marathon training

The Big 2-0 + Taco Fest 2.0

What the heck is up you guys?

Don’t mind me, I’m just riding the high from running a casual 20 MILER yesterday!

I know this kind of mileage is chump change to many marathoners but man…never in a million years did I think I would run three and a half hours straight and not want to die.

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Since the CARA 20 Miler is designed to simulate the actual race, the event didn’t start at 6:30 like it usually does. We were placed in waves and mine didn’t end up starting until 7:00 on the dot. Unfortunately my pre-race stretching occurred on Lake Shore Drive after being involved in a fender bender — but luckily everyone was okay, my friend driving was not at fault, and we still made it to the race on time. It definitely made for an entertaining beginning to the morning.

The run was a point-to-point route, so we started very far north and ran along the lake for 20 miles with little diversion from the path. I haven’t even driven that far along the lake.

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As you can see, we started in a huge pack — the 10:30 pace group — but by mile 17 (above) it was every man for himself. The weather was absolutely perfect for a run which is probably why I was flying until mile 16. Besides two 2-minute walking breaks + one trip to the bathroom, I crushed that 20 miler! I did find out that at mile 16 I become mean and cranky though. My friend was trying to make jokes to push me to the finish line and I was not having it haha. Sorry Jaeson!

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The thing I’m most proud of is how far I’ve come since my post a few weeks ago. Remember, the one where I was a blubbering idiot because I couldn’t overcome that wall at 13 miles? Well I made that wall my….well, you know.

Don’t think it was EASY though. I definitely wanted to collapse at the end. Which is exactly what I did.unnamed (23)unnamed (34)

Thank goodness the kind folks at NovaCare were there to stretch us out. I definitely took advantage of that treat — and Bethany found me! Sorry if I wasn’t forming full sentences at that point, lady 🙂unnamed (24)

It was almost 1pm by the time I got home and all I had eaten that day was half a banana pre-race and two Gus during, so I was cranky, grumpy, and in need of some serious food. Enter: the Chipotle burrito. I haven’t had an actual burrito from there since high school but I was not messing around with any burrito bowl nonsense. I needed that tortilla like a bee needs pollen.

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That thing was gone in five minutes.

I spent the next three hours jumping between icing my knees, showering, and sleeping. I honestly felt drunk for a few hours until Megan called me and reminded me that it was the last day of Taco Fest on the main street right by my apartment so even though I felt like a zombie, I threw on a decent outfit and was out the door.

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I remember going to Taco Fest last year like it was yesterday. Such a crazy thing to think about how far I’ve come. I was volunteering at last year’s CARA 20-miler before I met up Megan for the festival and now here I am, 365 days later, having run it. Can you say goal-crushing?

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I had a Grapefruit shandy (because I couldn’t find my beloved cider), a crispy chicken taco (definite favorite), and of course tried the lobster taco. They had so many cool creations there — fries topped with pulled pork and cheese was tempting me like whoa — but I wasn’t sure how my stomach would handle any craziness. So I stuck to the delicious basics.

And just because I wanted to end the night on a really nutritious note, we walked to Dairy Queen and got blizzards before watching the Keeping Up With The Kardashians season premiere. What a full day.

Question:

  • What’s the farthest you’ve ever run?
  • Do you have any street festivals near where you live?
  • Tacos: fish, chicken, beef?
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What to do about failure: a heavy dose of self-compassion + a sprinkle of commiseration

This weekend I had a setback.

Between a fitness project I’m working on (that I’ll share more about soon) in addition to marathon training, I haven’t been running as much as I could be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely running a lot, but I could have another short run day added in the mix if I really tried. It hasn’t been affecting me terribly, and even though it’s been tough as hell I figured that since I already ran 16 miles I was clearly on the right track. Fast forward to this past Saturday morning for our 18-miler and I was a wreck. An absolutely wreck.

