2015 Chicago Marathon Training: Week 1

Just 7 days after I finished my first Half Ironman my next training cycle began.  This week I started my 16 week training plan for the Chicago Marathon on October 11!  I fell in love with the race last year and fell in love with the idea of going back and accomplishing my goal of getting a sub 4 hour marathon (last year I got 4:06!).  Each training cycle I try to pick out some specific areas of practice that I want to work on during the weeks ahead.  For Chicago I am going to focus on a few things that I haven’t focused on as much in the past, and some that I have found have helped me get faster during some previous races.  These foci are:
1. Stretching before and after training
2. Run fast when you should run fast, and run slow when you should run slow
3. Strengthen the hamstrings and the core
Although I will obviously work on many other things during my training runs I am going to make sure to remember these goals each day.

I have never been one to just take a training plan created by one group and follow it through a race.  I have always created my own plans and have adapted them for what I am doing, what I want to do, and what I think will be best for me.  That is no different this year. I have taken a lot from Nike’s advanced Chicago Marathon training plan but have woven in many aspects of previous plans that I know helped me out a lot.  Last year in Chicago I slowed down after mile 20 and had some stomach issues that ruined my chances of a sub-4 hour race.  This year I am going to focus on increasing my mileage so that I am confident that even with any unforeseen issues, my legs will be able to carry me through to the end.

My first few weeks will be used as a base building time before I will start to ramp up the mileage later on in the cycle to build the needed strength into my legs.  Triathlon training allowed me to build the endurance that is needed so I will focus a lot more on building the strength that will compliment this endurance to cross the finish line!

WEEK 1:Building the Miles
Monday June 22: 4 Mile Slow Run
Tuesday June 23: 4 Mile Track Fartlek-Ran almost a mile at increased speed throughout the workout.
Wednesday June 24: 6 mile Slow Recovery Run
Thursday June 25: 4 Mile Slow Run-Was hampered by the heat and the run was slower than planned.
Saturday June 27: 11 Mile Long Run-Ran through Indianapolis, IN including around Lucas Oil Stadium, their downtown cultural trail and along their beautiful Canal path!
Sunday June 28: 5 Mile Recover Run

This week I am going to continue to build more mileage while continuing to work on strengthening my running specific miles.  Although the runs where your legs are tired are the hardest, they provide a lot of mental as well as physical preparation for what I know will be a hard day in October.



Ironman 70.3-Eagleman: Race Recap

This was not just my first Ironman but my first triathlon in general.  With moving to IL and this race being fairly early in the year anyways I did not get a chance to start a shorter triathlon before tackling all 70.3 miles of Eagleman. Although that fact weighed on my mind, it did not have that much impact on my race and although my time doesn’t show as well as I was hoping I think I performed well and learned so much more for all the triathlons in my future.

Saturday Expo and Bike Check-In:

Bike Racked in Transition 2

Bike is checked in and ready to go for the race!

My parents were nice enough to accompany me out to Maryland for my race.  Bride was busy studying so I figured I would make the journey by myself and take my time coming home, depending on how exhausted I would be after the race.  My parents being there with me for this journey made my race experience much better and I am happy to say they enjoyed themselves at their first triathlon as well.

We got to the expo early on Saturday so I had plenty of time to register, go to my athlete briefing and look around before heading out on a quick bike ride to get my legs warmed up before it had to be racked in transition.  I got my bike racked and checked into transition early in the afternoon and was off with my parents to relax the rest of the day before the long day that I knew would be ahead on Sunday.

Pre-Race/Transition Set-Up:
My father was nice enough to get up early and drive me to the race start so I was there by 5:10am with plenty of time to set up my transition before it closed at 6:30am.  Without having done a triathlon before this one I knew that setting everything up would take me longer than others so I wanted to leave plenty of time for me to rearrange my area if needed.  The other 25-29 year old men around me were nice and we chatted about the day ahead as we all began to get set up.  This conversation included a lot of talk about advice since many of us were doing our first 70.3 race as well as discussion about not using wet suits since the race water temp was said to be 78.6 (77.1 is the cut off for wet suit swims).  I got my transition set up (unfortunately I didn’t have my phone to take a picture!) and was off to wait until wave 20 of the swim start.

