Running on gluten-free carbs…

Archive for October, 2013

Windy with a chance of humor…

Battling an invisible opponent

Battling an invisible opponent

You know…I used to check the weather religiously when I would wake up in the morning.  All last winter and throughout this summer, the first thing I would do upon turning off my alarm would be to roll over and check the Weather Channel app on my phone and make a judgement call about wardrobe and the like.

I seem to have fallen off that system.  I don’t even bother checking these days.  I can’t explain the change…I just…don’t.

So, imagine my surprise this morning when I laced up my Adidas Boosts (random brand plug!), threw on some shorts and a long sleeve tech shirt and went out for a run…aiming to hit my mileage with some negative splits.  I set out…and am immediately slapped with one of the strongest winds I have run through in a long time.  And, of course, for the long uphill…the wind was blowing toward me.  Headwinds suck.  And whenever I do find where I’d have a tailwind…the winds seem to calm.

Mother Nature has a sense of humor when it comes to runners, I think.  But…it’s all good.  I embraced the added challenge of a bit of resistance during the run this morning.  And I hit my miles and my negative splits.  It wasn’t pretty…but it happened.  I can only imagine what some of those drivers were thinking as they passed me fighting 16 mph winds this morning.  I probably looked like I was running in place when those gusts got strong.  Nature’s treadmill is a strong headwind.  Trust me.

All I could do was laugh.  And I was laughing a lot.  It was, actually, just what I needed in a run.  A strong wind to make me fight for it and dig deep…but still find the humor in the moment.  I love laughing on my runs.  I don’t often find a reason…but this morning gave me the perfect opportunity.

Moments like that make these solitary runs a lot more enjoyable.  Live in the moment.  Fight an uphill battle against a strong opponent…and win.

Find your strong…believe the run…

And don’t forget to smile.

And laugh.

It sure makes the miles go faster! Even if you’re running straight into a 16 mph wind…


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Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL (October 13, 2013)

Me at Mile 3 of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon - Chicago, Illinois

Me at Mile 3 of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, Illinois

Race: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Place: Chicago, Illinois

Date: October 13, 2013

Time: 3:28:28

I just ran my first marathon!  My first 26.2 miles.  I ran it through 29 neighborhoods in Chicago.  I ran it strong.  I never hit a wall.  I had a plan.  I stuck with it.  And I had some of the best support on the ground I could have ever asked for at a race.  The weather was perfect.  And I, honestly, had the time of my life.

How many people can say that when they’re running 26.2 miles, eh?

But this post doesn’t start at the race.  This post started 18 weeks ago when I not only began a challenging training program, but also took it upon myself to find a sports nutritionist because I wanted to be sure that I got to this race and was able to run this race in the best shape possible…and ready.  There are so many times before where I did so many things wrong…especially when it came to fueling and hydrating during races.  I didn’t want that to happen here.  You only get your first marathon once.  I wanted it to be a good and happy memory.  So, Donna, if you are reading this, all your advice and help really, really paid off.  I listened to you about how to fuel properly for a marathon, how to hydrate properly for a marathon, what to eat, what to avoid, and how to figure out what worked best for me.  Some weeks were better than others…but that’s why we have those 18 weeks of training.  You figure it all out.

So, as the taper kicked in and my mood shifted from runner’s high to evil step-runner mode (I do NOT handle taper well.  Let this be my PSA to all of you), I had to really trust my body and try not to let the mental game of…running less = poor performance get to me.  Mind games.  They happen.  I was very respectful of my taper, doing exactly as my plan called for.  That meant the week leading into my marathon, I didn’t run much.  For three days, I ran 4 miles each morning.  Two of them were at marathon pace.  One was more speed work and pacing related.  Then…two full days off.  No running.  No morning walks.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  Rest the legs.  Get them ready.  I wanted to run so bad during those days…but I didn’t.  I made myself rest.  It was two of the hardest days of my life.

Friday night, my friend Jenn from Ohio rolled into town.  She has been to quite a few of my races and is such a huge support.  She wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to come to Chicago to see me run.  Nope.  So, she headed this way and got in as I was still trying to make myself pack for the race.  I was distracting myself.  With everything.  Including organizing my BondiBand’s by color.  Packing…yeah…focus.  She and Cathy got me on task, and once my running bag and my regular duffel bag were packed with what I could pack that night…the three of us headed out to grab some dinner.

Since it had been way too long since Jenn had come into the area, I had her pick a place where we could eat dinner.  I sent her places that had options for everyone, including me.  And she surprised me when she chose Dakshin, a local and amazing Indian restaurant.  I threw it on the list because I knew it had good food.  Never did I expect Jenn to pick it.  But she did.  And I was proud of her for branching out.  So, we made the drive over to Dakshin and settled in for some crazy-good Indian food.  If you live in Louisville and haven’t tried this place…DO IT!  Since it was only two days to my marathon, I was being extra cautious about my food.  Being a Celiac means being so careful when it comes to eating out.  I wanted carbs and protein…so I ordered the Dal Tadke Wali…which is home style yellow lentils which are tempered with Indian spices.  YUMMY!  It was served with this delicious basmati rice that has coriander seeds and various Indian spices cooked in with it.  Keep that in mind as you scoop it onto your plate…FYI!  Needless to say…the food was delicious and Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines anyway.  I don’t get the authentic stuff often…so this really made me happy.  Cathy, in case you were wondering, chose the Goat Korma…which was apparently spicy.  Jenn went with the safe, but still off the beaten path for her, Tandoori Chicken.  It was spicy for her too.  So, with me being the one who loves spice…I got the mildest meal of all three of us.  Go figure.  Anyway…after our amazing food, we went to celebrate the upcoming race with some ice cream from The Comfy Cow.  I was a Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice scooper.  Hey…marathon training means ice cream.  This was Jenn’s first taste of Comfy Cow ice cream, so she went with the Bonjour Toast offering.  Cathy went with Vermont Maple Walnut.  With full bellies…we headed back to the apartment to settle in for the evening and watch Spirit of the Marathon to get keyed up for Sunday…and followed it up with Marathon Thoughts…which if you haven’t pulled that up on YouTube…shame on you.  Do so now!

