Saturday, October 31, 2015

Post race training and plan review

So, as I've been spending my time not so much exercising and definitely not so much eating well, I decided to keep reliving Chicago Marathon and wanted to make a mental list for myself of what worked well and what did not work well this training cycle.  This may not be super exciting for everyone else, but for me, I want to be able to look back on it.

I trained a bit differently for this race as I payed more attention to nutrition than I have ever before (thank you Earon), I did a lot more cross training, and I included some tempo runs and faster runs into my training, paying attention to the pace I maintained during runs.  It was the first marathon that I went into setting a pacing strategy and plan, and a number of other things I did differently.

So, what worked well and where could I have done better?  In both training and the actual race, let's check it out.

What worked well:
  • Paying more attention to race nutrition.  I have to admit, that I was resistant to this at first, but now I have been talking to most people about what worked well letting them know that I think the focus on nutrition was good for me.  I trained with the Gatorade Endurance that they would have on the course - and it was also my first time at all training with Gatorade.  I used salt tabs for the first time to replenish sodium lost through sweating.  And ate more Gu Chomps than ever before.  Usually when I run, I don't like to eat during the run - because part of why I run is diet control.  Why run if I am going to replenish calories with sugary Gatorade?  However, it is important if you are racing for a time and want to maintain your endurance throughout the whole race.
  • Training on hills for a flat race.  When I first moved to Atlanta I hated the hills everywhere.  I am learned to embrace them a bit.  I still hate running directly from my apartment because it is a mile of steep uphill in either direction from where I live.  However, I did some hill repeats on morning runs and tackled some hills on all of my long runs as well.  Knowing that Chicago was a flat marathon - it was essentially doing free speed training!
  • Making a mental plan for the race.  I think studying the course, putting together a plan for how to run based on effort, and having a few key things to focus on throughout the race was really helpful.  I liked having a bit of knowledge about what to expect, not just a plan for running a marathon, but for running THIS marathon.  I have heard mixed reviews from friends on reading race reports for a particular marathon, but for me, it helped me be really prepared and it is definitely something I will do more of for goal race moving forward!
  • Cross training at the beginning of training.  Since I had an ambitious plan for the summer that included triathlons, and actually training for the triathlons, rather than in past summers, I did a lot of cross training throughout the first months of summer.  It helped keep me super fit!
  • Morning runs.  Man, do I just love getting my runs done in the morning.  I think it is a key way for me to fit in training, and having a morning run (with friends!) just gets me into the day feeling like a super hero.
  • Hydrating well the week before.  I know everyone always says this for races and I have mostly payed attention to it, but for this race, I did a ton!  I then eased off the day before and morning of, and felt great throughout the race.  I learned the lesson of nutrition this year when I nearly died during my 7-mile run on that one hot day!
  • Chiropractor and massage.  I was so nervous about the pain in my hip right before the race.  However, seeing that chiropractor and getting a sports massage was amazing. I am a true believer in their effectiveness because I had NO pain from my hip during the race and the best recovery of any long run throughout training.
  • Hal Higdon Novice 1 training plan.  When I trained for my first marathon I used this plan.  When I trained for my second marathon I bumped myself up to the Novice 2 training plan and I got really burnt out.  I really had liked how I had ramped up with Novice 1, which included longer mid-week runs whereas Novice 2 had midweek mileage not going as high, but had more 15+ mile long runs.  I returned to Novice 1 and it worked well for me!! I definitely at some points was wondering, "Should I be doing more long runs?" but when my schedule got crazy, I felt good with the amount I trained and I feel confident in that plan, which I also added my own pace runs, cross training, and additional exercise to, by the way.  But for mileage?  It was great.

