Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lesson Learned - 2016 in Review

I've said it once before and I'll say it again, I'm one of those "everything happens for a reason" people. I will never throw around my religious beliefs because in today's age, one wrong word can be skewed entirely. I take a pretty big risk writing my feelings for all the world to see, which is why I try to never get too personal. But there's one thing you need to know about me, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I believe everyone's story is already written. We'll never know why things happen the way they do. All we can do is learn from what does.

So let's put it this way, 2016 was a hell of year to learn from.

Lesson 1: Don't worry about what you can't control.

Technically, this lesson started years ago. But it wasn't until I toed the starting line of a marathon that suddenly became a half marathon that I was truly able to grasp this. Last year, I was chased away from Ironman Maryland by Hurricane Joaquin. I was fortunate to make it back 2 weeks later to the rescheduled date and race. But lemme tell ya, what a way to test that mental strength.
Ok race day in 72 hours! JK, go home and go back to work and wait for a possible reschedule. Stress for 3 days. Make last minute plans to get to rescheduled race. Get your head back on straight because you have to race 2 weeks after you trained your body to be ready.  
Fast forward to January 2016. The Clearwater Marathon was CANCELLED about 10 minutes before the start of the race due to flooding and inclement weather in the area. I was angry and frustrated. I had worked so hard and wanted my chance to prove myself. I was SO TIRED of mother nature messing with my goals. Clearly the plan was already laid out. I just didn't know it at the time. 

I raced that half marathon, and raced it well (all things considered). But that was the last time I ever worried about elements outside of my control. Every person that planned to run a marathon that day had to switch gears and re-wire their brains into half marathon mode, not just me. No time to be pissed off, just go out there and what you know how to do. Run.

So when April rolled around and there still wasn't an official bike course for Ironman Texas, I could honestly give 2 shits. I still woke up and road my bike 100+ miles on Saturday mornings. I put my head down did the work. And with less than 3 weeks until race day, our course was solidified. It had more turns than it did miles, and that could very well cause panic. "So much stop and go will slow me down! Turns are a recipe for accidents!" People on social media were seriously losing their cool over this and I was in absolute awe over their arguments. Instead, I stayed calm and took the turns one at a time and road my heart out on the straightaways. And because my patience wasn't tested enough, I was greeted with a viscous hail storm halfway through the run and the last thing I did was let it ruin my day. Because unless a brick wall magically came out of nowhere and stopped me in my tracks, I wasn't about to stop moving forward. 

This was real life that day in Texas.
I can't control the weather or the last minute course changes. Or much else for that matter. Everyone on that course is presented with the same exact challenge. All I can control is how fast I swim, bike & run on race day. And damn it that's what I'm going to do.

Lesson 2: Boys will be boys.

If you've been reading along you know that my brother dipped his toes into his first 140.6 this year. He also happened to be working one of the most time consuming jobs I've ever seen at the same time. The time he had left to train was minimal. Being me, I would have absolutely killed myself trying to prep for a race with a huge unknown. Mark? He operated on the "maybe I'll swim this week, we'll see" kind of schedule. Now, like I said. I understand he had very little time, at best. But there were times he could have easily fit in a small workout. And his "I can swim in the bathtub" attitude got on my nerves like you wouldn't believe. I feared whether or not not he'd be able to finish this race. I questioned how serious he was about this. But at the end of the day, I had to remind myself that boys will be boys. He's a damn good athlete, and the fact that he was able to cross that finish line on such little training kind of pisses me off makes me happy for him. It's ok, I'll just be over here.. swimming.

Mark about 3 hours post-race IMLP
Maybe next time he'll rethink that "bathtub swim"

Lesson 3: You can do anything for a minute.

This is something I'm still learning and reminding myself of daily. With progress and experience over the years, intensity has also skyrocketed. On and off the course. I've talked to a lot of people who can't imagine putting their bodies through 140.6 miles. But after doing it 4 times and training for it 4 times, I'll gladly tell them that race day is the easy part. It's the day in and day out of 2 intense workouts a day that really tests you. Because when I see 10x100yds at 90% with :20 seconds rest as the first half of my swim set, I have to remind myself, you can do anything for a minute. This also holds true when I lock myself in the basement pedaling nowhere. When my legs are shot and the sweat is literally dripping off my drenched sports bra and I'm nearing the end of the 2 hour ride but still have 90 seconds of a 20 minute climb to go, I have to remind myself you can do anything for a minute. Or when I'm out for an evening run after work as the sun goes down and I'm struggling to hold pace for my last half mile repeat at a 7:XX pace I think to myself you can do anything for a minute. Because it's true. That minute ain't gonna kill me. It's just gonna make race day that much easier. 

Lesson 4: Listen to your body.

On the contrary, knowing your boundaries is key. The daily work/life struggle is enough to make most people have some sort of breakdown from time to time. Whether it's physical, mental, or emotional. Add anywhere from 15-20 hours of training a week to that mess and you've entered my day to day. There are plenty of days when my alarm goes off and I curse Ryan's name for writing me a workout that requires me to always be up before the sun. Of course, you'll find memes that will all but tell you how lazy you are for choosing some extra ZZZ's over a 5am workout.

And if you're any sort of Type A personality like myself, you'll look at this picture and immediately think, "Game On." But the truth is, sometimes the body needs the rest. And if you've ever met me, you know how hard this is for me truly grasp. I workout overtired, sick, on borrowed time, whatever I have to do. If it's written on my calendar, I'm gonna do it. But over the last 12 months, I've learned the value of unscheduled R&R. Because every once in a while when my alarm goes off at 4:30am and I envision my workout going like this:

That's when I know it's time to reset the alarm. Pushing your limits is great. But there's a fine line. And sometimes, hitting that snooze button might give you the edge you need on race day.

Lesson 5: Recovery is more important than you think.

Along with listening to your body comes the necessity to recover. You don't get to workout twice a day and wake up every morning fresh and ready to go. After a heavy weekend of triple digit bike mileage on a Saturday followed by 15+ miles on the road on Sunday, you start to wonder how you'll ever recover in time to be hitting workout paces on Tuesday morning. Your body becomes fatigued and your muscles can feel like lead. 

