Chicago Marathon Training {Week Two}

I had been running for four hours and I still had four miles to go. I was swearing like a sailor and crying. My knees were the size of mini basketballs and it was hot for a June morning in Seattle. With the help of my mentor Meghan an hour later I crossed the finish line – immediately hobbling to the medic for ice.


Six years ago on Saturday, I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. Just a year after lacing up my shoes for the first time, I was a marathoner. I didn’t run a step for a month after that race. I was in too much pain from the tendinitis I’d earned running too much. This Saturday I ran my entire run at an average pace I couldn’t even run a mile at back then. As I enjoyed the serenity of an early morning solo run, I reflected on just how far I’ve come as a runner. Thousands of miles, dozens of pairs of shoes, injuries, physical therapies, two pregnancies and two kiddos later, I’m still running strong.

Training this week:

Monday – Rest (Much needed)
Tuesday – 7 mile tempo run
Wednesday – Total Conditioning class + 15 minutes stationary bike
Thursday – 6×800 @7:08
Friday – Rest
Saturday – 14 miles
Sunday – 3.5 mile hike with family

Chicago Marathon Training {Week One}

I am so incredibly behind on blog posts. I have at least half a dozen drafts partially completed and collecting dust. This post being purely about training and not requiring pictures or more thoughtful words, is an easy place to start.

This week was my first official week of training for the Bank of American Chicago Marathon. Woohoo! I’m again using the Less is More training plan but with an additional 20 miler added in there. I contemplated keeping my plan as I did it for Twin Cities, but decided why not add one more 20? After all I have a very lofty (and probably unrealistic) goal for this marathon. What is that you may ask? Run a Boston Qualifying time. The minimum is 3:35 which is an average of an 8:12 min/mile. To actually get a spot in the race for 2017, a time 1-2 minutes faster than that will likely be required. I have some thoughts of the registration process I’ll share at a later date.

With my plan in place, it is time to work it. We’re still trying to get settled into our new summer routine. Hours to everything have changed, one of Ella’s camps was unexpectedly cancelled and we seem to be traveling quite a bit. Hopefully we will figure it all out and I will be a bit more consistent with my cross-training.

Here’s how week one shaped up:

Monday – Total Conditioning class + 15 minutes on elliptical
Tuesday – 5 mile tempo run
Wednesday – Unplanned rest day but a couple of walks with the kiddos
Thursday – 4×1200 intervals @ 7:13 min/mile pace
Friday – 3.5 mile walk with the kiddos
Saturday – 1850 yd swim + 30 minutes on elliptical
Sunday – 13.12 mile long run

I have an additional tool keeping me motivated to get a minimum of 10k steps every day, my new Garmin Vivoactive. I’m loving it so far. It even tracked my swim workout on Saturday. I’m still getting use to the screens during my runs but I think it’s more me needing to get used to a substantially smaller screen than my old 205. I’ll have to do a post about the new watch once I have used it for more than just a few weeks.

It feels good to be in training. I’m also relieved to have booked an apartment for us to stay in for the race. The kids will even be in their own bedroom so I can (hopefully) get a good nights sleep prior to the race, unlike in Fargo. Next week will build on this week before a taper the week of the 4th. Hopefully I feel as good as I did during my runs this week.

Party with Another Mother Runner

Last week I had an evening with some fellow mother runners that did not involve spandex, gels, or Garmins. After enjoying a yummy dinner at Ginger Hop, we walked down to Mill City Running to meet Another Mother Runner. Yep, Dimity was in town to promote the newest Another Mother Runner book.  As soon as I walked in the door I was excited. We got there slightly early so we had the pick of the shirts. I saw this one and had to have it. Lucky me, the book was just $10 extra.

Purchase in hand, off we went to fetch glasses of wine and add our contributions to the badass wall.

They said if we stick it on there is has to come true. Fingers crossed.

With good juju coming our way for adding our dreams to the wall, we made our way over to meet Dimity. I knew she was tall, but I was amazed at how short I felt. We helped represent Sarah by holding her picture up for our group photo.

She was so friendly. All I wanted to do was gush about how much I miss Colorado, but how happy I was to have found such an amazing group of women to run with. I settled for telling her I was aiming to qualify for Boston in October as she signed my book. Maybe it will bring me extra luck?

