Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

A couple weeks ago, I took my group run (with the help of Jill) to a neighborhood that has a pretty decent lights display. It included the "Christmas House". My pictures do not do this justice but it was spectacular. One of the best houses I've ever seen.  We ran past it on this past Tuesday night as well. The guy that owns the house also plays Santa from December 15-23 from 7p.m. to 9p.m. For Free! How nice is that. There was a long line when we stopped by on our run on the 23rd, since it's the last day! We talked to him a couple weeks ago and he is super nice. He sits in a sleigh in his driveway. It's pretty cool. Of course my run group had to take a photo in the sleigh!

Hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy your holidays!

His garage!

My Thursday night run group!

Me and my friends Julie and Jill!
Photo from this past Tuesday night (Derek, Me, Melanie, Jill)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Valpo Half and Schaumburg Half Recap (+ Pickle Juice Review!)

Well it appears as though I will never get to those race recaps from the half marathons I did in November!  So I will briefly update you!


I did the Valparaiso Half Marathon on November 9th! It was one week after my Ultra that I completely struggled with and the last thing I wanted to do was run a half marathon. I was pretty much OVER running at this point. But I won this entry and it's SO HARD to pass up a free entry to a half marathon!

I drove down with Julie, Melanie, and Julie's son Jimmy.  It's always so nice to do far away races with others. 

L-R: Melanie, Me, Julie, Jimmy
You can read Melanie's recap of this race here.

The course was very flat. There were aid stations every 2 miles almost like clockwork. The beginning and end were out and back with the middle being a square. This would actually be a very good half to PR (if the wind stayed to a minimum) since there are not a ton of turns and it's pretty flat. I think with how open the land area is, however, there is potential for it being a pretty windy run most times.

For me personally, I started out hating the run...but then I literally yelled at myself a couple miles in that I like running.  "Remember Amanda, you like this. You like running!"  And it worked temporarily!  The wind died down. There were a good amount of spectators considering we were in the middle of nowhere.

I did see COWS!!  I took a picture of these cows. After, a woman said something about it "not being like in Chicago!"  Then a guy said, "Oh! You are from Chicago. I was wondering why you were taking a picture of the cows!

It's not every day I run past COWS!!
I finished in 2:21:16. Clearly I wasn't racing it. But considering I just got done doing my full marathon (PR) on Oct 19th, and my ultra on Nov 1st, I wasn't looking for anything but running a half, having fun, getting a medal, and going home. Bonus...I saw COWS!

Oh and I forgot to mention the post-race food! Wow! I have NEVER seen a spread like that. I didn't even get to everything. There was chili, cookies, pizza, ice cream, apple cider, doughnuts, nutrigrain bars, someone said there was spanish rice. It was INSANE! I was so full when I left!  Definitely worth the zero dollars I paid for it. But it's really only about $40 or so for this half anyway. So even though it's out in the middle of nowhere and Indiana races can be less than stellar, this was a pretty good small Indiana race!


I waited to sign up for this race until after my full marathon in Grand Rapids. This turkey trot half has been on my radar for a couple years now but since I'm always doing a race on Thanksgiving morning, I never want to venture out for another race the Saturday after Thanksgiving!  Since I was on cloud 9 after my full marathon, I signed up for it!  Then of course, you know how I felt after the ultra and was regretting the decision of doing these 2 half marathons the same month!

Again, just lacing up my shoes and planning on running for fun and a medal, I drove down with my friend Sharon and another run group member Cheryl that I had just met. It's about an hour drive so again, nice to not be alone!

Many of my other run group friends got suckered decided to do this race as well so it was a whole lot of fun to see so many people I knew there!  A few even came to just spectate! So awesome of them to cheer us on!

FNRC representing!

L-R: Susan, Me, Nicole
Susan was going to be a pacer with the 2:15 pace group so I hung with that pace group for the first 6 miles or so. I just wanted "feeling" that pace though and slow moved behind them after that. It was nice catching up a bit with her though.

This course was on Busse Woods trail which I've never been to but have always wanted to check out. My thoughts on the course (from what I remember now) is that there are definitely a few hills. But if you are from Kalamazoo, Michigan, I guess it's flat as a pancake (Yes, I was talking to someone from Kalamazoo around mile 10-11).  Mostly, yes, it is very flat. But there is a giant hill that we run up twice. Plus one or two other good size hills. Nothing too extreme though. There was a lot of ice that day but luckily it really only affected us in the beginning and in a few spots throughout.  I remember thinking the area was "peaceful". It seemed like a very nice trail! I wish I lived closer to check it out a bit more often.

Even though it was icy in some spots, it was an unusually warm day compared to how it had been the week prior. I'm really glad I wore 1 layer and wasn't over dressed like some people! I was still warm and unzipped my long sleeve a bit!

I guess I was supposed to see an Elk Pasture. I didn't. Some people said the Elk weren't there, others said it was very far away and you could barely see it. Periodically I kept thinking I needed to look for the Elk but then would forget and focus on running.

Ultimately, I finished this half in 2:19:44. I was super thrilled it was my last big race of the year! Rest and recovery time!

11 half of the year done! (along with a full and an ultra)
A new thing I did try at this race though was pickle juice from the Pickle Juice Company!  They were the good folks that supplied the pickle juice for the Grand Rapids Marathon. They were kind enough to send me a box of some samples!  I received some of the sports drink bottles and some of the slammer shots!  I brought both with me but decided on just bringing one of the slammer shots while running since I forgot to bring my run belt!  I was able to fit the slammer shot in the small little tiny pocket of my pants! I was shocked it fit but thrilled so I could try it.  The pickle juice is supposed to help with cramping due to the sodium among other things.