I put my body to the test this season. Three weeks after Ironman Texas I found myself on the starting line again, 3 weeks in a row. A year ago, my body wouldn't have allowed this. But after more experience, trial and error, and strength, I was able to do what I love more often. Race. 

Very rarely do I leave the house without my R8 roller. Minutes after a workout, I will always roll out my legs, as brief as it may be. I take my R8 roller to work when my legs need some extra TLC and sneak in a quick roll in between phone calls at my desk. I've found one of the best sports massage therapists and pay him a visit when my muscle repair is beyond my control. I've also changed my diet over the past few years. There was a day when you couldn't pay me to eat eggs. And now? I can't live without them. I also used to prefer chicken over red meat. And now? I'd eat a steak 8 nights a week if possible. And when my eyes get heavy at 9pm, you better believe I'm in bed by 9:01pm. There are obviously exceptions when life gets in the way, but my day to day sleep schedule is pretty rigid. It's these small habits, day in and day out, that have helped me have the season I did this year. 

2016 Success Stories

A few weeks ago when we were setting up our Christmas tree, Mark had the idea (that he may or may not have stolen from Coach Speedy G) to use a few of our medals on the tree as ornaments. Long story short, it didn't happen. We have normal ornaments on our tree. But my wheels started turning and I got curious. So I dug out all of my medals from the season and it brought a nice smile to my face. Holy cow a lot happened this year.

I PR'ed in ALMOST every distance..
  • March Madness Half Marathon - March 2016 - 1:41:04 (2min 8second PR)
  • Southwest Half Marathon - May 2016 - 1:38:35 (2min 31second PR, 4th in AG)
  • Leon's Triathlon Olympic Distance - June 2016 - 2:31:32 (19min 50second PR)
  • Grand Rapids Half Iron - June 2016  - 5:23:39 (24min 34second PR, AG WIN!)
  • Lake In the Hills Tri Sprint Distance - June 2016 - 1:32:39 (9min 18second PR, AG WIN!)
  • Indianapolis Monumental Marathon - November 2016 - 3:41:17 (19min 9second PR)
  • Elf Run 10k - November 2016- 45:01 - (2min 27second PR, 6th in AG)
  • Kiwanis Santa Run 5k - December 2016 22:19 (3second PR, AG WIN!)

Add that all up and you get a grand total of 1 hour and 23 minutes TO THE SECOND that I was able to shave off this year. The only distance missing from the list above is the Full Iron distance. BUT, there's always next year ;)

My mentors in triathlon are unparalleled

I jumped into this sport head first with no clue what I was doing. At all. But I told myself I'd find help. I just never imagined that the first person I asked would say yes. Let alone turn into someone I can call a lifelong friend. And this year, I was able to race side by side with him more than once. (More like, he'd WIN the race and hang out waiting for me.) His knowledge base is remarkable. His patience is noteworthy. And his support is phenomenal and pure. Both Ryan and Jacqui have inspired me in more ways than they realize. Their accomplishments are nothing short of incredible and have influenced me to dream big. If you are EVER considering a run or triathlon coach, you don't even need to ask me for a recommendation. Just go ahead and check out RyBread Racing.

My support system continues to amaze me. 

I'd be lying if I said this one didn't get me a little choked up. Ironman Texas is a perfect example. When Ian and Lindsey booked a last minute flight to Houston, shortly after the bike course was approved, solidifying the fact that the race would go on. Jess also purchased her ticket at the last minute, but we kept this one under wraps to make sure Jacqui had one of the best 30th birthday surprises. My father decided to make the trip down, making his travel accommodations well before I did. After watching Jacqui's bike crash the day before on her birthday, oversleeping and almost missing the race entirely, a last minute swim course change, a last minute bike course approval, and an UNFORECASTED HAIL STORM on the run, they were all there at the end of the day.

I remember the day I told my Uncle that I was planning on attempting this Ironman thing. He wanted me to come out west to run a marathon and spend some time in the area. I told him I had other plans for the fall and sent a picture of the Ironman logo. I didn't even have to explain, he knew. "Send us the dates, we'll be there!" he said. And they were. And the same held true when Mark decided to dive into the Ironman world for the first time. My aunt and uncle drove all the way from Omaha, Nebraska to Lake Placid, New York, with a pit stop in Chicago to pick up my parents after a small Southwest Airline nightmare. Traveling such distances isn't easy these days for that group, but they were determined to get there. {I have NO idea where Mark and I get this competitive drive 😉.} And when Mark and I played triathlon that day, climbing mountains and putting our mental strength to the true test, the 4 of them were there to greet us at the end of 140.6 miles.

And when the season wasn't quite over, I went out and added another 70.3 Half Ironman under my belt because I just can't help myself. The weekend before Steelhead, I watched my cousin start his life with his childhood sweetheart out in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. And as I got off the bike in Steelhead, ready to tackle one of the most gruesome runs, the bride and groom popped up on the course, signs in tow as they yelled profanities in my ear to put the biggest smile on my face. My Florida pit crew strikes again.

And of course, my core...
  • Rob. Never missing a beat. Attacking the weather nightmare in Texas. Maneuvering his way through the Adirondack Mountains in Lake Placid. Putting up with my year round chaotic schedule. Tucking me into bed at 8pm on a Saturday night because my body just can't after a certain amount of miles logged. Always supporting my desire to go out for a burger during the heavy training months, even if we had burgers yesterday. And understanding that during the summer, it's likely my hair will almost always be wet because showering 2-3 times a day is the norm. Essentially, never leaving my side
  • My parents. Truly none of this would be possible without them. I grew up in a house that encouraged you to find that will to succeed and chase it. No matter what we wanted to do, our parents were our biggest supporters. And they still are to this day.
  • Mark. My brother. BFG and best friend. I can remember being as young as 5 years old and climbing into Mark's crib when he just wouldn't stop crying while my sleep deprived parents slept through the noise. The brother-sister bond is unlike any other, which means sharing the race course with him sets my nerves on fire. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.
I'm so sad to see this amazing year come to a close. Two weeks before Ironman Texas I was almost certain the race would be cancelled, forecasting the beginning of the season on a low point. But, I guess everything happens for a reason, right? 😜

Monday, December 5, 2016

Elf Runs & Turkey Trots & Santa Runs, Oh My!

