Monday, August 29, 2011

The final 21

Saturday, I headed out for my final 20+ miler in my 16-week training plan for the Quad Cities Marathon.  Before I get into details, let me just say... It went AWESOME!!  I felt like a damn rock star afterward!  I can't even imagine the feelings I will experience crossing that finish line on September 25.

Pre-run fuel!
My long runs this summer have been sporadic.  Some were well-planned and executed as training runs.  Others were just feeble efforts to squeeze miles into a busy summer schedule.  The whole point of these long runs is to "practice" for the big day, and I haven't been doing that appropriately.  This past weekend, we had a clear calendar, so I zoned in on my final BIG ONE before the taper.  On Thursday, I mapped out my course, dividing it into three legs.  On Friday, I conceded to the rest day, despite the urge to run.  I relaxed and mentally focused myself for the run.  I fed my body well with an awesome pasta dinner and homemade garlic bread.  And oh, the water I drank!

The newly opened Kellar branch trail
After a good night's sleep, I woke up to a quick shower before I headed out.  (I've found that a cool shower not only wakes me up, but by getting my hair wet, it keeps my head cool for hours on the run.)  I started down the first leg of my run just past 6am.  I ran this stretch of the Kellar branch trail earlier in the week with Little Girl.  Amazingly how easy it felt without the jogging stroller!  I circled through Peoria Heights and enjoyed the beautiful views along Prospect, overlooking the Illinois River.
Leg 1 complete.... 7.42 miles in 1:18 (10:30 pace)

I stopped back at my car to refuel, hydrate, grab my ipod, and a headband change.  The next 2.5 miles were fairly quiet, as this portion of the Rock Island trail is far under-utilized.  I wouldn't call it hilly, but it certainly is rolling.  One of daughter's favorite parts of this trail is the tunnel.  It goes under the Interstate and is very dark and cool!  Sometimes even spooky!  Thankfully, this morning I had a biker behind me with a headlight.

Once I got near the Rock Island trailhead, I suddenly had lots of company.  It was a perfect summer morning with temps in the low 70's.  There were groups of cross country kids, women walking, families on bikes and a hefty share of other runners.  I haven't run this portion of the Rock Island trail in at least a month, and I was immediately happy that I included in the day's long run.  The miles ticked off quickly.  As I hit the 11 mile mark of my run, I was happy with how good my body felt... and thankful for proper fueling the night before.  Last week's GI issues were harsh on the run!!

I hit my turnaround in Dunlap and decided instead to do a loop around the town, which made my 20 into a 21 miler.  That's the thing about an out and back... you always feel good at the "out" point, it's the "back" that kills you!
Leg 2 complete... 6.77 miles in 1:14  (10:55 pace)

The way back went pretty smoothly, despite the gradual incline of this direction.  I focused on making it back to the trailhead, where I could refill my handheld bottle at the water fountain.  Again, all the activity on the trail took my mind off the distance I was running.  As I neared the trailhead, there was a mass of Boy and Girl Scouts on the trail doing some sort of race.  It was so cute... I had little 6-8 year olds cheering me on, telling me that I "looked good" and to "keep going".  Yeah, you have no idea!

The final miles back to my car, the TOUGH began to set in.  The trees opened up and I lost the shade that was keeping me cool.  The sun had warmed up by now (hit 81˚ by time I was done).  I started to really sweat in the open stretches of the trail, and those rolling hills that I mentioned earlier made my quads scream.  But I pushed on.  When I saw the final stretch and my car awaiting up ahead, I sprinted it out.  Who knew?  I still had gas!
Leg 3 complete... 6.77 miles in 1:17  (11:22 pace)

I literally jumped for joy!  This run felt really really good, both physically and mentally.  I can totally do this marathon thing.  As EMZ would say, I so freakin' got this!!

I mixed up my Gotein drink, swallowed a banana whole, stretched out my legs and headed home for an ice bath.  The next morning, my legs felt so darn good that I ventured out for a 4 mile recovery run.  It's good.  It's all good.  :)

Hello TAPER!!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Restless waiting for 20

This morning I was up at 5:30am.  I sat with my coffee, looking longingly out the window... I want to run.

