Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How'd You Do That?

Since the Chicago Marathon last week, a lot of people have asked me how I got down to a 3:13 marathon from a 4:22.  I'm still not convinced I didn't accidentally take a short cut, because it seems really fast to me, but the results indicate I ran the whole thing. 

The marathon is different for everyone, everyday.  I've had what I thought was awesome training and ended up with a shitty race, so a large part of my answer to "how'd you do that?" is "I got lucky." 

Another part is "I picked a good race;" Chicago is notoriously flat and fast and held at a time of year when the weather gods might very well be kind to you, as they were to us on Sunday. 

But luck and weather aren't exactly great tools to rely on when you're looking to improve your time.  I thought it might be interesting to share what else I think helped me get faster, and get your feedback on what's sped you up, or conversely, what hasn't worked.  So, here are some things I did differently in the lead up to Number 18, and my best guesses at how they impacted my performance:

1. Mileage.  I had multiple 60+ mile weeks this season, and one week with 78 miles.  In the past, I've typically had 3 weeks of 50+ miles.  So the volume of my training definitely increased this season.  But along with it, so did the amount of running I did on tired legs.  Some of that is a function of volume: your legs are probably more tired when you've run 40 miles going into your long run than when you've run 25.  But this season I also moved around the day on which I did my long run a lot, so I almost never had a full week of recovery between long runs, and sometimes just had 2 or 3 days between them.  I actually specifically thought about that, my practice at running tired, in the later miles in Chicago.  It was a good reminder that I could, in fact, keep going at a strong pace.

The flip side of this, of course, is that with increased volume and decreased rest, you're upping the odds of injury.  This season, I was smart about it.  That was not always the case...

2. Speed work.  The single biggest factor in my getting faster, especially as I was trying to BQ for the first time, was speedwork, and I've kept at it weekly during training since then.  Mile repeats, 800s, tempo runs.  If you want to run faster, you need to run faster

3. Strength training.  I added a thrice weekly lower body strength training workout to my regimen this year in a desperate attempt to fix whatever was wrong with my hip.  I can't claim that this was a panacea, but adding squats, lunges, and clam shells has made a noticeable difference not just in my leg strength, but also in my balance.  So if I ever decide to run a marathon on a ship deck, I'm covered, I guess...

4. Cross training.  Again, while not necessarily new this season, committing myself to cross training just once a week (generally in the form of SoulCycle) over the past couple of years has, I think, helped stave off injury while maintaining cardiovascular endurance.  Plus, doing something other than running makes us use other muscles and reflexes, and in the final miles of the marathon, weird-ass shit can happen and suddenly in order to keep moving forward, you have to start doing high knees or hold your arms above your head or utilize your body holistically, and that includes engaging non-running muscles.

5. Nutrition and weight.  I've lost about 7 pounds in about as many months doing absolutely nothing difficult.  I eat less crap (think fresh fruit instead of Doritos from the office vending machine if I need an afternoon snack).  I do less mindless grazing (making actual meals for dinner instead of cheese and crackers, then hummus, then cereal, then peanut butter...).  And, since the Social Diet way back in March ("social" component being short lived), I've been keeping a food diary. 

I feel like that's some big taboo secret, but in all honesty, it's easy and it works.  I never set out to lose weight, but being more cognizant of and intentional about what I was putting into my body had the added bonus of taking a few pounds off.  It is remarkable how good one feels when one's diet is not 80% processed cheese (conversely, I demanded TG order us a Papa John's pizza after Abbe and Baker's wedding a few weeks ago, and OMG processed cheese has a time and a place and it is 1am and in a hotel room after a wedding.)

6. Massage.  I'm not a big foam roller (don't yell at me), but that doesn't mean massage is off the table.  I demanded a lot of massages from TG this season, and I want to be clear that I don't mean the sexxxxxxy kind.  Typically, they involved lots of yelling ("Stop pushing there!" "You're hurting me!" "Oh my God, seriously, stop!") and were not at all relaxing for either of us, but ultimately, I think they did help speed up recovery.  

If you don't have a boyfriend with whom you'd like to fight, I am also a big proponent of a quick chair massage at the nail salon.  10 minutes will work out the knots you've tied yourself into sitting at a desk all day and then hunching up while you're running.  Which reminds me...

