  It moved slowly and I don’t think this was the best thing.  Usually you can jump in line and get through relatively quickly prior to the race, but this time I was not overly impressed.  The castmembers were telling us there were available bathrooms once you went into the corral areas, but after being in line so long we didn’t want to get out of line in case it was just as chaotic in the other area, which still ended up being congested when we got in line there later.  I’m a nervous runner and usually have to use the bathroom A LOT before a race, so these long lines stressed me out.

I raced into corral A after they had already left the corral and walked to the start line.  I lined up at the back of the corral, which I’m not really used to, and tried to tell myself it would be ok, that I wasn’t going for a PR and it was okay if I got caught in some congestion.  Luckily, as the front corrals have become smaller in recent races, I really didn’t have a problem with too slow of a start or getting trapped like I used to.  I watched the usual announcers discuss the race, invite Minnie and Mickey up, and then send us on our way.  The fireworks at the start were awesome and we began our 13 mile trek around Disney.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like Disney did a better job of placing characters and entertainment on the course.  I never felt overly bored, which I have on some of their more recent courses as they have had to divert around various construction projects.  They had some bigger names out, like Tink starting the list of characters, though her line was already long when I passed by in the middle of the A corral, and I chose not to stop.

You didn’t get to Animal Kingdom until around mile four, and you only got to be in the park for about one mile, but it was cool to run through Pandora.  It looked pretty neat in the dark.  I was excited to see Rafiki in the park, and I stopped for a quick picture because there was no line!  I was a little disappointed at the lack of picture opportunities during this segment of the race, but it was still fun.  The course was pretty curvy at this point, and I noticed my pace dropped a lot while in the park, and this is also where my knee became a bit more noticeable, so I had to pick it up once we got back onto access roads and then the main roads.

Mile 5 looped around the from of Animal Kingdom and the parking lot, then 6 took us back to the highway. Miles 7, 8, and 9 all were pretty much on the main roads.  There were some characters and entertainment, like the Green Army Man who yells at you as you get closer to Hollywood Studios on one of the few hills.  I love when you see the Green Army Man because it signals that you are closer to Hollywood, and I like the course after you hit Hollywood Studios.

 

We spent a little time in the park, where they had some of their Christmas stuff up.  It wasn’t nearly as cool as before when it was the Osborne Lights, but it was exciting after being out on the roads for awhile.  As we went into the park, I noticed a “set” off to the side and a camera person, but no character.  I was a little disappointed, and as I started to pass it I suddenly saw Oswald coming out.  I cheered and turned around and quickly got a pick before continuing on.  Shortly after the Oswald stop I saw the Genie coming back out and counted myself lucky as I stopped to snag a picture with him, too.  You looped out of the park, as usual, and started down the walkway towards Boardwalk.  The walkway had these big green fences up, which disappointed me because I’ve always liked the view through that area, as it follows the waterway.  Luckily they eventually stopped, so you could see the scenery and get a breeze again.  There were a fair amount of spectators out as you neared the Boardwalk and circled around through the Beach and Yacht Club areas, which made it more fun.  One of the negatives about Disney races is the lack of crowd support because you spend so much time out on the roads, so that is probably one of the reasons I love the stretch from mile ten to the end, since it tends to have more spectators and things going on.

Once you neared the back entrance to Epcot, we looped around through the back area, and then came out and followed the marathon route around the countries.  Remy and his brother were out from Ratatouille, so I made a quick stop to snag a picture there, and then just enjoyed the trek through the countries and around the lake.  It’s always so pretty and there were cast members out cheering us on.  After the countries you loop up near the ball and head out a back way, towards the parking areas.  I was a little sad that the choir that usually sings around mile 13 weren’t there.  I always enjoyed them and they’ve become almost an expectation for me.  There was another group there that was good, I was just surprised.

The finish line area is always exciting.  I love that the announcers call out your names as you approach.  Confetti covered the ground when the first finisher crossed, which I was pretty psyched to hear was a girl!  I didn’t see any characters at the finish line, which I thought was weird because usually someone is there and you can snag a high five as you cross the finish line.  Instead I just celebrated as I crossed the finish line, though my race photos show some pretty creepy faces, which I’m going to not include in this post.

