Thank You, BWRC

Last night, I had the privilege of attending Busse Woods Running Club’s Second Annual Holiday Party. In 2017, we were ecstatic about the 50 people who came to our holiday party. In 2018, we had over 100 people come out for the party. It’s been an absolutely incredible journey over the last year and we’re just getting started. This year I saw so many of our members grow in their own running journeys. Between new PRs that were set, some running their very first marathon or 5K, a few people who came back to running after a long hiatus, and so many other stories, I was so inspired this year and grateful to be a small part of each of these journeys.

It’s been said many times that this club is like a second family. My own experience has been nothing short of that. Like a family, we have our ups and downs, our own “drama”, and our quirks, but each piece of this family is valuable and makes the culture of the club what it is. This has been the most welcoming and inviting group I’ve ever been a part of and while we all come from different backgrounds, different places, and different walks of life, we all share one thing in common – the love of running, and that binds us together. When I moved back from St. Louis 2.5 years ago, I was looking for a training group to be a part of. My running had plateaued, I was missing the aspect of “team” in running, and I wanted to meet more friends who shared this obsession of mine. From the day I first step foot on Ost Field, I was welcomed with open arms. What has meant the most to me, however, has been all of the support over the last year that I received when I set out on a very individualistic quest to finally catch my unicorn and qualify for Boston. It required a lot of time spent away from my running family, but I felt like they were with me every step of the way.

After I finished the Berlin Marathon and secured my spot at Boston, the texts and Facebook messages came flooding in. Mind you, Berlin was run at 9:30 a.m. Germany time, which was 2:30 a.m. Chicago time. How lucky am I to have such an amazing support system that was up at 2:30 tracking my race, posting about it to one another, and sending so many positive vibes my way? I get goosebumps just typing this now. Although I crossed the finish line and the BQ was next to my name, it took a village to get me to this point and I am eternally grateful for the words of encouragement, support, and inspiration from so many of the BWRC runners that played a huge role in helping me achieve my goal.

Serving as the Director of Marketing & Social Media for BWRC has been such an honor and I am excited for all that’s to come for our club in 2019. We have big dreams and hopes for our club, but without each and every one of our members, we would not be living this dream.

Thank you, BWRC, for one of the best years of my life. 2019 has a lot to live up to after everything that happened in 2018, but I know that with all of you by my side and the new friends that will join our club next year, it’s going to be a fun ride.

Love,

Katherine

How to Continue Running Through the Midwest Winter

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Midwest weather can be brutal. We can get extreme heat/humidity in the summers, and extreme cold and feet of snow in the winter. The 2018 winter was rough between the arctic temperatures at the beginning of January where temperatures didn’t make it out of the negatives and the foot of snow that came down during the second weekend of February; a lot of our runs had to be indoors on the treadmill. However, this winter I have been challenging myself to get outdoors more even when it has been cold (within reason; I won’t run outdoors in the negative temperatures because I don’t think it’s safe/I have a hard time breathing in it). I have been able to do this by learning how to dress appropriately for the weather and have a few “go-to” items for staying warm on these cold winter runs.

Base Layer

  • I run in a C9 base layer that you can find at Target in their activewear section. This helps wick the sweat and keep it from clinging to your body and making you colder.

Fleece Pullover

  • I usually pick one with a turtleneck to keep me even warmer but the fleece lining helps insulate you to keep you warmer.

Fleece-Lined Wind Breaker

  • This helps block the wind on particularly cold days. Even the slightest bit of wind on a winter day can send chills down your body so I think it’s better to overdress and be warm than to be shivering. My favorite one is from New Balance and they don’t currently carry it, but the one linked here is similar because it has the soft outer shell for breaking the wind but is fleece lined to keep you warm.

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North Face Gloves

  • These gloves were not cheap at $55 but they have been well worth the investment. These are the first pair of gloves I’ve worn to run in that keep my hands warm without having to wear mittens. I suffer from Raynaud’s Syndrome where my fingers will go numb and get very pale after I get inside from my run so a really good quality pair of gloves minimizes this. My only gripe about these is that they have to be hand washed so I typically rinse them off and hang them up to dry after a run.

Panther Vision Hat with LEDs

  • This hat is fleece-lined so it keeps me warm and it doubles as a headlamp to light the path in front of me on early morning or night time runs. The lights also make me more visible to drivers on the road that I’m sharing!

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Winter Weather Tights

  • My favorite pair is made by Sugoi and are fleece-lined and wind-blocking. However, I also own a pair from Target that are nicer to my wallet. If you can make the investment though, I recommend at least one pair of higher quality running tights. They make a huge difference in keeping your legs warm.

Wool Socks/Ski Socks

  • I run in my regular running shoes even through the winter so it is essential to have a warmer sock on since the wind comes straight through the mesh in your shoes. I recommend wearing socks that come up over your ankle in the winter to keep the cold out; it’s the worst feeling to have space between where your running tights hit and where your socks end because you’ll feel the cold as soon as you step out the door! Ski socks keep my feet extra warm on those sub-zero days, but they don’t fit in all my shoes so I sometimes use a pair of thinner wool socks. My favorite pair is from Balega.

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Please note the above opinions are all my own. I did not receive compensation for my post. I was gifted the Panther Vision Hat after posting a picture wearing another hat that I had purchased from them last year.

Making Moves in the Off-Season

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Hanging up my racing shoes for a little bit and focusing on other goals in the off-season.