We crashed out that evening at a decent time.  The people downstairs were having a party, so sleep wasn’t easy and I didn’t get much of it.  My alarm went off early…because my training plan called for me to do 3 miles or 30 minutes of running that day.  Since we had a drive to Chicago ahead of us, I got out of bed, put on my running clothes, my reflective gear, and headed out to run.  The rest days were good for me…and my legs felt good as I pushed through three very early miles.  I came back and snuck inside so as not to wake anyone yet.  Went to shower and finish packing.  Then, Jenn was up.  And soon Cathy was as well.  We ate a quick breakfast (cereal and some gluten-free French toast sticks…which…eh…) before packing up the car with all of our stuff, a cooler of drinks and snacks, and hit the road to Chicago.  We had to detour around Indianapolis due to Highway 65 being shut down going through downtown, so this tacked on some time.  My friend Heather, like one of my best friends who I have known since third grade!, was in Chicago to see me run.  She flew in from Minnesota for the occasion and texted to let me know she was there and grabbing some breakfast.  We had hoped to get in around 10 a.m.  We got there around 11 a.m.  We met up with Heather at the Hilton Chicago, the host hotel, and the hotel we were staying in for the weekend.  We valeted the car, put our luggage on a cart to be delivered, and I got us checked into the hotel.  We were up on the 8th Floor…which just happened to be the floor where many of the elites were staying.  The luggage would be up shortly, but the four of us headed up to the room.  The first set of keys I was given, didn’t work…so I headed back down to the lobby to get that fixed.  There was a much longer line now and more of a wait.  But, I just let it roll off my back.  These things happen.  No sense getting worked up over it, right?  The key situation was fixed and we got some commemorative keys to boot.  LOVE them.  Back up to the room and my friends were already inside.  I closed myself out just to make sure the keys worked this time.  They did.  And soon after…luggage was delivered.

This is how I know my friends are totally amazing.  The guy bringing in our luggage carried in the famous Donkey sign first, saying the most important thing had to come in first.  He immediately put it up in the window facing the lake.  It made me smile…a lot.  As he was bringing in our bags and cooler, he was asking questions about the race…and I mentioned it was my first marathon.  He said to my friends that they had a long day ahead of them tomorrow…at least a 4 hour or 4-1/2 hour wait for me to come in.  To which, Heather chimes…”Nope.  She’ll run it in 3:30.”  Cathy and Jenn totally ran with that as well and I just nervously laughed.  He asked what my number was because he’d have his eye on me.  So, we told him, tipped him, and he was gone.  With that bit of business taken care of…and bathroom breaks made, we hurried downstairs to 8th Street entrance of the Hilton and got in line for the shuttle buses to take us over to McCormick Place, where the expo was awaiting us.  The first bus that arrived filled up fast…but we got on the next one and soon were on our way to the expo.

Me at the Nike booth at the expo for the Chicago Marathon

Me at the Nike booth at the expo for the Chicago Marathon

Lately, my race expos have been tiny and rather…disappointing.  Utica…was probably the best one I had been to all year…and I’m not counting Disney races in this.  Disney is a monster all its own.  But this expo…was HUGE!!  We walked into McCormick Place and just followed the sea of runners…which guided us to the monstrous exhibit hall where all things running related were happening.  First things first, however…and that was getting my packet.  I headed over to where this BIG sign declared PACKET PICK-UP, and stepped up to this little table where they scanned my participant guide and sent me over to Booth 5 to retrieve my bib number and packet.  I headed that way, and my information was already pulled up and waiting on me.  I was handed my bib, an envelope of information, and told where to go in order to get my race t-shirt.  I grabbed some Chicago Runs For Boston bracelets for me and my friends and went to head to get my t-shirt.  But…got waylaid by this awesome wall where people were able to remove a magnet and sign their name.  We all did it…writing messages and the like…and keeping our magnets as mementos.  Then, we got to battle the crowds.  I was ready…and as we made our way up the first row of exhibitors…I just casually glanced at the booths.  I was hoping to make it out of the expo without spending too much money, so the less time I looked at things, the more likely that was going to happen.  I managed to get up to the tables in the back that had the t-shirts and bags for the participants.  I retrieved mine…and, as I learned my lesson from Disneyland, immediately pulled out the t-shirt to make sure it was a proper fit.  It was.  So now…we were loose to check out the exhibitors and try to make it out with as much of my wallet in tact as possible.

It was a valiant effort…but an ultimate fail in the end.  I found CEP’s booth and picked up some compression sleeves for my friend Natalie.  She wanted the blue ones I wore once to the fun run…and I promised if I spotted them at the expo in Chicago in her size, I would buy them.  Well…it happened.  And they were now hers.  Not far from there was the BondiBand booth.  And my friends and I set out on a mission to find a 26.2 BondiBand.  We found SO many good ones, just not 26.2.  Then…we started finding them…in hideous colors.  With some luck…I found two that were okay.  One in blue with pink numbers, and a red and black one.  I asked my friends which I should get, and since my uniform for the race was red and black…that was what we went with.  I purchased two other BondiBands as well…

Oh…I also got to meet Hal Higdon.  Like…THE Hal Higdon.  How amazing is that? I bought his new book, 4:09:43 – The Boston Marathon Bombings, and was able to have it autographed.  This happened because I get a call from Cathy saying…”I’m standing next to Hal Higdon.  You better get over here!”  And with some direction…yep…it happened.  And I was this little fangirling runner trying not to squee and make a fool of myself.  Because…DUDE…it’s Hal Higdon.  AND while Hal was signing my book, right behind me on the main programming stage…Deena Kastor.  DEENA KASTOR!!  One of my running idles.  I was…in runner heaven, I think.

But…there was much to do that day so lingering too long was not going to be an option.  We were just scraping the surface of the expo.  So…we made our way past booths…in which I ignored the Newton booth…because I couldn’t afford more shoes at the moment as much as I wanted another pair.  We sampled different NUUN flavors.  We tried some protein bars (gluten-free, of course), we walked past Scott Jurek, the vegan ultramarathoner…and I once again had to attempt not to squee!!  I was doing good…not spending any more money…and we were making lots of progress through the expo.

Then, lo and behold, I hear someone calling my name.  It’s Matthew and Dawn, who I run with on Saturday mornings with my group.  They were up in Chicago as spectators, not runners, in this marathon and saw me walk by.  In that mass of people…they spotted me.  We hugged…we talked…they asked how I was feeling.  I said the nerves were gone, now I was just excited.  So…I was already feeling better.  Lots of people I knew were here…they were going to be cheering…it was going to be a good time.  They told me to have my bib scanned at the Nike booth…so I took that advice and headed that way.  Bib scanned and the screen read, “Karen Owns Chicago.”  SWEET!  I was about to leave, after getting a free poster, when I spotted the official merchandise.  No shirts though…but we were directed over to the Nike booth.  UH OH!!  Yeah…might as well have just drained my wallet when I walked in there.  Needless to say…a jacket and a shirt later…I was now leaving the expo…because I was running out of money.

We returned to the Hilton and took things up to the room.  We had a small amount of downtime to sit and chat.  Heather did some foam rolling and I started to get my race outfit out and laid on the table so it was ready for the morning.  We called down to valet after that to have the car brought around because now…it was time to feed our faces.  I had discovered what sounded like an amazing place to get a gluten-free pizza.  The place: Da Luciano Pizza, Pasta and Catering.  It was located in River Grove, so it was about a 20 minute drive.  We got there…went inside…and was asked if anyone needed a gluten-free menu.  I was feeling good about this already.  We were seated and left to look at the menus.  While all the pastas sounded awesome, my pre-race tradition is gluten-free pizza.  I wasn’t changing that up.  Nope.  So, we all placed our orders…and I got my gluten-free pizza with mushrooms, onion, and roasted red peppers.  YUMMY!  Food came out and I devoured my entire pizza and even ordered a gluten-free cannoli for dessert.  That, BTW…was super-duper delish.  The pizza was really good too.  It hit the spot.  And I was now properly fed (carbs!).  We dropped Heather off at a train stop so she could head back to her hotel…and then we were headed back to the Hilton.  We all changed, brushed our teeth, and…climbed into bed around 8:30 p.m.

