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Belated Ragnar Chicago Race Recap

Where's Waldo at the starting line (with half of Matt...this is the only pic we have!)

Where’s Waldo at the starting line (with half of Matt…this is the only pic we have!)

It’s been over a month now since I completed my first Ragnar Relay with my team, Where’s Waldo, but I still wanted to write up this recap. Our team of 12 ran nearly 200 miles in about 30 hours from Madison, WI to Chicago. It was one of the most challenging (mentally and physically), but fun races I’ve done. A few people asked me afterwards if we were running for charity only to be surprised (or shocked) to find out that we were doing the race for fun! Yes, there are charities that run Ragnar to raise money, but there are also a lot of crazy people who do it for a good time. So here’s a little recap of my race experience. I may do some other posts later on tips for captains or what I wish I’d known before I did Ragnar to help anyone (or myself) preparing to do one of these awesome races.

If you’re not familiar with Ragnar, it’s an overnight running relay with 12 runners (or less if you’re one of the ultra or more intense teams). Each team has 2 vans with 6 runners in each van. Runners 1-6 are in van 1 and runners 7-12 are in van 2. After you drop off each runner you drive to an exchange to meet them and switch to the next runner. The vans meet each other every 6 exchanges. So when your van’s not running, you have a little bit of a break.

I was the team captain for my team since I was the one who recruited the whole team and coordinated everything (which can be a big job in itself…that’s for another post). For the actual race, I was runner 12.

Our team got together at my house on Thursday night before the race for a team dinner and to decorate our vans. This was the first time our whole team (or at least most of the team since a couple people didn’t make it) got together before the race. It’s interesting because most people knew some of the people or were acquaintances (many were from my church). I knew

Finally got to decorate vans once the rain stopped

Finally got to decorate vans once the rain stopped

everyone at least a little bit except for 4 people (others recruited their friends, one was a youth group member I didn’t really know, and another was my husband’s coworker). So it may have been a little awkward at first, but after spending 30 hours together with the five other people in your van, you really get to know them pretty well and I thought we had a pretty good group (speaking for van 2, at least). Unfortunately van decorating didn’t happen that night because it was raining. 😦 But afterwards, I got a few of the girls on the team to jam their nails with a Runner Girl accent. 🙂

We drove up to Madison super early on Friday morning. Van 1 left earlier because they had to be at the starting line to check in and do the safety briefing one hour before our 7:30 am start time. Van 2 drove up about an hour later because we wanted to send our first runner, Rachel, off. Unfortunately for her it was raining a lot at the start. It was a little sad because all the vans weren’t decorated since the rain would’ve washed off any decorations people did with window markers. The energy was still great at the start as people were excited. After Rachel left, Van 1 had to head to the first exchange to meet her and those of us in Van 2 headed to the nearest Target to get some extra supplies we forgot and for some Starbucks. 🙂 We hung out there for a while before driving over to Exchange 6, which was actually really nice. As we got updates from Van 1, we found out we were running ahead of schedule according to the race pace calculator Ragnar gave us (which was based off the 10k pace times each person submitted for themselves). Many people were running faster than what they said!

Ted & Kimberly passing off the bracelet!

Ted & Kimberly passing off the bracelet!

While we waited for Van 1 to show up at Exchange 6, we did our safety briefing, tried lots of free Nuun samples, and decorated our van. I still had a while to go before I’d have to run since I was the last runner to start on our team, but I felt a little nervous. I actually didn’t eat much that whole day before I ran aside from some oatmeal for breakfast before we left and some popcorn and a cereal bar. In retrospect, I probably should’ve eaten a little more since I didn’t actually start running until about 5pm that day. Normally I would’ve eaten at least a full meal for lunch if I ran after work like that.

Leg 12 – 6.8 miles: My first leg; 5pm on Friday
I started out planning on taking this run easy to save my energy because even though my second leg was going to be short, I knew I had a long run for the end. This entire race I was going pretty slow, actually–slower than I normally run in races. Usually the adrenaline kicks in and helps me push it more, but this race is different. I think part of it had to do with the fact that I didn’t always see people on my runs. Since you start when your team’s runner passes the slap bracelet off to you, the starts are staggered. I didn’t really run into groups of runners–just a few here and there. Sometimes I didn’t see anyone for a while on this first leg too since it was mainly just on a trail. I think when I’m running races with a lot of other people it’s more motivating to run faster and pass people when you can actually SEE more people on the course. The other thing that threw me off here was my volume was down on my RunKeeper app and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it (this happened on my first and second legs). I didn’t realize there weren’t mile markers along the Ragnar course except for the “One Mile to Go” sign. So I stopped a couple times just to see how far I went–had to take out my phone (I really need to get another Garmin watch).