When I wrote down my personal running goals for 2018, they looked a little bit like this…

  1. Break 1:40 in the half marathon
  2. Qualify for and be accepted into the Boston Marathon
  3. Run the year in miles (2018 in 2018)

I am proud to say that I accomplished those first two, sometimes a few times over (I would go on to run a 1:37, 1:36, and 1:35 half in 2018). However, after marathon season was over, I was left feeling a little down because I no longer had something to be working towards. I am a very goal-oriented person and the only goal left on my list was to run 2018 miles in 2018. Because of my hamstring/adductor muscle strains that set me back for a month, I recognized that this goal was going to have to be put on the back-burner for this year because resting and starting 2019 injury-free was more important to me than trying to catch up for missed time in October; sadly, I had been a little ahead of my goal until October’s injuries set in.

Feeling down between not being able to run and not having any goals for the rest of the year, I had time to think about the other areas of my life that haven’t received as much of my attention during a busy training cycle but deserved my time of day. I set new goals for this…

  1. Figure out my career situation and make a move that would make me happier
  2. Obtain my coaching certification from the RRCA
  3. Develop a business model and plan to be able to take on athletes for the 2019 season

Having these newly cemented goals in mind helped me focus my time and energy on other areas of my life rather than dwell on what I couldn’t do. Thanks to focus, perseverance, and the power of prayer, I am happy to report that I’ve made big strides on these goals since October.

I took my unhappiness with my current job into my own hands and began seeking out new opportunities at the company I work for. I recognized that I liked the culture of my current employer but that the role I was in was causing much of my unhappiness. I was able to land a new job in a different department, negotiating a slight raise, in a role that is going to allow me to utilize more of my marketing skills on top of my analytical background. While the offer has officially been signed, I’m still waiting to move over to the new group as I transition out of the old one, but it’s giving me a light at the end of the tunnel after what seemed like months of total darkness.

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Gaining strength through motivational books to make a change in my professional life and lead to overall happiness.

In mid-October, I also took the RRCA Coaching Certification class to become a certified running coach. It would require taking an exam after the course and a hands-on CPR and First Aid certification course but on October 31st I was officially recognized as a certified coach and am excited to work with athletes on their own running goals! I have always known that I wanted to coach other runners after having such a positive experience with my running coaches in high school. I didn’t realize just how big the market was for post-collegiate coaching until the last year and was excited that just because I wasn’t working in a school that I could still be a coach to other runners.

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RRCA Coaching Certification Book with the Road Runner
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RRCA Coaching Class in Downers Grove, IL

That being said, since obtaining my coaching certification at the end of October, I have been working hard on getting my business up and running to be able to take on athletes with Spring 2019 goals. I have begun my work to set up my business as an LLC and to work through a business model to operate the most efficiently and effectively. I am thankful for having a business background to help with the implementation and operations of my business and for my dad who is a lawyer to help me through the legal aspects of owning your own business (aka the not so fun part about being a business owner but one of the most important pieces). I have had a few people reach out to me asking when I will be taking on athletes and I am beyond flattered by this; my goal is to start working with athletes for their Spring 2019 goals and outlining plans in December. I want to make sure that before I take on athletes, however, that I am fully set up to create the best experience for my athletes. This means having a well-designed website with information about services, a tool to share an athletes’ weekly plans through, and having all of the backend pieces of a business set up (i.e. LLC formation, contracts, insurance, income-tax information, etc.). There is a lot that goes into starting your own business and as much as I want to start working with athletes already, I want to do this right so that everyone involved has a positive experience.

My running shoes may have been getting some time off this Fall as I recuperated from an intense 2018 training cycle and injury post-season but I still feel busier than ever between switching jobs at work and working to get my business up-and-running by December. These are busy, but also very exciting times and it’s hard to believe 2018 is almost over. As crazy as it sounds, I’m a bit thankful that my injury happened when it did because it forced me to slow down and remember to focus on other areas of my life that were in need of my attention. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been tough to see friends out there doing long runs in the Fall and getting to enjoy this great time of year in Chicago for running but as soon as I accepted my “fate” I was really able to hone in on the rest of my goals that were just as important to me as my personal running goals and actually make a difference in my daily life. I’m hoping that with the new job I will be happier and have a better work-life balance which in turn will allow me to be the best athlete and coach that I can be in 2019. 2018 has been one heck of a grand adventure and it’s not over yet! I hope that in a few weeks I’ll be writing a new post that says I’m ready to start working with athletes because I’m so excited to help others chase their unicorns in 2019.

-Katherine

Berlin Marathon Race Recap – Expo, Race, and What’s Next

Friday Expo

We arrived in Berlin uneventfully on Friday afternoon (a good thing with travel) after an overnight flight from Chicago to Frankfurt and a short flight from Frankfurt to Berlin. We shared a car to our hotel with a couple friends from back home who were also coming to run the marathon. There is a 7-hour time difference between Chicago and Berlin with Berlin being 7 hours ahead, but excited to be in a new city, the jet lag hadn’t quite set in yet. After checking into our hotel, we headed straight for the expo since we were still too early to get into our room and I wanted to get the expo over with on Friday to rest my legs on Saturday and not be overwhelmed by crowds.

