“Sometimes the stars don’t line up”

I heard the title of this post a lot this past weekend.

Last weekend was the Bayshore Marathon.  It was supposed to be my second marathon.  After 18 weeks of training, trading in nights out with friends (for early morning runs), and other “sacrifices”, I did not finish my marathon.  Instead, I stopped after reaching 13.1 miles.

I made sure to “eat right” during the days preceding the race.  I tried to maintain my usual diet, while slowly increasing my daily carb intake.  Unfortunately, sometimes our systems just decide to be goofy anyways.  That’s what happened to me.  (Don’t worry, I won’t share every detail in my story)

Long story short, I became sick the night before the race.  I slept for maybe two hours- combined.  It was terrible.  I woke up at 4:30AM to start getting ready for the race.  I like to wake up early on race days (or long run days) so that I can eat as early as possible.  The last thing you’d want on a race day is a crampy stomach because you waited too long to eat.  Except on this Saturday, I knew I would have a crampy stomach throughout the race.

After debating internally, and with my mom, I decided to run.  My thoughts:
If I run one mile, cool
If I run three miles, awesome
If I run five miles, that’s great
If I run 13.1 miles, that’s awesome
If I run the whole thing, that’s unbelievable and amazing.
(I know, I know my thoughts aren’t ingenious.  But it was 4:30AM and I didn’t sleep- okay?! give this girl a break! 🙂 )

So I started.  The course was beautiful.  I was surrounded by beautiful homes, trees, and (of course) the bay.

around the five mile mark

The bay is a little hard to see in this picture, because it blended in with the beautiful blue-gray-lavender sky.  Looking at the bay, listening to John Mayer, and looking for my family and boyfriend helped make this run a lot more enjoyable.  It wasn’t quite “fun”, but it was definitely a challenge I will always remember.  And although I didn’t finish, I am still proud of myself for making it 13.1 miles.  Will my time ever show up in the record books?  Nope.  I didn’t PR.  And according to the Bayshore online results, I never even ran the race.  But I know I ran.  And at the time, I knew I needed to run.  I couldn’t stand the idea of giving up completely, so I didn’t.  I ran.  And ran.  And ran.  And then I listened to my body and stopped.  Could I have finished?  Yes.  Would I have hurt my body?  This one I’ll never know for sure.  But my body was telling me to stop, so I knew I needed to listen.

As much as runners like to plan, sometimes the unforeseeable happens.  Sometimes, the stars don’t line up.  Maybe we won’t be able to run the race at all.  Or maybe we’ll start, and not finish.  But either way we learn.  We learn to listen to our hearts and our bodies.  We learn to be thankful we can even run at all.  And then we spend all day looking up future races.

running with my heart

Illinois Half-Marathon: Completed (again!)

Hey everyone!

Yesterday, my friends and I completed the Illinois Half-Marathon!  It was scheduled to be below 40 degrees, windy, thunderstorm, and downright miserable.  Thankfully, only the 40-degree-temperature-part came true! 🙂  It was a beautifully overcast and cool day AKA perfect running weather!

Elise and I after the half- we did it!

Many of my my friends PR-ed…but that was also because it was their first race 😉  Either way, it counts!  I also PR-ed yesterday, and am extremely excited about it.  My 2011 score was 2:06:01, and this year it was 1:44:53!  I am ecstatic.  My dream goal was to run at 8:12 pace (which I had thought was probably unattainable for the full 13.1 miles), and I ended up going around 8:00 min pace!

I’d like to give a special shout-out to Mother Nature (for cooperating), John Mayer (for singing to me the whole race), and Uncle Jim & my mom (for texting me) 🙂

It was such a great day and I cannot wait to run it again next year.  I learned some valuable tips post-race, too, that’d I’d like to share:

1) Although you burned a lot of calories, don’t stuff yourself.  Case in point: I ate a couple of bananas and two slices of pizza post-race.  I was feeling good for a few hours until I was starving.  What’s best for a hungry stomach?  Well, Chipotle sounded good.  Huge and delicious servings?  I’m in.  However, eating an entire burrito bol with some chips was not the best idea.  I had asked for 1/2 chicken and 1/2 steak, but ended up getting almost 3/4 serving chicken and 3/4 serving steak.  Although I got way more than my money’s worth, I went from full to uncomfortable throughout the evening.  Definitely try to avoid this for yourself by eating smaller meals.  This doesn’t mean to eat one small meal and call it quits; rather it means to eat a few small meals throughout the night.

