Races

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.

Eisenhower Marathon

After the expo, with President Eisenhower.

After the expo, with President Eisenhower.

Ahhh… it’s finally here! My first full marathon! I was excited, but also very nervous. I flew into Kansas City the day before the race, and my mom and sister picked me up from the airport. We headed to Abilene to go to the (small) race expo. I knew it would be small, as this race was also my first half marathon a year ago! You can read about that race here. Then we all headed to dinner (my in-laws, grandparents in-law, husband, sister and her husband, and my parents) before hitting the hay.

My mom and sister were both doing their first half marathon this weekend too! Last year, I ran the half, my sister the 10k and my mom the 5k. You could say this family runs!

Race morning… zero dark thirty! You guys… spring marathons are tough. You train all winter long in cool/ cold conditions and then race morning shows up and it’s already 75 degrees and crazy high humidity… oh and 30ish mph wind gusts. WHY?! Alas… that was the situation today. Nothing I could do about it but adjust my goals a bit. My only REAL goal was to finish the darn thing. but secretly I’d love to break 4 hours! That’s a tall order for a first marathon, or ANY marathon but let’s see what happens!

Getting ready to run!

Getting ready to run!

I knew the course, and knew there was really only one hill, that we went through a nice park both on the out and back in… and that the marathon course was just a double loop of the half marathon course.

Knowing this info, our families stationed themselves in the entrance/exit to the park area so they’d be able to see my sister and mom four times, and me eight times! Not bad spectating for them and easy since they didn’t have to move until after we started (and they’d have about 4 miles to get there) and until the last time I passed (around mile 22). I’m not sure there’s an easier race to spectate!

We took off and headed straight into the headwind for the first 3 or so miles… awesome. I felt pretty good and just tried to keep my pace nice and easy. I just recently got my Garmin watch, and I must say it’s nice to be able to see what pace you’re running! I headed out around 8:45 pace and tried to tuck behind a few taller people to use them as a wind block.

Mile 4 or so.. feeling good!

Mile 4 or so.. feeling good!

We climbed the hill and headed into our first loop of the park. Luckily the trees blocked the wind and the rising sun for a few miles too.

I decided to carry my own bottle this race with my Tailwind I’d been using for training. The course did have a few aid stations but I figured I should use what I trained with for months on end… even if I was totally tired of the flavor!

I kept cruising along pretty well, and remember hitting the first turn around point (about 6.5 miles) feeling really good! I knew I’d see the family in about a mile and a half, and once again before heading to the finish line for the first time.

Once down the hill, I got to run WITH the wind! Boy… I felt like I was flying!

But then… I crossed the finish line and there were cheers in the crowd! Until they realized I was turning around and heading back out… and the entire crowd let out a collective groan, as if to say “oh, yeah, she’s not done yet.” Right then and there, I feel like I lost all my mojo. Poof. Gone, like their collective sigh, blown away by the 30 mph winds I now had 3.5 miles to run straight into again.

Really, the only “good” part that came out of the next miles (13-17ish) was seeing both my sister and my mom bringing it home for their first half marathon. I was so proud of them! Even though I knew I wouldn't see them actually finish the race I could feel their joy and excitement building (all while mine continued to dwindle).

Around mile 18 I found a gentleman to run with (in the picture he has the red/ white/ blue shirt on). This marathon was his 129th. ONE HUNDRED AND 29 marathons. I couldn’t believe it! He was working his way through the 50 states for a third time. He just loved running in races, even if they weren’t his fastest. I ended up running with him until about mile 24 when my energy was pretty much gone and all I could think about was sitting down and eating pancakes.

No more smiles… lets finish this up!

No more smiles… lets finish this up!

I was thankful for the tail wind the last few miles, because if it weren’t for those big wind gusts I’m pretty sure I would have walked it the entire way back in. The wind pretty much blew me to the finish line. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was a big learning experience on needing a bit more marathon preparation for the next one for sure!

Finish line!

Finish line!

Yeah, I’m just gonna sit here awhile.

Yeah, I’m just gonna sit here awhile.

In the end, I finished in 4:10 and change, right about 9:30 pace. I did end up walking some. I let my mind get the better of me starting around 16 miles. I was very thankful to be able to finish, but I really feel like even though I “finished” a marathon I haven’t “ran” a marathon. I definitely want to do what I can to see if I can run an entire marathon, and maybe even try to qualify for Boston. Who knows how long it will take… but dreams worth doing don’t come overnight.

This race sparked a new dream, and I ended up getting second in my age group. Found that out while shoveling pancakes into my mouth. No one needs to know that there were only two of us in that age group…. :)

The cheer squad and runners, post race!

The cheer squad and runners, post race!

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