7. The Standing Desk.  I stand at my desk.  As you'll recall, it's a pretty shoddy set up, constructed mostly of boxes of expired liquor donations and annual reports (the nonprofit life is a glamorous one), but it gets the job done: not only do I feel better not being all crammed up and bent over, but since I'm standing there, I'm much more apt to engage in some stretching of my IT bands or quads while I'm on a conference call or something.

8. Cats.  I have a cat who wakes me up at 5:00am with his teeth and claws, which means I have no desire to hit snooze and stay in bed with that vicious monster.  Get a cat, never miss a morning workout.

Something I don't think has an impact on my speed?  The dry period. 

Whereas not drinking beer is overrated...
For races at which I have big, hairy, scary goals (Chicago, Boston), I stop drinking alcohol 4-6 weeks beforehand.  In part, making a commitment like that sets the tone for me, mentally, that This Is A Serious Undertaking.  Physically, the thinking is that I'll sleep better, make better eating choices, and be better hydrated.  Truthfully, I don't know that any of those things actually happen, for me.  I get a lot of sleep (7.5 hours a night at minimum. #childfree) regardless.  Not drinking has the effect of freeing up calories for indulging in something else.  And drinking Diet Cokes instead of beers at a bar doesn't have the hydration impact I should be going for.  And when it comes to the race itself, the relationship between sobriety and speed seems to be a crapshoot: I drank a beer the night before Rehoboth and had a good race on crap training, and didn't touch the stuff for 5 weeks before the Hamptons and tried to DNF at mile 13.  I keep doing it because the mental part is actually important to me, but I definitely wouldn't put it on the Must Do list, if you were asking me to make you one.

So, that's what worked and what hasn't for me.  What about you?  Try any of the above?  Have something else in your arsenal that works like rocket fuel for your racing?  Convinced that foam rolling is for chumps? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Wrap Up: The Week After

I spent most of the week immediately following the marathon in a food-and-alcohol fueled stupor in Chicago.  In addition to the mashed potato pizza establishment, I also found myself in a place that served tater tots with a side of Cheez Whiz, and a place that served gallons of wine for $20.  The Midwest, man...

While the caloric indulgence is nice, in the short term, one of the other perks I've explored, post-race, has been the freedom to do things other than specific prescribed workouts.  While I try to incorporate some semblance of cross training into my weeks during the race season, and I run because I like to run, there's something to be said for not being beholden to a pretty strict regimen.  So here's what I did last week:

Monday: Binge eat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and drink Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc on the couch because it turns out Nina lives near a Trader Joe's. 

Tuesday: 20 minutes of yoga in my room (I stayed at a Kimpton property Tuesday-Friday for the business trip part of my week in Chicago, and they have yoga mats and on demand workouts in every room).  Hour walk on the treadmill at my hotel.  I'm a strong proponent of getting moving pretty soon, post-race; I've found it really helps with stiffness.  That's what he said.

Wednesday: 20 minutes of yoga in my room.  I'm not really a yoga person, as you probably know, but this on demand workout was super gentle stretching that felt awesome.  I'd even incorporate it at home, except I have a cat, and cats and yoga don't mix. 3 mile run to make sure I still could run (survey: sort of...).

Thursday: 20 minutes of yoga in my room.  5 mile run because I stinking love running in Chicago.

Friday: Pancakes.  1.5 hours gentle stretching on the flight.  Just kidding; I just wanted to use this opportunity to mention that I got upgraded to first class, so I could have stretched if I wanted to.  Instead I did work on my laptop and ate a bowl of those warm nuts, and then after I finished them, wondered if I was meant to have shared them with my seatmate.

Saturday: Terry Fox run with Ryan.  This was Ryan's first race of any kind and I do believe she had a great time!  She ran the whole time, which is extra impressive because, while advertised as a 5k, the Terry Fox Run is more like 5k-ish.  And not in the "my Garmin says I ran longer, so definitely the course was long" kind of way (and my Garmin doesn't say anything because it's still cracked out after Chicago.)  The 5k sign on the Terry Fox course is about 3 tenths of a mile ahead of the finish line.  So Ryan, who diligently followed the Couch to 5k Program, got more than she bargained for.  Naturally, now we're trying to convince her that, since she went 3.4 miles, she might as well register for a 4 mile race. 