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I felt like the Tin Man, in need of oil at my “hinges.” My hip flexors felt so tight that I was barely bending my legs with every step, and with each additional mile it felt worse and worse. I wasn’t sure whether I was just tired, going through typical running pains, hitting a wall, or if I was actually hurt, so I kept pushing. I could tell after the first four miles that it was going to be horrible. When we hit mile six I wanted to vomit thinking that we were only 1/3 of the way through. I even thought about stopping at mile 10 and running with a slower pace group, but I kept pushing. We finally hit a point where I was close to lululemon and I just knew I had to stop. I awkwardly slipped out of line with my running group at Oak Street Beach, ran under the bridge, and came up to my store. I had completed 13 miles instead of 18 and I felt like a complete and total failure. I knocked on the door of lululemon (the store wasn’t open yet) and the second my manager opened the door I just started crying. I was more frustrated than I’d been in years. I’m in the home stretch of training and I can’t even hit the marks? 18 miles shouldn’t be impossible. I know that 13 miles is where I hit my wall. WHY didn’t I push through it? Where was my discipline?

My coworker was quick to reframe my thinking: where was my compassion? Compassion for myself? Marathon training is hard. My body probably has no idea what I’m doing to it and what the end goal is. And while I could definitely take the short runs more seriously instead of pounding through the long ones and using those as my markers for success, I have to just move forward and not wallow in the fact that I ended my run a few miles early. So I didn’t spend another minute mad at myself this weekend. I got over it and celebrated the fact that 13 miles, a HALF MARATHON, is pretty common in my life these days. And that’s incredible.

So I spent the rest of the weekend doing what I do best: EATING.

Tuna melts with Mom at our favorite spot:

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A family BBQ in the suburbs complete with Billy Joel radio, pineapple margaritas, and every grilled vegetable on the planet:

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Late morning Sunday wake-up call with peach french toast on our deck:

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Roasted tomatoes from my mom’s garden:

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And a bit of quiet reflection on my porch swing as I enjoyed the 80+ temps we got this weekend:

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The verdict? There is nothing wrong with my life, even though I didn’t run 18 miles this weekend.

20 miler, I’m coming for ya. Just have to work on these Tin Man hinges first.

Question:

  • Did you struggle during training with your first marathon?
  • How do you stay disciplined with running with everything else you have going on?
  • How are you spending your Labor Day weekend?

Inaugural CARA Run, Father’s Day, and Old Lady Fun

Justttt when I say I’m leaving for good, I pop back onto IHABL.

First things first: it was my first marathon training run of the season! I’m in an interesting spot right now because even though this week’s run should only be 7 miles (for the Chicago Marathon in October), I’m also attempting to not die during the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in July — so I knew I needed to do more than that to make sure mama’s still got it.

I rolled out of bed bright and early at 5:30am Saturday morning and ran to Foster Beach to meet up with CARA for the second run of marathon training season (my first).

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I had no idea what to expect from a CARA run, as it’s my first time with the organization. Luckily it was much less intimidating than I thought. The group was easy to find, there were speakers with music blasting, and pace groups that were easily marked. Who knew so much activity happened in the city before 7am! I found my pace group and even recognized a few girls who had been in the store before, so I was cool as a cucumber. The whole “fake it til you make it” advice really is true.

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It was awesome! There were hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of runners out on the path throughout our run. Everyone yelled hi to each other, we ran 2×2 (Noah’s Ark style), and there was even a gatorade station set up along the way?? The running community is pretty incredible — this is going to be a fun summer.

All in all, (3 miles to the site + 7 miles with the group), and before I knew it I had covered 10 miles!

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I hobbled home, had an appointment at Delos where a very European no-nonsense therapist dug his elbows deep into my hip flexors and foot arches (best investment I’ve made in a long time), and soon headed to the Farmer’s Market with Colleen. We had waaaay too much old lady fun exploring.

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Sunday was spent with my #1 fan, although these days I really think those roles are reversed. I love this guy! We ate great food, played (terrible) golf, sat on the deck in the sun, drank sangria, and just spent some quality time together.

IMG_5910 IMG_5911Questions:

  • How did you spend Father’s Day?
  • What’s your favorite part about farmer’s markets?
  • Running groups: love ’em or hate ’em?

Summer Lovin’ (tell me more, tell me more)

I’ve been spending every free minute outside. Between the warm air, the cool breeze, and the sunshine inching later and later into the evening, I feel like I’m smack dab in the middle of July. No complaints here!

I said yes to a last minute invitation to the White Sox game Wednesday night. I hadn’t been since it was Comiskey Park (sup 1996) so venturing to the South Side felt like an adventure in and of itself.

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I had zero expectations of a White Sox game since I am a Cubs fan (only because of the Americana aspect, not because I actually have any interest in or intelligence of baseball), but it was fun! It was fairly crowded for a Wednesday night and I joined my roommate Colleen and two of her friends for what turned out to be an exciting game. Granted, I didn’t watch much, but the conversation and food were killer.

