Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Busy, Busy . . . Plus a Monsoon Thunderstorm Run

Howdy all! I can't believe an ENTIRE WEEK has passed since I last posted. What have I been up to? Well, there's school, of course. And studying. Then there's running--I've been doing a fair amount of that. Oh, and there's the trip I made to SC to visit my sister, bro-in-law and niece last weekend (5 hours both ways--whew!). There were many highlights of this trip. But first, let's talk about what WASN'T a highlight: My pathetic attempt to navigate my way through pitch black rural South Carolina with a nasty case of night blindness. Holy crap. I seriously can't see in the dark, y'all--I probably shouldn't even have a driver's license! It was super freaky, and I was lost, lost, lost. But luckily, I eventually found my way--only pissing off like 5 or 6 cars in the process--and best of all, I was immediately thereafter greeted with an ice cold pint of beer. My sister knows me too well ;)

Anyway, I had lots of fun catching up with them all . . . especially my 4 year-old niece, Iris (see photographic evidence of her adorableness below).

Iris and I had an exciting day of pumpkins, hay rides and cupcakes on Saturday, and then went on to dance the night away to the music of a live band. This fun was all a part of their neighborhood's Fall Harvest Festival (and by the way, dancing with a 4 year old = pretty darn exhausting). On Sunday, we played together for hours and hours. It's amazing how long you can keep a kid entertained just by making stuffed animals talk! Iris showed me the medal she had earned playing peewee soccer, which led me to believe that she will one day be a marathoner. I mean, c'mon . . . who else would be so darn impressed with a silly piece of metal looped around a ribbon? Also, at one point, as we were attempting to put together a Hello Kitty puzzle, Iris turned into the cutest kid on the face of the planet. Just imagine those gorgeous blue eyes staring up at you with nothing but love and saying this:

Iris: Aunt Bailey?

Me: Yes, Iris?

Iris: I love you.

Me (trying not to spontaneously burst into tears): I love you too, Iris.

Iris: I really, really missed you.

Me: Aw, I missed you too, Iris.

It was officially the cutest moment of my entire life. I was definitely a bit choked up. It also made me want to pop a kid out right then and there (tick tock, tick tock). Luckily this didn't happen (although I DID have a dream last night that I woke up one day and was randomly like 7 months pregnant with twins--all I could think about was how I hadn't received prenatal care and my kids were probably all effed up!). Anyway, aren't kids the cutest? I wish I could convey the absolute sincerity with which Iris spoke. It totally broke my heart and made me want to move next door to my sister so that she'd never have to miss me ever again . . .

But alas, the time came for me to hit the road. Conveniently, this coincided with nap time for Iris. This worked out perfectly because I didn't have to have my heart torn to shreds by her crying and begging me to stay as I walked out the door. Mallory sent me off with a HUGE bag full of veggies from their farm share, as well as half a loaf of homemade banana bread. YUMMY. I got back to Orlando around 8 p.m. and was forced to cram for a test that would be taking place during class on Monday morning. It was not fun. But somehow, I managed to pull the highest grade in the class despite my lack of motivation to study. So it all worked out in the end.

Yesterday, I started to feel like I was coming down with something--maybe a sinus infection? Maybe swine flu? Blech. But despite feeling a bit crappy, I still really wanted to get a run in. I checked accuweather and noticed it was supposed to storm later in the evening, but I thought I had time to squeeze the run in before the weather got too crazy. WRONG-O. As is just my luck, I got to my turn-around point at the 3-mile mark (also known as the furthest point from my car possible) and turned around to see the darkest, most ominous sky ever staring me down. Oh shit. I tried to push the pace in an attempt to get back to my car before the storm started, but no such luck. I made it only 50 yards before a torrential downpour began. It was somehow raining sideways and was raining so hard that the rain was slicing into my eyes in all kinds of painful ways. Ouch. I couldn't see ANYTHING. I forged on, praying it wouldn't lightening. Of course, two seconds later, I saw the first flash. Here I was, 2.5 miles from my car on a tree-lined path. If that doesn't make you run fast, I'm not sure what will. I managed to make it back to my car unscathed, covering the 6 miles in 53:18; that's an 8:53 pace for all you keeping track at home. Not bad. Not bad at all. Perhaps I should go running in Monsoon Thunderstorms more often?

I also made a roller-blading friend on this run. We were stopped at a traffic light at one point and he decided to inflate my ego by telling me that I was "really cruising back there." Never in my life has anyone described my running in such a way. It felt . . . really good :) I could get used to hearing that kind of thing! We also discussed how we were both clearly in better shape than the high school-aged kids who had run past us earlier, and really looked like they were struggling. Go old folks! Anyway, I came into contact with this man twice more--once as he passed me on his way back to his car in the middle of the monsoon, and then again in the parking lot where he was pulling out as I was walking to my car. "Glad you made it back okay!" he yelled out his window. How nice is that? These Florida folks are much nicer than I am used to!

Well, I'm off to Philly for a weekend full of Pearl Jam, Wilson and cheese steaks starting on Friday :) Since I will be computer-less, I want to be sure to wish all of you running the NYC Marathon this weekend luck! There are oodles of you! Run like you mean it, kids! I'll be anxiously (and somewhat selfishly) awaiting your race reports!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Welcome to CRAZYTOWN

Hey runners! Thanks again for all the amazing feedback on the race reports!

Recovery has been going just fine . . . or well, maybe a little too good? While I KNOW I should have been running at recovery pace (10:44-11:14 according to the McMillan Calculator) over the last couple weeks, it hasn't quite happened. For some silly reason, my legs are actually UNABLE to run at recovery pace--like it's physically impossible. The first run I attempted was last Thursday. I covered 4 miles at a 10:03 pace. Slow-ish, but not quite as slow as "recovery pace" obviously. Then, on Sunday, I attempted a quasi-long run of 7 miles. I ended up running this at a 9:24 pace. Oops. THEN, yesterday, I ran 3.64 miles at a 9:02 pace. WTF?! Apparently running the Chicago Marathon was not only awesome, but it made me magically faster too. Or perhaps it's all of the resistance training I've been doing over the past month? Whatever the case, I think it's safe to say that I am recovering quite nicely! I'm planning to run 6 tomorrow and 10-12 this weekend . . . so I guess we'll just have to see what happens.

