Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Learning to Run Smart: Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon

There was a day when I'd sign up for a race and think to myself, "Rain or shine, this will be fun!" Now I sign up for races and think, "This one's gonna hurt the lungs, especially if the weather doesn't cooperate.. 😖" Before I got serious with my running, races were 100% about experiences and loving every step. And I can definitely say that that statement that still holds true. However, my savory experience now entails a lot more competitive edge, something I didn't know I had in me. Course design, weather, time of year, recovery between races. These are all things that are now taken into consideration before signing up for a race.

When Ryan and I sat down to decide on a fall half marathon, we had a few options. Indy Monumental Half Marathon and the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon were my best options. Indy was early November, giving me less time to recover/jump back into training, ultimately risking injury and/or a poor race due to racing on non-recovered legs. The Schaumburg Turkey Trot gave me more recovery time, however is notorious for wind and slower than normal times due to the course. I decided to be smart and give my body the best chance at recovering well and risk taking a "slower" time due to weather and course difficulty and racing the Schaumburg Turkey Trot. At the end of the day, my only goal was to test my fitness, regardless of course difficulty/weather, so racing the Indy Monumental Half Marathon wouldn't be fair to my body. When I hit the "register" button, I didn't realize how badly my lungs were about to burn 2 days after Thanksgiving.

Busse Lake on a chilly November morning
Busse Woods in Schaumburg, IL is a popular forest preserve in the heart of the Chicagoland area, complete with Elk, endless hiking trails, and a gorgeous lake. Much of the trails are covered by wildlife, while the rest of the trails are out in the open where the wind waits for you.

Mark and I arrived on race morning pretty early to gurantee a parking spot. No, Mark wasn't running, but didn't even put up a fight when I asked him to be my race Sherpa. (Not to worry, I fed him well the night before as a Thank You.) We parked a couple hundred yards from the event site, and we even scored prime location next to a random porta pottie on the curb. Ultimately, I had my own personal bathroom and was tickled pink about it. I know all you runners/triathletes out there know that this sort of thing can make or break a race. #amiright

The silver car is ours
Mark and I hopped out of the car so we could watch the 5K start (45 minutes before the Half Marathon start) and then I took off for my warmup. In the days leading up to the race, I religiously watched the weather and the the winds started off pretty rough, 20+mph. But on race morning we were looking at 13-15mph. Definitely not ideal, but more manageable than 20mph.

I tossed my empty pre-race nutrition bottle to Mark and squeezed into the starting area. 3 minutes behind schedule the gun finally went off. This first mile of the race was definitely going to be the hardest. But Megan, the first mile? Why? I'm FAMOUS for starting the first mile (or 2) of a race way to fast and blowing up at the end. I never mean to, the adrenaline is always flowin' and by the time I hear my watch beep at mile 1, I know I'll be getting a lecture from Speedy post race. Today, I was not here to break any records. I was here to test my fitness and learn how to run smart.

Mile 1: Straight into the headwind. And I quote Ryan, "The worst thing that you can do here is to push too much the first mile." Mile 1 Goal: no faster than 7:40. Mile 1 actual: 7:33. Technically I still failed, but if you had any idea how BAD this first mile could have been you'd be so proud of me. I was SO conscious of running this first mile conservatively that I actually remember thinking, "I'm not even breathing heavy. I should be breathing much harder than this! Shut up Megan and follow the race plan. 

"Surley I can run this pace all day long!"

Mile 2: The crosswind starts. Speedy says it's ok to drop the pace a little here. Mile 2: 7:25. Good girl Megan. Slowly start the descend. 

Mile 3: Continue to run with the wind but don't run out of control. Mile 4: 7:24. 

Mile 4: The course heads back North into the wind. Part of this mile is an out and back section. On the way back I heard my name from the other side. I glanced and saw an old high school friend/next door neighbor growing up. I flashed Jenna a wave because I was definitely breathing much heavier at this point. Speedy told me to expect a slower mile here and not to push this one. Mile 4: 7:43. Kid knows his stuff. 

Mile 5: We started to head back South and there was a slight downhill. Speedy's recommendation: pick up the speed and jump back into 7:25-7:30 range. Mile 5 actual: 7:29. I deserve a frickin' medal for listening to Ryan so well. 

Mile 6: Halfway through mile 6 the trail gets very wooded and the next thing you know there are large fences all around you. I spotted a sign on one of them, "PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE ELK." You shittin' me? Where the hell am I? I had Elk for dinner last week. The end of mile 6 is over a bridge and then you immediately run through a bit of grass until you cut over back onto the trail. I've never been a cross country runner, and my legs don't respond to soft ground. That mixed with the bridge, I knew this would be a slower mile. Speedy was hopin' for a 7:30 out of me. Mile 6 actual: 7:43. Eh, ya win some ya lose some. 

Mile 7: This section of the course I know quite well. This is the start area of the Egg Shell Shuffle (a 5k/Half Marathon that Jacqui and Ryan direct every year during Easter). As soon as you jump back onto the path, you run a pretty steady downhill for the entire mile, and it's supposed to be WITH the wind. One small problem, the wind was starting to change directions. I was running downhill, INTO the wind. Ultimately, I felt like I was falling into one of those indoor skydiving things. Just kinda, not moving. Mile 7 hopes: fast. Mile 7 actual: 7:37. Well, we'll just say that's because the wind changed direction on me. 