One of my complaints about RunDisney races is how far you walk immediately after the finish and how much stuff they give you, with no bag.  I walked pretty slowly through the chute because I knew my husband wasn’t too far behind me as I was tracking him through the runner tracking system on my phone.  I stopped and got some ice for my knee, which they strapped on quickly and sent me on my way.  As you continue to wind through the chute, you got a cooling towel, water, PowerAde, a banana, the coveted RunDisney food box, and THEN they stop you for pictures, so you have to put everything down if you want a finisher picture.  I feel like that should be sooner in the line up so that you don’t have to juggle everything, or they should have a bag they give you so you can actually carry everything without a struggle.

They make you keep moving through the chute, so I had to wait for my husband outside the finisher picture area.  They let us both go back in so that we could get pictures together.  Then we grabbed my bag from the bag check, which is quick and easy, and we went back to the merchandise tent to see what was left.  There was tons of stuff, but nothing new, so we went and got a picture with Chip and Dale and then caught the shuttle to go back to our resort since we had a breakfast reservation at Cape May at the Beach Club and needed to get moving.

Wine and Dine Half Expo Review: Changes galore

Thinking I’m so cool at my first Wine and Dine Half in 2012
I did my first Wine and Dine half in 2012 and have gone back every year since.  That year I had just gotten into running and was intrigued by the Disney races.  My in-laws had never been to Disney, so my husband and I decided to bring them down with us.  We stayed at All Star Music in a cute suite, and I got to see RunDisney in all its flash and glory, which obviously got me hooked.

This was back when you could register for RunDisney races a few weeks in advance, rather than getting on the computer right when the regi

This year
stration opened, praying that you’d get in.  I think my husband and I both registered for the 5k about a week before the race, which would be my husband’s first ever race and start his slow pull into running.  A lot of changes have happened since that year.  Overall, RunDisney became really popular, making registration stressful and forcing people to register nearly a year in advance.  This definitely could be a turn off to people, and it seems that race demand is in decline. RunDisney has already moved next year’s marathon registration back to April, versus the February it was this past year.  That’s helpful, particularly if you don’t allow for transfers, deferrals, or refunds, and makes it nicer if you want to try to make a more “last-minute” trip to do a race.

 

The Wine and Dine Weekend has also changed, now offering a challenge for completing the 10k and half.  When I started running it in 2012, it was the 5k on Saturday morning with the half marathon that night, finishing with a party at Epcot, where runners could stay until three or four AM.  There was something really neat about starting a race at 10 pm and running through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, and Epcot at night, but that has changed.  Now the race weekend extends over three days, with the 5k on Friday, 10k Saturday, and the half Sunday afternoon, with the party that night, which can be difficult to take off of work for another day if you are an out-of-towner.   This change, to me, has decreased the uniqueness of the Wine and Dine, and I think the fact that registration was still available going into race weekend shows that I am not the only person who feels that way.  However, I digress.

I brought up change because the expo underwent many changes for this race weekend, which were obvious from the start.  My husband went down early this year, and he texted me from the expo, telling me how different it was.  I didn’t really know what he meant until I got there.  First of all, the buses drop you off in a different spot, likely due to construction, but it seemed substantially closer than the old locations.  You used to walk a fair amount just to get into the ESPN complex.  Now it wasn’t so bad.  The first stop to get your bib was in the same building, but here’s where the changes started. When you walked in, going one way would take you to bib pick up, the other way would take you to a merchandise location.  There was always an area to get the coveted RunDisney race merchandise near bib pick up, but now it was in a different room.  As we walked to the race merchandise, my husband warned me how different it would be.  I couldn’t even fathom it when we walked in.

You used to be crammed into little areas with people pushing each other just to get to items.  I’ve seen people yelling, throwing things, and breaking things in order to get stuff.  Usually this behavior was more around Princess weekend, but I’ve seen aggressive shoppers during other weekends as well.  It was always drama filled.

