Monday, July 9, 2018

America: All in the name of F-U-N

I'd like to preface this by stating that no matter how many "bad" days I may have on the road, "disappointing" races I may have, or how many "negative" thoughts that might run through my head after one of those "bad" days, I still won't stop running simply for the fun of it.

The 4th of July happened to fall exactly 2 and a half weeks after Grandma's Marathon. Which is not an ideal amount of time to allow for recovery and jumping into your local 10k for the best holiday ever. Oops. Guilty as charged. In all honesty, I had been REALLY good at listening to Ryan to a T after Grandma's and followed my scheduled RnR plan. I did all of my properly scheduled "SLOW" runs to keep the active recovery alive and well. In fact, my first official speed workout back was supposed to take place on the 4th of July. Surely this was a great alternative to the 1st speed workout post-marathon.

I know I've said this before but when I walked out my front door that morning, I was positive I couldn't remember the last time it was that humid outside. I enjoy the heat, really and truly I do. Ask anyone. But this air was dangerously thick and could make even the skinniest of people feel morbidly obese due to the rapid amount of sweat coming out of their pores. I had signed up for this race less than 12 hours ago and was having a very earnest internal argument in my mind about why I do this kind of thing to myself, time and time again.

I parked the car, dripped a couple droplets of sweat just waiting in line to pick up my bib, and decided to hide in the shade behind the porta potties to try and keep all my electrolytes before this 6.2 mile death march ensued.

Ok, I may have wandered and found a long row of flags and admired them too.
I took off to warm up and didn't look at my watch until I was done. I wanted to run by feel and see how the legs responded. Let's just say, it wasn't fast but it felt good. But it came with approximately a 1.5lb sweat loss over 1 mile. Sweet this is exactly what my body needs right now.

I came to this race solo so I contemplated just getting in my car and going home at this point but decided I should at least see what the legs could give me before the heat took over my body. The gun went off and the first mile is a significant downhill mixed with the usual mile 1 excitement that I carry in my blood so I pulled out a 7:20. Ha, this is a DOWNHILL and you just ran a 7:20 first mile of a 10K, this just ain't gonna be a pretty day. I knew right away. My body wasn't about to respond well to the rest of this race. I hung out in the 7 minute range for mile 2 before I decided to dial it way back and just "enjoy" the day before I actually hurt myself.

The hills came one by one and soon we hit Otis Rd. Otis Road is beginning of our Barrington bike loop, and it comes with one of the worst, unshaded banked hills. I zoned out and just ran easy. Hell, at times "easy" felt like some serious work. The course had a decent amount of shade, but the unshaded sections were out for all the sweat. I felt like I was out for a recovery run as I watched people pass by me, slowly but surely. {No records were being broken by any means and everyone dialed back on the speed ALOT.}

I made it to the turn around and wondered how in the hell I was going to make it the 2nd half of this race without a blister from soaking wet shoes, 3 miles down and 3 miles to go. {Oh yea, I was wearing my Feeatures 😜}

I trudged one foot in front of the other and felt as though I was running horizontal up the last significant hill in DIRECT SUNLIGHT. All energy at this point was completely and utterly zapped. Half mile to go and I hear someone from behind me: "Come on, you can do it! Let's finish this together! I've been behind you the whole time!"  These words spoken by a kid, no older than 15. I turned my head to glance at him and saw the ridiculously large grin on his face. Geez Megan, you look bad enough that you're getting hit on by a high school kid. I thanked him kindly but told him be best finish this race with his posse behind me.

I've never been more excited to see a finish line. And I have never cared less to have one of the worst races of my life. My pace at one point resembled a super slow cooldown. I immediately peeled my RyBread tank off because it was actually stuck to me. My shorts were dripping from every crevice and seemed to dump sweat like a faucet. Some probably assumed I was peeing my pants. "Don't mind me over here, just sweating ✋"

So much gross. 
I found a spot on the curb to sit and stop sweating and dry off long enough to claim my 1st place age group award. Huh? Seriously? I practically crawled that race. 'Twas an experience, that's for sure. My shorts still weren't completely dry by the time I got in the car to drive home but I was only going to get so dry as long as I stayed outside. On the bright side, my legs never felt like this was a bad decision (good sign, 2.5 weeks post marathon!) . Just my rosy red cheeks that were questioning me πŸ˜‚

I don't even like Gatorade and I downed 2 of them at the finish line immediately after finishing because I needed ALL the sugar
Moral of the story: I still had fun. I laced up my running shoes and trotted through one of my favorite towns and lost enough water weight to justify all the salty brats and beers I was going to ingest later in the day. I can't really complain. In all honesty, I can't get enough of this kind of stuff. Pushing my body to it's limits is what I live for. And the day was young. I had plenty of holiday left and I wasn't about to waste it.

I made my way out to Rob's brothers house that afternoon and was promptly greeted in the pool by his nieces and nephews. From then on, it was HOURS of cannonballs, throwing children across the pool, chasing kids with squirt guns, and constant shrieks of, "MEGAN WATCH ME DO THIS! MEGAN CATCH ME! MEGAN CAN YOU DO THIS?!" Let's just say I contemplated taking a nap during dinner just to make it to fireworks. 


Post pool fun, pre dinner

I'm happy to report that I didn't have to take a nap, and I barely made it to the start of fireworks. And it's a good thing I did, otherwise I would have missed the proposal!

Rob's sister EB and her fiance Derek! 
I've never been apart of any proposal other than my own. And I have to admit, it was so fun to watch. Fireworks were going off in every direction and EB's prince went down on one knee in front of the ENTIRE family (yep, 90% of the Sloan's were there!). It truly was a terrific ending to a great day.


Cheers, America 🍺

Friday, June 22, 2018

Grandma's Marathon: Boston Bound

I have sat and thought about how I'd begin to write this blog. And still.. I'm drawing a blank. Call it writers block, a loss of words, whatever you will. But I'm pretty sure the reason I can't seem to find my keystrokes is because I still can't believe it actually happened.