Then? Guess who starts Goofy training on Monday? THIS GIRL! I am kind of excited-slash-terrified. I guess I'm just a little nervous about how to approach the training considering I already work out like a crazy person 5 days a week at school. I think I'm going to end up running back-to-back long runs on Fridays and Saturdays so that I can have my Sundays off as a rest day. I mean, call me crazy, but I just don't think I can survive the next 12 weeks without a single day off (which would be the case were I to run the long runs on Sat/Sun). At any rate, I'm excited to see how this crazy little idea pans out . . .

Speaking of crazy, I've been contemplating adding ANOTHER marathon in (on top of Chicago and Goofy) at some point in the next 3 months. Basically, I am dying to be one of the cool kids . . . I want to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs! The way I see it, if I'm already doing something crazy, why not run for mayor of Crazytown? Soooo. Originally I was sold on the idea of the X-Country Marathon in Tampa on November 22. I was picturing myself frolicking with bambi and thumper and all kinds of friendly, furry animals. But then I got nosy and found the TWO race reports that exist for this marathon on the interwebs. And one of them mentioned that the dude ALMOST STEPPED ON A SNAKE. Game over. I spent the next four hours obsessively googling in an attempt to figure out what kind of wildlife I could expect to encounter. It appears that there are many animals that could maul and/or maim me in the Tampa area including alligators, bobcats and various snakes. Um, no thank you. It's a wrap. Turns out I DON'T actually like nature all that much.

On to plan B. Now, I should mention my original inspiration for this silly plan was the discovery that one of the criteria for qualifying for maniacs is 3 marathons in 90 days. It just so happens that Chicago and Disney are spaced perfectly apart for me to accomplish just that should I throw another marathon in the middle somewhere. So my next idea was to run either the Atlanta Marathon or the Space Coast Marathon in Cocoa Beach, FL. Problem is . . . both of these marathons fall during Thanksgiving weekend, which totally goes against my belief that Thanksgiving is a time for being gluttonous and lazy. And for spending time with family, of course ;)

Finally, I decided to think outside of the box. What if I didn't run 3 marathons in 3 months . . . but instead ran 2 marathons in 3 weekends? I took a look at the race calendar and realized that the Clearwater Marathon just so happens to fall 2 weeks after Disney! Not only that, but it's two days after my graduation from NPTI . . . what better way to celebrate making it through my school program than by running a marathon and qualifying for the Marathon Maniacs! Right? Right?! Anyway, this is the plan as of right now. I, of course, reserve the right to change my mind as I have yet to officially commit myself via registration. I have to say, though, I'm liking this idea a lot. For starters, I think training for Goofy is enough craziness in and of itself. No need to throw another marathon in the mix when I've only got 12 weeks to train in the first place! By choosing to run Clearwater, I can basically slog my way through on my Goofy-butchered legs with my goal being simply to finish (I believe the cut-off is 6:30 hours--SURELY I can do that). And hey, I promise to take it NICE and easy for a while after I get through this next string of races.

So has anyone out there run Clearwater before? Any thoughts/advice/etc. to share?

Have I officially lost my mind? Comments welcome (I think)! :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Report - Part III

Okay, now that I'm done being all mushy and whatnot . . . it's back to our regularly scheduled program.

Let's see. Where did we leave off? I believe Wilson and I had just crossed the finish line hand-in-hand. Cute, no? Well wait 'til you hear this next thing then. We slowed to a walk, and Wilson said to me, "I'm really proud of you." I tried my hardest to fight back the tears. On we waddled through the finishers' chute. While I had definitely been in pain during those last few miles, it was NOTHING compared to the pain I was experiencing now that we had stopped. I could hardly walk on my own. And then? The lower back spasms started. This came out of nowhere . . . shockingly, my back hadn't bothered me until the last several miles; and even then, it was pretty tame in comparison to races past. Holy effer, those spasms killed. Between the pain and the pride, I could no longer hold the tears back. The floodgates opened, and I began bawling.

Wilson did a double-take and looked back at me, concerned. "I-I-I-I'm in SO much pain!" I cried between sniffles. He slowed up, and allowed me to lean on him as we walked. I honestly thought I might throw up, I was hurting so badly. My hips. My quads. My calves. My back. Even my forearms hurt--not even kidding.* I would stop every now and then . . . because more than anything, I just wanted to lay down and die. But Wilson encouraged me to keep moving, mentioning that he'd read that any runners who stopped in the finishers' chute would be taken straight to the medic tent. I definitely didn't want that! So I prepared my response should any of the medics come up and see me bawling and unable to move. "I'm just really emotional" would be my response. Clever, eh? Haha. It seemed like it at the time anyway . . .

Wilson steered me over to the side of the chute where we were able to snag mylar blankets. I was super grateful to have one as I was starting to get REALLY chilled now that we were done running. Next we got our medals. Immediately thereafter, our chips were removed. Then, I finally managed to quit crying once I saw the mile-long tables of food. Funny how that works. The selection was pretty great and the volunteers were super generous with it. I grabbed at various items, and on multiple occasions, the volunteers insisted I take 2! My stash consisted of: a bottle of water, a banana, a whole wheat bagel, some cheesy dolphin crackers (x2), pretzels (x2) and some chocolate sandwich cookies (x2). I was really wishing I had some kind of baggie to hold it all . . . I must have been quite a sight, trying to juggle all that, whilst still keeping my mylar blanket wrapped around my shoulders and hobbling--across the finish chute--towards the side of the road. The goal was to find a spot just short of the beer table.** Somehow we made it, and Wilson spryly plopped down on the warm asphalt, as though he'd simply done a warm-up jog or something. I, on the other hand, was a hot mess.

It took me probably 3 minutes to figure out how the hell to lower myself onto the ground--my legs were that torn up. But when I finally made it down there, I was in heaven. I sat there and scarfed down a ton of my food; all the while trying to keep an eye out for A. on the off-chance she passed by us. In all honesty, though, we both figured it would probably be a while before she finished based on how she looked the last time we'd seen her (thus, the half-hour long picnic in the finish chute). Finally, Wilson decided we had eaten enough food and drank enough water to hit up the beer table. I got up (very slowly, and with a lot of assistance from Wilson), cursed and then made a beeline for that beer table. "Congratulations!" the volunteer said as she gave me my Goose Island 312. I quickly thought back to A.'s comment at the very beginning of the race and laughed.

Beers in hand, Wilson and I moved onward towards the gear check tents. I'm pretty sure my beer was 3/4 of the way gone by the time we made it the 100 yards or so up there. I was downing that thing! Ha, I looked over at Wilson's beer, and realized he had only taken a few sips of his! I'm such a lush! Whatever, I EARNED that beer! We collected our bag and I took a break from my beloved drink to change my shirt and throw on my sweats. It felt SO good to have clean, dry sweats on. I then proceeded to chug the rest of my beer and toss the cup before we even left the finish area.