2) Learn from #1.  I decided to cross-train during my usual lunchtime, so I was starvingggg post-workout.  We have a million Subways on campus, so it seemed like a perfect quick-and-healthy meal.  After eating that (+2 cookies 😉 ) extremely quickly, the stomach ache settled in.  Will I ever learn? Haha 🙂

Even with the crazy weather forecasts and tummy aches, this was one of the best weekends of the year!  Time with friends (and a new PR) always outweighs any negatives 🙂

Hopefully the next post will come with a delicious recipe- I’m experimenting tonight!  Cross your fingers for me 😉

“So, it’s race day…now what?”

Hello again!

Two posts in one day?!  Yep, things are getting crazy over here. 😉

My bus is leaving around noon tomorrow to head to Champaign and I am so excited! 🙂  Before I leave, however, I want to share tips on what to do on race day because…you’ve been working so hard for this day to come!  Now that it’s finally (almost) here, you’ll want to know all the tips and tricks to make it run as easily as possible 😉 (yes… pun intended).  So, here we go, I’m going to starting at the beginning of my race day and go up until the gun goes off!

Waking Up
“I wake up, in the middle of the night…” (okay, so these aren’t the exact words sung by Cyndi Lauper, but if you can start off your morning singing…you know it’s going to be a good day.  Anyways, because most races are early in the morning, you will most likely have to wake up early.  We’re talking earlyyyy, people.  Even though I’m a morning person, it still seems a little odd waking up in the pitch black “night” and hearing silence.  No birds singing…because even they’re still sleeping!  Set your alarm as early as possible, but also be sure to let yourself get as much sleep as you can too.  It’s hard running 13.1 miles or 26.2…and it’s even harder with no sleep.  Trust me, I’ve run a half-marathon on 4 hours of sleep.  It’s completely do-able, but do you really want to do that?  Didn’t think so.  If you’re staying at a hotel near the race, I’d recommend waking up about 3-4 hours before the race.  If you’re driving that morning, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to drive there.  Also, give yourself time to get lost.  Sometimes streets are closed around the race route and you’ll be forced to go down random streets.  This all takes time, so wake up early!

Eating
It’s important to eat a solid breakfast a few hours before the race.  But it’s really important to know how your body handles food.  You should eat how you always do before long runs.  For most people, it’s helpful to eat 2 hours (or more) before a race to allow your body the time it needs for proper digestion.  You should also eat foods your body is used to.  Is today the time to try that frozen Chinese dinner for breakfast?  Uh no.  (Save that for after the race!)  Instead, focus on foods that your stomach can easily handle.  I usually like to eat a peanut butter sandwich and a small banana.  I’ve been eating peanut butter sandwiches almost every day of my life, and they’re almost always my pre-run meal.  However, this does NOT mean you should make this your pre-run meal on race day.  Are you used to eating plain bagels?  Stick with it!  Protein smoothies?  Stick with it.

It’s also a good idea to stay away from foods that have an excessive amount of fiber.  Certain fruits, veggies, and other tasty things may cause you to get cramps and run to the bathroom if you eat them before a race.   It’s probably your best option to avoid them if you can.

Another misconception is the belief that you need to eat everything and anything to help keep you fueled up during the run.  If you do this, you can say HELLOOOO to cramping, bathroom breaks, and general discomfort.  Eat a normal sized amount of food.  You’re going on a run, and you’ll fuel on the run with GU, so you’ll be a-ok with your normal pre-run meal.  Think back about your other long runs…you survived it!  You ate a normal-sized meal and were able to successfully complete your run.  Today is just another long run day…except that there are more people watching you succeed.

Drinking
Start drinking that H2O as soon as you wake up.  I’ve heard that it’s good to stop drinking about an hour before the race and then to drink a small glass right before you start running.  This strategy will hopefully prevent bathroom breaks, so feel free to use it if you think it will help your race day performance.  It’s important that you are hydrated, so listen to your body.  If you’re thirsty, you’re thirsty- drink up!

Clothes
Wear comfy running clothes!  You’re going to be running for a while, so you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible.  This is also when you should use your Body Glide to help prevent any chaffing.

But wait, what if the weather is weird?  Maybe it’s windier than usual.  Or it’s raining.  Here’s a helpful website, made by Runners World, to help you decide what to wear on race day.

Bathroom
Use it before you leave your hotel.  Use it when you get to the race day location.  Use it before you get to the starting line.  If you don’t, you’ll regret it.

Flashback: At the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I decided I didn’t want to wait in line to use the porta-potties before starting the race.  What if they start the race while I’m in the extremely long line?  News flash: You probably won’t miss the start.  And, if for some reason you do, at least you won’t feel the need to go to the bathroom… for the first 7 miles…until you finally decide to give in.

Warm-up/Stretch
Some runners find it helpful to do a warm-up run and stretch before the big race.  I have never done a warm-up run, and instead take a fast walk around.  This is how I always warm-up before my training runs; I do a five-minute speed walk and follow it with stretching.  Remember: do what you always do.

Shoe Laces
Extremely important: make sure your laces are tied tight enough/loose enough.  It’s always terrible when you start a run and then have to stop to fix your laces.  Re-doing your laces while running a race would be even worse.  I like to do a couple second jog to “test out” my laces before game time.

Fix your hair
As your walking toward the starting line (before the gun goes off) or as you’re standing near the line with your friends, now is the time to make sure your hair is exactly how you want it.  Fixing a ponytail when running?  Forgetaboutit.  Only do this if you have to, don’t rely on it.

Get pumped
Hello, it’s RACE DAY! 🙂 Get out there and get going!

Those are my pre-race tips!  🙂

However, once there are a couple of words of advice I’d like to give for what happens after the gun goes off…

1) Races are crowded.  Watch out, or you may be run over.  Or you may run over someone else.  Look around and behind you before running diagonally.  This is especially important to remember when running to the water cups.

2) It’s okay to walk when drinking water.  If you walk while drinking, it allows you to drink it easier, faster, and…drink more of it!  This is the part of the race where I allow myself to (speed) walk and hydrate.

There’s much more I could say, but that’s enough for tonight! 🙂

Questions for you:
1. What are your pre-race rituals?
2. What do you like to eat before a race?

Running Dictionary

Hey friends!

In preparation for the half-marathon on Saturday, I’m trying to post as many half-marathon tips and tricks as possible!  It’s the first half-marathon most of my friends are running (and it was my first race last year!).  As it always goes when trying something new, there are definitely things you wish you had known beforehand (like, uh, everything)…so I’m going to attempt to spill everything and anything.  This post is  going to focus on some words runners through around.  It’s not exactly easy to google when you’re without a computer/iPhone and a random runner starts talking to you while in line in the bathroom (warning: lines will be LONG).  So, in order to avoid some awkward moments, here are some “foreign” running words I heard:

1) “bib”/”bib number”: okay, okay, this isn’t necessarily an extremely difficult concept to grasp.  But, it still seemed strange the first time I heard it.  I’m twenty-two years old, I don’t wear bibs.  Except when I’m in races, because a bib/bib number is the paper with your race number that you pin to your shirt.  Sorry the picture below is blurry, I guess I was just too excited to stay still enough for a picture 😉

Excited to hold my bib!

2) “PR”: Personal record.  It is extremely likely you will overhear runners saying, “Yeah, I’m trying to PR” (translation: I’m trying to get my fastest time, ever.)

3) “BQ”: Boston Qualifier.  The Boston Marathon is one of the, if not the, most elite marathons.  To qualify for Boston is an ultimate measure of running talent and ability.  The Illinois Marathon is a Boston Qualifying race (meaning, if you can run as fast as they specify, you can qualify for Boston).

4) “Barefoot running”: This could mean legitimately running barefoot,  running in Vibrams, or running in other shoes with little arch support.  Some runners believe this is harmful for the foot because there is little support.  Others argue that it allows your foot to be as natural as possible and thus it’s utilizing the muscles in your feet more effeciently.  Moral of the story: they probably mean toe shoes.

5) “Expo”: This is where you pick up your bib number and race packet.  There are usually a lot of vendors there selling awesome running stuff.  (AKA: be prepared to spend too much money.  To say I spent too much at the 2011 Chicago Marathon  Expo is an understatement… 0:)

6) “Throw away clothes”: This is literally what it sounds like.  Sometimes race day conditions are a little cold/rainy and you feel like you’d want to wear a jacket, but don’t want to run the whole time in it.  Well…you wear throw away clothes (make sure they are clothes you don’t like!), and then just take them off and throw them on the ground when you no longer want to wear them.  Warning: you probably won’t get them back.

7) “GU”: This is something I mentioned in my long-run essentials post.  It’s energy gel that helps keep you goin’ on runs lasting over an hour.  Check out the back of a GU packet, or their website, for specific directions.  IMPORTANT: do NOT eat GU and drink Gatorade!  This will be harmful to your body.  If you’re eating GU, you must only drink water during the race…and it’s important you drink some as soon as possible after GU consumption.  This will help with proper absorption and prevent uncomfortable side effects.

8) “Glide” or “Body Glide”: This is something I also mentioned in my long-run essentials post.  This helps to prevent chaffing, and is extremely helpful for runs (and especially helpful on rainy days!)

Hopefully my little running dictionary will help you understand what runners are saying!  If not…well…there are a lot of runners, you probably won’t see them again anyways. 😉

Questions for you:
What “runner” words confused you in the past?
Are there any words that you still don’t know?