It was a perfect morning, still dark, but crystal clear skies with temps in the low 60's.  I want to run.

The kiddos and hubby were still fast asleep. I could run forever since hubby has off-work today.  Oh, man... I want to run!  

Knowing that my girls B&D were out there logging miles made it hard to stay put.  I want to join them.  I want to run!

Unfortunately, today is REST DAY.  Tomorrow morning is my last big 20 miler.  I want it to be strong.  I need it to go smooth to give me the confidence going into the taper.  So I made the difficult, but right decision, to stay in my pajamas.

The day's temperatures have warmed up now, so the craving to run has lost momentum.  Now I turn my attention to the work at hand today...
• Plan your route (check!)
• Hydrate
• Cook a healthy pasta dinner... looking at some recipes & then off to the grocery store.
• Relax this evening, read a little for motivation, and then hit the hay early.

One thing is for sure... I'm going to be bouncing down that trail in the morning!  I find it somewhat humorous (or demented?!?) that I'm so excited to run 20 miles.  I'm on the home stretch of marathon training.  It's been a long summer, and for the first time ever, I'm happy and compliant to taper.

Do you like Rest Days?  or do you fight them?
What's your running goals this weekend?  Anyone racing??

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thirteen for Thursday

Sorry, I've been a horrible blogger this week.  To bring you up to speed, the typical "Three for Thursday" just won't do... so here's to Lucky 13, short and sweet!

1.  My first born, aka Big Girl, turned 5 years old this week!  Oh, dear, where are the days, weeks, years going?!  I get really emotional around my children's birthdays.  There is so much I want to do with them in these early years, and never enough time (or energy!)

2.  We went camping this past weekend to celebrate Big Girl's birthday.  Friends and family joined us to make it a pretty special weekend... and of course Yogi Bear too!

3.  While camping, I rolled out of the camper at 5:30am and got my long run done.  The plan was 16; however, I went 17.5 miles.  I had some stomach issues on the back half of the run (bad fueling the night before, I know better!), but the legs felt great.  It was a much-need confidence boost on the ole psych.

4.  The days are getting shorter... which means DARK mornings.  I don't mind a little darkness, but when the entire hour is run in the dark... well, it's just not a whole lot of fun.  The flip side is that I'm getting really comfortable running without music.  (I can't forgo ALL my senses on the run... so I ditch the ipod on the dark runs.)

5.  Big Girl started Kindergarten! I thought I'd be a total mess on the first day, but instead I was pretty excited.  She was beaming from ear to ear, so eager to jump on that bus!  Unfortunately, Little Girl has not dealt with her big sister's sudden absence so well.  She cries every morning as the bus pulls away...

6.  I'm only 30 days out from my first marathon!!  Holy smokes!  Again, where has the summer gone?  In week 12 of training, I'm finding it hard to stay focused (especially with so many other things going on in life!)

7.  Yesterday, I set a new record for my longest STROLLER run ever.  Pushing that thing is no joke, and yesterday, Little Girl and I went 7.5 miles.  By time we were done, it had already hit 90 degrees.  I don't have to tell you I was sweating hard!

8.  Maybe I missed my calling as an interior designer?!?  This week, I went crazy and remodeled Big Girl's bedroom.  I've been promising a "rock star" room for months now.  So we locked her bedroom door this weekend and on her birthday was the big reveal.  She was beyond thrilled with the outcome...

9.  A new section of a run/bike trail opened up here in Peoria.  As a runner, you know how exciting this is!!  Can you say sweet smooth pavement with no traffic interruption?!?!  Yesterday morning I checked out one portion, and another part in the evening.  And this weekend for my final 20 miler, I'll be putting them all together!  I'm kinda excited for my last 20 miler... Taper, here I come!

10.  I just registered to run a Half Marathon Relay on Sept. 10.  I would have done the whole Half myself, but it's 2 weeks before my marathon... I was afraid the hilly course would burn up my legs.  Did you hear that... me doing a HILLY race!  My friend Toby and I are both Libras on the zodiac, so we're calling ourselves the "Lightning Libras!"  The race is put on by the local running club... which means small in number, lower entry fee, nicer perks like a hooded sweatshirt and a potluck picnic afterwards.  Sounded like too much fun to pass up.