Now, at the start of the race, we'd told A. to meet at the letter "Z" in the family meet-up area afterwards if we ever got separated. But try as we might, Wilson and I could NOT find the stupid family meet-up area (we probably should have studied the start/finish area map a little more diligently prior to the race). We were thinking the meet-up area would be closer to the finish chute than it was; in reality, it was right next to the beer tent (BRILLIANT!), which was a ways off from the finish area. Luckily, my mother called as we were wandering around, and agreed to come to where we were and walk us over to the family meet-up/beer tent area. Whew!

We stayed where we were, and before long, my parents came walking up. "So? How'd it go?" my mother asked (keep in mind that they never actually saw us on the course). When I told her that we'd finished in 4:34, I thought she was going to die of shock. Ha. She seemed really surprised . . . which honestly, probably stems from the fact that I kept saying the night before that I didn't think I could ever run an entire marathon without walking. Anyway, we chatted for a minute or two, until I got thirsty again and insisted we make our way over to the beer tent/family meet-up area.

We got over to the letter "Z" (situated RIGHT next to the beer tent--NICE!), and wouldn't you know, A. was already there waiting for us!! "Where the hell have you guys been?!" she asked between sips of her beer. Um, oops! Turns out, the girl had seriously rocked it out there even after her pit stop. She ended up finishing not even 15 minutes behind us (and at least 10 of those minutes had been waiting for and then using the porta-potty!). I was SO proud of her! I gave her a big, sweaty hug and then quickly excused myself to grab my free beer (yes, this makes the SECOND free beer of the day--LOVE YOU, Chicago Marathon), while she caught up with my parents.***

When I got back, A. entertained us with a story about how she'd lost the free beer ticket from her bib, but had managed to sweet talk her way into getting her free beer anyway. With her long blond hair and baby blue eyes, it was NOT a shock--but entertaining nonetheless. We stood around drinking beer and chatting until A.'s hubby showed up to pick her up. My fam walked her to the corner he was meeting her at, we said our goodbyes (pretending that we might actually have the energy to meet up later that night for another drink--riiiiiight) and then the Ertel clan headed back to the hotel so that Wilson and I could shower "quickly."

And when I say quickly, I mean VERRRRRRY slowly. I took off my clothing only to realize--per usual--that my sports bra had attempted to devour me (and yes, I HAD used Body Glide). But that wasn't even the worst part. Where the seam of my arm warmers had been at the top of my arms were HUGE gashes. Yep, my arm warmers had basically attempted to sever both of my arms.**** Awesome. The first ten minutes of my shower consisted of me screaming my head off, while attempting to clean out my gaping chafing wounds. OUCH. All I could think of was a sign I'd seen at one point along the course: "Chafe now. Brag to your friends later." Ha.

Finally, Wilson and I were ready to go. I wanted a nap SO badly . . . but not quite as badly as I wanted Gino's East deep dish pizza. And also more beer. We had to wait on line to get into the place (despite the fact that we got there a little before 4--clearly, this was the marathon crowd!), but it was SO worth it. We chowed down on bread sticks and sausage supreme deep dish pizza . . . and we washed that down with pitchers of Sam Adam's Octoberfest. Best. Meal. Ever. Suddenly, all of the pain and suffering was well worth it. And you know what's funny? I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the pizza and beer tasted even better with the side of marathon PR. Just sayin' :)

After sufficiently gorging ourselves, my parents kindly dropped Wilson and I off at the front door of our hotel, congratulating us again. After thanking them profusely, we headed up to our room, and I immediately got into my pjs and climbed into bed. I asked Wilson whether 7:30 p.m. was too early to go to sleep, and he said yes. We turned the tv on, thinking we could distract ourselves with that. But for reals, I think I survived an hour--if that--before I finally passed out for good; of course, visions of future marathons danced in my head as I slept for the next 11 hours . . .

*We later realized the forearm thing was probably a result of my grasping my gloves for 9+ miles. Oops.
**Wilson, being the intelligent person he is, insisted that I eat some food and drink some water before consuming any alcoholic beverages. Fun? No. Smart? Yeah, fine.
***A. and I were soccer teammates growing up, and were always spending time at one anther's' houses . . . so we were pretty tight with each others' parents.
****Ever hear the saying, "don't wear anything new on race day?" Yeah, you might just want to listen to that one, folks! And btw, what works for a 4-mile easy run won't necessarily work for a 26.2-mile race. Duly noted.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thank you.

Okay, I promise I will get to Part III of my race report (the after-party . . . woo woo!) soon. But I need to get something out of my system first before I can continue with that. Just now, I was going over all of the incredible, kind comments you guys have left me since the Chicago Marathon, and I got a little choked up--okay, more than a little choked up--a lot choked up. It was one of those moments where I realized just how crazy supportive and all-around amazing you RBFs (or BRFs, depending on who you ask) are. You guys have stuck with me through some rough times, and never--NOT ONCE--have you ever doubted me. You've always been there, armed with kind words and encouragement, a little motivation or a joke just when I needed it most. You guys are seriously the only reason I've been able to keep going some days. Hell, there are times when I like y'all more than my own friends and family . . . no lie! To be fair, part of that stems from the fact that you'd never say things to me like, "Geez, Bae. That Goofy Challenge thing sounds a little bit excessive to me." Or "Did you win your marathon this weekend?" Or "How many miles was this marathon?" Y'all just get me. And I guess it's unreasonable to expect non-runners to "get it" . . . but just know that I am incredibly grateful to have you people around to help me obsess over the minute details of running.

I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you. Thank you for always being there when I need you the most. Thank you for attempting to build my lousy confidence time and time again. Thank you for continuing to show interest in the drivel I spew into the blogosphere. Thank you for picking me up when I start to doubt myself (which, let's be honest, is pretty often). Thank you for inevitably putting a smile on my face no matter how bad a day I'm having. Thank you for giving me the motivation to get out there day after day. Thank you for caring about my goals and accomplishments. Thank you for inspiring me in the best ways possible. Thank you for being hilarious, generous, unique individuals. Thank you for your sage advice. Thank you for keeping me honest. Thank you for giving me a shoulder to cry on when things don't go as planned. Thank you for being such awesome ambassadors for this sport that I love so very much.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I love you guys. Seriously. I realize that may come across as creepy . . . but sometimes when I'm reading your incredible blogs or looking over your wonderful comments, I just can't help but feel blessed to have taken the plunge and started this silly little blog. My life would feel empty without y'all!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Report - Part II

Mile 1 - 11:30(!)

