pacer

Chicago Marathon

Close to a year ago, I registered for the Chicago Marathon on a whim. I swore I wouldn’t get in, so what’s the harm in entering, right? It was a month after my first Ironman, so if I did get in I’d just use it as a celebratory marathon after accomplishing a HUGE goal. That’s normal, right? I mean most people use a marathon to celebrate finishing an Ironman… no? Well, spoiler alert… I GOT IN!

Race week goodies!!

Race week goodies!!

So after Ironman (which was an amazing experience, by the way, and I pr’d my marathon time there by 3ish minutes… what?!) I took a full week off from doing pretty much any activity. Then I eased into running a bit that second week, but ran a Ragnar Trail race that weekend which totaled to about 16-17 trail miles. Then it was two weeks to go until Chicago and it was taper time! I didn’t even run a last mid length long run the week before the marathon… I was at a health and fitness expo to get some continuing ed credits for my job! I was feeling a little bit beat up, to be honest because of course I participated in as many classes as I could while there… probably not the best way to taper.

My hubby and I headed to Chicago via train from Milwaukee (about a 90 minute ride) on Saturday. Really our only plans were to hit the expo, relax, eat at my favorite Italian place in Chicago (it’s never let me down for a pre-race amazing pasta meal that's led to a PR in the race…) and watch some of the Ironman World Championships on tv at the hotel. Pretty relaxed!

The expo is HUGE. I could have spent so much more time here than we ended up spending. I wanted to get off my feet asap because you have to walk FOREVER to even get to the expo itself once inside the convention center!

While we were at the expo, all four of my speedy, sparkly friends texted me. I don’t know if they had it planned, But I remember Elise telling me there was magic in the air. Carrie sent me a picture of a Unicorn. Allison was sending my fast vibes and Carlee was wishing me the best of luck and reminding me to have fun and enjoy the race experience.
I cried. At the expo. Tears of joy.

Yes, I am wearing pants! Don’t worry!

Yes, I am wearing pants! Don’t worry!

Flat Kristen!

Flat Kristen!

My speedy friends on the West Coast were wishing me luck and sending me all the good vibes… everyone needs running friends like these ladies. They are the most amazing women.

After the expo, we found a candy store (HELLO CARBS) and my pasta place (yep.. more carbs!) then headed back to the hotel to relax, sleep, and hydrate. I also had to set up my race outfit! So many people suggested wearing something bright that has some type of saying/ name on it for the spectators to yell… so I figured this was as good an outfit as any!

Race morning… 42 degrees. Sunny. Slight wind. Finally… a perfect weather day for a marathon. We headed to the start line, which for us was a little over a half mile walk. Eventually we had to say goodbye so that I could go into the gated off/ athlete only section. I decided to not do gear check, so this also meant I was saying goodbye to all my layers except a light jacket I brought as a throw away! Ah! Once inside the fenced off area, I probably had close to another half mile to walk to get to the start line. Luckily we passed by TONS of port-o-potties and I didn’t have to wait too long in line.

Original quote by Alan Armstrong.

Original quote by Alan Armstrong.

I got to my corral and lined up. I brought my headphones, but decided last minute to not listen to music… to just enjoy hearing the heavy breathing and pounding feet of the runners, to listen for cheers. The man next to me asked what my goal was. I hadn’t said it out loud to anyone, not even my husband. I looked at him and confidently said “I’m going to qualify for Boston today.” He smiled and shared that a BQ was also in his plans for the day. We wished each other luck…. and then it was time to go run a marathon with 42,000 of my closest friends!

Chicago is deemed as a flat course, with a small incline in the first and last miles of the race. But there’s about a million (okay like 30) 90 degree turns. Between that, the tall buildings, the amount of people all using GPS, and the fact that you run through a tunnel in the first mile…. your watch will be off. From the beginning. I knew this and knew I needed to really focus on effort through the first 2-3 miles.

I crossed the start line right about 1 minute after the initial wave of athletes took off. This would make it easy to check the mile marker clocks every mile and compare to what my watch was actually telling me. I’m glad I noticed this because after the tunnel, my watch was already over a quarter mile long telling me I was running 6:30 pace. Clearly wrong! Mile one was 8:12. Right where I wanted. Miles 2 and 3 were about 8:10. I saw an old personal training client of mine at mile 4 and gave her a big high five! Thanks, Allison!