The joke was on me as the expo was crazy even on Friday afternoon. It was chaotic to say the least, with very little signage to tell you where to find the bib check-in and extremely narrow walkways. For a marathon hosting 44,000 runners on top of many others participating in other events throughout the weekend, it was a madhouse and I started really appreciating the organization of Chicago’s expo which is also a marathon major. After about 45 minutes, I finally found the bib pick-up where I was handed my bib number and my rented shoe timing chip; this is different from every race I’ve ever run before where the chip timing is integrated with the bib but it seems to be pretty common in Europe as many already owned their own chip. Don’t expect to be given a bag at packet pick-up unless you selected gear-check when you registered. You either get a poncho at the end of the race or a bag for gear-check (I still recommend going with the poncho but more on that later; I ended up getting a free bag elsewhere at the expo). Unlike every other race I’ve run, you won’t get a free participant shirt with your registration. If I could go back and do it again, I would’ve preordered clothing, but didn’t realize when signing up that trying to get marathon apparel at the expo was like shopping in the U.S. on Black Friday – chaos. People were grabbing things off the racks as soon as they were put on and throwing them to the side if they weren’t their size. I felt bad for the volunteers who had to clean up that mess because it just wasn’t right. After a half hour, I finally found a t-shirt and jacket in my size and we got in line to pay and made a beeline for the exit. If there is anything I have learned from large marathon expos it’s that you can spend way too much time on your feet so I try to get in and out as quickly as possible.

We caught an Uber back to the hotel where we napped for a very long time after the jet lag had finally caught up to us. Unfortunately there wasn’t a good public transportation to the expo which was over 3 miles outside of the city at a retired airport. Around 6:30 p.m., I was feeling a little better and wanted to stretch my legs so I did a light 3-mile run before dinner.

Saturday

On Saturday, I did a 20-minute shakeout run in the Tiergarten, a beautiful park in Berlin. I even saw a couple of the African elites doing their shakeout run (I couldn’t tell who they were but they were going around 6:30 pace for a shakeout run in full Nike track suits so I’m pretty sure they were elites!); it was so cool to be out there running the same trails as them, even if I was far behind at my 7:40 pace.

My husband and I decided to do some touring around Saturday to make the most of our time in Berlin and saw the major sites like the Victory Column, Bradenberg Gate, and Checkpoint Charlie before meeting our Chicago friends before the race to hang out for a bit. I walked/ran about 14,000 steps on Saturday which is more than I would normally do before a race, but we took it slow and took the subway back to the hotel after walking in the morning and afternoon. The coolest part to me was seeing the start and finish line to mentally start preparing for Sunday and to have some peace of mind knowing where I would need to be to start in the morning.

Sunday – Race Day

Sunday morning came and with a 9:30 start time, I got to “sleep in” for a race day and woke up at 6. We ate a light breakfast around 6:30 then got ready to head over to the start line. It was about a 2K walk to the start which was perfect for warming up my muscles and getting out some pre-race nerves. I slept terribly the night before between the jet lag and nervousness but was feeling surprisingly peppy the day of. We waited in line for the porta-potties (not nearly enough for 44,000 runners, by the way) and after waiting in line for nearly 30 minutes, I ditched the line and found a spot in the woods to go. So many people were doing this because of the lack of porta potties so I didn’t feel so bad. I said goodbye to my husband and then headed for Corral F (Berlin corrals are fast. My 3:38 only landed me in Corral F out of A-H). The corral was way overcrowded and I had to hop a fence just to squeeze in. I noticed that no one was enforcing what corral you actually went into which was really frustrating when I saw all these people from H ahead of me.

It took 15 minutes from the start of the race for me to start but then we were off…and then stopped again. The congestion was unreal and I think because of all the people who didn’t go into the right corral, the pace was really slow to start. My watch was hovering around an 8:50-9:00 for the first 400 meters and I knew that was not going to fly. I spent about the first 13.1 miles weaving in and out of slower runners. I know this wasted a lot of energy and I couldn’t believe how long it took for things to open up. I was getting so frustrated, nearly in tears at one point, and had to jump on and off of raised platforms in the middle of the road to get around slower runners who had definitely started in faster corrals than they were seeded. But I told myself that this was happening today and I hadn’t trained through snow, sleet, rain, heat, and humidity for nothing. I felt like I was moving so slow but somehow the miles were clicking in around 7:45 pace which was right where I wanted to be.

The water stations were just as chaotic as the rest of the race and the volunteers all stood behind the tables filling up plastic cups so everyone was dive-bombing to grab a cup off the table. People would stop as soon as they hit the aid stations and you would run into them if you weren’t careful. Plastic cups are awful for both drinking out of and being on the ground as it makes for a super slippery surface to run on. You can’t crease a plastic cup so expect half the water to spill out unless you slow down to drink (which you need to do to get your GU down). However, I had mentally prepared myself for this after reading all of the race reviews so although it was frustrating beyond belief, I wasn’t blind-sided by it. These aid stations definitely added time to my overall time (and most likely everyone else’s), but it was something I knew was going to happen. When I run Chicago next week, I’m going to hug the volunteers because although I have always appreciated them in the past, I didn’t realize just how world-class Chicago is compared to other large events and how they have more than enough volunteers to make the experience positive!