Mile 8: The last mile I just did? Yea, I got to turn around and do it again. Mile 8 is a replica of mile 7 in reverse. You turn around and head back North, into the wind, climbing uphill the entire mile. The wind was SUPPOSED to be a tailwind for part of the mile, but at this point it was coming at us from all directions. I spotted Jenna again heading back. This time, she was to gassed to even speak. Speedy said to expect a slow mile. Mile 8: 7:52.

Mile 9: The course heads back South, in theory giving us a favorable wind. Lies. All the wind. Slight incline for a good portion of the mile. Lungs burning. Lead legs. Speedy was hopin' for a fast mile. I was hopin' for a lung transplant before mile 10. Mile 9 actual: 7:57. Ughhhhhh you were doin' so good!

Mile 10: FAIR WARNING: all the miles from now until the finish SUCK. You head straight North into the wind. Very little wooded areas. Wide open prairie with wind piercing your soul. If I wanted any chance at a second wind (HA! I made a funny..) I needed to make sure I didn't choke at this aide station. I decided to take my 2nd gel and walk this aide station (meaning, I walked as long as it took for me to down my gel and a single cup of water, mostly so I wouldn't choke). This cost me about 10 seconds. My garmin went from an 8:03 to an 8:12. Mile 10 actual: 8:14. 

Mile 11: I was hoping for some sort of re-birth here. The wind wasn't slowing down. I struggled to keep my pace under 8. Damn, this is the beginning of the end. The 2nd half of the mile I was still praying my gel would kick in and that my legs would find another gear. Silly Megan, you're not on a bike. Mile 11 actual: 8:15. Ok no biggie, these last 2 miles have your name all over them. 

This photographer could not have been placed at a worse part of this race
Not my best race moment.

Mile 12: I don't remember alot about this mile except that there was a decent hill that we climbed in the beginning that we had to climb again. And I was not feelin' it. Until this hill hit I was lookin' at a sub 8. After the hill was over, my hopes of a sub 8 were doomed. Mile 12 actual: 8:14. 

Mile 13: Background on mile 13: a few days prior to the race, Ryan told me that if I ran smart and was able to run a sub 7 mile for the last mile he would buy me a new pair of shoes. My watch hit 12.00 miles and instantly I did my best to suffer as hard as I could for 1 last mile. There aren't many things I won't do for a new pair of shoes.. My efforts didn't last long. The final mile was TRULY head on into the wind. I hung onto a 6:55 for MAYBE a quarter of a mile (if I was lucky) and slowly I lost it. Soon, I saw the crowd of people and knew the end was near. Mile 13 actual: 7:53.

Someone turn off the wind
FINISH: 1:42. Definitely not my best. Also, no where near my worst. But, all things considered.. (weather, coming off a big season, and all the "off season" fun I've been having) I can't complain. I know where I'm at heading into the winter. I also know where I want my legs to be, so I'm ready for the "fun" to start. I immediately leaned on the closest object I could find. Ultimately for me, it was a box of boxes of water.

I'm not so sure boxed water is any better

Mark is good at catching the prime moments
Mark and I watched Jenna finish STRONG with a 4 minute PR (girl, teach me!). She had just finished her first Ironman 2 and a half months ago in Madison, Wisconsin. She also ran the Chicago Marathon a month later. Sure, let's end the season with a PR on pretty beat up legs. We hung out for short while, long enough for our teeth to start chattering. Jenna is a fireman at the Schaumburg Fire Department and asked us to drop her off at the station on our way home. Of course that meant we got the full tour of the place and met all the important people.

Fire Trucks are Cool!
Ultimately, it was a great way to end the Thanksgiving weekend, doing what I love. I'm glad I was able to follow through with a race plan and run a smart race. Running fast doesn't just mean, "Ready, set, GO!" It's about conserving the tank (I'm used to running on E!) so that your last mile isn't necessarily the slowest. I know I have a lot to learn. My competitive training experience over the last 4 years has been heavily triathlon/Ironman based. I've taken short breaks to dive back into running, but never like this. I've never trained my run at quite this intensity. And Ryan has already mentioned, "You're in for a world of hurt." I'm sure it's a whole new world, and I can't wait to experience it.

Go ahead, quote me on it.


  1. I ran this race too! Yep, the wind is always a factor at Busse Woods. This was my 3rd time running the STT and the weather was perfect! While I'm much slower than you, I had a good race and really enjoyed running on familiar turf.


    1. Congrats to you as well Wendy! I've run a few races at Busse over the years, and it's never my favorite. But I know it'll only put a little hair on my chest and make me stronger!

      Enjoy your off season :)

  2. Great job! I've never run this race, but do enjoy Busse Woods once in a while to switch it up. After BQ-ing but still missing the cutoff, I'm gearing up for a tough winter of training, too. We can do it!

    1. Where are you planning on qualifying next!? GOODLUCK TO YOU!!!

  3. Spring Chance BQ--You should do it!! I'm also hoping to do the F^3 half and March Madness.

    1. I’ll see you at March Madness 😜🏃🏼‍♀️