U.S. Cellular Field definitely has its food priorities in order. So. Many. Options. From Wao Bao to Hooters, tamales to pirogi, the options were overwhelming. In an attempt to stay on track with my healthy eating, I ordered a turkey sandwich. When you see the following picture, remember the ingredients are healthy. Please ignore the fact that my sandwich could feed a family of four.

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Hell yeah! This turkey club was the Buckingham Palace of turkey clubs. There was APRICOT JAM on it. AND guacamole. And other stuff. Too much other stuff. No wait…no such thing.

#noregrets

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You know how as soon as you eat something salty you just have to have something sweet? Insert soft serve cone here.

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And because apparently we weren’t spoiled enough on Wednesday with nice weather, Mother Nature decided to grace us with the best day in the past 365 days (I’ll go head-to-head with anyone who challenges that) yesterday. Thank goodness because I had a track workout scheduled and I was not about to deal with Tuesday’s fog again.

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This is what I love about Chicago. In the shadows of buildings as tall as the sky, you can always find hidden parks, and it suddenly feels like your own little haven. Not to mention I always run into someone I know — Erin came to the workout! I was so happy to see her, especially after getting smoked on Tuesday during the tempo run. It felt good to see a familiar face! Or should I say, familiar feet.

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We started out with a half-mile shakeout followed by dynamic stretching and an explanation of the workout. The track workout consisted of 5x400s (400m=one lap) and a timed mile run. The 400m were broken up into 200m at 5K pace (uncomfortable, challenging) plus a 200m recovery jog to get our heart rates back down. Practicing that pace took so much out of me–I was exhausted! However, I had no choice but to recover for five minutes and then pushed it for a timed mile, something I haven’t done in years. To put that in perspective, the last time I was timed for a mile, George W. Bush was President. Let that sink in. I ran in 8:16, which, while isn’t Olympic by a longshot, is an exciting place to start. Dave, the running coach and marathoner extraordinaire (remember when he ran 100 miles in 24 hours??) is going to take my time and develop a pace chart for me to use during training. That way, I’ll be on top of improvements and will be able to continue to push myself.

Group shot!

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As I lay my head on my pillow last night, I realized I have barely been in my apartment in the past 72 hours. I never used to be an outdoor person, but now that I live on my own and am 100% in charge of how I spend my time, you can bet I’ll be using my apartment as a homebase to cook and sleep, but that’s about it for the next few months. HELLO SUMMER!

It’s almost time: time for street festivals, free concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion, movies in the park overlooking Lake Michigan, the Lakeshore Path so jam-packed with people that you almost want to get mad (but you can’t because you’re too excited to share the joy with them), strolling the Green City Farmer’s Market at 9am scoping out the best breakfast taco to eat, maneuvering Divvy bikes down busy city streets because the thought of getting on the stuffy CTA is unbearable, parking yourself on a patio and drinking a fizzy cocktail for hours until the sun goes down, walking to the beach at 10am and staking your claim on a patch of sand until someone asks you to join their volleyball game, grilling out on makeshift patios…….

Can you tell I love the possibility this summer holds?

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I’m headed to Madison with my family for Mother’s Day Weekend tomorrow! Get ready to see pictures from the most beautiful farmers market in the world.

Questions:

  • If you had to pick ONE activity to do every day this summer, what would it be? Just one! Run, drink sangria, pet a koala…go!

Leave Your Ego Behind

It’s officially that time of year.

The air is fresh, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the paths are cleared.

It’s running season. For real this time.

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No more “I wonder if it might start snowing” or “The temperature went up 20 degrees in the past five minutes. Sure wish I didn’t wear two layers!” garbage running that’s been thrown our way thanks to some split personality weather. Things have calmed down and now “The Weather” is only 60% of daily conversation here instead of its usual 85%.

Since I have committed to two races so far (half marathon in July and marathon in October) I figured it was time to lace up the ol’ Asics and hit the trails. I’m working as a run coach for our store so on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for the next few months I’m committed to running my butt off (having others hold you accountable helps out a lot). Yesterday was our first run as a group (tempo), and I learned a very valuable lesson:

In order to accomplish your goals, you have to start at day one. On day one, you are a novice. You will get smoked. And you’ll hate it. But you have to leave your ego behind.