Slammer shot in my right hand and sports drink in my left
I did try the slammer shot sometime during the race, I think around mile 9. I was unsure when to take it versus when to take my Gu so I or never! The slammer shot was a tiny bit much for me to take at one time. I ended up drinking half of it and closing it up to store for the rest of my run. They have a nice screw top so it's super easy to carry it with you even after you use some.

About mile 10, I saw my friend Lauren again. She was a bit ahead of me but it looked like she was cramping or something was wrong as I saw her stop to stretch. When I caught up with her, I asked if she was alright. She said she wasn't sure if it was a cramp in her hamstring. So I offered her the rest of my pickle juice because, it couldn't really hurt at this point. I was hoping it would help. In the end, I don't think it was a cramp as much as overworked hamstring or something.

What does it taste like?  The only two times I tasted it were at the Grand Rapids Marathon and this slammer shot during this race. To me it tastes just like pickle juice! So when you aren't used to just drinking pickle juice while running, it may seem like a bit much at first!  But I'm sure after getting used to taking it, it doesn't seem so extreme! I happen to love pickle juice so not too much of a problem for me!

(Don't worry Pete, I haven't mailed a sample out to you yet, but I will!)

So I want to that the Pickle Juice Company for providing me with some samples!  I would love to try this more while training next year for my next full marathon. It might really be beneficial with the longer miles (15+)!  I may host a giveaway for a few of the samples as well! I would love for people to try it and tell me what they think, particularly for those that have cramping issues!

*Disclaimer: I was not paid to provide my opinion on the Pickle Juice Company's products. They provided me with samples of the products for review but the opinions in this blog post are all mine!

Monday, December 1, 2014

November in Review

It's December! Where is the year going?  Let's see how November shaped up!

November in Review

Running Miles: 79.84 miles
Strength Training/Cross Training Days: 11
Cycling Miles: 0 - My spin classes don't show bike miles and I did do 1 class so there's that!
# of workout days in October: 19 (63%)

Running Miles: 79.84 miles. Not bad. My goal is always 83.33 miles a month because that's what averages out per month to reach 1,000 for the year. But I am a bit ahead of that. I just don't want to leave too many miles on tap for December. I'm trying to slack! (Yes you read that right!).  I'm running but trying to take a bit of a break. I think I need it mentally.  Probably because that Ultra just did me in this month!  And on top of that, I did have 2 half marathons (which I still need to blog about) this month as well.

Lakefront Ultra 50k - Nov 1st
Valparaiso Half Marathon - Nov 9th

Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon - Nov 29th

Strength Training/Cross Training Days: 11!  That's a far cry from the one day I squeezed out last month. There's a good reason for that. I bought a 1 month unlimited (which got changed to 5 weeks unlimited) to Pure Barre. I was trying to squeeze as many days in as possible but still run and still rest. It's hard with work though.  I went to Pure Barre 8 times this month, The Dailey Method 2 times, which is a new studio that opened up, and I went to 1 spin class. I'd ideally like to go to spin class more often but they don't have many times at my gym that I can make so I'm not sure. I have 1.5 weeks left at Pure Barre but also bought a 5 week unlimited at The Dailey Method to use when Pure Barre is finished! Hoping to strengthen this core of mine!

At The Dailey Method (I'm on the left and Meghan is in the middle in the gray)
I will have to do another Pure Barre review and when I start going to The Dailey Method, I will have to review that and give a comparison of the two.  They are completely different from what I saw (which is a good thing).

Cycling Miles - Again, no cycling miles. It's winter. I did do 1 spin class but they don't say how far we've gone.  I will have to get my bike trainer and bike together and start riding that. But I need to get a thingy (technical term) that tells you how far you've gone. I don't have that yet.

# of workout days in November - 19 out of 30! Hey, not bad! It's because I was squeezing in the barre days and not just sitting on my butt when not running. But I still like my rest days so I need to get those in too. It's an important part of my recovery and not injuring myself.

I'm hoping for lots of fun stuff in December. And that doesn't necessarily include running. I am doing the Jingle Bell 5k in Kankakee In December but that's the only race I'm scheduled for.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lakefront Ultra 50k - Race Recap

(Disclaimer...hugely long race recap with lots of crying ahead...)

I did the Lakefront 50k on November 1st, which marks the second year in a row I've done this race.  They have a spring option but for fear of horrible winters and training, I've decided the fall one is the way to go. 

Yes, it's been almost a month since I've run this race. There is a good reason for that. It really just did me in this time. I mean, I didn't even want to run after running that race (this year). And I'm still not HUGELY interested in running even almost a month later. 

First of all, my friends had a good time. It just did ME in. It happens. Not all races are good ones. This one wasn't mine.  It's ok. I finished the 50k for the second time and that is a huge accomplishment. Ok, on to the recap...

First of all, thanks to Melanie from See Mommy Race for the photos. I was struggling to survive and then my phone "broke" on me. So yeah...

The race was on November 1st, which is a Saturday. The Friday before the race, there were severe winds in Chicago along the Lakefront, so much so that the trail was closed in spots because of the high waves washing up on the trail. I figured our race on Saturday would be fine because we were further south from the city, and for some reason...I thought that was reason enough (??).  I don't know.

