Week Two: Chicago Marathon Training

Monday: 4 hilly miles at an average 10:09 pace. Splits at 10:14, 10:38, 10:04, and 9:39. 60-minute walk. After dodging threats of thunderstorms and tornadoes during a hot and humid weekend, the weather on Monday evening was pretty close to perfect. I decided it would be a good night to run a couple of hills, so I opted for the gravel road near my home that would take me through an area that had some pretty tough hills. Mile one was a nice warm-up mile, but mile two was pretty much an entire hill. Seriously– that hill doesn’t crest and dip until just under three-quarters of a mile. I had to stop, however, not because I was getting tired (and I was!) but because the entire field along the trail was peppered with my favorite wildflower, the Black-Eyed Susan.

Even though I was in the middle of a serious run and being in great spirits even after getting through a tough uphill climb for almost a mile, I had to stop and take pictures. Part of what makes running so wonderful is our surroundings. The rest of my run was pretty close to blissful. I got a second wind running downhill and completing my third mile and decided to crank up my pace for the last mile. I was running through a part of the neighborhood that had a couple of hills, so I didn’t get pace down as low as I wanted to, but it was still a solid 9:38 split and I didn’t relent, even as it got hard to breathe. I topped it off with a 1-hour walk.

Tuesday: Cross-training: Yoga. Much to my surprise, I was actually awake early enough and without the serious mental fog and lethargy that I had from last week to attend a yoga class this morning. Unfortunately, the yoga class was a very basic yoga class that almost put me to sleep as the instructor was intent on getting the class to slow down and hold each pose for 3 minutes at a time. We did a sum total of about 5 poses with the most complicated pose being an IT band stretch with the yoga straps. While I was glad I went because my hips were feeling tight, I would have rather waited until the evening class to attend. Oh well…I did say I needed to start waking up early.

Some runs are just for getting to the next run!
Some runs are just for getting to the next run!

Wednesday: 5 miles at an average 9:49 pace. Splits at 9:38, 9:15, 9:51, 9:49, and 10:33. 20-minute walk. My first thought when I checked the weather was, did we skip from July to October? Temps were in the high 50’s last night and in the low 60’s with a dark, rainy cloud cover all day and a slight breeze. I almost thought about digging out my arm warmers. I spent the day hydrating with two Nalgene bottles of water and finally decided to go for my run when the sun was out the evening. It was hard to get out and, admittedly, I didn’t want to run. I can usually tell before I go for a run if it’s going to be a really bad one– it’s a weird gut thing that I can’t change my mind about. I just didn’t want to run. Today, my run called for a 1-mile warm-up at a conservative pace, 4 miles at a faster pace, and the last mile at a cool-down pace. I started off a little too fast (this is constantly a problem for me) and, in the second mile, I was flying. It actually felt good to go that fast, but I had to tell myself to slow down because I knew I was sprinting and might not be able to maintain the pace for the next 3 miles. Well, slow down I did when my third mile commenced on a serious of rolling hills. By this point, I was cursing myself for not bringing water. Apparently I get very dehydrated when I run, even in moderate temps. By the start of the fourth mile, I was….OVER IT. I had to climb a huge hill that had a stoplight in the middle of it. I stopped to let one car pass, which killed my momentum and, on the downside of the hill, I had a side stitch and slowed to practically a shuffle. Running angry sucks. I cut the last mile off my run because I just wanted to be home already. Some runs aren’t for winning– they are for getting on to the next run. Oh well, right? Run and done.

Thursday: Rest. Sometimes I fall into the whole “life gets in the way” trap. After a demoralizing run on Wednesday, I wasn’t exactly psyched to get back out there the next day, but just as I had decided that it was time to just suck it up and go anyways, I get the call of my life and suddenly I was thrown into plan-making mode in between shrieking phone calls with family members. Thursday turned out to be a perfect day. I got the news I’d been waiting months for, my brother was flying in from California for the holiday, and I was high on life. Great day for a run, but I’d have rather just enjoyed it. So, I went for a walk with my mom and sister along the Missouri River, curled up in front of a huge fire with my family, and listened to the sound of fireworks being set off around town and the crackling of the fire. I just enjoyed a perfect day when I got it.

july2 033
Corn is almost as tall as I am!