What could have been done better:
  • Don't give up on cross training midway through training.  I wish I had not given up on my cross training in the middle of the race.  Granted, my training got compromised when life got busy and I was on the road for 4 weeks, but I would like to do a marathon where I keep steady all the way through.
  • Eat healthy all the way through.  So, it wasn't just my cross training that went out the window as the marathon training got into the last two months and the travel got crazy.  I also stopped counting Weight Watchers points and paying attention to my eating for the last few months.  I mean, I still was eating fairly healthy, but also indulged a lot more and gained some weight in the last month.  I realized that this is a pattern that has happened the last month of every marathon I have done.  I think as the mileage gets harder, the will power I have is focused on getting those runs in, and I lose it on the healthy eating.  There have also been unforeseen circumstances that have come up with the last month of every marathon I have done.... traveling Europe for a month, moving to Atlanta and traveling all over, and then this year, and well you know what happened with the travel again.  Someday I will make it through a training plan and stick to all these aspects the whole way through.  FUTURE GOAL.
  • Work on my core, abs, and butt.  So the chiropractor asked me about my core work.  And my masseuse asked me about what I do for my glutes.  And my answer to both was, "Umm..." so I really want to focus on these areas to improve.  I hate doing abs and core work.  I want to work on it though and make it a focus rather than skip it.  I always assume if I am running and exercising and doing all that stuff, it has to be working my core, right?  Apparently that needs its own exercises.  Go figure.
  • Doing actual speed work throughout all of the training.  I did speed work during half marathon training, which I credit with a lot of my success in getting faster.  I also mentioned that my hill training ended up being like speed work, but I would like to incorporate more tempo miles, speed work, and all that sort of thing into runs and training for a full marathon in the future and think that could help me to improve.
  • Running with a heart rate monitor.  So, I've gotten this advice a lot.  And I'm convinced that as I work towards running for time rather than just running to run, having some guidance as to what my heart rate is would be helpful.  I will be looking into that over the next several weeks!
  • More stretching and foam rolling.  I need to get better at this stuff too!  It wasn't something that I payed any attention to until I needed to.  Meaning, when I was hurt and trying to get back on track.  In my next cycle - focusing more on this will be a priority the whole marathon through, not just in the clutch moments.
All in all.  I ran a great race.  A perfect race perhaps.  I am really proud of my training and looking back, I already wonder a little, "Did I really do that??" in both the commitment to training and to marathon itself.

It was an AMAZING year of setting goals and crushing those goals.  I am so, so proud of myself for how I set out this year of goals and how I managed to crush all of them.  How I set personal best times for myself in nearly every single distance.  How I tried new things and I pushed myself to do things I've done before even better than ever.  My improvements from January 1st to today are amazing to me.  I am looking forward to doing an "2015 recap" already and reliving the accomplishments and goals of the year.  However, I also can't live in this year forever and pretty soon.. it's time to set new standards!!!

Thanks everyone for reading along if you're still here and also, happy Halloween.  I am going to go back to my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, pumpkin beer, and Law & Order: SVU reruns.  Hope you are having a more exciting night than myself :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Off season

I swear, I am an all around better person in life when I am training for something.

We are two weeks into my "off season" and I already feel like I am slipping in blogging, keeping in touch with friends, etc. as I am off of a schedule.  That being said, I am allowing myself some slack as it is the "off season" and I am still "recovering" from the race.  I mean, in reality, I feel fine and I have felt fine since a few days after the marathon.  But I've heard that it takes your body longer to recover than you think and it also is good to give yourself some mental relaxation too.

I do know myself well enough at this point to know that I need to have things in the future to prepare for and to work towards in order to keep myself in shape.  I also don't have a real "goal" race until February so I want to allow myself a little leeway to decompress before getting back into a rigid workout routine.

Right now on my agenda I have 3 half marathons between now and February, with only one being a race that I will consider a "goal" race for me.  The other two will be things to do with friends and reasons to eat/drink that weekend and keep myself running before that!  I am excited to do a few races just for fun since I had such a good time when I ran San Francisco with my friend Allie this past March.

I honestly just don't know if I should ever try and top what I did two weeks ago in Chicago.  I wish I could freeze time and hold that race as my top race forever.  Can I just retire as a runner now? Or a marathoner?  I want to run more marathons, but I don't know that I could ever beat that time!! I feel like everything in the world came together for me perfectly on that day.  I had a flat course, I had friends I saw all throughout the course evenly up until the very end, I had perfect weather, I had arguably the most fans that a race could have, and so much more to keep me going.  I have been thinking about marathons for next year and New York City Marathon is a strong possibility, but I also know that is a tough course and probably achieving that same time or faster would be a way stretch!  Can 3:58 be my marathon time forever?

And then I remember that no matter what it is my marathon time.  Nobody can take that away even if I never run a race in that time ever again.  Pain is temporary people. Internet race results are forever.

Anyways, over the past week I got back into a routine of running and meeting up with my friends in the morning for a week of 3-5-3.5 mile runs Tuesday through Thursday.

Along with some yoga on Monday night, and a few new classes I tried out at the gym as well.  I did a barre class at my regular gym (so not an "official" barre class at a studio) on Thursday, an "ab blast" class on Friday, and a circuit training workout on Saturday followed by a 12-mile bike ride.  I also apparently didn't take many pictures except for when I was wearing my Chicago Marathon shirt, woohoo!

The bike ride on Saturday was just a bit longer than the ride I did the weekend before but different because I rode on the street and over some major hills.  I tried to get myself to think back when I was first starting out with running.  I didn't concern myself with pace whatsoever.  It was all about being consistent and getting comfortable and getting myself out there.  I am sure I was dreadfully slow and I stopped myself a number of times to just take deep breaths while on the bike - which was more about anxiety than the toughness of the ride.  Riding my bike through traffic on major roads scares the CRAP out of me.  Especially since I am clipping in to my bike.