As we crossed the start line, I somehow managed to remember to hit start on my Garmin (Gertie) despite all but bursting at the seams with exhilaration and excitement. I was SO thrilled to finally be running the Chicago Marathon--and with both A. and Wilson by my side to boot. It almost made it worth having to skip the race last year (when I tore my MCL two weeks into training). A. pointed out the Goose Island beer tent as we ran by, and we laughed about how ridiculous it was that we were taking such a crazy, round-about path to ultimately get back to the beer tent. As we ran, we dodged throw-away garments and thousands of other runners. I knew we were running REALLY slowly, but we didn't have much of a choice. I was not about to waste precious energy weaving in and out like a crazy person . . . plus, I knew that if I chose to do that, I'd probably lose my running partners pretty quickly. Instead, the three of us focused on staying together and taking advantage of any opportunity we got to move ahead of some of the slower runners. The highlight of this mile was CLEARLY running underneath Columbus Drive and hearing the sound of tens of thousands of runners' feet clapping against the pavement. We were DOING this (along with 35,000 of our best friends)!

Mile 2 - 10:47 (!)

Things were still VERY congested as we made our way through Streeterville, surrounded by scenic skyscrapers. I didn't even look at Gertie--again, knowing we were moving WAY too slowly--and instead, tried my best to take it all in . . . the plethora of fans lining the course, the beautiful scenery, the companionship of my running partners. It was all like a dream!

Mile 3 - 11:37 (!)

During Mile-3, I began to wonder what kind of day it was going to be for me. My legs still weren't really feeling alive, but I figured it was probably the cold temps that were causing them to take so long to warm up. Luckily (?), the course was still so congested that I had plenty to focus on besides my icy legs! *Dodge, dodge, dodge. Omigod, where are A. & Wilson? Oh right . . . there they are. Dodge, dodge, dodge* I prayed that things would thin out soon.

Mile 4 - 10:04

By Mile-4, things hadn't really thinned out considerably, but it seemed like we had finally caught up to more people who were running around the same pace as us. For this, I was very grateful. We still had to dodge in and out continually, but I felt like we were no longer getting trapped behind huge walls of people who were running MUCH slower than we wanted to. Also around this time, Wilson pulled over to take off his throw-away top, and told A. and I to keep on going--that he'd catch up with us. This, of course, made me incredibly nervous . . . it was so crowded, I was convinced he'd never find us again. Just as A. and I were starting to get really nervous that we'd lost him, though, we turned around and he was running right behind us! Apparently he'd been there for a while too! I blamed my obliviousness on "marathon brain" :)

Mile 5 - 10:23

By Mile-5, I was finally feeling like I was "in the groove." My legs were nice and warmed up, and I was feeling like I could run forever. It was at this point that I started to think that it just might be a good day for me. Still, I proceeded cautiously, knowing that my training hadn't been the greatest ever. I was just praying that if I kept my pace slow I'd be able to hold on until the end.

Mile 6 - 10:12

Helloooooo Lincoln Park!! And goodbye, Wilson!! As we entered the zoo, Wilson dove off the side of the course to pee behind a tree, again telling A. and I to go ahead. But what he didn't realize was that there was an aid station just a few hundred meters up ahead where A. and I would be stopping to gel up. As a result, he grossly overestimated how far ahead we were when he got done watering the tree. It looked like us chicas were officially on our own.

Mile 7 - 9:50

As A. and I ran on, I continually looked back over my shoulder, hoping and praying that Wilson would magically reappear. I told A. that I was pretty sure my neck would be sore by the end of the race if he didn't show up soon! Admittedly, I was a little freaked out by the prospect of having lost him . . . but I just kept telling myself that even if Wilson never showed back up, I could certainly get A. to the finish line myself. I HAD to stay strong for A. Luckily, before I could start panicking, I heard my jam off in the distance ("I've got a feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas). I realized we must be close to Boystown because I could hear the party raging just a few blocks over. This got me pretty damn excited :) I'd always heard how amazing that area of the course was . . . I couldn't WAIT to get there and join the party!

Mile 8 - 9:48

Boystown was just like I'd always heard--one big party! It was definitely one of the highlights of the race. Let me just tell you, nothing gets you smiling like a spunky group of all male cheerleaders! :) And smile we did. This part of the course was so much fun that I was really tempted to start dancing . . . but in the end, I figured it best to save my energy for later in the race when I'd REALLY be needing it!

Mile 9 - 10:21

At some point during this mile, A. and I were running along . . . and all of a sudden, Wilson jumped onto the course in front of us! It took me a second to realize what was going on . . . and when I did figure it out, I was so happy I seriously came close to crying. Apparently he had been trying to catch us for the past several miles, until he noticed he was running an 8:00 pace, and the realization that he must have overshot us set in. But being the amazing boyfriend he is, he stopped and waited on the side of the road for a good five minutes until we finally showed up! How sweet is that? Seeing him there was honestly the best part of the entire race for me. I decided I would NOT be letting him out of my sight for the remainder of the race! I'd follow him into a frickin' porta-potty if need be!

Mile 10 - 10:15

Right at the beginning of Mile-10, I realized how hot my hands were getting and made the decision to take my gloves off. I thought about tossing them, but realized I'd be seeing my parents somewhere between the mile-12 and mile-13 markers, and figured I might as well hang onto the gloves and hand them off to my parents when I saw them. Also around this time, I started to feel a small drop in energy, and wisely decided to Gu up at the aid station located at the 9.35-mile mark. Almost instantaneously, I felt much better . . . like I had my mojo back. A., Wilson and I continued on, still running strong. We turned onto the beautifully tree-lined Sedgewick St., and I distracted myself by reading all of the spectators' signs. I remembered a long run not so long ago when I felt like I was going to die at the 10-mile mark. Not today . . .

Mile 11 - 10:10

During Mile-11, I felt my first twinges of pain in my legs. They weren't anything bad, but I was certainly a little nervous about the fact that my legs were already hurting and I still had over 15 miles to go! I just prayed that I would have the strength to ignore the achiness and continue on until I reached that finish line. Somehow, I really felt like I'd be fine.