That Garmin is just for show

After the race, I got a shameful pedicure during which the nail technician looked extremely troubled by the calluses on my feet.

Sunday: Set out to run 8 miles, but my legs told me 6 was enough.  Stuck to the bridle path, which was really forgiving.  Came home, made pumpkin bread.  Added 50 minutes of bike riding in the evening, because I bought a bike a month ago and rode it one time.

This morning, I went spinning.  Wednesday, I look forward to running with Team RWB again.  I'd love to go for a hike out in CT next weekend. Being able to do whatever workout I feel like doing is awesome, and I think I'm going to really like this off season.  

Number of Miles Run Last Week: 18.

Number of Beers Consumed Last Week:  You know honestly, not that many.  I think maybe just 2?  I drank SO much wine in Chicago. 

Types of Beers Consumed Last Week: Revolution IPA.

Tell me: what other things should I be trying with my new-found time not spent doing specific workouts?  Refine method piyo zumba rowing?  What's your favorite workout that isn't 3 hours of running?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Race Report: Chicago Marathon

On Sunday, I ran my 18th marathon in Chicago in 3:13:58.  I have a weird anxious feeling like maybe I accidentally cheated or something, because a 3:13 marathon seems A LOT faster than I ever could have run.  In fact, it's one hour and nine minutes faster than my first marathon.  I've come a long way, baby.  (Literally.  26.2 x 18 is 471.6 miles, and that doesn't include the distances I traveled training for them).

Pre-Race: TG and I arrived on Saturday morning, having decided to spend Friday night at home in New York, where I could sleep in my own bed, eat my own food, and freak out quietly in my own apartment.  We went straight from O'Hare to the expo, which was approximately 12 hours away by taxi.  I think realistically it was about 20 miles, way far south in Chicago, but it took forever.

Once we finally arrived, however, the whole packet pick up process was easy.  I snagged my bib, my shirt, and a couple of things from the expo I'd neglected to pack: Body Glide, a new SpiBelt, and a pair of Kinvaras, which I actually did pack, but when I find them on sale, I snag them because I hate the new model and need to hoard the old ones.

Sweet backpack. You look 12.

After a while, we got pretty hangry, and no amount of free samples of protein granola and Gatorade could hold us over, so we got back in a cab and headed to the Fairmont Millennium Park, our home base for the weekend.
(A note about this hotel: It was extraordinarily convenient to the race start at Grant Park.  There was also a complimentary shuttle between the Expo and the Hotel [which we discovered after we paid for a cab].  That said, this hotel was also sort of exorbitantly expensive without being particularly luxurious; our room had two double beds, and maybe smelled like smoke or mildew or something not that awesome.  The convenience factor can't be overstated, but I might look for another hotel in the neighborhood, as there are dozens within a couple block radius, rather than staying here).
We dropped off our gear and walked a block away to Sweetwater, where we grabbed a lunch of chicken fingers, tater tots, and other wholesome and nutritious foods and caught up on college football.
While many pre-race afternoons are spent napping, watching TV, and generally hanging about on dry land, Saturday afternoon found us on the Chicago River aboard the "Volts Wagon," a 21 foot electric boat my friend Nina had rented for the afternoon.  Though random, our afternoon cruise was actually a great way to unwind before the race while resting our legs. (my friends covered a lot of ground by bike on Sunday)