Buy cute shirt and book. Check. Drink glass of wine. Check. Meet Dimity and have my book signed. Check. I was ready to listen to the speakers and some of the essays from the book.

As I was standing there listening, I kept looking at a woman next to me. I was thinking to myself she looks so familiar and definitely looks fast. I checked out her name tag and decided to Google her. Yeah, obviously I’m not from Minnesota or I would have known she was a local Minnesotan Olympian. Carrie Tollefson shared her own running tips, struggles and personal trials and triumphs. She kept it real about not always wanting to go running and sometimes having to motivate herself by sleeping in her running clothes.As I listened to the essays being read and the stories being told by women there, I found myself laughing, nodding in agreement, sighing with empathy and on the verge of tears. I was inspired by how much these women were putting out to the world, to their fellow mother runners. It made me proud to me a member of such an amazing tribe of women.

Walking to my car and driving home, I thought about how lucky I’ve been to having running to lean on. It’s gotten me through the stress and anxiety of moving to a new state with no family or group of friends.It helped me put myself out there to meet new people and push myself to accomplish more. Even a year ago I’d never have set a goal to qualify for Boston, not believing it was ever going to be possible. Now I know I can do it and I have a group of people (other than  my family of course) providing encouragement and cheering for me every step of the way. I don’t think I would have adjusted as well if I had not found my running group. It’s amazing what running can do.

At the end of the night we were sent home with a goodie bag full of awesomeness. Too bad it didn’t include a sports bra because when I got to the gym that night, I discovered my bras were on my bed, not in my bag. I made it four miles in my regular bra, tank with a built-in bra and my t-shirt before having enough. Ouch.

Birdtown Half Marathon – Race Recap

One of my favorite things about small local races is that we can arrive a half hour before the start and have plenty of time. That’s exactly what Josh and I did yesterday in Robbinsdale. We got to the park where we’d be starting about 7:30.


We both had time to hit the porta potty and meet up with a couple of the Mother Runners who were also doing the half, 8k or 4k.

MRTT Pre-race

Once we snapped our picture we walked over to the starting line. It was on a bike trail at the park. Just a simple spray painted start line with a timing mat. After the national anthem we were off. I had lined up near the 1:50 pacers just so I didn’t go out too fast and I thought it would be feasible for me to keep an 8:24 pace at least until the hills. I was told the course was hilly which I thought would probably make my legs want to fall off.

We weren’t even to the first mile when we saw a huge group of runners coming back towards us. Turns out they’d missed the turn! I didn’t see Josh in the group so I was worried he’d dropped out due to hip pain. I later found out, he and about 10 other people that were in the lead (he was fourth at the time) never turned around at the missed turn and kept going none the wiser.

We made the turn and kept on chugging. Luckily from then on the course was fairly well marked with volunteers who were paying attention. Just before mile three we turned into another park where we had to run on grass for about a quarter mile. I was not excited about that. Once we were off of it, we were on a beautiful, tree-lined gravel path. It was humid out and I was starting to get hot so the gentle breeze through the trees felt great. My watch was telling me I was about .15-.20 miles off of the mile markers. When we hit the fourth mile, I was showing only 3.88 miles. I figured either I was working my tangents well or the course was going to be short. (First four mile splits: 8:15, 8:19, 8:30, 8:19)

Somewhere around our grassy area, I had lost the pacers. I was feeling good at the pace I was holding and decided to just go with it. If I had to slow down at the end so be it. We hit a big hill about mile five. It just kept going. My head was telling me to walk but I ignored it and powered up the hills. Because it was rather humid, I was taking water at every water stop. I was carrying a gel with me, but decided that I better wait as long as possible to take it, not wanting to risk stomach issues. The nice things about big hills is you get to go down them. Unfortunately at the bottom of this hill was another hill. I was happy when the big hills were over. (Miles 5-7 splits: 8:27, 8:23, 8:18)

Around mile eight I calculated that I should get a new PR even if I slowed down to a 10 min/mile pace. I tried not to look at my watch at all until I passed mile markers. Apparently around this mile, Josh and another group of runners missed another turn. Again cutting the course short. I’ll get back to that in a minute. I had been chasing a woman for a few miles and finally caught up to her around mile nine. We chatted briefly until the next water stop where I lost her. When I got to mile 10 I thought about taking my gel. My energy was starting to lag but there was a serious lack of porta potties. I put the gel in my sports bra and decided I’d have to go without it. (Miles 8-10 splits: 8:22, 8:13, 8:19)