The race starts at Jackson Park around 63rd Street and Lake Shore Drive. The 50k (31+ miles) travels north along the lake for just over 5 miles, turns around and goes back to the start. We do this "loop" 3 times. From my experience last year (read about it here), I found that I really like this setup. I didn't think I would but I like it because you know where all the aid stations are, where all the bathrooms are, and you think of it more in terms of "3 loops" instead of 31 miles. It makes it much more manageable.

I drove down to the race with Melanie. Parking is right near the start line and packet pick up. Due to the high winds the day before, those winds were still pretty fierce that morning. The race people couldn't set up the tents like normal so everything was out of vans. We got our bib out of the van and waited in the car for a bit. Finally it was time to head to the start line.

Let me back up a bit for a minute. I knew the temps were going to be about 35-40 degrees for the race. Pretty good actually. But because of the high winds, it was much colder than I anticipated (real feel temps were about 25 degrees). At the last minute, I decided to wear an extra long sleeve outer layer (so 2 layers and gloves).  I was freezing with that wind.

Me and Melanie
Melanie's mom came for support (super sweet) and we started and she took this shot at the start of the race! Thanks Melanie's mom!
Melanie in Gold and I'm in Pink
As we got to the Lakefront, the wind was straight to our faces and it was strong. I joked to Melanie that I felt like I was a part of some extreme sport!

I didn't really have any running plans in mind. I set my watch for a run/walk interval but planned on running the first full loop of 10+ miles. Then possibly start the run/walk interval for the remainder.  While running, I got word from a friend that part of the trail was not runnable and we had to run on the grass and the trail was pretty tore up in spots.  Luckily Melanie is the true blogger here and took some pictures of the "devastation"... (Photo credit for ALL the photos below are from Melanie!)

The trail was all tore up in spots from the wind and water

This was supposed to be our route but we got routed over a large hill to the left instead
(the trail was literally gone)

All those rocks and rubble...that "was" the trail

Full disclosure - Melanie got wiped out by a wave taking this photo
So as you can see, it was pretty brutal out there. Not only was the trail not runnable in a couple spots, we had to run on the grass for a bit and got detoured and had to run over a large hill.  Out and back... X 3!  It was just...not fun.

To move things along...the way out was much windier than than the way back. It was like a breath of fresh air after the turn around. But I knew that every time I got back by the start, I would have to face 5 miles of huge wind and cold directly into my face. It was mentally and physically draining for me.  Just knowing I had to do it 2 more times...  Running into the wind is clearly the thing that bothers me the most.  It's my kryptonite.

After the first 10 miles, I turned around to do it all again. I had run ahead of Melanie but I knew she wasn't far behind. That's also the beauty of this 3 - out and back - course. You see everyone so many times, which is really helpful and nice.  Especially when you really don't have any spectators there cheering you on.  The runners are your spectators.

By the half way point, I saw Melanie wasn't far behind at all and decided to wait for her. I figured it would be better to run with someone than alone. My leg (IT band) issue from the Grand Rapids Marathon (recap here) 2 weeks before started bothering me by mile 10 and I was having a hard time shaking negative thoughts off.  Melanie and I started running together for a couple minutes, but I knew I wouldn't be able to hang. I told her I need to start doing my run/walk intervals or I will never make it through. To my dismay, I let her go ahead. I didn't want to hold her back.

Running back on this second loop, all I could think about was the pain in my leg and the fact that I will have to turn around and start that windy 5 mile run back out soon. (In fact, thinking about it now, it's bringing tears to my eyes). I was really struggling mentally. So much so that with a couple miles left on that second loop (so about mile 18), I decided I was going to quit when I got to the end of the second loop. 20 miles and I would be done. I literally WANTED to quit. I even said in my mind... "I don't want to finish."  I didn't WANT to finish. I didn't want to do that wind again. My leg was bothering me and my knees were bothering me. I was so mentally and physically done. I guess doing that marathon 2 weeks before, well, I knew it didn't give me enough recovery time. And I PR'd that marathon. I pushed it. I needed more rest.

So in my mind, I was quitting at mile 20, and I didn't care. I got to the end of the second loop, hit up the aid station, smiled at people cheering and started walking the 3rd loop. I tried running for a minute but continued walking.  While walking I realized I "forgot" to quit!  I got to the aid station and turn around and just did my thing. I forgot. Literally forgot because I was 100% certain I was quitting. Well it was too late now. I was on my 3rd loop. 

While walking, I texted Derek (who was working) something like.... "I don't think I can do this. I'm walking so much." I wanted to cry. I wanted to be done. The wind was hitting me directly in the face yet again. I'm sorry if I seem like a huge baby. I'm not sure if you all have been there during a race. The loops were taking me forever to finish and I thought I didn't have another 2+ hours in me of this race.  Well, after I sent that text to Derek, my phone went dead. Nice. Derek would probably think I jumped in the Lake after that text I sent him. 

About 2 miles into the 3rd loop, I said that I was going to quit again.  I wanted to quit with like 8 miles left in the race. But at this point, I didn't know how. I would have to go another 1.5 miles to get to the next aid station! What was I going to do if I quit now?  I had no where to go. Damn... I had to suck it up.

I figured that I just wanted to finish under the 7 hour time limit. I didn't care how much below. I was walking a lot. I tried to walk up the hills. I tried to stick to some time of run/walk plan to keep me going. It was tiring to run but it hurt to walk. And starting up running after walking...the pain in my leg made it so difficult. I kept trying to calculate how much time it would take me to finish and if I would make the time limit. I knew I would but I absolutely had to keep moving forward. Walk... run... just get to the finish.

