Monday, July 28, 2014

Strike Out ALS 5k and Rock N Roll Half Marathon - Recaps

I'm so sorry I've been a bit MIA lately. Busy at work, tired, training for a marathon, lazy... You know how it goes.

So here's what I've been up to:

1. Strike Out ALS 5k

I had an opportunity to participate in the Strike Out ALS 5k and was so excited! Granted, I'm a Cubs fan and this is at the "Sox Park" aka Comisky Park (aka the real name is ... well I don't care actually). The route ended up being around the parking lots with one lap during the 3rd mile around the actual field inside!  I wouldn't run this race for the parking lot scenery but it was really cool to run inside the stadium!  It was super convenient for me as I work in the city and just had to hop on the red line for about 10 mins to get to the stadium.

I met up with Melanie (See Mommy Race) and Emily (Out and About). It was fun to just chat and wait for the race to start. Funny thing is that no one wanted to go to the front near the start line. There were like 3 people standing there and everyone else was like 30 feet back. The people running the race kept telling us to move up! Ha!  So needless to say, I was really close (3 lines back) to the start line for a change!  There weren't too many people there either so it felt like a small local race, which was nice.  I wasn't feeling a fast race after I started and really am slightly disappointed in my result from that day. I think it was about 29 minutes for the 5k (Avg 9:20 pace approx). My PR is an 8:30 pace so I just feel like I'm so much slower these days. That's ok. I know I'm not in a 5k PR shape. But I had a lot of fun hanging out with some fellow bloggers and running around the baseball field!

L-R: Emily, Melanie, Me

Start Line (Photo Courtesy of Emily)

Post Race
2. Rock N' Roll Half Marathon, Chicago

I ran the Rock N' Roll Half Marathon in Chicago (again) on July 20th. As I've mentioned before, I run this race for a few reasons but one is because it's the first half I ever ran in 2006 (called the Chicago Distance Classic). I missed 2007 because I hurt my knee but then have been on a running streak since 2008! So I've essentially run this race now 8 times. 

As I've heard mixed reviews this year on this race. For me, it wasn't quite as a positive experience as in past years. They changed the course slightly and even though I like to run downtown through the city because most races are only along the lake, some of the route in the city, I didn't care for. And where were the bands? I run with my headphones so really I didn't even notice at first that they weren't playing every mile, but when I finally saw one, that's when it jogged my memory that I hadn't seen them!  They can be a nice distraction while running for over 2 hours! 

I went down with my boyfriend Derek and a couple running friends Carol and Shelly.  We found a couple other runs friends and waited in the corral with them. The weather temperature was not bad at all but when I started running, I felt the humidity. Humidity and me don't get along. I knew I wasn't running for time. I was using this as a training run for the marathon. I had 12 miles on deck for training anyway. I gave it a decent effort in the first half of the race but by the middle, I was pretty over it. I gave it a lack-luster effort. I saw someone cheat around mile 9 when they cut from Lake Shore Drive over to the Lakefront Trail. It was only separated by a small downhill of grass.  They probably cut about 2 miles out of their half. But they did miss the mile 10 checkpoint. Not that that will matter. Disappointing that people cheat themselves out of the race like that. Oh well. By mile 9, I thought "Just 4 more miles, just a Thursday night run with my group."  This normally doesn't help me much but for some reason it did that day. I still was slow but I had a better perspective in my head. 

Plus, all the hills I've been running weekly during training (Wednesday's are my "hills" day) definitely seemed to help. Granted Chicago is flat as a pancake.  Except when they decide to throw exit/entrance ramps as part of the course. That made for some nice hill work during the half. There were a few in the first half of the race but nothing too major. Between mile 11.5 and mile 12.5, they threw in 2 LARGE "hills" (aka entrance ramps).  I remembered one of these from the previous year and I remembered walking up the ramp. This year...I ran right up both of those suckers with minimal effort! Woohoo!  And I thought about my hills while doing it. Even though I had only done 3 weeks of hills prior to that half, I swear that helped me!  So I felt good about that while finishing up the half marathon (which by the way, had the LONGEST finish line in I've ever had to run! Would it ever end??). 

Again, I do this run every year. It's normally really expensive so I sign up early and with a discount code and usually pay the cheapest price they offer.  Doing it this year with the course changes and the lack of bands really has me wondering if it's worth the effort to do it anymore. It has a special place in my heart though so only time will tell if I do it next year. 

Oh and my time?  Right around 2:20. For the lack-luster effort I gave the second half, I was fine with that. It's right around my "summer half" times anyway.

If you did it this year, did you like the course changes?  Are you going to do it next year?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Longest Bike Distance

Happy Wednesday (a.k.a. Happy Hump Day)!

