Chicago Marathon Training – 5 weeks to go!

This weekend marked 5-weeks to go until I run the Chicago Marathon. This one feels different than any marathon I’ve trained for and I’m really nervous, excited, and anxious to see how it goes! My last update was written just a few weeks ago, around the 9-week countdown and things are definitely ramping up. My flight and hotel are confirmed, and I’m counting down these peak long runs week by week.

For the most part, that’s how I’ve been handling training with a relocation and a new baby: week by week. Some weeks I feel like I have my shit together and everything is going swimmingly. Other weeks I’m texting and SnapChatting my running friends #allthedrama and I am just grateful for whatever I get in. That was the story this last week for sure!

After re-reading that last Chicago training blog I wrote, I think my training has gotten (dare I say) slightly more consistent. I had a 16 miler that was going well until my mom decided to text me at mile 13 that my uncle had lost his battle with cancer (NOT an appropriate way to communicate such news, in case you were wondering). I experienced some pretty significant leg pain, like in my bones and decided it was definitely the shoes (it was). I’ve gotten sick of and come to terms with the fact that I’ll never have a flat run again out here in Asheville. And I’ve met a few awesome women who have joined me for trail miles around the area.

Perfect segway… I had 18 miles on the dockett for the weekend. There was a Trail Sisters meet up for some miles with enough interest to log some pre-meet-up miles before the group run. We were starting at the Folk Art Center and heading up the Mountains to Sea Trail. It was a tough climb out, taking about an hour to go 3 miles! Heavy and hard uphill, with some really technical spots that made it hard to get speed on the downhill. There was a beautiful spot for a quick refuel and photo op at Haw Creek Valley Overlook, and even though it was tough, the trails were stunning and quite fun.

That view!

There were a few people ahead of me, and we ran into some other runners getting their miles in coming the other way. About 3.7 miles in, it felt like I ran into an electric fence! In a split second I realized I was getting bitten or stung by something and I started slapping and running like a lunatic. I caught up with the woman in front of me, asking if she felt anything and she was clueless. I already had a few welts forming on my legs.

I’ve never been stung by anything before. I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes and horseflies, and I’ve had a few red ant bites but nothing like this before. As such, I wouldn’t have a clue if I were allergic, so I kept going but remained aware. They were burning and irritating as I passed the miles, but there was really only one way back to my car: forward.

About 2 miles later, a guy running with one of the women in the group started shouting. A mama bear and three cubs were crossing the trail and we didn’t want anything to do with that! We kept our distance, kept making noises to encourage them to move along, and then finished up the run.

Up until this point I was tossing around the idea of continuing on, or going home to treat my stings and finish up my remaining 12 miles later in the safety of my parking lot loops. Once the bear scare happened, I decided to throw in the towel. Plus, my stings were really starting to…well, sting! One of the women had some bite treatment foam and another helped me get one of the culprits out of my hair – wasps. Yellow jackets that were burrowing in the ground on the trail. The runners ahead of me stirred them up and pissed them off and I ran through a cloud of hate. 13 stings that we could count, mostly on my legs and calves. I went home, showered off, and cracked a beer to call it a day.

Turns out, wasps are fucking assholes. In case you didn’t know… And they inject their hate into your skin when they sting you. 5 hours later, my stings were still burning and achy, but that was just the start. Later Saturday evening, the itch started – and it is a devil of an itch! I tried freaking EVERYTHING to get rid of it (except I can’t take Benadryl as I’m still nursing my daughter).

Dual purposed: helps the itch from the stings AND great for long run recovery!

Baking soda, apple cider vinegar, diaper rash cream, breast milk, an ice bath, benadryl anti-itch cream, hydrocortizone cream, After Bite, Claritin, ibuprofen, honey. Nope. So much for sleep – it wasn’t happening. Although, the ice bath was the closest thing I had to relief, nothing else even touched it, in case you’re wondering.

I finished my 12 mile run on Sunday for a weekend total of 18 miles. I decided 18-milers are the bane of my marathon training. The last time I was training for a full, I found out I was pregnant after botching my 18-miler. Good thing Bethany only wrote one into my plan!

My other long runs were far less eventful and a lot more enjoyable. I did a “time on my feet” trail run – 14 miles in 3:07 through DuPont State Forest (thoroughly enjoyed this loop and will definitely do it again!). I had the emotional 16-miler which I ran in 2:54, followed by a sweet deload week of only 10-miles, that I mentally absolutely needed as a reset, and a few handfuls of 4-6 milers mid-week consisting of anything from hills with strollers, to hills without strollers, and then more hills with intervals or strides in between.

Hills. Hills. Hills. Hills… usually averaging 100+ feet of vertical per mile or so. It doesn’t sound like much, but for reference: my “hilly” Maple Lawn route I was running every Wednesday with my MRTT group back in Maryland has about half that. I had to laugh even harder after this weekend’s 2800+ feet in 18 miles, when I compared it to the Erie Marathon course of 66 ft over 26.2 miles. (I had a few friends run it and just chuckled to myself, thinking lustfully about how good that would feel some days)

I’m cautiously optimistic about the next few weeks, with 3 heavy long runs left before I taper. 20 this weekend, which I’m running on Sunday – not sure of the plans as to where or if anyone is able to join me – 16 the following, then one more 20-miler and I can coast in with a 12 taper the week before the marathon. I’m using these last few long runs to dial in my nutrition and timing, as well as gain strength and endurance on these hills that will hopefully pay off in the long run on the flat Chicago course.

Me, “dialing in my nutrition” during marathon training. *insert eye roll emoji*

My goal is to make it through the next 3 weeks of hard, heavy runs without injury and in as sound mental state as possible, and then coast on in to run by best marathon ever in ChiTown. Here goes, wish me luck!

Featured image was taken by our good friends at Live Happy Studios out of Orlando. We’re fortunate they love adventure, come to visit us, and bring their cameras along. It’s also in DuPont, where I’ve been logging some long runs and family hikes.

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