I lost count you guys… by mile 5 I lost count of how many times I heard “you ARE killing it girl!” “Go, Killin It!!!” “Yes girl! Killing it!” I was so right to NOT wear headphones and to wear a shirt like this.. SO. MANY. CHEERS! Ah!

Guys I was feeling so good. The weather was cooperating. I was able to grab Gatorade and water every mile. I looked down around mile 6 and creeped into the upper 7:50s. Okay… let’s roll with it.

I knew around mile 8 my friend Tara (pictured) was going to hop in and run 4 miles with me. YES, I know this is technically not right but she didn’t cross the start or finish line and didn’t take anything from the aid stations. Tara ran 4 miles with me, so from 8ish to 12ish. We were flying in the 7:40s and feeling sooooo good!

Hey girl hey! Let’s do this thing!

Hey girl hey! Let’s do this thing!

Once mile 12 hit, Tara said goodbye and was going to wait for her next friend to run with. Tara got about 16 miles in that day… good job girl! I kept feeling really well and was able to keep in the 7:40s-7:50s for the next few miles.

Tara snuck this picture of me!

Tara snuck this picture of me!

I know I saw my hubby a few times throughout the race, but I never knew when he’d pop up. He was at the liberty of the red line and would be running to and from the station to try to see me!

Around mile 16 I finally took some of my Gatorade chews I had been carrying with me. I still felt good and was able to take drinks from every aid station, but I figured a bit more electrolytes wouldn’t hurt…. but I also had to pee. SO bad. But I couldn’t stop… I was on BQ PACE!

Maybe this is where it becomes a little too much TMI, but I’m gonna let it all out there. Here it is: from miles 16-24 I peed myself. Little by little. I let some out. It felt so amazing. I knew if I’d stop and use a port-o-potty I’d lose precious time. I also knew I might not want to start running again, or my legs would cramp up from sitting down. So… step by step, I let it drip. I figured no one would notice… people were sweaty, dropping water cups full of water. SURELY I’m not the only one peeing right now?!

I kept cruising, smiling, thanking spectators, hearing “killing it!,” peeing, drinking and waving through mile 20. Brick wall at mile 20 you say? What brick wall? I was unstoppable! I was running a BQ! Oh, hey wall. There you are… luckily I only hit you with a 5k left. My pace SUDDENLY dropped from 7:45ish to 8:20ish. Then 8:30ish. We were just heading into China Town… probably the quietest portion of the course. Enter… Ruth. My co-worker, Ironman extraordinaire! “KRISTEN! YES! YES! KRISTEN!” “Oh hi Ruth!"“ is what I thought. Then… “YOU’RE GOING TO QUALIFY! IF YOU WANT THIS YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT F*CKING HURT! GO!” “Oh… uh… right. Okay Ruth! I’m going!!” She knows what to yell to get you going. Get yourself a Ruth to have at races guys.

I kept pushing as hard as my tired, achy body would allow. Two miles to go. Keep running. Now it’s just 2k! Okay, one mile. Half mile. There’s a sign every tenth of a mile now. Quarter mile to go… WHY DOES THIS HILL SEEM LIKE A MOUNTAIN? WHO PUTS A HILL AT THE END OF A MARATHON? Last turn… I can see the finish line. Oooo… a downhill? Yes. Tears. Ugly crying. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for allowing my body to run. Finish line. TEARS. Oh, I can’t even walk.

Finish line feels!!!

Finish line feels!!!

A marathon, completely ran. A 36 minute PR. A 4 minute BQ. So much ugly crying. I called Thayne to tell him, because he didn’t have a finish line ticket. I called my parents as I hobbled through the finish area. Eventually I found Thayne and we hobbled our way back to the hotel. He offered to carry me, but I him that he really probably didn’t want to do that… ahem, pee.

Finish and medal picture with the city behind.

Finish and medal picture with the city behind.

Sweet notes from my Aunt and Martilee, sent during the race. <3

Sweet notes from my Aunt and Martilee, sent during the race. <3

I officially finished with a time of 3:31:05 (8:03). I declared my intent with confidence to a stranger before the race. I hope he qualified too. There really was magic in the air! Now I understand why I didn’t qualify in Green Bay. If I had, I’d be going to Boston alone… now I get to go with the rest of my speedy, sparkly friends. Team Sparkle takes Boston 2018!