11.  Good Luck to all the Hood-to-Coast runners!!  Especially the nuun blogger teams.  I'm excited to follow their progress this weekend and of course, all the race recaps to follow.

12.  I'm getting close to finalizing my race outfit for the marathon.  You should know that this is almost just as important as the actual run training!  This should give you a little bit of a hint...

13.  How are you doing on the August Spin® Challenge?  If you're a Spin® Virgin, you still have time to sneak in your first class and grab a prize!  More details here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Photo Contest

You write the caption to this photo...

Best caption gets a "Fast Girls Have Good Times" bumper sticker.
Winner will be posted in next week's Wordless Wednesday, 8/24.

** Steve Martin attempts to grab Flash **
submitted by trailrunningchick
Did you even notice the Steve Martin lookalike behind Flash! 
I didn't until I read trailrunningchick's caption.
(Winner-Winner... email your mailing address to

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Race Recap: Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half

Photo: ASI Photo

I have such mixed feelings after the Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon last Sunday.  I set no time goal and went into it telling myself to just have fun... and I did!  Yet I'm left feeling disappointed.  My finish time of 2:09:55 ranks 4th out of the 5 half marathons I've completed.  For some reason, I just assumed I'd be able to cruise to a better time than that... while still having fun. Oh-well, chalk it up in the books and let's just call it a fun Sunday run!

We arrived in Chicago Friday around noon and headed straight to the race expo.  This was by far the best, most entertaining, race expo I've ever attended!!  In fact, it may just be the highlight of the weekend for me.  

We walked the red carpet...

Posed for fun pictures...

Participated in all the fun interactive stuff...

My Big Girl worked out with XSport Fitness for almost an hour!

The Brooks Run Happy Cavalcade of Curiosities Tour put on a quite a neat show.  I hopped on the treadmill and had my running gait analyzed.  The trainer did a great job of answering my 101 questions.  We scored cool prizes and the little circus show entertained my children immensely.

Four hours later, we scored a LOT of swag and samples...  

On Saturday, I should have relaxed, but instead we spent a fun day at the Brookfield Zoo.  Halfway through the day, a thunderstorm came through and we had to run our way out.
My favorite is always the giraffes.

The night before the race we moved into the Congress Hotel, right across the street from Grant Park and the start/finish line.  The hotel was completely buzzing with giddy racers everywhere.  So fun!  In the morning, I did a warmup loop around Grant Park, stretched and found my corral #7 with ease.  The race started right on time .  The start was crazy... so many people!

Photos Source
But isn't Chicago's skyline gorgeous!?!?  I must admit I didn't really have time to "sightsee" much on the run.  The course was packed the entire 13 miles, and I really had to concentrate on where I was stepping.  I let the congestion roll off my back in this race... I slowed and let runners by that seemed to be overly-anxious. I chatted with runners along the way.  I gave a fist-pump to every band along the way... and high five's to the hundreds of spectators with outstretched hands.  In fact, I was so pre-occupied that I forgot to take a mid-run GU until mile 8.

Photo: ASI Photo

Decked out from head to toe in turquoise blue (even my fingers and toes!), I got lots of compliments on the outfit.  Thanks to Team Sparkle for loaning me the traveling skirt!

I checked my watch at the 10K split (6.2 miles) and was pleased to see 1:00 on the nose (9:40 pace).  I never looked at my wrist again.   Unfortunately, I slowed down after the halfway point, despite a last mile push...
Am I working it or what?!?!  Finish Line in sight!
Thanks Tracy for the picture!

My race splits...
5K - 29:31 - 9:30 pace
10K - 1:00:10 - 9:40 pace
10 mile - 1:38:51 - 9:53 pace

 Finish 2:09:55 - 9:55 pace
Overall  #6412 out of 15,259  (42%)
Females  #3034 out of 9480  (32%)
Age Divison  #416 out of 1355  (30%)

Half Marathon #5 is in the bag!

Monday, August 15, 2011

North Face Endurance Challenge - Race Entry Giveaway!