After our sea voyage, Cate, Nina, TG and I headed to Osteria Via Stato for a pasta feast.  Go here and eat the bread.  If you're allergic to garlic, as I am, avoid at all costs the olive oil.
We ate dinner, we laughed, we made a plan to meet up after the race, and by 7:30pm, TG and I were in a cab headed back to our hotel.
I'd like to say this is the part where I calmly laid out my bib person, took a shower, and drifted peacefully off to sleep. 
Those are the Kinvaras I bought at the expo. Do as I say, not as I do.
This is actually the part where I laid out my bib person, burst into tears because I'm not great at managing anxiety, and blew my nose into TG's shirt.  I know that sounds dramatic, but I'm just being real.  It wasn't even that I was nervous about how I'd race the next day; it was more that, for 16 weeks, I'd been working very deliberately towards something, checking my progress off on my to do list day-by-day in seemingly manageable chunks, and it suddenly occurred to me that the something had arrived.  It was like I realized a big part of my life was coming to an end, even though the cycle can be repeated forever. 
Also, I was tired.  Sleepy, yes, but drained, too.  We all choose to do this because we love it and it fulfills us in one way or another, but that doesn't make it easy.  Juggling training and a job and a relationship and friendships and travel and Dorito is a lot (you try balancing all that while a cat is biting you in the Achilles; it is not easy). 
Also, the taper makes me super emo and introspective.
Eventually, though, I apologized to TG for being a lunatic and calmed down enough to get to sleep, and when I woke up the next morning, I was back to Level 10 excited about the race.
Race Morning: I was up before the alarm at 4:50 and started brewing coffee into the world's teeniest coffee cup (another knock against the Fairmont.  "What is this, a coffee cup for ants?").  I suited up, went to the bathroom a few times, played a couple T.Swift/Carly Rae Jepsen/Imagine Dragons/Ludacris jams, and kept glancing out the window at the street below to monitor the crowds headed to the park.  By 6:30am, I was ready to head outside.
Human Bib Person!
I tossed on some throw away clothes and TG and I headed downstairs (two small boys in the elevator in their footie pajamas said to their dad "Why is she wearing a garbage bag?"  Poor guy didn't know what to tell them).  By now, Michigan Avenue was flooded with runners and their loved ones, and progress was slow.  It was 6:50 when I kissed TG goodbye and entered the Park at Jackson Street, slogged through the security line, dashed over to gear check, and headed towards Wave 1, Corral B.  Promptly at 7:20, Wave 1 corrals closed, the National Anthem played, and everywhere around me, Garmins found their satellites.  At 7:30, the elites were off.  At 7:32, so was I.
The Race: My pace bracelet had me running even 7:35s for the duration of the race.  My plan was to go out at pace and run for five miles before I put any thought into making adjustments, etc.  This was more difficult than I anticipated because, from the get go, my Garmin was WAY off.  The race starts in the Loop, where the buildings that make up the Chicago skyline have their foundations.  Coupled with the short stretch through a tunnel at the half-mile mark, there was a lot of satellite interference. 9 minute miles, no 5 minute miles, no 6 minute miles.  Before the mile 1 marker was even in view, my Garmin clicked off a mile.  I tried to relax and find a comfortably hard effort as opposed to focusing on my watch.  At mile 3, I felt the pinching in my hip start up. "Goddamnit, this is going to be a long race," I thought.  But after a dozen strides during which I focused on my form (abs tight, hips squared), the pinching resolved itself. 
5k split: 23:13
My about mile 3 and a half, my Garmin seemed to be giving accurate paces, even if it was off on distance.  I glanced at the race clock at mile 4, and the pace bracelet on my wrist.  I was right on target.  "Maybe this is my day after all," I thought.  But 22 miles is a long way to go, so mostly what I did was put my head down and focus on running.  And I do mean "put my head down."  I spent the vast majority of this race looking at the ground 5-8 feet in front of me, cognizant of feet and potholes and steel grates and anything else that might cause me to step funny and tweak my hip.  Good thing I've been to Chicago many times before, because I saw almost none of it on Sunday.  I was so focused on looking down and staying upright that it took TG shouting in the loudest and scariest voice I've ever heard come out of his mouth at mile 5 to bring my attention back to the present.  I veered over to the left side of the road to say hi and give him a big smile and hoped he'd interpret that as the all clear. 
10k split: 45:53
I made my way up towards Wrigley, then through Boystown, and finally into Lincoln Park, where I knew I'd see my friends.  I glanced at my Garmin again.  The time of day was displayed.  Figuring I'd bumped it somehow, I pressed the button to get back to the timing screen.  It started searching for satellites.  I started panicking.  Without the first 8 miles worth of time, how would I know how I was doing against my pace bracelet?
Thankfully, I realized within the mile that the pace per mile feature still worked, so I could start my watch again, ignore the cumulative time, and still get an accurate reading on how I was doing as compared to those 7:35s. 
As I headed down Clark towards my friends, I saw that the total time clock on display at mile 9 read 1:08 - exactly the cumulative time I was targeting to have by mile 9 on my pace bracelet.  As someone who cannot do math (ask my CFO), this was a godsend to me.
And speaking of godsends, Cate, Nina, and TG were underneath the mile 9 clock screaming for me.  I relayed to them the Garmin woes but gave them a thumbs up.  I knew I probably wouldn't see them again before the finish, which was a bit of the bummer, but was happy to have spotted them all the same.
Cate also reached out to offer me a bagel with salmon cream cheese, which I declined, but thanks for offering, friend... But it was a good reminder to start taking some fuel of my own, so I reached into my SpiBelt and took out my Ziploc of Swedish Fish.  I fished out 4 and ate them one at a time, and stuffed the rest of the plastic bag into my sports bra.
At this point, my Garmin had been ticking of 7:25s with some consistency. (Also at this point, I had no more splits to go by, since my Garmin was effed, so you're not getting any more splits until the end, either.  Is that annoying and stressful?  TELL ME ABOUT IT). I knew I was a hair fast, but truthfully, putting time in the bank during the marathon has worked pretty well in the past for me (STOP YELLING AT ME), so my plan became to hold steady at my pace until the halfway mark and then reevaluate.
By 13.1, the race clock said 1:39 and my pace bracelet said 1:39:30, so I knew I was continually putting distance between my finish time and my goal.  That said, I was also working for it.  Not at an unsustainable level, but enough that I decided to hold steady yet again, instead of trying to pick up the race and aim for negative splits.  I decided to reevaluate again at mile 17, when I'd have fewer than 10 miles to go.  I ate a couple more fish.
I always think that the real heavy lift of the marathon, the meat of the work you're putting in, comes in miles 16-20.  Those are the unglamorous, slog-fest miles.  As I passed the mile 16 marker, I thought to myself "this is where you'll run a PR, or not."  Head down.
When I got to mile 17, I glanced down at my wrist again to see where my pace bracelet said I should be versus what the race clock said.  My Garmin was once again showing the time of day.  "Don't freak out," I told myself.  "Reset at the next mile marker and rely on the splits."  The 7:25s kept coming.  It was like I had found the exact sweet spot - a pace that I was just on the upper limit of what I could sustain.  A few times, I thought "I'm going to ease up on the effort, just five seconds a mile or so, until mile 20."  But by the end of each mile, I found myself back under my target pace.
At mile 20, I let myself imagine what it would be like to break 3:19.  I knew the race clock started a minute or two before I did - maybe I'd break 3:18, even.  I tried not to get greedy.  6 miles is still a long way, 48 minutes if I have to slow down now, maybe more.  I did some mental math.  Just thinking about it made it hard for me to breathe.  "Don't start crying, dummy; you haven't done anything yet, and also you need to breathe in order to finish."

