Chicago Marathon training

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A few weeks ago I found out I got into the Chicago Marathon! It’s a lottery. Nothing you have to qualify for, but it felt like an accomplishment nonetheless.

I’m really excited for this race. Since I’m from Illinois, the Chicago Marathon has always been the biggest race to me. (No offense, Boston.)

And now training has officially begun. It’s going to be tough. The race is in early October. So I’ll have my longest training runs in August/September, when the Houston humidity and heat can be pretty unbearable. But I’m just telling myself that it’ll make me a better runner.

I’m using a training plan provided by my run club. It’s the same one I used for Houston 2015. But this time I’m focusing more on strength training, cross training and yoga. And trying to make more time for stretching and foam rolling. You would think that would be the be the easiest part but I just tend to forget or prefer to relax on my couch. Anyone else struggle with this?

Anyway, here’s what a typical week looks for me run-wise:

Monday: 3 easy miles

Tuesday: Track (About 3 or 4 miles of speed work)

Wednesday: 3 easy miles

Thursday: Hills (3 miles give or take a few)

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Long run

Sunday: The schedule calls for 3 recovery miles, but I don’t even like the idea of running the day after my long run, so I opt for a bike ride and/or yoga

 

I haven’t really settled on a time goal for the marathon yet. Right now I’d really just love to get through it and end up stronger, faster and injury-free.

Have any of you run the Chicago Marathon? Any advice or tips? I’d love to hear them!  

 

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Hill training and a healthy dinner recipe

Hills aren’t really my strong suite. There aren’t many of them in Houston, so you have to go out of your way to get a good hill workout in.

There’s a spot in town where the road loops four times, forming a clover leaf. It offers a decent gradual change in elevation. Each year, the run club I belong to hosts a clover leaf fun run. You can quit whenever you want, but the goal is to run a half marathon.

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Of course, there are little challenges throughout the race too. At one point you have to run to the center and frantically search through a kiddie pool filled with bouncy balls for the one that has your bib number on it. At the end you have to run to the center, grab a book, find the page that matches your bib number and tear it out. You know, like the Barkley Marathon. Because Houston’s clover leaf is pretty much the hills of Tennessee.

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On Saturday, I ran the route with a friend and the miles flew by. We felt no need to push it. 14 laps around the same route and hills no less is a tough enough workout. So we just ran and talked and before we knew it we were done. (My thighs told me it was a little more challenging than that afterward.)

The next day, called for a recovery workout. An hour on the stationary bike spent listening to this, followed by some yoga.

For dinner Sunday night, I made one of my favorite new fish dishes. It’s red snapper with a strawberry avocado salsa. The recipe says to grill the snapper, but we had some pretty rough thunderstorms on Sunday so I cooked it in the oven instead. (Heat the oven to 450. Cover a baking sheet in foil. Add a little bit of olive oil, then put down the fish fillets. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 15-20 min.) Then you just top it off with some of the salsa. Easy, healthy delicious dinner.

I devoured the fish before I could get a picture, but here’s the salsa:

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For dessert, we finished things off with raw peach cobbler. (The recipe calls for fresh peaches, but I used canned – two cans, actually – this time to make things easier.) No sugar, no flour. Just nuts, dates and fruit. Somehow it’s still just as delicious.

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Race recap: Brazos Bend 25k

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On Saturday, I did my first ever official trail race, the Brazos Bend 50. Well, I did the 25k, a lot less than 50 miles.

But it was still my longest run since the Houston Marathon, back in January. For my training, I simply added a mile each week to my Saturday long run and was able to make it up to 13 miles in time for the race. I would have like to have done a little more, but you know, life.

I loved the race and was happy with how I did, but it was certainly harder than I had anticipated. The challenge with this particular race is that it’s flat, so you’re tempted to run it like a road race. But it’s still a trail run. Also, it’s in a swamp (full of alligators!), so add in some 96% humidity.

And while it was difficult, it was still a lot of fun. The race was very well planned and well marked. The aid stations were great and had everything from water, ice and Gatorade to pretzels, pickles and salt tablets. I opted for watermelon and orange slices.