This year the merchandise was basically in its own level of the arena, in a sprawling area where people could easily navigate and pick out the items they wanted.  There was a section of generic RunDisney stuff, an area for men and women apparel for each race, and miscellaneous drinkware, with the preorder stuff along the back wall.  I couldn’t believe it!  It used to be very stressful to get your merchandise, and this was so peaceful and laid back.  I was able to look at everything and really see it, instead of being jostled over items that were the most wanted.  People were milling around rather than rushing to get things.  I don’t know if the fact that RunDisney didn’t release any race merchandise previews helped, but it was a totally different atmosphere.  My husband had been there right when it opened Thursday, and we were both there right when it opened Friday.  There was no overcrowding or issues at all.  I also feel like they are doing a better job with ordering enough stuff.  There were a few things that sold out, but some of the more popular items were still available at the end of the weekend, such as jackets, Tervis mugs, and other race shirts.  I know this is a smaller race, but I was still so surprised by the positive changes.

After the merchandise and bib pick up, we still had to go to the other building to get the shirts.  They still have it at the back of the arena, forcing you to walk through the vendors to get there.  It’s good marketing, but still is a bit of a pain to have to go over there.  There wasn’t any race merchandise in this building like there normally is, so everything was much more spread out in there and made it easier to walk around and browse the various stalls.  We quickly picked up my shirt and shopped, before stopping for a drink to get the RunDisney cups that you can get when you purchase a beverage.  This time they were clear with glitter, and we’ve gotten a number of different colors over the years.  We were able to enjoy our drinks outside, people watching and musing over how much easier this expo had been than previous years.

So, while I discussed some changes that may not have been for the best at the beginning of my post, I do have to say that the changes made to the expo this time around are very positive.  Kudos to RunDisney for addressing a problem that has been building up for awhile now.  I hope that they use this system for marathon weekend.  I’ll report back for that one and let you know how that expo goes in two months!

 

Chicago Marathon Part One: Leading up to the race

My Chicago Marathon was a whirlwind weekend.  I left my school about two hours early in order to make a 5:00pm flight.  I arrived in Chicago at 5:48pm CT and utilized the rail system.  I had ordered a ventra card to use and paid for a special that they had for three days of unlimited use.  I really didn’t use it much, so I didn’t get my money’s worth, however I did love the cool marathon design that I got.

My husband and mother in law, who had gone down in the morning, met me at the train station and walked with me to our hotel.  We stayed at the Hilton Chicago, a host hotel, and it wasn’t a bad walk, except that it was drizzling.  When we got to our hotel, I was pretty impressed.  It was very nice and a great location, particularly for the race.  I dropped my suitcase off in the room and we went and got in line for the bus to the expo.

That part was a little stressful.  It was almost seven at this point, and I know that buses didn’t run much longer.  One bus came back from the expo to drop off people, only to tell us that they weren’t taking anyone back to the expo.  The person manning the pick up told us that there might not be any buses going back to the expo that night.  We were upset because the program said they would be running until 8:30, and she told us that with people’s shifts, they would be stopping.  A couple people walked away and we were about to book an Uber with a stranger when another bus stopped.  We decided to wait and see what this bus was doing.  Luckily, it was headed back to the expo so we got on, feeling bad for those people who had left to take a taxi.  That was poorly done and I feel like there needs to be better communication so that people don’t have to be turned away again.

When we got to the expo I knew we didn’t have much time, besides the fact that I was exhausted, so we rushed through a bit.  It was really easy to get my bib.  They scanned the code on my packet pick up materials, then sent me to a booth where they got my bib ready.  I then had to walk through all of the vendors (well played) to get to my race shirt.  Everyone was super nice and it was a huge place filled with so many retailers, I wish I had more time to spend browsing.  My husband had gone that morning to get his stuff for the 5k, so he had looked around for me and bought a few things that he knew I would want.  I had taken advantage of Nike having their stuff posted early, so I had already ordered what I liked from their online and it arrived before I even left for the race.  My husband had grabbed me a regular pint glass, a super nice water bottle, and a stainless steel pint that day.  The only thing I really was looking for was a hoodie, and I found a nice one at The North Face booth that I ended up getting.  It also blew my mind how many people were wearing the race shirt.  We saw them a ton prior to the start of race.  I have always considered that a no-no, unless I somehow packed poorly and had nothing else to wear.  Maybe I’d wear something I bought extra for the race, but I would never wear the shirt.  It just seems to jinx it to me.

