Monday, October 4, 2021

Lakefront Marathon 2021 Race Recap - My First Marathon in the Masters!

I ran my 13th marathon yesterday and while I gave up on maintaining this running blog, I do always like to document all the feelings related to a race and oh there were feelings. About two years worth. I couldn’t sleep last night so I started writing this all out and ended up with a six page document. So buckle up. I’ve included The Back Story and The Race, in case you don’t want to read it all.

The Back Story

I was training to run the Boston Marathon when COVID first arrived. I was coming off a 2:55 at Chicago and of course, as I was in the habit of doing, I had made a new goal of 2:50. This was a habit that was not really serving me well, I can now see. Back in 2015, I returned to the marathon to see if I could qualify for Boston after a 7 year hiatus from running them.

I hit that goal so then I thought “I want to run a 3:15.”

I crossed that off the list and then moved to the sub-3 marathon.

I crossed that off the list and then started thinking about OTQ times.

You see where this is going.

I’m not saying that continually setting goals isn’t a good thing, but the more I chased goals, the more anxiety I started having in relationship to running. I was not sleeping well nights before workouts. I was uber fixated on paces.

So when COVID hit, I honestly felt a little relief to have a break from all of that. There were no races to run so I didn’t have to worry about pace.

I didn’t worry about pace for a whole year. I just ran when I wanted, which some weeks was often and some weeks was not.

Then a vaccine was available.

I really had hope that the year long funk I was in was going to be over. I noticed that Lakefront Marathon was planning for its 40th year…the same year I turned 40. It was a sign, right? I thought this was going to be the perfect thing to get back to marathoning – it was a local race, I didn’t have to worry about logistics. I was going to be fully vaccinated and I had hope that by that point my whole family would be.

I registered.

Well then I had to reckon with the fact that I needed to actually train for the damn thing and I was not really coming off of any sort of consistent mileage so I set out to get a few consistent weeks of 40-50 mile weeks per the advice of my coach friend E.

I think E could sense that I was a little burned out and so we didn’t talk goal pace at all. The goal was to get into marathon shape again. Full stop.

I can’t say that I totally returned to marathon training with gusto. Many weeks I was flying high and loving it. Many weeks I found myself thinking, “What is the point?” more often than not.

I think a large part of this was COVID and just the fact that the constant decision-making in relationship to it wears you down. My sleeping was nonexistent. I know how important sleep and rest are in marathon training and yet here I was awake at 2-4 AM most days. The hamster wheel on my brain not getting the memo that my body needed rest.

Another part though is that I just was not into running in the same way that I had been. At some point, I stopped listening to any running related podcasts with any regularity. The magazines were piling up on my coffee table going unread.

Then, I felt guilty for not being super into running because I knew people who were injured or had other things going on that prevented them from it.


I stuck with training because I thought something would come back. E was sending me plans one week at a time and I really liked it. It helped me from ruminating too much on future workouts. My fitness had taken a big hit with the COVID break, naturally, so the focus for the early weeks was just building fitness.

Overall, I felt like I was in a fog most days. I usually am really organized, and I was forgetting meetings or messing up our calendar. All of those COVID articles about languishing really resonated with me.

So you have a glimpse of my mental state throughout the last two years (the CLIFFs notes version anyway). Let’s jump over to the physical, shall we?

My right hamstring had been talking to me in some of my previous training cycles and races.  It went away when I stopped doing any long runs or speed workouts during COVID but was happy to return on the scene once those workouts resumed. Then, my lower back was giving me trouble. I decided to see a physical therapist before anything got too ugly. I had 6 sessions (or maybe it was 7) with Carrie and she was really wonderful in helping me through my physical woes but also my mental woes. For the first time with regularity, I was doing warm up exercises. The hamstring and low back were managed to a degree that I could keep training.

Then let’s go to my menstrual cycle. This might feel TMI but this is a huge part of being a woman runner and I for one would like it if more people talked about the impact this has on running. I have an IUD and though some women do not have any period with an IUD, I still had one every 26-28 days like clockwork. The week before my period came, I always felt like a slug in training. But, because this was predictable, I never worried about a bad workout during that week. Earlier this year, I went 52 days without getting it.  I took a pregnancy test because I was like WTF is going on. I wasn’t pregnant and shortly thereafter my period came. Phew. Except then it never went away. This can’t be menopause, can it?!  I finally went to my primary care doctor and she was not able to find the strings of the IUD so she thought the IUD perhaps was misplaced. I had an ultrasound and the IUD was right where it should be so she referred me to my ob/gyn. He prescribed me a month of estrogen to try to repair my uterine lining. He said there was a 50/50 chance this would work if in fact the IUD was causing the issue. I left with a prescription. I was on estrogen supplements until two days before the race. I didn’t notice any side effects from this, and it didn’t fix the problem either. ARGH.

At some point in the training cycle, I got a plantar wart on the outer edge of my right foot. I tried freezing it off with a home kit, and then I was using those salicylic acid pads for a few weeks. It seemed that the wart was going away (slowly) but a few weeks ago, I noticed that the area around it was puffy and it was making running and walking sometimes painful. Had it not been for a conversation about cellulitis with my mom a week out from the race, I would not have thought about the doctor. I tried making an appt with my primary care doctor but it was going to be a month so the scheduler suggested urgent care. I went last Monday night and yep! Cellulitis. You have got to be freaking kidding me. The doctor gave me antibiotics and said I would be fine by race day.