Over the last few years, I've clearly taken a jump into the deep end of the endurance world. Like, the serious endurance world. No longer are the days of the random 5k or 10k on a Saturday morning, because that would interfere with my 4+ hour trainer ride. OMG WHAT DID I JUST SAY!? Yea, you heard me. During the heavy training months, weekends in my world are code for, "how early do I have to get up this Saturday to fit my long ride into life?" That's not to say that this time of year isn't full of workouts, because it certainly is. But it just doesn't consume every second of my free time (plus more that require sleep sacrifices 😢).

So before my life jumps back into the joy of flaky dry skin from chlorine and that love hate relationship with my bike saddle, I thought I'd see what kind of speed my Ironman legs have in them.

November 20th, 2016 🎄 Elf Run 10K 🎄 Hartland, Wisconsin 

After realizing I had just missed the registration for a local 10k Turkey Trot in Lincolnwood, I started to do some research and found the Elf Run. Of course the first thing I did was sweet talk my lovely brother into joining me for the journey into the middle of no where Wisconsin at a pretty awful time on a Sunday morning. Let's just put it this way, he was oozing with excitement never really agreed to come with. I just happened to wake him up on Sunday when it was time to leave. And made him drive.

We saw the sunrise somewhere just over the Wisconsin border. Soon after that, we parked the car and walked into the host high school to find race day registration. When we struggled to find the gym, I decided to ask someone which direction we should be walking. The man that stood in front of me looked eerily familiar. I'd seen his face before, and it took all of a split second to realize who he was. The Facebook group "Ironman Wisconsin Tips & Secrets" is organized and run by a man named Eric Knight. Eric loves the sport of triathlon, and almost loves to stir the pot with Ironman newbies even more. The man responsible for making me laugh in the middle of grocery store because of his witty sass and snarky comments to athletes posting concerns about "snakes in Lake Monona!" or the "Weather looks like there might be wind! Oh what will I ever do with myself!" was standing right in front of me. As far as I'm concerned, a social media celebrity. I immediately made a comment about how I knew him from the internet world and his wife rolled her eyes and laughed as if to say, "oh boy, another one." Turns out I'm not the first one to spot the infamous Eric Knight! We mingled while we pinned our bibs on and swapped Ironman stories. And just like that, a new friend was made. And I repeat, just another reason I absolutely love this sport.

Mark and I took off for a nice little warmup jog and quickly realized that we were in for a treat. Our lungs were frozen from the temps (22 degrees at the start), our cheeks numb from the harsh headwinds, and our legs were going to have to do some work to climb the hills. I don't know why I haven't learned yet. Wisconsin is not flat. Not even close. Lemme tell ya, I know how to pick 'em.

The photographer insisted on taking everyone's pre-race photo.
Obvi I posed for RyBread Racing
Mark and I made our way to the starting line and the gun went off. In true Mark fashion, he hung out with me for about 3/4 of a mile before I started to notice him slip away. The first mile was mostly downhill (after the initial short climb right outta the gates) and I saw my first 6:xx race mile ever. A 6:59 is still a sub-7 and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little giddy. After mile 1, you weave your way through a neighborhood that reminded me of the bike course in Lake Placid. I swore, this road was flat. But my legs insisted otherwise. This road was anything but. Damn false flats get me every time. After a mile and a half you turn around and run right back where you came from. So every hill I just climbed, I got to go down. Mile 2 clocked in at 7:20. By the time I hit mile 3 I realized that the fun I had cruising through mile 1 was about to bite me in the ass because I had to climb up that twisty windy never ending hill. I gasped every second of my 7:30 mile when I hit the turn right next to the finish line and wondered why I didn't just run the 5k?

I look as well as I felt. Awful. 

The second loop I needed distraction. I made special note to try and look for Mark to take my mind off of the fact that my oxygen could quite possibly be reaching a scary level. The first big downhill wasn't as fast this time around. I couldn't find the air to help my legs turn over quickly. A 7:22 would have to do. The last 2 miles might as well have been 10. The hills ate me alive and my lungs screamed and begged me stop. I saw Mark twice and each time he gave me his little wave. There was no way I could even acknowledge him. If I did I'd likely pass out. Mile 5 clocked 7:42, which would be my slowest of the day. Mile 6 approached and haunted me as I looked up it. I powered up and did my best to keep my strides short and swift, focusing on my breathing. When I saw a 7:35 for mile 6 I couldn't have been happier that my last mile wasn't my slowest. The finish line was just down the short hill. I crossed and immediately collapsed to the ground. A new 10K PR of 45:01. A solid two and a half minutes faster. Worth every second of the pain.

I collected myself and headed back out onto the course to wait for Mark. I saw him at the top of the hill towering over all the other Elf runners and watched him set a PR of his own by over a minute. Not to shabby for being in "endurance world retirement" since he crossed the finish line at Lake Placid.

He would be Buddy the Elf in a land of real Elves
That's how big he is.

November 24th, 2016 🐔 Joslyn Castle Turkey Trot 5k 🐔 Omaha, Nebraska

I was lucky enough to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my Omaha Cheerleaders. As soon as we planned the trip I immediately found a Thanksgiving day Turkey Trot. We rolled into town on Wednesday around midnight and hung out with the family for a while before hittin' the hay after 1am. The 6:30 alarm was a little rough, but it only took a cup of coffee for me to get excited for one of my favorite running days of the year!

Mark and I took off with our Uncle and made our way to the race site. While we pinned our bibs and laced our shoes we overhead one of the other athletes make a comment. "Yeah, this is Omaha's most grueling course." This guy obviously hasn't ventured to places like Madison, WI or Lake Placid, NY. After a quick warm up with Mark I started to understand. Hills were the name of the week.

