Chicago marathon: what I would do differently and what’s next

speedrun_10_18_16__mg_0771Now that I’m a couple weeks out from the Chicago marathon, it’s high time to share a little bit about what did and didn’t go well and what’s next for me. I wrote a post after the NYC marathon last year about what I wanted to differently for this marathon training cycle, so I’m going to kick things off by revisiting those goals to see how I did. With grades. Because #gradschool.

  • More hills and speed: A! Yes! Not so much hills, because Chicago is flat, but incorporating speedwork was probably the biggest key to my success.
  • More strength training and core work: I’m going to give myself a B- here–I did do core on my own but not so much specific strength training beyond yoga.
  • A personal training plan: B on this one as well. I did use a training plan from Coach Dan but it wasn’t personalized to me or my race goals.
  • Not running a big city race: F for fail. Chicago is as big as it gets other than NYC.
  • Not running for charity: A! This was a big load off and truly allowed me to focus on training.
  • Train with a group again: A!21c0bcc9-41da-4907-aad3-97866a44ef51

Overall, I’m incredibly proud of what I was able to do over the course of this training cycle. It’s a very big deal to cut a race time down by 29 minutes in less than a year, and I think a lot of my success was due to training more strategically (more running days per week, slightly higher mileage, speedwork, tempo runs, etc.) That said, I did fall short of my stretch goal to qualify for Boston, and I know it’s absolutely within reach for me. Here’s what I think will get me to a sub-3:35.

  • Run a small race: Big city races, especially those you have to travel for, add a ton of uncertainty to the race prep process. It’s much harder to control pre-race conditions (sleep and nutrition) and the logistics can be costly and complicated. In addition, in most big races you actually end up running farther than 26.2 miles because you have to do so much bobbing and weaving. It’s also much harder to run the tangents. For me, though, the biggest hurdle in Chicago and NYC was handling the feeling of being so packed in with other runners. I find the crowds to be overwhelming and distracting. Yes, big races offer incredible atmosphere and crowd support, but I feel like it makes it hard for me to run my own race, at least while pace is my top priority. Also, my best half marathon experiences (including my PR race) have been at smaller races, so this is definitely where I thrive as a runner.
  • Focus on race strategy and nutrition: I spent very little time thinking about either of these important factors before Chicago. My race strategy was to run 8 minute miles for the whole time. I think I would have done better to start a hair slower–maybe with a 3:35 pace group–and then pick it up after the half. Instead, we started out running 8s or a little bit faster, and I had nothing left in the tank later in the race. Similarly with nutrition, I didn’t do any experimentation during training and stuck with the chews I’ve always used, even if I didn’t always feel fantastic. I think something more natural/easier to digest might have warded off the cramping that hit around mile 16.
  • Consider investing in coaching: I did have access to a team coach for this training cycle, but I think if I really want to go all-in for a BQ it would be worth it to hire someone to craft a tailored plan for me that fits both my goals and what I know about myself as a runner. I’m considering working with Runner’s Connect or RUN4PRs, but if anyone has any suggestions for coaches to look into I am all ears!!
  • Raise the mileage, not just the number of running days: The plan I followed this cycle had me running 6 days a week, so by default I ran more miles that I did last year. That said, 40-ish miles a week is actually pretty low for a 3:30 goal. On a super basic level, the goal of marathon training is to learn to run on tired legs–I think getting closer to 50 mile weeks would get me to the next level.

First non-running adventure: tackling the Harvard stadium!

So… what’s next for me? First off, not marathon training for a while! I am considering taking close to a year off of training for a full marathon. I am wrapping up my MBA and getting married within the next year, and I’d like to get past those two milestones before diving into a training plan again. However, I will absolutely still be doing tons of running in the near future! Here’s what I’ve got on tap:

  • Running the Cambridge Half Marathon on 11/13
  • Exploring new opportunities with Oiselle’s Volée! I love the Oiselle brand and am super pumped I jumped on the chance to join their “global community made up of women with diverse running backgrounds and competitive goals.” I’ve been seeing volée posts and events for years and can’t wait to see what this group has to offer.
  • Even if a marathon isn’t on tap in the immediate future, I have a lot of space to grow in terms of speed. I’d love to run a sub-1:40 half, and also think a sub-20 minute 5k would be pretty killer.
  • I’m also really jazzed about getting some non-running related fitness back into my life! Probably at the top of the list is reinvesting in my yoga practice, but I’m also hoping to get back into some hiking and skiing (let’s cross our fingers for some snow this winter…)

Again, thank you so much for being a part of this crazy adventure! I can’t wait to see what’s next.




