Thursday, October 31, 2013


When I was three, I was a ballerina for Halloween. I had a beautiful blue and white tutu and Mom styled my hair in a bun, even let me wear lipstick! It was the first year I got to go trick or treating.

Unfortunately, on the big day, I came down with the flu! My brother had to ask our neighbors for double candy for his poor little sister who was home sick with the flu.

Fast forward a few years....

Bill wanted to get dressed up and go out, so I put about 3 seconds thought into it, and decided to be a ballerina and wear the costume from my 8th grade ballet recital. (the same costume I wore to the 2011 Run through Hell on Halloween)

Yup, flu again! Evidently, I just can't be a ballerina for Halloween!!!!

My other costume was for school, where it's completely ok for kids and adults to dress in costume. I was a marathon runner! Oh wait, I was supposed to be something different from normal???

Monday, October 28, 2013

I hate my body - post #327

How many times have I posted this exact same story? I take care of myself, yet I'm constantly sick. As if the flu wasn't bad enough, I had a sore throat on Friday. I figured it was because of all the vomiting, then by Friday night both my ears hurt. I thought I was better on Saturday, but by that night, my ears were ringing and it felt like my throat was closing. Obv I know it wasn't, but knowing and feeling are vastly different.

I went to a CVS "minute clinic" and met with Sarah, a really really nice nurse who confirmed my sinus infection and prescribed me amoxicillin.

It took months to build up my heart and lung capacity, and just like that it's gone. Build for 6 months, gone in three days. I'm out of breath now from walking up a flight of stairs. My normal resting heart rate is 62-66, but has been consistently over 100.

Sooooooooo angry >:( 2013 was supposed to be my redemption for last year's Monumental marathon with the flu, but I'll be lucky to break 6 hours this year with how I feel.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Post-race SICK!!!!

It's somewhat common for runners to get sick during the taper phase right before their races, when stress and anxiety combine with a change in routine. I managed to stay healthy before both my fall marathons, but for the first time, suffered post-race flu!!!!! Gah it was awful!!!

I started feeling not quite right on Wednesday before bed, then was up every single hour through the night. I "woke up" at 8 on Thursday, and spent the entire day on the couch watching a Walking Dead marathon and sleeping. I was awake less than four hours all day.

The really weird thing is that my legs were aching! They felt worse with the flu than they did during and after the marathon. I can only assume it was caused by incredible dehydration.

So glad I don't have a race this weekend!!!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall goal #3 - Check!!!!

The short story is I finished. No PR, just a slow, painful reminder of why full marathons on consecutive weekends are a bad idea :(
The long version is that I managed to stay healthy, even though it meant wearing a blue surgical mask at work on Friday when I was in a meeting with 40+ people, many of whom were sneezing or coughing.

I laid out my things and tried to relax. I was so exhausted that I slept for 12 hours on Friday night, then didn't do much on Saturday, exactly as I planned it.

Sunday morning my alarm was set for 5:15, but I was up before then. Once again I had ZERO desire for anything to eat or drink. I forced myself to eat a bowl of Chia seeds at home, and loaded up my pockets with food to nibble at the start.

I always park at WCCC. It's $10, but 25 steps from the finish line. The convenience of it is worth paying, even though I could have parked at the casino for free. If I did that, though, I would have to walk close to a mile by myself in the dark. Yeah, I'll pass.

At Chicago, the starting line was closed to spectators for security purposes. From a practical standpoint, though, I wish every big race would do that. There were so many people at the start of the Free Press that moving was just about impossible. I was in the "I" start corral, but there was NO room to move outside the corrals, so I hopped in at the nearest gate, which was "F." I tried to move back toward I, so I could start the same time as a reasonable pace group, but I couldn't get anywhere close. The corrals were super crowded and I had no room to breathe, much less stretch or do starting line yoga.

I turned on my watch at 6:55, and she immediately flashed "low battery." Nooooooooo!!!!!! I had charged her after Chicago. Gah!!!!!! I panicked for about 3 seconds, then got over it. If I used the gps, she would lose all charge in a few miles, so I used her as a regular watch, to have a slight way to monitor my time. I didn't know my pace, but I would know my total elapsed time.