The gun went off and after a short downhill the climb started. Nice and steady. And it kept going. And going. Mile 1 clocked in at 7:18. A left hand turn into a neighborhood offered a glimmer of hope. The downhill was brief but followed by a slab of pavement that appeared to have no end. It just kept going up. Mile 2 I played cat & mouse with the girl that was holding 2nd place. I took the lead on the uphills, she kicked my ass on the downhills. A 7:38 for mile 2 told me that a PR was likely out of the question.  The final mile was welcomed and also feared. The last mile was a straight shot downhill. Not just any downhill. The kind of downhill that can make you lose control of your legs like a kid running down a grass hill. 2nd place blew me out of the water and I did my best to stay upright. I made the final turn towards the finish and was greeted by the final hill of the day. I attempted the best kick I had in me and ended the day 3rd overall female but fell short of a PR by 2 seconds. Not to worry though, at least I have a turkey to show for it.

Jealous of my hardware? 

December 4th, 2016 🎅 Santa Run 5K 🎅 Crystal Lake, Illinois

On December 3rd, 2016 at about 6pm, I had full intentions of sleeping in the next day (Sunday). By 6:30pm, I had agreed to set my alarm to run a local 5k with Mark, Jacqui, & Ryan (the instigator). Dressed in a Santa suit. During the first snowfall of the year. Isn't this what everyone does on Sunday mornings in the off season? I had secretly been kicking myself for falling so short of a 5K PR in Omaha that the idea didn't sound half bad to me. Yea, I'd be in a Santa suit. Yea, there would be some snow flurries. But.. with some flatter ground and semi-rested legs I should be able to pull this off. 

Mark's snowboarding goggles were a huge hit
The 4 of us suited up for the big run, beard and all! It's not often we race in our hometown, so we ran into a lot of familiar faces that we hadn't seen in a long while. My track coach being one of them. She's one of the people responsible for my endurance passion starting at a very early age. Her 6 year old son was there to run his first race and was noticeably very nervous. I'm sure it didn't help that there were ALOT of Santa's all around him. "But mom! Which one is the REAL Santa!?"

The 4 of us took off for a little pre-race jog to warm up our toes (mainly for my benefit). Mark and Ryan immediately started goofing off down the street while Jacqui and I shook our heads, waiting for one of them to trip over themselves. I forgot to mention the small caveat - Jacqui and Ryan were only 7 days off of the their last Ironman performance in Cozumel over Thanksgiving weekend. Jacqui had to be convinced to run while Ryan sprinted like a child through the streets of downtown Crystal Lake, like his legs were as fresh as could be. We all secretly hate his ability to recover so quickly.

We quickly maneuvered our way to the front of the line and shared our little starting spot with Buddy the Elf. We had seen the Grinch pre-race, but he was no where to be seen the rest of the day. The gun went off and the Santa's were loose! The streets were filled with 700+ Santa's in an instant. We weaved our way through downtown and before you knew it we were in front of Central High School. The first mile flew by, but I kept my cool and clocked a 6:47. The snow started to fall a little heavier and my beard kept finding its way into my mouth. My belt completely flipped and the buckle was on my back while the front of my suit busted open completely and flipped in the wind with my race bib. If I pull off a PR in these conditions it'll be a miracle.

Mile 2 clocked at 7:04. Not to shabby for eating a fake beard and slowly but surely losing my wardrobe. Mile 3 was a very gradual climb. I run this hill almost every weekend during my long runs, so I know it well. But rarely do I run it after two 7 minute miles in the snow dressed like Santa. I was slowing down and I could tell. I did some super quick math and knew that as long as I kept my last mile under a 7:30 I'd be good for a PR. So that's what I did. I sat at 7:30 pace and on the final stretch I kicked it into high gear. I saw 7:26 clock in for mile 3 and when I crossed the line, I had 3 seconds to spare. But guess what. A PR IS A PR I'LL TAKE IT. The new time to beat → 22:19.

Mark crossed the line a few minutes after me, goggles on, beard up, and ready to take on the Grinch. The four of us sipped on coffee and nibbled on our donuts while we mingled with old friends. We snagged a seat in the Raue Center Theatre where we caught up on life and waited for awards. Mr. & Mrs. Speedy took home the win while I snagged a 1st place Age Group award. Mark was so close coming in 4th!
Post Race Coffee & Donuts!


Goodluck figuring our who's who! Moral of the story, the last few weeks of my running life were SO.MUCH.FUN. I love being competitive with myself and against others. But I fell in love with running by simply just... running. Getting lost in my head while my legs go into auto-pilot. And while I checked off 2 new PR's over the last 2 weeks, I allowed my auto-pilot to kick in and simply have fun. And with that, I give you the close the 2016 racing season. 

Santa Out 🎅

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Respect: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

I'm a firm believer that if you put your mind to something, and you want it bad enough, you'll get it. That's not to say that there won't be bumps in the road, setbacks, or a plan that will likely require some tweaking along the way. But if you can put your head down and keep that focus where it belongs, it'll come.

I ran my first marathon in the Spring of 2010. Only 2 weeks before I graduated from the University of Illinois. I found a way to enjoy my final semester of college with some lifelong friends while I trained for my first marathon. It wasn't easy. And I had one of my worst race days ever that day. But I made it.

Mile 1 - Illinois Marathon - Circa 2010
It's been just shy of 2 weeks since I crossed the finish line of my 11th marathon. And guess what? It wasn't any easier than when I first did it 6 years ago.  The marathon is a funny, awful, intriguing beast that I can't stop going back to. But Megan, you've done 4 Ironman's. How in the world could a marathon possibly be harder than an Ironman? Quite the opposite, my dear friends. Pull up a chair, let's chat.
Checked in and ready to run!
I rolled into Indianapolis for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on Friday afternoon with Rob and my brother. We checked into the hotel, dropped our bags, and made our way to the convention center to pick up my packet. I was entering some serious deja vu. Mark had raced this marathon last year. We stayed in the the same hotel. Our path to packet pickup was identical. I was just as un-impressed with the expo this year as I was last year. But who cares about the expo when you're there to run. I wasn't nervous. Not even a little. The entire time, I made sure to keep reminding myself, "Tomorrow's long run is going to be just a little longer but definitely more fun."