Click Here to Register for The North Face Endurance Challenge I'm so excited, I don't know where to start!  Today I have the privilege to offer one lucky reader a FREE RACE ENTRY into the...

Madison, Wisconsin
September 17-18, 2011

With seven race distances - 5k to 50 miles - the Endurance Challenge offers an ideal course for not only elite speedsters, but also those taking their first strides in the world of trail running. Whether you run for the fun, the fitness, or the challenge, the two-day outdoor event offers a great excuse to get their friends and families out to enjoy the spectacular resources in my home state of Wisconsin.

I have always put the Madison area on a high pedestal, calling it the coolest city in the Midwest!  The race is located in the southern reaches of picturesque Kettle Moraine State Park, which I backpacked through during my college years.  A large portion of the course takes place on the renowned Ice Age Trail... Remember, I ran part of the Ice Age Trail back in June <here>.

Check out the video highlight...

To make it even more appealing, you'll be among world-class endurance athletes... like Dean Karnazes himself!!  Karnazes, who recently completed his Run Across America is the host of the North Face® Endurance Challenge and will be at the starting line of each distance and hand out medals at the finish.  He will also lead the Kids' Race each day.  Also confirmed is North Face® Global Athlete Tim Twietmeyer, who will run the highly competitive Gore-Tex 50 mile distance.

Are you completely pumped up for this yet??  OMG, I am!  Unfortunately, with my first marathon the following weekend, I can't compete.  But you can... for FREE... right here!

How to enter the
North Face® Endurance Challenge
Race Entry Giveaway... 
Winner will be selected via on Monday, August 22 at 9am CST.  You may enter by completing any of the below.  Be sure to leave a comment below for each that you complete.  Yes, you can earn up to 9 entries!

1.  Comment below and tell me which race distance you'd like to do...  5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon,  50K, Gore-Tex 50 Mile

2.  Like the North Face Endurance Challenge on Facebook.  <here>

3.  Follow the North Face Endurance Challenge on Twitter.  <here>

4.  Like Run with Jess on Facebook.  <here>

5.  Follow Run with Jess on Twitter.  <here>

6.  Be a follower of the Run with Jess blog via Google Friend Connect.  Just click the "Join this Site" button in the right sidebar of this page.

7.  Share information about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook and/or Twitter (1 entry for each).


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wordless Wednesday + Winner!

You write the caption to this photo...

Best caption wins a sample packet of GU Electrolyte Brew - Lemon Lime.
Winner will be posted next Wednesday, 8/17

(as chosen by my hubby, who claims to have the best sense of humor ever!)
I said I wanted to run a "Hipper" race!!!
submitted by Amanda
Hey Amanda, email me your mailing address!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Obstacles & Distractions

OBSTACLES... Thumbs Down! 
You know I kinda dig obstacle races (see here), but not before I even start running.  Last weekend, the challenge was just making the long run happen...
Running it was the easy part.

• The muscles had been sore in my legs all week.  An oddly long recovery from the previous week's 18, plus a encounter with TurboFire gave me some unwelcome shin splints.  I lightened up the miles during the week in order to hit my Saturday long run.

• The first weekend of every month is Guard weekend... that means my military hubby has to work 12 days in a row.  It's rough on our little family, and makes fitting in my long run really difficult.

•  Scheduled babysitter cancels the day before my long run... making me frantically call around for options.  Seriously people, you don't get it... I really NEED to run!  I literally break down crying because I'm so stressed over it.  Thankfully, my neighbor down the street offers to watch the kids at the crazy hour of 6:30am.

• My car breaks down on Friday.  The girls and I come out of the gym and ... nothing.  Starter is completely shot.  Again, mommy breakdown in the parking lot.  Thankfully, a mechanical co-worker of my hubby's comes to the rescue, replaces the starter and has me up and running by dinnertime.

• Did I mention my beloved ipod shuffle died from rain damage?  No problem, I have my new nano that I never use.  After a day of charging, nothing.  That one is down for the count too.  I have no problem running without music, but last week's 18 sucked without it.  By now, my hubby will do about anything to get me to stop crying... He offers up his ipod... reset, erase and load my playlist on it.  Lifesaver!  (A new ipod is ordered and on its way...)