Finally I knew I was almost done.  I saw the finish hill (yes, there is a steep hill at the finish that we had to run up 3 times...after each loop).  With all the pain in my leg, I didn't care. I needed to run up that hill to the finish. I saw Derek at the top of the hill taking pictures.  I crossed the finish line. Derek came up to me and I just started crying... "That was so hard!" 

Running up the start of the hill at the end

Still running up the hill - eyeing the finish line
About to finish the 50k! I busted out a smile.
My friends Melanie and Jan came over and I felt like a huge idiot. They both had a great time and Jan rocked out her first ultra!  I stopped crying and talking to them made me smile again. I was done.

Derek told me that when Melanie and our other friends finished, they all said I was looking strong and looking good. Derek was like... "That's not what she texted me!" lol.

Well earned medal
Jan, Melanie, Me - 50k Finishers
I got my red beans and rice (so delicious) and chit chatted a bit before we all headed home.

I finished. My time was 6:40. (My previous time was 6:22).  So I didn't PR.  But that didn't matter to me for this race at all. I wish I had a better time. I wish I didn't have all the negative thoughts. But I have to give myself credit where it is due. I didn't quit (even though I tried!). I kept going when the going was tough. I smiled at my friends (ok it was all a lie in a smile...but I tried to be positive).  Long distance running isn't easy for me. I'm sure it's not easy for most. That's why I like it. It challenges me in ways I would never be challenged. It makes me realize that I have determination and heart and I can accomplish things I never thought possible. I'm no athlete, I never was. So to accomplish these things...even when the weather/race isn't cooperating with you, that takes guts. And I recognize that. It's definitely something to be proud of.  And I'm proud of myself.

Hop on over to Melanie's blog post to read a much happier review of this race!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Grand Rapids Marathon Race Recap

Going into the Grand Rapids Marathon, I knew one thing. I wanted to PR it. It was the only thing I was going to try to PR all year.

My strategy to accomplish this goal was to practice pushing through negative thoughts and to run happy and consistent. In order to PR, I didn't have to be fast. I just had to be consistent.  The few days before the race, I had some doubts. I felt like I could do it. But would I? I told myself I had to believe I could in order to succeed. My old PR is from the 2012 Chicago Marathon with a time of 4:44:54.  Ironically enough, I ran 20 miles of that race with Julie! :)  I see a theme! My goals were:

First goal: Time of 4:35
Second goal: Any time in the 4:30's (even if it was 4:39)
Third goal: PR time of 4:44:54

To say I was excited for this race was an understatement. I felt like this was going to be my first marathon (even though it was #7). I've only heard good things about this race. I've also been there twice supporting friends through a full and a half. I've seen parts of the course so knew a bit what to expect.

On Saturday, I headed down to Grand Rapids for the expo and packet pick up with Julie and Derek. Julie was running the full as well and Derek was running the half. Julie of course was a beast and just ran the Chicago Marathon the week before too!  We got to the YMCA where they help packet pickup. It was super easy and fast, which was nice. We checked into our hotel and ate dinner and called it a night. Well, I tried to call it a night. The walls of the hotel were super thin and the room next to us was loud and up to all hours of the night. Oh well.

Saturday, we got up and there was frost on our cars. I was hoping I would be warm enough wearing the capris, t-shirt, and arm sleeves I brought! We got down to the marathon but had a bit of trouble with traffic and trying to park. I felt a bit rushed but Julie thought it wasn't a big deal. We found the porta-potties, did our business, headed to the start line, and of course...took a pre-race selfie! No run is complete without one!

Pre-Race (L-R: Julie, Derek, Me)
Julie and I decided to start together. The weather actually seemed pretty decent once we started running. The first 4 miles or so are in a square around the town, then you head out onto the trail. The course wasn't too crowded but there was a good amount of people. There was also a half marathon and we ran with them until around mile 7 or so.

I knew there were a few hills on this course. I looked at the elevation chart prior to going. I trained on some hills in the Palos area just so things were easier for me. Julie and I had a decent pace going. I wasn't sure exactly what it was as my garmin was already way off by mile 10. But around mile 10, we were with the 4:29 "Team Oprah" pace group. The pace groups are set based on celebrity marathon times so it's pretty funny watching Oprah's head bob around on a stick.  I never expected to keep up with the Oprah pace group but at this point we were doing pretty well. I think we were keeping around a 10:18-10:20 pace going.

The hills started around mile 7 and I think that lasted through mile 15 or so. Most weren't too bad but a few just made me want to cringe. By the last one, I was so over them! Ha! But I'm glad I knew they would be there. I knew it was completely flat. That helps mentally when trying to tackle them. I just kept thinking of all those weeks of Palos hills I ran. I could do the hills.

When I got to the half way mark, I thought to myself that maybe I could just have a good 16 miles, then if I needed to, I would have to walk more. At this point Julie and I were just walking through every water stop and start running again. Perfect race strategy for me! It gives me a goal. Just get to the next water stop.

Around mile 15, the race was handing out their infamous "pickle juice".  Ok...I've heard about this. It's the only race that gives out pickle juice but it's supposed to help with cramping due to the sodium content. And I happen to love pickle juice so I was definitely going to try it. Because it's always good to try new things on race day, right!  Um.. right?  Actually, I don't have a weak stomach usually so I wasn't particularly worried about that. Julie and I both tried the pickle juice and ... wow, that went down and we had to muster a face! It was strong and the taste lingered in your throat! It was weird to drink it during a race and not in the privacy of your own kitchen as you sneak a drink of the pickle jar.  Good or bad? I don't know. I was fine drinking it. I didn't cramp up? Do I usually cramp up during a race? No. But definitely after a marathon and I don't remember that feeling so it could only have done good things right?