Da Luciano's Gluten-Free Pizza and Gluten-Free Cannoli

Da Luciano’s Gluten-Free Pizza and Gluten-Free Cannoli

This was early for me.  This never happens.  I always try to get to bed early on race night, but it never seems to work out.  So, I immediately figured that I’d have trouble falling asleep.  WRONG.  I was out.  And I only woke up, briefly, twice during the night with the, “What if I didn’t set my alarm?” panic I always have.  I rested…and rested well.

My alarm went off at 4 a.m. and I snuck out of bed, hoping not to disturb Cathy and Jenn as I fumbled around in the dark, grabbing my outfit for the race and heading into the bathroom.  I dressed.  I did my hair.  I came out as Jenn was heading into the other bathroom.  Cathy finally dragged herself out of bed too.  We all had a quick bite to eat and I was texted by Heather to say she was on her way.  I wasn’t sure cereal would be enough on a marathon race morning, but was told to stick with what I knew.  So that morning, I ate a serving of Chocolate Chex cereal…no milk…slowly and leisurely, as I checked my e-mail and Facebook on my phone.  I had so many people wishing me luck.  Text messages were coming.  And just as I finished eating and went to brush my teeth, Heather texted to say she was at the hotel and heading up.

I got my fuel belt ready with my hydration needs, tucked my GU packets into my skirt pockets…and when Heather arrived…we were all set to head down to the lobby.  And…with perfect timing my friend Cheryl texted to ask if I was at the Hilton.  I said I was and she said her gear check was right there and she wanted to come over and see me.  We made plans to meet in the lobby…which was bustling with runners.  But…she found me.  And we hugged and talked about the race…and took pictures…because that’s what we do.  Time was nearing for me to head to the gate that would take me to my corral.  So…with us each wishing each other luck and telling each other to have a good run…we parted ways.  She was in the 2nd wave of runners to go out…and I was in the 1st.  In fact, my corral, Corral C, was only accessible through Gate #1.  Heather lead the way there…and we just talked a lot about anything but racing.  We even took selfies on her phone while walking.  HA!  We paused at the corner and took photos with each other…rotating through and then crossed the street to Gate #1.  This was as far as they were allowed to go.  The security checkpoint was right there…so…they wished me luck…Jenn sent me off with her usual sayings, which are magic, I swear…and I went to get in line for the no-bag security check.  One more wave…and they were off to find a spot near the start…and I was off to get to my corral.

My friends are awesome - Me and Cheryl; Jenn, Me, and Cathy; Me and Heather

My friends are awesome – Me and Cheryl; Jenn, Me, and Cathy; Me and Heather

It was still dark out, but I just sort of followed the signs to get me to Corral C.  It was a bit of a hike, but not bad.  Not really.  I was clinging to my banana for all it was worth and trying to get the butterflies in my stomach to settle.  Not nervous butterflies.  The excitement was starting to build.  And I was just…wanting to settle in and zen.  So, I found the entrance to my corral, but didn’t go right in.  I stood on the side and did some stretching…some walking…some pacing.  I wanted to be loose.  I wanted to clear my mind.  And the moment I stepped into that corral…I wanted to be focused.  So…I just paced the sidewalk for about 30 minutes, stopping to stretch out my legs every now and again.  At 6:55 a.m., I peeled my banana and sent to get into Corral C.  Security checked my bib number, I entered and moved up to a spot where I remained for the rest of the time.  I ate my banana quicker than I intended to…but I think that was just me needing something to do.  I just hoped it would stick with me long enough to get me to the point I chose to be my first fuel point.  I packed an extra GU pack though, just in case I needed it.  I was taking no chances.  But…I was fine.  The corral filled up quickly.  I had to help the guy behind me start his iPod.  His daughter loaded up a playlist for him, but he had no idea how to work the player.  I helped him out and he thanked me.  I talked to some people around me, making friends, and hearing from others about their experiences with the Chicago Marathon.  Exciting!  The announcer had everyone remove their hats and the National Anthem played.  Runners shed clothes they wore to keep warm, and we all shivered in crisp 45 degree air.  At 7:20 a.m., the wheelchair start headed out.  Then, at 7:21 a.m., the handcycle racers got underway.  It was 7:30 a.m. when the start officially happened…with the elites up front…and the corrals behind them.  We were slowly moved up as each corral was sent off.  It was so comical when those holding the rope to the corral tried to clear out as those of us in Corral C were turned loose to head to the Start.  I stuck to the left of the course, because Cathy said she’d be aiming for the left side of the road…I trotted to the start…crossed the line…and was off.

Chicago Marathon!!

This marathon runs through 29 neighborhoods of Chicago.  It kicks off in Grant Park, which is beautiful, by the way.  I took off from that start line, heading for the underpass we go through.  The crowd was already prominent and loud.  It was awesome.  I started off smiling and I don’t think that grin ever left my face for one moment.  Soon, I found myself in the Streeterville neighborhood, home of the Magnificent Mile, lots of luxury hotels, great shopping district, and Navy Pier.  People were lined up 5 deep on the side of the road, making as much noise as possible…and just being loud.  I wasn’t sure where I was going to see my friends…but I was through the first mile and didn’t see them at all.  Onward.

The Loop was up next…with all the gorgeous architecture it brings to Chicago.  I was heading up LaSalle Street…and just before Mile 3…I see the Donkey sign.  There are Heather, Cathy, and Jenn and they are making some noise!!  I think my smile grew even more.  I waved as I ran by.  Jenn yelled, “RUN DONKEY!  RUN LIKE A PRETTY PONY!”  Um…this is becoming a new mantra I think.  I LOVE that.  It was awesome seeing my friends as I neared the 5K mark.  Pressing on, I entered Near North Side, where the streets were lined with trees, offering some shade from the sun, and residential areas as well.  Then it was into Lincoln Park…then Wrigleyville (yes…Wrigley Field!)…then Lakeview East.  And in Lakeview East…Boystown!  Boystown is the first officially recognized gay village in the United States, and is also the cultural center of one of the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in the nation.  This is immediately evident in the race because, aside from the rainbow flags, runners are greeted by a stage full of drag queens.  It was really awesome and definitely a change in the usual mix.  It made me smile!  It was a party right on the course.  This was one of my favorite neighborhoods to run through.  The vibe was awesome.

