My Best Training Cycle Yet Thanks To My Run Group

It’s amazing to me how far you can come as a runner in just a few months. This is my fourth time going through a marathon training cycle, but the first one I’ve had a group for my long runs. Joining Fleet Feet’s Boston 365 program was the best decision I’ve made this year. 


I’ve always had running buddies. My friend Lex got me into running when we got to college and I started out doing all my runs with her. She got me through my first 20 miler and inspired me to run my first marathon. I couldn’t have done it without her and it made me realize how much a support system helps. 

The last couple marathon training cycles I trained alone for a majority of the time. I’m used to it. I usually raced alone and I like my own company. I still do. But when I moved to Chicago last February I wanted to meet some new people and find some running buddies, so I joined Fleet Feet Racing Team. 

I’ve been with the team on Wednesday nights doing speed workouts for over a year now and I can’t say enough how much it has helped with my overall speed. And I met girls and formed friendships that were just so much fun. Speed workouts are wayyy less fun alone. 

I heard about the Boston 365 group and was intrigued because I wanted to test out training for a marathon in the winter. Arielle (who I met through racing team) and I had one glass of wine when we met up in December and decided to both sign up for the Nashville Marathon and train with the Boston group. And we’re glad we did. 

I didn’t know what we’d find with the group, but here’s what I did:

Inspiration

Right off the bat everyone I met was inspiring. Everyone has a past, a story, a goal for the future. Whether it was running related or not, I felt myself wanting to chase new goals just from meeting new people. 

Understanding 

You know when you meet a group of people that just get you? They too know how hard it is to go out on a Friday night and pretend you’re having so much fun when all you’re thinking about is your 6 AM alarm and how you should be at home drinking water. We joke about it, but it honestly helps so much to have people that understand you and have the same problems. 

Motivation

Some days you just don’t feel like running, but when you have a constant group text going about who is running when (and how far), you find yourself wanting to get out the door. Having running buddies to hang out with while getting the miles in makes such a difference. 

Laughter

The stories shared during our runs are priceless. I find myself cracking up every week. Or when we’re done running and attempting to change and function like real adults but just can’t get it together. These women are funny and it makes all this training that much more fun.  

Confidence 

I didn’t have as high of hopes going into this as I should have. I had no idea I could run 20 miles at 8:06 average pace on crazy hills. I didn’t know my race pace would really become 7:50-8:00 average. But good things are happening. I wouldn’t have pushed myself as hard without this group. And the fact that we are all this fast and are chasing down Boston has given me the confidence I needed. We can do this. 

Friendship 

You bond when you spend 5 hours together every Saturday, running hills, sharing problems, giving advice. There’s something great about having uninterrupted time. I’ve called it “our Barrigton world.” We leave the real world for a bit to do what we love. Nothing beats it. Strangers have turned into friends. Friends who support me and encourage a weekly brunch habit. What more could I want??

I know this training cycle isn’t even over yet, but I already know it has been my best one and I have a really good feeling about this marathon. I’ve never run an entire marathon with anyone by my side, let alone women I’ve actually trained for months with. I’m confident in all of us and really think we can stick together and have fun while running our goal pace. Fingers crossed. 

So, if you’re thinking about joining a running group, I say go for it. Get out of your comfort zone. Make some friends. Push your training. I hope you’re as lucky as I am and find a group that offers you so much more than just people to run next to on Saturday mornings. I hope you find inspiration, understanding, motivation, laughter, confidence, and friendship. 

And to my new found badass friends, thank you. 

Nashville Marathon Training: Week Twelve (51.25 miles)

Highest mileage week of this training cycle yet! This week was tough. My legs are tired and I had a lot of work to put in, but I didn’t skip a single mile. I think the weeks I’m most proud of are the weeks I get in everything on the plan and I feel satisfied with my effort. Plans work for me. 

Here’s the weeks breakdown:

Monday – 6 miles

This run didn’t start until 8:30 PM. It wasn’t really what I had planned, but I didn’t get up with my alarm in the morning and I had a busy day. If I wasn’t training for this marathon I would have skipped this run, but my goals keep me accountable. I ran 2 miles on the treadmill while I waited for Kyle to get home from work and then we ran 4 together outside. I was so glad he joined me so it was safe to get outside. We had an 8:19 average pace and it was a fun way to end a Monday. 

