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Chicago Marathon 2019

Chicago Marathon 2019 tick. I made it pretty obvious prior to this race I wasn’t feeling all that confident about running the Chicago Marathon. My running training hadn’t been bad, but mentally I wasn’t in the right place. My long runs hadn’t quite gone as well as I would have liked them too but I just thought this was the joy of marathon training! But after my 5k run on Saturday morning, I felt really comfortable and started to look forward to the race.

Start of the Chicago Marathon 2019
When it is too cold to take your jumper off, but you need your number on display!

The Start

Due to the time difference (Chicago is 6 hours behind), the early start wasn’t a problem. The previous day had been REALLY cold, so I was unsure how early to get to the start, but headed out of the hotel room around 6:30 am.

As I walked to the lift, another girl was waiting to get in the lift and we started chatting. Other runners got in the lift as we went down and a few of us left the hotel at the same time. I had planned my route to the start and checked it lots. Out of the hotel, turn right, then turn right down Michigan Avenue. When some of the runners turned left, I turned to Amy (the girl from the lift) and said “well that concerns me”. She told me she was sticking with me so we walked and talked all the way down to the start.

It was so nice to have someone to share the start with and Amy was super friendly, she made me feel like we had been friends for a long time. We headed for the correct gate entry, but a marshal told us to go in a different one as it was really busy where we were heading. Our bags were searched and our bodies were scanned and then we were in. The sunrise was amazing and the starting corrals (as the Americans call them) were all set up around Buckingham Fountain.

Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, Chicago.
Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park

We tried to locate the baggage drop, but the signage was not that great and we went to the wrong place. As we headed back to find our drop, we saw the length of the line for the toilets, so decided to start queuing. We were still in the queue when the National Anthem was played and the Elite men started. It was super cold and I was really worried that I may have had the wrong kit on! After the baggage drop ( which was really easy, once found, and no queues) I braved taking my throw away bottoms off but didn’t dare remove my jumper.

Amy was in the wave before me, but tried to move back to mine so we could run together as both of use were aiming to run around the 4:30 time. The security was tight and they wouldn’t let Amy in, so we said our goodbyes wished each other luck. I moved my way down towards the front on my Corral so that I was near the 4:30 pacer. All I needed to do now was keep warm. I was shivering SO much. We had a good 30 minute wait, but inched forward, bit by bit, until I could see the start line.

Start of Chicago Marathon
All smiles before the race.

The Race

I listened to the music, I took in the atmosphere and felt quite relaxed. The announcer made a joke about how good we were as we’d given everyone a head start and then the countdown happened. As we approached the line, the announcer shouted “I see you Ruth, you go girl” so I crossed the line with a huge smile on my face, thinking that maybe this was going to be a good day.

The first part of the course went under a tunnel and there were supporters there shouting and cheering. I had my name on my vest so my name was shouted so many times and this happened for most of the race; the Americans love cheering. I remember reading lots of signs which made me smile, but annoyingly I can’t recall any of them now.

In the early section, we had to cross the river a few times and I was surprised to see that the bridges were metal and not solid, so not the easiest to run over. I spotted my mum in the crowd on the left, but typically I was on the right side of the course! I cut across, going slightly backwards and got to the middle to shout. It was noisy so it took a few shouts to get her attention but I did, I waved and continued on with a big smile.

My GPS was so off and clicked 1 mile in 8 minutes something and way before the 1st-mile marker. I knew it was supposed to be bad so I had turned my watch to just time, so I had no idea of pace. I took notice of the main clock so I could keep a check at each mile marker. It felt like I was really holding back and from my calculations, I was running around 10:10 pace. This felt ok, so I just tried to stick to this pace.

Marathon runner
Concentration!

We were heading out of town to the north of Chicago and the streets were lined with people shouting my name. My legs did not feel as fresh as I would have liked but I just went with it. I remember that around mile 6/7 we could see the lake and there were parks around us. It was really pretty, the sun was beaming down, yet there were lots of gusts of wind too. We then turned and headed back to town.

I can not recall at what point it went wrong. But I know around mile 13, we cross a bridge again, which was just down the road from my hotel. I thought if I was to see my mum again, this was likely to be the place. I then worried that if I did see her, I might cry as I wasn’t sure I wanted to carry and run that distance again. It just felt a LONG way.