The 3 of us met up with Jess for dinner. She was running the half marathon the next day. Ian {running his first full marathon} and Lindsey agreed to meet up with us in the morning. We found our seat and the TVs in the bar were still showing highlights and interviews from the Chicago Cubs World Series win. Being a die hard Cubs fan like you wouldn't believe, I had just spent the last month watching some of the greatest baseball I've ever seen. I watched my dad and brother cleanse their souls as the Chicago Cubs slowly checked off the 11 wins it took to wipe away the 108 year curse. I had more adrenaline in my veins watching post-season baseball than I care to admit, and I had never been this motivated to succeed.

Mark tried to entertain us before bed time

I woke up 3 hours before the gun went off, thanks to multiple alarms and Nate {who works the graveyard shift and promised to blowup my phone until I responded}. Pre-race rituals are pretty non-existent to me. I require a cup of coffee and a banana at the bare minimum. The rest? Meh, give me my shoes and I'm good to go.

Rob, Mark, and I made our way to the corrals pretty early. Shortly after, Jess, Ian, Lindsey and Brittany found us. We hugged hello, I stripped my sweats, and we all hugged goodbye. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some high expectations of myself for this race. I had run all of my long runs well under a BQ pace {Boston Qualifying pace ~ 3:35 marathon; 8:12min/mile pace}. I'm notorious for slumping earlier than most, usually around mile 17-18. And during this round of training, I had made it through my 16, 18, and 20 mile runs without any issues and ran them all under an 8 minute pace. But.. we all know that the marathon doesn't really start until mile 20.

The gun went off and it was time to execute. Step 1: Keep the first miles relaxed and easy. The plan was to run the first 2-3 miles just over an 8 minute pace. Don't get to caught up in the excitement. When my watch beeped and I saw 7:55 for mile 1, I definitely contemplated whether or not I should tell Ryan how fast I ran the first mile. However, it definitely could have been worse. I couldn't have felt better. By the time mile 2 came around, I spotted Mark on his bike. He found a way to cruise within 100 feet of me until mile 16 {when his phone died and he took off to claim his charger for the end of the race. Ugh, boys.}.  I approached the Monument Circle and the runners turned right while Mark pealed off to the left. Crowds were heavy and as I approached our hotel I heard Rob yell my name. I flashed my pearly whites, waved hello, and continued on.

Blurry pictures make me look fast :)

By mile 5, we entered an older neighborhood. Soon, Mark had some good news for me. Jess was only a few strides behind me! She inched her way closer and closer until soon we were running side by side. I welcomed her company with open arms and was so sad we only had a few miles together. Just before the split I told her she was on pace to run a sub - 1:45 half. Her jaw dropped. "Stay at this pace and you'll definitely see a 1:44." I told her. I was sad to see her peal off at the split.

Cruisin' and feelin' good!
The miles passed by 1 by 1 and they continued to feel effortless. I was feeling SO good that I promised myself after a super relaxed mile 12 {7:59, all miles had been between 7:52 and 7:59 at this point}, I was allowed a "fast" mile. Mile 13 clocked in at 7:37 and I kept the next 2 at 7:45. Alright, funs over. I settled back into my high 7:50 pace and was glad to have my brother by my side to keep me distracted. Until he wasn't there anymore. Somehow his phone went from 80% - 1% in minutes so he pealed off the course to venture back to our hotel and get his charger so he could use his phone at the end of the race.

The miles started to slow ever so slightly after mile 16. I dipped into the 8:00 mile range a few times {8:01 and 8:05} but still felt extremely relaxed. I didn't push the pace because I had to remind myself that I still had 10 miles to go. If I could stay in the 8:00-8:10 range for the last 10 miles I'd be the happiest girl alive.

Closing in on mile 20 I started to get nervous. The real test was about to start. Just after mile 20 I saw Rob on the side of the road. Unfortunately, this is also where my race started to fall apart. Somehow within a matter of 60 seconds I went from running on top of the world to feeling like I was running with the world on my shoulders. My stomach was in knots, my legs were heavier than lead, and I was struggling to find that motivation I once had. Mile 21 I did the best I could to stretch out my legs and my diaphragm, praying I would get some life back in my aching body. By mile 22 I was on the side of the road trying to find a way to get myself to puke. Definitely not ideal, but I knew I'd feel like a new woman if I could empty my stomach. I could even have a shot at finishing this race the way I started it, if only my body would cooperate.

In all honesty, the last few miles are a blur. Being passed by the 3:35 pace group at mile 23 was the icing on the cake. I knew I was capable of a 3:30 marathon and literally watching my chance at a BQ slip away at the very end stung pretty bad. I struggled to run for more than 3 minutes at a time. When I ran, I trudged. Somehow, I found a way to make it to the final turn. Shortly before the turn, Jess popped up on the course next to me and started to hug me. She was so excited to see me and I was in so much pain I could barely respond to her. I wanted to tell her that everything hurt and that I was worried about actually falling over, but even that was too much effort. She pealed off the course and left me to finish the race.

If this doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will..

So many feels for such a simple picture ❤❤
I crossed the finish line and the clock read 3:41. I missed my BQ by 6 minutes, but still walked away with a 19 minute PR. It had been almost 2 years since I ran an open marathon, 3 years since I'd PR'ed in the marathon, and today I proved that hard work and persistence pays off. I can't say that I'm not a little disappointed. I know what I'm capable of. My performance at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon was by far my best marathon, but I'm still a little hungry for more.