Friday: 4 miles at an average 10:27 pace. Splits at 10:37, 10:32, 10:24, and 10:13. Friday was one of those days when I was more annoyed than a cat caught in a rainstorm. I got home from my family’s house pretty late the night before, and people were still shooting off fireworks until the wee hours. What was at first kind of dreamy to fall asleep to (I really love the Fourth of July) turned into me getting woken up at 2:30AM that morning by the drunk 20-somethings in my apartment complex shooting off fireworks in the parking lot. I thought it would end soon, but it went on for awhile. I’d have rushed outside to yell at them, but dealing with drunk dudes at 3:30AM? I decided to just deal with it. I finally turned the light on at 4:30AM and watched an episode of “Suits” on my Kindle then tried going back to sleep around 5:15AM, but the sun was starting to come up and, even though the drunkards went to bed an hour or so ago, the chattering birds were keeping me up now. Finally, at 6AM, I decided I was up for the day and ran some errands at Walmart until 7AM. Got dressed for my run– 4 miles for the Fourth of July– at 7:30AM. july2 035My run was hot, labored, and slow. The sleep deprivation was hitting me hard and so was the hot morning sun. It was an easy-pace 3-mile run with a fast last mile, but I barely had enough energy to make it a solid last fast mile. During that run, I tried to focus on my breathing and getting negative splits. I had to dig deep to finish that run, but I reminded myself that I needed to practice digging deep in practice runs so I could pull out all the stops on race day. I tried to ignore the memory that, a year ago at that moment, I was running my fastest half-marathon to date. A year later, I was feeling slow and heavy. In addition, I was already late to be at my parent’s house at 10AM, and I still needed to do laundry and pack for a long weekend in Omaha. In between getting ready to go and packing, my dryer kept stopping every 2 minutes because it was getting too hot. What should have taken a quick hour to dry took about twice as long. On my way up to Omaha, I was tailgated by a speeder for miles and, about a mile after the jerk passed me, upon seeing a cop on the shoulder of the fast lane, the speeder hurled her car right in front of me, causing me to slam on my brakes and lay on the horn. The cop, however, didn’t budge. Now, I’m not saying someone wasn’t doing his job, but I needed justice that day. It was an annoying morning. But time with my family usually always cools me down, so I got up to my parent’s house and tried not to let the annoyances of my lack of sleep and noisy neighbors, the hard run, my dryer, and the psycho driver and lackadaisical cop ruin my day. I had a fun, although subdued compared to prior years, holiday.

Saturday: 6 miles at an average 9:53 pace. Splits at 10:18, 9:42, 9:49, 9:33, 9:41, and 10:15. 20-minute walk. Usually, when you’ve been away from home for awhile and then come back, you get nostalgic and want to go do all the things you can’t do anymore since you moved away. This was the case with my brother who wanted to go swimming at a lake near home. But Saturday, unlike the perfect weather of the past few days, was cool, cloudy, and very muggy. My brother woke up early for a run so we could leave at noon for the lake, but as he was running, I decided with my mom and brother that maybe the lake was a better idea for Sunday when it was predicted to be MUCH hotter and sunnier. My brother gets back, realizes I hadn’t gone running yet and would be gone for at least an hour with 6 miles to run, and decides that everyone will wait for me. I hate morning running. I had every intention of running that evening after the lake, but I know what it’s like to come home and want to do all the things you used to take for granted living there, so I sucked it up and got out there for my brother’s sake. My run was supposed to be a one-mile easy warm-up followed by 4 faster miles and finished off with a one-mile cool-down. For the most part, it was a joyful run. I had to stop a couple of times to hydrate and rest because the humidity was awful. I brought two water bottles with me– one filled with water and the other filled with diluted Gatorade. Upon finishing, I felt like I could have continued on, but at a much slower pace. That’s how every run should end. I also thought about cutting it short to 4 miles and running the last 2 that evening since I knew my brother was waiting on me, but I decided to just wrap it up right then. As it turned out, that was a smart decision. The sun came out that day and the mugginess and temps climbed to 68% and 98 degrees, respectively. And my brother got to enjoy his time at the lake. Another perfect day!

Sunday: 9 miles at an average 9:56 pace. I woke up Sunday morning and the first thing out of my mouth was, “Oh, hell no.” My brother and I had made plans to run out on one of the trails near my parent’s home instead of around the park where I usually run or through the neighborhood where he used to run, but with the temps and mugginess already in the mid-80’s and at 100%, respectively, and knowing that there was no shade on the trail, I knew that my prospects for a 10-miler were looking slim. The day was only going to get hotter and temps were going to be in the low-90’s by the time I was finishing my 4th mile. So, I woke up my brother and offered an idea: Hey, Mr. Air Force Officer, sir, let’s go run at the Field House on base! I was prepared to duke it out with him on the reasons why we should go there and run and not on the trails, but his response was, “Okay. Sounds good.” And just like that, we were off. Now, the Offutt Air Force Base Field House is a sort of nostalgic place for me. Back when my dad was still in the Air Force, he used to take my siblings and me to the Field House to go swimming while he worked out. The Field House used to be an airplane hangar and was once the site where modifications were made on the B-29 Enola Gay. Today, the Field House is pretty much a fitness enthusiast’s playground. It has a 0.4-mile running track that goes around the entire loop, a lap pool, courts for pretty much every ball-sport possible (tennis, racquetball, volleyball, basketball, soccer, field hockey), scores of cardio machines, and tons of weight machines. All along the walls are stations where you can do pull-ups, dips, climb ropes, and there’s even a Cross-Fit area with huge tires. The Field House is legit. My brother only had to run 4 miles and I was due to run between 8 and 10. I had a 10-miler planned, but out of concern for a huge jump in mileage, I decided to scale it back a tad. I’ve never really run with anyone before, but honestly, running alongside my brother for 4 miles was SUPER fun. We didn’t really speak as we ran, but we kept a great consistent pace and it was just nice to have him there. He dropped off at mile 4 as planned, and I continued to run, holding a steady pace between 9:30 and 9:50 minutes per mile. Because it was a track, it was flat and fast with no uphills and, even though the hangar isn’t air-conditioned due to expenses and the indoor temps were over 85 degrees, the lights were low so there wasn’t sun beating down and every now and then were massive fans that kept a nice breeze going. Maintaining my pace was easy and very enjoyable. I sort of wish I could get on base more often to run on the track.

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