Chicago marathon recap part 2: the weekend

img_0583Howdy, friends! I’m back to recapping my time in Chicago–click here if you missed my race day recap. It was such a fun weekend to be in town! Chicago is one of my favorite cities, and it happens to be where one of my favorite friends lives. Here’s a recap of what we did before and after the race–including lots of food and a little bit of Hamilton!

I’ll rewind back to last Thursday, when we flew out late in the day and popped into Lyfe Kitchen for a quick dinner. We really liked it–they had a nice and varied menu with lots of gluten free options. Friday morning we were up relatively early–J wanted to pop into the November Project workout and I wanted to get rolling pretty early to the expo. We hopped on a shuttle around 9am from one of the downtown hotels and it dropped us off right at the expo–definitely a super smooth way to get there.img_0600

Having been to the marathon expos in both NYC and Boston I have to say this one was really well organized and actually not that overwhelming–although we did miss Shalene Flanagan’s book signing, which I was bummed about. We snagged my number and t-shirt and then I picked out my splurge marathon swag item–a red half-zip I have basically been living in since the race. It’s really easy to get overzealous and spend way too much time walking around (and shopping around) at the expo, so I’m pleased we were able to sneak out with just a few purchases. J did get me one of these babies as a marathon present and I LOVE IT. Totally worth spending the money for the real deal.img_0610

After the expo we meandered our way up to Wheat’s End Cafe, where had to keep myself from ordering every single thing on the menu–the entire restaurant is gluten free!! Nirvana. In the end we split a pumpkin cinnamon roll and I had a fig, brie, and prosciutto sammie. Next time I’ll have to come back and try the gf popover!

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering down through the zoo–I’m not the biggest zoo person (they make me a little sad) but we had a great time. It’s super cool that the zoo there is free and easily accessible. img_0618We met up with my college bestie Deby and made our way to The Northman, which is a cider bar! So cool–I really loved the ones we tried. We need one of these in Boston, stat. The evening was spent catching up and chowing down at Homeslice, which has fabulous gf pizza. Good food, good times, good people🙂img_0670

Saturday morning I harangued J into coming on my shakeout run with me, so we did some run-sightseeing and stopped by the bean for the requisite photo opp. We also checked out the runner reunite area to get our bearings for Sunday. Post-run we met back up with Deby and ventured to Grange Hall for my pre-race lunch burger. This baby is sitting on top of two slices of gf french toast and is topped with bacon, Canadian bacon, cheese, and an egg. WOOF. I swear there is actually a burger under there somewhere…img_0626

Basically all that eating had to be enough to sustain me through the many emotional ups and downs of finally seeing Hamilton!!! I am a total musical nerd and have been obsessively listening to the soundtrack for a good year, so when I saw the show was going to be in town I bit the bullet and spent way too much on a couple of tickets. I have to say that it was totally worth every penny–I laughed, I cried (a couple of times… ok, maybe 3…) and just absolutely adored it. It was hands-down it was one of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had. Other musical geeks, get at it–it’s worth it.img_0655

Post-Hamilton we grabbed a simple dinner at Whole Foods and hunkered down for some TV time while I prepped all of my race stuff. Then, you know, I ran a marathon (obviously it has its own post). After the race we wound down at Deby’s and then had lunch with another college friend. I’m usually not super hungry after a big race (the next day though, watch out!) so we took things easy. It was so nice to celebrate with these fine folks!

dindinJust to make our departure experience extra exciting, we got to the airport to watch our flight get delayed due to the hurricane… twice… so we bit the bullet and decided to reschedule for the following morning, which meant staying at a hotel and eating some microwaveable meals for dinner. Definitely not a high note on which to end our weekend, but I was SO ready to sleep and grateful to get home at a reasonable hour. Overall it was a wonderful weekend and lovely to see so many great people and eat so many delicious things!