Mile 12 - 10:02

During this mile, A. and I were walking through an aid station, sipping on Gatorade, when she looked at me with her famous puppy dog eyes and told my her legs were hurting. We were in the same boat . . . under-trained and getting sore. I told her to hang in there--and that I was hurting too. And much to my surprise she got running again right away. 'ATTA GIRL!

Mile 13 - 10:30

Mile-13 was spent desperately searching for my parents in the HUMONGOUS crowd of spectators. There were people 4- and 5-people deep in some areas. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the exact location my parents had said they were going to be; thus, I spent the entirety of this mile looking for them, praying I'd find them soon so I could ditch my gloves. I was REALLY getting sick of carrying them.

Mile 14 - 10:19

As soon as we hit the half-way point, I knew we'd missed my parents. I was a little bit bummed, but figured I'd see them at the next spot on the course they'd planned to hit up--between the mile-16 and mile-17 markers. I honestly don't know why it made sense to me that I'd actually see them at the next point, considering they'd have been cutting it close had they actually SEEN us at the first point (and they told us later they never did see us) . . . but apparently it did. Perhaps it just speaks to my high level of optimism at that point in time. At any rate, we hit the half-way mark at around 2:16, a few minutes slower than I was hoping (and actually 4 minutes slower than my half split at Rock n' Roll Seattle). I could have freaked out and given up, but something told me that I could do it. I just had to keep trucking and I'd get that PR!

Mile 15 - 9:50

I don't remember much from this mile. It was one of those miles that kind of just flew by. But I DO remember that there was a sign taped on a lamp post that said "8 miles to beer." I got seriously excited, and then realized the sign was REALLY wrong. A. screamed out loud that she wanted to hurt whoever put that sign there. Ha. What a cruel, cruel joke (or some seriously lacking math skills!).

Mile 16 - 10:12

Mile-16 was a little bit of a blur as well. I was still feeling fine minus some leg pain, and I was REALLY looking forward to seeing my parents and getting rid of my stupid gloves. I HATE holding anything in my hands while running . . . so I kept switching up which hand I held them in as I ran. It was SUPER annoying. One cute thing that happened during this mile, though, was that A. started to look like she was struggling a little bit, and Wilson said to her, "hang in there. Only a little over a mile until we get to the single digits!" It was adorable. Here he was cheering on someone he'd just met that morning as though he'd known her all her life. It was awesome! :)

Mile 17 - 10:12

Well--surprise surprise--we never did see my parents. I hugged the left-hand curb all mile long, desperately searching for them . . . but to no avail. Wilson finally explained to me what probably happened, and I tried my hardest not to burst into tears. I don't know why, but I was really bummed that they didn't get to see me running, looking strong. I guess it's probably because the last time they saw me running was at mile-19 of the L.A. Marathon, dying of heat exhaustion. I wanted them to see just how much I've improved as a runner. Oh well . . . maybe next time :)

Mile 18 - 10:23

I was giddy with excitement as we hit the mile-17 marker. At exactly the same time, Wilson and I yelled out to everyone around us, "SINGLE DIGITS!!" (Jinxies!) Yep, we were THOSE people. But honestly, I could NOT believe how great I was feeling, considering my last real long run had been a 20-miler (of which 2 miles were walked) 8 or so weeks prior to race day! I was terrified with every step that I was about to hit the wall, but at the same time, I was REALLY proud that I had made it that far without walking. It was officially the farthest I'd ever made it in a marathon without walking. Go me! It was during this mile that I FINALLY gave up on carrying my gloves. I tossed them to the sidelines somewhere on Halsted, and I was SO relieved to not have anything in my hands! Why didn't I get rid of them sooner?!

Mile 19 - 9:49

Still trucking. I believe it was during this mile that we saw a group of guys hand a cup of beer to a runner and tell him to "share with that guy," motioning to another runner. Yep, two random runners were definitely sharing a beer in the middle of the race! Ha. I think if they would have offered me beer at that point, I would have definitely obliged--I was feeling good and having fun--it just made sense! Luckily, no one offered me any beer. But seriously, if you would have bet me a million dollars that I would be "having fun" during mile-19 of the Chicago Marathon, I NEVER would have taken the bet. But here I was, still smiling!

Mile 20 - 10:03

A. had mentioned that she needed to use the bathroom at some point during the previous mile, so when we finally saw an aid station up ahead just after the mile-19 marker, we got ready to stop. A. pleaded with us to go ahead rather than wait for her . . . that she would find somebody else to run behind and make it to the end just fine. I was really hesitant to leave her, but it seemed like it was honestly what she wanted. I suddenly realized that she might want to walk, but didn't want to slow us down. So finally, I agreed to go ahead. A. made a beeline for the porta-potties while Wilson and I continued on.

Mile 21 - 10:21

I could NOT believe I'd made it 20 miles without walking (besides aid stations). As we had been all race, Wilson and I were continuing to pass people, which was one of the biggest confidence boosters EVER. It felt so good to be feeling strong and running tall, while people all around me were slowing to a walk or a shuffle. I even heard a spectator comment as Wilson and I approached, "man, some of these people look really good for Mile-21 of a marathon!" I have no clue whether or not they were referring to us, but I told myself that they were. After all, I was still feeling strong, thinking that nothing could stop me from snagging that PR!

Mile 22 - 10:06

HELLO CHINATOWN! And HELLLLOOOO WALL. Oh. Dear. God. So THAT'S what it feels like, eh? Right around the 21.5 mark, I felt like my legs could NOT move. It was as though some crazy ghost being was pushing me backwards or something. It hurt. I was pissy. But luckily, the energetic crowds of Chinatown carried me along (thank you, Chinatown!). Somehow, despite all the pain I was experiencing, I managed to keep going . . . and at a decent-ish pace. I pretended I was a video game character, and that I would gain strength every time I passed someone. Wilson and I would split around other runners and meet back together in front of them. It felt amazing to be passing people so late in the race.

Mile 23 - 12:22

Enter the Mile 22.3 aid station. My hip abductors and achilles/calves were KILLING me. I don't think I've ever been in so much pain in all my life. I begged Wilson to let me stop and stretch as we approached the end of the aid station. He agreed. I grabbed the fence, looking over the Dan Ryan Expressway (I may or may not have been secretly thinking about scaling the fence and jumping into traffic) . . . and tried to figure out what to stretch first. I was so out of it, I couldn't even remember what stretches were appropriate to target my hip abductors. I gave up pretty quickly on that area and instead stretched my calves. That one I could definitely remember. After a solid couple of minutes worth of stretching, we finally got going again. My legs were like lead. I realized right then and there that the easiest and least painful way to make it to the finish line was to JUST KEEP MOVING. No more stopping . . . not until I crossed that finish line! Wilson tried to encourage me by telling me we only had "4.5 miles left to go." I felt tears well up in my eyes. I had thought we only had 3.5 miles to go! I looked at Gertie again . . . wait! I was right! "3.5, Wilson! 3.5! Right? Right?!" "Uh, oh yeah!" he responded. Whew, math is hard yo.