We returned to the hotel, leaving a few minutes before the expo closed.  We had a quick dinner from a place in the hotel and called it a night early.  I was really tired and my husband was running the International 5k the next morning, so he needed to relax a bit.  I’m really jealous that I didn’t run that race, too.  It looked like so much fun, but I had originally hoped that I was going to be in PR shape for the marathon, which it ended up that life decided would not be the case, so I hadn’t registered for it.  I really regret it and will likely do it if I ever go to Chicago again.

The Hilton Chicago was not a far walk to the start of the 5k.  My husband left to go there while my mother in law and I decided to hit up Starbucks prior to heading to the finish.  The Starbucks was swamped, with the employees saying they didn’t realize there was a race that morning, too.  Hopefully they keep that in mind for next year!  We made it to see my husband finish, but we got a little nervous waiting so long.

The finish for the 5k was awesome.  The runners come around a turn and come barreling towards the finish line, with an announcer keeping everyone pumped up and cheering on the runners.  There were runners from other countries running with flags and some runners in costume.  So many people had come out to run the 5k, and it was awesome to watch people run for the finish.  After finishing, the runners got an awesome medal and a cool winter scarf with the race on it.  It was a shame, however, that there was no other race merchandise for it.  My husband had looked for a shirt or something at the expo, as well as the finisher area, hoping he could get something to wear, but there was nothing.  I think that’s an untapped market.  I bet, with a race of this size, that they could sell a bunch of shirts for this race.

We went and got breakfast at a cute little street-side Greek café after the 5k.  It took a long time to eat and we watched a lot of people get up and leave because it was taking so long to just place an order.  We decided to wait it out and the food was really good.

After we decided to try and take buses to get to the aquarium, however the hotel didn’t give the best directions and we ended up on a bus going the wrong way.  We debated at that point if it was even worth going to the aquarium at that point.  I really didn’t want to be on my feet all day with a marathon the next day, and this experience was stressing me out.  We decided to get on a different bus, which still couldn’t get us there because they had started to close down streets.  It dropped us off as close as it could get and we walked the rest of the way.  When we got to the aquarium there were tons of people there, making us decide that it just wasn’t worth it to pay the cost of a ticket to go in and be so crowded.  We walked back to the hotel, realizing we should have just walked in the first place.

The Hilton Chicago did a pasta dinner buffet starting at 5pm on Saturday, so we went down around 4:30 to get in line for the dinner.  They said they weren’t taking reservations, so we sat down to wait, only for them to start taking names while we were sitting.  It wasn’t that big of deal, but they could have been a bit more organized at this point.  The restaurant is big and was able to accommodate all of the early bird runners, but it was confusing to everyone because some could put their names in and some were told no.  Once we were seated we went right up and the food was amazing.  They had several different pastas, lasagna, chicken, and great salad and dessert bars.  We got several rounds of food, rounding our meals out with yummy dessert.  Then it was time to go up to the room.

I had made the decision to book an extra room for the night of the marathon as I am a light sleeper and didn’t want to disturb anyone when I got up in the morning.  It was a pricey decision, but did end up being nice to be able to wind down how I wanted to and not inconvenience anyone.  I was still feeling gross from a pretty bad cold I was fighting and my knee and legs were stiff from walking, so I took a hot bath in order to try and loosen up a bit.  I set out all of my race stuff and lounged around, reading and going on social media a bit before turning off the lights around 8:30 pm.  I was anxious, but slept better than I had thought I would.

 

Stay tuned for part two!

 

 

Race Report: Strider Glider Quarter Marathon

 Race Information


I’m sure I’m a little biased as I am apart of the committee that helps to put this race on, but I always enjoy doing the Strider Glider in Lancaster, NY.  First of all, it’s a unique distance.  How many QUARTER marathons do you see out there?  Not many.  Second of all, our race supports a number of local groups, including donating a major part of proceeds to the Trinity Food Pantry and supplying scholarships to two cross country athletes.  I love that not only do we work to put on a good race, but we also give back to the community, donating everything that we make.  Plus we are a Buffalo Runner of the Year Race, or ROY race, which is a nice honor.