Tuesday – 8 miles + Cycle class

I ran 8 miles right from work at 8:19 average pace again. I barely had time to sneak it in before my cycling class at Studio Three, but I made it work. I took Sayre’s Rave Ride with Kyle and it was so much fun. My legs surprisingly felt strong during class after the run. 

Wednesday – 9.25 miles (speed workout)

The Yasso 800 Test. It always scares me. I was dreading it all day because I wasn’t sure I was going to see improvements in my paces from last training cycle and I wasn’t looking forward to doing it alone, but I got out there anyway. It was windy and cold…not ideal, but I felt okay. My average pace for the 10 reps of 800 meters? 3:20. I was shocked. I literally teared up at the end of this run because I’m so proud of myself. It’s an amazing feeling to work hard and see improvement. 

1.50 mile warm up 

800 meter reps – 3:30, 3:20, 3:21, 3:24, 3:24, 3:18, 3:16, 3:15, 3:17, 3:14

1.38 mile cool down 

9.25 miles total at 7:43 average pace. I couldn’t have asked for a better speed workout. We’ll see if Yasso is right again and I run faster than a 3:33 marathon.

Thursday – Torch class (2 miles) + 6 miles

5:45 AM Torch class to start the day. Covered 2 miles during treadmill intervals plus the strength and rowing. I left class a little early so I could get the rest of my mileage in. 6 more easy miles along the lake and I was done for the day. Always love getting it done before work!

Friday – Rest day

A much needed complete, planned rest day. My legs NEEDED it. 

Saturday – 20 miles! (10 at GMP)

20 miles of Barrington hills at 8:06 average pace!! I’m still in awe of this run. It was pouring rain for a lot of the run. We were wet, tired, sore. The last 10 miles were at goal race pace: 7:50-8:00 average. It was tough. But we got it done. Seeing that 8:06 average pace for the entire run caused my jaw to drop. My hips were tight and I was ready to be done, but I was able to do it. And this was a training run. My race should be faster, right? It’s crazy to me how my easy pace and my long run pace have both gotten faster during this training cycle. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked, but I have a feeling it will pay off on race day. These hills have been some of the hardest hills I’ve ever run, but they’re the best way to prepare for the Nashville hills. 

Sunday – Cycle class + Yoga Flow 75

Sunday is my cross training day. Taking a cycling class and then a yoga class this evening. Planning on taking it easy and just stretching out my legs. Happy to end the week like this!

This week was a good one, a hard one, and a fun one. I’m constantly surprised by how much stronger my running is getting and I owe a lot of it to the Fleet Feet Boston 365 group. Making the decision to run a spring marathon and train with these athletes was one of my best decisions. I couldn’t be happier or more excited to take on Nashville with these girls in 5 weeks. 

Week 12 – 51.25 miles 

Nashville Marathon Training: Week Eleven (45 miles)

Another amazing week of preparing for the Nashville Marathon came and went. I’m getting so excited for race day. I’ve never felt this strong during a training cycle and I know all this hard work will be worth it.

Here’s the weekly breakdown:

Monday – 4 miles

4 quick miles at 8:38 average pace after work. I was supposed to run 9 miles today, but I couldn’t pull myself out of bed in the morning and had limited time for a run after work. Was it the mileage I was supposed to do? No. Was I mad about it? No. I never think it’s worth it to beat yourself up over missed runs or lower mileage. Get in what you can. A few miles is always better than zero miles.

Tuesday – Cycle class AM + 6.30 miles PM

It was snowing like crazy in Chicago so I opted for a 6 AM cycling class at Studio Three instead of a morning run. I wanted to get my miles in outside after work, but it was still really snowy and I decided the treadmill was a safer option. No need to risk an injury right now. Ran for one hour, 6.30 miles, 9:31 average pace. Sometimes easy recovery runs are actually my favorite. I just zoned out, listened to a podcast, and got the mileage in.