Swim Leg (1.2 Miles): 50:33
After talking to so many other athletes this weekend I believe that there are two distinct groups of triathletes: 1)those that like the swim and 2)those that don’t.  I, along with the vast majority of triathletes, fall into the second group so as I entered the water I was prepared for the least enjoyable part of my day and what I got did not disappoint.

The swim started my swimming out about 10 yards off the pier to a shallow area where you could stand for the start. As the gun sounded I was prepared for the chaos of the mass start and stayed in my spot for just a few seconds to allow those serious swimmers a chance to go ahead.   As I began the adrenaline began to pump and I began to remember all the time I had spent in the pool, specifically for this moment.  As I began to maneuver around those slower swimmers I realized that some were still standing.  The shallow area (approximately 4 feet deep) went out for the first 100 meters or so.  I slowly stood up and began to use the shallow area to catch my breath and relax before hitting the deeper water.

I did it! I finished the swim!

I did it! I finished the swim!

After about 300 meters in the water my body wasn’t relaxing very well and I knew that if I was going to get through this swim I needed to calm down, catch my breathe and remember that I will make it through this swim.  That is exactly what I did.  I took my time by treading some water to catch my breathe and slow my heart rate and remind myself that I trained hard for this and was prepared.  As I started going again I remained calm and slowly got closer to the first swim turn (first of two).  As I made the turn I realized that the reason that first straight away seemed so difficult was because we were swimming against the current and now the current was pushing us.  With that help I felt like I was flying when I reached the second turn back towards the exit.  After that turn is where I began to catch swimmers from the group ahead of me (they started 4 minutes earlier) and I began to think about my transition.  About 250 meters out it got shallow again and you had to basically walk in.  The water was only about 2 feet deep for this section, even too shallow for your arms to stroke.

As I came into the finish I realized I had done it.  The hardest part (so I thought) was over and I knew then that I would finish the race!


Bike Leg (56 Miles): 3:34:22
Getting Ready for the BikeAlthough a lot of my early training focused on my weakest leg (the swim) a lot of my recent training had focused on getting miles in on the bike.  One of these training rides even included riding this specific route during the Six Pillars Century Ride (see the review here) in May before moving to IL.  That ride, followed by a short run, provided me with a lot of comfort about this course when I hit the road on Sunday.  I knew it was going to be a hot day so I took some time to put on a cycling jersey over my tri suit so I could carry my nutrition and cover up my shoulders to avoid being sun burnt.

The route takes the riders through the Blackwater Nature Preserve where you can regularly see eagles nesting (hence the name of the race). Along with animals along the way you can also guarantee that there will always be wind.  The nature preserve is located between two bodies of water and that causes wind to come from all directions at all times.  On most hot days you would welcome the wind, but this wind was not cool, but instead it was just blowing hot air into your race the whole day.

None the less, I was feeling good going into the bike leg and as I got out on the ride I realized that I would easily be able to get a faster time than on my ride during the century just a month before.  But at around mile 35 all my joy of how well the race was going began to disappear.  The arch of my foot began to hurt and I could tell, without getting off my bike that it would make my run really hard…and painful. Coming in from the bike my emotions were running high, I was excited that my legs felt great and that I crushed my previous time on the course but I was so upset that my foot was hurting so badly that I knew then my run would not be fun, and would not be a good time.

Run Leg (13.1 Miles): 2:59:57
I got off the bike and tried to take a few steps and could only limp.  I arch was hurting so bad on my right foot that I couldn’t put my full weight without a lot of pain.  I thought it would get better in a few minutes so I got ready for my run.  I put on more sunscreen, grabbed my hat and started to head out to the course but despite my hopes my foot did not feel any better.  I knew that I had to put in the miles so I began to walk with the continued hope that it would eventually heal up enough that I could run in.  I walked for the first 2 miles before my foot felt well enough to run and when I did I only was able to make it about a half mile.  From then on I would run as far as I could before the pain became too much and then walk until my foot felt better.

Although it felt like forever by the halfway point I came to the realization that I was going to finish, not with my ideal time but I would finish.  I know that not every race is going to be your best but I always hope that an injury like this would not hobble me during a race.  The temperature continued to rise through the afternoon and didn’t make it any easier to do the run, adding to the difficulty I experienced throughout the time pounding the pavement.