It seems like we’ve always had interesting weather for this race.  However, this year the weather was spectacular.  There was some sun and temperatures started off in the fifties, ideal weather for a race!  I think this helped us bring out a decent crowd, with 200 finishers.  We had a decent amount of preregistrations, with a fair amount of walk ups on race morning, which was my job race morning.  We had a nice giveaway this year, as well.  We always try to come up with something just a little different, and this year we did glasses with our three race mascots printed on separate ones.  They were wrapped, so it was a surprise which monster you received.  We also had some left to purchase, in case anyone wanted to complete their set, which a fair amount of people did.

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Zachary Liaros
The race starts at nine in Westwood Park in Lancaster.  You then turn right out of the park and snake your way to the Heritage Bike Trail, where about a third of the race takes place, before returning to the park.  We had a lot of volunteers manning the turns and there were a few fire departments helping us to close down the major roads, ensuring the safety of the runners and making sure everyone knew where to go.  We then have a nice little after party, which had sliders, mac and cheese, and a variety of other snacks, as well as various beverages, including some home-brewed beer made specifically for the race.  Race medals are given out for the top three in five year age groups, as well as trophies for overall female and male, as well as masters.  We also do raffle tickets for a variety of prizes.  Everyone always seems to have fun!

 

My Race Report

So I decided to run the race, even if it wasn’t necessarily the best idea.  I asked my PT, and he said it wouldn’t be the worse thing.  As the race got closer, I wasn’t quite sure how to pace.  My Chicago Marathon training plan didn’t include a lot of speedwork, and my most recent short distant race was a 5k back in mid-August.  Thus, I really debated what pace to shoot for.  Not only was I unsure of what pace I could maintain for 6.55 miles, but I wasn’t quite sure of how my knee would respond to more aggressive running.

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Thanks, Sarah Anderson!
Of course I got caught up in the excitement of the gun going off and threw down a 7:28 first mile.  I realized that probably wasn’t smart, nor was it the easy running that my PT was recommending.  So I held back, albeit not totally successfully and clocked a 7:59 second mile.  This had me a bit anxious as my pace in my last 5k, an admittedly poor race, was 8:10.  With 4.55 miles to go, it was probably smarter for me to hit a more conservative pace.  Plus, I was still nervous about my knee, which hurt a bit in the first quarter mile or so, but had eased up as I got moving.

I decided to shoot for 8:20 pace for the next two miles, and achieved an 8:18 and an 8:19.  I knew I was probably still going too fast for my knee and was a little torn.  I told myself I would do 9:00 for the last two miles, but that vow didn’t last long.  I soon noticed that I was going back and forth with a runner in my age group.  At times she was leading, then I’d lead for a bit.  I slowly began to pick up the pace, thinking about how I really would like to earn a medal.  I’m a tad bit competitive, okay very competitive, and I really love the medals from this race, so I started to creep up a bit.  I realized that this girl is someone I’ve raced during the summer, just beating her in one race by less than a second, and her beating me in another race by only a few seconds.  It might make me sound like an awful person, but this thought fueled my surge at mile 5.5.  I was afraid if I let her stay in front of me, that I would place fourth, just out of the medals.  So I began to kick way too early, really paying for it in the last quarter of a mile.  On my last turn I looked back and saw that she had fallen pretty far back, but that there was another girl coming and I really took off.  My last two full miles were 8:33 and 8:16, with my final .6 clocking in at 7:36 pace.

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Thanks, Darell McKenrick!
This race was really exciting for me for a couple of reasons.  I was really happy when I found I actually placed first in the race for my age group.  I was just hoping to place!  But this race also was kind of a mental break through for me.  I’d say for over a year I have had issues with keeping positive during races.  I’ll begin to doubt my ability to hold paces or be abimg_3010-1le to push at the end, leading me to slow down and get angry with myself after the races.  I was really excited that I held the paces that I was shooting for, even with little speed training, and I was especially happy that I was able to pick up the pace and work on trying to pass people, rather than doubting and giving up a bit mentally at the end of the race.  This was a great confidence boost after a string of rough races this summer, and I’m hoping that it continues on.img_2983

My knee has been kind of cranky since the race.  I iced it as soon as I was done, but it was a little sore that night.  The next day it wasn’t too bad, until I got kicked right in the knee while sitting at the Buffalo Bills game.  That didn’t really help.  I’ll stick to some treadmill runs and keep doing my PT so it will hopefully improve.  I’m looking forward to some more successful races in my training, leading up to the Disney Marathon in January.