This marathon distance, it's a beast. I could say the same for the Ironman distance, but there's something about 26.2 miles at a "race pace" that continues to absolutely break me down. This distance is something that demands respect. It can humble even the most egotistical of minds. Finishing it is an amazing accomplishment. Finishing it at an uncomfortable pace while keeping your body held together is an entirely different ball game. One that I haven't mastered quite yet. But don't worry, I'm not done.  I'm about to switch back into full blown triathlon mode here soon, but I'm a runner to my core. My running shoes will forever be packed in my bag and ready for me when I need them.

I mean, how lucky can 1 girl be?  I was able to lace my shoes and do what I love with my 2 favorite boys. {Let's get real, how often do I do any of this stuff without Mark or Rob, or both of them by my side? #marklovestobethethirdwheel} I shared the course with one of my best friends {who just so happened to run that 1:44 half marathon I mentioned earlier}. AND - I was able to support Ian as he crossed the finish line of his very first marathon. I wanted to cry I was so happy for him.

I literally almost fell this hurt so bad.

Maybe Ian and I are using each other for support, maybe we're not?
The 2016 season is just about over, but not without a holiday fun-run or 2. {Gotta earn those cookies and milk somehow!} This fall has been something my heart and soul needed. I took a step back and went back to roots. I lived a little more relaxed while I logged some fast miles on foot. Rob, Mark, and I were able to see my cousin's hard work pay off when Cam came to Chicago and kicked off her Burning House Tour. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. I even ran away to the Smoky Mountains last weekend and caught up with my best friend/college roommate, her husband, and their newly adopted 8 week old pup. {sheppard/hound mix. Totes adorbs.} But it's time to get back on the saddle and start counting laps again. 2017 is right around the corner and I'll be damned if it isn't shaping up already. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here, Santa's coming soon 😉

Because I knew if I didn't show you a picture of the dog, you might stop reading my blog forever.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Sometimes after I cross the finish line, I wish I could bottle all of my thoughts for the moment I sit down to write about the race. The feelings are so fresh, the emotions so raw.

Tonight, I sat with my parents and watched history. And I'm feeling all the emotions. I walked in the door with only 20 minutes until game time so I scarfed down my dinner. As I cleaned up my plate my father says, "Megan sit down before the first pitch. Megan now. MEGAN HE'S IN HIS FUCKING WIND UP SIT DOWN!" And with that I took my seat. {Side note: I had at least 90 seconds until the wind up started, Jack was just a little on edge.}

We held our breath for every pitch. We screamed as Fowler bolted a home run to start off the game. Cringed as Baez made 2 errors crucial errors before the 4th inning. Sat in silence as we watched Cleveland tie the game in the 8th inning. And screamed our throats raw as Rizzo made the final out and snagged that game winning ball into his pocket. I've seen my father cry a small handful of times. And tonight, his tears brought such joy. We live and breath the Chicago Cubs in my family. And after (10) innings, (8) runs, and (108) years, we can finally say, we are the World Champions.

My father in all his pride and joy

I'm gonna keep this short and sweet, because it's closing in on the wee hours of the morning and I still have to adult tomorrow. I hope everyone has the chance to feel what I felt tonight. If you have a sport or a team that you love, I hope you get to experience the euphoria that comes with being a World Champion. Sports are a funny thing. So many life lessons can be learned on and off the 'field' {or whatever your sport is performed on} and yet in the long run, sports are simply an escape. Very few of us will ever make any money by playing in our recreation sports league or by signing up for ump-teen races a year. But we do it anyways because it's our escape from reality. And we can't get enough of it.

"All I want to do is see them win. And watch the celebration. And the presentation of the trophy. And go to bed with a smile on my face. I've had a million surgeries. I've had a heart attack. I've been in a pretty serious car accident. And I'm still here to see this. I've seen over 1000 games played at Wrigley Field, that's over 3 YEARS of my damn life at that stupid place! I'm ready to see it!" - Jack Hode around the 7th inning.

And I'll be damned if tonight wasn't a dream. Or was it? So the next time you think twice about signing up for that race because you shouldn't spend the $40, or you think twice about going to your favorite sporting event because you need to get up early for work the next day, I'm going to advise you to do so anyways. Because what I'm feeling right now, there ain't nothin' like it.

And now I have my own "World Series" to get ready for, which is the primary reason I'm not drunk on Clark Street at the moment. I have 48 hours until I toe the line of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon with the chance to keep this ball rolling and turn November 2016 into a truly epic month for both me and my family.

Let's do this shit.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Guys, it's been a year. An entire YEAR since I first sat down and started rambling my thoughts to nobody. Or technically, everybody? This is the interweb where freedom to do, read, and say as you please is everywhere. When I first started this blog, I had no idea how long it would last. "Who even cares about my racing life? No one will ever read this. I'm just wasting my time." It wasn't until I was stopped by a stranger at a race who told me, "You're Megan, right? Oh I read your blog!" That was all it took. That small moment warmed my heart like you wouldn't believe. 
So here we are, one year later. Obviously my blog has recently undergone a birthday makeover, and I'm kinda diggin' it. I've added some new content. Make sure to check out the new tabs. I've added a little more about me, some of my all time favorites (Race related, food related, life related. You're welcome.), and (my personal favorite), MARK'S CORNER! Mark decided to dive into the blogging world and will be adding to his corner of thoughts periodically. I'll keep you in the loop when he decides to dust off his keyboard. 

And what a year it's been. I could rehash everything we've been through this year, but that's what the blog archive on the right hand side of the page is for, right? But what about all the stuff I left out? Like real life? I think it's safe to say, I like to tell it like it is. I'm a pretty real person. So I've decided to be a little bit more real about my life. Ya know, the happenings when I'm not training, eating, working, racing, or sleeping. Or how about some of the details that go into the hours of training? Here it is, the rest of the year that I left out.


November 2015

Only a few weeks after crossing the finish line in Maryland, my brother tackled Step 3 of 140.6 miles; 26.2 miles. Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Running is his necessary evil. He may have hated every step of the way, but he did it.