Here are my splits for this leg:
Mile 1: 9:35 (fastest)
Mile 2: 10:05
Mile 3: 10:09
Mile 4: 9:56
Mile 5: 10:13
Mile 6: 10:06
Mile 7: 10:11

Total distance: 8.62 miles; 1:08:22; avg. pace 10:02

I was a little confused near the end of the leg because when I looked at the map I thought it had an in-and-out part before the finish, but it turned out it wasn’t like that. It was pretty exciting being a runner that goes into one of the major exchanges though because tons of people are there including your whole team (van 1 & van 2). My teammates got some great pictures of me coming in! 🙂

Coming in strong at the end of my first leg

Coming in strong at the end of my first leg

After I finished, my van went out for a quick dinner. We actually got nervous because we were waiting for a table and found out van 1 was already on their 3rd runner! We sped through our meal and made it to the next exchange with time to spare. Good thing we were there too because Albert (Runner 6) had to run a 5k for his second leg and he beat his van to the exchange! He’s a beast–ran that in about 15 minutes AND he had blisters…

Speedy Albert coming in from his second leg

Speedy Albert coming in from his second leg

Leg 24 – 2.9 miles (Ran at 2:15 AM on Saturday)
I was actually really excited about this run because it’s the first time I’ve run at night (generally not safe for a woman to do by herself). Ragnar makes you wear safety gear though. Unfortunately I don’t have picture. The weather was cooler (perfect, actually) and this was my shortest run. So I was planning on really pushing myself, which I did. The only problem was I got lost! When I started I was behind some guy and ended up following him when he took a wrong turn near the beginning of the run. To be fair, i actually thought I was supposed to go that way too because when we drove into the exchange, we saw runners going that way. Apparently a lot of people got lost on this run though. Since then I’ve learned that if you don’t see a sign telling you to turn and you’re at an intersection, GO STRAIGHT! Thankfully a couple girls were running toward us saying that we were going the wrong way. I got to a point on this run where I didn’t see anyone else either, which is a little unnerving since I’m running in the dark and don’t know where I’m supposed to go, but I just kept looking for the red blinking lights on Ragnar signs to direct me. I got to run by the lake in Racine, which was nice even though it was pitch black and I couldn’t see anything out there. There was also a hill near the end which was killing me. When I got to the exchange, Rachel wasn’t there in the exchange chute (she was on the beach but my teammates saw me coming and started yelling to her). So I had to wait a minute before she got there and then got to enjoy some s’mores on the beach before our van booked it out of there so we could spend a few hours in nice beds at Ted’s house. The warm shower & a decent few hours sleep was SO worth it! He lived only 20 minutes from our next exchange so if you’re able to crash at someone’s house in the middle of the race, I totally recommend it. We also got a nice breakfast in the morning.

My second leg splits:
Mile 1: 8:40 (yay)
Mile 2: 9:22 – realized I got lost, trying to get back on course
Mile 3: 9:48 – starting to lose some energy now

Total distance: 3.53 miles (added about half a mile to my run); 33:21; avg. pace 9:26 (finally under 10!)

*I also need to add in that this was my first night away from Jaylen ever. He did fine with Daddy (& grandparents who came to help out). I missed him, but I did okay too. 🙂

Sammy checking off her final box after finishing her last leg!

Sammy checking off her final box after finishing her last leg!

Leg 36 – 7.5 miles Final leg – Run to the finish! (12:55 PM start on Saturday)
This was one of the hardest runs I’ve ever done–even harder than the half marathons I’ve done. A few factors contributed to this: I was hungry (didn’t get to really eat anything for lunch & didn’t feel like eating anyway beforehand), it was HOT (thankfully I brought my own water because the only 2 water stations were at the beginning and the END of the leg…I actually ran out of water and had to stop at a drinking fountain when I got to the lakeshore path), and I was tired (going on only about 3 hours of sleep in less than 30 hours). I know some people can run crazy fast even in those circumstances (many of those people passed me & a lot of those people are on my team), but it just made this run extra challenging for me. I was also feeling really sore. My shoulders were sore for some reason and my legs were aching a bit. I may have been getting a little dehydrated. I’ll admit it–I took more than a few walking breaks (also paused to check the map to make sure I was going the right way). Maybe I also purposely slowed down so I would get stopped by a traffic light. It was pretty awesome though to run by the lake (but also hard when i could see the finish line across the lake…so close, yet so far!). As I got closer, I felt like I was running at a snail’s pace, but other Ragnar runners who were walking back to their cars would cheer me on as I ran toward the finish. No way was I going to walk now! The best part was when I heard Albert cheering for me by name and then I saw the rest of my team near the finish line. Then they all joined me and we ran across the finish together. That was such a relief and such an accomplishment!

Right after the finish (apparently we don't have a full team pic with our medals?!)

Right after the finish (apparently we don’t have a full team pic with our medals?!)

My super slow splits:
Mile 1: 9:54 (last time I’d be under 10)
Mile 2: 10:29
Mile 3: 10:22
Mile 4: 10:33 (I was doing so well up until mile 5…)
Mile 5: 11:57
Mile 6: 11:41
Mile 7: 13:24 (can you tell I was walking a lot near the end?!?)

Total distance: 7.7 miles (so actually a little longer than planned); 1:26:13; avg. pace 11:12

I have never been so proud to put a race decal on my car. 🙂 I would definitely do a Ragnar again. The major downside is the cost. It’s the most expensive race I’ve done when you add everything up, but it was a great, unique experience. It also gave me some added stress and took lots of extra time since I had to plan and prepare as the team captain. I think if I did it again I’d want a co-captain to help share the load (and to organize one of the vans). I also would offer to be a different runner…or I would need to have gotten in more training time. There were a few weeks when I didn’t get the training in that I was supposed to so I didn’t feel as prepared for this race. I loved my team though. I just wish I got to spend more time with van 1!

Jonathan & Matt at their final exchange

Jonathan & Matt at their final exchange

Ragnar complete!

Ragnar complete!

Cousins & awesome Van 2 teammates

Cousins & awesome Van 2 teammates

Me with my brother-in-law, Andy

Me with my brother-in-law, Andy

Daddy & baby came to see me at the finish

Daddy & baby came to see me at the finish

A few of our team mates are missing here

A few of our team mates are missing here

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Rachel, Drea, Jenn & me...wish I could've spent more time with these van 1 girls!