Wednesday – Torch class AM (2.1 miles) + 9.59 miles (speed work) PM

TOUGH DAY. I really pushed myself with both of these workouts. Totaled 11.69 miles for the day which is a lot during a weekday for me. I took a Torch class at Studio Three at 5:45 AM. Got in 2.1 miles during the treadmill intervals plus the 40 minutes of rowing and strength circuits. Always a tough workout, but such a great way for me to get strength training in. Then I had my speed workout with the group after work. The workout was 10 minute reps at 10-15 seconds faster than marathon pace with 5 minute recovery jogs in between reps. Warm up + cool down. Ended up being 9.59 miles at 8:09 average. 10 minute rep average paces: 7:42, 7:34, 7:27. Really happy with our speed during this one. We just chit chatted during it and didn’t even feel like we were running very fast…that’s the best kind of workout.

Thursday – Rest day

I moved my rest day to today instead of Friday because Wednesday kicked my butt. I woke up feeling so tired and so sore and knew I needed to take the rest. It’s so worth it to listen to your body.

Friday – 6 miles AM + Cycle class PM

Normally I wouldn’t do another double workout day on a Friday before a long run, but I made an exception. I cut my run down from 8 miles to 6 miles and got it done before work. I felt relaxed and kept my pace at 8:40 average. Then I took an evening cycling class at Studio Three with Kyle. He suggested going for date night and I love that he’s wanting to go to classes, so we went. I took it easy…didn’t put my resistance up as high as I usually do. And we had so much fun. We were practically singing and dancing during class. It was worth it!

Saturday – 17 miles in Barrington!

Another amazing long run done with my Boston group around Barrington. We averaged an 8:14 pace and had a blast. The weather was mild and we all were happy to be there. It’s so nice to get out of the city for awhile and lose yourself in the run. These hills are brutal, but they’re prepping us for the hills in Nashville. I always think I’m going to need to slow down, but I really don’t. My long run pace has gotten much faster this year, but so will my race pace. I know these long runs are getting me where I want to be. And they really are so much fun!

Sunday – Cycle class + Yoga Flow 75

My favorite way to spend my cross training day. Took a cycling class at 4 PM and then took Yoga Flow at 5:15 PM. It’s a great combo. I leave the studio feeling so relaxed, renewed, and ready for a new week of training. This cross training has helped my training this cycle SO much.

I missed a few miles this week, but I’m still happy with the 45 total. I am working much harder than I used to during training and I think it’s okay if my mileage is a little lower. I’m shocked at how quickly these weeks have been going by, but I’m ready to get to that start line. We’re 6 weeks out.

Week 11 = 45 miles

Race Recap: Get Lucky Half Marathon (March 11th, 2017)

I’ve run the Get Lucky 21K the past three years and I have to say it is one of my favorite spring races. It’s low key, easy to get to, and well run. In 2015 and 2016 we had beautiful 50 degree days, but this year? Not so much.

It was 19 degrees with a real feel of 6 at the start. I ran 2.5 miles to the start line to get some of my mileage in before hand and I spent the whole warm up dreading the race. My hands were cold. My face was cold. And the wind was craaaaazy.

I tried to adjust my attitude at the start line. I love racing. I should be excited, right? I didn’t really set expectations for myself. I knew a PR would be tough on my tired legs, but I always get this adrenaline rush during races that gives me some speed.

The first 6.5 miles flew by. I was cruising. All of my miles were 7:30 or faster. I felt confident I was actually going to PR easily…and then I hit the turn around.

WIND IN YOUR FACE. I had tears blowing out of my eyes instantly. The wind was insane. I felt like I was sprinting, but getting no where. I was hoping that it would die down after a mile or two, but no such luck.

I wasn’t even really checking my watch for the entire second half. I felt like I had slowed down a lot, but I wasn’t sure if that was just the effect of the wind or if I really had. I’ll be honest, I just wanted to get to that finish line.

I felt so bad for the volunteers too. They were frozen. There were ice chunks in the water it was so cold. And my hands were too numb to open my pack of chews, so I didn’t have anything throughout the race. That didn’t help either.

At mile 9 I lost all feeling in my left hand. It really freaked me out. I was trying to massage it with my other hand and shake some blood into it, but it wasn’t working. It was distracting and concerning and was my slowest mile of the race (7:52).

I decided to just ignore it because what else could I do? I had less than 3 miles to go and I knew I just had to get there. I had no idea what my time would be or how fast I needed to run to PR, but I didn’t really care. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

I did pick up my pace the last few miles (7:20 average) even though it didn’t feel like it. I crossed that finish line at 1:38:59. 7:34 average pace. Missing my PR by 16 seconds. 16 SECONDS?!