Because the race started so late, by the time I hit 18 miles it was starting to get pretty hot (in the 70s). Fortunately I trained through much hotter and humid in Chicago so I could handle it, but I’m still not sure why the start time is so late for a September race! Miles 18-21 hovered in the 7:50s and it was around mile 22 that I really started fighting. This was the infamous “wall” that I’ve hit every marathon, but this time around, my mind was so much stronger and even though my pace slowed to about an 8:15 for the last 4 miles, I never once walked. The fact that my last 4 miles were still faster than my overall pace in my previous PR was something that was amazing to me. In these 4 miles I knew that the BQ was mine if I just kept running and that it was up to me to determine just how far under that I could go. I was passing people left and right, even at a slower pace, and it was honestly the coolest thing. Normally in those last 4 miles I’m the one being passed so passing others was propelling me to keep going. I reminded myself that I worked so hard for this and that I should feel strong. Unfortunately, I think a lot of my energy had been wasted in the first half of the race being so congested so I didn’t have much kick by the end of the race, but when I saw the Bradenberg Gate, I started pumping my arms again to make it to the finish. I tried hard to get under the 3:28 and make it to 3:27 but I just had nothing left in the tank. I finished in 3:28:06 and sat down as soon as I could. It was a PR by 10:11 and my first BQ. I wish I could tell you I was crying and emotional in that moment, which was what I had envisioned crossing the line, but I was literally so gassed that all I wanted to do was sit down (so anticlimactic, I know, but marathons are hard!). A volunteer came to check on me and I got up to start moving, but seriously had no energy left so I hobbled my way over to get my medal, then made my way towards refreshments. I needed water desperately and drank probably 10 cups worth before finally finding a water bottle.

I almost had forgotten about the race poncho since I was still super hot, but saw a sign for ponchos and hobbled over to get mine. I was glad I had grabbed one as I quickly started cooling off and being so sweaty left me cold. I definitely recommend going with the poncho option for this reason because it took me about an hour after the race to find my husband in all the chaos and without the poncho I would’ve had no covering. I’m still debating on whether or not it was harder to run the marathon or to take the shoe chip timer off post-marathon (kidding…but it was a close second). Just trying to bend over to take my shoe off was next to impossible as my muscles started seizing up. I was cracking up because the guy sitting next to me spoke Italian and we couldn’t converse, but he could understand my post-marathon pain since that is a universal language! Eventually I got the shoe off to take the chip timer off, then made my way to an exit gate. You had to turn in your timing chip at the gate or else you would be charged $25; it was next to impossible to find the lady with a bucket to turn your chip into but finally I found her and was able to go find my husband. An hour after finishing, we were reunited and then had to start making our way back to the hotel.

From my husband’s perspective, this was a terrible race to spectate because many of the subway stations had been closed down for the race so it was hard to get around. He had planned to see me 3 times (7K, 21K, and 37K), but missed seeing me at 7K because it was crazy congested, couldn’t get to 21K on time to see me, and saw me at 37K but I did not see him. We had to walk about 3 miles back to the hotel after the race and I was so dead. There were no good public transportation options and many of the roads were still closed so taking an Uber wasn’t an option. I got about 65,000 steps in for the day (35ish miles!) and because of how tired I was, didn’t eat a meal until around 8:30 p.m.

This was probably the most frustrating race I’ve ever run, but it taught me a lot about grit and how strong I have become to have overcome obstacles thrown at me left and right and still to achieve my goal of a BQ. I have a goal of doing all 6 marathon majors so I’m glad I had the opportunity to do Berlin, but I would caution anyone trying to go for a fast time to mentally prepare for the crowds and chaos. It is definitely possible to PR and fun fast, but I took a lot more effort than I was anticipating on a flat course. However, my husband did give me some good perspective; I have the tendency to go out fast in marathons and to suffer for it later in the race so the congestion did hold me back in a sense and kept me honest.

I’m thankful for this experience and for the amazing training cycle I had. I stayed injury free and had some really great workouts, despite a crazy hot and humid summer in Chicago. This training cycle brought back a lot of confidence to me and my running and I’m so excited for the next challenge and to be at the point where I can set new, bigger goals! From the silly 19-year old who thought she could BQ in 2012 (and died halfway through to finish in a 4:10) to 6.5 years later finally achieving that BQ dream, I’ve come a long way.

Oh and the 10 day trip wasn’t so shabby either! We spent time in Berlin, Prague, Bavaria, and Munich. I would definitely recommend doing your trip after the marathon because I felt like I could fully experience the trip and not worry about diet or how many miles I walked because the race was over. I got to be fully present on our trip and had the most incredible time. I recommend picking just a few places to visit otherwise you’ll feel like you’re spending all of your time traveling and not exploring a city. I felt we had an appropriate time in each place, but could’ve definitely used an extra day in Bavaria because I’m much more of a mountain girl than a city girl! It was absolutely stunning.

What’s Next?

So where do we go from here? Well for starters, on October 7th, I’ll be running the Chicago Marathon! I had signed up with a time qualifier for Chicago before finding out about the lottery results for Berlin so that is the only reason I’m running two marathons so close together (3 weeks apart). I don’t recommend it, but so far my recovery is going really well and if things look good for race day, I’m going to try to chase another PR because I think there was more in store based on what I trained for this summer. But, I’m not putting any pressure on myself and have 0 expectations going in because I accomplished my overall goal in Berlin and know that my body, even if no longer sore, is still recovering from the marathon.

I applied for Boston 2019 and have yet to hear back, but depending on those results, that will determine my Spring plan. As for the rest of 2018, I’m not racing and am going to just run for fun and to maintain fitness. We moved into our new house at the end of August and I really want to focus on making it feel more like home which up until now I had no time for! In mid-October, I’ll be taking a course to get my RRCA Coaching Certification which is something I have envisioned doing for a long time. I can give a lot of advice based on my 10+ years of running, but I want to be as informed as possible before trying to really coach others. Finally, I’m on a “vision-quest” as my husband calls it, and will be trying to find my professional passion because it’s an area of my life I’ve been neglecting but has caused me the most stress and anxiety over the last several years. I have a feeling I’m going to take a risk, but there is nothing more important than your happiness; this is the newest “unicorn” I’ll be chasing so stay tuned for updates on that!

