What I Read in 2019

I love a good book recommendation. Most of what I read comes recommended from someone I know. And I want to share what I have read this year in case you want some recommendations too!

I have always loved to read. My Mom got me involved with the local library at a young age and having time to read has always been important to me. As my responsibilities grew, my time to read for fun often became hard to find. Some years were better than others, but in 2017 and 2018 I felt like I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted.

So for 2019 I set a a goal of 15 books for the year. I thought it was ambitious, but as soon as I set the goal, I prioritized reading time and I quickly hit it. By August I had doubled my goal to read 30 books for the year. This means I have to read roughly one book a week for the remainder of 2019, but that is doable. I am so grateful I have more time to read right now and I have been seeking out cute bookstores and cafes to read in all over AUS.

I’m sharing the list of books I have read with a star rating and a quick few sentence review. I could go on and on, but that would make for a super long blog post. If you want to chat more about any of the books – please message me!

I read a lot of nonfiction and young adult fiction, but honestly I will read anything that gets a good rec.

And one quick caveat: I RARELY give a book 5 stars. 4 stars is really good for me. I save the 5s for truly incredible books.

Okay, so here we go. In the order I read them in below from January on. I’ll keep adding as the year continues.

  1. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade (4 stars). Cleo Wade is my favorite. I had seen a lot of her poems, but at the beginning of the year I ordered her book and sat down to read it cover to cover. She has such a way with words.
  2. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (3 stars). I wanted to read this book before watching the Netflix film. I always want to read the book before the movie. It was a quick read with a heart warming story, but just okay.
  3. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (4 stars). This was a really unique perspective on running. I have read a lot of running books and they often say a lot of the same things, but this one felt different – in a good way.
  4. Becoming by Michelle Obama (4 stars). Oh Michelle. I love her and loved this book. It was so interesting to read her life history, especially the early years. Highly recommend.
  5. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero (4 stars). I like self-helpy books. This one was pretty motivating, even though I do think it gets a little over hyped.
  6. 26 Marathons: What I’ve Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life From Each Marathon I’ve Run by Meb Keflezighi (4 stars). Meb! The sweetest, most genuine guy. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him twice and will never forget it. His publisher actually gifted me this new book before it came out and it did not disappoint. I love his attitude and his storytelling. And I enjoyed this book more than his first!
  7. So Here’s the Thing…: Notes on Growing Up, Getting Older, and Trusting Your Gut by Alyssa Mastromonaco (3 stars). I wanted to like this, but it felt pretty repetitive and random. I like her, but this seemed hastily put together.
  8. Not Afraid of the Fall by Kyle James (2 stars). I loved the idea of this book. Quit your jobs, travel the world, do cool things. But basically everywhere they went…they ate and drank. Cool. I found it repetitive and dull. The idea was still cool though.
  9. Run Strong Stay Hungry by Jonathan Beverly (3 stars). A running motivational book that had some good lessons in it. Nothing truly ground breaking to me, but it was still worth the read.
  10. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco (4 stars). This was Alyssa’s first book and it was WAY better than the second. I probably should have read this one first. But either way, I loved learning more about Obama and the administration and Alyssa’s role in it. Definitely recommend.
  11. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (4 stars) Laurie always enthralls me. Difficult subject matter, but such an important read. Worth picking up if you have never heard of her (or even if you have).
  12. The Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life by Brad Stulberg (3 stars). I love following Brad on Twitter and wanted to love this book. It does offer some good advice, but I guess my expectations were a little too high. And I felt like I disagreed with a few things I read. Maybe it was the mood I was in or the job I was in, but I didn’t completely love it.
  13. Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France by Craig Carlson (3 stars). This true story is so fun. I love Paris and I love American breakfast food, so I am thankful for Craig. A really neat story of him bringing his dream to Paris and the hard times he faces before making it.
  14. I Am Her Tribe by Danielle Doby (4 stars). Danielle’s poetry is moving. I bought her book because I knew it would be one I flipped through regularly. I keep finding myself back in the pages.
  15. That Summer by Sarah Dessen (3 stars). I love Sarah Dessen. I read all her books as a teenager and now decided I want to reread them. I started with That Summer. It was never my favorite of hers, but still fun to relive.
  16. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (3 stars). This book was ALL OVER my social media for months. It seemed like everyone was raving about it, so I read it. Honestly, did not think it was all it was cracked up to be. Sure it kept me interested and I read it quickly. It was an interesting story, but I felt like the ending was a little abrupt and I walked away not feeling like it was as amazing as I thought it would be.
  17. Beyond the Pill by Jolene Brighten (3 stars). This book was recommended to me by a few people and I found it helpful to read before starting my transition off birth control. Take it for what it is, it does push a lot of supplements, but I think a lot of the information is useful.
  18. The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (3 stars). The newest in the Sarah Dessen collection. This one did not keep me as interested as she usually does. It wasn’t bad, but it was set in a summer lake town and I think I was just too overwhelmed with my own life at the time to put myself there. Will always read anything she writes though!
  19. Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in Our Crazy World by Cleo Wade (5 stars). Wow is just about all I can say for this one. Cleo did it again and in a bigger way. I actually had tears in my eyes when reading many of these poems.
  20. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (3 stars). I randomly picked this up at the library. It’s a collection of short stories, all from different time periods. It was good, and thought provoking, but I felt some stories were kind of hard to follow.
  21. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (4 stars). I couldn’t put this one down. You follow three women during the Holocaust with alternating chapters in their voices. It was tough to read some of it, as these type of books always are for me, but it was captivating. I cried at the end.
  22. The 12-Step Mind-Body-Food Reset by Jessical Sepel (4 stars). I have followed Jessica on Instagram for years and just recently bought this book. It includes a lot of great recipes that I know I will go back to, but it is so much more than a cookbook. I really enjoy her approach to eating and living your life. Can’t wait to hear her speak at the Sydney Almost 30 event in a couple of weeks.