Then Walgreens was not filling the prescription and it wasn’t going to be ready until late Wednesday evening. After over 30 minutes on hold with them, I was able to get the prescription filled on Tuesday and started taking the pills. By Friday night I was freaking out a bit because my foot was not any better and it was really swollen and painful. I stuck it in a big bowl of ice.

By Saturday, it seemed a bit better and I just resolved that I was going to have to ignore it when running.

I talked to E about a race plan at some point last week and had to laugh when he said, “Well, the training for this race has not been optimal.” Understatement of the year. “But I still think you have some good fitness.” We decided that I would run the first five miles at 7:00 pace and work from there. He thought I could do 6:50s for the next ten miles and start working toward 6:40s if it was a good day. I didn’t disagree. I thought a 3:00-3:05 finish was realistic based on the training and to go sub-3, everything would have to go amazing on race day.

Then there is this concept of “fun”. I think I started equating running PRs and having fun during races and that if you were serious about running you didn’t have fun during races. I wasn’t totally off base with this – at the elite meeting they were saying that we wouldn’t notice anything on the course because we were running fast and focused on that. I get that AND it also made me bristle when I heard it. I vowed to notice things and smile a lot during my race.

Well, if you’ve stuck with me this far, you’ve made it to race day! Congrats. Ha ha ha


The day before the race was a bit of a show. My son had a soccer game in one city, my daughter had a swim meet in another. Paired with volunteer obligations for the swim meet, we were in for an all-day affair. Oh, and then I had to get to the east side of Milwaukee by 4 PM to get my race packet and drop off my fluid bottles.

Record scratch. Did I say fluid bottles?

I DID!!!!

At some point last week, I was included in an email from the race director welcoming me to the elite running group for the marathon. I had some mild imposter syndrome until I got to the sentence saying I could have 5 bottles on the course. I don’t know what it is about bottles but I really feel like that is living the life. I was used to drinking a LOT of fluid during my training runs because it was such a hot and humid summer and race day was looking to be warm and humid so I was having a bit of a crisis wondering what I was going to do about fluid until I got that email! PRAISE BE.

Ok, back to the day before the race.

My husband took the volunteer stint in the concession stand so I could stay off my feet so I was on duty to drive kids around. My son had a great game, my daughter crushed her races and so I was off to the marathon expo. I got my number and headed to the elite meeting to drop off my bottles. It was here that I met Sara, who I knew from Instagram. It is always fun meeting runners from social media in real life! We chatted a bit and got the details for the next day and then I was off to meet Nate and Will at Noodles for dinner.

I made my overnight oats and got all of my stuff laid out and then went to bed. I was so tired. I ended up waking up around 3 AM to pee but thankfully fell back asleep. Nate had to wake me up from my sleep because I didn’t hear my alarm.

I peeled myself from my bed and went downstairs to eat my overnight oats. I got dressed and braided my hair on the first try and we made our way out the door. I felt like I was in a bit of a fog all morning like I was out of race morning practice. It was pouring rain and I didn’t even think to bring a poncho or other clothes to wear to the start.

We were on the road by 6:15 and made it to the start line around 6:45. The start line is by a high school and the high school is open so we could wait inside and stay dry. My bib got me into the VIP area which had real bathrooms. No waiting in porta potty lines! Honestly bathroom access is clutch. Will did my old lady hamstring warmups with me on the floor and I made one more bathroom stop before heading out the door. By this point the rain had slowed to a drizzle. Nate and Will walked me with umbrellas to the start. There are a lot of perks to a small race! It was already warm where wearing my crop top and running shorts felt fine to be wearing.

I saw Sara at the start and wished her luck. Sheila saw me and slapped my butt. It was 7:30 and time to run!

I started running and my hair and hat situation was annoying me so while I was trying to adjust my hat, I stepped into a big puddle a quarter mile into the race. ARGH! Marathon starts are such a head game because everyone is running fast and you have to just be ok with tons of people passing you to stay on your pace, knowing you will hopefully pass them at some point. I was trying really hard to stay around 7:00 pace but every so often I would catch myself running faster. My right hip felt a little creaky but overall I felt decent.

The race director told us about an accordion player that is always on the course around mile 2. I didn’t know if he would be out given the weather, but sure enough there he was under his tent! My first bottle was going to be around mile 3.7. I wasn’t really thirsty but I knew better than to rely on that so as I scanned the table, I realized my bottle wasn’t there. Are you kidding me?! My bottles had Andrew Scott Fleabag memes on them. They were pretty unique. I rage ran for about 0.25 miles and then realized that was dumb and settled down. I had to take my first gel at mile 4.

Shortly thereafter there was a big group of spectators. I was expecting to see Nate and Will here and maybe my friend Jill. I didn’t know if she would make it out given the weather but yep! There she was! I blew her a kiss and again made sure the high of seeing them didn’t make me run too fast.

I got through my first five miles and none of them were 7:00s. 6:49 / 6:54 / 6:58 / 6:56 / 6:47 I felt good but not amazing so I decided it would be best to try to maintain those paces for the next five.