Half way

I went through halfway in about 2:07. I’m not sure how I felt about this; Was it too fast? I did think if I can keep this up that would be a huge PB! (So that probably indicates that it was too fast!) My fuel belt was old and I wear it for every run. It’s always been ok but one of my gels slipped out in the early miles and I was constantly having to adjust them as they felt like they were sliding down, so I carried three in my hand. I then noticed I had lost another one, so had to adjust my fuelling plan.

Chicago Marathon runner
Smiling for the camera, not sure I was feeling like smiling.

The water stations were very efficient and long. They handed out Gatorade for the first section of the station and then water at the end. I had taken water at miles 3, 6, and 9 miles. Around mile 14, I decided to stop and walk through the water station, so that I could make sure I actually took on water, as trying to drink from a cup and run isn’t always that good, even with me pinching the cup together.

I knew as I walked through the drinks station, there was no way I was going to be running a PB, so I set myself a plan. At mile 18 and mile 22 I would need to take get, so if I concentrated on running in blocks of 4 miles at a time I could walk the drinks stations at those miles. Three blocks of 4 miles felt achievable.

I don’t really remember much about this section, apart from thinking it was quiet on support and the sun was bright. That may not have been the case, it’s just that I was concentrating so hard on putting one foot in front of another. Around mile 17, I spotted Amy stopped on the side of the road stretching. I stopped to her to check she was ok. It was so good to see a friendly face. Her knees were starting to hurt, so I told her my plan of walking drinks stations and we decided to run together.

Chicago Marathon runner.

After stopping to walk the drinks station at mile 18, my legs were really stiff and it took time for me to get going again. The plan was to run to 22 miles, but Bio freeze had a station at mile 21, where they were spraying legs with bio freeze and they had fans to dry it quickly. I don’t know if it was psychological, but it did help my legs for a bit.

The true second half

Miles 22 to 25 seem like a blur. I know we ran as much as we could, we walked a lot of the drinks station as I was really thirsty. Running past someone that had beer, omg it smelt sooooo good. I just wanted the race to be over so I could have a beer. Then there was a beer station. They were serving it in shot cups, so we took one. Amy downed hers and even though it was me that wanted the beer, I had two sips and couldn’t stomach anymore!

Chicago Marathon runner.

The last few miles were one long straight road, the crowds were getting deeper and the noise was insane. The road was very wide but the gusts of wind were head-on at times. At one point a gust came from the side blowing my leg onto my other leg, nearly tripping me up. They don’t call it the windy city for nothing!

Amy thought she may see her family again at mile 25, so I think we ran in silence trying to spot them. Then she saw then just about 600m before mile 26. She waved and I could see that she was overcome with emotion. We just ran (probably more like a shuffle side by side in silence). I didn’t have any idea where the finish line was, but Amy told me there was a hill just before the end.

We turned right and there was the hill. Well, it was an incline, but not too bad. Even after getting to the top, I couldn’t see the finish line, then there was a left turn and I saw it. There was no sprint finish. A gentleman tripped in front of us, about 200m from the finish line, so we slowed to check he was ok.

Finishing the Chicago Marathon.
Hands up if you are glad it’s over!

The finish line

As I crossed the line, I felt pure relief. I didn’t care about the time I was just glad it was over. We hugged and congratulated each other. I got my phone out just as a text came through from my sister. That was it, I started to cry. I’m not sure why but the emotions were raw. We took our finish line selfie and went to collect our medal. A FaceTime from my daughter congratulating me was pretty special too!

Finish line selfies.
All smiles now that we are finished.

Chicago Marathon provided us with another beer at the end, which I enjoyed! Not long after finishing Amy said, I would do another marathon, my reply was NEVER again! I’m not sure I meant this, but???

Beer to celebrate

We saw the six-star finishers area and I told Amy all about it and we looked at the medal. I’m now not sure if this will ever happen – the expense alone scares me. Three stars gained, three more to get. Tokyo, Berlin, and Boston – who knows???

We were lucky that our baggage pick up was a short walk as it turned cold again pretty quickly.

Chicago Marathon finisher.

What now?

Now that I am home and I have had time to reflect, I am very proud of my run. To complete another marathon is an accomplishment. To get through the 16 weeks training prior to this marathon is tough in itself.