I’m in the middle of two other nonfiction books right now that I hope to finish by Sunday. I’ll add them as I finish!

Hope you enjoy. Happy reading!

A Chicago Bucket List

So, I have lived in the city of Chicago for almost 4 years. I have done a lot. But one of the great things about this city is that there are always new adventures to be had, new restaurants to try and new people to meet.

I also have so many favorite spots that I feel require a “last stop” before I leave (even though it isn’t forever).

I wanted to write a short bucket list to try and accomplish in September. I wrote it, but I haven’t crossed too many things off yet. With working so much and having to finish some wedding planning and move out of my apartment, it has been tough to find extra time.

I have 9 days left living in Chicago. Then, I move back to the suburbs for 22 more days. And that’s it. My anxiety has been waking me up at 3 a.m. every night this week like “hey girl just checking in to make sure you’re aware of all you have to do and that you move across the world in a month!!” Sleep hasn’t been great. But I’m kind of just accepting it for what it is right now.

All that said, I’m still determined to get more of this bucket list done before I leave in October. And I wanted to share what I’ve done and what I have left.

So, here’s what I had:

  • The Allis Chicago for brunch or lunch
  • Forbidden Root √
  • Au Cheval
  • Outdoor Voices store stop
  • Peckish Pig
  • Run the 606√
  • Run south to the Shedd
  • Run to coffee truck & walk home
  • Spacca Napoli Pizzeria
  • A last zoo lot 800 meter workout
  • Aba√
  • Swallow Cliff stair workout
  • Riot Fest √
  • Philz for coffee √
  • Sox Game
  • Hopewell Brewing
  • Colectivo Coffee √
  • A last Fleet Feet stop for new shoes
  • Get a Chicago necklace from a local spot √
  • Run to Revolution Brewing √
  • Evanston sleepover
  • Lone Wolf √
  • Green Mill Jazz Bar
  • Furious Spoon for a last ramen
  • Final Cubs Game √
  • Class at new lululemon space
  • Tanuki
  • Lincoln Park Nature Walk
  • Pollyanna in Lemont
  • FARE for a work day lunch
  • Gilt Bar for a final hurrah

This list could have been pages and pages long. But this is a good mix of new, some favorites, some eating, some drinking, some exercising. I’m not giving up on it yet. Hoping to get it all in by October 22nd!

It’s getting real.

 

Race Recap: Stewart Tunnel 50K

I became an ultra marathoner on August 4th, 2019. It has only been seven days since then, but race day still feels like a dream. It’s hard for me to put this ultra experience into words.

But I’ll try.

Let’s start with the decision to run this race. It might have seemed last minute (it was) or a little crazy (it was) to sign up for your first ultra with less than six weeks to train. I knew my friend Lex had been signed up for her 50 Miler this day for months and months. It was always in the back of my head that I would join her. I knew attempting to run 50 miles without truly training was silly, but I talked with my coach and we decided that a 50K really wasn’t that crazy for me. I had run two successful spring marathons, taken a pretty big break, and could ease back up to be able to cover the distance in the amount of time I had. My training was ALL RUN/WALKING. I did not do any speed workouts. All of my runs were at an easy pace and had some form of walk breaks throughout. My plan for race day was to run/walk, so that is all I was doing in training. And to be honest, I really enjoyed it. Summer running is not my favorite and having walk breaks always made me a little more excited to get out the door.

My first long run of this little training cycle was 10 miles. The last one was 18 miles. And that was that. I covered a decent amount of mileage each week and I felt fully capable of covering 31.50 miles on August 4th.

This 50K was part of the Badger Trail Series in Belleville, Wisconsin. They offered a weekend with a 100 Miler, 100K, 50 Miler, 50K, marathon and half marathon. Every race covered an out and back course on trail through the Stewart Tunnel. Our races started on Sunday, so we drove up Saturday afternoon.

I was in an Airbnb in Madison with six super supportive friends. My pre-race meal was a $3 grilled cheese from a bar and a Spotted Cow. I told you guys I wasn’t worried… I was trying to be my calmest pre-race self. Sure, I was a little nervous. But I knew at that point I had to remain confident. I was toeing the start line that next morning no matter what.