Mile 24 - 10:51

Ouch. Shit hurts. Kill me now. Grumpy. Why do I do this?! Wilson tried to cheer me up by pointing out that we were "on the home stretch", AKA Michigan Avenue . . . but I was kind of inconsolable. I just wanted to be DONE! Oh, hi aid station! Why yes, I think I WILL slow to a walk to take my last gel, thank you very much!

Mile 25 - 10:45

So CLOSE. So much pain. Why are these mile markers forever apart?! Oh goody . . . another aid station! I don't even want anything to drink, but I'm going to pretend like I do, just to get a walk break! Please, just make this shit end! Now?!

Mile 26 - 10:01

Still trucking up Michigan Avenue. Right past the 25-mile marker, there was yet ANOTHER aid station. Wilson asked if I thought I could make it through the aid station without walking, telling me there was just a little over a mile left. In my most pathetic, exhausted voice I replied, "I just don't know." We made it 3/4 of the way through the aid station before I stopped suddenly and said, "I just need a second . . . " Wilson tried desperately to convince me to get going again. There were fans lining Michigan Avenue, looking at me with pity. Within maybe 10 seconds, Wilson convinced me and I was moving again, determined to NOT stop until I crossed that finish line. This stretch lasted FOR FRICKIN' EVER. Dear God. FINALLY, I could see the turn onto Roosevelt. We were SO almost there. The crowd noise was deafening as we turned the corner. We just had to make it up over the bridge, turn onto Columbus, and we were home free! I expected the slight uphill over the bridge to be awful, but it wasn't bad at all. I was so close to the finish I could taste my Goose Island beer! There it is! The 26-mile marker! Push it, Irish! Push it!

Last .2 - 9:53 pace

Just as I started to kick a little bit, the turn onto Columbus became a HUGE congested mass of people. I tried to find away around the obstacles in front of me, but I just didn't have the energy. I coasted behind them through the turn . . . and then booked it towards the finish line as soon as I saw an opening. It seemed like the damn thing was moving farther and farther away from me with every step I took! FINALLY, Wilson grabbed my hand and we made it, crossing the finish line at 4:34:05. We had done it!

To Be Continued . . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Race Report - Part I

Remember when I said that I thought this race would end up being very memorable? I think I must be psychic. Or maybe it was simply the running gods trying to boost my rather lacking sense of self-confidence. Whatever the case, I was in a state of euphoria from the moment I stepped foot in Chicago on Friday night. I was so happy to be there that not even the cold could get me down. I got off the plane (grinning from ear-to-ear), hopped into a cab and was on my way to the Loop by a little after 9 p.m. At one point, as my cabbie was approaching downtown, I glanced out the window and saw a sight that left me a little breathless . . . painted on the facade of a building was the same Chicago Marathon image I'd seen decorating countless promotional materials, including our oh-so-important confirmation brochures. I took a deep breath and tried to keep myself from squealing out loud. Just. Stay. Calm.

Once I arrived at the hotel, I found my way up to our room and couldn't have been happier to finally see Wilson after two long weeks apart. While I had been SUPER tired on the plane, I was suddenly wide awake and couldn't help but talk at about a million miles an hour. I don't know how we had so damn much to talk about (we talk every day on google chat and/or by phone), but it was like we hadn't seen each other in years, and I had to hurry to fit in everything I needed to tell him about before I went and forgot it! We ended up staying up chatting, laughing and hanging out until well after 1 a.m. Oops, there goes another one of the rules of marathoning . . . but I just didn't care. I was so thrilled to be able to finally catch up that it was definitely worth trading in the extra couple hours of sleep!

The next morning (Saturday), I woke up ready to be transformed into the nervous wreck I typically turn into the day before a marathon. Somehow, though, it never really happened. I was nervous, sure . . . but not like I have been in the past where my appetite is actually compromised. Wilson and I took our time getting out of bed, and eventually made it up and out to Dunkin Donuts for some coffee and bagels/muffins. Right about that time, my parents showed up at our hotel. We sat in the lobby lounge area for quite a while eating our breakfast and chatting away with them. I know I'm supposed to be an adult, and this probably shouldn't be the case, but I always feel so much more calm and composed with my parents around. I was secretly REALLY happy that they had offered to come into town to cheer Wilson and I on (thanks, Mom & Dad!).

After lazing around for a bit, we realized we should probably get ready to head to the Expo. We headed up to our room to drop off the throw-away clothing my parents had graciously donated to me, and then made our way over to the Hilton at Grant Park to catch the free shuttle to the Expo. We stood on line for a lot longer than we had planned and ended up getting to the Expo later than anticipated, thus ruining any chance of a bloggy buddy meet-up (oops! Sorry, y'all!). We did, however, try all kinds of freebies and checked out as many of the booths as possible before finally heading back to the Hilton. At that point, it was already well past 4:30 p.m. and, having not eaten since breakfast, we were all ravenous. The problem was that we had dinner reservations for 6 p.m., so we didn't dare eat much. Usually, I would have freaked over the fact that my pre-race nutrition was so messed up, but I didn't let myself get worked up over it. I decided to just go with the flow and see what happened . . .

We checked into the condo/hotel/place my parents were staying at for the night and then grabbed some snacks in a nearby deli--carrots and hummus, bagel chips, pita chips, etc. Oh, and of course, some beer! I gladly accepted one when my parents offered--there's nothing like a nice cold beer to calm the nerves! We hung out snacking and watching football for the next hour or so until it was finally time for our dinner reservations at a cute little Italian restaurant near the Sears Tower, where my Dad works. I ordered gnocchi with meat sauce (my favorite), and ate almost the entire plate, I was so hungry! I also filled up on fresh bread with olive oil--YUM. We sat and chatted for a bit even after we were done eating, and my father filled us in on the details of his one-and-only Chicago Marathon experience (back almost 30 years ago). I don't know how this is possible, but I had never actually heard much about his marathon! It was definitely cool to think that I would be following in my father's footsteps the very next morning! :)

Finally, we decided to call it a night, and headed back to our respective hotels. In the past, I'd been pretty sombre at this point of the night before . . . it always seemed to be the point when the reality of how great a task lay ahead of me set in. But for some reason, I was the complete opposite on Saturday night. I was seriously goofy bordering on hyperactive! I insisted that Wilson and I both try on our sexy throw-away looks as practice for "looking sexy" the next morning. Then, we proceeded to dance around our tiny hotel room and carry on like crazy people. Ha, it was seriously a lot of fun. After watching some college football and texting back and forth with my friend A, we hit the sack around 10:30 p.m. anxious to see what the next day had in store for us.