I’ll be back shortly with a more running-centric look at what went well, what went not so well, and what my future plans are in regards to the marathon.

Talk to you soon!


Linking up with Tuesdays on the run!


Chicago marathon recap part 1: the race


The many feelings of marathon running.

I think it’s going to take more than one post to fully cover all of my thoughts on my Chicago Marathon experience, but I’m going to dive in and get right to the heart of it with a recap of the race itself. Warning: long post ahead!

Let’s go back in time to early Sunday morning, when I woke up around 5 and headed down to the kitchen of our (super cool and nice) hostel to make my bagel and banana. The whole place, of course, was full of sleepy runners chowing down on their pre-race meals. I left myself lots of time to eat and sip coffee leisurely… by which I actually mean running to the bathroom 7 times. #runnerprobs. The coolest thing about Chicago other than the fact that it actually starts at a reasonable morning hour (looking at you, NYC and Boston and your post-10am start times) is that most people end up staying close enough to walk to the start. Even in the dark, at 6 am, the city’s main streets were full of runners all heading downtown. Excitement! Nervousness! I have to pee again!img_0656

I rendezvoused with the girls at Alexa’s downtown hotel and we made our way together to the start area. Despite being a huge race (around 40K finishers–for reference NYC has around 50K and Boston has approximately 30K) everything was incredibly well organized, and we found our start gate no sweat. We had a few minutes to spare before our 7:30 start time so we waited for one last stop in the porto potties before entering our corral. We squeezed up to the front and chatted a bit with some of the vets around us–and then we were off!

As pretty much everyone will tell you, you run under a bridge during the first mile or so of the race and everyone’s GPS watches get completely thrown off for the rest of the race. So that happened. For evidence, take a look at my Strava which somehow thinks I ran 27.6 miles… yeah, NO. Also, we tried our best to follow the blue line painted on the street that is supposed to help you run the shortest race distance–not sure it was helpful, but it was definitely distracting!

The first 13 miles were a little bit of a blur, but a really fun/fast one where I got to see J and my Boston running friends Aime and Liz all within the first few miles (hi guys!!) One of my buddies, Danielle, had a 3:30 pace bib on her back so we ended up with a little crew of people all aiming for the same goal time. We ran with them for about 15 miles or so–they were lovely! Given our messed up watches we had to put a fair amount of mental math into keeping ourselves on pace, but we hit the half mark at 1:45:40, putting us almost exactly on track for our goal. (I think this was mistake number one, TBH–more on this to come!)

img_0650The second half was where things started to unravel a little bit. I lost both Danielle and Alexa around mile 16. I ran with one of our other newfound 3:30 buddies until mile 18 or so when I stopped for a quick bathroom break. This was followed by a couple of miles of pretty bad cramps, which I think may have been due to a bit too much water too fast (it was getting hotter and I was definitely drinking to compensate). Either way, I was not feeling fantastic, and my pace definitely reflected that.

It was about at this point that I knew 3:30 wasn’t going to happen.img_0645

I’m actually glad I was alone at the moment of that revelation. It wasn’t easy, and I needed to keep my head in the game to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I plugged in my headphones and set my mind on thinking about mile 21, where I knew Jeremy and my bestie Deby and her bf would be cheering. Headphones on, my new goal was just to keep moving. My cramps had cleared up but I was feeling it in my legs. And hot, still hot–it had been in the mid 50s at the start but it inched up to almost 70 in the sun at the finish. I trooped by my fans, which gave me a big boost, and aimed my mind ahead to the finish. I HAD this. I was going to finish and I was going to hit a big PR! The last few miles were loud and crowded, and I kept my focus forward, trying to ignore the runners around me who had juice left to pick it up for the final push.