I probably didn’t fall asleep until almost midnight. Alarm went off at 4:55 a.m. Not ideal sleep, but it was what it was. Jen got up with me and drove us the 30 minutes to Belleville to meet Lex and watch her start. The sun was just coming up, that beautiful pink and orange sunrise sky. We gave her some quick hugs and watched her take off at 6 a.m. to run her first 50 Miler.

Somehow the next hour passed WAY TOO QUICKLY. We chatted with Lexi’s family a bit, and by 6:18 a.m. I was like wait I need to eat. Ran back to Jen’s car to eat my almond butter banana toast and get my race clothes on. It was 6:40 by the time we were walking back over to the start line and the pre-race instruction started. I had to go to the bathroom super quickly. Jen was rubbing sunscreen on me as I strapped into my water vest and tried to listen to the details. The gist was, “If you get confused, do what a train would do.” It made me laugh. These people were really fun.

7:00 a.m. hit and suddenly I was running my first ultra marathon.

There were just under 100 people starting with me. I was around a decent clump of people for about 5 miles, then people started to spread out. I was following my run/walk plan from the start. I ran for 14 minutes, walked for 1 minute, repeat. It was already a hot and humid day and I knew I had to keep this in control.

So, remember how my race is called the Stewart Tunnel 50K. Well, yes it goes through a tunnel. We were warned to wear a headlamp because the tunnel was dark. I figured I would be fine with my phone flashlight. WRONG. Just over four miles into the race is when you hit the tunnel for the first time. The second you are in you are overtaken with complete darkness. It’s wild. A man in front of me shouted out pretty soon after we entered. Turns out there was a giant puddle down the center. Luckily, I heard him, stopped, and took to the concrete edge. Managed to keep my shoes dry (thanks Adam – I later learned his name). The darkness goes on for about a half a mile. My phone was honestly just not enough light. And I planned to listen to music on the second half, so I was afraid it would die before I got back to the tunnel on my way to the finish line.

Naturally, I took out my phone and called my Mom. They were on their way down and I had plans to meet them at mile 22. “Hey Mom, yes I’m running an ultra marathon right now, but can you please bring me a flashlight?” I felt ridiculous, but it was a necessary phone call.

I took my first Huma gel one hour in. It actually tasted good, which was a good sign. And I was hydrating as I went.

The best part about this being an out and back course was that you saw all the 100 milers on their way in. How cool right?? I was inspired just by seeing them out there. And the amazing thing about trail runners is that every single person was saying ‘great job’ ‘you look strong’. Everyone was so nice.

I was next to the guy I went through the tunnel with for awhile. Turns out, he follows me on Instagram and said to me that he had told his wife that morning he thought we might end up running near each other. Small world. It was nice to have a little company. It was his first 50K too.

I saw my cheer squad at mile 9. They looked happy and excited (early in the day) and I just loved that they were there, but I didn’t stop.

I knew I had to keep moving. It was already getting so hot. 85 degrees by 9 a.m. Thankfully a decent part of the trail was shaded. But it made you feel the parts that weren’t so much more.

I felt pretty much on my own by mile 13. You had the occasional person come at you from the other direction, but I had no one around me on my side of the trail. I then spent a good while thinking about how I wish Lex and I had walkie talkies so I knew where she was and how she was feeling. It still felt cool to know we were both out there together.

It felt a little strange to hit 15 miles and not have turned around yet, but I was feeling better than I had expected. I had the 50K turn around in my sights for what felt like a long time. And it was funny that there wasn’t a soul there to see me turn around. But on my way back in within another mile or so, I saw Adam on his way out. He yelled, “How you feeling?” And I said “well I am half way so I feel really good.” And he goes, “F*ck yeah.” Made me laugh. My thoughts exactly.

I decided to wait until after mile 17 to put headphones on. Truthfully, I had been enjoying the silence. There was something peaceful about being in the woods alone. Once I hit 17, I gave myself the ‘treat’ of the music. My playlist was probably the most random thing it could have been. I’d listen to a Motion City Soundtrack song, followed by a RENT soundtrack song, followed by Lizzo. I have a weird taste, I know. But it was a nice distraction.

At this point, I was just looking forward to seeing my people at mile 22. I kept trying to ignore how hot it was and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I got to 22, saw my Mom & Dad and decided to take a break. I got my flashlight (thanks!!), drank some Gatorade, and let the aid crew refill my pack. I had gone through over a liter and half of water at this point…yikes. I really had no idea. But that gave me a good indication of how hot it was. I stood around for probably 3 minutes. It felt short and long at the same time. I had been paying attention on the way out though and counted how many women took the turn around in front of me. I thought it had only been 2. So, I said to my Dad “I think I’m third female.” And he goes, “then what are you doing wasting time?” That’s my Dad for you. Made me laugh and it was time to get running again.

I knew the last 9.5 miles were going to be all alone. It was a weird feeling, but I was ready for it. I was just sticking to the plan. 14 minute run, 1 minute walk. And again. My run pace was between 8:10 & 8:40. And that was consistent the whole race. I was just looking forward to the walk minutes every time.

The last aid station was just over 6 miles from the finish line. I stopped to drink one small cup of water and use the bathroom. Probably just a 2 and a half minute stop. This was now the home stretch. I won’t say I wasn’t hurting, because I was. My left knee was throbbing (it had been giving me some trouble) and my arms felt tired. But there was something really motivating when I looked down at my Garmin and saw I had gone 26.50 miles already. Take that marathon — and I was still going.