I was bummed for a minute. I thought wow I should have checked my watch and tried harder those last few miles, but the truth is I gave what I had. I was not having fun. The wind was absolutely brutal and I just wanted to be done. And this time is nothing to scoff at. I have to be proud of my hard work. I battled the elements after another hard week of marathon training (7 quick miles the night before) and hadn’t been putting pressure on myself to PR.

I was proud. This pace is kind of my sweet spot for half marathons and I’m not sure when I’ll break it, but I’m in no hurry. I’m training to PR my marathon right now, not my half. I will try to break it sometime when I’m in a half marathon training cycle, but right now I’m enjoying the higher mileage and focusing on another Boston Qualifying time.

 I have to give a shout out to my support system. My parents and Kyle were waiting at the finish line with hand warmers, an extra jacket, and food. I was able to get right in the car and warm up and I can’t say how happy that made me. I’d be nothing without their support! 23rd half marathon and they’ll still show up…that’s love. 

Overall, I still love the Get Lucky race, I’m proud of my performance, and I’ll be back next year hoping it’s a 50 degree day again. 

 

Nashville Marathon Training: Week Ten (39.11 miles)

Only seven weeks left in this training cycle!! I was very thankful for a drop down week this week. My body was craving it. I missed some miles, but I got in what I could and enjoyed the little bit of a “break.” Plus it was a race week, so lower mileage earlier in the week was a good thing for my legs.

Here’s what the week looked like:

Monday – 3.1 miles

I didn’t have a lot of time in the morning before conference day two, but I had to get in a short run to explore DC at least a little bit. Managed to fit in 3.1 miles. Ran downhill on the way out and uphill the entire way back. Extra hills are always a good idea if you ask me. DC is beautiful and I wish I could have run for longer, but I did what I could!

Tuesday – 5 miles

Met up with Carly after work and we ran 2.5 miles to an event and then ran another 2.5 mile “fun run” there. The pace was pretty slow, but it was nice to log some easy miles. Again, not the mileage I was supposed to hit, but 5 miles is better than nothing!

Wednesday – Torch Class (1/2) AM + 8.11 miles PM (speed work)

I showed up to my 5:45 AM Torch class, but my body was not having it. I was exhausted from my travel and the long weekend and not feeling great. I decided to just do one rowing section and one strength section after the warm up. So, approximately a 33 minute workout and then I left. I knew I had my speed workout after work too and I’m trying not to burn myself out. I really didn’t need the extra miles during class and I was happy with the decision. After work, it was mile repeats. Talk about wind. It was really tough, but we got in 4 repeats at 7:27, 7:16, 7:02, 7:12. With warm up and cool down it was 8.11 miles. So, 8.41 miles for the day with my little treadmill warm up from class in the morning. Lots of work today! Strong speed workouts give me hope for strong marathons.

Thursday – Cycle Class PM

I moved my run to Friday, but still wanted to take a cycling class at Studio Three for March Madness. Went with Kyle and Cara. Class is always more fun with workout buddies. Kyle and I are in March Madness which means we’re matched up against another couple and the couple with the higher average power score moves on. We aren’t sure if we did better yet, but even though I highly doubt we did, I’m glad we signed up. I scored a 303, which is strong for me. We will see what happens!

Friday – 7 miles

I normally wouldn’t have run 7 miles at 8:11 average pace the night before a half marathon, but when Kati is in town and wants some company for a long run, I’m there. I joined her for 7 miles of her 12 and it was SO nice to catch up. Miles truly fly by with good company. Pace felt easy. It was cold and windy, which was a nice preview for the morning, but we had fun.

Saturday – Get Lucky Half Marathon (13.1 miles) + 2.5 miles warm up

Race day! I ran 2.5 miles to the start line as a warm up so I would hit 15.60 miles for the day. I wasn’t exactly sure I was going to race this half, but I felt like my legs had some speed. The wind was brutal. It was so so cold. I will write a separate race recap, but I ended up finishing with a time of 1:38:59. 7:34 average pace. Missed my PR by about 16 seconds, but it was still a very strong race for me. I’ll take it!