If you’re still reading this, you’re awesome, and thanks for your support! Keep on chasing your unicorn, whatever it may be.

Filled with Gratitude

As of today I’m officially a week out from the Berlin Marathon and with the nerves just beginning to set in, I’d like to take a step back and thank so many people who have been supporting me over the last several months (for some, years) as I have been training like crazy for this.

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To my husband, thank you for allowing me to take over our weekends over the last 8 months to prioritize my long runs on Saturday mornings. I really appreciate you never complaining when I don’t want to go out and be social on Friday nights because I need to get a good night’s sleep for my Saturday long run. Thank you for also holding me accountable to get up and do my runs in the morning, even when I have those days where I just don’t want to. I can think of a couple times recently during our move where I would be so worn out but you would encourage me to just put my shoes on and get out the door knowing that I would feel better once I got going on my run. It’s because of you that I didn’t miss any of my scheduled runs over the last 14 weeks and I’m so thankful to be able to say that. Thank you for celebrating the accomplishments with me but also being there to pick me up after a race has gone poorly. Thank you for supporting my wild and crazy dreams, and for waking up at the crack of dawn for my races to come cheer me on. I love you and am so grateful to have a supportive husband through all of this who may not understand why I do what I do but supports me 100% either way!

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To my family, thank you for the time you have spent over the years coming to so many of my races even if only to see me for a brief moment as I ran by. I started running seriously in high school and without your support, I may not have continued with as much commitment and passion as I have had in the last several years. Thank you for coming in from out of town to see me run year after year in Champaign and for your hugs and comfort when things haven’t gone well. Thank you to Lindsey for the times she’s spent riding her bike alongside me for a long run or coming with me on some of my recovery runs to take my mind off of the running. Thank you for also humoring me and trying out this running thing and running races of your own. That has been one of the coolest parts to me and I will never forgot the time Dad, Lindsey, Jack, and I raced all together in Ohio, the time Mom crossed the line of her first 5K and completed smashed her expectations of time, or the time I got to run side by side with Dad in his first half marathon on a scorching day in Chicago. I’m so glad we’ve been able to share these memories together and I look forward to creating even more in the years to come.

To my friends, thank you for being understanding when I haven’t been able to be very social on the weekends due to early morning training runs or just being too worn out to leave the house. I know sometimes I’m a lame 25 year old but I’m thankful you still want to hang out despite my early schedule. Thank you for the texts and calls to wish me good luck before a race and to see how things went.

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To the Busse Woods Running Club, thank you for the constant support and for providing a social outlet for me with running. It is refreshing to be around others who understand what makes a runner’s brain tick and to get to run with many of you on the roads! I have been so inspired by many of the runners in the club and their personal journeys with running. It has been so cool to see everyone working hard over this summer as they train for their fall marathons and half marathons and I am excited to see everyone crush their races over the next couple of months!

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To my running coach, thank you for pushing me to set and achieve scary goals and for designing a training plan tailored to me that has allowed me to see 3 half marathon PRs in the span of about 5 months. When I came to you in January with a goal of breaking a 1:40 half marathon with a current PR of 1:41, I had no idea that would mean doing that 3 times over improving each time and sitting on a 1:35 half after just a half year of training together. You have helped me find my confidence again and that has made all the difference this go-around.

To the running Instagram community, thank you for all of your motivation and support. This community is so positive and it is refreshing to have social media be used for good. You all inspire me daily with your commitment to your own training, balancing full time careers, families, school, etc. and still crushing it out on the race course. Although we may be spread throughout the country or even around the world, it is so cool to be chasing our dreams together and reassuring to see that hard work does pay off.

Thank you to everyone who has played a role in this training cycle. The nerves are starting to set in but I feel so ready and prepared to tackle this marathon and am excited for the opportunity to chase my big, scary goals on Sunday. To everyone racing in Berlin, good luck and have so much fun! Let’s do the thing!

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The Taper Crazies

It’s not you…it’s the taper crazies! After having been through 5 marathon training cycles, I’ve grown to expect certain behaviors/feelings that can as a result of taper time. Everyone’s body is different but weird things happen to nearly every runner I’ve talked to during taper time! Here are some of the things I’ve experienced going through a marathon taper:

1. I am tired all the time. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I got the night before, I will feel fatigued throughout the day and just want to nap (which I do during the weekend but that doesn’t exactly fly at work!).

2. I get random aches and pains that never showed up during peak training periods. It’s normally not a sign of injury, just extra soreness that decides to show up during taper time.

3. My legs feel really heavy. I haven’t gotten to this point yet but I expect by the beginning of next week I’ll feel this way (however, if it doesn’t happen I’ll just be happy, not alarmed). It normally lasts for the week before the marathon but is gone by race day.

4. I feel like I’m getting sick/I might even catch a cold. My throat has been scratchy this week 2 weeks out from the race but it’s hard to tell if it’s just allergies acting up or if it’s this crazy taper fatigue. It normally clears up by rest day so I’m not too concerned when it does happen anymore.

5. I get really grumpy. This I attribute to running less miles and not getting my normal endorphin rush that I’m used to. An advanced apology to anyone who might see me cranky over the next 12 days!