At mile 22, some dudes were offering ice cold beer.  I grabbed a Dixie cup and gulped it down.  Ice cold it was (its provenance was questionable, however... is Schlitz still on the market?).  "Oh shit," I thought.  Am I showboating?"  I felt guilty and put my head back down, concentrating on ticking off the miles, which seemed to be coming faster than I expected.
At mile 23, I heard my name over a loudspeaker and was momentarily confused.  Can I hear the finish line this far away?  And how do they know I'm coming?  I realized it was Josh, out cheering on his team with a megaphone and taking photos.  I couldn't hide my excitement about my impending finish.
At mile 24, my left hamstring started tightening up, causing a hitch in my step.  It's a sensation I've felt before, most often when I'm doing tempo work on the treadmill.  It goes away immediately when I slow down, but until then, feels like my knee might give out with any step.  I put all my attention into my stride, making sure I was taking long, strong steps.  "Don't do anything stupid."
Mile 25.  1 mile to go.  800 meters to go.  Turn a corner, up a hill.  400 meters to go.  Mile 26.  I could see the finish clock. 
Beaming, I crossed the line.
I did it.  After so many seasons, I finally got my sub 3:20.  I had no idea what my finish time was, but I knew it was a substantial PR.
Having gotten choked up just thinking about a PR at mile 20, I was surprised I didn't burst into tears when I crossed the finish line.  Instead, I was practically vibrating, I was so excited.  I let out a huge whoop as I made my way through the finish chute. "You still have a lot left in the tank, eh?" said the finisher next to me.
I grabbed my medal, my food, MY BEER, and made my way through the finish line area to grab my bag from gear check.  (One of the wonderful perks of finishing much faster than your seeded time is that there is no line at all to get your bag).  I shuffled through the post race party, eager to find my friends.  Our plan was to meet back at the hotel, which seemed an interminable distance away.  I just wanted to find them, to thank them, to celebrate with them.  Also maybe for them to tell me where the hotel was, exactly, because it turns out I am not great with directions. 
As I made my way back through Millennium Park, I looked up and saw a blonde, a brunette, and a tall guy in a blue jacket, each with a bike.  MY FRIENDS!  (My incredible friends who gave up their weekends [and almost their bagel sandwiches] to watch me run by for 15 seconds.  My friends, to whom I owe so much.  Thank you, my friends.)
"3:13:58, that's incredible!" they said.  "Who ran a 3:13:58?  Me?" I was stunned.  "You guys, I'm like a legit fast person now!"
(As if on command, a random stranger in the park approached and asked to take my picture.  This is the second consecutive marathon after which this has happened.  Has anyone else experienced this?  It makes me feel equal parts like a celebrity and like someone who is going to be the subject of digitally edited revenge porn or something - what else do you do with pictures of strangers?)