This marathon wasn’t just about my finishing time. I visited a lovely city and found myself a new friend in Amy. Running is such a special gift that allows me to travel, meet amazing people and challenge myself. I have already looked at the Berlin Marathon ballot and if I had the money I think I would have entered. For now, I may just have to wait and get back to enjoying my running more.

Chicago by night.
Chicago, you were amazing – Thank you

I’m sure I have so much more to write about this experience so please add questions below if you want to know anything else and if you want to read all about my training here.

My thoughts…

I had grand plans for writing this blog post on the flight to Chicago, but I couldn’t get the WIFI connection to work, so I watched TWO chic flicks instead! Instead, it is now 4:51 am and I am propped up in my bed overlooking the river in Chicago – pretty impressive view!

View from my hotel window – Wyndham Grand Riverside Hotel

I am 2 days away from starting the Chicago Marathon and I have so many mixed emotions. After completing the New York Marathon back in 2017, I decided that I wanted to be a six-star finisher. (When you complete all the World Marathon Majors events) I LOVED the New York City Marathon SO much. It was all my dreams coming true. It was 4 days before my 40th Birthday, my work was generous enough to give me the time off and I was going to New York with my husband. I had always wanted to go to New York and it was everything I had hoped for. Constantly feeling like I was in a movie scene! (I just wished it had been longer!)

With my six-star dream planted in the back of my head, I entered both the Berlin and Tokyo ballot, but didn’t get a place. Chicago ballot came and I stuck my name in the hat, assuming a similar result, but I was successful! Excellent, time to start the planning. I knew it was a little different, as work wasn’t going so well for me and I didn’t know whether they would allow the time off.

One of the reasons for wanting to write this on the plane as it was mental health awareness day and this year has been one of the toughest of my life so far! Back in March of this year, I felt like I broke. I have always found teaching tough, but somehow managed to just keep going and I was always the person that thought ‘zip up your man suit’ when times were getting tough. But for some reason, I couldn’t. I could feel everything building up, yet one day a minor incident; where I felt like a work colleague had let me down, sent me over the edge. I had been having dark and negative thoughts for a while, but now I felt like it was out of control. I was signed off work and never returned to that workplace again.

Why I am telling you all this when this post is about the Chicago Marathon? Well, my training cycle started whilst I wasn’t working, so I decided to go for it. My plan was written for running 5 days a week and I was going to the gym. I thought it was going to be a breeze. No work to make me tired, miss sessions and not fuel properly.

Well, that hasn’t quite been the reality. Not working and experiencing the journey I have been on, it changes you. I lost myself for a while. My confidence has changed, my resilience has changed, my mental strength is in a whole different place.

Chicago Marathon Expo

So, I have trained harder than I ever had before, but I’m really not sure how Sunday will go. I put lots of pressure on myself to go for a PB and a pretty big one at that, but mentally I’m not sure I am capable of that. It also has put unnecessary pressure on myself which I don’t need. I have struggled to appreciate this trip as much I should.

Therefore, I need to remember that I am getting to experience something so amazing. I am in an amazing city, spending time with my mum, and hopefully able to run (walk if I need) 26.2 miles. Whatever happens on Sunday, I AM going to ENJOY it.

It’s ok not to be ok!

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Chicago Marathon Training – Week 15

My penultimate week of training for the Chicago Marathon hasn’t exactly gone to plan. If any week isn’t going to go to plan, week 15 is an ok week to do that, right? Well, thats what I keep telling myself!

Chicago Marathon Logo

If you haven’t caught up with all the other weeks training for Chicago Marathon, have a look here.

Monday – Run Club Session – 1200’s Av: 9:25

The weather was shocking for this session. The heavens opened and for the first lap, I tried to dodge the puddles, by lap two there were no puddles, the pavements were just mini streams!

We completed 1200 reps and I got slower with everyone. My legs were tired and I think my trainers ended up weighing a ton with all the water they had taken on!

Tuesday – Rest day

I was glad of this rest day, as I started my first day as a supply teacher. Not really what I want to be doing, but I need to earn money! It was a LONG day as I had to travel an hour too and from the school, so I was happy this was a rest day!