Sunday – Cycle Class + Yoga Flow 75

Sunday is my cross training day, which means multiple hours spent at Studio Three – the place to be. 4 PM cycle class with Sayre and Yoga Flow 75 with Katy on the agenda for this afternoon. My tired legs need to get flushed out and then stretched out, that’s for sure. My favorite way to end a hard week of work.

Week 8 =  39.11 miles 

I didn’t take a complete rest day this week, which wasn’t really on purpose, but it worked out for me. Too much I wanted to do this week! My schedule can get a little crazy and I know I’m juggling a lot, but my body is responding well. If it doesn’t? (Like on Wednesday morning) I listen. Doing what is right for your body is so important throughout training.

Nashville Marathon Training: Week Nine (43.25 miles)

Nine weeks down, eight to go. These weeks are flying by, but this week was tough for my tired legs. All of these miles and cross training classes are a little exhausting, but I just have to keep pushin’ until it’s taper time. I know it will get here even more quickly than I think.

Here’s my week breakdown:

Monday – Torch Class AM (2 miles) + 5 miles PM

5:45 AM Torch class at Studio Three to kick off week nine of training. Covered 2 miles of running during treadmill intervals plus strength and rowing. Saved my last 5 miles for after work so I could run on the treadmill during The Bachelor. It was a good way to keep my pace easy and just log the miles.

Tuesday – Core Yoga Class + 4 miles AM

One hour yoga class at ENRGi with a focus on core directly followed by 4 easy miles. I barely had time to squeeze this all in before work, but I made it happen. I love yoga classes so much more than I used to. I still don’t feel particularly flexible or strong during them, but I know it has helped my recovery throughout this training cycle so much.

Wednesday – Cycle Class AM + 4.25 miles PM (speed work)

6 AM cycling class at Studio Three…with Kyle! He wanted to go all on his own and I was happy to have a buddy in the morning. Then after work I had my Racing Team speed workout. It was shorter mileage than what I was supposed to do on my Boston group plan, but I wanted to participate in the relay and get to know people. Three 800 meter reps with a looong rest in between, plus a warm up and cool down to bring me 4.25 miles. A shorter speed workout this week was probably good for my legs anyways. Feelin’ very tired lately.

Thursday – Target 6 Strength Class + 7 miles

Took a strength class at ENRGi before my run. I like doing strength before running because my legs feel more tired and I have to slow down my pace for my run. I’ve been trying really hard to keep my easy pace easy and this is a good way to make sure I do so. Came home after class and did 7 miles on the treadmill because I didn’t feel like running in the dark alone later at night. I don’t love treadmill running, but I’m happy it’s there when I need it.

Friday – Cycle Class AM

Switched my cross training to Friday since I knew I was going to be at a conference out of town all day on Sunday and wouldn’t be able to get to the studio. And this meant I got to take Dani’s First Friday class which I really wanted to do. 45 minutes without any arms or choreography…just intervals. Most of class was a pattern of a 3 minute climb, 1 minute sprint. 4 minute climb, 2 minute sprint, etc. It was such a great class!

Saturday – 21 miles!

This long run was a true test of my mental strength. I had to run solo before I caught a flight to DC and this meant early AM on icy roads. I found a 1.35 mile loop that was relatively ice-free and round and round I went. I listened to podcasts, kept my pace easy, and tried to zone out. I was surprised by how quickly it went by. It was cold and it was a hilly route, so it wasn’t as “easy” as I would have wanted, but I got it done. Average pace of 8:41. First 20+ mile run of this training cycle done. Two big ones left to go.

Sunday – Rest day

I took Sunday as my complete rest day this week since I was in DC and had an all day conference. It was nice to not have to worry about working out, even though I was wishing I had some time to explore with a run. My legs were happy for the rest though!

Week 8 = 43.25 miles 

Onto week ten! Marathon training life is the best kind of life. 🙂

Race Recap: Sedona Half Marathon (February 4th, 2017)

My first race of 2017 was the Sedona Half Marathon and I could not have asked for a more perfect start to this year’s racing season. I honestly loved every second, even though it was far from easy.