I fully expected to lay awake all night long and not get a wink of sleep . . . that's what I usually do the night before a marathon. But somehow, I ended up falling asleep for pretty good chunks of time. During one of them, I had a crazy ass dream where I was riding in the passenger seat of my mother's car and she got pulled over by the cops. I figured she was speeding or something, but when the cops got to the car, they told me I was under arrest for committing over a billion dollars worth of credit card fraud. It was terrifying, to say the least . . . no matter how hard I tried to convince them that they had the wrong person, they just wouldn't listen. It was nuts. I awoke in a sweat, confused. But somehow, I made it back to sleep even after that.

Our alarms (all three of them) started going off at around 5 a.m., and I was actually kind of relieved to be getting out of bed. Not too long after the relief, though, came the terror. I was FINALLY nervous. Wilson and I got up, made some coffee and turned on CNN as we were getting ready. The reporter on CNN mentioned the Chicago Marathon would be starting in a couple hours and that it would be "extremely" cold. "Have fun with that one!" he quipped sarcastically. I started to get even MORE nervous. Had I chosen the right gear to wear? Would my 18 layers of throw-aways keep me warm enough? What if I couldn't find A? What if the cold killed my sensitive lungs? EEK!

I tried my hardest to force a dry bagel down, and made it about 2/3 of the way before finally giving in. I chugged a cup of coffee, took care of my business, threw my stuff into our gear check bag . . . and suddenly realized it was already past time to leave! Yikes! What if A was waiting for us? Wilson and I hurried out of the hotel and down the street to the Art Institute Museum where we would be meeting A. But when we got there, we couldn't find her anywhere! I was freaked that she had already left for the start without us . . . but we were only a couple minutes late. Just as I went to pull my phone out to see if I could get a hold of A, it began ringing. She was stuck in traffic, and having trouble getting to the museum. Nervous, I told her we would wait for her, but encouraged her to try to hurry.

After what seemed like a lifetime, A finally showed up. I wish I could explain how crazy it is to suddenly see someone you haven't seen in 10 years walk--or in A's case, bound--right up to you out of a sea of thousands of people. It is just bananas. She walked up, gave me a huge hug and then we quickly took off on the short trek to the start area. We had a LOT to catch up on! The three of us were chatting away for probably a good 5-10 minutes before I realized I'd never actually introduced A and Wilson! Oops! I properly introduced them, we walked and chatted some more, and then we came upon the porta-potties--which shockingly, didn't have much of a line despite the fact that it was already past 6:45 a.m. (the race started at 7:30 a.m.). We used the facilities, hit up gear check and then made our way to the open corral. This, my friends, was easier said than done. Our late arrival made it so that we couldn't get up to the 10-minute pace sign like we'd originally planned. Luckily, I didn't care much. After all, I had taken all pressure to PR off of myself . . . and I was was pretty busy trying to keep A distracted from thinking about how damn crazy it is to run 26.2 miles all at once! We settled in somewhere behind the 10:30 pace marker and waited for our turn to begin running.

Finally, the gun went off (or so we assumed--we couldn't actually hear it from where we were lined up). A sea of clothing shot up into the air. I wish I could describe what this looked like--it was basically one of the most hilarious things I've seen. A whole pile of sweats landed right on my head. I shook them off and laughed. There's nothing like getting pummeled with old clothing to lighten the atmosphere! I took off my own throw-away sweatshirt, pants and hat. BRRRRR. It was chilly! Luckily, all of the runners crammed around us provided ample body heat . . . and but for a few biting wind gusts, it wasn't intolerable. Slooooowly, us mid-packers made our way up to the start line. At exactly 20:00, Wilson, A and I crossed the start line together. We were on our way!

To Be Continued . . .

Monday, October 12, 2009


Well, folks . . . I learned something very valuable this weekend: Sometimes you have to give yourself a little bit of credit. I've always held that I am NOT a mentally tough runner. Sure, I'm REALLY tough when it comes to other activities and areas of my life; but running? Nope. I figured maybe I just wasn't cut out for running marathons. Well, yesterday I went out and I proved myself wrong. Despite my training interruptions; despite my lack of a proper taper; despite the upheaval of my life in recent months; despite all the other excuses I gave myself for not succeeding . . . I went out there and I gave it everything I had in me.

And this time, it was finally good enough. I don't know what it was--maybe the fact that I was in my hometown; maybe it was my lucky earrings; maybe it was the fact that I had a first-time marathoner depending on me--I can't tell you with certainty; but what I CAN tell you is that when sh*t got tough, I hung in there. It hurt like HELL, but I didn't give up. In fact, at one point my mantra was "Just don't quit." And sure enough, I didn't quit. I kept on running until I crossed that finish line. 4:34:05. For those of you keeping track at home, that's a PR by nearly 8 minutes. But most importantly? I took no walk-breaks (with the exception of aid stations--I'm just NOT coordinated enough to drink while running). I was kind of starting to doubt that it was possible for me to complete a marathon without taking any unscheduled walk-breaks. In fact, I may or may not have voiced that very sentiment to my parents and Wilson at dinner on Saturday night. But I did it. And I cannot explain to you how proud of myself I am for that. I'm tearing up right now just thinking about it.