It took twelve minutes to cross the start line. The sun started rising when I approached the bridge. The weather had been cold and raining on Saturday and Monday, so we definitely caught a break with good weather!!!!!! 

I definitely like the bridge, but the tunnel isn't my cup of tea. It has a massive decline though, and I wasn't stopping on that to take a picture, so here's a blurry messy shot :)

At the start I was wearing a light blue windbreaker I had bought at the church thrift shop for $0.50. It was a little baggy and I was marginally concerned Border Patrol would have issue with that. Yet, I was also wearing a tiny waist carrier, and I didn't want to be stopped for that either. Damned if I did, damned if I didn't. I was cold so I kept the jacket, but made sure my number was prominently displayed, and passed by the CBP officers without any issue.

I saw Kelly around mile 10 and she looked great!!! I admitted I was hurting, but I was still running a decent pace. At mile 12+ someone nudged my shoulder and said "Look who it is!" "Indy" and his girlfriend caught up with me. They were doing the half, so we all ran together to the split. They both offered me their watches for the second half so I could pace myself.

My half split was 2:23ish, which is right about normal. Unfortunately it all fell apart in the next 3 miles, and I didn't hit 16 miles until 3:00. I knew I wasn't going to PR, but if I'm going to miss it, I'd rather know it early, as opposed to the situation I had in Toledo 2012, when I was at mile 24 before I realized it wasn't going to happen.

So whatever. No PR this time. I read in Runner's World to set three goals for every race: 
good - the goal you can hit no matter what (finish)
great - a goal you should be able to hit with a little work (beat an acquaintance "Ironman")
awesome - the ideal goal you can hit when all the stars are aligned and you have the run of your life (PR).
With this approach, no race is ever a "failure."

Belle Isle is brutal because it's late in the race and largely isolated. Approaching the Bridge off the island, I saw a man I've seen at almost every race I've done. I finally asked him what's his name. "Mad Dog," he said. Detroit was his 268th marathon, and he had just done the Indianapolis marathon the day before. I said I've seen him at Toledo, Cincinnati and the Martian, that I keep seeing him and Sanjay. "Oh yeah," he said, "I know Sanjay." MadDog is doing both of the Indiana races I am, so I'll surely see him again.

Running is a really small world. I knew several people running at the Free Press. Nita, Stephanie and Jeff would be among the fast runners, and unless I saw them at the start, I wouldn't see them at all. Kelly, "Indy" and "Ironman" were more my pace and in the middle of 27,000 runners, I saw every one of them!

After I chatted with MadDog, I was running on the bridge and saw "Ironman," so I ran alongside him. "Hey there, cupcake," I said. We chatted a bit then I ran on. I wanted to beat him, because I know I can. Nothing against him, but he's someone I know that I can beat. He's somehow become a tangible marker I should be able to beat. 
Ran on some more. Running along Larned, the Renaissance Center looked nice so I took a picture. After I got home, I noticed the porta potties and the cup trash on the side. Oops :)

I finished. It hurt. My pinky blister came back at mile 17, despite duct taping it. I passed a woman in the last 0.2, and had the run been ten feet longer, I would have passed a man.

The food after was pretty standard - bananas, protein bars, chocolate milk. There is a group of high school aged boys who volunteer every year and I think they're an ROTC program or a military school, because they wear some sort of uniform and address everyone as sir or ma'am. Very polite, very helpful.

The finish chute never ever ended. I just wanted to sit down!!!!!! It was COLD with the wind so I was shivering and had trouble walking on my blisters. I needed to take off my shoes, bundle up and stop moving for a minute!

Thankfully once I passed Bill, he kept walking along the barricade until he found me, then gave me his jacket, even though I was soaking wet with sweat. Indy and his girlfriend were still downtown and they met us within minutes of me finishing. I assume they had been tracking me, because otherwise, how could they have been right at the finish, right when I was done? I have pics with everyone, but I'll respect their privacy and leave them off my blog :)

Bill took my #12 picture again as we walked to my car, but oops! I can't count! After taking the photo, he realized immediately I had the wrong number, so we tried again. 