At the very end of the race there is a tiny hill/bridge that feels like a mountain–I pushed myself to work up it and ticked off the 800, 400, and 200 meter signs to plod through the finish line. It was a big rush of emotions–mostly grateful to be done, mostly proud, a little bit angry that I still had to walk to get to Jeremy and a place to sit, and a little bit disappointed. I held it together and hobbled out of the chute (which is not as long as NY but not short) and grabbed a water, snack bag, and a bag of ice (because why not…?) I trekked through family meeting area, where I pretty much collapsed onto J and let a couple of tears and a bunch of sweat fly onto his shoulder. I was DONE, and ready to be happy and proud. I did something I never thought I could come close to doing.img_0646-1

So the big overall takeaway? I ran my first marathon 11 months ago in 4:05:54, and I ran my second marathon this past weekend in Chicago in 3:36:03. I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment–I know that it’s no trivial feat to cut 29 minutes off of a marathon time in less than a year. That said, I would have loved to scoot in under 3:32 or so for a Boston Qualifying time, and I think that given the right circumstances it’s something that I still have in me. Much more to come on my weekend adventures in Chicago, HAMILTON, the marathon expo, and my reflections on this training cycle–where I’ll revisit my takeaways from last year and and see how I measure up. Plus I’ll include some thoughts on what’s next for me🙂

Thank you for reading, commenting, and supporting me throughout this training cycle! I’ve had so much fun documenting everything and will absolutely be continuing to chronicle my journey moving forward. Happy trails!


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Chicago Marathon = DONE!

Though sweat, pain, and tears, I did it! It was just shy of my goal but with a 3:36:06 finish, I managed a 29 minute PR. Lots of thoughts and a full recap to come, but the deepest thanks and lots of love to Jeremy, Alexa, Danielle, and Deby for being the best supporters during every step of this journey.

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Katherine Switzer


Linking up with The Weekly Wrap, hosted by HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin!

Chicago marathon race strategy + tracking info


What a wild ride it has been.. and it all comes down to this! We fly out to Chicago tomorrow and the race is just a few short days away. If you’re interested in tracking me on race day, the easiest way to do so is to to download the Bank of America Chicago Marathon app and then look me up. My bib number is 7955, and I start at 7:30 a.m. CT–if all goes well I’ll finish around 11 a.m. Here’s a quick overview of my strategy for Sunday:

  • Take it easy Saturday pre-race: After we see Hamilton (OMG OMG OMG) on Saturday at 2:00 p.m., the rest of the day is committed to laying low, making dinner at our hostel (major bonus), and getting to bed early. No major walking around allowed!!
  • Start with Alexa and Danielle, but don’t hesitate to split up if we need to: If you’ve been reading along for a while you probably noticed that I’ve been doing most of my long runs with these two awesome ladies from track. We are all aiming for a 3:30 finish, and we do really well pacing each other. That said, we’ve agreed it’s a-ok for us to split up if and when we need to.
  • Negative split the race: I’m planning to run super steady 8:00 minute miles for the first half, and then speed it up a hair if I’m feeling good. My goal time would require 8:00/mile on average, so banking a few extra seconds/mile in the second half wouldn’t hurt to have as a cushion. Plus, Strava is giving away free shoes to anyone who negative splits a fall marathon–so bonus!!
  • Fuel and hydrate strategically: I actually plan to carry my handheld water bottle since I’ve gotten really comfortable with it. I think if I’m able to have the water station volunteers fill it once or twice I should be good to go–way easier than trying to get a cup of water into my mouth every mile! I also am sticking with my 2 packs of Clif Shot Blocks–one with caffeine and the second without. This has worked well for me during training and I don’t want to switch anything up at the last minute.
  • Follow the blue line and stay left: One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve heard about Chicago is that with all of the turns most runners end up running close to 27 miles–but apparently if you follow the blue lines on the street and stay to the left, you can minimize that extra distance. Challenge = accepted.

If you’ve run Chicago before, I’m all ears in terms of any last-minute helpful hints. If you’re going to be in Chicago, keep an eye out on the insta for my race day outfit and look for me!! Other runners–GOOD LUCK! WE’VE GOT THIS!

See you on the other side,


Chicago marathon training: week 17 (5 DAYS TO GO!)

img_0573Hello hello from taper land! We are less than one week away from Chicago and I couldn’t be more excited. The miles are getting shorter, the forecast looks incredible (high of 62 with a low of 48 overnight!), the anal packing list has been started, and I’m focusing in on staying super hydrated and getting lots of rest.