4th of July Metric Century Bike Ride

It's no secret that I have found a new love. Cycling! Of course, my old love of running is still my most forefront activity but cycling is a great cross training activity for my running and it helps that I love it so much.

It's also no secret that I have a slightly crappy inexpensive road bike that was purchased online.  And I love it. It's my baby. At some point, a more expensive and better road bike will come along...but I won't forget my first...

Anywho. A couple weeks ago, actually on July 4th, I participated in the 4th of July Metric Century ride in Plainfield. It's not a competitive race and nothing is timed. It's basically a fun-ride with 3 distances available: 30, 45, or 62 miles.  You don't have to pre-register (although you can), it's inexpensive ($20 pre-register, $25 day of ride), and you don't have to choose your distance ahead of time. You can decide what you want to ride while you are out there (as long as you don't pass the turn-around for the particular distance you want to ride).

Initially, I had thought of doing the 30 or 45 distance. I had never gone more than 26, but the weekend before, I ended up riding 36. I knew then that I could handle the 45 miles. BUT... I have crazy friends who like to challenge me. They wanted me to do the 62 miles.  My boyfriend was up for the challenge, so I decided to do it if I could manage it.

We met up with some of my FNRC friends (yes, all runners! But now cyclists. No need to pigeon hole yourself), and headed out. A few of us (5 of us) stayed together for the whole ride. We knew approximately what pace we would be riding and it was what everyone had in mind. We saw some of our other friends along the way and/or rest stops but it was nice to have a group of us to ride together the whole time. It's a long way, after all.

There were 3 rest/food stop along the way. They were at about miles 18, 32, and 50.  And they were pretty awesome! Lots of food: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tons of different fruit, trail mix, cookies, chips, pretzels, water, gatorade. Really spectacular and I was thrilled! I was hungry at mile 18 as I hadn't eaten too much for breakfast. The first stop I had the PB&J and craved salty. The second and third stop, I just couldn't get enough fruit! Yum!  Special thanks to all the volunteers!

My FNRC cycling crew!

The long stretch of food available

A lot of hungry and thirsty cyclists

Another view of the food (because you can't have too many pics of food)
We stopped for about 15 minutes at each rest stop. I was really ready for the first one. The second one came up a bit unexpectedly. And I really was ready for that third stop!  I felt like a kid on a rode trip, "Are we there yet?"

Sometimes we rode faster, sometimes we rode slower, sometimes we rode "just right!"  We talked to various members of our group and switched it up. We switched up the order of who was riding in front. Most of the ride was on open roads with miles of cornfields. It was really nice and peaceful. Simply beautiful! Of course some of it was in busier areas and we really had to be careful of cars and debris from the recent storms. There were little markings on the ground telling you which way to go, so you just had to watch for those and you were good.

Lynn and I just doing our cycling thing!
Hey look! It's me!

With the 4 others in my crew

Big D (a.k.a. Derek)
I was definitely happy when we got out of the 30's. In the 30's, I kept thinking we were only half way. So I was happy to hit 40 miles. The 50's were long. So very long. I knew I would be able to finish and I was really ready to finish. I think 30-40 miles is a perfect long distance! lol.  We did see one accident off to the side. The guy must have clipped the person's tire in front and crashed. He was laying on the ground and not really moving when we stopped. But then it seemed like it was just his shoulder/collarbone that might have been broken. Someone had called for the ambulance and some of the people he was with were firefighters, so we knew he was in good hands and we started going again. But really shook us up for a little bit.  My boyfriend likes to draft and is sometimes very close to my back end which was making me nervous after I saw that crash and snapped at one point, "Can you not follow so close to me after what had just happened!" My nerves were a bit on edge.

But I had a lot of fun. We finished and my watch only showed 61+ miles so I rode around the parking lot. Hey, I had 62 miles in my head and I wanted my watch to show it! lol. Derek and I had a busy day ahead so we took off pretty quickly afterwards. We had a good time and this was a great ride. I would definitely do it again!

Derek and I after the ride!
I do have the Venus De Miles ride coming up in August and I signed up to do the 64 mile ride. Obviously now I know I can do it! So it should be a fun time!

Also, don't forget that I still have a 10% discount code if you want to run Zooma with me! Register with code CAMB6! August 2nd!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Favorite Thing Friday

Happy Friday! 

Thought I would share with you one of my most favorite running project! 
My Marathon Wall
After my first couple of full marathons, I bought the shadow boxes (4 of them) with this idea in mind.  Later, after a couple more marathons, I bought 4 more shadow boxes. 

Derek helped me put my vision together.  I have run 5 full marathons and 1 ultra marathon.