Rachel, Drea, Jenn & me…wish I could’ve spent more time with these van 1 girls!

Since I was the last runner, I got to keep our sweaty slap bracelet. Great momento though.

Since I was the last runner, I got to keep our sweaty slap bracelet. Great souvenir though.

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{Race Recap} Prairie State Half Marathon 2014

IMG_3480It was a great weekend to race in Chicago! The big event, of course, was the Chicago Marathon yesterday. My cousin, Sammy, rocked that one–her first marathon! She finished in 3:41:41 (only about 6 minutes away from qualifying for Boston!) I’m so impressed by her. 🙂 She was nice enough to come out to cheer for me during my race, the Prairie State Half Marathon, on Saturday.

This was my second time running the Prairie State Half so I was familiar with the course. I ran it two years ago as my second half marathon. Last year I didn’t race at all because I was pregnant during fall racing season, so this race was always on my mind as a postpartum goal. This race was my big post-baby fitness goal. I didn’t really start training until the beginning of July once I got my jogging stroller. That made it easier for me to get out for more runs because I could take baby with me (he was 6 months old when I started running with him). I followed a half marathon plan I found online that required me to run 5 days a week, but I was generally only able to do 4 runs a week because the days I go in to the office were tough to fit a run in. I also didn’t get to go all the way up to the 12 mile long run because a 5k I did one Saturday made me skip the long run that week. Still, I knew I could finish the distance after doing my 11 mile long run a couple weeks ago. As much as the physical training is important for a big race like this, running really is mental too.

Race day came and I planned on getting up around 5:45 to have time to eat some breakfast, get ready, and maybe feed Jaylen if he woke up before leaving to catch the shuttle to the race site, but with a baby that still wakes up a few times in the middle of the night, I ended up turning off my alarm. Luckily I still woke up in time even if it was an hour later. That sure got the adrenaline going! It worked out though because Jaylen woke up and he and Gerald dropped me off and got to watch me start the race.

The weather was perfect for running. It was chilly to start, but I’m glad I didn’t overdress because I definitely warmed up quickly. I felt great for the first 8 miles of the race and kept a fairly consistent pace. Then the exhaustion began to set in a little bit and I ended up taking a few walking breaks until the last mile, where I pushed through to the end (that ended up being my fastest mile). I was using my RunKeeper app to keep track of my miles and pacing, but it didn’t quite match up with the mile markers on the course. According to RunKeeper I reached the mile markers slightly ahead of the course markers, but then somehow at mile 6, I reached the mile marker quite a bit after I passed that mile on the course. Not sure what happened there, but here are my splits according to RunKeeper:

Mile 1 – 9:30
Mile 2 – 9:31
Mile 3 – 9:38
Mile 4 – 9:54
Mile 5 – 9:32
Mile 6 – 9:53
Mile 7 – 9:33
Mile 8 – 9:52
Mile 9 – 10:12
Mile 10 – 11:03
Mile 11 – 10:31
Mile 12 – 10:39
Mile 13 – 9:29

My pace picked up a little bit between miles 6 and 7 because that was where a lot of the spectators (including Sammy and my Uncle Lary) were waiting to cheer us on as we ran by. They almost missed me the first time I ran by (this was right before the turnaround) so I had to wave them down. Encouragement really helps in these endurance races. In the last mile this man and woman ran past me. He was obviously pacing and helping her finish the race and he was so excited and yelling encouraging things to other runners that it helped me pick up my pace as I finished too even though he wasn’t specifically encouraging me.

It felt so good to finish the race, and Gerald was right there at the finish line waiting for me (he had taken Jaylen to his parents’ house). My official finish time was 2:09:35 (an average pace of 9:54). It’s not a PR, but my goal was just to finish this time and I’m pleasantly surprised that I kept an average pace under 10 minute miles. On my training runs I always ran 10-11 minute miles. Almost exactly 10 months ago, I gave birth to Jaylen and now I finished a half marathon. So to me, that’s quite an accomplishment!

I really love the half marathon distance because it’s challenging, but doesn’t seem as daunting to me as a marathon (plus I don’t have time to train for a marathon…I know there are some moms who can do it, but right now I’m not one of them). This was my last race for the year, but with my race and with the marathon this past weekend, it makes me excited for the next one! 🙂

Third half marathon complete!

Third marathon complete!

Post-race with my baby. He's biting the medal like a champ.

Post-race with my baby. He’s biting the medal like a champ.

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Race Recap: Long Grove Heritage Run

All the people running/walking for the Mothers' Milk Bank

All the people running/walking for the Mothers’ Milk Bank

This morning we had the perfect running weather (temps in the 50s and sunny). I’ve been running the Long Grove Heritage Run every year since 2009 (with the exception of last year because I was pregnant). It was my first running race ever so it holds a special place in my heart. This is a great local race where lots of charities participate. So when you register, you choose which charity you want to donate to and run (or walk) for. Afterwards they provide a free pancake breakfast for all the participants and this is the only race I know that does age group awards 5 deep…so that’s why the first time I ran it I got an award! It was shocking, but this particular race sure helped to build my self esteem and confidence in running since I’ve won an age group award every time I’ve done it except for this year.

The last time I ran this race in 2011, I won my age group and was definitely a lot faster than I am right now. So I didn’t go into today’s race expecting to set any new personal records or to win an award. My main goal though was to push myself to run faster (trying to keep my pace between 8-9 minutes per mile) so I might have the potential to win an award (based off last year’s results). I also haven’t run that fast consistently for a longer duration since I started running regularly again postpartum.