I had a moment when I crossed the 10K where I realized how much fitness I had gained from the 10K race I did in early summer. It’s always fun to have those moments. 42:49 was my marathon 10K and my 10K race time in June was 42:41.

I took another gel at mile 8 and a deer jumped across the path at some point which was kind of neat.

At some point, I heard “Are you Amy?” from behind me and it was my PT’s student, Lisa! I knew she was trying to run around 3 hours so I ran with her for a bit. The next bottle station was at mile 9ish and thankfully my bottle was there. I drank about half of it (~6 oz) over the course of the next mile and then was sick of carrying it so I tried throwing it in a trash and missed. I made some joke about playing basketball in high school.  I took another gel at mile 12 and then we were halfway done!

Miles 6 – 13 were 6:56 / 6:50 / 6:49 / 6:49 / 6:52 / 6:47 / 6:48 / 6:52

I had made it halfway in 1:30:09. I was starting to feel a bit tired.

At this point, Lisa had taken off and I didn’t feel like I could go with her. I wanted to stay chugging away at my 6:50s for a bit more. I think the 3rd bottle stop was around mile 15. I grabbed it and again drank about half of it (about 6 oz).

Around mile 16 it started pouring. This was a turning point in my race. I felt that up until this point, I was pretty steady with my pacing and my mindset was good. I was smiling a lot felt focused on the task at hand. Once the down pour started, I quickly soured. I wondered why I was even doing this and was ruing my wet feet. I almost forgot to take my mile 16 gel. I saw 7:xx on my watch for the first time and it felt really defeating.

Miles 14-17 were 6:55 / 6:49 / 6:55 / 7:10

I stayed in this funk for about two miles.  By this point, I had caught up to a woman and we ran together for a bit. I ascertained that her name was Natalie because she had a good cheer squad chasing her and running with her helped me get out of my head.

Miles 18 and 19 were 7:02 and 6:54. Maybe I was able to get back to the 6:50s!

I got to mile 20 in 6:59 and grabbed another bottle and it was also time for a gel. I could not get my gel opened while carrying the bottle so I stopped running to open and quickly down my gel.  As I started running, I saw Nate and Will! I was not expecting to see them so it was a fun moment. Natalie and I were running for the next mile or so, and Nate was driving along the course while Will yelled versions of Go Mom out the window. It made me smile.

It had stopped raining but then it felt pretty warm and humid. Definitely not fall marathon weather!

Somewhere around mile 22 I lost Natalie behind me. My legs did not feel like they had any other gear available so I stopped looking at my watch and just tried to keep moving and keep smiling when people cheered for me. Honestly smiling and giving a hand wave to spectators got me a lot of cheers which in turn helped me keep moving. I was by myself for the last 3 miles of the race. At mile 24 I saw my PT! I yelled to her “I was hoping to see you!” She yelled at me to stop talking to her and run. Ha ha ha. I took my 6th and final gel at mile 24 and got my last bottle. I drank a few ounces and threw it in the trash.

I passed a few guys on my way to the finish but still was primarily by myself which helped when I got to the finish area because no one had anyone else to cheer for so I had a lot of cheers. I saw Nate and Will in the stands which made me smile extra big. As I approached the finish line, I started tearing up.  I just felt really lucky to be there and have run that race.

Miles 21-26 were a train wreck by time standards. 7:24 / 7:13 / 7:01 / 7:01 / 7:15 / 7:23. Yeah don’t follow this marathon for training tips. Ha ha ha

My finish time was 3:03:24.

I crossed the finish line and got my medal. One of the pacers asked to take a finish line photo with my medal and I smiled. I grabbed the food bag and expressed joy at the fact that there were Uncrustables. Why have these not been at any other race I have ran?! They are the perfect post-run item!

I saw Nate and Will and Nate said he thought that I got a Master’s prize. I went over to information and asked and she said, “your results should have been emailed to you.”

Well at that point I realized that my phone was in the glove compartment of my car and that I didn’t put it in my post-race bag. No big deal, I’ll just check my Gmail on Nate’s phone. Except that I have two-factor authentication enabled and needed my phone to get the text code. We went through the results and realized that I had placed either 2nd or 3rd in the masters and decided to stick around for the awards ceremony.

I got my beer and then realized there was no line for the massages so I signed up for one, as it was included with the VIP bib. It felt good to have my legs massaged even though part of me felt gross because I was covered in salt.

We stayed for the awards ceremony and found out I was 3rd place in the Master's Division. I got a little trophy and $50. It was time to go home. Another training cycle complete.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Hello 2021!

A whole running year went by without blog did it really happen? 

I began 2020 training for a big PR in the 2020 Boston Marathon. The training was going well until I went to Florida at the end of February, where I ended up getting sick and having to skip a few training days. I returned home to WI, resumed training and then in a matter of a few days, the Boston Marathon was postponed, things began shutting down and my kids came home from school on March 13 never to go back for that school year.

Goals needed to be changed. I was no longer training for a 2:50 marathon, I was going to work on my 5k and shoot for 50 mile training weeks. I think I lasted 10 days in this plan before I had to give up. Having to simultaneously work and homeschool two kids and manage all of our emotions left very little in the tank to give to running. For years I have read books and listened to podcasts that emphasized "Stress is stress - your body doesn't recognize the difference between work stress, running stress, etc." but I don't think I ever really experienced what this meant. Thank you, COVID-19 for driving that lesson home.