On the drive home, a homeless teenager was sitting next to the freeway ramp, begging for food and money. The car in front of me had a 26.2 sticker in the window, and the driver rolled down the window and gave the girl all the post-race food. He gave her so much she could barely hold it all. That was awesome! 

The medals are GREAT! The medal is huge and heavy, and the ribbon is awesome. Always one of my favorites!!!!

I always thought Detroit was my favorite marathon. It was my first, so it'll always have a special place in my heart, but after Chicago, it really felt like a junior varsity race. It was good, but nowhere near the organization of Chicago. I realize very few races offer the crowd support of Chicago, but they had a lot of other features that I thought were far superior. 

For example, the expo actually had people I wanted to see and meet, and it was arranged in rows so I could go wherever I wanted, without having to follow the serpentine pattern past every exhibitor. Obv if I wanted to look at their stuff, I would, but I just want to get my number and get out. Every year the Free Press asks for feedback and suggestions, and every year I ask for packet pickup at any New Balance store in the metro Detroit area. When registering, you would have to decide to pick up at the designated store or at the expo, and once you decided, you can't change your mind. It makes so much sense to me, but they continue to ignore my suggestion.

Something else that really bugged me was their refusal to exchange shirt sizes. The shirt in 2010 and 2012 ran small, so I ordered an extra large. The sleeves were too short, but the width of the sleeves, and of the shirt itself were really good. Obviously I ordered the same size this year, but it's yet another shirt that would fit Hagrid with room to spare. I immediately asked for an exchange, but they weren't doing it. Is it really that hard? Order 5 or 10 extra of every shirt, then have a rotating exchange. I understand I was there on Friday and the expo was open again on Saturday, but at any give race, 5-10% of the registered runners never show up to get their stuff, so there were certainly extra shirts at the expo. Now I have to hope the extras wind up somewhere and drive all over the metro area to chase down a shirt that fits me, not a 400-pound woman. 

I'll do it again next year because it's so close, but there are a few changes they could make that would be so easy and make it tons more user-friendly.

Rather than end on a negative tone though, he's the best sign of the day. It wasn't even a sign, but a message on a man's back: "My doctor said I'd never run again. My God said 'Have faith in me.'"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Quick Detroit Post

I crashed and burned on my time at the Free Press marathon, but met both my goals: (1) finish, (2) beat "Ironman." We've done the same race 5 times now and I've beaten him at 4 of those. The only time he beat me was last year's FP when I had a cold.

Longer story tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chicago Sunday

I don't know why I got into the Chicago marathon. There were thousands of other runners who tried to register, but couldn't get through the registration debacle, then "lost" the lottery. Many, if not most of them would have been faster than me, which somehow makes me feel like they were "more deserving" of a spot than me.

I had motivation problems all summer and seriously considered reselling my number on Craig's List, making a profit in the process (shhh it's not condoned by the race). Given the registration debacle this year, however, and the near certainty there will be qualifying times and/or a lottery for everyone next year, it was likely the only time in my entire life I'll have the opportunity. So I did it.

We got to the hotel Saturday afternoon, had an early light dinner then I was in bed by 8:30 and fell asleep to the Tigers game. I didn't sleep super well, and my first feeling when I woke up was nausea. Again??? At least I learned from the barfing incident in Indianapolis and didn't force myself to eat or drink anything other than 2 Salsalate pills. Instead I stuffed my pockets and belt with food, hoping I'd be hungry once I got outside.
I looked outside, checking for snow or rain or whatever. What did I see? Volunteers setting up fluid stations on the hotel street!!!!!! I booked the hotel because it was a steal at $135 right downtown, not even realizing it was on the race route!

When I made it outside, the sun was rising and it was cool and comfortable. Thankfully I felt a little hungry, so I started nibbling the bagel I had brought from Panera. We made our way downtown and I seriously felt like I was in kindergarden - I had Bill's phone number written on my arm, we had a meet up plan, and an emergency meet up plan in case the course was evacuated, or I was still completely MIA at 3 pm.