Once I got out for my long run Saturday morning, my luck turned around.  (Ok, not entirely, I forgot my SportShield and ended with some nasty underarm chaffe!)   I breezed through the first 10 miles, picked up my friend Anna who joined me for 6, and then capped off the run with another 3+change.
19.1 miles   |   3:35   |   11:05 pace

This week the weather forecast is perfect for running.  Temps in the low 60's every morning.... and a RACE on my horizon!  The Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon is only 5 days away!!  I won a free entry into this race, and the 13 mile run fit perfectly into my marathon training plan.  Honestly, I haven't thought about it much... August is typically brutal hot in Chicago and I thought for sure it would get black-flagged.  Weather is looking perfect (for a PR) and now I find myself wishing I had done more speed intervals the past couple weeks.

During my early run this morning, I felt myself getting pumped up about the race.  More importantly, I'm super excited for a mini vacation to Chicago with my family!!  We love that city and together-time is needed for us before the chaos of school starts.

Does your training ever stress you out?
What do you use as a "distraction"?
Have you signed up for the Spin® Challenge yet??

Thursday, August 4, 2011

3 Things Thursday

1.  BROKEN... but not defeated.  This last month has been challenging.  The outrageous heat and humidity have really gotten to me, day in and day out.  Finally the Midwest is getting a break.  I woke this morning to 66˚ at 5am.  I think it may be the first time our low was in the 60's since maybe June.  It made for a heavenly 6.5 mile run, reminding me of all the reasons I love to run so much.

RIP little guy.  You've been an
awesome running partner!
My run in the thunderstorm last Friday killed my beloved pink ipod.  It will take a charge, but won't play the music.  I'm heartbroken.  That little thing has been with me in every single race since I started running two years ago.  I have other options (my nano or my iphone), but I'm really attached to that little guy... It's so hard to say good bye.  :(

Another trusty companion, the treadmill in my cool basement has gone down once again.  I forked out over $600 in repairs on the monster this past spring.  I was hoping it would carry us another couple years.  So many things to save up for lately, I have a feeling it may not get replaced or fixed.  :(

2.  DECISIONS.  I really want to nail a sub-2 half marathon before the year ends.  I've waffled all over the place on which one to do.  Nothing seems perfect... date conflicts, hills, too expensive, blah, blah... But I'm 95% sure that the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 5 will be "the one" for me.  It's flat as a pancake, cool weather and I've read great reviews on it.  It will add another state to my list.  Plus one of my BFF's just relocated to Indy, so it will hopefully provide me an opportunity to catch up with her too.  The only downfall is my hubby can't come... but my momma can!

Psst... Are there any Indiana bloggers out there?!

3.  DO IT ALREADY!  Step outside your comfort zone this month... and into the air conditioned gym.  Join the August SPIN® CHALLENGE!!  Sign up here.  Free to join & prizes to win!  I really want to hear some newbies tackling their first Spinning® class.  Stay tuned... next week I'll have more posts to "convince you" that Spinning® really is the best cross-train ever for runners!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

You write the caption to this photo...

Best caption gets a "Fast Girls Have Good Times" bumper sticker.
Winner will be chosen on Friday, 8/5.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Let's Talk Boobs

Everyone likes boobs... everyone but ME on a long run.  (Fellas, you have no idea how lucky you are to run shirtless in summer.)

Ever since my long run reached the 16-18-20 digits, I've had major problems around the chest and back.  My long runs end with chaffing, or sweat rash, even sores, around my rib cage.