I did keep running - mainly easy runs to escape my house and family. I tried to pick up training plans now and then but my heart and body just were not into it. I saw people on social media totally crushing it and wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn't make my body run paces faster than 7:30/mi without hyperventilating. 

Stress is stress.

I had to stop listening to running podcasts, reading running magazines, stop the Instagram scroll which to that point was mainly running-related accounts. 

Then I thought I was better so I bought a group training plan and was going to again work on my 5k/10k.  For a few weeks, I was cruising along. It didn't last. I was taking walk breaks during my virtual 5ks. Again, what the eff was wrong with me that I can't run a 5k without stopping?! I didn't finish out the training plan. My 5k did not improve.

I went back to the "run when and what I feel like" plan. And it worked for me. As more and more distance accrued between the runner that I was at the start of 2020 and now, I started running less and returning to some other hobbies that I neglected in the effort to be a more dedicated runner. There was no training plan to schedule my life around. It was actually quite freeing.

As 2020 came to a close, I accidentally started doing some sports counseling oriented sessions. You may be wondering, "How do you accidentally start having sports counseling sessions?"

This is a story of the dangers of social media, ha ha ha.

Someone I follow indicated she needed volunteers to finish out her sports counseling degree. I DMed her that I would volunteer and thought I would need to do a survey or something like that.


I got 12 sessions of counseling! 


I met with M weekly for 12 weeks, wrapping up on New Year's Eve and it was the thing that started to turn running around for me. With M's help, I began to notice how over recent years, I had turned running into this activity where the only thing that mattered was running faster and faster. I was laser-focused on pace and PRs, and at some point running became more anxiety-inducing than anxiety-releasing. I was classic "all about the outcome." I became afraid to push myself because I didn't want to fail. I recall telling her all about how when I ran, I was constantly looking at my watch to make sure I was running fast enough, how my stomach is a bundle of nerves for about 3/4 of the run and if the run was going well (as in I was hitting pace goals for most of it), then I could finally relax and enjoy the last few miles.  She responded, "That sounds miserable."

Like I said...WOAH. 

Yeah. It was kind of miserable! I can't tell you how freeing it was to admit that to myself. 

Going through my recent history of running marathons was also helpful. I went back to the marathon after an 8-year hiatus just to see if I could qualify for Boston.


Well, if I could run a 3:25, why not try a 3:15?


Well, why not try a sub-3?


Well, why not try an OTQ?

You see what is going on here. Just keep moving that hurdle higher and higher. At some point, I was bound to crack. Somewhere in the land of running a sub-3 for the first time and setting the dream goal of an OTQ, I lost the joy of running. It was only fun if I could run fast and post PR times. 

I am going to turn 40 years old in 2021. At some point, I will stop running faster and faster year after year. 2020 may have been a SHIT year but I am grateful that I had the ability to pause and (with help) recognize some warning signs that my running may be venturing to a place where misery > joy.

I ended 2020 with 2083.94 miles under my belt. That is not an inconsequential amount but it does represent a pause in what was a positive trendline of my annual mileage since 2015. 

I don't know what 2021 will bring with running and I'm not currently focused on any goals outside of not looking at my watch when I run. I am also having fun moving my body in a variety of ways in addition to running. I've gone hiking, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, ice skating, and have done daily yoga in the last several weeks. It is becoming clearer that I want to be able to move my body, be active and ENJOY it, which honestly is easy to say when there are no races to register for anyway! I haven't abandoned big goals either. I'm in a weird middle place with it all and over time, I think things will become clearer.

Thanks for reading :)

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year In Review: My Year of Spectacular Failure

2019 was the year I was going to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon in my dreams. My OTQ dreams did not come true (not even close) in 2019, but I can't really complain about a year which brought me PRs in the 5K (18:38), half-marathon (1:25:37) and marathon (2:55:36) can I? 2019 was a spectacular failure.

I ran 2,316 miles in 2019, which is the most miles I have ever ran in a single year and a 17.5% increase over last year's mileage total.

Here are some thoughts on the year:
  • I switched to a more personalized marathon training plan after four marathon cycles using Hanson's Marathon Method.  [I am still a big fan and advocate of HMM as it led me to increasing both the consistency and mileage of my training cycles which showed in my marathon finish times.] This was a good move and reinvigorated the joy of running for me.
  • Speaking of joy, I do better with someone else telling me what to run. I came to the realization this year that while it sounds like always following a plan would take the joy out of running, for me personally, I get much more joy from running if I don't have to think about what to do. I have a lot of decision fatigue when I am left to my own devices, likely because I have so.many.decisions to make in all non-running areas of my life being the owner of a small business, I am responsible for all work-related decisions. Being a parent means that I am responsible for a lot of decisions about my kids. It all adds up. Having someone just tell me what to run completely removes the stress of deciding what to do in that area of my life and for that I am extremely grateful.
  • I am still on the lookout for the most magical running shoe. I continued having different shoes for different purposes in 2019, a tactic that has served me well. I usually use my shoes with high amounts of miles on them (i.e., approaching retirement) for low mileage easy days. I have a pair of shoes specifically for speed/tempo workouts, another pair specifically for long runs (usually more cushioned), and a shoe with about half of it's lifetime spent for middle distance easy paced days.  I will rotate these 4 pairs of shoes in this manner every week. (Yes I have a spreadsheet that tracks the mileage for each pair of shoe in current rotation.) I used to get close to 400 miles on each shoe, but I've noticed this year that once a shoe crosses into the 300 mile space, it's usually not long before I retire it from running.