The atmosphere was great too. Lots of people were going for their longest run yet. The race also offered a 50 mile distance, a 50k distance and a 10k. Entire families with little kids came out for the 50k. One runner ran with a tire chained to him for 50 miles. And a 79-year old man completed the 25k, his second trail race.

All the races overlap, so we passed runners most of the way. I loved the friendly, laid-back attitude. The shouts of encouragement from other runners (both friends and strangers) as we passed made the run go by more quickly.

The park is about an hour outside of Houston, so I had to leave my house at 5:30 a.m. But regardless it was a great way to spend the morning.

 

How many days a week do you run?

  
How many days a week do you run? For me, this changes. I’m not an everyday runner. There are just too many other activities I want to do: biking, yoga, strength training, etc.

During my training for the 2016 Houston Marathon, I ran 5 days a week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday). The schedule called for 6, but I swapped a recovery run on Sundays for a bike ride and/or yoga. The idea of even a slow run when my legs are still aching from those 20 ish-milers is just too much for me.

These days, I’m just doing the occasional race for fun. Nothing I’m very serious about. So I’m running 3 days a week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Wednesday I spend about 30 minutes on the elliptical. And then strength training and yoga the other days. Friday is my rest day.

I think it’s tricky to know what’s best for you. During marathon training I saw a real increase in speed and I think running so often helped with that. But it’s hard for me to sustain that all year long.

So what works for you? Do you run every day? Do you swap with cross training? And how did you figure out it was best for you?

Backyard races

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On Thursday I participated in the Sun & Ski Flash Mob race. This was the third installment in a series of cross country or backyard style races.

I love this style of race. It has all the benefits, but minus a lot of the negatives. You’re challenged to push yourself, but it’s a pretty casual affair. No bibs, no tracking aside from your own Garmin.

With this particular race, they announced the location a few days before, to keep with the flash mob theme. None of us knew the course ahead of time, which kept us guessing.

After the race, we gathered for beers and raffle prizes. The race winners even received new shoes. Had I known that I would have run a little faster. 🙂

Oh, and did I mention the races are free? Yep, it’s a pretty good deal, all in all.

While the flash mob series has come to a close, a new and pretty similar series is starting. This Thursday will kick off the Tour de Bayou, a series of four races near Houston’s White Oak Bayou. You can bet I’ve got it on my calendar.   

Treadmill tips, anyone? Anyone?

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Last week, I woke up early to rain, thunder and so. Much. lighting. Pretty much constant. I knew running outside was not an option. But I had 7 miles that I had to get in before we headed out of town. So I opted for the treadmill.

Historically, I, like most runners, have hated the treadmill, but it had been awhile since I had attempted it. I was optimistic that maybe it’d be better this time. And for the first 3 miles it was, thanks to an episode of Broad City I watched on my phone.

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But the rest of the run was a struggle. It’s like the treadmill sucks up all your endorphins. All I can think about is the struggle. And my thoughts about running on the treadmill were pretty much: 

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A few days later, I decided to try a track workout on the treadmill. Since that’s already broken up, it might not be so bad. Nope. Still sucked.
Anyone have any tips for running on the treadmill? I’m determined to hate it a little less.

Rest day reading 3.27

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I hope you all had a relaxing weekend. I spent mine in the Texas hill country, playing games, toasting marshmallows and getting wrapped up in this book, a new favorite.

But here’s a little bit of what I’ve been watching and reading, in case you’re looking for some recommendations.

A Ballerina’s Tale – Misty Copeland is just the coolest. No discussion necessary.

The Barkely Marathons – This documentary looks at the craziest race ever, the Barkley Marathons. It’s a 130-mile-race in the Tennessee hills (they’re more like mountains). In total the elevation on the course is like climbing and descending Everest twice!!! The whole thing is nuts, but I love hear the stories of the competitors, and the guys who created the race are, um, colorful?

Meditation plus running as a treatment for depression – Sometimes the world would be a better place if we all just took some time to exercise. And not to look a certain way, but to feel a certain way.

I’m so so so excited to start reading “Running: A Love Story.”

What’s the most Googled workout in your state? In related news, what is a dead bug exercise? And really, Illinois, really?