I ran this race for the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. As a new nursing mom, I wanted to support an organization that works to provide breast milk for mothers and babies that need it. I know how challenging and rewarding breastfeeding can be so for babies and mothers who can’t nurse for some reason, this is a great way for them to get the wonderful benefits of breast milk. I’m sure you can probably still make a donation on my fundraising page if you’d like to support this organization as well. I loved that they even had a little “nursing nook” in their tent. 🙂

Jaylen came with me to the race, but since strollers aren’t allowed on the run, my mom walked with him in the 3k walk while I ran. It was actually nice to do a race without pushing the jogging stroller though. I started out near the front of the starting line and got off to a nice start. I was going a little fast (between 7-8 min/mile), but I felt pretty good. I knew I had to conserve energy though and tried to slow down a little bit. So here are my splits for the race:

Mile 1: 8:10
Mile 2: 8:37
Mile 3: 8:21
Mile 4: 6:27 (for the .1 part…I was pushing it at the end)
Average pace: 8:17

My RunKeeper app was a little off with the race’s mile markers maybe because I started it a little early when I crossed the finish line. So according to the race results, I finished in 26:07 and 9th in my age group. I’m very happy with this result because I proved to myself that I can push myself to run faster longer. Lately on my runs I’ve just been so much slower (like 10-11 minute miles) so it’s encouraging to me. There’s definitely still more room for improvement and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to set some new running personal records.

My little cheerleader!

My little cheerleader!

My next and last race for the year will hopefully be the Prairie State Half Marathon on October 11. I’m training for it and missed my long run today, but I’ll just make it up next weekend and only end up going up to 11 miles as my longest run (which is what I did for my first half anyway and I was fine). No turkey trot this year since we’ll be traveling for Thanksgiving. Happy fall racing season, everyone!

 

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Grayslake 5k Race Recap

Grayslake5k

 

On Saturday I completed my first postpartum race and my first race with my jogging stroller (the BOB Ironman). I didn’t race at all last year when I was pregnant, so I was excited to get back into it. I didn’t have to worry about setting an alarm for this race because Jaylen woke up on race morning at 6:30 a.m. The race was held in our local downtown area so Gerald and I planned on walking over (about a mile from our house). I also thought it would be a good warm up.

Pre-race

Pre-race

Saturday morning was rainy, but thankfully the rain cleared up before we headed out the door around 7:15. The rain held off until after the race, which was a blessing. We could’ve had a soaking baby otherwise!

My cousin was also running the race (and it happened to be her birthday) so we saw her briefly before the start and then she went up to the front because she’s super fast. I had to start near the back anyway because I was running with the stroller. I know they do that so strollers don’t get in the way, but it’s a lot more challenging to pass people at the beginning of the race when you’re running with a stroller. I was getting stuck behind people a little bit even though I tried to run on the side of the road to pass.

Eventually the pack thinned out. My Garmin watch wouldn’t turn on even though I charged it up (I haven’t used it in a while since for some reason it stopped uploading my runs to my computer…apparently it’s messed up now). So I used my RunKeeper app and had my phone tucked into a pocket on the stroller. So I couldn’t see what my pace or distance was. I know I started slowing down though as the race went on. I haven’t run at that intensity for that long in a while.

Jaylen was great during the whole race. I’m impressed with how content he seemed staying in the stroller for so long. He sat quietly on our walk over to the starting line from home. Then I took him out for a few minutes before the race started. He was awake for the beginning part of the race but then fell asleep about halfway through. It was his nap time, after all. If you zoomed in to the photo at the top of this post you can see Jaylen knocked out in the stroller. Haha.

It was humid and I definitely had to keep pushing myself during the race, but I was trying to save some energy for the last stretch.

Me, Jaylen & cousin Sammy

Me, Jaylen & cousin Sammy

Once I turned the final corner and saw the finish line, I really dug deep and pushed toward that finish line (literally). There was another woman I’d been following during the race who got behind me at one point but then was now catching up, so I was just trying to beat her to the finish, which I did. She told me good job afterwards, but she was probably just impressed that I did that while pushing the stroller. Jaylen woke up right after we crossed the finish line. Apparently 5ks are exhausting! 🙂

My official finish time was 28:40. That’s not close to any kind of personal record for me, but I’m pleased with it considering all my

runs lately (with and without the stroller) have been in the 10 or even 11 min/mile range. This run was my fastest stroller run to date. Not bad for running while pushing about 35 extra pounds in front of me (stroller + baby)!

My cousin Sammy won her age group (no surprise there!) and I actually placed 5th out of 18 in my age group, which isn’t too bad, actually. This little race gave me a confidence boost knowing that I can only improve from here. I plan to do more 5ks in the next few months (both with and without the stroller) through the fall and I’d still like to do the Prairie State Half Marathon in October again, but I need to ramp up my training to be ready for that.

This was the perfect way to celebrate Jaylen’s 7 month birthday. I’m glad we could finish our first race together–hopefully the first of many!

 

Mommy & baby post-race

Mommy & baby post-race

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Race Report: Prairie State Half Marathon

In front of the starting line before the race

This race report is a week late. Last Saturday I did the Prairie State Half Marathon, my second attempt at the 13.1 distance. Going into the race, my goal was, of course, to beat my first half marathon time of 2:24:30, but I also just wanted to finish around 2 hours (under would be fantastic). I actually felt nervous on Friday about the race. I’d only done 9 miles as my long run training for this race and I would’ve preferred to have at least done 10 miles to get in the double digits again. I knew the end of the race is mostly a mental battle anyway, but I would’ve felt more confident having gotten more mileage in training.