I’m not a doctor, but my explanation for why the taper crazies happen is that my body has been through marathon cycles before and knows that something big is coming when I start taking down my mileage and intensity. As a result, it recognizes that it will need extra sleep and slows me down to keep me from exerting too much energy during the taper. Our bodies are smart and if you’ve been through a marathon training cycle before, it knows that what you’re about to put it through is intense and is going to wear it down for a long time after so it’s trying to get prepared. Fortunately, nearly all of these signs go away come race day and a proper taper leaves you well-rested and ready to go!

Have you experienced any of the taper crazies I’ve listed above or something else? Let me know in the comments section below; I’d love to hear more!

Minnesota Half Marathon Recap

Preface

I signed up for the Minnesota Half Marathon in June as a fitness check for the Berlin Marathon. The race marked just over the halfway point in my training and would be a good indicator of how training was going. Leading up to the race, the race organizers did a good job of communicating with participants on packet pickup and other race day logistics.

Packet Pick-Up

Packet pickup was at a local running store in St. Paul (The Running Room). I had no issue finding parking but also arrived on the later side (7 p.m.) so there weren’t as many people picking up their packets at that time. Bib numbers were assigned the day-of and I got a bib, pins, and race t-shirt. With rain in the forecast, I decided to pick up a visor in the store since I had forgotten to pack one and the employee working was very helpful and friendly.

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Race Day

My husband and I left the house at 5:50 a.m. and arrived near the start around 6:10. We chose to park in a privately owned lot for $10 since the $5 lots were backing up already. It took awhile to pay for parking since there was only one kiosk but I was able to pay for parking by 6:30 and walk down to the start line. I got in line for the port-o-potties right away before my warm-up. They definitely had enough for the size of the group and they were located near the start line. I did a mile warm-up and then 4 strides to get my legs ready to run fast. It was extremely humid at 7 a.m. (over 90% humidity) and hot (upper 70s to low 80s during the race) so I was already dripping after 1.5 miles of warming up and knew that the day was going to be challenging.

I lined up in the corral at 7:05 to secure a good starting position. There was a 1:30 pacer and a 1:40 pacer so I lined up between the two closer to the 1:30 group. My plan for this race was to go out at a 7:10 and hold that through the first 8 miles and then if I had more in the tank to pick it up. This is where things started to get weird. They had a start line marked but the actual start was about .10 miles up and they had everyone walk up to the timing mat. There was no official “start”, just someone who said “go” which no one was suspecting but all of a sudden we were running. I turned my music up in my headphones and tried to lock into a steady 7:10 pace. Because of the heat/humidity, things felt hard from the start. Not even a mile had passed and I was already questioning if I should back off the pace. I told myself to just keep digging and that hopefully after a few miles it would feel easier once my body got used to it. Mile 1 came in at a 7:05 which was pretty close to what I was going for so I held onto that and just settled into a rhythm. Mile 2 clicked at 7:07 so I was staying very consistent and to the plan.

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The course was a lot hillier than I had expected and with a downhill portion at around mile 2.5, I saw the uphill that I would be facing later in the race around mile 7 once we came back from an out-and-back portion. I made the decision that I needed to work the downhill portions with the hills that I would face later on, fully knowing that there was a chance I could burn out my legs on the downhill but willing to take the risk this time around since this wasn’t the “goal race” and I wanted that PR. Mile 3 was a 7:02 and 3.5 had a water station. It was the smallest water station I’ve seen in a race with only 2 volunteers and tiny plastic cups (my husband called them shot cups because they were that small) filled with only about 1 oz of water. I tried drinking while running and got about a drip in my mouth and the rest all over my face. Lovely. I hoped this water station was just a fluke and that the rest would be better. Little did I know it would only get worse as the race went on. Mile 4 was mostly uphill and my watch clicked at 7:09. Good for an uphill mile but my HR was starting to spike (191 bpm average for this mile). I was relieved when mile 5 was mostly downhill and my pace came in at 6:57. Around mile 5.5 there was another water stop and I was frustrated when I nearly missed a cup because the volunteers were standing around talking and drinking water themselves. It was like they weren’t expecting runners to be coming by already; this was really frustrating to me because this is one of the most critical pieces of a race, hydration. I charged ahead and hit mile 6 at 7:00. It was at mile 6 that I told myself that I was going to have to fight for every mile but that I had a fighting chance. Mile 7 had the uphill climb that I had seen earlier at 2.5 and it hurt. My split came in at 7:13 and my HR was back up to 191. Once I made it to the top of the hill, I started pumping my arms again to get going and to get my head back in it. Mile 8’s split was a 7:04 and my HR had climbed to 193. This was also where the race started funneling in the 5K and 5-mile races which was a terrible idea because it created such a huge bottleneck. The fastest half marathoners were getting blocked by the slowest 5K runners and 5-milers; it was a bob-and weave deal for the next 2 miles and was really frustrating. I definitely lost time because of this and getting water was even more challenging because all of these people were walking through the aid stations. I was in a world of hurt around mile 8 and was ready to slow down, but saw my husband perched up on a tall pillar and got so excited and started smiling at him and waving and it propelled me through to mile 9 which I ran in 7:11.