That's not to say that I didn't have high hopes. Because I certainly did. That's not to say that I didn't KNOW that I could do it. Because I've known for years that this would happen one day. That's not to say I didn't have the faith. Because the good Lord knows we had many conversations regarding running over the last few months. I'm just a realist. My running body isn't young anymore. My left hamstring has never felt fully 100% over the last few months. I know exactly when my body will begin to break down during those 26.2 miles. And I have yet to find a way over that dreaded 20 mile wall. I guess I'll just put it this way. I had more faith in myself than anyone. But I was also just as prepared for this race to not go as I had planned.


Spoiler Alert: It did happen.
And the beginning of mile 19 was one of my stronger moments of the entire race

I woke up on Saturday morning and I couldn't believe how soundly I had slept. I barely heard Rob sneak in and out of the room. My night shifter can't exactly flip his schedule completely so he took a little late night drive on the course while I got my beauty sleep. I made my way to the 4am breakfast that my hotel was serving and I certainly wasn't alone. The room was full of runners, all eyes fixated on the TV screen. The local weather station. The storms that were predicted from the 5am-10am hour had slowed course, now entering the Duluth area mid-afternoon. The high temps would hover around 55 degrees with a low hanging fog. Did I hear that right? The weather was ACTUALLY in my benefit? I even heard rumor that there would likely be a tailwind. You gotta be shittin' me smalls.


5:15am. No rain. Whaaaaaaat?
I got ready pretty quickly since I had everything laid out the night before. Rob might have been lucky to get a few hours of sleep and when I waltzed into the room at 4:45am and flipped the lights on he immediately covered his eyes. "You said we didn't have to leave til 5:30, wake me at 5:29" he said. What actually happened was this: we pulled out of the parking lot at 5:15am so Rob could drop me off at the busses because he know I wouldn't be able to actually wait until 5:30am.

We pulled into the mall and could see all the half marathoners getting onto their busses. That's how early we were. Rob finally kicked me out of the car. I don't know why, but it was hard for me to leave him. I knew that once I did, everything was real. The next time I'd see him would be on course. Mid-race. And that seriously scared the shit out of me. 


The day before, just a few blocks from the downtown/finish line area

I love his love for architecture and boats and bridges
#kidinacandystore

I gave him my kiss goodbye and went to stand in line. I got on the bus and almost immediately I was greeted by an older lady who sat next to me for the 26.2 mile journey from Duluth to Two Harbors. I never caught her name. But she was not a newbie to this sport, Grandma's was her 25th marathon. She rambled on and on. I listened, nodded, and giggled when appropriate. But I couldn't help but stare out of the school bus window, because the sun was actually shining.

Once I got off the bus I started my game of, "how many times can I go to the bathroom before the race starts?" I was all alone, no phone, and had over an hour to kill. I immediately jumped into the porta potty line and made my first peeps. I then went to the medical tent and snagged a couple of tylenol in an effort to be proactive with the pain that was coming my way. Then, I stood in the porta potty line again, because what else do I do? 2nd potty successful. After that I found some open ground and sat down to stretch. Of course it wasn't long before someone noticed my jacket and asked if me I knew Ryan. I met new faces, mingled, and made my way back to the porta potty line for my final bathroom break before I dropped off my gear check bag. I pealed my sweats and was greeted with a nice little chill. I made my way to the start and could feel the wind at my back. Seriously Megan, if you waste this opportunity you'll never forgive yourself. I knew before the gun went off. Today was my day.

THE PLAY BY PLAY

Mile 1 - 7:43  The gun went off and it was a lot more crowded that I anticipated. I started right behind the 3:25 pace group and was still shuffling my way through the first quarter mile. It didn't take long though.. the road opened up and I was feeling mighty fine. Fine enough that I had to pull in the reins immediately. I'm really good at taking off to fast at the beginning of the race. I know it. Ryan knows it. And he even gave me permission to "bank" some time in the beginning. Not to much, but he knew it was a losing battle to ask me to run anything under an 8 minute mile. I don't think he expected the first 20 miles to all be under 8 minutes. {Spoiler Alert}.

Mile 2 - 7:51 I had to WORK to make sure this mile wasn't in the 7:40's. I barely scraped by with a 7:51. I didn't want to burn to many matches in the early miles of this race. I kept repeating my early mile mantra in my head: "If it feels to easy at that fast pace, slow down." 

Mile 3 - 7:51  Consistency can also be hard to come by. Yes, it was still SO early but I liked what I was seeing right now. I like these miles. Let's hang out here as long as possible. Mile 3 is also when I met my new friend Emma. Long and short of her story: she had the same exact goal I did. BQ with a 3:30 or under in order to secure our spot. "Hey, my name is Megan... we should try and hang out together as long as we can." This was my plea to the nice 21 year old stranger I was about to cling to for as long as possible. She had no arguments. YES.

Mile 4 - 7:50  I had a feeling I was going to be in trouble if I kept these kinds of miles up. I can pace myself... but I've never been successful at it over such a long distance. I had the angel on my left, Megan, you should really tuck down into the 8:00 range. It's safer. But the devil on my right, Take it and roll with it girl. Chances like this don't happen every day.

Mile 5 - 7:46  Have we been going downhill this ENTIRE time? I swear, I'm not doing ANY work. Also, fog. Like serious fog. We were running within feet of the Lake Superior and couldn't see ANY water at all. Finally, if I keep up this pace I'm sure Ryan will text Rob and tell him to make me slow down. Speedy is gonna yell at you, especially if this race comes back to bite you in the ass. 


This was during the most visible portion of the race

Mile 6 - 7:50  "Emma, are  we really at mile 6 already? How did the first 6 mile FLY by?" She agreed, the miles were ticking by like crazy. Also, I think I took my first gel around mile 6. I don't remember needing it. But I wasn't about to screw up the cardinal rule today: Fuel early and often. 

Mile 7 - 7:51 ROB SPOTTING! I knew I'd see him sooner or later, but it's always a surprise. I couldn't contain myself. 


My friend Emma in the orange hat
Me
Another lady we befriend for about 4 miles before she decided we were to slow for her πŸ™„

I mean, we're having like ZERO fun obviously πŸ’™πŸ’›
Mile 8 - 7:51  The consistency is seriously CRAZY to me. I'm not questioning it though. Just go with it.

Mile 9 - 7:57  Speedy warned me about a "hill" around mile 8. I wasn't sure exactly where it would fall. I thought was going to be around 7.something. Turns out it was around 8.something and it was barely anything. But I made sure to slow my roll going up to make sure to conserve all energy.