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I’m not used to being bad at things. That’s not to say I’m not bad at anything, but anything I haven’t excelled at I’ve quit, so as not to humiliate myself. And I can’t say for sure that I’m “bad” at running. But it certainly doesn’t come naturally to me. I dreaded the mile run all throughout school. One mile. I picked it up as something to do to stay in shape during college. It wasn’t a competition, because it was just me and the sidewalk.

When I run, I run lazy. That is, I run for fun. I usually set out to do anywhere from 4-6 miles at a ~9:15 pace. I have never done speedwork, tempo runs, fartlek, or anything like that. I honestly don’t even know what those words really mean. And even though I consider myself a runner, I had a pretty huge shock waiting for me today at our first group run.

The ten of us met at the store and started a quick warmup. I was feeling confident and strong, until the tempo run began. We were instructed to run 20 minutes out, 20 minutes back, for a total of 40 minutes. The first ten were a warmup pace (aka our normal pace, which for me hovers around 9:15), and the second ten were supposed to be a pace 30 seconds faster than normal. The third chunk of ten minutes was a pace 45 seconds faster than our base pace, followed by a cooldown ten at our warmup speed.

Sounds simple enough, right? I thought so too. Until we took off and I realized five of the ten runners were pacing 6min miles.

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See that group in front of me? That’s how far behind I was. At that was the closest gap I had the whole run.

The feeling of watching people run faster and further away from you SUCKS. It’s completely out of your control. You’re only as fast as you are in that present moment. No matter how quickly I moved my legs or swung my arms, there was no way I was going to catch up. I was so, so angry at myself. I gave it everything I had and didn’t even care that I was basically wheezing and dry heaving as I passed other runners. In the end, I ran those 5 or so miles at an incredibly fast speed….for me. My splits ranged between 8:28 and 8:45. I was damn proud!

The moral of the story? Everyone starts somewhere. This is my first marathon. This is the first time I’ve ever viewed running as a competition. I didn’t casually meander onto my Varsity basketball team in high school. I spent years in the gym learning the game, practicing  moves, and mastering fundamentals. Running is no different. It is my new sport, my new team. The team just happens to be me, myself and I. And right now I just have to leave my ego behind, accept that for now I am slower than many other runners, and be excited to get better.

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That’s where I am right now. I feel like a sponge, ready to soak up all the running information. I’m excited to get better. I’m tired of only doing things I’m good at. Because when you do that, you don’t grow. I’m proud that I set a goal that will actually be difficult to accomplish, and you know what? I might fail. I’ve never set a goal before that I might fail.

Have you?

But so what? So what if I fail? Who is that hurting? My ego? A figment of my imagination? WHO CARES! I read a quote the other day that resonated with me then and even more now that my ego is feeling pretty bruised:

The ego desires perfection. The inner-self lives in authenticity

Even though we are all at different paces and have different goals, we are all on the same path. At the end of our run we were all back on equal footing in our dedication, passion, and love for the sport.

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That being said, if anyone in Chicago is looking for a running group, we meet at the lululemon Rush store in the Gold Coast on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm and Saturday mornings at 7am. Tuesdays are tempo runs, Thursday is speed work, and Saturday is a long run. I’d love to share the joy of running with you 🙂

#100milemarch update

Well, it’s halfway through the month! I’m slowly but surely working on my personal goal to run 100 miles this month, and have even recruited some unexpected suckers to join me (how’s it coming for you, Salt?)

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So with 50% down and 50% to go, where am I?

40 miles.

“Oy vey, Lauren, you’re 10 miles behind!”

Fear not, doubters! I started out only being able to run 4-5 miles at a time comfortably, and now I’m at 7-8 each run. So the miles will keep chipping away even faster now. Plus, I was only able to run 10 my first week thanks to a new medication kicking the crap out of me, so I’m building momentum each day. For someone who probably ran 40 miles from the months of December-February, this is big stuff. I have no doubt that I’ll be able to hit it!

So, what have I learned so far?

  1. Sometimes you don’t want to run. Run anyway. You’ll be happier for it.
  2. A bag of mixed vegetables is better than any store-bought ice pack.
  3. Hot power yoga is my best friend.
  4. My ears sweat.
  5. When I run, I crave ice cream. Gotta work on that..
  6. I am blessed to live in such a vibrant running city.

Chicago

Goal-crushing.

How are you doing on your March goals?