At mile 11 I caught up with another woman I’d been behind most of the race. It was just the two of us on the street for a few minutes. Again we chatted and lost each other at the next water stop. I will say this race did well having water stops every few miles. I never did see the stop where they were supposed to have gels, but that’s why I always bring my own. The mile 12 marker was just behind me and my watch was still telling me about .20 miles behind that. Now I knew I was going to PR. We had one more little hill before heading down to the finish line. I was able to pick up the pace in the last few miles, especially the last mile and cruise across the finish line. (Miles 11-13 splits: 8:20, 8:15, 7:48)

Jess and Josh post race

Garmin Stats:

Distance: 12.90 miles      Time: 1:47:04       Pace: 8:17 min/mile

So if I add the rest of the distance at my 8:17 pace, my finishing time would actually have been 1:48:35. Still a PR by a couple minutes.

Official Stats:

Distance: 13.1 miles        Time: 1:47:05       Pace: 8:12 min/mile

I was satisfied with my race and was thinking, I might even have a chance to place in my age group. Of course it wasn’t until I found Josh that I learned what a huge disaster the race was for the first 10-15 runners. Thanks to missing the first turn, Josh and at least 10 other runners skipped about half a mile. The second missed turn added another half mile or so of missed distance. Josh was running down the finish line, heard them say, here comes the 4th half marathon finisher, but he turned around because his watch only said 11.XX miles. He ran the extra distance and then finished, which put him in 10th place overall.

What this is all means is that the winners and some of the top age group finishers only ran 11+ miles, not even close to the 13.1 they were supposed to. Josh was pretty pissed. I can’t say I blame him. As we looked at the results when we got home, it’s pretty obvious that the winners missed an entire mile. I guess that’s a possibility in these small races.

My official finishing information put my as the 33 of 230 finisher. I was 5th in my age group of 54 and 7th out of 109 women. Still very good, especially since I just ran a marathon, but I’m irritated with the skewed results thanks to missed turns.

This race has the potential to be great. The course offered a lot of variety and was pretty. They need to measure it longer than 13.1 rather than right at it to prevent it from being so short. They also need to have more volunteers and mark the course better. A leader on a bike directing the front of the pack is a huge necessity. The race director could also use a public relations person or at least a lesson in appropriate tone and content of communication. It was awful.

Anyway, that’s the last of my races for a while. I think that I’ll find a half marathon to do some time late summer to gauge where my speed is at during the Chicago training cycle. Josh was encouraging me to do a 10k next weekend, then a 5k the next just as a step down every week in the month of May. It’s not going to happen though as he and I will be out of town the last weekend of May (first trip alone!) and next weekend there are a bunch of 5ks but not 10ks.

Recovery Week

recovery [ri-kuhv–uh-ree]

noun: act of recovering.

2.the regaining of or possibility of regaining something lost or taken away.

3.restoration or return to health from sickness.

4.restoration or return to any former and better state or condition.

Recovery seems to mean something different for everyone. For me, it typically means doing as little as possible the week after a marathon. Usually I’m sore for days and walking like a duck up and down the stairs…very slowly. This time around, I decided to have a more active recovery.

Sunday morning I woke up pretty sore. It took me a few minutes to get down the stairs and once I was sitting, getting back up was a little rough. After breakfast with the family I packed up my gym bag and headed out for a swim. Swimming became my favorite workout to do after longer runs over the winter. i knew it would feel good to stretch my legs without any impact. i swam for about a half hour and when I got out of the pool, i felt great. Later in the day I was treated to a Mother’s Day 60 minute massage.

Monday morning I woke up feeling like a new person. My quads were a little sore but I had no problem with stairs or getting up or down. As per my usual routine, I took a full rest day. I drank (and ate) a lot while just hanging out with the kids. I swam again on Tuesday and felt good enough to ride a stationary bike on Wednesday before Anderson’s early childhood class. Today I really wanted to run, but instead I went for a swim and a short bike ride. I really think the swimming, plus massage has help immensely. I think it will be my new go-to strategy.

We were able to find a babysitter and I’m feeling so good, that I decided to run the half marathon Josh and I signed up for months ago. Obviously I’m not going to run really hard because I just don’t think my legs will carry me. I’m just going to run it for the fun of a small town half with Josh.