I’ve decided to make birthday “runcations” my thing. I live in Chicago so a February birthday isn’t always the most fun, but in 2016 I decided to look up a race in a different state for my birthday weekend. I found the Tybee Run Fest in Georgia, convinced my boyfriend to go with me, and booked the weekend. I got to add a new state to my 50 state quest, enjoy warmer weather, and do what I love most on a day celebrating myself. So, of course I decided to do it again this year.

For my 24th birthday weekend I chose Sedona as my “runcation” destination. I signed up for the half marathon and Kyle signed up for the 5K. We took a few days off work, got on a plane, and prepared to spend our days actively exploring a new state. We arrived to the expo just in time on Friday. It was a relatively small and stress free expo. We were in and out in 10 minutes and ready to race the next day.

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t really look at the course map ahead of time or worry about altitude. My Dad texted me the night before the race to say good luck and not to take it too fast because I wouldn’t be used to the altitude and I thought….oh no. It’s probably better I didn’t worry about it too much ahead of time, but this little reminder made me nervous. What could I do except give it my best?

We were able to walk to the start line from our hotel. It was 39 degrees at the start. I was torn on wearing a long sleeve or short sleeve, but ultimately I went with long since I was worried about getting sunburned (and it was a good call).

I felt inspired at this start line. I took a look around before the gun went off and thought “wow I am so lucky to be here running this race today.” I was feeling grateful and excited – even after the woman next to me told me to get ready for the hilliest race of my life. The hilliest race?! I thought I misheard her. I was prepared for hills. But I hadn’t mentally prepared myself for THE HILLIEST race I’d ever run. Again, what could I do at that point except give it my best?


I started out easy. I didn’t set any expectations for myself in regards to my overall time or my average pace. I wanted to enjoy the race and end with a smile – that’s it. I was distracted by the views from the first minute. Sedona is absolutely beautiful. The hills brought my focus back to the race at hand, but the views were an amazing distraction throughout.

I saw barefoot runners, cowboy hat runners, moccasin runners, and runners from every age group. The number one reason I like races with a turn around is for the people watching. I love the running community for how diverse it is. I’m constantly inspired by the people around me. And turning around at the half way point allowed me to high five some amazing runners. Thankfully, there was a different route back so it wasn’t a true out and back course which I was happy about (since it meant seeing more of this beautiful place).


The first 8 miles were hilly, but I felt relaxed. Nothing I hadn’t conquered before. And I was running at around an 8 minute average pace comfortably. I wish someone had warned me that mile 10-11 was basically entirely uphill. I guess a warning wouldn’t have made it any easier, but dang I was shocked. I used my arms, lifted my knees (sang Arielle’s hill song in my head), and took it one minute at a time. FINALLY the hill ended and I tried to get my breathe under control. I knew I didn’t have much distance left to cover.

Mile 12 flew by. My breathing eased back to normal, I picked up my speed, and focused on the end in sight. I pride myself on fast finishes. No matter how my race goes I want to have enough left in the tank to push my pace for the last mile or so and finish strong. And I did that in Sedona. I passed quite a few people up the last hill and last half mile. Yes, the last half mile to the finish line was straight uphill. Kyle was right before the finish cheering me on and I crossed that line with the biggest smile on my face. Strong.

Almost immediately after getting my medal a man I had passed at the end came up to me and said, “What a finish. I tried to catch you that whole last part and just couldn’t. You’re impressive.” His comment made my day. I know validation from other people doesn’t make me think more of a race or my effort, but the fact that he noticed my effort and sought me out to compliment me really made me feel the warm and fuzzies.

Results were in:

Finishing time: 1:43:20. 7:53 average pace.
1st place age group of 66. 16th woman of 966. 43rd finisher out of 1472. 


I worked hard this race, but I didn’t let the hills or altitude make me enjoy it any less. If anything, the challenge made it even more fun. I love a challenge, after all. I did conserve my energy just in case, but I really didn’t need to. I felt great during this entire 13.1 miles (okay except maybe mile 10-11). I had fun.

What did I learn this race? Hills are my jam. I know how to finish a race. I am happiest when exploring new places on foot. I am forever grateful I found a sport I love that brings me such joy year after year, race after race.


And maybe the best part? I get a free entry in 2018 for my first place finish, so I’ll be back! Thanks for an amazing event, Sedona Marathon.


 

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