The different neighborhoods continued…Park West, Old Town…and then…around Mile 12…River North.  What made Mile 12 so damn special was that this was where Cathy and Jenn found me again on the course.  Somehow I missed them.  I didn’t know they were going to be there…but my eyes were always searching that crowd for my friends and my sign.  How I missed it…I don’t know…but they were there and have pictures to prove it.  Regardless…I must have felt them in spirit because I was still going strong!  My friends are awesome.  From there it was through some more of the city’s amazing neighborhoods…West Loop Gate, Greektown, and the West Loop.

I bet you’re wondering where Heather went then.  Well, she already had a place in mind for where she could see me again on the course.  After Mile 3…she hopped a train and found me again right around Mile 14…in front of Soul City Church.  And…WOW…was she loud and cheering as I came through.  I heard her above the roar of everyone else in the crowd.  She wanted to be at Mile 14 because it marked the furthest I had ever gone in an official race.  With 10 half marathons under my belt…13.1 miles has been the standard.  She wanted to see me into that next step.  And she did it with perfect Heather style!!  And even got the pastor of the church to scream right along with her.  What a way to take on the second half!

Near West Side was next…then Little Italy (aka: University Village).  The smell of Italian food was prominent.  And it smelled really good.  From there it was into the Illinois Medical District.  And then, as we come around toward Mile 20…the Pilsen neighborhood.  Mile 20…is usually where The Wall hits.  But I never even hit it.  The Wall was not even a force to be reckoned with.  It was dead to me.  And I powered through this difficult part of the race without even slowing down.  I was feeling good.  My race plan for fuel and hydration was working…and fatigue wasn’t even hitting me.  There was no stopping me…not here.

East Pilsen was next…followed by Chinatown.  I loved Chinatown.  I rounded the corner into this neighborhood and was greeted by a big, silver Chinese Dragon.  The atmosphere was uplifting and awesome.  And the area smelled ethnic and awesome.  And it really made me want Chinese food.  I haven’t had Chinese food in forever due to my food allergies.  I miss it.  A lot.  Chinatown was SO awesome.  The crowd here was massive and loud.  Uplifting for sure!

Which was good because heading into Mile 23 was the hardest to contend with…because the crowds faded as we hit the industrial area.  There was very little crowd support.  It was only for a little over a mile though…the crowds did come back.

Bridgeport was next…then came the turn to “head home” and through the Park Boulevard neighborhood.  It was straight up Michigan Avenue from that point on.  The final 3 miles were upon me.  And this was where I started to slow down.  I felt strong, but the sun was up and the temperature was nearing 70 degrees.  I was hot.  But with only a 5K remaining, I was ready to give it all I had.  Bronzeville…The Gap…South Commons…Prairie District…

At around Mile 26…South Loop and Central Station…where the crowd gave runners a much needed lift as all of us tackled the one hill on the course.  And it was NOT nice having us run up a hill at the very end.  Let me tell you though…they did their job.  I slowed down just slightly as my legs really didn’t want to run up that hill, but the crowd got me there.  And so did my friends, who I heard screaming for me.  This was the last point they could see me at before the finish line.  I was going to reunite with them in the runner reunion area afterwards.  So, they were loud and awesome and I was on my way to the finish.

Me...the marathoner...after the Bank of America Chicago Marathon - Chicago, Illinois

Me…the marathoner…after the Bank of America Chicago Marathon – Chicago, Illinois

The Finish Line came into view and I kept smiling.  I think I was smiling the entire time I was running, but that Finish line just went to show how tough I was…how far I’d come.  It was beautiful.  I gave my final push to cross the line and threw my arms up in victory.  I finished strong.  I finished feeling good.  I got past the photographers and paused my Garmin.  Then…immediately started crying.  I didn’t hurt.  I wasn’t tired.  It was just I had so many doubts coming into this marathon, and then I went and did something extraordinary.  I finished it far faster than I anticipated or even dreamed.  Everything felt like a blur.  I took a few deep breaths and kept moving…getting some water…and then receiving my finisher’s medal.  Bananas…snack boxes…more water…and finisher’s photos…that all followed.  I downed some Gatorade as I moved…then had some water.  I made my way through the finish area toward the runner’s reunion, where I was to meet Cathy, Jenn and Heather under the letter V…because it would be less crowded than the beginning of the alphabet.  I saw the sign…and my friends…and went running toward them.  Cathy came up and gave me a tight hug, immediately telling me my official time.  I cried some more.  I cried more as Heather gave me a hug and then some more when Jenn gave me a hug.  We were just…so happy!  I was so FREAKIN’ happy.  I made sure I drank some more water and I laid down to put my feet up while I called my parents in Birmingham, Alabama to tell them about my race and my finish.  They were so thrilled and proud of me.  I only wish they could have been there to share the moment as well.

After I hung up the phone, I stood up and went to get in line for a stretch and massage.  The line was long, but I knew this would help in the end.  While I was waiting, Cathy went off to see if she could find any official finisher’s gear.  She returned about 10 minutes later (the line hadn’t moved) and handed me a gorgeous red rose and a bear wearing a Chicago 2013 26.2 t-shirt.  Ironically, the bear’s name was Dean, which was a sign…had to be…since the captain of the charity (Action for Healthy Kids) that I was running for is none other than Dean Karnazes.  Eventually, it was my turn for a stretch and massage.  That was the best thing ever.  It helped get those muscles loose.  The therapist working on me mentioned how flexible I was…and I told her it was from years of yoga.  After a good stretching…we decided to make our way back to The Hilton so I could get showered and changed.  My intention, even though I wasn’t sore, was to take a cold shower.  I turned the water on, stuck my hand in…and totally nixed that plan.  I’ve never taken an ice bath or ice shower after a run, why start now?  Especially when I didn’t feel I needed one.  I bounce back really well from long distances on my own.  Never change up the routine.  Anyway…I was clean.  I foam rolled.  It was time to go see some sites around Chicago.

Our plan for the day was to hit up Garrett’s Popcorn for amazing popcorn of awesomesauce.  Cathy promised me a gallon tin of the Cashew Caramel Crisp.  We also got a small bag of the Chicago Mix…because we needed something to snack on.  All of us bought our share of popcorn to enjoy…and we went walking the Miracle Mile.  With Nike being one of the sponsors, they had all the official Finisher’s merchandise.  So after a stop by The Bean…and The Chicago Tribune building…Nike was next.  As we neared the building, employees were out cheering on everyone who was wearing one of the finisher’s medals.  It really made it SO special.  We ducked inside…and Cathy purchased two shirts for me…and Heather put money toward a nice pull-over (in Heather gray).  After that…a walk back to the hotel.  Heather needed to meet up with our friend Janet to go to church and Jenn, Cathy and I were going to grab some dinner.  Instead of the Mexican place we had reservations for that night, we ended up sticking to the hotel and eating at the pub that was connected.  I had a salad.  They had fish and chips.  From there…back up to the room to relax a little while and wait for Heather and Janet.  Because gelato was on the menu for dessert.  Well earned…and dessert is best when done with friends.  I didn’t want the evening to end…but, much like my little cup of gelato…it did.