MN Race 4

After mile 9 my headphones decided to die on me (I had them fully charged the night before…I’ll be contacting Bose because they’re no longer charging to 100% and dying after about 1-hour of use). This was really the worst possible time for them to go out because there were no fans, just the sound of a freight train rolling, and very few racers around. I became that obnoxious person who blared their music off of their phone speakers because I needed something to keep me in the zone while I was hurting. Mile 10 clicked at 7:35; I knew I had slowed quite a bit and was still working hard, but just couldn’t push any more than this on the uphill. I did some quick math and realized that if I just maintained an 8-min pace for the next 3 miles I would still PR. But today wasn’t just about going after a PR. I wanted more than that and truly was targeting a finish closer to 1:32-1:34 had things gone a little better on the course; my coach and I had talked about this and it definitely was possible given my workouts and the base I had coming off of spring half marathon training. So again, I kept pushing and tried to push out the 8-min thought from my head. At mile 10.5 I saw a water station and I needed water desperately since I hadn’t been able to get enough liquids in to take a GU packet. I walked through this aid station to drink a cup of water and a cup of powerade (the tiny plastic cups) so that I could actually get some liquid down. Then, I kept going. Mile 11 clicked at 7:32 and HR was at 193 bpm. I told myself that it was just 2 more miles and that I could run that any day of the week. It was an uphill climb to the finish and I maintained this pace with a 7:31 for mile 12 (HR at 195 bpm at this point). I then focused on getting through the next mile and then booking it after that for the finish. My pace picked up a bit with a 7:27 for mile 13, but my HR also grew to 196 bpm. Somehow, I was able to run the last .17 miles (tangents) at a 6:13 average. It hurt like crazy but I was so ready to be done that I just kicked. I saw that I was going to be so close to getting under 1:35 and I tried my best to get there but came up short with a 1:35:02. I did have to weave through strollers at the finish from the 5K which again was really frustrating but I was just so happy to be done.

MN Race 2

I finished this race knowing that I had given 100% of my effort that day. I did my cooldown at an 11:15 pace and could not move any faster; this was really a sign to me that there was nothing else I could have given to nab those extra 2-seconds and be in the 1:34 range. It was one of most physically and mentally grueling races I’ve ever run but I am so proud of the way I hung in there and gritted it out to finish in a PR by 1 minute and 37 seconds on a day that literally everything was not going my way. These are the races that build my character and that help me realize that I am oftentimes stronger than I let myself believe. Being the competitive person that I am, I want to get out there again and do another half and see just how much more I can push myself, but that will have to wait until after Berlin and quite frankly probably not until 2019. For now, my sights are back on Berlin and closing out these last 6 weeks strong in my training. The hardest runs are yet to come in this training cycle and they’re going to help me be the competitor that I want to be come September 16th. And those 2 annoying little seconds that are after my latest PR? They’re just extra motivation for me in Berlin to throw down the hammer in the final mile to not let that happen again. And if that means bringing a drinking straw to get down my liquids from silly plastic cups, you can bet that I’m going to be that girl!

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Spicy Kale and Quinoa Black Bean Salad

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Adapted from The Glowing Fridge

During marathon training, my appetite is always through the roof and I have a hard time not giving into all my cravings (ice cream, cookies, chips and salsa…you name it). I’ve been victim to the marathon diet before and have actually gained weight while training for a race. I promise you it’s easier than it sounds when you start eating a lot of extra junk food that’s easily accessible because you’re hungry 24/7.

I work full-time, often putting in far more than the standard 40 hours at the office, so between training, work, and having time to spend with my family, I want meals that are not time-consuming to make but are also packed full of the nutrients I need for a healthy body and that keep me full so I’m not snacking after dinner.

I came across this Spicy Kale recipe a couple years ago when living in St. Louis and looking for more ways to incorporate kale into our diet. From start to finish it takes about 30 minutes to make and it stores well so I have often prepared it the night before to have dinner ready to go on a work night. This dish is friendly to all diets – vegan, vegetarian, and even those of us who eat meat on a regular basis (it fills you up and you won’t miss the meat in this meal, I promise). I hope you all enjoy this recipe and please let me know what you think if you make it!

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa uncooked

1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed

1/2 red onion, chopped (I buy pre-chopped red onion because my eyes burn too much when chopping onions)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup corn (I use a full can of corn instead drained and rinsed)

Spicy Dressing

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 glove minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh lime juice from 2 limes (I buy lime juice from the grocery store instead)

1/4 cup hot sauce of your choice (I use Frank’s RedHot)

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Salt/Pepper to taste (I normally skip this)

Directions

Combine 2 cups water with 1 cup dry quinoa in a pot and bring to boil. Expect the quinoa to expand into about 3 cups so use a large enough pot to accommodate. Once the quinoa is boiling, reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Stir occasionally until all of the water has been absorbed and remove from heat.

While the quinoa is cooking, wash and de-stem the kale and place into a large mixing or serving bowl. Drain the black beans and corn and rinse before adding to the bowl. Chop the onion and add to the bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the spicy dressing. Mix well and set aside.

Add the cooked quinoa to the kale salad and mix. Once mixed, pour the spicy dressing on top and mix again.

Dinner is served!

Off the Run

Your journey is your own. It’s meant to be different from someone else because we are all unique. Yet we try to make our lives fit into predefined boxes. As part of the running Instagram community we’re putting our lives on display in a 2″x2″ square, often with a pace/distance stamp on it. As humans, we naturally seek satisfaction from those around us. But our greatest satisfaction should not come from the approval of others. We are more than the number of followers we have or the number of likes on a photo. As runners, we measure things in numbers (pace, distance, time, heart rate, etc.), but there is more to this life than running accolades.

