Chasing sub-3 dreams

Prior to the NYC Marathon, a spring marathon was not part of my plan. I don’t love winter training and doing long runs in January/February through the midwest winter when windchills are often in the negatives is not enjoyable for me (or very easy for someone with exercise-induced asthma). But my build-up to NYC indicated I was in shape for a 3:03-3:05 marathon on a very hilly course and since I didn’t get the opportunity to show that fitness, the idea of a spring marathon began to creep into my mind. Training this past summer in Chicagoland was pretty brutal; June-mid September can often be pretty muggy (we get the both ends of the spectrum here – winters with negative windchills and summers with dew points in the 70s) but the heat and humidity never let up this cycle and I did every long run in hot, humid conditions and often had to adjust my paces to account for the weather. It wasn’t the biggest confidence-building cycle and after a long 2 years of waiting to race a marathon again, it was disappointing how everything transpired. A spring marathon became a little more appealing knowing that at least I wouldn’t have to deal with heat.

Way back at the Atlanta Trials in February 2020, my friend Marissa told me about the elite athlete qualifications at the Illinois Marathon. After what transpired in NYC, running a smaller race seemed more appealing and I remembered what she had said almost 2 years ago. I don’t consider myself “elite” by any means but I have run times that were under their standards (sub 3:12 marathon, sub 1:32 half marathon for women under 40) to be considered. The perk to this is that I’d get to put out my own hydration bottles on the course and could control exactly what was in them, something I’ve never been able to do at a marathon before. I love the marathon majors for how much fun they can be but my PRs most recently have come from mid-sized races that have competition but much less “frills”, aka having to arrive 4 hours early like I did for NYC. Illinois would provide that – there will be men and women faster than me, pace groups around to help, but I can show up to the starting line maybe 20-30 minutes ahead of time instead of hours which can make a big difference, especially if conditions are cooler to start. I started thinking about how neat it would be to try to go after a big goal at the place I ran my first ever marathon in 4:10. Sub-3 on a flatter course (gains about 400 feet over the course of the marathon) could be in the cards with the right conditions and training but more importantly, this was a goal that excited me. I signed up to run Illinois and am in the first few weeks of training currently.

This winter has been cold and windy so far with a decent amount of ice and so I’ve been alternating between treadmill runs and outdoor runs with lots of layers. It’s tough to run fast when you’re concerned about slipping on ice and most recently this weekend I was reminded that my asthma can flare up pretty badly with the cold, dry conditions. I really don’t enjoy logging long miles on the treadmill but it’s going to have to be something I utilize more if I want to hit my paces – I seem to be ok outside if I keep things comfortable and easy but when I pick up the pace when the real feel is under 10, my asthma often flares up and it takes a long time to be able to breathe normally again. It’s frustrating but it’s just something I have to live with; my inhaler helps but it isn’t foolproof. I know January and February are the hardest months to train here – it’s cold, dreary, and with the sun setting around 4:30 there isn’t as much daylight. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the days until spring!

In my personal life, 2022 has not really been off to the best start. I was really excited at the end of 2021 to be taking my business full-time and while that is going well, we’ve been dealt a lot of bad cards lately. A day into the new year, my uncle passed away very unexpectedly. We had just seen him for Christmas and so it was a total shock, and to be honest, we’re still a little bit in shock. I am lucky to be 28 and to not have experienced much loss in my life before but this grief has been hard on myself and my family. A week after the funeral, we attended a celebration of life for Ross’ grandpa who passed away just days before the NYC Marathon in November which was also another surprise death for our family. It hasn’t been the happiest start to the new year and we seem to get bad news weekly. Unfortunately, Ross tested positive for covid this week and we’ve been living in separate rooms of the house since I remain healthy so far. We both have received 3 doses of the Moderna vaccine and his symptoms remain mild likely because of that, like a bad cold (sore throat and congestion), but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. It’s been hard not being able to spend time with my husband and feeling lonely cooped up in the house since it’s been pretty gross outside. I am thankful that so far I am covid-free but man, it’s been really hard this year so far to keep a positive attitude when just when you build yourself back up a little you get knocked a couple steps back.

Part of the reason my long run workout didn’t go great yesterday was because of the weather, but I also know a big part of it was because of the anxiety weighing on my mind right now with everything going on. Over the years I’ve realized I definitely run best when my mind is happy, I’m not the type of person who is fueled by rage or can perform well when I’m under negative pressure. I am grateful that through all of this I’ve been able to continue to run for my own peace of mind, even if workouts haven’t been perfect.

The goal remains to work towards that sub-3 marathon in April. If at any point my mind is no longer in it or my body isn’t responding well, I’ll readjust, but right now the drive is there to keep pushing towards it despite the messy year it’s been so far and I’ll keep working hard to get there. Training-wise, I’m experimenting a bit with mileage and runs this cycle which I’ll talk about a little more in a future post, but I’m hoping to run some higher mileage weeks since I think this is a piece of training I can improve on after 13 years of consistently and healthily running 6 days/week. I’ve been strength training 2-3 times/week lifting heavy weights in the gym and feeling strong; I’ve really taken to lifting and while I’m not working towards any lifting goals, the idea does intrigue me for the future and I’m glad to have another outlet that can be done inside when it’s so cold out! Additionally for the last month I’ve been working with sports dietitian Meghann Featherstun to really hone in on my nutritional needs as we increase mileage and intensity. Already I’ve noticed positive changes in my body by being intentional with what I’m eating and how I’m fueling before my runs especially. I knew that if I was going to try to do something I’ve never done before with a really big goal in mind that I’d need to be firing on all cylinders and nutrition was definitely a piece that could use some work so I’m grateful to get to work with her this cycle to help me with this crucial piece of training.

Just an update on where things are at and where I hope to go! Month one of 2022 has not been great, but life is not linear and I know that there are brighter, happier days ahead. I hope that for all of you you are enjoying your start to the new year but if it has been different than how you were hoping, know that I empathize with you. I’ve been trying to take things one day at a time, not getting too ahead of myself, and learning to appreciate living in the current moment, and that has helped ❤

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