Sadly, it was time to say goodbye.  Janet was going to get Heather to the airport, as she had to fly back to Minnesota that night.  So, lots of hugs and promises to get together again soon…we parted ways.  I walked Janet and Heather to the elevators and gave hugs and said goodbye…for the time being.  I returned to the room and got changed into pajamas.  Foam rolling was next.  And then…we were all ready to settle in, watch some television, and then get some sleep.

The problem was…I couldn’t fall asleep.  I was tired, but sleep just wasn’t going to come.  So, all night I tossed and turned and watched the clock.  I finally got out of bed…and went to change.  Soon, Jenn woke up and then Cathy.  Cathy and I went to walk a bit around the track at the fitness center before we finished packing everything up and getting ready to check out.  Chicago was a blast…but we had a long drive ahead of us.  So…after a quick jaunt to Caribou Coffee…we had our luggage loaded up, my car brought around…and we hit the road.

I am very, very proud of my accomplishment…and I know a lot of this was made possible by the people who have helped me along the way.  First of all…major huge props, hugs, love, and appreciation go out to my sports nutritionist.  Donna…without your advice, guidance, and all-over support and enthusiasm…I don’t think I would have made it through that distance without hitting The Wall.  As The Wall and I are still perfect strangers…I hope to continue this trend.  You are awesome and I’m so glad we are working together.  Your advice and your help have, definitely, made me a better, stronger, and faster runner.  You helped me develop a plan to go the distance and feel good at the end of said mileage.  Guess what?  It worked!  Tons of praise, love, hugs, and cowbell jingles go out to my family (who couldn’t be in Chicago), my friends, my co-workers, my runners, and the strangers who got me to that finish line.  This has been a long journey…and you’ve seen me through all of the insanity.

To Cathy…who saw me try and fail, try and succeed, rode 18 miles on a bike one Sunday with me to keep me company on a miserably hot day, who has seen me through injuries, seen me struggle, seen me overcome, and just continued to be the best damn crew a runner could ever have.  To Jenn…who coined my new favorite phrase when it comes to running, who always tells me not to pants my poop…and who compels me with the power of Dean…who shares my love of all things chocolate, ice cream, and delicious…and who never judges me when I get up early when I visit and go for crazy long runs.  Even if it’s in the kitchen during a snowstorm.  Next time, I promise not to slam into the island.  And to Heather…who I have known since 3rd grade…and despite your move to Minnesota as we were heading to middle school, kept in touch and still, to this day, is the best damn friend this girl could have asked for.  Your amazing belief in me and my abilities is unstoppable.  You teach me to reach for the stars and go beyond even what I think I am capable of achieving.  Your drive is contagious.  It always has been.

So…my official results of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon are that I finished in a time of 3:28:28.  I am still shocked with my time and blown away by what that time means.  I was 3,897/39,122 finishers overall.  I was the 592/17,527 female to cross the finish line.  And I was 154/3,274 in my division.  You cannot believe how thrilled I am with these results.  I felt so good about this run.  I conserved energy…even though I took that first mile fast.  I knew to ease up and let my body find it’s rhythm and its pace.  I ran strong.  And with that…achieved more than I ever thought possible.  This past week has been dedicated to recovery…although my body hasn’t really felt like it needed it.  Like I said…I bounce back.  This was such an amazing experience.  I never stopped smiling during the race…and it’s been hard to get me to stop smiling since then as well.

I ran this town...and owned it!

I ran this town…and owned it!



Marathon Training Week #18 – In which I head to Chicago for my first 26.2 miles!

Marathon Training Week #18

Marathon Training Week #18

Deep breath.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

Don’t pass out.  Don’t freak out.  Keep calm.  Keep calm and run a freakin’ marathon!

I can’t believe 18 weeks have already passed.  I began this journey on a rainy morning, June 10, 2013…and it all culminates at the finish line of the Chicago Marathon.  God willing, I’ll get there.

Marathon week has arrived.  Technically.  And I’m going through the motions of the taper.  I’m retaining water, which is messing with my head.  I’m running fewer miles…which is messing with my body.  And I’m a basket case of emotions, which is messing with my friends, family, and co-workers.

But it’s here.  At last.

On June 10th…I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to eat something small, drink water, get dressed, and head out to run.  It was raining.  Pouring, in fact.  But no one guarantees perfect weather on race day.  So, without even blinking, I grabbed a hat, got my reflective gear flashing, and went to head out the door.  Except I was greeted with a message from my roommate, which, to this day, still hangs on the back of the front door.  She was in her room, still asleep, but this was how she was showing her support…and every morning from that day when I struck out for 5 miles easy (which I did with hills, mind you!), I took everything on this little sign in…and used it as a mantra:

Roomie shows her support...with a sign on the back of the front door!

Roomie shows her support…with a sign on the back of the front door!

Inspirational, yes?

And with early morning runs every week, early morning runs every weekend, some fun runs, some races, some mile sprints, speed work, pacing work, and just finding out more about what I can and can’t do…pushing through it all…I arrive…at race week.

Sunday, October 13, 2013 marks the date for the Chicago Marathon.  My first 26.2 miles.  My first full marathon.  A part of me feels so ready.  But a bigger part of me is doubting my abilities, not wanting to believe all the hard work I put in through training for 4 months was good enough.  Or, that I’m just not ready.  This is normal.  And I know…deep in my heart…I’m ready.

I. AM. READY.

So…let’s see how this final week of training leading up to race day went, shall we?

Sunday was a rainy, rainy, rainy morning.  Sunday is a rest day, but I often go for another run, keeping pace easy and distance minimal.  I don’t want to over train, but I go stir crazy at times.  I had told the roomie that since I was in taper, I would simply do 5 short miles…at the gym if the weather was bad.  Well, it was raining…I’ve run in the pouring rain before.  I could have gone to the gym…sure…but the very thought of hopping on a treadmill was unappetizing.  For real.  So, I laced up my old Nike running shoes, put on my reflective gear, slapped on a hat, and went out for a run.  What I didn’t know (because I don’t have cable nor do I watch television) was that we had flooding in our area.  This should have been apparent in the first mile when I was warming up and kept splashing in pretty deep puddles.  But as I hit the roads, nothing prepared me for the ankle deep water I ended up trudging through.  I turned around and went the other way, only to be greeted with the same situation that way too.  Flooding…does not make for good running.  But, I laughed.  I was having a good time.  The puddles were everywhere…some ankle deep without me being able to tell…and every time I hit one…it just made me smile.  I mean…what can you do?  I logged my miles, went home, stuffed my shoes with newspaper, and went to take a shower and get dried off.  The rain stopped later in the morning.  Go figure.  It was a good way to start the week though…which I needed as I continued to struggle with my taper demons.