We celebrated with pizza, beer and friends before heading back to Milwaukee. I guess we need to make plans for April of 2018… Boston, here we come!

To go back to the race report archives, click here.

Green Bay Marathon

It’s been just over two years since I’ve ran my first marathon. Since then I’ve done a few triathlons and quite a few half marathons. This fall, my plan is to finish my first Full Ironman distance triathlon. Leading up to that, I wanted to run another marathon, sometime in the spring, to build up my running mileage first.

Let me preface this race by saying the marathon build up was flawless. Seriously. I’ve never felt better, fitter, and faster. Everything clicked these last 16 or so weeks. Speed workouts. Long runs. Even cross training. Perfect. Everything was pointing at a 3:20-3:25 marathon. Easy BQ. Then the race happened. Crash, bang, BOOM. I blew up.

At the race expo, ready to go!

At the race expo, ready to go!

The morning of the race we had received an email and text alert saying the race was yellow flagged. Pretty much, this just means that the conditions aren’t ideal and to start adjusting your goals a little bit. I looked at the weather… 75 degrees at 6 am. 90+% humidity. 70+ dew point. And this was 90 minutes before race start. Oof. Nothing I can do about it, but run and do my best and see what happens today.

Race day outfit, ready to go.

Race day outfit, ready to go.

I couldn’t get breakfast down. I had my usual (bagel, banana, orange juice, water) with me but I think I took about 2 bites of my bagel and forced the banana down. My body was clearly a nervous wreck.

I donned my race outfit (Team Martilee, for the win!!) and we were out the door by about 6:45. This would give me plenty of time to use the bathroom, take my gel and mentally prep for the upcoming 26.2. Hubby had his bike and was planning to follow around the course as much as he could!

I still hadn’t eaten much, and water wasn’t going down easy either… again, not a super great sign for things to come.

I put on my tunes, and once the race started I tried my best to keep the negative thoughts about the weather out of my mind. I was running what felt easy, but looked down in my first mile and saw a 7:30. WHOA. Slow it down. This is much too fast! I kept pulling myself back and tried to run closer to 8 minute pace. This course was really flat, but I knew I was running too fast. Every time I looked down at my watch I had crept back into the 7:40s.

Course map provided by race website.

Course map provided by race website.

Around mile 5 I took my first gel, and again I had issues swallowing it. I had used Huma gels throughout my training, along with both water and Skratch Labs. I had to count down from 3 to swallow my gel… again, not a great sign.

Some of the spectators had their sprinklers or hoses on and the amount of people running slightly off the course onto the sidewalk or yard to run in the cold water was alarming. It had to be creeping towards 80 degrees at this point, but the flags were still yellow on the course. The miles kept ticking by and I somehow kept running in the 7:40s-7:50s. Maybe I could do this? Maybe I can run a 3:2X:XX.

At mile 10, I started to get chills. I know my electrolytes were off. I tried taking a few cups of Gatorade at every aid station coming up, but in the back of my mind I knew it was too late. By mile 12 I wanted to walk. My pace had slowed to 8:30s. I took out my phone and texted my husband one word, that rhymes with duck. In all caps. He immediately replied and asked where I was. I was almost to him and he said to just keep moving forward.

I saw him right at the half way mark and started crying. I knew my “race” was over, but it was only half over. I have never wanted to quit something so badly as I wanted to quit that race. I stopped. He gave me a hug and then said “keep moving. There’s a lot of race left. You can get this back.” But mentally, I was done. In my mind I had failed. I walked. I wouldn’t run near what I was capable of. I knew I had a ton of friends and family following my race, all believe I’d crush it and BQ. I let them down. I let myself down. I just failed…

To be honest, the rest of the race is a bit of a blur between walking and running and thinking “Don’t let the 3:30 pacer pass you.” Then they do. “Okay, but you can at least beat the 3:50’s and come away with a big pr.” Then they pass you too. “Just break 4. You can do that.” Nope… there they go. So effortless. “Fine. Just PR. That’s all. Under 4:10. Come on.” Not even that.