Wednesday – Tempo run 6 miles – DNS

I knew this session was going to be tough to fit in. I was still working in the school an hour away. Also, the school does not finish until 4.05 pm and my daughter had swimming at 5:30 pm. Usually, I would miss her swimming to make sure that I fit in my run, but this day was different. The problems I have had at work have impacted my family too and I knew that going back to work was worrying my daughter. She doesn’t want to go back to the time when I am at work all the time and unable to do things with her. Missing swimming would have just not been the thing to do. I consider doing the session on the treadmill after swimming and then that caused problems with dinner, so I just gave up trying to sort it.

Thursday – Run Club Session – DNS

I knew that this session was going to be missed, as I had a hair appointment. Well, it is important to have my hair sorted for the finishing photos!

Friday – Rest

I didn’t really need this rest day, but I wasn’t feeling too good today, so decided to keep it as a rest day and be kind to myself.

Saturday – Easy Run – 3 Miles – Av. 10:30

I was supposed to go to Parkrun this morning, but after my anxiety kicking in yesterday big time, and not sleeping too well last night (along with most nights this last week) I bailed on this run. The thought of being around lots of people just didn’t appeal.

So I put the music on and got the 3 miles completed in the treadmill.

Treadmill training

Sunday – Long Run – 7 Miles – av pace: 9:51

I put on my headphones and headed out for this run solo. I decided to not really look at my watch and run easy. Although, running at the moment doesn’t ever seem to be easy.

I tried to concentrate on my breathing and how I felt, but typical taper madness set in and my legs ached, my back felt like it was twinging. I think it was about mile 6 that I started to ‘enjoy’ the run.

Action photo from last long run this training cycle.

Seven miles completed and that’s training completed. My pacing was a little all over the place but I am planning on sticking by a pacer at the Chicago Marathon, so hopefully, that will help me with pace.

Copy of Copy of Chi Marathon Week 11-3

Chicago Marathon Training – Week 14

Why is it during week 8 of Chicago Marathon training you can’t wait for it all to be over, but now in Week 14 you feel like you need more time. I do feel I have been training hard, but I know there is so much more that I should have been doing! It’s the same every training cycle and each time I say the next will be different!

If you haven’t caught up with all the other weeks training for Chicago Marathon, have a look here.

Monday – Run Club Session – 800’s Av: 8:32

My running was feeling like it was going a little Pete Tong of late. So I had no idea how this session was going to go. I went on the longer warm-up and it felt pretty hard and fast, but I just gritted my teeth and went with it.

We started with a 800 loop. I ran it hard and came in with a time of 4:10. We then set off for a 1600 (2 loops) and told to keep the same pace. I actually run that rep in 8:19, which I was pleased with. I felt like i’d given everything, to be told we had another 800m and should try to go faster! Yeah right, I thought.

The three amigos after training
All the smiles once the session is over.

3:55 for that loop! Wow, but I really did feel now that I had nothing left. Another 800 loop and the coach told us not to slow down! I worked hard and was surprised when I clocked 3:48. That had to be the last one! Yep, you guessed it, the coach called for one more. I really felt spent, but couldn’t let my time increase! I set off, working hard, after setting off my shoelace came undone! Bang goes my quicker every lap!

Tuesday – Rest day

ZZZzzzzzz….

Wednesday – Tempo run 8 miles – av. pace 9:10

I had company for this run, as I talked my husband in to cycling. I knew he wasn’t keen on doing it, but came with me anyway. It always makes runs SO much easier when you have people to go out with.

I felt good at the start and looked forward to sending good splits to my coach. When I got to 4 miles, I turned round to head back and thats where it started to fade. I felt like I was working really hard, but my pace was just fading fast. I tried all the mental tricks I could think of, but by the last mile I decided it was a cool down mile. I stopped looking at my watch and tried to work hard until the end. My fade wasn’t as disastrous as I thought it was going to be, but trying to run faster is HARD! (I think i’m over it!!!!)

Thursday – Run Club Session – Hills – Av 8:42

Hills, I was tired and I got maranoia! Another hard session, which I just had to grind out. The loops were around 400m and included a rather challenging hill. Then to top it all off, we finished with an undulating 1.5 mile loop.

Friday – Rest

Yipppppeeeee

Saturday – Easy Run – 3 Miles – Av. 10:30

I thought about Parkrun, but when my daughter came into my bed for cuddles in the morning, I wasn’t moving. She is already growing up too fast, so these moments are the best.