Anyway, race morning was COLD! It almost felt like winter–the temps were in the 30s or 40s, but the real feel was in the 20s with the wind. I was prepared for less heat than my June half, but I wasn’t prepared to whip out my Under Armour already. Cooler weather is great for running though and the temperature was perfect, actually. By mile 4, I took off my gloves. A little later, I rolled up my sleeves, and by the halfway point, I removed my fleece headband (to keep my ears warm). The only problem then is having to hold these things while running. They weren’t throw-away clothes for me (and I needed them again after I finished & got cold again).

As the race started, I tried to focus on not starting out too fast. I wanted to try and stay between a 9-10 minute mile pace the entire race. I was able to stay in that range for most of the run (my Garmin really helped with this). Most of the run was on crushed limestone on the Des Plaines River Trail. It’s wooded and there aren’t many places for spectators to watch. My husband was great about coming out with me, mostly because I also told him he could fish in the lake while waiting for me to run (it’s boring and cold for spectators). There was this one stretch though by a park that had tons of spectators lined up and cheering as the runners went by. Even though they weren’t cheering specifically for me, it’s energizing and encouraging to have them there.

The course was good (just an out and back run), but there were a few times where I almost sprained my ankle or tripped/fell because parts of the ground might have been uneven or because I stepped on some forest debris (there were these round ball-like things…not acorns, something else). It happened multiple times so I was just praying I wouldn’t get hurt. I saw a couple other people stumble like that too. Scary! Every time it happened, I’d try to pick up my feet more.

I felt pretty good for most of the race, but I started hitting my wall around mile 9 or 10. My longest training run this time was 9

Approaching the finish line (I’m the one in back)

miles, so this kind of makes sense, but I was definitely feeling tired. I kept telling myself I didn’t want to walk because running slowly was still faster than walking. I did walk through the last few water stations (I was running out of water from my own hydration belt). Mile 12 was my slowest (10:12) even though I was reminding myself that I was almost to the finish line. Some marathoners passed me at that point. Just after the mile 12 marker, there were photographers taking pictures and one of them said, “You just got lapped,” referring to the marathoner who ran by before me. That’s real encouraging…but I didn’t really care because I was close enough to my goal time.

I knew as I approached mile 12 and got back into Independence Grove that I wasn’t going to get a sub-2 hour time, but I figured I might as well try to get as close to it as possible. I picked up my pace for a little while, but ended up slowing again (that last mile always feels so long). We got a headwind as we were nearing mile 13, which wasn’t fun, but once I passed that last mile marker, I stepped it up and sprinted that last 0.1 miles. I always do this in training, which I think pays off, since I had a pretty good time for that last portion according to my Garmin. Gerald was able to catch me finishing too because I called him when I hit mile 10 so he’d know to start heading to the finish line.

My official finishing time was 2:03:33 and I’m happy with that. It’s still 20 minutes faster than my first half! I placed 16th in my age group out of 69 people. Next time I’ll be aiming for a sub-2 hour half marathon. 🙂 I took last week to do a couple recovery runs and today began training for my Turkey Trot 8k.

Congrats to everyone who ran the Chicago Marathon last weekend too!

Me with my supportive husband

Half Marathon #2 complete!

 

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Race Report: Allstate 13.1 Chicago Marathon

Pre-race (l to r: Sammy, Boyi & me)

I haven’t written on here in a LONG time. I’ve actually had a few posts running through my head, but I was waiting to see how things would turn out before I actually wrote about them. So new post coming soon!

For today though, I want to give a little race recap of my first half marathon. This was one of my running goals since I started running about 3 years ago. I never would’ve imagined that I’d run 13.1 miles, but last year the idea became a little more realistic to me when I finished the Soldier Field 10 Miler (and with a pretty good time for my first time doing a longer distance too).

One of the girls in my youth group, Boyi, suggested we do the 13.1 Chicago Marathon last year (if the name confuses you, it’s a half marathon, not a full). The 13.1 is a race series that hosts half marathons in various cities across the U.S. The price wasn’t too bad compared to other half marathons (especially if we signed up early) and I figured, why not? After all, one of my goals was to run a half and it’s much better to run it with someone you know. So we signed up last fall. Training started in late February for me. Unfortunately Boyi and I only did two training runs together for the entire 16 weeks of training (I used SmartCoach to provide my training plan). I think with our schedules and just not living that close together made it difficult to run together. So most of my training was solo. I usually run by myself anyway, but sometimes for those longer distances it can be tough to do it yourself. I guess it builds my mental toughness, which is just as important in running as the physical.

Post-race – we finished!

Race day (Saturday) called for hot weather. The race organizers though were great at keeping us updated and giving us warnings about the weather and what they were doing to help. They had lots of hydration stations, added spray mists on the course, a cooling towel at the halfway mark, & warned us to slow down. My cousin Sammy ran this race with us. We all got up super early on Saturday morning (and my wonderful mom also got up at 3:30 to drive us down to Chicago) so we could be in the city to catch the 5:30 am shuttle. It was nice they did that for us though because I wasn’t too stressed out the morning of this race. We got to the starting line with plenty of time (unlike for Soldier Field when we were stuck in traffic to find parking so my parents had to let me off to walk to the starting line & then I had to wait in a ridiculous line for the bathroom & hurry to get in my start corral).