I cried a lot. I walked a lot. I cursed. I threw a pity party. I stopped to stretch. I told myself to just run this block. I bargained with God. I did everything… except quit. I forced myself to run the entire last mile. Just look down and keep running.

My medal in front of Lambeau Field.

My medal in front of Lambeau Field.

I had to fight myself a lot in this race. I finished. My second marathon was slower than my first. I never even looked up my official time, but my watch had 4:16 something, 9:40 or so pace. I have never felt so defeated, finishing close to an hour after I thought I would. But, lessons have been learned. Give the weather the credit it’s due. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. LISTEN to your body. Adjust your goals. There are more races to come.

To go back to the race report archives, click here.

Maryland

This race was going to be my big goal race for the fall. My first true test of speed after having my son a little over a year ago. Going into this race I had a few months of really solid training, thanks to hiring a new running coach back in July. If you’ve read some other race recaps, you’ll know I had a coach to help me get ready for my first marathon in April 2014. It wasn’t a bad experience per say, but it made me hesitant to hire another and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to become a coach myself... to be a better coach and provide a better experience than the one I had. I had a great chat with my current coach leading into this race and she truly believed I was capable of meeting (and maybe beating) all of my goals I had set for myself based on my training.

Bib pick up at the expo! Love the free race photos. Quick in and out, and back to our hotel.

Bib pick up at the expo! Love the free race photos. Quick in and out, and back to our hotel.

When I go into an A race (meaning goal race) I usually try to set multiple goals. For the Baltimore Half Marathon they were:
C: Finish strong and healthy
B: Sub 1:45
A: Sub 1:42
Shoot for the Moon: Sub 1:40

We headed to the race expo on Thursday afternoon, so that Friday we could relax and spend a little time exploring the city. Going into race week my family had been in Nashville as my husband had a work conference. I got some solid runs in there but had spent more time on my feet than I had expected, so I really wanted Thursday and Friday to be about relaxing as much as I could so my legs would feel as fresh as possible.

I knew to hit my goals, this race would have to “hurt” and I had to be willing to make it hurt.

Race morning dawned cool and crisp, but race start time wasn’t until 9:45 am for the half marathon. Truly, I was totally on board with this! I typically head out for my long runs around 9 or 9:30 in the morning, so this felt normal to me! I was able to enjoy a great waffle from the hotel, orange juice and banana before heading out for a 15 minute warm-up jog about an hour before the race start. After the jog, I hit the port-o-potty lines. They weren’t too long yet which was greatly appreciated! My body always seems to know it’s race day… if you know what I mean!

Half marathon course.

Half marathon course.

Elevation chart… they can be so dramatic and somewhat deceiving, don’t you think?!

Elevation chart… they can be so dramatic and somewhat deceiving, don’t you think?!

I finished my warm-up with drills and strides with about 15 minutes before the race started. I felt primed and ready to go, but nervous about finding that uncomfortable zone and hanging on to it as long as I could. After I headed to the start line I took off my long sleeve throw away shirt and waited for the gun to go off.

Thayne and Parker weren’t there yet as start time was close to Parker’s morning nap. They would find me at the finish line though, and that’s what counts!

In my pre-race chat with my coach we came up with a pacing plan and we knew (based on the elevation chart) that it would be challenging, but definitely do-able to hit my goals. She had full belief that 1:42 was more than possible as long as I was willing to work for it. My speed workouts leading up to this race really had been more about building strength as they’ve all been at my threshold pace and steady effort, versus a sprint type of pace. I actually did the math to see what the average incline was going to be from miles 3-6.2ish. With the downhills included, it only came out to be about a 1% incline! That’s not too bad!

Start line of the half marathon. The half started half way through the full marathon course so we would have the same finish line.

Start line of the half marathon. The half started half way through the full marathon course so we would have the same finish line.

I was able to line up pretty close to the front of the start line, and then suddenly the race was off! We had a small incline right away, and I knew that since we were starting near the city and heading straight into the tall buildings that my GPS probably wouldn’t be accurate right from the beginning. I needed to just go off effort and keep my heart rate in check. My coach had said to begin around 7:45-7:50 pace and try to build as the race progressed making the last 3-4 miles really hurt. We also discussed not looking at my watch during the uphill portions because it can kind of mess with your mind if you see your pace slow, but your effort stays the same or is increased. But you can “make up” that time on the downhills if you keep your effort similar.