As I pasted the 10 mile marker I told myself that now was the time to push yourself despite the pain and after the 10 mile marker the only times I walked were through the 2 water stations, trying to finish as strong as I could. Crossing the finishing line I was proud, despite the struggles. I finished my first 70.3 and I know that I will do another one as soon as I can.  Although my next endurance adventure will be this fall is not a triathlon, I am already planning my 2016 year to include AT LEAST one triathlon!!!


Crossing the Finish Line

TOTAL TIME: 7:39:38

Final Thoughts:
I didn’t have the best race, my foot bothered me more than I could have imageined and I know that if that did not happen I would have gotten under 7 hours.  I found, through all the training, the early mornings and the early nights that I am in love with triathlon.  Although running is still my first love, this triathlon proved that not only can I excel at another endurance challenge, but that I can push myself further than I thought and that with training I can do anything…maybe event 140.6 in 2016!

The design of the Eagleman medal!

The design of the Eagleman medal!

Ironman 70.3-Eagleman: The Time is Here

Tomorrow I will leave for MD to complete my goal for the last 5 months.  Since right after completing the Disney Marathon in January my sights have been set on completing this Ironman.  I have logged many hours in the pool, in the saddle and on the pavement in order to get to today.  Looking back on the 4 months I can definitely tell I have improved in all three aspects of the race.  I know that I will continue to train my swimming and cycling after the race although my focus will quickly switch to running in order to prepare for the Chicago Marathon in October.

Cambridge, MD

SWIM Training:
My swim training has been the best and the worst aspect of my training.    I have never really been a swimmer and although I was also comfortable in the water (thanks to childhood swim lessons) I never looked as swimming as an activity that I wanted to do.  Knowing that  I focused early on building up my swimming endurance as well as improving my swimming technique and this focus has paid off.  During the cold months of January, February and March I was able to build up my swimming so when it was warmer I was able to focus on getting outside on the bike and running.  At the same time I have not been able to practice my swimming in open water and my warm-up on race day will be the first time I will swim, for distance, in open water.  That fact makes me the most nervous and I know that after I exit the water I will feel very relieved.

Six Pillars Century RideBIKE Training:
Before moving back to IL I had the chance to ride the exact Eagleman Course during the Six Pillars Century Ride.  (I review the ride here.)  This ride not only showed me the course and provided a comfort with it that I can take into the race on Sunday but it also provided the beginning of one of my best training days of the whole 20 weeks.  After that ride I got off the bike, simulated a transition to my run and ran some miles around Cambridge where the run course is located.  That day proved to me that I can do this and that I will complete this race!

RUN Training:
Oddly enough triathlon training has just made me love running more.  I think it is because in my training schedule I have focused on the other two aspects so much that running became my relief and my break from the grind of swimming laps and biking the miles.  Also during my training I set a huge Half Marathon PR at the Shamrock Half Marathon in VA Beach (Review is available Here).  I am confident that although my legs may feel like jello after the bike ride, they will be able to take me through the final 13.1 miles and to the finish line.

I remember going into my first marathon I could not help but question weather or not I was able to finish.  I knew that I had trained enough to finish and I was in good enough shape, but when you are going into something new you cannot help but think that there is a chance that you may not be able to finish.  That is the same feeling I have now.  I know that my training has been good enough, and I have remained focus on this goal and have had a great training period but there is always that doubt until I cross the finish line.  Starting the training I wasn’t sure if I would even like Triathlon training but I have fallen in love with the sport and am already planning on when my next tri will be.

I hope to finish faster than 6 hours, but will be happy just to finish.  Unlike when I run a half or full marathon, I am not going out there to focus on my time, but instead, Sunday I will just focus on the finish.  I want to give my best effort, and constantly push myself to go as fast as I can but I can always remind myself that the joy in this race will be finishing and that there is no pressure on me besides crossing that finish line.



My First Half Marathon

Greetings from Illinois! The days following my FIRST half marathon were completely nuts. Lots of packing and goodbye parties. My last day of work was Wednesday, we loaded the Uhaul on Thursday, arrived in Carbondale on Friday and on Saturday morning we unloaded into our new apartment. Then it was time for a camping trip in Florida and finally the beginning of PA school. A whirlwind for sure!