Not strangers. Also my mom is on the phone in my hand. Hi mom!

The rest of the splits, which I found out from the surprisingly efficient runner tracking app:
15k: 1:09:03
20k: 1:32:23
Half: 1:37:11
25k: 1:54:57
30k: 2:17:53
35k: 2:41:06
40k: 3:05:10
Finish: 3:13:58
Average pace: 7:24.  Negative splits and everything.  Thanks Chicago!
As far as the Chicago Marathon goes, it will be my favorite, probably forever.  It's fast and flat and it's just a great city to go to and I love everything about it (except the Fairmont, as discussed).  Run this race.
As far as marathons in general go, they are also my favorite, definitely forever.  Yes, they are hard and scary, and take a lot of physical and mental strength, and even if you have that maybe sometimes they make you have weird crying fits, but there is not a single thing in this world more satisfying and fulfilling to me than setting a goal, even a big, scary one, chipping away at it, maybe falling short a couple times, and ultimately achieving it. 
I wish everyone could feel this feeling.  I am so, so lucky.
Here's to the next great adventure!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Wrap Up: An A+ Weekend


That's the smile of a 3:13 marathoner. (Thanks for the photo, GCR!). 

Yesterday was a better-than-A+ race day.  The stars were aligned (except the Garmin stars.  Those burned out at mile 9.  And again at mile 17...), the weather was perfect, the course was flat and fast as promised, and friends supporting me were incredible.  As a result, I ran a 9 11 minute PR (my mom had to email me to correct me, because I really am that bad at math), and blew my goal out of the water.  As I said to my friends at the finish, "I'm like a legit fast person now!"

Number of Miles Run Last Week: 43.

Number of Beers Consumed Last Week: 3.  Beer was in the runner recovery area at the finish line yesterday, which is awesome.  You get a beer before you get to find your friends and family.  Medal, Mylar blanket, banana, beer.  Excellent work, race organizers.  Really wonderful stuff.

Types of Beers Consumed Last Week: Goose Island 312 at the finish line, and then 2 pale ales called The Ploy at a pizza-brewery-football joint post-shower.  I ordered a pizza made of mashed potatoes and bacon, and now I have to run another marathon today because of the fatness.  Oh my God, it was so good.

I'll do a full race report this week, but in the interim, I wanted to say one last thing: A lot of people sent well-wishes before and after the race, and I tried my best to acknowledge them, but I just want to be sure to say it again.  Thank you guys so much for giving a shit about a random stranger from the internet.  (Person at mile 7 who said "Will Run For Beer, you're the best!," YOU'RE the best!).  The running community is such an incredibly supportive space, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. 

Here's to the next great adventure!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Let's Do This: Chicago Marathon Goals

Despite my allegations to the contrary, I did manage to squeeze in 2 final miles at GMP this week ahead of the big dance on Sunday.