To make a long story short, I ran with Boyi in her wave. By the time we actually started it was half an hour into the race & they already put on the yellow flag telling us we didn’t have ideal race conditions. We started out at a comfortable pace, but once we got to mile 4 we were doing a little walking, slow jogging, stopping at every hydration station & even taking a bathroom break between miles 8-9. I knew Boyi hadn’t gotten to train as much as I did, so I wanted to stay with her as much as possible. The heat was making it challenging for her and by mile 10 she told me to go ahead without her (she told me that a few times before, but I didn’t listen). Her legs were cramping a little and she said she was going to walk. I felt kind of bad leaving her, but I mostly just wanted her to be okay. I didn’t want her to get heat stroke or anything like that. I gave Boyi one of my small water bottles from my hydration belt and ended up running the last 5k of the race by myself.

I felt pretty good up until mile 10 of the race because we’d taken a few breaks along the way and I wasn’t really pushing the pace. So I started off a little fast when I went on my own but ended up slowing down because of the heat (there also seemed to be fewer hydration stations on the way back) & I think because my legs were reminding me that I did run 10 miles before that 5k. On average, I kept about a 9-10 min/mile pace (but kept it under 10 min/mi). Finally when I heard the announcer & saw the gates toward the finish line, I started sprinting. I ended up slowing down a little bit though because it was still a long way to the finish line! Once the finish line was in view, I pushed myself as hard as I could. I actually felt a little bit like I could throw up, but I kept trying to breathe deeply and went straight for the water after I crossed the finish line. I passed a group of people on the way to the finish, so I’m glad I finished strong. I think it pays off to sprint to the finish at the end of all my training runs.

Sammy finished in 1:48 and placed first in her age group (it was her first half too). She’s just an amazing runner though. My final finishing time ended up being 2:24:30. Not exactly my 2 hour goal, but I’m already planning on doing the Prairie State Half Marathon in October where I can try to achieve that timing goal. I still finished 13.1 miles–the longest I’ve run to this date! Boyi ended up finishing about 15 minutes after me, so that wasn’t too bad, actually. Everyone finished safely, and that’s all that matters.

This weekend makes me think of this verse: “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1b) I know it’s not exactly about running a physical race in context, but the parallel is still there. It doesn’t matter if we got to the end running or walking–we still persevered even when it got tough or when we feel like quitting. Gerald told me before I did the race that we weren’t made to run that far. Well, maybe we’re not made to put ourselves through that kind of physical test, but God still gave us the ability to do things we never thought possible. I know I never thought I’d be a half marathoner!

I finished!

Boyi, my running partner

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Winter Running

This winter I’ve been avoiding getting a gym membership because it doesn’t really fit into our budget. This works out fine for me normally because I can run and bike outside (I just can’t swim if I’m triathlon training). G and I have also been going to the gym at Trinity for free since he’s an alum. It’s just a little far and inconvenient for me since I have to go when he goes.

Luckily I’ve found a small indoor track I can run at for free when I run after work, but I’ve also started my first season of winter running. I never used to run outdoors in the winter if it was below 40 degrees (unless it was for a fall race), but with the mild winter we’re having I decided to be tougher and run. The Runner’s World “What Should I Wear?” tool is really helpful in helping to decide what to wear when running in certain temps and weather. You can put in the temperature, add in the wind factor and how you like to feel when you run (warm, cold, in-between) and they show you exactly what to wear!

Running in colder temps actually hasn’t been that bad. It’s nice because you actually don’t get overheated like you would in warmer weather. I haven’t been brave enough to go out when there was light snow on the ground, but I’ve actually started doing some short, easy runs during my lunch breaks at work. I never used to run during lunch at work either, but it’s the warmest part of the day (usually) and it’s still light outside, so I’ve taken advantage of it. Plus I don’t get home as late so my husband’s not waiting so long for dinner. 😛 Tyndale also has a shower in one of the bathrooms so I can rinse off too, if needed.

We’ve also been blessed this winter with incredibly mild weather up until now. There hasn’t been any significant snowfall until last week and we even had 50-degree days in January! I didn’t have to worry about slipping and falling on ice and I actually ran in shorts and a t-shirt. It felt like Spring. 🙂 Unfortunately, winter is officially upon us now. I haven’t ventured outside to run yet, but I’m planning on going out this weekend for a “long” run (6 miles). I wouldn’t call myself a “Winter Warrior” (yet), but I can definitely see how running outdoors through the winter is possible now.

Some tips for those who want to run in the winter but haven’t tried it yet:

  • Don’t overdress. Your body will warm up when you start running. The guide I use is if you walk outside and feel chilled, but not enough so that you’re shivering, then you’re good to go. I’ve run outside in 20-degree weather with tights, long sleeve Under Armour, a t-shirt and shorts over the tights & UA, headband to cover my ears, gloves, and a vest. That was enough.
  • Layers are key. Layers are great for winter running because they’re easy to shed if you discover that you overdressed. Once I ran in 30-degree weather with my jacket and quickly realized that I was too warm. I ended up wearing the jacket around my waist and shedding my gloves. That’s when I discovered that 30 degrees isn’t too bad for running.
  • Hydrate! It’s still important to stay hydrated when you run in the winter. It may be colder, but the air is drier. So bring that water bottle along–especially for those longer runs.

Currently I’m working on building up my running base again. Half marathon training officially starts next month!