Here are shoes I ran in in 2019:
1. Adidas Adizero Boston's were my shoe of choice for Chicago Marathon and I loved them.Will definitely be re-buying those for a speed/tempo/race shoe. They don't have quite the amount of cushioning that I prefer for regular middle-to-long distance training runs.

2. Saucony Triumph (meh). I wore these for middle mile recovery runs, and easy long runs. They felt too squishy for me to love, but they got the job done.

3. 2 pairs of Nike Pegasus (good). I ran the Illinois Marathon in these and used them for speed/tempo work. Overall I like this shoe but trying to not buy Nike until they clean up some of their policies.

4. Newton Motion (decent) I ran my 5K PR in these. Wish I could get the shoe without the nubs on the forefoot, which I realize is their whole schtick. I love how lightweight these are.

5. Adidas Solar Boost (meh). These were the equivalent to the Triumph for me.  A little sloppy of a fit but got me through a lot of easy miles.

6. Nike Zoom Fly SP (thumbs down). Bought on clearance in the early part of the year to use as a tempo/speed shoe and I just hate them. They are really stiff and my legs always feel more sore when I wore them. Stopped using them after 42 miles.

7. Hoka Clifton (good).  I have had two pairs of Cliftons in my life and they are the only shoe to get over 400 miles for me. I love the extra cushioning in them for regular middle-to-long distance training runs. The only reason that I didn't re-buy them in 2019 was that I had several pairs of shoes to use from BibRave Pro campaigns.

8. Under Armour HOVR (decent, especially for the price.)  I am on my 3rd pair of these, which disclaimer, I got all pairs for free through BibRave Pro, but I would buy these. I just wish I would get more miles out of them. 285 was it.

9. Brooks Adrenaline (meh). I did get close to 400 miles on these but I never loved them - they always felt a bit too stiff for me. I am interested in trying the Brooks Ghost in 2020.

  • The biggest obstacle I have to work on in the marathon is overcoming fear of the pain cave. Over time, I have come to the realization that the marathon is going to hurt, regardless of your fitness level. I used to think that I just have to get in better shape and it won't hurt. One thing that following professional runners on social media has showed me is that that is just not the case. I know that I have to get over my fear of pain to really be able to take my marathon finish time down. I have never successfully entered the pain cave, preferring to just dip my toe in and for sure as hell stay where I can see the cave opening so as not to venture in and get lost in darkness. So that is my goal for 2020 - start going into the cave.
  • I am already into my next marathon training cycle, gearing up for Boston 2020. It's a little audacious to think that I can PR on that course, but in my old age I'm getting more daring and I'm going for it.  With that, I encourage you to read this article and join me in another year of failing spectacularly.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Product Review: Turtle Gloves

Product Review: Lightweight Turtle Gloves

Disclaimer:  Turtle Gloves sent me a pair of their Lightweight Turtle-Flip Convertible Mittens in exchange for this review as part of the BibRave Pro Ambassador program of  Search and submit your own race reviews at

Mitten season is upon us here in Wisconsin (yes, I am Team Mitten (vs. glove) through and through).  November started off mild, got very cold, and now is back to mild again. I have been lucky to product test a new product from Turtle Gloves throughout the month: the lightweight turtle-flip convertible mittens.

The mittens are designed to be comfortable in a range of temperatures that are typical of "spring or fall" during low or high activity.

I liked the ability to change the mitten mid-run. Most of my running last month was in 20-30 degree temperature range. I am often cold when I start running so I would start with a full mitten:
While running, if my hands got warm, I would flip the top over, and roll it down a bit to give my fingers some ventilation:

The mittens were very versatile and warmer than I thought they would be given how lightweight the material is.  I have washed them several times (as they also functioned as tissues a few times) and they look good as new. I probably will continue to use them throughout the winter because they kept my hands plenty warm.

If you are interested in trying them, please visit their website and use code TURTLEGLOVESBR for 15% off.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Chicago Marathon Race Recap!

Yesterday I ran the Chicago Marathon.  So I guess it's time for a race recap!!!


I haven't blogged much about my training, but after several marathon training cycles using Hanson's Marathon Method, I made the decision to shake things up for a few reasons. First, I was getting bored with HMM. Marathon training is a slog. A slog that I love, but a slog nonetheless. During my training for my spring marathon (Illinois Marathon), I started realizing that I was not looking forward to any workouts.  Second, I was stuck on a bit of a plateau at 3 hours.  My last 3 marathon finish times were 3:01:52 (spring 2019), 3:01:58 (fall 2018) and 2:59:50 (spring 2018). I felt it was time for a change if I wanted to keep shaving time off. I asked my friend Eric, who has accrued several coaching accolades, if he would make a training plan for me and he agreed.