Ok enough about the pickle juice. Julie and I decided to split up around mile 16. We were both tired but I'm sure the marathon she just ran the previous week (BEAST!) was getting to her. I was still determined to keep my pace going. I was now at mile 16 and I thought maybe I could keep it up until mile 18!  Mile 18 came and I decided I wanted a good 20 mile split. I was so close.

I started having pain near my IT band around mile 13. At that point, it was minor so I just pushed through it. Nearing mile 20, it was making itself more known and I just kept powering through. I crossed the 19 mile marker and almost wanted to cry (from joy). I was doing this. I was having a good marathon. I was pushing through. All my running and training to push through and run happy was actually helping!  (If you remember, my marathons last year were painful and miserable so I was really happy at this point).  At mile 20, I only had 6.2 miles to go.

And then I decided to walk out of turn (not at a water stop) around mile 20.5. And my wheels fell off.  I wish I could have prolonged doing that had I known this was going to happen. The pain in my IT band just got so bad. I was tired and that part of my leg hurt. I would walk but then it was so painful to just start running again. Ugh. I basically did a run/walk for the remainder of the race.  I was getting so mad that I just couldn't keep running. I would run maybe 1/2 mile at a time and walk. I just wanted to get through with a PR and I should be able to. I knew I couldn't rely on my garmin because it was a 1/2 mile off. I tried to calculate times as I was running/walking to make sure I could still PR.  I still wanted to get into the 4:30's too but really wasn't sure. I kept trying to push as much as possible. Keep going. Keep going. Move forward. Get to the end.  I was just repeating to myself those phrases. Over and over.

Around mile 23, I was leap frogging a woman. She would run past me while I was walking, I would run past her while she was walking. I stopped to walk yet again and she came by, patted me on the back and told me I was doing great and to keep going. I so appreciated that. It really helped keep me going.  Thank you fellow runner! I tried to offer the same encouragement to her about a mile later when I told her we just had a little left.  I hope she felt the same encouragement from me.

Nearing the end, there was a guy before a turn.  He said that when we turned, we would be able to see the finish line! I decided to walk one last time right before that turn! Ha! Because once I saw the finish line, I wasn't going to walk again.  I turned the corner and started running.  There it was. The finish line. But it was SO FAR AWAY!  I looked at the time I had been running. I knew I would PR. YES! But would I reach the second goal of finishing in the 4:30's (I knew 4:35 was out).  I really wanted to but didn't think I could make it there in time. I didn't know the distance to the finish line and it was just so far away! lol.

A bit later, I saw my boyfriend Derek with his half medal around his neck.  He hopped on and ran about .2 miles or so with me, which really was so appreciated. He said I was doing good. I told him I was going to PR but didn't know if I could make it to the finish by 4:39. My watch said 4:36 right now. He told me not to worry about it. But inside, I thought, I'm going to try for that 4:39! I might not make it but I'm going to try.

The time on my watch said 4:39+ when I crossed the finish line. I was hoping I started it at the right time and that it wasn't ahead and I really finished in 4:40 or something. lol. The little things. 

And I did it!  I finished in 4:39:20!  A 5.5 min PR!  I could not tell you how happy I was. 

I am so pleased with my splits through mile 20. That is better than I had hoped for. I was a bit upset with myself that I couldn't push through the last 6 a bit better. Had it not been for my IT band, I know I could have done even better. But how can I complain about hitting my 2nd goal for my marathon. And getting a PR that was long overdue. 

Julie finished just a little behind me. She did awesome considering the number of marathons she has done just this year alone! Derek did well for the half also and I was happy that we were all leaving pleased with our races! Of course, there was tons of food afterwards to eat as well including Culver's ice cream! I was glad I wasn't too cold for that!

Me and Derek - my love!

Julie and I - Marathon Finishers!
The 3 musketeers!  All done and ready to head home!
The Grand Rapids Marathon didn't disappoint. I'm sorry I didn't whip my camera out to take some photos but I was just so focused and didn't want to fumble around for it. The course was nice, aid stations were well stocked. There was water, gatorade, bananas, oranges (yes please!), pickle juice, cliff shots, etc. though out the race.  I loved running on the trail past a few lakes (rivers? I don't know, I'm a city girl). Anyway, it was beautiful and I was trying to look around as I was running to see everything.

At the end of the marathon, the race director is there to shake everyone's hand. I wanted to give him a hug. I felt like I knew him after weeks of weekly newsletter emails he sent out. 

Would I recommend this race? Absolutely! Would I do it again myself? Possibly in the future! It's only a 2.5-3 hour drive from the Chicago area, which isn't bad. I really enjoyed this marathon and am so glad I decided to do it this year!  A PR was icing on the cake!  Thanks for reading my long race recap. I was just so proud of myself!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

October in Review

October is over and November is in full swing! And I still didn't get to my full Grand Rapids Marathon recap. I'm slacking and I'm aware! But let's see what happened in October by the numbers.


Running Miles: 86.6 miles
Strength Training/Cross Training Days: 1
Cycling Miles: 10.75 miles (1 cycling day)
# of workout days in October: 15 (49%)

Welp....I'm feeling a bit blah about a lot right now. Running, blogging, doing anything except napping (which I'm not doing). Ok here goes the rest of this blog post. Sorry guys. Cheer me up!