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Race Report: Halloween Hustle 2011

On Saturday I ran the Halloween Hustle for the 3rd year in a row. This is the only race I’ve actually done annually since I

Husbands are good for stretching.

started running a few years ago, so it’s been awesome to see my progress over those years (not only in timing, but also in how I feel during the race).

It was a chilly race morning (temps in the 30s), but the sun was shining. I woke up around 6:30 and had my usual race day breakfast of oatmeal and a little bit of coffee. I was glad I picked up my race packet earlier in the week because by the time my husband and I got to the race site, it was almost 8:15 and the race started at 8:30. Luckily we also live really close (always a bonus for when I’m not doing one of those Chicago races).

I didn’t get a chance to warm up much, but I quickly found our group and passed out the costume accessories (we were M&Ms this year) then got my timing chip. I wish this race would use the D-tag timing chips instead of the velcro around the ankle. It’d be a lot easier since the chip could’ve been in the packet.

Anyway, my goal time for this race was to beat my previous 5k PR of 24:31. According to my SmartCoach training plan, I was supposed to run this race in 24:14. So my strategy was just to go out strong and try to maintain that pace for the race since this is now one of the shorter distances I run. I lined up in the start corral just before the 8-9 min/mile pace and waited for the race to begin.

Once we started, I walked a little toward the starting line and then started my watch and took off as I crossed the timing pad. The course is kind of familiar to me now since this was the third time I ran it. I remember in past years the ground had been a little wet, but this time it was nice and dry. I quickly warmed up and tried to just enjoy the run without focusing too much on my pace. I ran the first mile in about 7:48 and hit mile 2 at about 15:38. I knew I was on pace for my 24:14 finish. But then somehow in mile 3, I got faster.

Right after getting my new 5k PR

I was running slightly behind a dad and his son (he must’ve been about 6 or 7…maybe a little older) for much of the second mile. I was amazed because I knew I was running sub-8 minute miles and the kid was keeping that pace too! Most kids his age wouldn’t have that kind of endurance. It was encouraging though after the 2 mile marker to hear the dad encouraging his son as he ran. I could tell his son was getting tired because he started falling back behind his dad, but his dad kept telling him, “You trained for this. Never think you can’t do it. Only about 5 more minutes.” It was really sweet. I bet that kid’s gonna be speedier one day.

So after the dad said there were about 5 more minutes left, I passed them since I knew I was getting closer to the finish line. The finish toward the 3 mile marker and then the finish line is a straightaway, so once I turned the corner and saw it, I just took a deep breath and ran with all the energy and power I could. I passed several people on the way to the finish line and was shocked when I looked at the clock and saw I was finishing in under 24 minutes! I was even telling Gerald that morning that I didn’t think I would finish in under 24. My official time was 23:41, my new 5k PR! 🙂 I placed 5th in my age group (which is a tough one to place in), and was 102 overall. I was only about 30 seconds slower than the girl who won my AG. That’s encouraging to me. Unfortunately Gerald missed my finish, but we got a good picture right after.

As I look back over these three years of running, I’m still amazed at how I improved. I remember running this race my first year and feeling a little like I was going to throw up after I finished (I felt that way after my first 5k). The second year I remember not being able to push myself to sprint at the finish because I was so tired (that probably happened the first year too). This year I felt great at the finish and had enough energy left to do a full out sprint at the end. It’s amazing what the human body can do with a little training.

Even looking at my timing from the previous races you can see my improvement:

  • 2009: 26:50
  • 2010: 25:23
  • 2011: 23:41 (huge improvement!)

I’m sure a lot of this is due to my increased mileage this year when training for the Soldier Field 10 Miler and my extra tempo and speed work. Everyone else in our group for this race improved on their previous race times too. For two of the ladies (the ones on the left), this was only their second 5k, and they did such a great job!

Post-Race M&Ms

My last race for 2011 will be the Long Grove Turkey Trot. I’m running the new 8k course this year. I had a Groupon for this race (the 5k), but then I found out they were doing an 8k and the transferring was such a hassle. I won’t go in to that though. Then I’ll just try to maintain my running fitness through the rest of the winter and start training in February for my first half marathon!

I was never a runner (in fact, I hated running), but now I’ve gained a new appreciation for the sport and I actually enjoy those long, quiet runs. I can enjoy God’s creation, pray, and be continually amazed that He created my body to be able to run this far.

 

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Soldier Field Race Goals

Photo from Fleet Feet Sports email

So this Saturday is my longest race so far: The Soldier Field 10 Miler.  Race week has been a little rough because I haven’t gotten in many maintenance runs before race day. I was out of town Monday and Tuesday and didn’t get a chance to do my easy Monday run (I was stuck in a travel nightmare instead), but luckily I got 3.6 miles in yesterday. Hopefully my 16-week training is what will pay off on Saturday.