I had read online to write your name on your shirt and people will encourage you by name the whole way. Seemed like a good, fun idea, so I taped 2 lines of white duct tape to my shirt and wrote on it with a Sharpie. I felt extremely silly, but I wasn't the only person like this. Bill couldn't come anywhere near the start corrals, so before we said goodbye, I had him take my picture with his phone, so in case I went missing he'd have a photo immediately available of me, in the right outfit. Smart idea, eh? Kindergarden safety!

I was in the G corral, for people with an estimated finish between 4:00:00 and 4:40:00. It's right where I thought I'd finish when I registered in February. It was the biggest corral but I never felt cramped for space. The only thing I would have changed would be to put some porta potties inside the corral because the gates closed at 7:45, and we didn't cross the start line until 8:07.

It was cool beforehand, but not cold and I knew I'd ditch my jacket and gloves within a mile, so I gave them to Bill before we split up, so I could use them before a really cold race. Predictably, I got cold, so at one point I wore a blue shirt from the donation pile, then I wore gloves for the first two miles....

Everyone I know who has run Chicago has said the crowd support is incredible. I mentioned it to "Indy" afterward and he asked if it really was that great. The only thing I could compare was coming out of the tunnel in Detroit, so I texted him, "Remember how it was when you came out of the tunnel? It was like that."

"Holy $h!t!" he said, "Wow! The whole way?!"Yes, the entire way! The news estimated 1.7 million people came out to watch. It was incredible!! They were out several people deep with food, drinks, high fives, signs, music, noise makers, for 26 miles!!!! At least a thousand people cheered for me or encouraged me by name. Around mile 21 I was dragging so I was singing out loud and a woman said "Just keep singing, Michelle!" It was awesome! I ran the whole thing with one ear bud in and the other tucked in my shirt so I could hear everyone and everything. Most of the time, the spectators were louder than my music :)

Something particularly sweet was early in the race when we ran past a retirement home or a nursing home and several of the residents were sitting next to the windows on the second floor watching and waving. One elderly man stood up with a sign "Go! Go! Go!" We all waved.

I passed a woman who was wearing a shirt that said "Run like Hal." I said I like her shirt, and asked if she had met him at the expo. She said "He's my dad. We just passed him a little bit ago." Neat!

Someone else I passed was a guy whose shirt said on the back "Slap my ass when you pass." Yes...I did... I also told him nice job.

Some of my favorite signs:
"You run better than Congress"
"The government can't shut you down"
"You've trained for this longer than Lindsay Lohan was in rehab"
"If Britney Spears survived 2007, you can survive this"
and my favorite "Run while you have an ACL"
The only one I managed to photograph was "Run you B!tches"

By my watch, I hit the halfway point in 2:13, but when I hit their half marker, I was already at 13.4 miles on my watch. I always try to run the tangents and the inner parts of turns, but there were so many people and the streets were so wide that it just wasn't always feasible and I was over mileage.

The weather warmed up as we ran and it was in the upper 70s during the second half. I drank from every water table, and I knew I was dehydrated, so twice I took a salt packet from my pocket and downed it, hoping to retain water. Yeech that was nasty! I ran through every sprinkler, anything to help with staying cool.

It wasn't enough, though, because by mile 22 I was having some pretty serious cramping in my right side and doing a lot more walking than I wanted. Breaking 5 hours was still possible when I was at the 5k mark with 30 minutes to go. I would have to be just under 10-minute miles, which is easy enough, but I just didn't have it in me with the cramping.

Eventually I finished in 5:11. It was my best time for 2013, and my 4th best overall. How did I feel after? I didn't feel anything. I wasn't happy for finishing, wasn't sad about missing my time, I was basically numb.
Number eleven, baby! The finishing chute seemed to stretch forever. I had to walk at least a half mile before I met up with Bill at our designated meeting point. A very nice man draped my medal around my neck and said "Congratulations. You earned it." I picked up a food box and a big beer (hee hee) but passed on the space blanket and the towels soaked in cold water. There were tons of medical personnel, as there had been along the course.