I promise to post a race report at some point this week . . . but for now, I just want to thank all of you. Each and every one of you was on my mind during the race yesterday. I seriously love you guys so much--I'm not sure where I'd be without you. I wanted to make you all proud out there. But most importantly, I really wanted to pay you all back for all of the times you have encouraged me to keep going. And I figured there was no better way of doing so than by . . . well, keeping on going, of course! So thank you to all of you. And also? There's a pretty amazing boyfriend of mine who deserves all of the credit in the world for getting me through the last few miles. I couldn't have done it without him. I actually don't think I could have accomplished half of what I have--in both running and life--without his support. I am truly grateful to have such a kick-ass sidekick :) And finally, I have to thank my parents for their continued support of my crazy little "hobby" . . . and or course, the carbo-loading dinners and post-race beers too :)

On that note, it is time for me to wrap up my little acceptance speech and hit the sack. It's back to school for me tomorrow. But seriously. I really do love you guys! You rock my world in so many ways, I can't even count them all :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Quick Post

Hi all! Just a quick post to let you know that I'm still kickin' down here in Orlando. I haven't strangled myself with a barbell . . . or been knocked out by a beer-throwing drunk or anything like that! Things have just been a little bit crazy this week, what with having to take my first exam on Friday.* Oh wait, and then there's also the fact that I've spent nearly every other waking hour (and some sleeping) obsessing over the cold/flu bug I seem to be coming down with (it's been going around my school). Cold-eeze, Emergen-C, Green Tea and water have been my drugs of choice, and thus far, I'm doing decently in my efforts to fight the disease off. Hopefully I can just hang on until Sunday!

Anyway, I apologize for not commenting on all of your lovely blogs over the past several days--due to my procrastinating ways,** I have had to force myself to stay out of Google Reader. There's simply not enough time to do that AND get my study on in the ways necessary to ace this test! Thus, I promise I will catch up with you all either this weekend (if I end up bringing my lappy to the Chi) . . . or at a minimum, early next week.

In other news, my friend A has decided she DOES want to run with Wilson and I on Sunday. I'm really excited about (hopefully) helping her to her first marathon finish! The only problem is that she's a bit of a head case right now. The longest run she got in was an 18-miler--which I tried to tell her was actually very sufficient--but she's all but convinced that she's not going to finish the race. I'm really hoping that she'll change her mind about that . . . I've been encouraging her to think positively, and filling her head with all kinds of positive things However, nothing I've said thus far has seemed to have done the trick. Any advice? I'm actually thinking that maybe I should take a page out of my own book and start minimizing the pressure she's putting on herself. Maybe a "Hey, just go out there and do your best. That's really all you can ask of yourself. And if you don't make it, no worries. There WILL be other marathons when you will have more time to train. And you'll do it then!" would do the trick? At any rate, if any of y'all have ever dealt with a similar situation and found something that seemed to help, do let me know! I want that girl to cross the finish line with me on Sunday!

Okay, I guess that's all I've got for now. I'm heading to the airport immediately after class tomorrow . . . and then it's off to Chicago I'll go! If any of y'all want to track my progress on Sunday, my bib # is 29716. I can't seem to come up with any reason why that would be lucky, but then again, maybe I'll just have to MAKE it lucky by getting out there and finishing yet another marathon!

Good luck to the rest of you racing this weekend--I know it's a lot of you (many of whom will be joining me in the Windy City!). As I always say, "Run like you mean it!" I think I'll do just that!

*I was supposed to take it the exam Monday, but I won't be getting back from Chicago until Monday night--that is, assuming a blizzard doesn't strand me there--thus, I have to take the test before I go; which is okay by me. I'd rather just get it over with and be able to enjoy my time in the Chi.

**I even went so far as to make a HUGE pot of veggie chili last night. Rock bottom, I'm telling you. Studying the human joint actions isn't all it's cracked up to be, folks!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thoughts on Chicago

Um, 'kay. So let me start by saying . . . you know what REALLY effing hurts? Doing 4 sets of 12 squats with added weight (only 55 pounds, but STILL) for the first time in almost 10 years--amongst various other intense leg exercises--and then attempting to run several hours later. Or well, maybe it didn't hurt so much as feel really, really bizarre. Basically, it felt like I was running with the deadest legs of all time. Somehow, they were even more dead than after either of my two marathons. Yep, it was THAT bad. Amazingly, I made it through the 4 miles I had set out to run without too much trouble. But let me tell you, I was feeling it today. Good golly, am I sore!

And this incident? Well, it has caused me to realize something. During this taper, I have been breaking all the rules. Ever hear about how you are supposed to ease up on the weights/cross training during taper? Yeah, well I am pushing the weights/cross training harder than I ever have in my life. I just don't have a choice in the matter. You get out of NPTI what you put in . . . and I fully intend on getting my money's worth ;) I am thrilled to be running Chicago; don't get me wrong. It's just that my priorities are in other places right now. I'm simply unwilling to dog it at school just to ensure a proper taper for my marathons. My time here is way too valuable for that.

Thus, after a lot of thought and consideration, I've decided to take the pressure to PR at Chicago off of myself. I'd love to do it, and I'm not exactly admitting defeat here. I'm just trying to be realistic so that I don't ruin a wonderful marathon (that I'll be running with a wonderful man) should I happen to fall short of my original goal. There are just too many crazy factors at play right now for me to honestly say that I expect to run a great marathon. Lookie here:

-There's the fact that my training became royally screwed up as a result of my crazy, last-minute racing schedule this summer (I peaked at 20 miles like 6 weeks ago, and I don't think I have run more than 15 miles since then--oopsies) .
-There's the lack of a true taper thing
-There's the fact that I haven't been doing all that much speed training this cycle
-There's also the fact that I have to recover from this race quickly enough to hop back into training for the Goofy Challenge

Wilson and I had talked a ways back about just using Chicago as a training run for Disney. At first I was pretty game for that. Then, I started PR'ing at some other race distances, and really got into pushing for the PR at Chicago. But I've come back around. Whatever happens happens. I simply want to go out and have a blast running around my good ol' hometown, and spend some good quality time on the road with Wilson :) And I might even get to have a little race-day reunion with a friend from WAY BACK whom I just got back into touch with after 10 years, thanks to the wonder known as facebook. This friend is running her first marathon at Chicago, and let's just say that life got a little bit in the way of her training. So there's a chance it could be a long, slow marathon for us should she decide she wants some company (I volunteered Wilson and I to be her running partners since she's really nervous about the race, but I am currently waiting on a decision from her). Honestly, though, I am fine with that. If she decides to enlist our services, I know without a doubt that it will be reward enough just to cross that finish line with her.

And no matter what, I'm going to spend the day with a BIG, GOOFY grin on my face. Because, you guys, I have been waiting 10 years to run this race. I can still remember volunteering back in high school. The idea of running a marathon was so foreign to me. I thought I'd NEVER be able to run one. And now look at me. This is my third . . . with many more to come. My number one goal for this race is to have as much fun running it as I did volunteering ten years ago. For some reason, I have a feeling this race will be just as memorable as the 1999 Chicago Marathon has always been. Sweet Home Chicago, baby :)

On that note, I'm going to go log a few easy miles. Because for some reason or another, I just can't get enough of running as of late :)