I do need to say again that this heat was no joke. I took my fourth gel at mile 26 ish and it pretty much came back up instantly. Not so fun, but oh well.

It was time for that tunnel again. I paused my music. Thankful the flashlight, I turned it on and entered confidently. It was at least cooler in the tunnel. And I had never run in this kind of darkness before. It really was such a wild experience. The stillness of it kind of made me feel like I was pausing time.

I reached the end of the darkness, put my flashlight away, turned my music up, and knew I had less than 4 miles to go.

At this point, I extended my walk minute to a walk two minutes. That one minute was just going by way too quickly. I knew I only had three more ‘breaks’ left, so I chose to make them a little longer. My run pace had still stayed about the same, but having a little extra walking time was making me happy, so I took it. There was no pressure on this day. It was not about speed, it was not about beating a PR, it was just about finishing. It was a distance PR day.

With less than one mile to go, I picked it up. You know I love a good fast finish. I was truly surprised by the little burst of energy I felt. “Fighter” came on at this point and the tears came too. I had been having a hard month, and been trying to deal with my loneliness in a healthy way. For me, that means a lot of miles and leaning on my people. And I knew they were going to be at that finish line. I was so stinking proud of myself that I couldn’t help but cry.

The last little bit of the race includes a stone staircase (that felt like a mountain), and then a home stretch into the grass to run under the finish line. I gave it every last bit I had to cruise through looking strong.

I felt strong. I had just become an ultra marathoner. And I had to walk for a minute to keep sobbing to myself.

I gave all the hugs. Mistakenly got a first place marathon medal. And then figured out I actually was third female for the 50K. And I finished top five overall. Pretty dang cool. 4:48:17. 9:07 pace. Farthest distance ever.

This day was a true test of my mental toughness. Sure, it took some physical toughness too. But I will always say I think running is more mental than physical. How you talk to yourself matters. You can’t get to mile 27 of an ultra and give up on yourself. Today gave me the chance to lift myself up. I knew I could do it. And that’s what I told myself all race. I had an incredible support system out there, but it still was me vs. me for most of the hours. And I was really really proud of how I responded. I do things like this because I like to remind myself that I can do hard things. No part of this was easy, but every single minute was rewarding.

And I could not have asked for a better crew. Having them all there meant the world to me. I’m lucky so many people support my crazy. And we really had fun as we waited for Lex to finish her 50 miles. Seeing her cross that finish line was as emotional for me as finishing my own. It was just the best day.

The vibe was so different than a road race or a major marathon. It’s still hard to explain. But there was a new energy that was kind of contagious. I knew as soon as I crossed the finish line that it would not be my last ultra.

You all know I love the marathon. I do. And it’s not going anywhere. But this ultra bug has my attention. New challenges are always fun, after all.

 

 

Why You Should Say Yes

This post has been sitting as a draft in the form of notes on my phone for about a month. I feel like I haven’t sat down to take a breath in awhile. I haven’t blogged much. And I haven’t really shared my training as much I used to. But something I keep thinking about is how saying a simple ‘yes’ can change your life.

I have made new year goals to get better at saying ‘no’ in the past. And honestly this is something I still need to work on. While I have gotten better at saying no to things I know I don’t need to do, I have also learned over the course of this year how important it is to say yes, even when it scares you.

I have said ‘yes’ to two very big questions in the last few months.

“Will you marry me?”

&

“Will you move to Australia with me?”

I knew that first question would be asked at some point, but the second one? Yikes. This was new.

The first question was an easy yes. Kyle’s the best person I know and I have no doubt we will have a happy life together. The second question made me stumble.

He asked me to go on a run at 9 p.m. at night a few months ago (how I should have known something was up) and said, “Dale it’s real, they want me to go to Sydney.” And I instantly started crying. I know how great of an opportunity this is for him and for me too truly, but that doesn’t mean I’m not terrified. I have never lived outside of the United States. I have never even been to Australia. But I knew that if there was ever a time to take this adventure, it’s now. And there’s no one else I’d rather do this with. I calmed down night of and asked to think about it. And I was told I had about 24 hours to make a decision. Talk about pressure. It’s like “Hey do you want to totally uproot your life, quit a job you love, and move across the world? Great let us know tomorrow.”

I was emotional to say the least. But in the end it wasn’t really a question. I wanted Kyle to go. And I wanted to go with him. So, I said yes. I said yes to him the next day after work and cried again, but it also felt like the butterflies in the stomach first day of the rest of your life kind of thing.

I stand by the ‘yes’ but I also realized I couldn’t up and leave my job in June. I care about what I do and my relationships and I never want to be seen as a person who bails on things. So, what did this mean? I decided the most logical thing for me to do was work through the summer/busy season up through the Chicago Marathon. Kyle is always supportive of me, so even though this logical decision meant four and a half months of long distance, he said it was a good idea. So that was the plan.