Mile 10 - 7:46  Seriously? How am I still (not only) sub 8 but THIS far under 8? Nothing is falling apart yet. My hamstring is still in tact. Emma and I keep taking turns dodging people as we make our passes. We separate but also find our way back to each other. Overall, I did more talking than she did throughout the race. But there was a decent amount of time where we fed off of each other's body language. We knew when to speed up, when to slow down, when to make the pass. It was the weirdest thing. Perfect strangers, in perfect sync. 

Mile 11 - 7:53 Another forewarned "hill" that wasn't truly a hill. But a little later in the race it was noticed a touch more. 

Mile 12 - 7:55 Consistency on point still. Another gel into the gut. Gel miles are always a tad slower for me. I'm still good at choking on water at aide stations. 12 marathons and 6 Ironmans under my belt and every once in a while I take a solid amount of water up the nose or down the wind pipe unsolicited. ::facepalm:: Also, for the record, I'm almost positive I've been running downhill this ENTIRE race. 

Mile 13 - 7:53 Emma and I still hanging onto each other through the halfway point (1:42 and change). I noticed that every once in a while she would fall a half stride behind me. This perfect stranger had me seriously cheering for her. She told me that her last marathon was also a BQ (3:33) but she was unable to register for the race because there were that many FASTER qualifying times than hers. Come on girl we're not playing that game today.

Mile 14 - 7:49 I could tell Emma was possibly going to fall back. I couldn't sacrifice my good day for her but I wanted to make sure she knew exactly where she stood. "Emma, if you happen to have a bad mile, just know that we have 2.5 minutes in the bank. Any mile over 8 minutes, subtract from your bank."

Mile 15 - 7:50 Emma fell back every so slightly. Literally, I could turn barely turn my head to the left and see her a stride or 2 behind me the entire mile. I SO hoped this wouldn't be the last time I saw her. I made sure to stay focused and not lose my rhythm just because I lost my pacer. I got into such a groove that I almost missed Rob.

Oblivious to how close I am to Rob
A runners paradise 😍


Mile 16 - 7:50  I never expected my body to hold out this long. At all. I knew for a fact that any mile moving forward that I could log under 8 minutes was HUGE. Looking ahead of me I could tell my downhills were coming to an end. I wasn't about to start climbing. But when you've been cruising for 16 miles downhill and all of a sudden you're expected to run on FLAT ground it can start to zap the energy.

Mile 17 - 7:56 At this point I'm so used to running damn near the 7:40's that for a split second I was actually MAD with this "slow" mile. HA! Megan, have you forgotten that you still have 9 mile sto go? Take it girl. 

Mile 18 - 7:58 Another mile that seemed like an uphill but was truly just flat in comparison to rest of the miles. Fatigue started to set in. I fully expected my "wall" to hit from this point moving forward with ANY step that I took. Because if you've ever run a marathon you know how quickly that wall can face plant you. One step you're on top of the world and the next you're makin' deals with the devil himself.

Mile 19 - 7:50  WHAT. Where did this come from? I seemed to have gotten a 2nd wind. I spotted Rob on the side of the road and all I could muster was, "I'm still under!" He knew what I meant. He didn't dare say anything in response because he knows just as well as I do how badly the last 10K of a marathon separate the boys from the men. Instead, he proceeded to get on his bike and cruise next to me for a few minutes asking me all sorts of questions I couldn't answer. "Did you see the chef that's beating you? Yea, a guy dressed like a chef carrying a huge pot is beating you." Thanks honey.

Running on top of the world at mile 19 

Apparently this guy was not far ahead of me and I had no idea.
Mile 20 - 8:03 I knew my sub 8 minute mile streak wasn't going to last forever. I just can't believe it lasted damn near TWENTY MILES. Alright Megan. Head down. Eyes forward. Open heart. These last 6 miles are what you trained for. 

Mile 21 - 8:11 I was definitely having to work for my miles at this point. But I had only given up 14 seconds OVER an 8:00 mile and was still WELL below an 8:00 minute average. This is what your bank is for, but ONLY IF YOU NEED IT. Keep your stride long, shoulders relaxed.

Mile 22 - 8:26 Sub 8:30. You're doing just fine, keep it right here and you're golden. Nothing to worry about. Legs weren't feeling the best at this point, but I couldn't believe how much BETTER they felt compared to this point of past marathons. I knew I had a significant "hill" coming up so I did everything I could to keep my bank as full as possible in case I needed to cash it in on Lemon Drop.

Mile 23 - 8:33 Lemon Drop Hill. Not truly a hill, but a bridge you have to cross. But at mile 23 of a marathon anything can be considered a monster hill, curbs included. I made it to the top, gathered myself, and was able to bring my mile time back to where I wanted it without draining my bank, and I didn't feel like I had nothing left.

Mile 24 - 8:31 This was EXACTLY what I knew I had to train myself for. And not just my legs, but mostly my mind. I've been here ELEVEN times before. EVERYTHING inside is telling me to stop. Slow down. Walk it out. Stretch out your hamstring. But I was damned if that devil was gonna win. I thought about 2 months ago. I went to my parents house after work and watched the Boston Marathon with my mom. I watched Desi fight for every step in the worst weather I've ever seen. I watched all the age groupers muscle through with everything that they are. I sat and cried as the first American women took home the Boston Marathon title in 33 years. I remembered how emotional I was that day. And I wanted NOTHING more than to run that course with the Greats of our sport. I wanted to run in the Superbowl of running. 

Mile 25 - 8:17   HUGE mile. Just after my watched beeped at mile 24, I needed to turn the last few miles around. Thankfully, I had a little help. I heard a faint voice behind me on my left, "Hey, I'm back!" EMMA! YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME! I squealed like a school girl. I may have leaped in the air, I was SO excited to have my buddy back. "Emma, we're gonna do it!"  She smiled and laughed. Within a quarter mile of Emma finding me again, I heard my name from behind. "Megan! Kati's friend!" A girl I had met at the Illinois Half Marathon, Kim, who recognized me solely by the logo on my jersey knew who I was and introduced herself. We quickly found out that we were both running Grandma's in attempt to BQ. Mile 24.5 of Grandma's Marathon was the next time I saw her. "OMG KIM! WE'RE GOING!!" I yelled back at her. I couldn't believe it. And just like that, I brought my head up and spotted Rob. I couldn't stop smiling. I was going to Boston and I fuckin' knew it. 