Confession: there has not been a lot of running.

But, I wanted to write my recap of the Delaware marathon before it becomes a too distant memory. In the days leading up to the race I felt prepared. Thanks to my awesome coach, Runner, and his training schedule. No, I did not do every run. There was time that I took off for knee pain and time that I was suffering from allergies. My longest run before the race was 10 miles.

We arrived in Delaware on Saturday morning around noon. The drive up was easy with minimal traffic. Wilmington is Delaware’s largest city, which we found much more exciting than it’s capital of Dover. The Running Festival was smaller than I expected. My dream of seeing elite athlete,Titus Rotich, happened earlier than expected when he cut Runner in line during T-shirt pick-up. Ha!

We looked up things to do in downtown Wilmington but didn’t really find anything better than heading over to the Christiana Mall which was crazy busy. We walked around a bit and then headed to the movie theater. I took a nice nap during Avengers 2!

I booked a room through Hotwire and was pleased to find out that it was an Official Race Hotel, the Sheraton Suites Wilmington Downtown. Our room was a suite, natch, with a huge living room. We also got a goodie bag from the race upon check-in.

The morning of the race, I took my time getting ready. We were able to park close to the start and finish line. At the start of the race I was so excited in anticipation of what I was about to accomplish. The song that was playing as we crossed the start line was “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon, a good omen! (A frequently played song in training)

The first three miles of the race were a bit crowded but listening to the steps of all the runners was really cool. We ran on the city streets and then turned around through a shopping mall. It was still very congested at this point and many runners around us were complaining. It was also insanely humid and the sweat was pouring! We ran along the riverfront and then back past the festival grounds at Tubman Park.

Shortly after this, Runner and I had a dispute over drinking enough water at the water station. I’ll admit to not being very prepared for this aspect of the race. In my training, I rarely drank water until I was done, even on the longer 8 and 10 miles lengths.


Not pleased


Still married!

Our run through the Zoo and Brandywine Park was so pretty and shaded. Of course it was overcast and humid – so it didn’t make much of a difference. The suspended bridge was my favorite section of the race. It is featured on the medal. I just wish the photographer was there to capture our crossing. Then we ran up some really long inclines for what seemed like forever… but, the homes were pretty to look at. Also, anticipating the really long decline helped too.

Runner’s favorite part of the race, Little Italy, was my second favorite. Bernie’s Italian Ice in lemon was heaven. Yum! Although, I didn’t finished my cup, the lingering lemon taste really helped. This was also the part of the course when we were passed by Rotich. I kept hearing the cop sirens and was getting excited to run with the elite. However, he came and passed us in the blink of an eye.

Throughout the race there was a young kid who caught my eye because he would sprint by me and then I would slow and steady catch up to him (very much the tortoise and the hare, lol). So I made it my goal to beat him. Spolier alert: I DID. Near the end of mile 11, I finally got him back in my sights and he was walking! Well, I passed him and didn’t see him for the rest of the race. Woo hoo – take that 14 year old! Runner informed me of this well after we had finished the race. Because the end of the race was a real dooz-ey…

Mile 12 was a real nightmare for me. So close yet so very far… my body completely seized up (much like it did in my early days of running). I was crying like a baby and just barely moving my legs… I was walking for a good portion. I saw that mile marker for 12 and at the same time saw the steepest hill of the entire race. Oh my body was not pleased….


It hurts so bad


It hurts so good

It was only for the last few blocks that I was able to pick up my pace, after getting my motivation from the crowds. My legs started moving again and I was able to run through the finish line….crying like a baby! Lol I think I scared the girls who were handing out the medals. I also gave Runner a dramatic kiss infront of them.

Chip Time: 2:53:40.8
Overall Place: 1021 out of 1151
Age Group Place: 83 F 25-29 out of 88 total participants in the Female 25 to 29 age group
Pace: 13:15/M/mile

I’m so proud to say that I’ve completed a half marathon.

Lessons learned: If anything, I can say that I’m a fan of 10Ks. During my training I ran two of them for time. I also love running outside. The majority of my training has been indoors on the treadmill. I am sick of the treadmill. The hills on the course were a real challenge for me. I was taken completely by surprise by them. Well, guess who lives on the top of a hill now? This girl. I’ll get plenty of practice.