Running Miles: 86.6 miles. Not too bad at all. Considerably less than the last 2 months when I was in the height of my marathon training. The month of the marathon is usually less mileage due to taper and recovery afterwards. But over 80 miles in one month is always very good to me so I will take it!

Strength Training/Cross Training Days: 1. One measly day. I went bike riding around the 'hood and got lost a bit since it's my "new" hood (a.k.a. my boyfriend's hood and we are kind of moving in together). I always get lost running or cycling there. No biggie.  This number will improve as I'm taking 5 weeks unlimited barre classes at Pure Barre right now! Woohoo! Tight butt and stronger core, I'm coming for you!

Cycling Miles: Oops...see above. One in the same this month.

# of workout days in October: 15. Half way. I was running and nothing else. No cross training. No extra walking. Nothing. So I run about half the month. My's marathon month. Not trying anything new this month!

So there you have it folks. I'm behind on my race recaps ... I also did the Lakefront Ultra 50k on Nov 1st. I definitely need to tell you what a baby I was after the race that day! But I finished. Spoiler.

I'm pretty burnt out on running. I guess running and PR'ing a marathon, then running an ultra 13 days after in windy cold weather will do that to you. BUT... I can now officially be a marathon maniac! I'll apply soon. :)

I'm looking forward to the 5 weeks of barre classes. I'm weak. Really weak. My core is non-existent. Really. I don't think I have one any more. My butt is weak. I know I have one because it's big but it's got no muscle at all. So hopefully this will help. I'm looking to go 3 days a week if I can. That's a lot of barre! I went yesterday for the first time in months. I feel silly and I know I look silly. I get tired easily. They are always correcting my form (which I like because if I'm there, I want to be doing it right). I forgot how hard this is. 5 minutes after starting I thought "How am I going to last an hour?" Ha! I lasted. But my glutes and triceps are sore and my legs still feel shaky (even though it's the next day). Lord, help me. I'm going back tonight...

See you all next this month (November). I promise I'll get these recaps in for you!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grand Rapids Marathon Update

I started writing a blog post regarding my experience at the Grand Rapids Marathon but I erased it.

I'm having a hard time writing it so I thought I'd give a brief update so you know what happened to me! I can finish writing the recap later.

So my goal this year was to PR my marathon. I didn't try to PR anything else. I worked on my mental attitude with pushing out negative thoughts, finding my happy running pace and staying consistent and be able to push through.  Well....

I did PR!  My official Grand Rapids Marathon time was 4:39:20! My previous PR was from the 2012 Chicago Marathon with a time of 4:44:54! So I'm super happy about this! I didn't make my #1 goal of 4:35 but I am happy with a PR ... AND with a time in the 4:30's somewhere!  I will try to finish up an actual recap soon.

Also, I ran a 5k last weekend. And I have the Lakefront Ultra 50k this Saturday, so I'm pretty busy! I better get moving on my blog posts then or they will be getting backed up (I also have 2 half marathons in November! Yikes!).

Can you believe it's almost November??

So happy to PR!!

The medals are pretty cool!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Home Stretch

Well, it's the home stretch before my marathon this weekend in Grand Rapids.  I may be stressed, I may be nervous, I may be excited...regardless, I KNOW I will have a good time.  Here's why...

1. I've trained. I did my physical training and I've done my mental training. I know you've heard me talk all year about working on my positivity, pushing out negative thoughts, working on running happy, and finding my "Melanie Pace" (a.k.a. The pace that makes me run happy). 

2. I've only ever heard great things about this marathon. I'm very excited to experience it myself. I hear it's well organized and the race director shakes every one's hand that finishes the race! Very nice! Can't do that in Chicago, that's for sure!

3. The colors should be beautiful. It's fall and the leaves are all changing. A good portion of this race is on a trail and I'm excited to see all the beautiful colors! I might have to take my phone out around part of that time in case I want to snap a photo or two!

4. The weather is supposed to be marathon perfect!

Actually, a little too perfect and I'm not sure if I should be wearing tank or tshirt, or capris or shorts. I'm bringing everything and will figure it out while there!  Arm sleeves are a definite and cheapy gloves.

5. My friend Julie will be there and probably running at least a few miles with me. Um... Julie is one of my best running partners!! How can I not have some fun?

Julie and I at the finish of our first ultra last fall!
6. Pickle Juice. Yes you heard me correctly. This race has pickle juice as part of their hydration/fueling on course. I've recently searched blog reviews of this marathon and everyone said they had never had pickle juice during a run but tried it during this marathon...and loved it! Now, I love pickles. One of my favorite foods. And as a child, I secretly drank pickle juice. Don't judge. I've been known to do it as an adult occasionally. DON'T JUDGE. So I'm super excited to try this at the race. I've never had it during a run before and I know you aren't supposed to try anything new on race day. But I've heard that it doesn't apply to pickle juice at the Grand Rapids Marathon, right? lol.

Pickle juice actually has sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc. All the good stuff to help prevent cramping! I'm game!

7. Have fun. Yes my goal is to PR. Yes, I'm going to try to do it. But I want to have fun. I want to enjoy my marathon. If for some reason a PR doesn't happen, that's ok too. I want to look at the race as a whole and think... I enjoyed myself. I did my best. I'm happy with my results. I have an awesome experience! Because after all, that's what running is all about!  But yes, I'm going after my PR. That doesn't mean I need to be fast. It just means I need to be consistent!  Keep going when the going gets hard!