The EXACT second I spotted Rob at around 24.6ish
Notice Emma is back! ORANGE HAT! 
I couldn't get to him fast enough. He was on the other side of the street and I did my best to make my way as close to him as I could. I was almost 25 miles into this marathon and I had damn near solidified my day. I had no reservations with more emotions pouring out of my heart than you can truly imagine. I ran past Rob and belted as loud as I could, "PACK YOUR BAGS BITCH WE'RE GOING!" Without meaning to I created quite the scene and made a lot of spectators bust out laughing. I didn't care, my dream was actively coming true. I was living the moment, I knew it, and I was busting with all the joy. Rob responded with the biggest laugh and yelled back, "You're gonna beat me to the finish line!!" Damn right I am.

This is what we call...

PRICELESS

PACK YOUR BAGS BITCH WE'RE GOING!

Mile 26 - 8:25 Crowds were thick. My legs felt like they weren't attached. Someone else was moving them, surely not me. One lady was in the middle of the street pointing out all women and getting in their faces. She made her way to me, "You, YOU'RE GOING TO BOSTON!" She told me. I wanted to kiss this woman. Truly I did. But I still had a few strides to go. 

FINISH 3:30:27 I did it. Rob truly almost missed me at the finish line. I played this moment out in my head a million times. I was convinced I'd ugly cry. But no, I smiled and spotted Kim, hands on her knees, panting. I let her know I was close and we embraced in the grossest hug 2 strangers could share. 


Captured on film by Grandma's marathon
Screenshotted by a friend of Kim's
BOSTON BOUND
I glanced to my right and saw my Spectathlete. I trotted (yes, trotted) to him and made him kiss me in all my sweaty salty glory. Finding my way out of the finish area I spotted Emma and flagged her down. I congratulated her, thanked her, and wished her well. Talk about one of the coolest stories. This, this is what running is capable of. 

See you in Boston πŸ¦„

Thank you's for this one will certainly get me choked up and are quite obvious, at least to me.

My family. My parents. My brother. As kids, Mark and I were never given limits. Sky's the limit. The older we got, the more mad our goals sounded to our parents. We definitely received a few funny looks. But at the end of the day, we always had 2 permanent cheerleaders. And they are certainly the number one reason I ever dreamed of chasing that unicorn in the first place. And Mark has NEVER thought twice about setting an early Sunday morning alarm to shuffle around a race course when I ask him. He's always willing to pace me on the bike when I ask. He's truly my sidekick that I can't live without. 

As promised, every run is an adventure with my pacer

Rob. My Fiance. My forever Spectathlete. He's about to marry into this mess. He may never truly understand my passion on the deepest level, and may he does. But he's definitely accepted it and knows that it's a package deal. And I can't thank him enough for loving me for who I am, running/triathlete included. We aren't an easy bunch to handle, and he's taken it like a champ over these last 8 and a half years. Next April I'm going to run the Boston Marathon as a Hode and the following month I'm going to marry into the Sloan family ready to continue the fun.

πŸ’™πŸ’›πŸ’•

Ryan. I probably sound like a broken record at this point but I can't help it. He gave me full disclosure that my training cycle for Grandma's wouldn't be pretty. It wasn't until around April that I truly understood what he meant. Sure, the legs underwent a little speed and some discomfort. But this time around it was all about the mind. I can't tell you how many times Ryan had to dig me out of a mental hole. I can't tell you how many times I dug myself out of a hole because I was to embarrassed to let Ryan think I was that weak. Ryan Giuliano. Resume includes but not limited to: Ironman 70.3 World Champion. Ironman Texas and Ironman Lake Placid Champion. Sub 9 hour Ironman stud. Clinical Therapist. #truth

No questions asked. RyBread For Life

I still haven't found the proper words for all of my emotions almost a week after the race. The obvious is true. Happy, joyful, excited, and beyond. But the deepest of feelings.. Do words exist for those? Sometimes I wonder. I get choked up thinking about next April. For YEARS I was the runner who just needed to move. Times were never important. And then at some point my fire was sparked and here I am. Sometimes it's hard for me to comprehend. Wait.. Boston? Didn't you just run a 4:30 marathon a few months ago? No, no Megan. You're shipping out to Boston.

I've challenged myself over the years. I've dedicated my life to this sport and truly don't know what it's like to not have half of my dresser taken over by spandex running shorts and athletic apparel. I'm living, breathing proof that you don't have to have ALL the talent to chase your dreams that seem untouchable. Saturday's marathon shaved 1 hour and 57 minutes off of my first ever marathon. Nothin' but good ole hard word, dedication, passion, and a fire in my heart got me to Boston. If you want it, go get it.

#bostonhereicome


Friday, June 15, 2018

Grandma's Here I Come: By the Numbers


I’m not really a huge numbers person. I’m good with them, but not like some people I know. But I’ve recently looked at the numbers that are about to get me to starting line tomorrow.

_____________________________________________


169 days. I signed up for Grandma’s Marathon days ago. (December 28th, 2017 was D-Day. My Christmas present to myself.)

757 miles. I’ve run 757 miles in 2018 in preparation for this race.

106 hours. I have logged 106 hours of running.

128 runs. I have run 128 times (within the last 166 days of 2018). You’re probably wondering… that’s not A LOT of runs. You’re right. That’s because I refused to let my body completely fall apart in it’s old age by taking away my beloved cross training that I have adopted over the years.

35. The average number of run miles I logged per week. Not a lot. At all. We were all about quality over quantity.

67 rides. I have ridden my bike 67 times since January 1st. A good chunk of these have been “recovery rides” while others still test my triathlon fitness. (Just to keep the all systems a go at all times.)

88 hours. That’s 88 hours of bike riding. 88 hours I’ve chosen to take away from the run and devote to a separate set of leg muscles in hopes it will keep my run legs primed.