And by "at GMP," I mean "whoops, that's too fast, please don't do that on Sunday"
I don't depart until tomorrow morning, which gives me one last sleep in my own bed, and also one last evening to over-analyze my training, my packing list, my weight, and my race day attire, so that should be fun.  While I'll waffle back and forth on any number of inconsequential decisions tonight, my race day goals won't be changing, so I figured I'd take this opportunity to put those in writing.  Juju, and what have you.

A+ goal: 3:19:59
A goal: 3:23:59

3:19:59 is what I've been training for all season.  It's also what I was training for all of last season, and also all of the season before that.  Understandably, I'd really like to achieve that in Chicago on Sunday.  I've put in more miles than ever before, but I've also grappled with a nagging hip issue, and I'm still fighting off the remnants of a respiratory infection.  Also, running a marathon is hard, and there are no guarantees.

3:23:59 would be a PR (technically, 3:24:44 would be a PR, but I'd like to be able to roll back those minutes and not just the seconds).  My PR just passed its third anniversary.  It's high time to freshen it up.  Chicago has been generous to me in doling out PRs in the past, and I hope that trend continues.

B goal: 3:25:59.  I know the difference between A and B is only 2 minutes, but in the mind of a runner, that's basically 2 years.  A 3:25:59 would be better than I ran in Boston this year (so would 3:26:54, but again, I'd like the minute hand to point to something smaller).  I worked hard in the lead up to Boston, and it is a notoriously difficult course.  But I worked harder in the lead up to Chicago, and in my experience, it's an easier course.  But Boston offers 16 downhill miles to get you started.  But, but, but... I love that over-analysis.

C goal: 3:35:00.  This one is totally arbitrary, but I don't know what else to but here, so a BQ it is.  I thought, at first, about including a time goal surpassing my Hamptons Marathon time last year.  Hamptons was a worst case scenario for me, and one I'd like to avoid at all costs this weekend, or ever again.  In all honesty, even if all the wheels came off on Sunday and I managed to finish slightly faster than the Hamptons, I wouldn't be proud, and being proud of the accomplishment seems critical to goal-setting, so I nixed it from the list.

D goal: I'm starting to feel like I'm jinxing myself, but as always, my D goal is "Don't shit self."

So there you have it.  The pace bracelet is printed, the Poptarts are packed, and the pizza is on its way.  See you on the other side of number 18.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

We'll Miss You, Zelda

The running community lost a familiar face, as it was announced this week that Zelda, the Battery Park wild turkey, is feared dead.  

Though rather well-known among athletes who spent the early morning hours of their weekends hooking around the Southern tip of Manhattan by foot or bike, when few pedestrians and vehicles were around to disturb her, Zelda was nonetheless a surprise with every encounter.  "Did I just see a turkey?  In Battery Park?  It can't be.  But that was definitely a turkey."

Zelda appears to have met her maker in the least dignified of ways: she was hit by a car, then her remains were scooped into a sanitation department truck.  Not cool.

Legions of athletes will now have to find a new object over which they can spend miles analyzing "was that a hallucination?"  (I'm pretty sure I saw a flock of parakeets up by the Little Red Lighthouse a few weeks ago, so you might want to start there.)

We'll miss you, Zelda.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Updates from My Death Bed

Well this was not the race week I'd hoped for.

I stayed home sick yesterday, and dosed myself liberally with DayQuil, NyQuil, Zicam, Emergen-C, cough drops, honey, tea, and naps.  And soup.  So much soup.

I made roasted butternut squash soup from scratch on Monday night, roughly following this recipe.  It took nearly 3 hours, and made so much soup that I can't eat anything else for the month of October, But I am starting to feel better today, so maybe it was worth the effort. 

I'm back at work today because race registrations aren't free, but mostly I'm keeping my door closed and containing my germs.  If the carpet weren't so dirty from 2 years of me spilling every meal on the floor, I would consider napping in here this afternoon.

As for the rest of the week, my priority is rest and recovery, so I'm unlikely to run a final set of GMP miles, but I'm trying to remind myself that 10 days of shoddy tapering can't undo 3 months of hard work.  I am sorely tempted to peruse Running in the USA and see if I can line up a "B" race, should I not make a full recovery by Sunday, but I don't want to jinx myself either.  Please send your healthiest thoughts my way.