It was by far the biggest race I've ever done and the organization was incredible!!!! The hundreds / thousands of volunteers knew exactly where to send us and answered whatever questions we had. At no point did I feel lost. The corrals were well organized, the finish chute progressed easily and the meet up areas were easy to find.

Security was ramped up, but I didn't think anything was too excessive. There were several police dogs working Grant Park at the start, and security checked bags going into the start, but I didn't have anything so I breezed through the express line. The only thing I noticed on the course were the soldiers in uniform, with automatic weapons in their hands, ready to fire. The start and finish lines were closed to spectators, but that was only 0.2 miles of the race. It's impossible to secure a 26-mile route, but I felt extremely safe the entire time.

The medal....Is this it??? I have half medals nicer than this. It's not ugly per se, just flimsy and blah. If the ribbon said something, anything, I wouldn't have a single complaint, but for a $175 entry fee, I'd like something a tiny bit nicer. I read a story that in major marathons, more than half the entry fee goes toward the elite runners, for their travel expenses and prize money, but still. How much would it really have cost to print the race name or the date on the ribbon?

A few stores would engrave the back for free after, but we were short on time and food was more important.

On the way home, I texted Kelly that I was going to finish the races I already paid for, then take off some serious time. She asked how much? Two weeks? haha I said I might skip the whole spring race season in 2014. She said I wasn't allowed to make any major decisions after a race, and she was right. Maybe just Toledo and Cincy next year. We'll see.

Chicago was a hassle to get there and go to the expo and everything, but if by any chance I can get in again next year, I'll do it again. In a heartbeat!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chicago Saturday

Chicago's expo was massive. Bill had gone with me to Cincinnati and I warned him this was probably 3 times bigger. He was a good sport and knew HAL was a priority! Hal!!!!!! It was extremely well organized and the exhibitors were in rows, as opposed to a serpentine pattern, so I could go wherever I wanted and dodge crowds, etc. This is mostly a photo post, so enjoy!

Anytime the expo center is this big, it's going to be massive!!!

Disney medals. The more I see them, the more I like them. The Mickey medal is massive - the biggest in my collection, but fairly thin.

Yes, I'm wearing the event shirt AT THE EVENT! It's a great shirt. When I first saw it online, I thought it was hideous, but it's women's cut, fits me, and has ZERO sponsors on the back. I wore it for three days straight...

Great big wall that was originally covered in race magnets. The idea was you took a magnet and signed underneath it.

HAL!!!!!!!!! I'm definitely more excited than he is. He's exactly what I thought he'd be - a curmudgeonly 83-year old who's met 50,000 versions of me over the years. He was really nice and friendly, but our meeting was definitely more exciting to me than to him, and that's ok.

Really neat thingie I hadn't seen before. I scanned my number and my name appeared on the screen for a few seconds. Nice flash, eh?

HAL signed my bib. I bought his new book and asked him to sign that as well (in case it rained and I lost the signature on my bib).

Aside from Hal's book, the only thing I bought was a pint glass. I guess I collect them, even though I never drink from them. It has the race logo on both sides.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chicago - quickie post

I met Hal!!!! Oh yeah, and finished the Chicago marathon with a 2013 PR, but not an all-time PR. Full story later or tomorrow.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The calm before the storm

Before a tornado hits, the sky does weird things - it either gets green, or really cloudy in an instant. The humidity changes drastically. All the insects quiet down and an eerie feeling pervades the atmosphere.

Then the storm blows in and it all changes in a tizzy!

I'm definitely in the pre-storm phase right now, running very little, trying to relax, trying to get lots of sleep. Things aren't normal and they're about to blow up at the marathon. It's weird. In a few days this one will be over, and in less than two months, I'm done racing, all my training has been forgotten and much like post-tornado people, I'm left thinking...what do I do now?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fall goal #1 - check!!!

Saturday was the Heroes on Hines, a half marathon to benefit the First Responders memorial on Hines Drive at Haggerty in Plymouth. For me, it was fall race #1, with the goal of finishing under 2:20.