He moved on June 21st. I haven’t cried as much as I did that day in a very long time. It made me realize how truly happy I have been the past year, but also scared me for having to take on the looming months alone. Kyle makes everything fun. Like, everything. Washing the dishes, doing laundry, dealing with screaming neighbors, etc. I’m not exaggerating when I say we have fun every day. We have lived together for over three years and now all of the sudden we don’t. We used to see each other every night. Now we don’t. The time change is tough (15 hours!). So I usually leave work as he wakes up (a day ahead). And say goodnight as he goes to get lunch. It’s weird. And it has been difficult to actually find quality time. But we’re making it work. Because we have to. I won’t tell you long distance is easy or fun. But I know it will be worth it.

I still stand by the yes. We’re 6 weeks down now, 11 weeks to go. I’m lucky to still be home with all my amazing people. I’d probably be lost without them, but I’m also learning how tough I am. I still have my worries of being so far from my friends and family once I move. I see them all so often now that it scares me to think of how long I’ll have to go without. But I know all my real relationships will last. And I’m soaking up the time now. I’ll make it work.

Another reason I’m glad I said yes to this distance challenge: I’m spending more time alone and learning more about myself. It is kind of cool. I don’t mind a lot of solo time.

But ultimately I’m putting up with the distance because it means yes to an incredible adventure. And I know the adventure will be worth it. I truly never thought I would be saying “yes I’m moving to Australia in October.” But it’s the truth.

I said yes to possibility. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know what I’ll do to make money. I don’t know what life will look like. And for the planner in me, this is so hard. We’re in that transition time right now and I feel like I don’t have any control. But I am still excited about the yes.

So even with the unknown and the fear I am glad I took the leap. And I want to tell you that you should too. If there’s something you have been afraid to try, why wait? If you’re avoiding doing something because it’s scary, try to say yes to the potential instead. I know how unnerving it can be to say yes to something uncomfortable. But I also know it can be great.

I can’t talk about the outcome yet, but I’ve had time to sit with this big ‘yes’ for a bit and I feel good about it (even on the days I don’t).

So, I’m encouraging you to say your ‘yes’ too. And if you want someone to vent to about it – send me a message.

I’m ready for the adventure, wherever it takes me. I’m glad I said yes.

Race Recap: Copenhagen Marathon 5.19.19

What a day. I’ll try not to ramble through this blog, but I have lot to say about the Copenhagen Marathon.

I originally signed up for this race in October of 2018, fully knowing I would race Boston and intending to run/walk this in May just to see the city. I asked my coach before registering and he said not racing both was a good plan, but no reason I couldn’t sign up. So, I did.

I haven’t actually written a Boston Marathon recap yet. And to be honest it was a really hard day for me. I gave it all I had, but the heat really got to me. I finished in 3:26:28. 20 seconds lower than my Boston 2018 time. As soon as I got done, I told myself if I felt good in a week, I’d race Copenhagen.

My coach felt the same way. We worked on another 3 weeks of training post-Boston and one week off. My body felt really good. I ran a few more long runs, a couple tempo runs and kept yoga and strength a priority.

The point of traveling to Copenhagen was for a vacation with Kyle. We wanted uninterrupted time together and a chance to experience a new culture. The marathon was not my number one priority.

We flew in on a Thursday. The marathon was Sunday. So, I had a few days to adjust to the time change and relax. I was so relaxed. I hardly thought about the race at all. And I was probably walking too many steps each day leading up to race day, but we wanted to explore.

I was the calmest I had ever been that Saturday before a marathon. It was a good feeling. The race didn’t begin until 9:30 a.m. and we were staying at an Airbnb that was only a 5 minute walk from the start/finish line, so it was EASY. The easiest start to a race I have ever had. I ate breakfast, got dressed, and then Kyle walked with me over to the start.

We hung out by the start wave for a bit. The atmosphere was fun. People seemed relaxed. There weren’t start corrals, but just a few pace signs so you could line up based on your goal time. I got in front of the 3:30 pacer and took it in. The announcer said one minute to go time and everyone around me starting clapping. It was electric. I couldn’t help but laugh. This was the most excited start line group I had ever seen. I knew it was going to be a good day.

We were off.

It was strange for me to not know a single other person running on the course with me, but also kind of fun. It was almost like I was running a “secret” marathon. I barely looked at a course map before hand and that was a good feeling too.

I told myself early on that I was not going to focus on my watch. I had no idea how I would feel only 5 weeks after Boston and even though I had gotten the okay to race it if I felt good, I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself. Plus, the course markers were all in kilometers so it was easier for me not to pay attention. I just ran by feel.

The first 10K zoomed by. I felt like I was moving a little fast, so I tried to dial it back. I did not want to feel so out of energy the last few miles like I did in Boston, so I conserved. Honestly, I think I ran too conservatively, but that’s okay.

There were DJs playing techno on the sidelines and even a a Danish rapper. Spectators would yell things to me that I couldn’t understand, but I was smiling. I hadn’t expected many spectators, but there were SO many. This race only had about 11,000 runners, but I swear there were just as many spectators.

I crossed the half marathon mark in around 1:43. Two minutes slower than what I crossed the first half of Boston in. I looked down at my watch at that point and said, “Okay perfect.” I felt SO good still and I knew that running the first half slower set me up to negative split.