1,476 miles ridden. This number can’t be taken to heart. 99% of my bikes have been indoor on a computrainer. And we all know that power is what everyone cares about πŸ˜‰

62 swims. I dipped my toes into the water 62 times in 2018. In all honesty looking back, I should have swam more. The pool is SUCH my zen place these days. When muscles hurt. When joints ache. When my legs say WTF. There weren’t TO many lung busters in preparation for Grandma’s, but occasionally Speedy would give me a workout to test the fitness. Spoiler alert: I can still crack a sub 1:25 100 (on repeat) if needed.

33 hours. 33 hours of swim therapy. And I wish I would have give a few more hours.

125,800 yards. Of swimming. That number probably shocks most people. But it’s really not a ton. It’s approximately 5K a week. For you hard core runners, yes a 5K on the road is the same distance on the road as it is in the pool.

12. This will be my 12th open marathon.

11. The previous 11 marathons, starting with number 1…. Illinois Marathon 2010. Walt Disney Marathon 2011. Illinois Marathon 2011. Chicago Marathon 2011. Omaha Marathon 2012. CIM 2012. Wisconsin Marathon 2013. Nashville Hard Rock CafΓ© Marathon 2013. Big Sur International Marathon 2014. Marathon of the Treasure Coast, Jensen Beach, FL 2015. Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2016. (2017 was pretty triathlon heavy, 2x Ironman, 3x half Ironman. By the time October rolled around my legs pretty much were screaming FU.)

17. The number of times I’ve run this distance. 11 open marathon distances + 6 full Iron distances (the run has never been cut short, only swim and bike occasionally). Soon to be 18.

5. I averaged 5 runs a week since January 1st.

3. I averaged both 3 rides and 3 swims a week since January 1st.

6.5 hours. The total number of hours GPS predicted it would take us to drive from Crystal Lake, IL to Duluth, MN.

7 hours. It actually took us 7 hours to get here with  our few stops we made for gas and food. Rob's still upset it took us longer than the GPS prediction. 

2. Rob ate 2 Subway sandwiches for dinner on Thursday night on the drive up to Duluth. No, he’s not running. No he’s not trying to gain weight. That’s just his M-O. Tall skinny dude who can eat whatever he wants.

26.2 miles. The number of miles I have to run tomorrow.

5:27:11. That was my first finish time in the 26.2 mile distance. It was a hot hot day. The humidity was out for blood. But a year prior one of my friends had told me, "There's no way you can run a marathon." so I wasn't about toss the in the towel just because it was hot.

3 hours and 35 minutes. The time I have to run to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

8:12. The pace per mile I have to run for 26.2 miles to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

3 hours and 30 minutes. My goal finish time to solidify entry into the Boston Marathon.

8:00. The pace per mile I need to run to solidify entry into the Boston Marathon.

3:41:17. That is my current marathon PR that I set in 2016 at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. 

8:26. The fastest pace mile that I have ever run 26.2 miles.

6 minutes. The number of minutes I need to shave off my current PR to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

11 minutes. The number of minutes I HOPE to shave off my current marathon PR in order to solidify my BQ.

January 10th, 2018. The day my spectathlete became my fiancΓ©. My ride or die promised that he was 100% into this crazy life I’ve chosen.

April 15th, 2019. Not just tax day. The day I’m hopeful I’ll be taking my own tour of Massachusetts, starting in Hopkinton and ending on Boylston Street in Boston.

1 mental breakdown. Ryan endured 1 mental breakdown over the phone at the end of the April after I had finished the Illinois Half Marathon. I was convinced I wasn’t the right kind of athlete for the job. I was in the darkest of athletic dungeons.  Most people don’t realize it, but being a coach also means you’re practically a licensed therapist as well. Ryan put together a really really convincing story about how much I deserve to give myself the faith that everyone else has in me. He made me believe what I do day in and day out is worth it. He convinced me that it wasn’t time to toss in the towel on Grandma’s.

1 extra mental breakdown, just for good measure. Shortly after my little therapy session with Ryan (like 5 minutes after) I was caught in the kitchen of my best friend’s house, wiping my tears and checking how blotchy my face looked. She caught me in the middle of a breakdown that I was trying to hide from her and all of our college friends. “Megan! I heard you... please, are you ok!?” Cue the next breakdown. There’s a reason I try to hide this stuff from her sometimes. She’s good. Almost too good. She knows me all too well. And the waterworks continued to flow in overdrive in her kitchen. Maybe she never told the rest of the group about it, maybe she did. I’m not sure. But all I know is that I needed that good cry. I needed her to understand how much this stuff means to me. She’s always had an idea, but that day she was certainly reminded.

1 sleep. 1 more sleep until none of the numbers matter and all I have left to do is run every stride with my heart.



BQ or bust.

#grandmashereicome


Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Mental Game

Last we spoke, me and running weren't on the best terms. My legs took much longer than expected to regain any sort of life after the Illinois Half Marathon. The following weekend, I cut my long run short and couldn't even consider trying to run the workout. ALL runs for almost 2 weeks were "recovery runs." My legs had hit a wall and needed some serious rest. 

Speedy and I agreed that my body needed to be reset. True RnR. No active recovery in the pool or on the bike. No running. For 3 whole days. It was... miserable.

Ryan's response after I told him how bad my long run was the week after Illinois

I did what I was told. I came home from work and twiddled my thumbs. I cleaned my house. I went to Wrigley Field one night (because come onnnnnn a girl's gotta do something with all her free time!) I got multiple massages. I made sure to give my hamstring some extra TLC. My left hamstring might not have been an issue on race day, but I could definitely tell it was more tired/tight/sore than my right hamstring at all times. I've sat in my boots more than ever this past month. I recently invested in a tens unit that has turned into a true Godsend. After I used my mother's tens unit a few weeks ago, I was sold on how well it triggered deep into my muscle. It's so simple really, but it took so long for me to put the pieces together. It's safe to say that I zap my leg back to reality about once a day now.


A little shock to the system never hurt no one ;)

Last weekend my legs were FINALLY ale to pull out 16 miles and nail the workout at the same time. It wasn't a struggle to hold my steady pace. My legs didn't fight me. I felt fluid. I felt smooth. I felt like I could have set the cruise control all.day.long. Three weeks post Illinois Half Marathon, it's about fricken' time. If only you knew how much I needed that run, mentally.