This past week I topped out at 27.3 miles, which felt like a lot for a taper week but actually was my lowest mileage week since early June. As I mentioned last week, all of my runs at this point are highly specific and coach-approved, basically consisting of lower mileage with some very calculated speedwork targeted at getting me really comfortable and familiar with my marathon goal pace (MGP) of 8:00/mile. I ended the week with a 9.8 miler with one of the track ladies, where we averaged exactly 8:00s! I’ll be posting about my race-specific plans and goals later on this week, but as I have alluded to in the past, I think this is my year to quality for Boston. This will mean aiming for a 3:30 finish, although anything under 3:32 should do the trick. More to come on that🙂img_0544

Oddly enough, this was actually the first really rainy week of the whole training cycle (I guess the only good thing about the drought?) so I modified my schedule a little bit to avoid any running in the rain blister issues. Also, while my appetite is generally pretty ragey during marathon training, it was out of control this week. I think some added stress at work probably fueled the fire, but I’m listening to my body and making sure I have lots of healthy snacks at the ready.

To wrap up, here’s a quick list of Chicago things I am so excited for: seeing my college bestie and her lovely bf, eating lots of amazing delicious gluten-free things, SEEING HAMILTON, staying and playing in one of my favorite cities, and oh yeah… seeing all of the benefits of my hard work and training pay off on Sunday!

img_0567-1Week 17:

  • Monday: 5.6 miles
  • Tuesday: 3 miles at MGP + 6 x strides, 7:32 average
  • Wednesday: OFF
  • Thursday: Solo track! 4.3 miles total, details here.
  • Friday: 4 MGP (plus) miles, 7:48 average
  • Saturday: 90 minute yoga/OFF
  • Sunday: 9.8 miles, 8:00 average

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap and Tuesdays on the Run!

Chicago marathon training: week 16

img_0535Greetings from the end of an incredible first weekend of fall–my absolute favorite season! I know it’s cliche, but I’ve always loved the cooler weather, yummy treats, and gorgeous New England foliage. I’m a shoulder season gal through and through, but I’ll take fall over spring any day. The weather this weekend could not have been more perfect for a couple of outdoor adventures: our first time doing “real” rock climbing (which we LOVED–longer post later!) and my annual apple picking outing with my high school gals. More over on the insta, as always.

Oh yeah, and the official Chicago Marathon countdown = 12 days!img_0508

This was actually one of my best weeks of training so far, despite the accumulated exhaustion that I am definitely feeling. I hit a total of 39.9 miles (HA) and ran my fastest long run to date, aside from races. Track on Tuesday was a challenging set of 12-16 x 400 at 5k pace with a couple of mile paces thrown in, and I knew I was pooped after 12. So I pushed myself to do one more and then headed home. I definitely am trying to be extra tuned into what my body is telling me to ward off any potential last minute tweaks or injuries. I also squeezed in a 90 minute hot yoga class on Friday, which my hips desperately needed.

I hit the road solo on Sunday morning after an much-needed 9 hours of sleep and had planned to run 2 warm up miles, 10 at my marathon goal pace or MGP of 8:00/mile, and then 2 slower miles to cool down. I actually ended up feeling really strong and running most of my miles in the 7:40-7:50 range–despite the fact that heartbreak hill falls smack in the middle of my running route! More than anything, I think at this point this run just showed my that I AM fit enough and trained enough to hit my 3:30 goal. Mental training is just as important as physical training, if not more so.

img_0504I also just want to throw it out there for anyone who is curious–I am following a specific training plan very closely, so even though this may seem like a lot of miles this close to the race, it’s all done completely intentionally. I think a lot of us fall into the trap of picking and choosing our favorite pieces from different training plans and piecing them together (more on this topic in this week’s Run to the Top podcast, which I adore). This cycle, I have been really strict about following my coach’s plan to the letter, with the only deviations being dependent on how my body is feeling. If you have a good coach who knows their stuff, listen to them!

Full recap of the week below🙂

Week 16:

  • Monday: 4.4 miles @ 8:11 average pace
  • Tuesday: Track! 400 x 13, 6 total miles (speedwork at 6:33)
  • Wednesday: 5 easy miles
  • Thursday: 4 sweaty evening miles at 8:04 average
  • Friday: 6 easy miles plus 6 x strides, 90 minute yoga
  • Saturday: Rock climbing/OFF
  • Sunday: 14 miles at MGP (plus a little bit), 7:51 average

Linking up with The Weekly Wrap, hosted by HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin!