Category Archives: Running

Day 21 – Shamrock Shuffle FTW!

I wrote at the beginning of this writing experiment that taking the winter off training usually leaves me chomping at the bit to kick off in the spring. I wrote that I wasn’t as antsy to get out there as previous winters because – while my mileage decreased significantly – I ran more this winter than the past two combined.

After today, I think things are looking up. I’d already been feeling better the last few weeks, as the weather started to turn a bit. I also finalized my race schedule, which always helps me to be accountable to my training.

I was struggling to come up for a realistic goal for the Shamrock Shuffle 8K this weekend. Though I had run on average 2-3 times a week over the winter, and 3-4 times a week over the past month, none of it was really focused on speed. I knew I’d be able to get it back somewhat quickly, but also didn’t think I’d be able to just jump right into where I left off last fall.

Naturally, I talked to my coach about this. We discussed a goal speed for the day – seeing as it is the unofficial kick off to my racing/training season, I threw out an 8:45/mile pace. I had recently PRed at the Turkey Trot 8K this past November running a 42:47, translating to an 8:36/mile. Last year I ran the Shamrock Shuffle  an 8:55/mile pace. I figured given some loss of fitness over the winter, 8:45 would be a happy medium.

Not so! Kate was all “Um… that’s too easy for you. How about 8:30/mile pace?” I’m thinking, “Ummmmmmmm… I haven’t run faster than 9:15 in like three months… but sure thing!” Not to mention that this would be faster than my Turkey Trot PR when I was just coming off marathon training.

Because Kate told me I could do it, and so did my husband, I figured I should at least try – at the very least to show them that they were wrong. I had felt off and sleep deprived this week, my run on Friday was slow and a slog. I did not think it was going to be my day.

Fast forward to this morning, when the weather is absolutely perfect for running, I got a great night’s sleep last night and had an awesome warmup. With nothing to lose, I just went for it.

People who race in downtown Chicago know that GPS watches go a little haywire with all the underpasses and tall buildings. For longer races, it tends to even out around 4 miles when you get further away from the cluster, but during shorter races it is ridiculous. One mile, it reads at 11-minute pace, the next it overcorrects and does 7-minute pace. Today it never settled in so I had to do practically the whole run by feel.

I tried to do some simple math at the mile markers, but that didn’t work because my brain can literally not process anything when I run and math is also hard. That said, I did enough pace work last summer that I had a general sense of what 8:30 felt like, but it had been so long since I had run that speed consistently. My weak math told me that I was pretty close, but I wasn’t sure.

Despite feeling like I was going to puke during the one and only hill (that Roosevelt Road bridge is evil), I crossed the finish line in 42:12. Not only was that 8:30/mile on the nose, but it was a 35-second PR over my Turkey Trot.

I am definitely thrilled about this result and what it means for my upcoming training cycle, but I’m even more proud of the fact that I basically had to run this race by feel and nailed it. Correct pacing has always been a struggle for me and I am SUPER dependent on my watch to keep my in line. So this was a win in so many ways. The absolute worst part about it is that I had to admit to Kate and Ari that I was wrong and they were right.

I’m back baby!

I wanted to get some of the buildings in this finish line selfie, which made for this really weird angle.

Day 6 – An Ode to the Lakefront Path

Chicago Skyline

What I see on an average 6-mile run and one of my favorite views on earth

After yesterday’s seriousness, I decided for Day 6 to go back to one of my favorite topics to write and talk about. Gardening! Just kidding, it’s running. Are you surprised? I didn’t think so.

I was struggling with today’s post as I’m totally boring and lame on the weekends (typically). My day literally consisted of: getting bagels, going to pre-school baseball, grocery shopping and sitting on the couch. Does not make for a rousing entry.

But then, I happened on Geoffrey Baer’s Lakefront special on PBS (yes, this is my Saturday night) and the choice became clear.

For those not familiar, the Chicago lakefront has 18 miles of beaches and park land – all with a (for the most part) well maintained running/biking/inline skating/yogging path. It is probably my favorite part of this city.

My love for the Lakefront Path began in high school. I was not – shall we say – an athlete, but I was looking for a way to get some exercise and enjoy the city in the summer. What’s a girl going to school in the late 90s to do? Inline skating of course! I’d strap on those bad boys, along with some stylish knee pads and wrist guards (safety first!) and head north from my Lincoln Park house for about 12 miles round trip. Once I got to the north terminus at Hollywood and turned back to head south, saving my beloved skyline view for the second, more challenging half of my skate.

I left for college and left Chicago for almost 15 years. I took up running and found a love for exploring my city of residence on foot. I’d come back to visit and run on the path when I could, but as a means to an end.

When I moved back to Chicago in 2014, everything changed. I was a full fledged, committed, crazy runner. Four days a week, I started lacing up to run on the path. Now that I live further north, my favorite skyline view is now closer to the start of the run, and reveals itself with open arms that will never, ever get old.

Training for the Chicago Marathon in 2015 brought me further south on the path than I ever had been in my (then) 33 years. Before then, I had never ventured south of Oak Street and I had no idea what I was missing. Running as far south as 31st street, the turnaround back north gave me that motivating view I had when I lived in Lincoln Park. Now I get the best of both worlds. I get Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Museum Campus and Soldier Field. It’s all mine.

The skyline view when you round the Shedd Aquarium is the model for postcards. Belmont Harbor at sunrise offers a scene that impressionist painters would have salivated over. In summer time, it’s not uncommon to see a line of amateur photographer/runners stop in their tracks at sunrise to get a picture between North and Fullerton where all you see is water and color.

Since moving back, I’ve estimated that I’ve run on the Lakefront Path approximately 300 times. Every time is different. And I try to remember what a privilege that is whenever running seems like a burden or an obligation. Running here will never, ever get old. I don’t have to run here. I get to run here.


Day 1 – Chomping at the Bit

My run coach, one of my favorite bloggers and all around amazing person has embarked on a 30-day writing challenge. I have made no secret that in another life, I would be a writer (or professional reader – maybe both?) – so maybe it’s time to flex those muscles a bit more.

It’ll be no surprise to anyone that my first post is running related. I want to talk about where I am with running right now, and my mixed emotions. I’m coming out the other side of a mild Chicago winter (well, mild by Chicago’s standards, even though it snowed today). I’ve run more this winter than the last two winters combined, and yet I’m feeling less motivated going into running season than I have since moving back to Chicago in 2014.

The previous two winters, my running hiatus has been somewhat self-imposed. I had come off a hectic fall and marathon training, respectively, and needed to step away from the pressure of running perfectly all the time. It worked. By March, I was chomping at the bit to get back out there – and have run two marathons since, getting faster and faster the older I get.

The downfall of that approach is that I often feel like I’m starting from scratch come March. To train safely, I have to start with looooooooowwww mileage, and increase it gradually. I had to do all the work I had already done again and again.

This winter, I cut back my training/runs significantly. Didn’t sweat it if I took a week off. Used my treadmill more than I have in the last 4 years. My mood this winter was noticeably better than previous winters. There were some winter blues (mostly election related), but on the whole I avoided the mild seasonal affective disorder I’ve experienced from time to time.

But I miss that feeling of chomping at the bit to get back there. Since I’ve had some more consistency this winter, I haven’t craved running like I did last year – because it’s always been with me. When training kicks up in the next few weeks, I’m just continuing to run. And weirdly, this is impacting my motivation.

I have never regretted a run in my life (well, except for the training run that injured my IT band, which caused me to DNF the Austin Marathon in 2010… those were two shitty runs). Even if I can barely walk after an 18-20 miler. I feel better, stronger and clearer than I did before I started. I do my best thinking when I’m running, which a lot of times is no thinking at all.

Today, I flew away from a snowy city to Albuquerque for a work event. I unexpectedly had 90 minutes to kill this afternoon before a client dinner. I was not expecting to run today and was mentally preparing to do it tomorrow. I don’t know if it was the thin air, beautiful setting or warm weather – but I was chomping at the bit to get out there. And I did!