My second marathon (2012 Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon) bib was missing!  So Jill helped me re-create my bib so I had something to put in the frame with my medal (second from the left).

I hung them up on the wall. And I love looking at them!  Luckily I had bought the 2 extra frames last year even though after my back-to-back-to-back marathons and ultra last fall, I swore off of running any distance more than a half for the rest of my life. I'm signed up for Grand Rapids full this year and considering the Lakefront Ultra once more two weeks later. Perfect! I have 2 shadow boxes left!

Then I will probably have surgery on my shoulder and be out for several weeks (a few months). I'm not looking forward to it... so let's not talk about it. lol

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Secret to Running Happy

Let me start off by saying that I saw this shirt in the store over the weekend and really want it!

Brooks EZ T III Run Happy
And I love this shirt so much because it's been my running goal this year (although now I'm thinking of a tank top option). I digress...

I've talked about finding what I call "My Melanie Pace" during my Chicago Spring Half Marathon Recap. Briefly, Melanie from See Mommy Race found her happy running pace, a comfortable running pace for her that allows her to run and finish the race happy!  What a novel idea Melanie! So I've implemented finding my "Melanie Pace" and running happy this year.

I'm not sure if my friends are tired of hearing me talk about "running happy" or not. For me, it wasn't an easy task to accomplish. It took a lot of running soul searching. I had to take a step back from speed. I had to take a step back from wanting to PR everything all the time.

I had several injuries right before and during my marathons last year that really made them tough. Hurting my back right before my 20 mile training run (which then didn't happen), to all the strange foot pain on had during my marathon, which I never had before, brought me to tears several times during my Fox Valley Marathon.  Although, I didn't let it stop me and did end up accomplishing 3 marathons/ultras within a 6-week span.

This year, as my spring half marathons were racking up and as the training for my fall marathon was approaching, I needed to regroup. I was not feeling happy and sometimes even miserable with my half marathons and full marathons in late 2013. Everything was mentally and physically hard. I wasn't enjoying running anymore. As winter came, I couldn't keep up the same pace as my friends that I always ran with. It got extremely frustrating. I was pushing and pushing and continually discouraged. I didn't want to run anymore. And I didn't want to run with my friends. Not because I didn't like them, but because I was tired of getting frustrated. I kept trying and in my mind, kept failing.

My spring marathons approached and my goal at first was simply to get through them. I wanted to run them well and feel strong, not necessarily fast, just feel good while running.  Then the Spring Lakefront Ultra came and a bunch of my friends ran it. The one that stuck out at me...Melanie!  It was her first ultra and she just came and she just ran. Sure she walked at times, and I ran a bit of it with her (the last 8 or so miles maybe). I was amazed at the good spirits she was in even after 25+ miles! She just kept plugging away at the miles. Maybe it wasn't speedy compared to some, but it was consistent and she was happy. I think I even questioned her about it. How are you able to do this? How are you so happy right now?  And it was because she ran a lot of her long runs alone and whatever pace she felt comfortable with. She wasn't trying to keep up with anyone. She was just getting the miles done. No pressure and no stress! 

And that's when it clicked.  I wanted to be like Melanie! I wanted to run happy. I didn't want to hate running and I didn't want to feel frustrated. It used to be my happy place, the place I went to de-stress. I wanted that again. And that's why I formed my "Melanie Pace" goal. 

Now I had to learn to accomplish this goal. 

I had already been working on running strong, not as in pace, but as in feeling. Now I needed to learn to be happy.  I wasn't quite sure how to do this and it's still a work in progress for me.

I also talked to my friend Kim from Ohio when she was in town for the Michelob Ultra half marathon. She ran her first marathon in May. And she did great. I asked her what her secret was. I'm not sure she had a secret but she did tell me she ran a lot of long runs alone. She didn't worry about pace. She just ticked off the miles. And she got a sub 4:30 at her marathon!  My ultimate marathon goal!

So how do I go about achieving this goal?  How do I run happy?

First, I started by not trying to run a certain pace. I brought the pace back a bit. If my friends wanted to run faster, that's ok. That didn't mean I had to. I needed to run whatever pace was going to allow me to feel better.

Next, I tried to find the good in the run. Whatever run I was in at the time. When I ran the Chicago Spring Half, I looked to the gorgeous weather and the beautiful skyline to keep me happy. A few weeks ago, when I accidentally got stuck running alone in a downpour and thunderstorm, these thoughts were running through my head: "I think it's hailing. At least it's not golf ball size hail!"... "At least I wore my visor today."...  "Running in the rain isn't so bad. It's pretty refreshing."