I think that's all I've got for you all today! Hope you all have a great weekend. And to my friends running marathons this weekend (Indianapolis and Grand know who you are), have a fantastic time!

Big shout out to my girl Becky doing her first marathon in Indy!! Love ya! Have fun and kick butt!
Becky and I after our holy hot half marathon in Vegas this year

Monday, October 6, 2014

Marathon Thoughts

Happy Monday! Actually I'm not feeling particularly happy today but that's because of my own personal "female" issues. TMI? Whatever, it's life.

My thoughts are all over the place right now. Some are personal issues: my dad had hip replacement surgery a month ago and has had his ups and downs with his recovery. Others are running related, namely, the Grand Rapids Marathon.  Bear with me while I talk out my random rambling thoughts about the marathon.


I don't know what I'm wearing, and that includes shoes. I'm incredibly frustrated. First, clothing. This isn't much of an issue. I never found the right sports bra yet (and I've been trying for years). I get horrible chafing and it sucks. I think I've found a temporary solution for the marathon. A couple of the bras haven't been chafing as much on my long runs combined with Vaseline (lots of it). Depending on the weather, I know the capris or shorts I'll be wearing. Not 100% on the shirt and now it depends again on the weather. I've run in lots of shirts so I think I'll be fine in whatever I wear.

Shoes. Oh shoes. Last year I ran in Brooks Ravenna 4's. I had trouble but ONLY because I think I wore my laces too tight on my first marathon, which caused major foot pain during that marathon and the subsequent ones. I think the shoes were fine. With that said, I've never found the "perfect shoe." I was fitted again and they put me in neutral plus shoes (I was previously fitted for stability). I tried the Brooks Glycerin. They are ok. Again, not the perfect shoe but fine. I also previously had gotten Mizuno Wave Inspire 9.  I never liked the shoes after I got them because the ankle fits higher up on my ankle. I only wore them before for short runs. And for a long time, I never wore them.

Brooks Ravenna 4

Mizuno Wave Inspire 9
I decided to try the Mizuno's for a long run. Coupled with wearing the new Injinji toe socks. I loved it. My feet felt great. I got no blisters (I'm guessing from the socks). I thought I would give the Mizuno's more of a try. After several long runs going well, I figured these would be my marathon shoes (but the new versions). I bought a pair of Mizuno Wave Inspire 10's. And I wore them on a couple long runs, and short runs. They felt good too. I'm sold. Marathon shoes. Until I wore them for my 20 miler and they started hurting my ankle (from the outside ankle area being too high up). It wasn't too bad but definitely a concern of mine. I wore my older ones the following weekend for the half marathon.  And my mile 10, the shoes were really hurting my ankle. Definite pain. When I helped my cousin after my half for the end of the marathon, I could barely walk in them anymore. I took them off several times and walked barefoot. These were no longer my marathon shoes. No way was I wearing them ever again!
Mizuno Wave Inspire 10 (Super cute)

I've debated trying to just shave off the top of the shoe a bit near the ankle bone so that it's lower. I thought about doing it on my older pair. I haven't decided if that will work or not and if I should try it. I don't think it would affect the shoe at all.

I bought an emergency pair of Brooks Ravenna 5's. I figured I ran my marathons last year in the 4's and it was ok. I wore them for my short run 5 mile run last week and for my 12 this weekend. And I'm just feeling "Eh" on them. I have absolutely NO IDEA what I'm going to do for my marathon....that's in less than 2 weeks!  Ok moving on...

Brooks Ravenna 5 (Also super cute)
I'm wearing Injinji Toe Socks. My new love. I love you Injinji. My non-blistered toes love you too. Thank you!


My ultimate goal for the marathon would be to PR. That means I have to come in under 4:44:54. I think it's doable. But I have no strategy. I've just been trying to average or maintain a pace on my long runs between 10:15-10:30 for the most part. I've walked at points and miles come in in the 11:00's. That's fine. I've been trying to "run happy". But I have no idea what to run for my marathon to achieve my goal. I mean, I know I have to run below a 10:53 average pace. But... how do I start? How do I keep going when it's tough? How do I get a PR? Should I see if I can run with the 4:30 pace group? Should I start out and run with the 4:45 pace group? (Roughly...the grand rapids marathon has "celebrity pace groups" and it's 4:29 and 4:44).

Ultimately, I'm just going to run. I'm going to try not to worry about it too much. I'm going to try to not start out so fast. I'm going to try to stay consistent. And I'm going to try to run happy.  My pace will be what my pace will be.

I'm attaching my 19 miler and 20 miler garmin splits. As you can tell, I haven't done too bad. I had a rough time on my 19 miler and a better "happier" time on my 20 miler but on both, my splits are pretty decent. (My 20 miler, my garmin messed up and I'm missing 1 mile somewhere in the middle, but it didn't matter to me).  So this makes me believe I can do it if I keep my head on straight and "run happy."
19 miler/20 miler

I'm SO EXCITED for this marathon. I feel like I'm running my first marathon. I have no idea why. Maybe it's because I'm physically feeling better than last year and part of me thinks a PR is possible. I haven't tried to PR anything this year. THIS is the one I'm waiting for.  But I'm feeling nervous. As it's getting closer and all of my long (really long) runs are now over, I only have the marathon to think about now. No more worrying about my 18, 19 or 20 milers. This is it. Less than 2 weeks.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Tri Town Community Half Marathon

Happy October! Hope fall is treating you well. This past Sunday, my friends and I ran the Tri Town Community Marathon and Half Marathon. I did the half. I considered the option of the full because originally it was the weekend of my 20 mile run, but things changed. Here's how things went down.