One tough thing about this course was allllll of the turns. So drastically different from Boston. I tried my best to run the tangents, but if there was shade on either side, I picked shade. It was sunny, 65 degrees and rising. I knew shade was important.

Another tough thing: the water cups were plastic. This really surprised me since Copenhagen is so good about not using plastic most places. It was hard to even purchase a plastic water bottle. But yet all fluid cups on the course were hard plastic. Most of the time I got more water up my nose than down my throat. It was uncomfy. Something about the plastic made drinking while running even harder and I wasn’t used to it. And stepping on used cups on the ground was more annoying than when they’re paper. Hoping they change these to paper in the future!

Despite the water struggle, I was cruising. I saw Kyle and Libby a few times later on in the course. Right before 17 was a good spot. They caught me from far away and I was able to give high fives as I ran by. Felt good to see people I knew.

At mile 18 I got excited. Ran a 7:02. So, I pulled back again. I was still afraid I was going to feel terrible toward the end. But I didn’t. I stayed consistent.

I spent each step just soaking it in. I loved the energy of the people around me. (Didn’t love all the cigarette smoke on the sidelines – my one complaint about spectators). It was like I hardly felt like I was running. I was just touring a city, seeing new spots I never had and listening to people I didn’t know. At no point did I say to myself “Dale you’re racing this marathon.” I was just having fun.

As I got closer to the end, I picked it up. It helped that this course was so flat. I was gaining momentum as I went rather than losing it. The difference between how I felt today compared to April was CRAZY. I was hardly breathing hard. My legs felt strong. Sure, I was hot. The sun was brutal again, but I was more prepared. My last three miles were 7:23, 7:18, 6:51. Ran at a 6:19 for the last tenth of a mile. I flew to that finish line.

The crowd around the finish was SO loud. People around me were flying too. I was smiling BIG as I ran that last tenth. I looked down at my watch and saw 3:21:33. A one and a half minute PR. I couldn’t believe it. I ran smart, I enjoyed every mile and I had fun. That’s all I can ask for in a marathon. They are always difficult, but I truly always enjoy the distance. It demands you to step up and respect it. And if you have fun while doing it, it’s a really good day.

I had a really good day.

I rang the PR bell, went to meet Kyle & Libby, and had a beer while we walked back home. Then Kyle told me I had less than an hour to get ready for his “plans” – that’s another story… 🙂

I couldn’t have been more proud of my effort on this day. It was the most fun I have ever had during a marathon and coincidentally the best performance I ever had too. It was also my first international marathon and it makes me want to run marathons all over the world. It was a better experience than I even expected.

Copenhagen was friendly, fast, fun and unforgettable. 5.19.19 was the best day. Can’t recommend this race or this city enough!

 

 

 

 

 

Race Recap: Swamp Rabbit Race to Greenville Half Marathon

I raced a half marathon for the first time in over a year on February 23rd, 2019. I’m on a 50 state race quest and I like to use my February birthday as an excuse to travel somewhere new, a bit warmer and run a half marathon. This year I chose Greenville, South Carolina. That meant my race would be the Swamp Rabbit Race to Greenville.

I didn’t know anything about this race, but I knew it would be warmer than Chicago, so I was in. Kyle and I booked our flight and planned to spend three days in SC. I was really excited to race even though it would be on only 7 weeks of training and untapered legs. I didn’t have big expectations, but I knew I would try to run fast. I was excited until the Thursday before we left when Kyle got so sick. I felt bad for him, was worried he wouldn’t be able to go with me and worried I’d get sick too. But he mustered up his strength and we got on our flight Thursday night.

On Friday I went to pick up my race packet. It was very low key and the volunteers were really friendly. An easy, nice packet pick up is one of the reasons I love smaller races. It helps me stay relaxed.

After dinner I set out my race outfit, drank my coconut water and went to bed early. I was calm.

This race is a point to point, so you start pretty far away from the downtown area. It was 43 degrees and drizzling when I got to the start area. Kyle dropped me off and I had 15 minutes to warm up. I covered about 1.50 miles and threw in some strides. I was just trying to focus on the fun I was about to have, not the pace I was going to try to run. My coach had asked me to cover my watch for this race. We’ve chatted about how my watch can hold me back if I see I am running at a faster pace than I think I can sustain. So, I agreed to try. I figured there would at least be clocks on the course.

I went to line up for the National Anthem after my warm up. There weren’t corrals, but I did see a few pacer signs so I went in between the 1:30 and the 1:37. It was a crowded start and once the cannon blew I still had about 10-15 seconds of easing my way through the starting mats. But I was off. My watch was under my sleeve and there it was going to stay.

I found myself right by the 1:30 pacer by mile 1. He told us he would run the first 4 miles a bit slower since they included all the hills, but then he would pick it up. So I decided to stay with him for 4 miles. There were some definite hills in the beginning, but nothing as bad as what I have been training on. I remained confident and followed this guy for 4 miles. And realized I hadn’t seen a time clock, but there had to be one at the half way point at least, right?