I'm about to head out the door for my biggest training run in almost 2 years, 20 miles with a workout mixed in. To say I'm not nervous would be a lie. My body has been through alot recently. So has my mind. And double digit mileage is usually when the body starts to really break down. But there's something about breaking that 20 mile barrier that can really mess with your head.


What endurance athletes do best

The glycogen storage is depleted around mile 20. Your body starts running off of fat instead of glucose (because your glucose is damn near gone) at mile 20. And your mind... your mind starts to play tricks on you. It's been said by many runners, the marathon doesn't even start until you finish your 20 mile warmup. Combine that with the lack of glucose in your body you best hope that the voice between your ears keeps your legs moving at the rate you can only pray for.

But Megan, you've run 20 miles so many times! So many races, so many Ironman's, so many training runs! Right... but I've never cared about the clock as much as I do this time around.

#BQORBUST

I like where my mental space is at at the moment. Which is why I wanted to make sure I told the world about this daunting workout I'm about to do. I want you all to keep me accountable. Ask me about the run. Text me. Call me. Message me. Demand the truth about the run. Because as of today we're officially 3 weeks away from Grandma's, and I need all of my spare thoughts and energy to be focused on this race.


#GRANDMASHEREICOME

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Ugly Truth

I've spent the last almost 2 weeks debating on whether or not I should write about this race. Reliving it crushes my spirit a little bit each time, so the thought of creating something concrete where the memory will live forever.. stings a little. And everytime I sit down to try, I find "something better to fill my time with."

But the truth is, I am able. I am willing. And I'll be damned if I'm gonna let one bad day win the mental game.



Highlight of the day: watching these 2 have amazing races!!
Going into Illinois, my head space was as clear as it could be. I had put in the work. My long runs had all been pretty on point. I was nailing my weekday workouts on the road. Recovery was going well.. up until the weekend before.


I had a nagging tender hamstring/IT band after the last long run going into race weekend. Nothing to be nervous about. Just a longer than normal recovery. I paid extra attention to my legs during race week, including a deep tissue massage and a cut back on mileage to make sure everything was ready to go. And on top of this, I am the adult that has acquired allergies as they go through life. My first experience happened about a month prior to Illinois. My 2nd experience? Illinois Half Marathon race week, of course. I pretty much bought stock in Allegra and popped those pills like candy to keep as much phlegm out of my lungs and sinuses as possible going into race day. It seemed to do the trick, so long as I overlapped the medicine dosage juuuuust a tad. Surprisingly, neither of these 2 reasons are why I had such a bad race on race day.

I rolled off of my air mattress at Beth and Jordan's new house at approximately 4:55am and started my pre-race routine. Banana. Coffee. English muffin with peanut butter. Let the magic happen. Get dressed. And ready to go. The college crew had relaxed over the years and they didn't seem as antsy as I was to get to the race site, so I hopped in the car and told them I'd see them there. {Turned out to be the best decision. Beth, Jordan, and Brian left about 10 minutes after me and barely made the start of the race. Yikes}

I parked the car and met up with Jacqui (who was considered an Elite so had her own little private room in the iHotel) and we took off for a short little warm up together. We both got a little reminiscent as we ran through familiar parts of town and eventually spotted the track. Jacqui competed on that track in college while I admired her. I still couldn't help but be a tad emotional.


Perfect morning at the Alma Mater!
I made my way to the starting corrals after I dropped my bag off and let myself relax as much as possible. At one point I turned my head and looked straight ahead of me and I was practically face to face with Tatyana McFadden. She was an arms length in front of me as she wheeled into position for the start of her race. My jaw dropped as I admired the broadness of her shoulders and enormity of her upper body strength. Anything you've seen on TV or in pictures doesn't do her physique justice in person. The women is truly a machine. 

The head wind was coming in from the North, but being short in a corral full of tall, thin men has it's advantages. I tucked in behind the 3:05 pace group because all of the men seemed to hide me from the wind pretty well. The national anthem played and before I knew it, we were off. 

I came out of the gates and knew instantly the pace was to fast. I dialed it back right away and choked back a lump in my throat as a I ran under the American flag, hung on the corner of 1st and Kirby by 2 fire trucks, ladders fully extended. It's a site that I'll never forget. And one of my favorite parts of this entire race. I got comfortable and started to glance around me. Where are all the women? I don't understand. Shortly after I began to wonder, I saw looked up and saw that I hadn't quite gotten rid of the 3:05 pace group like I had planned on. I was  cruisin' with all the 18-34 year old men trying to BQ. Of course you're the only female in this group Megan. I passed my old apartment on 1st and Daniel and immediately my watch beeped. 7:13. A few seconds faster than I'd hoped for, but onto the next mile. 

We turned right onto Green St. and into the sunshine and I was hoping I'd be in my groove at this point in the race. I was maining the 7:15-7:20 pace I needed, but every single step felt HARD. I convinced myself I wasn't completely warmed up yet and by mile 3 I'd be ready to cruise. 

SIDENOTE: Running down Green St. had me all sorts of nostalgic. Station? Ummmm how does anyone get in that bar right now? Construction practically up to the front door and you have to climb dirt mounds just to get in. Can you imagine that place around midnight on a Saturday night? Then Starbucks. Nowadays, I cruise through a Starbucks drivethru and walk away with a black hot coffee. I ran by this Starbucks and instantly I had memories of Vanilla Lattes with books on books during study groups. I could practically taste the Vanilla syrup. Rob's old apartment building. 309 E. Green St tower. Back in the day, the only highrise in town. Now... 1 among many. Gameday Spirit seemed to have received a facelift as well. Once we hit Green and Wright St, the construction hit once again and we were taken to 1 lane. Wow, this could get crowded farther back in the packs. Hell, how do 2 cars drive on this section of Green St!? It's gotta be a 1 way right here! 

Thankfully I had enough to distract me during mile 2, so my 7:17 didn't feel quite as labored. But once we hit Urbana, my struggle set back in. I cruised through the streets of downtown Urbana and honestly, everything is kind of a blur. At one point I remember around mile 4 or 5 I got passed by Abe Lincoln. Yes, that's correct. A man dress like Honest Abe passed me. A few times throughout the streets of Urbana I heard a few "Go RyBread!" cheers. I have no idea where they came from, or who they came from. But they definitely put a hop in my step when I needed it (as short lived as it might have been.) I held pretty strong through mile 7. Once I got to mile 8 (through the park), my legs decided they were done charging. Slowly I dipped into the 7:45 range and held on for a few miles. Everything was a struggle. Breathing. All of it.