Instead I used the treadmill in the afternoon to just get these 3 miles out of the way. My old watch used to always track slow on the treadmill. Since I have changed to the Garmin Forerunner 645 it reads really fast. I think it recorded 9:35 pace, when actually I think I was closer to 10:45 pace. I kept it super slow and easy, although very few runs are feeling easy these days.

Sweaty Selfie after a treadmill run
Sweaty selfie after the treadmill.

Sunday – Long Run – 13 Miles – av pace: 9:51

As soon as I saw my plan had 13 miles for today, falling on the same day as Northampton Half it seemed a no brainer. If you are logging long miles for a marathon, why not collect all the bling on the way!

I really didn’t know how to approach this run and now that it is over, i’m really not too sure how I feel about it. My race report is here.

MNDA vest and medal
MNDA vest and medal

So, that was week 14 and this time in 2 weeks I am hoping that I will have completed the Chicago Marathon. This training cycle has felt REALLY tough, so I will just have to see what happens. For the next two weeks I need to sleep well, eat well and stay healthy. Nearly there!

Copy of Copy of Chi Marathon Week 11-2

Chicago Marathon Training – Week 12

After my long run last week, this week felt like the week I had to nail all my sessions and get the confidence boost that is desperately needed leading into the final few weeks before Chicago Marathon.

If you haven’t caught up with all the other weeks training for Chicago Marathon, have a look here.

Monday – 1200m loops Av. Pace 8:49

My legs took a bit of time to warm up, but once I got going I felt quite strong. The loop included some undulation too, so it was a pretty good workout.

I was running flat out, but it did feel good; I got faster and felt stronger with every lap.

Tuesday – Rest day

Slowly becoming one of my favourite days! hehe

Wednesday – Tempo run 11 miles – av. pace

After last week saying about having to wait until the evening for tempo runs, plans changed this week and I headed out in the morning. I didn’t have time to think about it and after the warm-up, I picked up the pace. The first tempo mile was 8:45, which is my prescribed pace, but to be honest I think for tempo’s I have been running closer to 8:55-9:05 pace. I was feeling ok, so just went with it. The following miles were 8:55, 8:51, 8:56, 9:00, 9:06.

The route that we do is an out and back (Just because it’s flat) After the turn around, I struggled. The wind had picked up and my legs just lost all speed. I completed another mile at 9:09 and then when I started the eighth mile, I had nothing. The wind blew strongly into my face and I felt like I was going backwards. I was really thirsty, so just decided to call it a day.

I headed for some water and then myself and Tina ran/walked back. I still covered 10.24 miles, but only really 7 quality tempo miles. Maybe I should have been more controlled in the early miles? Maybe I hadn’t had enough to drink the day before?

Two runners.
The smiles were forced! hehe

Thursday – Club Session

Tonight’s session was a little different as after out warmup we did some core exercises. I remember think at the time, I just want to run, but the core exercises were good, fun and also very telling on how much work I need to do on my core!

We then completed some timed reps, where were concentrating on consistent running. We ran out for 1:30 minutes and then after a decreasing recovery time, we had to run back and obviously worked to get back to the starting point.

Team Balancise at a club session. Run Club
Team Balancise

Friday – Rest

My second favourite day!

Saturday – Easy Run – 5 Miles – DNS

I decided to skip this run. My long runs have been SO hard and I always feel like I haven’t recovered enough from these Saturday runs. I know that I am training to run on tired legs, yet my long runs have hurt from mile 1.

I needed a good long run, so thought I’d just see what impact this run was actually having.

Sunday – Long Run – 22 Miles – av pace: 10:27

You know you are a runner when your weekend alarm is earlier than weekday! My alarm today went off at 5:00 am! I had my usual porridge and tea. I drank extra water and I foam rolled. My hip flexors were very tight from Thursday’s run club session (Mountain Climbers!!)

Run selfie!
Just about to head out for 22 miles.

I had 6 miles to do prior to meeting up with Simon and I headed out just before 7 am. The weather was fresh, but the sun was shinning and you could tell that the temperature was going to rise as the day went on.

My legs felt better than previous weeks and I stuck around the 10:20 min/mile pace. Once I met with Simon, the pace upped a little and I was ok with this. We were around the low 10’s, yet our prescribed pace for long runs were 9:45.