My SmartCoach training plan says I’m supposed to finish the race in one hour and 25 minutes (about an 8:30ish pace). Ha–I don’t know about that, but here are my own race goals for this weekend:

  1. Finish the race (in about 1 hour and 30 minutes). Since I’ve never done a race this long, my ultimate goal is just to finish it. I’ve done a couple 10 mile training runs so I know this is possible. I ran those training runs in about 1 hr. 40 min. (10 min. miles) so ideally I’d like to race it slightly faster than that by running about 9 minute miles. I’m not sure how I’ll feel that day so we’ll see how this goes (plus I don’t have a Garmin that will tell me my pace so I’m just going to have to gauge it myself).
  2. Listen to my body. Ever since I got myself a good pair of running shoes, I’ve been able to stay injury-free. I’d like to keep it that way. During the race, I’m going to be aware of what my body’s telling me. Hopefully I don’t actually get injured after all my hard training, but in terms of staying hydrated during the race too.
  3. Keep a positive attitude. They say running a race is 90% mental. Training was the time where it was more physical, pushing my body farther and showing it that it could do what I set out to do. I know I can do the 10 miles without stopping, so now I just have to keep myself going with the finish line in mind (and who wouldn’t want to finish on the 50 yard line at Soldier Field?). I like to break the race up in my mind (I did this in training too). I tell myself at 5 miles that I can do this…I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. At 6 miles, I remind myself of how I used to run 6 miles a day every few days last summer. At 8 miles, I tell myself that there are only 2 miles left. Then at 9 miles…well, how hard is it to run one more mile? It’s funny how sometimes I can be so tired after just running 3 miles but then I can keep myself going at a nice steady pace for 9 miles another day because I planned on running that far. Wherever you planned for the finish line to be, that’s where your brain tells your body it is. So it helps to play little mental games with yourself while you run.
  4. Have fun! Years ago I never would’ve thought I’d have fun while running. Yes, it’s hard. I sweat. I get tired. I want to quit. But there’s nothing like crossing that finish line and knowing I accomplished something and achieved another goal. Plus there’s nothing like running by the lake (which you don’t get to do in the suburbs much) and taking in all the sights and sounds of Chicago with it.

And as I wear that finisher’s medal proudly at the end of the race, grateful for my mom, dad, and Gerald who are getting up super early on Saturday to support me (and walk the Hut Hut Hike along with our pug), I can also remind myself that by 9:30 AM on Saturday I would’ve run 10 miles. 🙂 That’s more than we can say for most people in the city.

Do you have any other good race tips or goals to share?

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Slow Speed Ahead

I’ve been training for the past few months for the Soldier Field 10 Miler. The race is only one and a half weeks away and this will be my longest race to date. I know I can finish it–I’ve already done a couple 10 mile runs, and we’ll see how my SmartCoach training plan pays off on race day.

The other night I was looking at my training plan and I noticed that most of the days are slow running days–the plan calls for lots of easy runs (that for me are about 10 min. mile paces) and long runs (that started even slower than 10 min. miles and are now around that same pace). There’s only tempo work and speed work once a week (running at about race pace (8:30ish) or slightly faster).

Then I started thinking about my own schedule for the next few months. Starting this past weekend, life is speeding up again. Here’s what it started to look like:

  • May 14: Humboldt Park Dream Run then Gerald’s masters graduation
  • May 15: Wedding
  • May 19: Author Lisa Velthouse visiting Tyndale (so I’ll be going to Moody Radio with her)
  • May 20-22: All Church Retreat
  • May 23-24: Book Expo America in New York
  • May 27: Youth Group Senior Night
  • May 28: Soldier Field 10 Miler then wedding invitations & stuff the rest of the weekend (also need to start packing for my move!)
  • June 4: Wedding reception planning meeting
  • June 11: Bridal shower
  • June 16: Tyndale picnic
  • June 17-18: Moving day
  • June 22-25: VBS; June 23: work bridal shower
  • July 2: Was told to save this for some bachelorette event
  • July 15-17: Bachelorette party
  • July 25-29: Wedding week
  • July 30: Wedding day
  • August 1-6: Honeymoon

Whew! Just looking at that is exhausting and my summer is practically gone. It’s not that any of these things are bad things. In fact, they’re all exciting and things I’m looking forward to. But looking at that schedule, I don’t know how I’m going to survive all the crazyness. I almost forgot I’m going on a business trip next week (or more like didn’t realize it was next week). This is why as these next few months approach, I’m reminding myself to slow down.

Over the weekend, I ran a new 5k personal record in the Humboldt Dream Run of 24:31. That’s an average mile pace of 7:54. I’ve never run a 5k that fast in my life (and definitely not in training). That proves to me that my training is working and reaping results. I often felt silly about the plan telling me to run 3 miles at a 10 minute mile pace. I thought, “Ten minute miles? That’s so slow though!”I’ll admit that I didn’t usually run the 10 minute pace the whole time. I usually tried to pick up the pace near the end, but seeing how well I ran last Saturday, I think there’s something to be said for the slow training. I needed those slow runs to build up my endurance and energy for those quick, speedy workouts and ultimately for race day (though we’ll see what happens in my 10 mile race on May 28).

Me, Boyi & Jenn at the Humboldt Dream Run

So in the small amounts of time I have where I’m not rushing around to different events, I’m going to be slowing down. This includes spending more time in prayer and reading my Bible, not going out and just enjoying some down time (I’m an introvert so this is also really important for me with all these events coming up), and just resting or maybe working on some wedding things that don’t take much thought (like putting together favors). Then when I have to step it up and go, I’ll be energized and refreshed, ready to put all my effort into everything I have going on.

Slow isn’t bad–it’s necessary. So if your summer’s looking anything like mine, remember to take some time to slow down and breathe. That way you can enjoy every single moment of the busy but good times and you won’t burn out as quickly. Maybe that means saying no to going out with friends or to volunteering and attending every church event. Maybe it means taking at least one day a week just to rest (isn’t that what God wanted with the Sabbath anyway?). Even though it’s hard for some of us to sit still and do nothing, the results will be worth it.

What does your schedule look like right now? Do you need to take some time to intentionally slow down?

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