Slowly but surely, even if my body wasn't feeling the best, at least I tried to keep my mind on straight.  It is said that running is 90% mental. It's true. And if you are negative, it's going to make your runs that much longer and that much harder. Running long distance can be hard enough, why add to that with all these negative thoughts.

Marathon training is now among me. I just finished week 3. And I feel pretty good. I've changed my strategy on my long runs and so far, it seems to be working. Granted, I've only run up to 9 miles so far for my long runs for this training cycle, but I'm taking it one step at a time. I'm not trying to keep up with my 10:00 minute pace group anymore. Yes, I love running with them. But last year, I always was one step behind them and always trying to catch up. That's not how my marathon long runs should feel.  So I'm just running. And my goal is to run around 10:15-10:30 for long runs but really, anything is good. I just want to run my miles. I want to run happy and I want to feel good.  So far, it's working. This weekend, I'm running 11 miles. And I'm not sure if there will be anyone there that's my pace as I'm running in a different location for a fun training run with Zooma. It freaks me out slightly. Can I handle the 11 miles alone and still feel good and run happy?  This might be a good test for me.

Do you have any "secrets" to share for running happy?

**I mentioned a training run with Zooma. If you would like to come and keep me company or just run for fun, come on out!  Here is the facebook event page!  It's a 10 mile training run but you can run any distance. And there will be muscle milk to share post run!

And if you still would like to register for the race on August 2nd, you can use my discount code CAMB6 for 10% off registration!  Check out the Zooma website for details!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June in Review and Duathlon Recap

June in Review

Running Miles: 62.75
Swim Distance: 800 meters (triathlon)
Strength Training/Cross Training Days: 13
# of Workout Days this month: 23 (76%)
Number of races: 4
Pure Barre Classes: 6

Running - My running miles were a bit less this month. With so many races and two of them being a triathlon and duathlon, I had to focus on several different sports. Also since my marathon training was scheduled to begin part way through June, I wasn't pushing the miles.

Swim - I'm not swimming any more right now. The only swim I had was the triathlon. Even though I love it, I need to get my shoulder taken care of so I don't dislocate it. I'd love to do more triathlons but I will have to wait until I have surgery on my shoulder. Can you tell I'm less than thrilled with this whole topic?

Strength Training/Cross Training - This number was elevated from previous months, which is great! I had an opportunity to take 2 weeks of free pure barre classes and tried to get as many of those in as I could (while also training for the marathon). In addition, I did a day of yoga and incorporated a lot of cycling. I also had my longest cycling ride to date: 36 miles! I love it. It's freeing and so much easier than running! lol.

# of Workout days this month - 23 out of 30! That's not bad! With the free pure barre classes, races, and training for the marathon, I worked out for 2.5 weeks straight (which is not typical for me).  I tried to fit as much in as possible. It was exhausting! Ha!

Number of Races - Four! I had the Ultra Michelob 13.1 Half Marathon, the Esprit De She Triathlon, the Short Run on a Long Day 5k, and the Race Around the World Duathlon (see below).

**Now that the marathon training is in full swing, my running mileage for July will be greatly increased (possibly see a 100 number this month??).  But I have 2 major cycling events coming up (non-competitive). I'd like to take more pure barre classes or just keep up with some strength training during this month to get stronger.

Race Around the World Duathlon

A couple weeks ago, I competed in the Race Around the World Duathlon. This was the second time I did it. It's right in my neighborhood and packet pickup in literally right around the corner from my house! It almost can't get better than that!

Race morning, I had a few friends drive to my house and we all rode our bikes the 1 mile to race start.  Seriously, so easy!  My goal was to beat the previous year's time. Last year, I did the race with my boyfriend Derek and his friend Dale. We all stayed together, which worked out well. We are all stronger in different areas so in the end, it probably evened out.

But this year I was doing it by myself, for myself. I wanted to beat the previous time.  Last year, I was a newbie at the bike. This year, I also did a lot more bike/run bricks (not sure I did any before this last year).  And without further delay, the results:

I had a great race. I set a new PR by about 9 minutes. If you look, my bike was a PR by about 7 mins! The transitions were better and my runs were faster. I think there is still room for improvement but I really enjoyed myself. Plus, since it's local, a lot of my run friends do this event also!  The run is an out and back and you see your friends often!

Pre-Race with my running friends

This event will definitely be a yearly event!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Strike Out ALS 5k Winner!!

Thanks to everyone that participated in my giveaway for the Strike Out ALS 5k

Short and sweet, let's get to the winner!

I used the Random Number Generator to select the winner in the order that the comments were posted.

And the winner is............
......(drum roll)......
......(more drum roll).....

The suspense is killing me!

 And #11 was...

Congratulations Eduardo! I will contact you regarding registration! And I will see you at the 5k on July 15th!