A hill at mile 10 saw our pace drop and then it stayed around the 10:30 pace. As we approached a fairly big hill around mile 14.5 and 15, I had a real pain in my toe. I had to stop and take my sock off. It felt like my toe was bent and just need to be stretched out.

Action shot of two runners
Smiles at half way.

Once we at the top of the hill, I stopped again. I felt thirsty and needed to regroup. I kept telling Simon to go ahead, I didn’t like the thought of slowing him down and keep making him stop. We headed off again, and then about a mile and a half later I had another wobble. I felt I was just getting slower and slower. I was around mile 17 and just wanted to stop.

Simon suggested slowing down and just getting to 20 miles and see what happens then. I felt so relieved to slow down. We ran the next 3 miles around 10:45 pace. As soon as we hit 20 miles, we were on a flat loop and then downhill and I felt like I got a renewed energy. The pace actually picked up for the last two miles; 10:34 and 10:36.

I averaged 10:27 overall, but that was with 3 stops to regroup. It wasn’t a perfect long run and I am frustrated that I keep stopping. I know it has been warm, but I have been carrying water. I have been sipping regularly and taking my torq gels every three miles. I’m wondering if I need electrolytes in my water! I would normally, but both the New York Marathon and Chicago Marathon do not allow you to wear a hydration backpack, so I wouldn’t be able to have my own electrolytes.

Chicago provides Gatorade at their aid stations, but I haven’t been able to get it in the UK to train with, so just stuck to water. The joys of international marathons! Maybe on the day, I’ll take a chance with the Gatorade, I’m pretty sure I did when I did the New York Marathon.

So, now it’s taper time and although this is exciting, there is still hard work to be done!

What do you think are the key things to concentrate on during these final weeks? Let me know below

Chi Marathon Week 10

Chicago Marathon Training – Week 10

Well this week didn’t go to plan AT ALL. But I am not going to get too hung up on it, it happened and now it’s time to move on. Chicago Marathon is approaching quickly and I have a lot of miles still to run. I think I have gone from my highest mileage week, to one of my lowest!

If you haven’t caught up with all the other weeks training, have a look here.

Monday – Rest

I needed today to walk around, find my bearings and try to locate some running routes.

Tuesday – 2.12 miles – av pace 10:02

I didn’t manage to locate any routes near where we were staying, so I headed out early to explore. We were staying in a campsite which was located on a single track. If you went out of the gate and turn left there was a very steep hill and single track, if you turned right there was still a hill, but not as steep. Obviously I turned right.

Early morning run views

The single lane was 0.7 mile until I met a busy road, that still had no path. I ran a little way on it, but the whole time listening for cars and looking for where I could jump into the hedge if needed.

Wednesday – 2.73 miles – av. pace 10:19

I should have been doing a tempo run today, so everywhere we went I looked out for paths and possible routes. When we got back to the campsite, I could feel myself getting in a right tizz wazz. I was stressing about not being able to fit my runs in and feeling trapped. I thought about driving to a possible place to run, but then didn’t really want to go on my own. I thought about doing a workout video from YouTube, but the internet was pretty poor.

In the end, I repeated yesterday’s run, as I just needed to run. I felt like I wanted to run and run and run, but the roads were just too dangerous. I wanted to run longer than the day before, so added some hills reps to the end of my run. It was perfect, but it lifted my mood and made me feel so much better.

Late evening run views

Thursday – Rest

I wasn’t feeling my best today (time of the month) so I spent the day on the beach instead!

Friday – Rest

Beach again, but this time I walked lots and even had a little go at surfing! (Ok bodyboarding). I must have been holding on for dear life as my triceps and back were aching for days after. Haha

Praa Sands Beach, Cornwall
Praa Sands Beach

Saturday – Rest

We travelled today, which took FOREVER. By the time we got home it was too late to run, considering I had to get up early for the half marathon race in the morning.

Sunday – Bedford Half Marathon – 2:00:01

Read my race report here.

So this week didn’t quite go to plan, but there is no use worrying about it. It’s gone now, I had a lovely time on holiday with family and i’ll just have to work harder from now on!

Cornwall sea
I LOVE Cornwall!

Has anyone else ever missed a week of training in a plan? Let me know your experiences below.