We focused on speed in the early summer before switching to more marathon based work. I was running more miles than I had ever before (weekly mileage peaking in the low 70s a few times) and it was paying off. I ran a 5K PR and a half-marathon PR in training leading up to the marathon. However, in his words, "It was not a perfect build-up." I continue to be plagued by anxiety-related insomnia and sleep is CRUCIAL for running recovery. The biggest change, and the best one, is that I was excited to do workouts again. (Well, except for ones that had me sh**ting my pants like NINE one-mile repeats.)

My favorite change about the actual workouts was incorporating more marathon paced work into my long runs. In HMM, the longest run you ever do is 16 miles and it is done at an easy pace. I was doing lots of variations of long runs with chunks of miles in my goal pace range (6:30-6:40/mile) and they were my favorite part of training. I ended up doing 3 20+ milers, and several in the 16-19 range.

Day Before The Race

Our plan was to leave for Chicago early morning so we would get to the Expo relatively early in an attempt to avoid crowds. We ended up not leaving our house until close to 9 AM because we left way too much to do for the morning, including packing and I still had a 3 mile shakeout run to do. (We are in the middle of a bathroom renovation so had to spend Friday night at Menards buying and ordering supplies.) Traffic was not in our favor getting to the Expo (on the south side of the city) but we made it there! It was a ZOO. I love marathon expos but was completely overwhelmed. My kids managed to get a few swag items, I got my packet and shirt and then we went to our hotel. We stayed at the Embassy Suites on State Street which was a great location. We went to one of our favorite spots, Eataly, for lunch, which was also a complete zoo. My son really wanted to go to the Bean so we walked there and back. I was having a bit of a mental tantrum about how much time I was spending on my feet and suggested maybe a swim/hotel time. My husband took the kids swimming and I took a nap, which was glorious.

After that, we headed to the American Girl store, which was another item on my kids' to-do list.  Their Christmas lists are made, ha ha ha. Everyone was good and tired by that point so we headed to the hotel for the night. We hit up the hotel happy hour and snacks and then my husband went to a nearby pasta takeout place to bring dinner back for us all. Once I finished dinner, I went to the train station to buy my tickets for the morning in case it was a zoo. The red line was only a block from our hotel!  I got my stuff all ready for the morning.

I also had a few text threads going.  First one was with Maeluen who I met at the Boston Marathon in 2016 and also ran Ragnar 2018 with and was in the American Development Program (ADP) with me (more on ADP later). We could not decide if we were going to wear race crop tops or singlets given the weather forecast. Another text thread I had going was with Eric decided on race strategy.  He thought I could do a 2:51. I was not so sure about that. But the strategy was start with 6:40 pace for mile 1-2, ease into 6:35 until mile 16ish and decide what to do from there based on how I was feeling. (Spoiler alert - this was not what happened.) I decided that I was going to do the crop and bring the singlet in my race bag. How cool was my outfit?! I was proud of this one:

Initially, my kids were going to sleep together on the pull out couch in the living room area of our hotel and that left a double bed each to my husband and I.  At the last minute, my son wanted to sleep with me and I let him.  So that meant getting thrashed all night long.  I still actually got more sleep than I thought I would!

Race Day!

My alarm went off at 4:30 AM.  I got up, grabbed my overnight oats from the fridge and holed up in the bathroom, which is my usual process for races.  I was not hungry at all but made myself eat the whole bowl.  [I always eat a package of Picky Oats How 'Bout Dem Apples oatmeal prepared as overnight oats on race days.]  I chugged some grape Nuun and braided my hair.  Layered on all of the clothes and left the hotel around 5:00 AM.

I got to the train station expecting to see tons of people but only a few other runners were with me.  I rode the train a few stops to Jackson.  My husband figured out all of the logistics for me the night before but I still ended up walking the wrong way out of the station.  Seriously - I used to live in Chicago but had no brain that morning.  I finally realized, DUH.  I could use my phone, so I was walking around downtown with the race map in one hand and my phone in the other.  #Tourist

I arrived at Gate 1 and was early enough that I had no lines to wait in to get through security.  SO DIFFERENT from the last time I ran the Chicago Marathon (2006) and I literally handed my mom, best friend and then boyfriend (now husband) my warm up clothes over the corral gate before the start.

After I found the right gate, it was time to find the American Development Program tent.  This required me to pull up another email on my phone and try to make sense of the directions.  I clearly was looking like an idiot because another woman asked me, "Are you trying to find the American Development tent? I am too."  We managed to figure it out and then walked into the tent and HALLELUJAH IT WAS HEATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Backstory on the ADP: After I barely got the sub-3 at Grandma's, several people said to apply for the ADP in Chicago.  The program standards for women are qualifying with a 3:01 marathon finish time or better. I was so happy that I applied because the pre-race experience was incredible.  We had this heated tent to sit around in and chat, our own line of porta potties (which made it easy to use the bathroom 6 times before the race) and a little "track" of park paths to warm up around.  We also could just leave all of our stuff in the tent without having to go through gear check.