Once I exited the park, my spirit was officially broken when I saw a photographer at the top of a small hill and I was doing everything I could to make sure I didn't appear to be walking up the hill. 


Lemme tell ya about this thing called the struggle bus..
I know I've said it a milllion times, that SO much can happen during a race. You can't check out until the finish line. But in this case, I knew for a fact my legs weren't going to let me do what I wanted to do today. I had 4 miles left when I decided to run "comfortable" to the finish line in and effort to save myself from injury. Sometimes, it's best to listen when the body says no. I made my way back onto campus down Race St and then down Pennsylvania and ran by my old dorm. I heard my name around mile 11 from a spectator, a girl that I had ONE class with in college. I looked up, spotted her, and couldn't believe my eyes so let out a small laugh in response. Any other type of response would have required to much energy, 

We made it back to the heart of campus and I saw buildings like The Armory, The Sixpack, and Huff Hall. Nostalgia started to creep back, but this time the effects weren't quite as great. I rounded the corner and took my first steps onto the turf of Memorial Stadium and crossed that finish line in an hour and 42 minutes. 


 Speaks for itself.

If I had felt like I usually do, this guy WOULDN'T have finished ahead of me

All the pain.
I crossed that finish line and had no one. Rob wasn't able to make the trip due to work, Jacqui had finished the race but was likely halfway back to the Elite room, and the rest of my friends were still on the course. I grabbed my medal and a water. I went to gear check and grabbed my bag. And then I sobbed. I sobbed like a baby. I called my parents and my brother and sobbed to them. After all of the hard work I have put in, my body just decided that today wasn't meant for me. I know, it's silly. I ran a very respectable time and for the first 8 miles I ran the race I planned. 

BUT, it never felt smooth in the beginning. 

It never felt fluid. 

Nothing hurt, my hamstring actually felt wonderful. My allergies weren't to bad at all and I actually had both airways available for breathing that morning. 

My breathing never reached that steady rhythm that it usually does.

The weather was perfect, the wind was a bit strong at times but it never lasted to long. 

For whatever reason, I had a day. 

Later on that day I spoke with Ryan. He had just crossed the finish line of IMTX in a blazing 8:17 taking home the Amatuer title. A race of a lifetime, some might call it. I felt like the worst friend in the world, but I cried over the phone to him again. His perfect day ended with my tears and that made me feel even worse. He assured me, "Your fitness is there. It's good that you decided to listen to the body and back off. No, you don't need to race again before Grandma's." And the part that truly hit home was this, "Trust me, I know how frustrating this kind of race is. I have more of these races than any other." You might wonder how in the hell this is possible, the man is practically a machine! But it's all relative. He might be blazing fast, so every race he does looks like a winner in our books. But to him, not quite so. 

It's been a hard adjustment for me this winter. One I didn't quite expect. I knew things would hurt from time to time. I knew I'd be in for some lung burning. But what I didn't expect was to have SUCH disappointing results for this particular race. My body has grown accustomed to SBR {Swim, Bike, Run}, and in that order. My legs sometimes feel foreign to me as I head out for a run that DOESN'T immediately follow a bike ride. But that's not an excuse, I was a runner before I was a triathlete. But, I've learned a thing or 2 from this experience. 
  1. Running BEATS up the body like you wouldn't believe. No, not my knees. Those are still in tact. The little things. Tight muscles need ALL the attention. Foam rolling and time in my Normatec boots is a MUST. And sometimes, actual time away from your running shoes is just what you need. Active recovery isn't always best when your primary focus is to RUN. 
  2. You're going to have more lows than highs in the running world. In triathlon, there are so many different ways your day can go right or wrong. The run is just 1 fraction of that experience. If you have a terrible 1st half of a run, but the rest of your race is flawless, you can still cross that finish line accomplishing whatever goal you set out to do. In the running world, it's Right, Left, Repeat. One thing might go wrong and you have to be DAMN prepared with that mental game....
  3. Which brings me to number 3. Mental. Endurance in general is a mental beast. Trust me, I know. I've crossed 6 Ironman finish lines. But this running thing? Talk about a test. I have less than 50 days before Grandma's marathon and the biggest challenge I have ahead of my lies between my ears. 
I stood at that finish line and watched the first of my friends to cross. I found Beth, squeezed her tight and congratulated her on a fantastic PR! We waited for the rest of our group with smiles on our faces. I wasn't about to let my bad day ruin their great success stories of the day. We continued to enjoy the day outside, soaking up the sun, enjoying each others company, and catching up on life. These are the people I don't get to see nearly enough anymore. But everytime I see them, I'm reminded how MUCH MORE of them I need in my life. 

Brian ran in a 20lb weighted vest to raise money for Miseracordia
Sub 2 hour half!
Great success!
The "short" friends
"Hurry let's get a picture before the tall people finish and make us feel like midgets"
I rest my case.
Once more because πŸ’—
Another sidenote: I took my Normatec boots with me on the trip and of course let everyone use them post-race. I'm not quite sure who enjoyed them more, but the picture below.. it's why I love this girl. 

#zeroshitsgiven
And to top it off, I gained a couple Bridesmaids that weekend. Jacqui, closest thing to my twin over the last couple of years, said "yes" on the car ride down to Champaign on Friday night. And Beth and Heather, 2 of the worlds greatest college roommates turned best friends turned practically sisters, they agreed to stand next to me the day I say "I do." It was kind of fun and special to be able to ask them that particular weekend. Because exactly 6 years ago on the same weekend (Illinois Marathon weekend), Heather asked both Beth and I to stand for her wedding. I guess you could say it was a little dejavu for sure. 

I still have a lot of work to do before Grandma's. Mentally and physically. A lot can still happen and I know what I've got to do in order to see the success I plan for. Cross all your fingers and your toes, say your prayers, and send me all the good vibes. Because the good Lord knows I'm sure as hell gonna need it come race day. 

Cheers.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Tell the World I'm Comin' Home

If ever there was a week where emotions were all over the place... this is the week.