Wrong. I had been feeling good. I didn’t know what pace I was running, but I wasn’t as tempted to check as I thought I would be. I focused on how strong my body felt and how I just needed to lock in my pace and stay there. But I think part of me was really expecting a half way clock. When I didn’t see one, my heart sank. But I was over 6 miles in, I thought I was cruising and I wasn’t tired. I took these all as good signs. It didn’t really matter what pace I was running because I felt comfortable and that is what mattered.

I took my GU with water around mile 7. I half expected some stomach cramping, but happy to report it did it’s job and I felt fine. At this point I just had to stare straight ahead and keep moving.

The rain started at about mile 10. It wasn’t super heavy, but definitely more than a drizzle. A spectator with an umbrella and a cute pup shouted to me, “28th woman. Looking strong.” And it was a nice pick me up. The 28th woman was probably running her PR pace, right? It was kind of unreal not to know. But it helped me mentally to just focus on running. No numbers, no clock checks, no watch checks. I was shocked at how good I still felt. And I was only 3 miles from the finish.

Now this had been a straight shot on the Swamp Rabbit trail since mile 4-5. I didn’t expect any turns. And all of a sudden I came to a bridge that required a right turn. And I turned in front of it. It was a dumb move, but I was so focused that I couldn’t stop my forward motion. A volunteer called for me and I got back to the bridge, but it had cost me probably about 10 seconds. Not that I thought it would matter.

I didn’t spend any time beating myself up. I was having a great race, and this wasn’t all about time after all. This was to test my fitness during this Boston Marathon training cycle and based on feel I knew it was a confidence boost.

The last mile I told myself to just “pick it up” – whatever that meant. I wanted to leave it all out there. I could see the finish line from around the corner and I knew I had less than half a mile left. I rounded the turn, sloshed through a huge puddle and made my way to the grass. The last 0.15 stretch to the finish was on muddy grass, but I thankfully didn’t slip. I threw my hands up and tried to smile. I made it.

I looked down and saw the 1:32:05 on my watch. WHAT. That’s a 3+ minute PR from the last time I ran a half. But I was also instantly bummed to have missed NYC Qualification by 5 seconds. Not that looking at my watch would have made a difference, but how was I so close… I met some IG friends after and it was great to hear how everyone’s races went. Found Kyle near the finisher area and saw my official result read 1:32:08. It was what it was. I was still super happy. I looked at my splits and 9 of my miles started with a 6. My last mile was my fastest of the race with a 6:45. I was in a little bit of shock that I had just run this time and felt so good.

I love the half marathon distance. It’s a challenge, but it’s the kind of race I can run in a new state and still have energy to explore post-race. South Carolina was my 13th race state and I’m so happy I chose this as my February adventure. It’s always a good thing to get out of your comfort zone and explore a new space. If you’re looking for a well run, fun race in Greenville – I highly recommend the Swamp Rabbit.

This race was a big personal win for me. It gives me confidence going into my last 6 weeks of training. I am faster than I think and sometimes I just need to trust myself. Covering my watch and running just for my love of running really worked for me. I think I’ll have to try the same thing at my next half (and find myself those missed seconds).

February 23rd, 2019. 1:32:08.

Boston Marathon Training: Week One-Week Five

Here we are. January 31st of 2019. This month felt both quick and long at the same time, but in terms of Boston Marathon Training, it was definitely quick. I feel like I just started running consistently again and all of a sudden I am five weeks into training.

This training cycle has been a slow build. I was hardly running in November and December, so I couldn’t just jump back into 30 mile weeks off the bat. I try to train smart. Having a coach helps with that. I eased in, I still prioritized strength and yoga, and I am finally feeling a little more in shape.

It’s easy to compare my training to where I was last year at this time. Or two years ago. But I have learned I need to practice patience and it doesn’t do me any good to compare past me to current me. I am confident I will get into the shape I need to be in to run a strong Boston this year. Trusting the process!

Here’s what my first fives weeks have looked like.

December 24th-December 30th:

  • Monday – 75 minute yoga class + 4 miles
  • Tuesday – 1.50 miles
  • Wednesday – 4.27 miles
  • Thursday – HiDef class
  • Friday – Cycle 45 class + 3.32 miles
  • Saturday – 5.26 miles (with tempo miles)
  • Sunday – Rest day

 

December 31st-January 6th:

  • Monday – 3.50 miles
  • Tuesday – Rest day
  • Wednesday – HiDef class + 4.05 treadmill miles
  • Thursday – Hot yoga class, 3×3 class + 5 miles
  • Friday – Hot yoga class
  • Saturday – Hot yoga class + 8.25 miles
  • Sunday – Yoga flow 75

 

January 7th-January 13th:

  • Monday – Strength with Jake
  • Tuesday – 4.34 miles
  • Wednesday – Hot yoga class
  • Thursday – Hot yoga class
  • Friday – HiDef class + 4.23 miles + Yoga class
  • Saturday – 10.50 miles
  • Sunday – Yoga flow 75

 

January 14th-January 20th:

  • Monday – 5.35 miles
  • Tuesday – 5 miles + Strength with Jake
  • Wednesday – 9.26 miles speed workout (400s) + Yoga class
  • Thursday – 5 miles
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – 10.03 miles + Yoga flow 75

 

January 21st-January 27th:

  • Monday – Hot yoga class
  • Tuesday – 6 miles + 45 minute strength class
  • Wednesday – Strength with Jake
  • Thursday – 10 treadmill miles
  • Friday – Hot yoga class
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – 10.28 treadmill miles + Yoga flow 75

Chicago winter has been challenging lately. I am not great on the treadmill and I have had to shift things around, but I’m embracing being flexible. Not much I can do about a polar vortex.