I loved meeting some other FAST AF runners in that tent, many of which were going for the Olympic Trials Standard (sub-2:45 for women).  I chatted with fellow Wisconsin-ite Jessa Victor who, spoiler alert, ENDED UP GETTING THE OTQ!  Everyone was so freaking nice.  Another woman (who OTQed but I don't know her name) let me borrow some Vaseline.  Since I was wearing a sports bra under my crop, I had created a nice little pouch for gels between the two in the middle of my boobs and idea that I got while watching other people store their gels.  I used (and loved) the SIS gels which are longer and bigger packages than other gels and storing more than two in my shorts is difficult.  I ended up storing two in my hand held water bottle, two in my bra and a bonus in my shorts.  I took two warm up laps around the "track".  At around 7 AM, the corral directors started telling us to get out to the race corral.  Maeleun let me use one of her throwaway layers so I could save my hoodie.

We ended up getting escorted to the race corral but having to wait for the Elites. I cannot even explain how much I was fangirling when the parade of elite runners walked right past us to the start line.  At the risk of being a huge cheeseball, I yelled out "GO STEPH" to Steph Bruce.  We had to wait for the elite runners to warm up before getting to go in our corral.  AND THEN WE GOT TO STRIDE OUT NEXT TO THEM.  My foot was on one of the starting mats ON THE STARTING LINE of the Chicago Marathon!!!

I ditched my clothes with a few minutes to go and then felt that I needed to pee, despite all of my pre-race bathroom visits.  The woman right next to me crouched down, pulled her shorts aside and peed. I was desperate so I followed suit, except that I got stage fright and couldn't actually pee.  Apologies to anyone who may have gotten a crotch shot.  Runners are gross.

At the advice of many, I had turned my watch to manual lap setting given that I knew the GPS doesn't work well in the city.  I had it all ready to go and BANG! The gun went off.


I had no way of knowing how fast I was running (because the GPS was wonky) and literally EVERYONE WAS RUNNING PAST ME.  I felt like I was crawling.  My plan to manually tap my watch at every mile marker was only ok because I missed the first mile marker.  I knew I was going to see my husband and kids at around miles 1 and 3 so I was scanning the crowds.  They ended up being right next to Sarah Sellers' mom (who graciously let my kids in front of her so they could see) so after the race Nate was telling me all of these facts about Sarah Sellers which I obviously already knew from listening to podcast interviews about her, but it was cute.  I digress.

I saw them at mile 1 and waved enthusiastically.  The noise from the crowd was almost deafening.  People were still flying by me and I still felt like I was barely running.  But ahead! I saw the mile 2 marker and tapped my watch.  12:48.  My Garmin had that at 2.17 miles which is 5:54/mi pace.  UMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Yeah.  Went out way too fast.  I started slowing down even more but it was so difficult because people just kept passing me which was the biggest mind f.  I almost missed my family again at mile 3 but at the last second I heard them and turned around and waved.

I just kept focused on the blue line on the course and trying to maintain pace.  I missed a few mile markers but overall, my watch kept saying 6:33 pace and I felt good. I took a gel at mile 5. I saw Leslye and Josh at mile 7ish and was so excited.

I ran through the next miles which all feel like a blur.  More low 6:30 miles and feeling good.  I missed the 10 mile marker and didn't even think to look at the distance ran on my watch so I took my second gel late - a little after 11 miles.  I was still holding my water bottle of Tailwind, which I hadn't used yet.  I started coughing and feeling like I was going to vomit.  Thankfully this was short lived.

I got through the halfway point at 1:26.  I didn't know whether this was good or bad.  Did I go out too fast?  Am I going to die?  These questions started popping up, though I still felt good.

I honestly don't remember a lot from the halfway point to Mile 17.  I know that I took another gel around mile 16 - the gels between the bra and crop top worked AMAZING - and I threw my water bottle away during this stretch.  It started to feel like a 20 lb. weight in my hand and I really did feel very light after ditching it.  At mile 17.5 I saw the Oiselle Cowbell Corner and got a huge burst from that.

After this, I was still in the 6:40s for pace.  I just kept telling myself little mantras that people told me leading up to the race - "Have yourself a day" is one I remember.  At mile 23 we turned to go back north and then the wind also picked up.  I grabbed my hat because I thought it was going to blow off.I remember trying to calculate if I was going to even sub-3 and I thought it was going to be close.  Somewhere in this stretch it started to smell like poop.  I felt so bad but a man passed me with poop all over his back and legs. [After the race, I found out that Steph Bruce was the 2nd American woman finisher, ran a race PR and also pooped herself.]  I told you runners were gross!

I got to the top of the "hill" on Roosevelt with a little under 0.5 miles left and just willed myself to "sprint" to the finish.

I looked up at the finish clock when I rounded the corner and was THRILLED to see 2:54:xx.  I crossed at 2:55:36 and let out a huge "YESSSSSSSSSS" scream.

Then, I had to walk through the finish chute.

My legs hurt a lot but I kept walking. Got my medal, heat sheet and then I hear, "AMY!" A former colleague, Patti, was running over to me.  I lost it.  I just kept hugging her and crying.

I FINALLY GOT THROUGH the long ass finish line chute and saw two cute faces poking through the chain link fence.  MAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Followed immediately by, "Do you have any snacks?"

One of the photographers snapped a pic of the four of us and it is so so good.  I might buy race photos just so I can get it.