My watch ticked off the first mile at a 7:07 (oops… too fast!) but I passed the first mile marker around 7:28 in total time (closer, but still too fast!) Mile 2 flattened out, but I was still a little fast at 7:20. I didn’t feel like it was forced or I was running “out of control” so I decided to go with it. Mile 3 had a big downhill and ticked by at 6:54 pace. I knew the next few miles would be climbing though and considered this to be somewhat banked time. I decided to not look at my watch until I heard each mile beeps and go solely on effort and feel.

Now, I am definitely not an advocate on starting out fast and trying to bank time in a race. I really think it’s better to start a bit more conservatively and build as you go. But sometimes you just feel good and have to roll with the punches you’re given on that day! So, roll with it I did.

Not all race photos are fabulous! At least they’re free!

Not all race photos are fabulous! At least they’re free!

The “oof, I’m getting tired but am so close to my goal so I better keep pushing!” face. Ha!

The “oof, I’m getting tired but am so close to my goal so I better keep pushing!” face. Ha!

Miles 3-6 were 7:16, 7:00, 7:33. Mile 6 was the steepest climb in the first half of the race, so I expected this mile to be slower anyway. I was happily surprised I was still in the mid 7s! I knew we’d have about 2 flat miles as we circled a lake near the city. I found a good group of other strong ladies to run with and tried to tuck behind other runners when we headed into a bit of wind. Both miles 7 and 8 were 7:16 pace. Not too bad!

Once we hit mile 9 I knew all the climbing was over except for one more hill close to the finish. I’d worry about that when I got there… but for now decided to keep cruising and pushing the pace. I was on pace for that sub 1:40 shoot for the moon goal! Mile 9 was 7:31 and 10 was 7:30. I still felt good but could feel the fatigue coming on. Only a 5k left! The real race has started.

Mile 11 had a good flat stretch into a slight downhill and brought a bit faster pace at 7:08. I knew that last hill was coming and when I started to climb it I started to have the first negative thoughts enter my mind of the entire race. Usually, this hits closer to mile 8 or 9 so I was thrilled to be this close to the finish before these thoughts crept in. I just kept telling myself that I was strong and capable and was almost (thank goodness) there. My 12th mile was 7:19. Only one to go, and downhill from here to the finish line with one left hand turn!

Sweet, sweet finish lines!

Sweet, sweet finish lines!

This smile is REAL!

This smile is REAL!

My last full mile was back to 7:09 and I pushed with all I had to the finish line from there. Thayne yelled at me from somewhere in that last push and I saw him and Parker just before I sprinted (well, it at least really felt like sprinting) past them. It was great to see some familiar faces. My watch says my last push was 5:38 pace (HA… I doubt it) but also had me at 13.27 miles overall. From the first mile my watch was already .08 off in distance, and stayed that way until about mile 12, where it picked up a bit more added distance as we came back into the downtown high rise buildings area. So while I’d love to think my final sprint the finish was in the 5’s I know it wasn’t.

Not too shabby!!! Official race results.

Not too shabby!!! Official race results.

I was THRILLED with this race and the end result. My current half marathon PR is from Louisiana in 2016 where I ran a 1:34:58. That course was fairly flat and 2016 was the year I felt unbeatable, PR’ing every race distance I ran that year. So to finish this challenging, hilly race feeling good and within 60 seconds of my PR at only 13 months postpartum… to say I was ecstatic is an understatement! Officially I ran 1:35:51 for 7:19 pace overall.

I texted my coach and she was SO exciting, asking me to call when I had time. It’s such a great feeling to have someone else feel confident in your goals and dreams (my husband very much so believes in me too, by the way!) and to help you feel like they are achievable as well. I know that in 2019 I will break my half marathon PR and I can’t wait to see what comes up next!

Also… this race was my birthday gift to myself. I’ve never ran a race ON my birthday, and I couldn’t be happier with the result and choosing this race as a way to celebrate myself.

Sitting down felt amazing! Plus the medal is pretty cool. The crab opens up to show a skyline of Baltimore.

Sitting down felt amazing! Plus the medal is pretty cool. The crab opens up to show a skyline of Baltimore.

To go back to race report archives, click here.