January was also a good month for me for a lot of non-running reasons. I gave up alcohol for 31 days. I focused on getting more sleep. I finally found an answer to my breathing problem after 3.5 months of appointments and tests. And I gave up coffee (which is something I never thought I would do). I feel better today than I have in months. I don’t plan to give up booze or coffee entirely from here on out, but I want to treat both categories as a “treat” kind of thing. I don’t need to have caffeine everyday and I don’t need to drink every weekend. Taking a step back from something let’s me really think about what it does for me and how I want to move forward. I know I am feeling better now than I was on December 31st. Little changes add up.

I’m happy with this start to the year and this start to my training. I have a good feeling about this one.

Winter Running Fixes

It’s no secret that training through a Chicago winter is tough. But if I’m being honest, winter is my favorite season to train in. I just think you have to be prepared.

1. Have people to meet.

I am way more likely to get up early on a cold Saturday morning if I’m going to meet friends. It’s so easy to cancel on yourself. You can just roll over, hit snooze, and say you’ll run later. In the summer I always want to go early to beat the heat, but that isn’t an issue in the winter. So, having a group or a few friends to meet is way more motivating.

2. Be flexible

If ice is bad on Saturday, run on Sunday. If you know a snowstorm will hit at the weekend, maybe run longer during the week. Weather is unpredictable during Chicago winters, but I try my best to plan my schedule so I can run safely and outdoors. I am not a treadmill person, so I’ll do whatever it takes to be outside. Most of the time, this requires me to be flexible.

3. Have the right gear.

I’ll expand more on this later, but having warm gear makes a huge difference for winter running. I swear by a wool base layer, fleece tights, wool socks, and proper shoes. You’ll want to keep your feet as comfortable as possible. When my feet are cold, my whole body is cold.

I’ve been running in the new Mizuno WAVEKNIT R2s recently and can attest that they fit wool socks nicely and do a good job of keeping my feet warm. Since they’re so light to start, they don’t feel as weighed down by snow or rain. Finding the right shoes is crucial for being a happy runner anytime of year.

4. Make your goals prominent.

I try to put motivation on my refrigerator so I see it every day. I write out my time goals, my goal race and put something up from the race itself. It motivates me to get outside when I see that in the morning before I go face the cold.

5. Sign up for a couple fun races.

I think a warm weather destination race is a great escape from winter. I usually go somewhere for a fun race in February for my birthday and I look forward to it through all my December/January training. I think I’m more motivated when I have a fun race in the future. Try it!

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

You remember that phrase “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you” ? I was getting ready for bed tonight and this popped into my head. I don’t agree with it. I think what you don’t know can hurt you.

And that’s coming from someone who struggles with anxiety. I can’t fall asleep most nights because I’m thinking of the 19184719 things that could happen the next day. Things I worry about, things that probably won’t happen. But it’s crazy to me how fast your situation can change – for better or worse.

I think there is a fine line between oversharing and sharing enough of the human side of yourself on Instagram. I try not to overshare. But I also think there’s something to be said for sharing real things that other people might be going through as a way to find authentic connection through a platform.

I’m not going to get into all the details of my personal health problems right now. The truth is, I still don’t have any answers yet. And I don’t really want to talk about the “what.” I want to talk about the “why.” Why fearing the unknown can feel as bad as having bad answers. Why not knowing what’s wrong can eat at me all day long, even when it shouldn’t.

I try to put things into perspective each day. I personally know so many people facing tough challenges. Life beats people up, good people who don’t deserve it. I feel other people’s feelings and I forever wish there was a button I could hit to take pain away from people I love. But there isn’t. And the more I think about it the more I think not knowing what the future holds is one of the scariest things.

I get the whole “just try not to worry about the future” idea. Relax. Be here. It sounds easy enough. But really, who can do that? I know I’m a worrier, but is there seriously anyone out there that never worries or has a negative thought or fear about the future? It’s hard for me to not think the worst. When I feel chest pain, I think heart problem. And then my anxiety makes it worse. I know this. But not having a concrete answer makes me crazy.

It’s not that I would want a whole life timeline, or to know exactly what would happen to me every day, but sometimes I wish answers were more clear.

This is rambl-y and doesn’t really have a point. Word vomit from a phone screen when I was too worked up to drift off to sleep. But sometimes I think words & feelings are worth sharing.

Basically, I think my point is, not knowing what’s next or not knowing what’s wrong can be exhausting. And if you’re just hanging in there, that’s okay.

I have to hang on to the idea that everything will be okay. For me, for you, for anyone who needs to hear it. Hang in there.

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