Monday morning greeted me with 4 miles.  I was supposed to do 4 miles at marathon pace…but I decided to move my speed work up a day.  It was my last day of speed work, and my schedule was going to be pretty insane this week.  Doing it on Monday was the best way to do it.  I did an easy warm up of 1/2 mile at my long slow distance pace.  Then it was 1 x 4800 meters (3 miles) at marathon pace.  Followed that up with 1/2 mile at my long slow distance pace for a cool down.  My body is playing tricks on me…with the water retention and all.  The run felt good.  And I still think I need to push myself a bit more on my speed work, but this was a good run.  I actually enjoyed my speed work for once.  And, naturally, being Monday…the Daily Double struck.  I headed to my running store for the running group that evening.  They decided to do the Pumpkin Run…so we went on a run past the house in the Highlands with all the pumpkins…then continued on to Cherokee Park.  We were to run the loop backwards…but Patrick (it’s always Patrick said we would run the loop regular, make a full loop and then head back.  Meaning…Dog Hill…TWICE!  The man is insane…and yet I somehow I always get suckered into doing it.  It was challenging…and I like challenging.  After the morning speed work, I didn’t think my legs would do well on the hills on the loop, or the speed that Patrick was pushing.  I was behind the two others who actually did run the loop, but I was feeling good.  I kept pushing…and I caught up on Eastern Parkway.  It was a good feeling.  And I really needed that.  Granted, it was a bit disrespectful of the taper…and ended up being 5.4 additional miles that day…but I was elated with how I managed to take those hills and maintain a great pace.  I had a feeling my legs would feel it in the morning, however.

Tuesday morning greeted me with an early wake-up call and 45 degree weather.  It was brisk and amazing outside.  I was in my shorts and short sleeves and ready to take on the cooler weather.  The training program called for 4 miles at marathon pace today.  So, I went and rocked it out.  In fact, I took these 4 miles faster than my estimated marathon pace.  The legs weren’t even feeling the two hard runs from the day before.  They were ready and raring and just enjoying hitting the pavement that morning.  I managed beautiful negative splits.  And then…my last day at the gym this week.  Since it is Tuesday, I hit up the Arc Trainer – Program 1 – Level 5 for 45 minutes and churned out a fantastic 2.8 miles.  I was having a great work out day!!  Seriously.  After the Arc Trainer…I went over to the rowing machine to get that full-body cross-training effect.  I have a love/hate relationship with this machine, but I managed 1.18 miles in 10 minutes, which is pretty good for me.  After that, downstairs I went for some strength training before calling it a day and heading to work.

Wednesday was my last run before the taper really hit with some down time.  The plan called for another 4 miles at marathon pace.  Which…I did get out and do, once again, in the dark and cool morning.  I even managed some negative splits.  I honestly didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard or struggling for that next mile, which is only a good thing.  My pace was good, my breathing was good, and my legs were starting to feel the effects of less mileage.  They weren’t as tired or as heavy.  And it just felt good out there running.  I finished in amazing time and feeling strong and good.  But really dreading the days ahead.  Me going without running is like…being without air.  I don’t cope well.  So, watch out world…I’m tapering…big time.

Thursday morning was rough.  I got up later, because the body needs rest on rest days and as tempting as it was to get up at normal time and go for one of my brisk walks…I need to respect these important days of rest and recovery.  Because that’s what my body needs to do in preparation for Sunday.  This doesn’t mean that I just sat around all day.  I made a healthy breakfast that morning.  I took a package down to the car.  I walked around Harvest Homecoming in New Albany twice that day.  Just to not be sitting at my desk the entire time.  I stretched.  I foam rolled.  I made sure I was taking in good carbs, good protein, and healthy fats…topping off my tanks.  I was taking care of me and getting my body ready.  And, it was hard…and I might have whined a couple of times…but I soldiered through.  A day of rest…it was tough.  But I got there.

Friday was the second day of complete rest.  I, once again, let my body rest in the morning, sleeping in and setting my alarm for much later than I would normally wake up.  I had a few things I needed to go get at the grocery store that morning, and although it is just a mile and a half up the street…I didn’t walk.  I drove.  I didn’t skim the aisles, but went immediately to what it was that I needed.  I went home.  I baked some treats for Chicago.  I made breakfast at the same time.  I enjoyed a protein-filled breakfast with fruit on the side and a fantastic caramelized apple parfait with some Greek yogurt.  Yummy!  I went to work.  I enjoyed easy strolls through Harvest Homecoming once again.  I moved around from my desk as much as I could manage with my work load.  I left work and came home to pack.  I didn’t pack…because when I’m nervous I find things to distract me…like hand washing clothes.  I know…I’m weird.  Jenn arrived from Ohio…and she and Cathy put me on task to pack…so I did.  Eventually.  Then we headed out to dinner.  Jenn chose Dakshin, an amazing Indian restaurant in Louisville.  I had the Dal Tadke Wali, which is home style yellow lentils tempered with Indian spices.  It was SO good.  And vegan.  And that meant…good and safe.  I had it over delicious rice.  Carbs.  Protein.  Topping off those tanks properly.  We treated ourselves to Comfy Cow afterwards.  Then it was home to watch Spirit of the Marathon and Marathon Thoughts…then getting some much needed sleep.

Saturday…it’s here.  The day before my first marathon.  And I’m a mixed bag of emotions.  I got up at 4 a.m. to do my shakeout run.  And the rest days paid off.  My legs feel good and strong and amazing.  I didn’t push my pace.  Didn’t push anything.  Now was not the time to try to hit a best time.  Now was the time to just let my legs do what they wanted to.  And every moment of this run felt good.  I enjoyed it…taking in the still, dark morning.  It was in the low 50s too, which helped make it feel even more effortless.  Temperatures on race morning in Chicago will be around 48 degrees.  I can’t wait.  I’m feeling amazing…which is making me feel better about a lot of things.  So, out for a 3 mile easy run…and now I’m going to make up breakfast so we can pile in the car and make the trek to Chicago.  Going to hit up the expo and meet up with Heather and have a good time.

So…this has been a physically and mentally challenging week.  But I have made it through the taper and on Sunday, I will get to see if taper madness really does translate into taper magic.  Because…I have not been a happy person this week.  Running shorter mileage…not running…it’s been driving me insane.

Not to mention, I’m an emotional wreck as it is.  I’ve been having moments of complete panic and what I call…race panic.  I have these freak-out moments and I just have to remind myself to breathe.  Just breathe.  And I know I can do this.  I’ve put in a lot of long hours on the road.  I’ve put in so much time, so much effort, and I know I have a lot of people cheering for me…all over the country and the world.  And that’s pretty awesome, yes?

So…there it is.  18 weeks of long, hard training…18 weeks…and I finally arrive at the place I’ve been training for.  When I started this journey it felt so far away.  The race is now…tomorrow.

I hope I’m ready.

Chicago…here we go…

Chicago Marathon - Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chicago Marathon – Sunday, October 13, 2013



One final push for an amazing cause!

Action For Healthy Kids - Chicago Marathon

Action For Healthy Kids – Chicago Marathon

Hello fellow friends and readers.