I’m writing this from a current place in my own life. Much of my identity has been wrapped up in being a runner, and while I could never envision my life without running, it should not be the only thing defining me. Here is a little bit more into who I am:

I am a Christian. My faith is incredibly important to me and guides many of the decisions that I make and my values. Before many of my races, you might see me saying a quick prayer on the starting line. I take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone out on the course or in my life.

I am a wife. My husband and I have been together for nearly 7 years and have been married for 1.5 years. He is my best friend and the most supportive partner I could have ever dreamed of. We met in college and started dating at the beginning of my freshman year. I feel lucky to have met the person I will spend the rest of my life with so young as I know it doesn’t happen very often anymore. He’s my person.

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I am very close with my family. Family is extremely important to me and is the reason we moved back from St. Louis after 2 years; it just wasn’t home without our families nearby. I have become very close with my husband’s family as well and we are blessed to have such involved families in our lives.

I am an animal lover. We adopted our rescue dog, Lola, in St. Louis when she was 1.5 years old and had just had a litter of puppies. She is the sweetest girl and the best addition to our family. Growing up we always had a pet at the house and still have 2 family pets at my parents’ house (a cat and a dog). I can’t imagine growing up without a furry friend!

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I am an analytics manager by day. Truth be told I’m still trying to figure out what my professional passion is. I have two degrees, one in Marketing and the other in Supply Chain Management and I would really like to move more towards the creative side of things again and get away from the numbers and Excel for a little bit…this keeps me up at night and scares me but I’m thankful to have a steady income while I’m figuring it all out. I am also serving as the Director of Marketing & Social Media for my running club which is a non-profit. I’m not getting paid but it’s the best job I’ve ever had and I wish it could be a full-time gig to be able to devote all my working time and energy to it!

I love to travel and explore new places. During college I spent 3 months in Seattle on an internship and hiked nearly every weekend. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Italy, France, Spain, Malta, Tunisia (Africa), Canada, Mexico, and a few Caribbean islands. I always say that if my family didn’t live in Chicago that we’d be gone in a heartbeat and hopefully be out west. My favorite state in the country is Colorado because there’s something to do year round as an avid skier (I’ve been skiing for almost as long as I could walk…).

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I have a few very close friends and many acquaintances. I describe myself as an introverted extrovert. I can easily hold a conversation with a stranger and enjoy company but in small doses. I definitely appreciate my alone time and many times after work I come home and just want to veg on the couch alone for a bit to decompress! My best friends are actually the ones I see the least often as we’re living in different states but no matter how long we’ve been apart a conversation is so natural and picks up where it left off.

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Finally, my passion is what drives me. I’ve had a few people recently tell me that I have an athletic gift and I whole-heartedly disagree. I don’t think I have any natural talent; I also don’t mean this in a braggadocios way at all I think I just have a ridiculous amount of drive to constantly improve and better myself which gets applied not only to my running but to nearly every aspect of my life. It’s tiring, and time-consuming, but it is what keeps me going every day (and also leads to having a problem with relaxing…but that’s a story for a different day).

So after all this, I ask you, what have you been letting define who you are lately? How do you want to define yourself? There is so much more to each one of us than just a PR in an Instagram bio or a daily post about our run. All of the things that define me are just as important in my life even if they aren’t being showcased on an Instagram page.

I challenge you to share, who are you #offtherun?

 

Berlin Marathon Training – Week 1 Recap

Week 1 of Berlin Marathon training is in the books and since I’m documenting this journey chasing down my unicorn, here’s a recap of what I did last week:

Monday – 4.01 Miles @ 8:14 Pace (aerobic-pace effort) & Core Workout

Tuesday – 6.33 Miles @ 7:28 Pace (Fartlek effort with workout portion of 3 minute intervals at half marathon pace (fast)) & 1.04 Miles @ 9:57 Pace & Leg Workout

Wednesday – 3 Miles @ 9:51 Pace (recovery run with my husband on Global Running Day!)

Thursday – Complete Rest Day

Friday – 5.15 Miles @ 7:41 Pace (Aerobic Run with mid-run strides mixed in; 8×20 second strides w/ 40 seconds recovery run between) & Core Workout

Saturday – 12.0 Miles @ 8:19 Pace (Hills, hills, hills! This was an aerobic effort and it certainly pushed me hard with the heat/humidity and the hills. I wasn’t able to run until the evening with thunderstorms ruining my morning plans but I got it done and on pace.)

Sunday – 3 miles @ 10:19 Pace (Recovery run – about all my body wanted to do Sunday after Saturday’s tough long run. I slept in till 10 a.m. which never happens so I was definitely beat up after that run.)

Week 1 Total Mileage: 34.53 Miles

Summary: Week 1 was a good first week of marathon training. I hadn’t broken 30 miles since the week of April 23rd so we’re slowly building up my base again. This was always the plan so no surprise here but to think I’ll be peaking doing double this mileage is both scary and exciting! Saturday’s long run hurt me a bit mentally but I reminded myself that it was the first time I had done a hilly long run or run for that matter in a very long time. On top of that Saturday was a rough day overall with a house inspection that went poorly on a house we put an offer on so I was already mentally drained. I swear I always pick marathon training season to make big life changes (last year we moved from St. Louis to Chicago in the middle of Chicago Marathon training)! Marathon training is tough; I keep reminding myself of this. It can build you up and break you down in a second. But I love it and I’m excited to keep working towards my goals for Berlin. 1 week down, 14 to go!

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