A groupon came up for this full marathon and half marathon in Merriville, Indiana. At the time, the groupon was $25 for the half and $35 for the full. Since half and full marathons can break the bank nowadays, my friends and I jumped at the chance. A few friends (including Melanie from See Mommy Race and my cousin Nick) decided to do the full marathon. The rest of us chose the half marathon since they would be on taper for the Chicago Marathon.  I knew that with this being a groupon race AND in Indiana (not knocking Indiana...ok, maybe a little), that I shouldn't expect too much from it. Also, originally, I was going to do my 20 miles this day and just tack on miles in the beginning and/or end of the race.  Since I was persuaded to do my 20 miler the weekend before with those training for the Chicago Marathon, I know longer had to worry about the logistics of that. I also scoped out the weather for those two weekends and I knew it would be a bit warmer the weekend of this Tri Town race.

And boy was I glad I did my 20 the week before this race and not that day! The race started at 8:00 a.m., which is actually a bit late considering some people were doing a full marathon.  The high temps that day were going to reach about 80 degrees. I think it came close to that during the marathon. And it was so sunny and hot and there was little shade. I really felt bad for the marathoners. And I was equally thankful to be doing only the half.

Ok, I'm having trouble focusing on this recap...  Here goes. I drove down with Derek. We were both signed up for the half. I met up with several other friends from the FNRC as well as my cousin Nick, who was doing his first marathon.
L-R: Melanie, Becky, Nick, Carol, Derek, Me, Karen
We headed to the start and waited...we waited to figure out exactly where to line up. There were are 200 people registered, 75 for the full and 120 or so for the half (approx). And we were just all standing near the finish line, not sure what to do. And 8:00 came...and we were looking around like... uh...where do we go?  Finally someone came over with a bull horn and told us where to line up. It's now after 8:00 and already getting warm and sunny. I knew for the full marathons, this needed to start soon because it was going to be HOT!

We started and my plan was to run with Nick as long as possible to help support him for his full. I was hoping to go all the way to about mile 10 with him but unfortunately that didn't happen. I only got to run to about mile 6.5 and I had to turn and double back. I was a bit disappointed but I gave him a high five and wished him luck, telling him I'd be near the later miles to try to help him finish.

The course for the half wasn't too bad. It was a tiny bit confusing but there weren't too many turn arounds for the half (unlike what I heard about the full).  I got to see friends several times and there were a couple different out and backs. In fact, I started making friends along the way because I kept seeing the same people over and over. That part was kind of nice.

Mile 7! Thanks Melanie for the photo!
I'm glad Melanie did the full so that she can tell you the clusterfuck that became of the full marathon. I can really only speak about the half marathon. And I believe the half marathon was 20 times better than the full. There was water at the aid stations. There were officers crossing us at streets. Both of those did NOT happen for the later miles of the marathon people.

As I eluded to in my last post, my Mizunos that I had decided would be my marathon shoes started to hurt my ankle about mile 10.  This was also an issue the week before on my 20 miler but it wasn't too bad. This time, it really started to bother me. I knew if this happened two weeks in a row, there is NO WAY I'm going to wear them on marathon day. I had enough foot issues last year at my marathons that I did not want to have issues this year.

I walked. I ran. I wanted the half to be over. So it finally was and I was happy to see the finish line. The first 2-3 miles of the course was on streets and completely unshaded and we had to repeat these same miles on the end. It was awful and hot. My time was around 2:23 which was perfectly fine with me and right around what my summer half marathon times tent to be.

I waited for all my friends and boyfriend to finish the half. I had some real rockstar friends who PR'd and got first in their age group! Nice job, you know who you are!


L-R: Karen, Becky, Carol, Me, Derek

Me and my love
Derek took me to the spot that was near mile 23 where I would wait for Nick. I found a few friends that were doing the marathon and walked or ran with them about 0.2 miles each time I saw one of them. I just wanted to chat with them a minute and see how they were doing. I know a friendly face during a marathon is always a welcome thing.  Everyone was telling me the same thing. They ran out of water at aid stations, there was no one crossing people at streets anymore. It's almost like they gave up on the marathoners! Unbelievable and unacceptable, in my opinion. Some kind person drove his truck up around mile 21 and started handing people bottles of water. A saint to those marathoners.

I spotted Nick and he was walking. He was hurting and frustrated. He could barely run anymore and my goal turned out to be just helping him get to that finish line. He had missed any time goals he wanted to make at this point.  After a few "shuffles" of trying to run, he gave up and we walked the rest. I told him he did everything he could, that his training was awesome and he needs to be proud of being here and pushing through to the end.  I felt bad because I know how disappointing people feel when they are so far away from any goals they think they can hit, when they did the training and did well, and the luck of the draw was that this marathon sucked and it was hot.

Me with Nick around mile 23 of his marathon!
Nick crossed the finish line, as did the rest of my friends. I could have cared less about my half this day. They were the real rockstars. They were the ones that pushed through when the going got tough and when it seemed like everyone forgot about them. I'm glad I was there to give a few smiles and to support Nick on his first marathon. I think there will be a redemption marathon in his future...just not right now.
Me and Melanie after her marathon
Congrats to all the finishers of the half and the full marathon. I'm sure none of us will be doing this race again anytime soon! :)

*I'll post a link to Melanie's full marathon recap when she posts it so you can see how the full marathon went.