We then had to walk back to the ADP tent to get my stuff. My family couldn't come in the tent with me so I was going quickly but I learned that Jessa and another girl at my table got the OTQ and also learned that Maeluen had a huge PR.  I also took two Gatorades for my kids.  THANKS ADP! ha ha ha

We headed back to the red line to take the train back to the hotel.  We had arranged for a late check out but still had to be out by 12:30pm. We got all of our stuff packed up and got in the car and went to the Chicago Children's Museum, which fulfilled the last thing on my kids' Chicago to-do list.  I was moving pretty slowly but the extra walking likely did me good. I ended the day with almost 50,000 steps (inclusive of the race)!!!

So that's that. I am happy with my time, AND am a little disappointed that I was on the high end of my pace goal range. I am proud of myself for going fast off the line (even if it was too fast) #gofasttakechances and for NOT STOPPING OR WALKING, which might be the first time I can say this.  AND I FINALLY GOT OFF THAT DAMN PLATEAU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Prioritizing Recovery with Nuun Rest!

Disclaimer:  Nuun Hydration sent me a tube of Lemon Chamomile Nuun Rest and a tube of Blackberry Vanilla Nuun Rest in exchange for this review as part of the BibRave Pro Ambassador program of  Search and submit your own race reviews at

Last week, my one goal was to prioritize recovery.  The week prior, I had a killer workout - nine one-mile repeats and in the days that followed, I had my usual recovery workouts which were to be done at a pace where my heart rate didn't go above 135.

The trouble was, my heart rate jumped into the 150s even at 9:00+/mile pace, even three days after the mile repeats workout.  After a failed long run attempt where my legs felt concrete-filled, I was rewarded with an extra day off.  Typically I have one rest day (i.e., no running) per week, but in the last couple weeks, my plan was stingy on rest days.  That long run made 17 days of running in a row, so I had earned the bonus rest day.

Last week, my total weekly mileage was lower due to having not one but two planned rest days and I still got two quality workouts done.  I had a speed workout of 12 800s mid-week which felt hard but I managed to hit the intended paces.

At night, I have been incorporating Nuun Rest into my wind down routine.  Nuun Rest is made by Nuun Hydration and is currently available in two flavors: Lemon chamomile and Blackberry Vanilla.  I prefer the lemon chamomile but both are light tasting.  

Unlike the Nuun electrolyte tabs, the Nuun Rest tab is to be dissolved in about 4 oz of water.  This is good because any more liquid before bed and I would have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. 

Ingredients in Nuun Rest include magnesium, tart cherry and potassium which help promote relaxation responses in addition to reducing exercise-induced inflammation and overall muscle relaxation.  I was definitely sleepy within minutes of drinking it.

Overall, I liked the product as a consistent reminder to prioritize recovery, particularly with less than a month to go before the Chicago Marathon, my goal fall race!

My recovery week culminated in a beast of a workout - running for 2 hours and 40 minutes broken down by 90 minutes easy running, 40 minutes running in 7:00-7:30 pace land and finishing strong with 30 minutes of 6:30-6:50.  My legs felt great after the first six miles (#oldladywarmup) and I nailed the workout!

If you want to try some Nuun Rest, head to their website and use code HYDRATEBIBPRO for 20% off your order!

Let me know your favorite recovery tips!  I have 71 miles on the plan for this upcoming week and I'm going to need all the help I can get!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

A Sunscreen for A High Mileage Month!

Disclaimer:  Sawyer sent me a bottle of Stay Put SPF30 Sunscreen Lotion in exchange for this review as part of the BibRave Pro Ambassador program of  Search and submit your own race reviews at

August was a big month of running as I continue to train for the Chicago Marathon. I ran 272.77 miles, which is a lifetime high for me!  I have some pretty strong runner tan lines from a summer of high mileage and something that I am not very great about is wearing sunscreen for running.

I have tried the spray-on sunscreens for ease of use but just do not like how sticky they make me feel.  I have used traditional lotion sunscreens and find that many leave me with streaks of white that run off as the sweat comes.

I had a renewed dedication to sunscreen when someone told me to get a strange spot on my ear checked out.  I hadn't given the area much thought but made an appointment with the dermatologist.  Thankfully, the spot is benign and nothing to worry about but how many times had I used sunscreen on my ears? Probably never.

The opportunity to try Sawyer Stay Put SPF30 sunscreen came at a perfect time!

I really like the consistency of the Sawyer sunscreen.  It feels and applies like regular body lotion, which is a product I use daily.  The lotion itself is white but disappears into skin without that strange white residue that many sunscreens I have tried leave.

The Sawyer Sunscreen also dries quickly.  I usually apply it within 5-10 minutes of leaving my house to run and I don't feel sticky or greasy.

I have had some tough, long workouts this month and the sweat has been running off me.  The Sawyer Sunscreen has lasted through a lot, including my personal best half marathon in Madison a few weeks ago!

I have been impressed with the product and have continually used it all month.  I have thrown it in our bag for lake activities too. My kids and I went fishing with my dad last Friday and we were wearing Sawyer:

Another important factor for me are breakouts.  Sawyer hasn't led to an increase in breakouts which is always a nice thing :)