The memorial
When I woke up it was raining. While driving to Plymouth, it began pouring and thundering and lightning. Obviously the race was on Hines - it wouldn't be Hines without heavy rain and the strong possibility of flooding...

Thankfully by the time I parked, it had largely dissipated to a mist then to 98% humidity. Whether the rain continued or not, I knew I was going to be wet the whole time, so I left my camera in the car.

I had picked up my "packet" on Friday, but I completely could / should have done it on Saturday morning. I got a shirt and a number. It was a Running Fit event, but they didn't give us buttons, like they did at the Martian and the Legend. I was bummed about that. Equally bum-worthy is the size of the shirt. I ordered a medium, and I'm not sure who is the model for the shirts because my "medium" would fit Hagrid... I asked if I could swap it for a small, knowing races order extra shirts for the last minute and day-of entrants. They were out of smalls. I asked for an x-small. Yep, those were gone too. Mind you I picked up my packet less than an hour after they opened. So that's annoying. If the shirts are enormous, say so on your website and we can order appropriate sizes. Not only is the shirt 3 sizes too big for me, it's white, so I'll probably never wear it. It's too bad because the design is nice.
Shirt, medal, number

Back of the shirt - names from the Memorial
Pick up btw was super easy. It was at Burroughs in Plymouth. They had a huge parking lot, and there was no expo, just a tent set up in the parking lot.

Headed to the start line and met Stephanie, another blogger from my home town. She wound up winning 2nd place in our age group :D

The race started and I went out a little fast, but it felt good. I know this is a bad idea, but it wasn't too disastrous today. We did a mini out and back on Hines, then went through a small neighborhood, then back to Hines for a longer out and back. Not a great course, but it was traffic free. Unfortunately it was also largely people free, and it was on the hilly end of Hines.

I really wanted to break 2:20. I've had two splits under 2:20, but both my half races were slower than that. My pace was good - mostly 10s and low 11s, and I didn't have any excessively slow miles. More importantly, I felt STRONG!!! Even better, there was NO PAIN!!!! Well, the normal exhaustion and run pain, but no pain of something being wrong. I had taken 2 Salsalate at home and packed a baggie of more Salsalate and acetaminophen in my pocket because my ankle has been hurting as soon as I hit 60 minutes of every run, but I never had to hit the supply.

Volunteers distributed Gu at three different points. I don't normally use any during a half, but I always took one, tucking it in my pocket for future marathons. At $1.25 each, I need to take all the "free" ones I'm offered :)

Mile 13. I think there were more on the right side later.
There was a girl in a dark violet shirt that said "Run Free" on the back. I'm not sure if she was aware, but we were racing :) It seemed we kept exchanging the lead, but I really wanted to finish ahead of her. I don't even know who she is, just someone who seemed to be running a similar race. I did wind up finishing before she did.

I hit mile 11 just around 2:00 and I knew I'd have to book it to finish under 2:20. I didn't want to get so close and fail yet another time. I ran a 9:38 for the final mile, then at the very end, the last 0.1 was lined with fire trucks, police cars and ambulances, and I coasted through that at a 7:48 pace.

By my watch I finished in 2:19:51. YES!!!!!!! The big finish line clock turned to 2:20 just as I finished and I knew I wasn't right at the start line, so my official time should should should have been just under 2:20. I got home and even before I showered, I looked up my official time: 2:19:53.4 YAY!!!!!!!!!!! (Average pace was 10:40)

Despite the weather, it was a really good race and it gave me a ton of confidence for my full marathons. I was a little leery of my training, between my ankle and downgrading both of my 20-milers, but I felt great today. Well, my knees were a little wobbly and my calves a little rubbery at the end, but I was running a 7:48 pace after 13 miles!!!

The medal is great. It's 95% of the reason I did the race. It's 2-sided and heavy!! I love every single one of my marathon medals, but this half one is aesthetically and constructionally better than some of those. 

Happy happy happy!!!

Medal front

Medal back. 2-sided medals rule!!

My time splits, per baby Carmen