Two years ago, I won a free Ironman entry and used it to race Ironman Texas with Jacqui and Ryan. An unforeseen hailstorm/monsoon took over the run course, knocking down the finish line, finish shoot, and ultimately stopping parts of the race until the weather passed. I decided I wasn't done with Texas just yet. Last year, I toed the line again. This time just Ryan and myself. I ended up puking up my insides multiples times on the bike and run course after the extremely dirty swim canal portion of the course poisoned me. At the time, I swore off Ironman Texas forever. But I can't help but feel like I still haven't finished what I've started down in The Woodlands, Texas. Tomorrow is Ironman Texas. Spoiler Alert: I'm not racing Ironman Texas this weekend.

This winter, I made the decision to devote 2018 to getting faster on the run. That didn't mean letting my bike collect dust. I still bike and swim 3 times a week, but with less intensity. My runs however, talk about a wake up call. My legs have entered a whole new arena and every day I learn something different about my run legs (that have been running for 20+ years). BQ or bust has become the motto for this year, the big test will take place in June at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. We're about 8 weeks out from Grandma's and I've decided to see where my speed lies in the half marathon distance this weekend. I'm headed back home to the Alma Mater, Champaign, Illinois. My junior year at the University of Illinois was the Inaugural year for the Illinois Marathon Weekend. That particular year I ran the relay with a group of friends. My senior year I ran my first marathon and crossed the finish line on the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium and then graduated 2 weeks later. For about 3 years after I graduated, my college group met back in Champaign and toed the line and then pretended like we were still in college. To say this race holds some sentimental value would be an understatement. It's been about 5 years since the band has met up at our old stompin' grounds. Until today.

That one time Rob ran his first Half Marathon and made the front page of the local paper ;)
Illinois Half Marathon 2012

Illinois Marathon
Circa 2010, mile 2 of my first marathon as a college Senior

There's nothing more I want than to head back to my home away from home and enjoy a weekend full of running highs and celebratory beers with a group of friends that I don't get to see nearly enough. I want to run by the Alma Mater on Green St and feel her welcoming me back home. I want to drive by my old dorm and peer up to the 8th floor and wonder if the the drama is still thick as hell that high off the ground. I want to knock on my old apartment door with the best roommates a girl could ever ask for and inspect the cleanliness of it now (because God knows we had the damn cleanest place on campus). I want to roam campus and take in the beauty. I want to walk into one of my favorite book stores and have an internal argument with myself over how much new Illini gear I really do need. I want to go to my favorite watering hole and order a beer for dirt cheap while I sit and wonder, "Just how many people in this bar are ACTUALLY 21 right now?" And so much more.

Post race of my first marathon - trying to hobble to the family!

Inaugural Illinois Marathon Weekend 2009 (junior year)
Ricky, Megan, Brian (full Marathon), Kevin and Jordan
Relay Team Name: The 3 Cocksmen and A Pretty Cool Chick πŸ™„

But. There's always a but. This whole week, my mind and my heart have been split in 2. This time last year you were on a plane to meet Ryan in the Woodlands. This time last year you were checking in your bike. This time last year you were sitting at dinner when Dad and Uncle JB surprised you from the corner of the restaurant. We all know how Ironman Texas ended for me last year. In the past 3 weeks I've thought alot about "what were you doing at this time last year." No, not because I'm stuck in the past and can't move on. But because I have some serious unfinished business in Texas. I won't be jumping into Lake Woodlands this year, or even next year. But one day. One day I'll be back to finish what I started. I've stared at my bike a lot this winter  from my yoga mat while I stretch after a run. I miss Matilda more than I ever thought I would. I miss the wobbling sensation you feel as you hop off after a killer workout that pushed some watts only refrigerators should know exist. And the pool. Oh the pool. While I'm still swimming, my arms never feel like noodles anymore. I miss my noodle arms. I miss the odd things about triathlon that you hate in the moment. 


I miss the sea of swim caps. Who knew?

This πŸ’–
Ironman Texas finish line 2017

I told Ryan the other day that the fact that I'm not signed up for a single triathlon at the moment seriously makes me sad. 
"Triathlons aren't going anywhere. Eyes on the prize!" - Speedy G
We practically said the same phrase in sync. I know what I want and I'm going after it. But I'll be damned if it's not harder than ever to not want what I can't have at the moment. But the reality is I'm more excited that I'm currently driving to Champaign, IL with Jacqui instead of checking in my bike in The Woodlands, Texas. My time will come again in the Ironman and triathlon world, maybe sooner than later or later than sooner, who knows. But there's no time like the present. And I can't wait to see what my legs can do tomorrow morning. The last time my legs touched this course I was still your runner who trained with miles logged instead of speed workouts and intensity. I've seen the beauty of this campus more than enough. Tomorrow, I'm ready to see it in a blur as I fly by. I want to greet the winds of the South Farms with open arms (well, more like closed because that wouldn't be aero, right Speedy? 🀣). 


And in all honesty, I can't wait to see what post-race will look like for my college group at the ripe old age of 29-30. Because back when we were in our prime, we hosted the classiest of events named "Short Shorts and Favorite Sports", where all attendees were required to wear the shortest shorts they owned with their favorite sports jersey. Of course we served the finest of beverages as well. 


Yes, Rob is wearing a pair of my running shorts

My partner in crime in the 217 area code 
This year, my partner in crime, Beth and her husband Jordan, have opened up their home to us. Yes, as of very recently, they are officially full time residents of 217 area code. Beth can't get enough of academia as she is now employed by the University of Illinois, of course involved with all things science and business. So I guess you could say, I can technically head back "home" whenever I feel like it.


And who knows, maybe I'll convince Rob to run the Half Marathon again!
Rob, Me, Beth post Half Marathon in 2012
And of course this week of all weeks my VERY NEWLY acquired allergies have decided to make quite the appearance, making me sound like a man at times. Not to worry, I have purchased some solid stock in Allegra D which will be enough to get me through the race with minimal flem. Along with an annoying flare up of my IT band/hamstring/we're not sure what muscle is so tight right now. I've had my pre-race massage and I've taken my RnR this week to make sure all systems are a go. My bags are packed, Jacqui and I are on the road, (with coffee of course), and the fun is awaiting our arrival. 

Stay tuned. Cheers.