As you know, for the past 18 weeks I have been training hard to run in the Chicago Marathon.  And while I registered independently, I decided to go ahead and sign up to help a charity.  I chose Action For Healthy Kids.

You can read more about this cause in my blog I did a couple months ago…here.

As a refresher…

Action for Healthy Kids dedicates itself to developing, in children, lifelong habits necessary to promote health and learning.  Their primary focus is the epidemic of childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity found in today’s children here in the United States.  This organization partners with dedicated volunteers – teachers, students, moms, dads, school wellness experts and more – to create healthful school changes. Action for Healthy Kids is giving kids the keys to health and academic success by meeting them in the classroom, the cafeteria and on the playground, dishing out fun physical activity and nutrition lessons and changes that will help foster in nutritious eating habits and active play every day.

It’s a fantastic cause…as most children today spend so much time parked in front of a television, a game console, a tablet, a computer, etc.  Exercise and activity fall to the wayside.

In TWO days I will be running the Chicago Marathon…so this is one final push for donations.  No amount is too small.  And every little bit helps.

You can go to my donation page…here:

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/KarenBrady/2013-bank-of-america-chicago-marathon

Thank you so much for all your support as I’ve been working toward these 26.2 miles.  You will all be with me on that course on Sunday.



Marathon Training Week #17 – The heart of the matter

Marathon Training Week #17

Marathon Training Week #17

Taper madness continues.  Along with a lot of outside stress…inner doubt…and really learning to rest this body.  It’s not easy.  I love my runs, especially my long runs.  And having my mileage cut back hasn’t been easy for me.  Neither has this entire week for that matter.  Never before have I felt like the weight of the world was pushing on my shoulders.  And, honestly, my week had gotten off to a good start.  I was feeling good.  I was making good decisions.  I was training right.

But all it takes is one thing to throw everything out of whack.  That’s what happened this week and it lead to stress…stress…stress eating…difficult runs…lots of crying…and more stress.

You see, on Monday morning, my roommate, Cathy, woke up and came out of her room looking panicked.  She said she had a bad dream and now her heart was racing.  Sort of like a panic attack.  She went to the doctor that morning and was tentatively diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation (A Fib), which is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that causes poor blood flow to the body.  During A fib, the heart’s upper two chambers beat chaotically and irregularly, out of coordination with the two lower chambers.  She was admitted to Floyd Memorial Hospital…and that was her home until Thursday afternoon.  And I was bouncing back and forth between being at the hospital with her, work, training, and working at home.  There wasn’t any downtime this week.  The good news is…her heart eased back into its natural rhythm on its own.  She had been taken to have a procedure done on Wednesday morning that would involve giving her heart a shock to put it back into its natural rhythm, but her heart had already managed to do that.  So, she’s on a blood thinner and a medication to slow down the beating of her heart.  Yeah…it’s pretty scary stuff.  But, I’m happy to report that she is recovering well, taking her medications, and getting back to normal.

All that being said…training seemed impossible…and impossibly hard this week.  Somehow…somehow I managed to get it all in, visit the hospital twice a day, work at the office my normal hours, and work at home after leaving the hospital at the end of visiting hours (8:30 p.m.).  This meant there were a lot of very late nights and early mornings.  It was a hard week and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t sit down at the office and cry a few times at my desk…or cry in the car…or call my mom and cry…or just have a hard cry while out on my run.  It didn’t always make me feel better…sometimes it made me feel worse…but…things happen for a reason.  And I know if I can make it through this…I can make it through 26.2 miles in Chicago.

While the week started off great…it took a steep downturn starting Monday after my first run.  Let’s take a look at how stress and restlessness turned me into one exhausted runner.  I have never felt so physically and mentally wiped in my life.  This week…felt harder than any other before it.

Sunday is my other day of rest, which I often use to take a second long run.  This run is always shorter than the previous day’s run.  And, I also had to meet with Donna, my sports nutritionist, that morning.  So, I was out early and getting that run in.  I had decided I would go either 8 or 9 miles, whatever I was feeling, really.  I wasn’t feeling too good about things.  Water retention was becoming an issue and each morning I was waking up feeling bloated and just…fat.  Honestly.  Turns out, after meeting with Donna, water retention happens during the taper.  I should not panic over it or fuss over it.  It’s natural.  Whew.  Because, honestly…I was starting to wonder what was happening.  Apparently being very tired and sluggish is another side effect of the taper.  Good to know these things.  I am so blessed to have Donna seeing me through my training and giving me advice and information I wouldn’t have thought of before.  Anyway, I ended up rocking out 9 miles Sunday morning before the sun came up.  I kept the pace easy and slower, wanting to keep it challenging, but not push too much.  And that’s what I did.  I felt really good at the end of it.  The run felt good.  And in the end…that’s the important thing.

Monday started off great.  I was scheduled to do 6 miles easy that morning.  And when I set out in the dark, I did just that.  I just pressed on.  No need to stop for anything.  Even on the hills I randomly chose to throw in there, my legs felt good and strong and I was having a very, very good start to the day.  Came home to make breakfast and that was when the shit hit the fan.  Cathy woke up with the heart arrhythmia, which stressed her out…which stressed me out…which just spiraled into one of the worst mornings ever.  The gorgeous and nutritious breakfast I made (veggie egg white scramble with homemade breakfast potatoes and a caramelized apple and Greek yogurt parfait) was thrown away.  A doctors appointment was scheduled…then a trip to the hospital…which lead to a hospital stay.  I briefly ducked back into the office when Cathy’s mom came to relieve me at the hospital and grabbed some work to do from home that night.  I came home and had to go run some of this pressure off.  So, I laced up my Newtons and went for a soul cleansing 3 mile run.  I didn’t want to be gone too long…just needed to do something to take the some stress off my shoulders and try to ease my own  heart.  The run was cleansing…but it was soon back to reality.  I headed back to the hospital and stayed with Cathy, meeting her doctor, hearing what he was recommending (lots of tests in the morning!), and staying until the last possible moment I could.  Cathy had never stayed overnight in the hospital…and as much as I didn’t want to leave her there because of how stressed out she was…I had to go home.  Came home, ate a dinner consisting of Greek yogurt and red grapes, then worked until the wee hours of the night before calling it quits.