Just before the holidays were in full swing, I made my way to the United Center for a Chicago Bulls game with Lindsey. I'm not a fan of basketball at all. All I know about Chicago Bulls basketball is that Derrick Rose is (was?) kind of a big deal. However, the tickets were free, the company was great, and the beer was cold. Consider me a lucky girl. And lemme tell ya, the Madhouse on Madison is a lot different without ice.


December 2015

Jess' birthday was just before Christmas and Mark and I agreed that she wasn't allowed to spend it on the couch. We kid-napped her at the last minute for some birthday shenanigans. Needless to say, she may or may not have been over served.

Post Car-bomb, pre word slurring
The holidays came and went. I ate my weight in sugar and had more than my share of Holiday cocktails. But that's what the holidays are all about, right?

We can clean up ;)
Ringing in the New Year!


January 2016

As soon as the holidays were over, we laced up our running shoes again.. kinda. The S-NO-W Fun Run in Lake Geneva, WI isn't a race to be taken seriously. It's fun and relaxed and 100% about the post-race party at the Grand Geneva. We were able to have 2/3 of our LP Partee at the race and between the 6 of us, we have very little recollection of what went on that night.

Onsies were all the rage that night

February 2016

Winter in Chicago is supposed to be the worst, right? This year, we got lucky. How lucky? This photo was taken on February 28th. It was 60 degrees and yes, Rob is wearing a t-shirt while he plays a little badminton with his sister in the backyard. {don't mind little Leo in the background, he finally surrendered that his Aunt and Uncle weren't going to let him play.} And yes, it snowed only 2 days later.

I also had the opportunity to head over to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute in February. They were looking for a lab rat. So I decided to let them hook me up to a bunch of machines, measure my heart rate and 02 count, all while they made me run on incline on a treadmill. The catch? I could only breath through a tiny little tube that was connected to another machine. The best part? I wasn't allowed to eat for 8 hours before the test. And I couldn't have caffeine. They actually almost turned me away because, "I'm sorry but your blood sugar is almost TO low." I wasn't about to let myself go 8 hours without food for NOTHING. This experience was so wonderful the first time around that I've decided to go back for round 2 in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.


March 2016

March was fairly uneventful. I was in full training mode for IMTX so time was limited. But, don't fear. I found a way to mix my social life with my training life. 

What better way to spend 4 hours on your bike on a snowy Sunday morning than with your friends? Thanks to Sammy's Bikes in St. Charles, Ryan was able to snag us a pretty sweet setup for a long computrainer ride with some of the RyBread Athletes. The best part? Watching Sammy brew fresh espresso in the shop while we were stuck on our bikes, pedaling nowhere. 

When the weather did cooperate during this awkward month, I was able to get a couple of long runs in on the pavement. Even if that meant running on a freshly salted/slippery street. Kicking up what felt like pounds of salt. At times, it would hit the back of my legs like little pebbles that were out for death. After one particular run on the March Madness Half Marathon course, I took my final steps towards my car and when I looked down at my shoes all I saw was this:

Bloody ankles

That's right. I kicked up so much salt that it eventually lodged itself in between my socks and my skin and caused me to bleed THROUGH my shoes without even feeling a thing. Until I stopped moving. It wasn't until then that I felt like my ankles were on fire. Every step I took was excruciating. And then, the shower. I, I just can't relive it. Lemme tell ya, this was only a preview of what my left ankle would look like in Texas after the monsoon of rain causing my timing chip to rub my left ankle raw on race day.


April 2016

You think March was blah? Wait til you see what how exciting fun April was. I got home from work one day and shortly after, my brother walks through the door. But he looks as white as a ghost. And he tells me that he managed to hit his head on a rusted drain pipe on the outside of his building. Don't ask me how. Just know that it happened. After a quick examination by yours truly, I made him get right back into the car and I ushered him to immediate care to have a staple put into his head. "Sister, no! They are NOT going to staple my head!" Yea, ok Mark.

Right before he made me hold his hand
And just like that, put back together again

The BFG turned all shades of white and even insisted that the nurse waste a staple from her staple gun so he could see exactly happens before he allowed her to staple his head shut. What a baby.
May 2016

May began my 3 month stint of "omg I don't know if I'll make it through the next 3 months without collapsing." Triathlon season officially kicked off for me during the month of May with Ironman Texas. May is also a special time in the Hode house. Baseball season is upon
us. My cousin Todd started playing baseball at the ripe old age of 4 in 1980 and my brother finished his baseball career in 2014. Meaning, our family went 34 continuous seasons of having a Hode on the baseball field. After a 2 year hiatus, we found our way back to the diamond. Todd's twins, Jonathon and Iva, debuted their baseball careers. They showcased their abilities in dirt kicking, nose picking, and the occasional tear over getting a little to dirty. 

Stella's Bar & Grill Bellevue, NE
After show casing my talents of not drowning at Ironman Texas, I found myself in Omaha, NE to visit my Aunt & Uncle. I showed up within hours after my uncle had yet another ankle surgery to repair damaged nerves. We spent the weekend laughing, reminiscing, and talking about our up and coming trip to Lake Placid, NY. Oh, we had some awesome grub too. Behold, the most amazing burger I've ever had. Served to me in a teeny tiny diner seen on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" on a napkin. 

Coming off of Ironman Texas, I knew I wouldn't have to much time for rest and relaxations like I normally do. Ironman Lake Placid with the LP Partee was quickly approaching so I had to make the most of my 1 week of freedom before training got down & dirty again. And what better way than at Wrigley Field, right? Over the course of 10 days I had completed Ironman Texas, enjoyed a weekend in Omaha, NE and graced Wrigley Field with my presence, right before I had to get back on my bike for the summer. And in true Megan style, it rained on us.

June 2016

In June I decided to race 3 of the 4 weekends. Sleeping hours got less and less, and training hours got more and more. And life went on. Friday nights were spent in a variety of places. The first Friday in June I was able to catch a 7pm movie with 2 of my best girls. That's not to say we didn't go with dripping wet hair fresh outta the pool and sneak dinner (Panera sandwiches/salads) in our oversized purses. Because that's exactly what happened. And we weren't even ashamed. 

The following Friday in June, Rob and I planned on having a nice relaxing evening at home. Maybe put a movie in? Wrong. After dinner cleanup was over we found ourselves at the vet with Josiee, who couldn't stop nipping at a cut on her paw, clearly making it infected. We did the waiting room game, the wait for the doctor game, and then entertained ourselves watching Josiee run into EVERYTHING in the house with her fresh cone head. It was such a romantic evening. 

The LP Partee was also able to get together (on a WEEKDAY!) for a group open water swim WHILE we celebrated Nate's birthday. He insisted he wanted to spend his birthday with us. So we got in some strokes and then demolished some pizza.  Of course we couldn't get a picture of all of us together. Missing on the left: BFG and Mrs. Speedy (Jacqui). 


July 2016

July. IMLP month with the LP Partee. 10 days in the Adirondack mountains, breathing the fresh mountain air, and racing in one of America's hidden gems. Surely there was no time for anything else, considering all the heavy mileage leading up to the big day? HA! Over the 4th of July weekend I took a red eye flight out to Denver for a cousin's wedding. That weekend also happened to be one of the biggest training weekends to date, so I had to figure out a plan. OH! I know! Why not just rent a bike and ride through Steamboat Springs and climb an ungodly amount and call it a day?  Guys, this ride was no joke. 60 miles and 6,000 feet of climbing. Woof. And then, I danced the night away on top of a completely different mountain, all in the name of love.  

Photo op before I started the climb of death.
First dance with a special vocalist

And then I went to IMLP and raced my ass off and had the time of my life. When I returned, surely it was time to relax, right? Please, the fun was just beginning. Meet Beth. One of my college roommates and best friends. And Beth was getting married. And of course we had to send her off the right way. With a Wrigely Rooftop game. The first sip was taken before the PM hours and because we're not in college anymore, we were all in bed before the AM hours. But damn, what a great day it was. 

College roommates acting like we're still in college.
Clearly I did my job as a good bridesmaid should.


August 2016

This wedding had fun props and Mark took it a little to far.
August arrived and showed little mercy. I wasn't quite done racing for the season and wedding season had only just begun. I found myself back in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the Florida Pit Crew's wedding! Of course I was there with water and Gatorade in hand, just like they have been for me.  This time, I wasn't alone! Mark and I enjoyed a casual morning hike with our cousins and their 2 four year old twins, one of which knew more about the nature trivia signs than I did. And in the evening, we took off for the ranch and watched 2 families become 1, almost 30 years in the making.

At some point over the last year, Jess told me that she had never been to Wrigley Field. Better yet, she had never been to a baseball game. Instead of telling you how I may have overreacted to that, I'll let you rest easy knowing that Jess has now officially been to a baseball game at Wrigley Field. She even had a hot dog and chocolate malt cup to top it off. Consider it a win.

Of course the pup went with :)

With the highs come the lows. And during the month of August I also had to say goodbye to my best friend from high school. Her and her husband officially packed their bags and are now living abroad in Tel Aviv for the next 2 years. We've always been scattered across the country so we're used to the distance friendship. But this kind of distance is unknown territory and a little scary. And frankly, I couldn't be more excited for her.

Just before the end of the month, Rob's sister EB (short for Elizabeth) graduated from nursing school. She followed in her mom's footsteps and had quite the journey to walk across the stage. But she did it. With her dad and all of 9 of her siblings in the audience to watch. Two days later we celebrated with jello shot filled syringes and a bouncy castle for all the kids.



BIRTHDAY MONTH! Only the best month of the year! AND! I'm lucky enough to share the glorious day of September 9th with Lauren, LP Partee member and RyBread Racing teammate. And this year, I was able to celebrate with her, Portillo's chocolate cake and all. PS - if you can guess why our candles add up to 36 you win the prize!

Photo by Lena Marie Photography
After Beth's bachelorette party shenanigans in July, she finally tied the knot in September. We had the whole college crew back together again. We sang and danced, drank and laughed. And in the morning, we woke up and all sat on the bed, piecing together the night before. Just like we used to. It was like nothing had ever changed.

As the summer came to an end, we had one last celebration to attend. My twin cousins, my Colorado hiking buddies, turned 5 years old. Five and full of personality, spunk, sass, and all that comes with it. They have opinions and they are sure to share them. They have contagious laughs and right now, they think I'm the coolest "Aunt" ever. They're no longer babies or toddlers. They're miniature people that bring so much joy to everyday.

Life is good at 5


My life isn't the most exciting, I realize that. And the point of this was not to brag about "all I've done this year." But I've learned in this crazy sport that it is SO easy to be overtaken with swim/bike/run ALL THE TIME. Of course it's something I'm passionate about. And I have some goals that personally scare the crap out of me and require a disgusting amount of time and energy. But there's so much outside of this triathlon world.

I think 'balance' is the word I'm looking for. There's more to me than Swim/Bike/Run. I'm currently wearing an adult Harry Potter themed t-shirt (I'll wear my Disney/Mickey Mouse themed t-shirt tomorrow), have plenty of Chicago Fire/PD/Med to catch up on, and can't wait to find some more time to dive into my Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook. I'm a closet Disney freak who always tries to steal a little cousin to go see the newest movie in theaters. I bleed Orange and Blue and will forever refuse to put "the" in front of Ohio State. Traveling to new places might give me as much joy as racing, and as a result I have a beautiful love affair with the mountains. I'm a pizza and beer snob like you wouldn't believe. (Dominos? Bud Light? Why bother?) I'm as awkward as they come when receiving a gift, but I'll give them all day long. I have an obsession with latte's that started to get out of control, so now I use them as a post-race motivation only. And most importantly, you'll never meet a bigger Cubs fan than me and my family. And right now, there isn't much you could do to ruin the mojo in my house. I guess you could say I'm a child trapped in an adult world, who happens to also be a triathlete.

Thanks for reading along the past 365 days. I promise the next 365 will be just as fun because I already have a lot on tap.