Chaffing results from friction between the skin and your clothing fabric.  There are three main causes when it comes to the sports bra arena... (source)

1.  Wearing a size too big.  If the band of the sports bra around your rib cage is too loose, it moves on the run.  This friction causes the red rash.  Over great lengths of time (like 4 hour long run!?), the rash can result in an abrasion of the skin.  When you do trunk twists, the band of the sports bra should not move left to right with you.  If it does, you need a smaller band size.  I'm still wearing the same sports bras from 40 lbs ago, so this is probably part of my problem.
Abrasions on my back from last weekend's long run.
Sorry guys, no front views!  :)

2. Trapped Moisture.  The insane heat of this summer is not helping the booby cause either.  After just a couple miles, my clothes are soaked to the bone.  One rule of thumb here... COTTON is the enemy.  Certain fabrics (like cotton) trap moisture, rather than pulling the sweat away from your skin.  That's why many runners also trade underwear for spandex when they run.  Ever have sweat rash on your panty line?  Painful!  You should always wear a sports bra made out of wicking fabric to encourage quick evaporation of your sweat.  My bras are all wicking material, but this crazy summer humidity is pooling sweat faster than it can evaporate.  I'm thinking my only solution is to change halfway through the long run?
SportShield has completely
solved my underarm chaffing
 issues of the past.

3.  Sensitive Skin.  If your sports bra is snug-fitting and moisture-wicking and you're still battling chaffing... you may just have sensitive skin.  You can try the cheap version of petroleum jelly... smear it on your impact spots before the run.  However, petroleum jelly does break down fabrication faster than the advanced, more expensive, products like 2Toms SportShield or BodyGlide.  I've had skin issues all my life, so pretty certain my sensitive skin just adds to the dilemma.  I'm like a tri-fecta here!

Under Armour has been my go-to brand for sports bras, with other $20 versions from Target thrown in the mix.  What is your favorite brand of sport bra??  Please share!  I need to try out some alternatives.

PS. If you ever do get bad chaffing, quick healing is essential!  Try a diaper rash cream.   I had some leftover from the baby days, and was delighted at how wonderful it worked in clearing up the sweat rash.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July Rewind

Hauling booty in the Main Street Mile!
How fast was July?!  I can't believe it's August already... only 55 more days until Marathon Day!  Reflecting back on a month always provides me with good perspective.  I haven't done a Rewind the past few months, and it shows in my state of mind.  

July miles: 140
Longest run:  20.25
Races: Firecracker 5000 (recap)
  July 4 finished in 28:06
Main Street Mile (recap)
  July 8 finished in 7:24
Chicago Beach Palooza (recap)
  July 30 - no idea on finish time.

Monthly weight loss:  +9.2 lbs  (o'crap!)
YTD weight loss: -7.5 lbs
This is my biggest FAIL of the month, er summer.  Perhaps that's why I haven't done a monthly rewind in awhile.  Despite the highest monthly mileage of my life, I've managed to gain nearly 10 pounds.  WTH!?  Our summer schedule has been so crazy busy that we're grabbing dinner on the fly more often than not... which means unhealthy calories!  Despite the heat of summer, I'm not hydrating with water appropriately.  And the chocolate cravings have been through the roof!  I'm really starting to notice the weight gain in my daily running pace...  Research shows that a runner gets two seconds faster per mile for every pound they lose.  I've got to get myself reeled in here...

Books I'm reading... I love to read before bed each night.  Unfortunately, I haven't completed much this summer.  Either I'm late to bed or zonk out after just a couple pages!  Check out my past book reviews here.  Here's the two books I'm currently working on...
"Mile Markers" by Kristin Armstrong

"First Marathons: Personal Encounters with the 26.2 Mile Monster" by Gail Waesche Kislevitz

Song downloads this month...
Not much new on the ipod this month... I really need some new songs.  Suggestions?  In an odd twist, I've logged a lot of miles this month with NO music.

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you  yourself have altered"  ~Nelson Mandela

The heat totally got the best of me this month.  In one week, I skipped both cross-trains and one run.  Yikes!  But I'm okay with a slack week every now and then, as long as I come back strong the following week (and I did with 42 miles!)

• Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon (August 14) just enjoy the run.  No time goal.
• Monthly miles goal: 143
• Weight loss goal: -12 lbs
• My Big Girl turns 5 this month & starts Kindergarten.  Try to keep the emotions and tears in check!
• Spin Challenge:  Be a Spinstar by hitting 10 Spin classes.  Are you in on the Challenge yet??  Check it out HERE.
Join here!

Thanks for following my running rambles here.  
Your support and encouragement really mean a lot!