Tuesday is normally my cross-training day.  But I changed it up.  Tuesday, I decided I needed to do my speed work.  It was the day I was dreading most…and that morning I just needed to feel my heart beat fast and hard and have my legs and body pushed beyond limits.  I hadn’t slept well the night before, having only managed about 3 hours of sleep if that.  But speed work was happening.  I did a 1 mile warm up, then hit the paces with 8 x 800 meters with a 2 minute recovery, then a 1 mile cool down.  8 miles total.  I needed that run to battle exhausting, battle my inner demons, battle my emotions.  I needed it that morning.  Not Wednesday…but Tuesday.  Afterwards, I returned to the apartment and showered, then packed up some fruit to have for breakfast (banana, apple with almond butter, grapes), grabbed my lunch for work and headed out the door to the hospital to visit with Cathy.  She had her EKG early in the morning.  But that morning they were going to take her down for her Echocardiogram.  I was there and talking to her (she hadn’t slept much either) until they arrived to take her down for her test.  I told her I’d be back after work, and headed into the office.  Back to the hospital I went, as promised, immediately following work.  We were going to get test results that evening, but her doctor didn’t show up until very late, again.  The news was that her tests were fine.  There was no serious cause to her A fib.  It was brought on by outside factors…stress, anxiety, etc.  So, he gave her two treatment options…medicine…or the shock.  To my surprise…she chose the shock to the heart.  So…they went ahead and had that scheduled for Wednesday morning.  It was after visiting hours when I left…got home…had another dinner of Greek yogurt and red grapes, and worked from home until late again.

Wednesday was another early morning.  It was also cross-training day.  I went to the gym right when it opened at 5 a.m.  And I decided to change things up.  I did my strength training first.  Which felt good.  Then, I hit up the Cardio Wave machine.  I rocked that one out, despite an exhausted body and tired legs from speed work and late nights…and a not so good dinner the past two nights.  After that, I got on the Arc Trainer for 45 minutes and rocked out an amazing 2.75 miles with challenging resistances, inclines, and intervals.  I felt good at the end of the morning.  I came home, quickly showered, packed up an apple and some grapes to eat at the office and headed back to the hospital.  I met up with Cathy’s mom and sister in the elevator and the three of us went to Cathy’s room.  She was asleep, but her mom woke her up.  We chatted until they came to get her for her procedure.  Lots of hugs and well wishes happened outside the cardio unit.  I left after they took her back, having a good cry on the way to work.  Good news came though when her mom texted and said Cathy was doing fine and that nothing had to be done…she naturally went back to her normal rhythm.  It was a relief to be sure.  I stopped by after work and stayed with her until her doctor came in.  He told her she had to stay overnight, which bummed her out beyond belief, and he was putting her on a blood thinner and a medicine for her heart…but that she could go home on Thursday.  I asked if it would be in the morning, and he said it would.  So…I left and went to get some work done, once again making a late dinner out of Greek yogurt and grapes, and managed to do as much as I could before fatigue hit me hard.  I called it a night and tried to get some sleep.

Thursday morning greeted me and I had an easy 3 mile run to do.  I managed that, cursing the taper the entire time.  But I did rock the run, and that was the important thing.  I felt solid and strong logging those short miles.  Then, I hit up the gym.  I did just the elliptical machine, keeping the setting at Level 7, but dialing back on intensity.  Too close to the marathon to do something stupid, and my body was fighting me.  It was just done with everything.  Tired doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling at that point.  I was just…dead on my feet.  So, listening to my body, I skipped the other cardio machine and did some easy strength training downstairs before hitting up the apartment again, showering, and getting to the hospital at 7 a.m.  Cathy was supposed to be released that morning.  She was starving, mind you, when I was there and after she woke up…so I gave her the grapes I had brought with me.  Which is good because the breakfast they brought her was not what she ordered the night before.  She picked at it.  Around 10:00, her mom showed up and I left to do some work from home, assuming that despite the promise that she would be released in the morning, it might be an all day thing.  I was wrong.  45 minutes later, I was texted saying they were doing Cathy’s release papers.  So, I booked it over to the hospital to retrieve her.  Hurry up and wait.  Trust me.  It took another 2 hours to get her out of there.  And from there…a trip to the pharmacy for her prescriptions.  She finally settled in at home just before 1:30 p.m.  It made for a long morning.  I was working from home to keep an eye on her, and made her some lunch.  Then later…at her request…I made a baked mushroom and Parmesan risotto for dinner.  All while doing my work and trying to keep up with things at the office from home.

Friday is my day of rest.  And I am doing my best to keep it holy and respect it.  I admit…I did go out on a 5 mile walk.  I KNOW!!  BAD!!  But I just needed to be moving.  I knew I was working from home and that would mean little movement that day because I had work that needed to get done.  So, I did this thing where I would walk/jog for a mile…then walk a mile…then repeat.  For 5 miles…because it felt so good to just be moving.  I didn’t push for speed or anything…I just needed to be active.  I needed to be doing something that didn’t involve sitting at home in front of my computer.  I ducked over to the office to drop off work, pick up new work, then headed home.  I made breakfast for Cathy and I and then spent the rest of the day working while she watched movies and Star Trek.  I ducked back to the office to sort and open mail and pick up more work.  All the hours I had put in at home added up…and I was actually right at my 40 hour week.  So, I was sent home for the rest of the day.  And I vegged.  Dinner was leftover risotto, so that was easy.  And Cathy said she was feeling 70% normal that day.  Getting there.

Saturday is my long run day.  And, sadly, these long runs as of late have had to be done solo for the pacing requirements of my training program.  Today…only 8 miles…but these were paced.  My first 2 miles were to be at my long slow distance pace.  Miles 3-7 were to be at my marathon pace.  Mile 8…back into long slow distance.  I wasn’t really feeling this.  I miss running with my Saturday group something fierce.  Honestly.  But, I got out at 5 a.m. and turned out my 8 miles.  All 8 miles were actually at my marathon pace, which is good because I didn’t always feel like I was pushing or running hard.  This means my legs are stronger than my body and mind think they are.  I pressed on all 8 miles and felt really good when the run came to an end.  I had only wished it had been a longer run.  Aside from that…Chicago is 8 days away and I’m getting really nervous and trying hard not to put too much pressure on myself.  I want to enjoy my first marathon and I’m feeling as ready as I can be.  The taper edges into almost nothing this week…and my body will take time to repair itself and get strong.  Because next Sunday…I go the distance.

It’s been a very trying, very difficult, very stressful week.  But I feel if I could maintain my training and battle through this load of stress, doubt, fear, and anxiety and come out strong on the other end (which I feel is what happened)…then I can do battle with the streets of Chicago and prove to myself I have it in me to be a marathoner!!  I am really giving myself a pep talk.  I did a lot…and I mean…a lot of stress eating this past week.  Being this close to my marathon, I don’t want anything to derail the hard work I have put into training for this.  This means controlling all stress, anxiety, and every other emotion not through stress eating but through healthier outlets.  I think that’s doable.

With Cathy on the mend, the taper coming to an end, and my marathon looming RIGHT THERE on the horizon…I have a feeling I’ll be a basket case this entire week.  But, as my friend Dawn told me, now is the time to trust my training and know that when I get to that starting line in Chicago…all this hard work I’ve put into these past few months will have paid off.  I can only hope.

That being said…I have my bib number for Chicago…and the participant’s guide…and things are seeming very, very real to me now.  Almost there…so close…just trying not to cave under pressure or wear myself out getting there.  Yeah…the nerves have kicked in.  It’s very real now.