Before I went out on my ride on Saturday I fell off the bike when I was still in the parking lot of my apartment complex when I was trying to clip in.  It was embarrassing and I also skinned my knee and elbow.  I still rode and ended up going further and having a better ride than I initially imagined, so I was really happy with it.  My plan in this "off season" is to continue to challenge myself, be consistent while the weather still allows it, and get more comfortable!

With all that I did do, I also skipped a few workouts.  I skipped a Tuesday evening workout to go to an event at the Civil and Human Rights Museum.

I skipped my swim on Friday morning after staying up later than planned on Thursday and cut my workout in the evening short so that I could get home and be on time for my evening plans.

I skipped my run on Sunday to spend the morning cheering on my friends as they did their OWN run.  WHICH, was amazingly fun and I am becoming a pretty awesome cheerer if I say so myself.  At this race, we had a surprise guest cheerer in the form of my friend Shayla, in town from law school, who joined another friend and I, surprised some of our crew by being with us along the course to cheer.  Which, along with my signs, made for some of the most amazingly memorable moments in race cheering history.  Seeing Janet see Shayla on the course was so much fun.  And the hysterical police officer trying to direct traffic right by us, made for an incredibly memorable morning.

Cheering at the run alone wouldn't have caused any problems, but from there I went to the Patriots MeetUp to watch the Pats play the Jets and from there I went to a book club meeting and with all that excitement... well... the 6-mile run I had planned just didn't happen.

It was an awesome, awesome weekend and I didn't allow myself to stress about missing my workouts that I had planned throughout the past week.  I had a lot of fun, I am relaxing a bit, and I managed to eat healthy throughout the week until the weekend came and all hell broke loose (cheese, nachos, beer, cheese, cheese pizza, and chocolate....)  But before that I was pretty happy with my ability to eat well.  I am going to try again this week and continue to give myself a little bit of permission to be more relaxed in the off season!  I read somewhere that you get the amount of "days off" that your race was.  So for a full marathon of 26 miles, on October 11, that means I get until Friday, November 6th to still be on break!

I did get to the gym after work today and run the 6 miles that I had planned for Sunday.  I do have  half marathon coming up in a few weeks that I want to be able to finish!! Muscle memory is a thing, right?

Happy Monday guys!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Finding a "normal" post goal race

Everyone has always told me that fall in Atlanta is a great time.  I missed many weekends last fall in Atlanta by traveling and had the same fate throughout September.  This weekend, I enjoyed all that fall in Atlanta had to offer.  Well, maybe not ALL, but I sure did have a great weekend.

The whole past week I took it pretty easy.  Very easy.  No exercise all week and instead, I ate anything that I wanted.  I decided to give myself a work week off to totally let myself just relax and get some recovery time.  I have been thinking even through the last weeks of marathon training that it would be nice to get back into more cross training but before diving in, I took five days off for the mental and physical break.

I did a few light workouts this weekend, which felt really nicely.  Friday was an early relaxing evening and started Saturday off by pulling out my bike, that I hadn't used since August when I did the Olympic triathlon.  Woops, that was almost 2 months since I had been in the saddle.  But that's partly due to the fact it is hard to pack your bike when you are on an airplane!  Plus, my runs had just gotten a lot more intense than at the beginning of training.  I wanted my first workout post marathon to not be a run, but a bike ride.

I did 12-miles along the Silver Comet Trail, riding over crunchy fallen leaves and with quite a chill from the breeze on the bike.  I loved it though!  I went out too late and wished I had more time to ride, because it was an gorgeous morning and I felt good.  And no, I don't always listen to music when I ride.  I usually don't.  But was feeling it this morning.

The reason I didn't have a ton of time to ride longer was because I had a few different daytime activities to go to.  One of which was an event that another local runner was putting on for all those running New York City Marathon as they get into their taper period to celebrate all the hard work.  It was exactly what I had wanted to do for Chicago marathoners, but I am nowhere near capable of putting on such awesomeness.  She had a DJ playing NY music, drink specials themed after the five boroughs, NYC trivia, prizes, and a contest to see who could drink through the "boroughs" quickest.  It was so not just for NYC runners but all those who had something to celebrate so there were many other Chicago runners there and we all got to take pictures on the red carpet with our race swag. Uh-mazing.

One of the reasons that I stopped by this event was to see my friend Jemima who has been training for her first marathon all throughout the time I was training for Chicago.  She held the fundraisers that I attended throughout the summer and next week she will tackle her own 25.2 at the Marine Corps Marathon.  I am so darn excited for her and can't wait to track her along the race because I know she will do amazing!  As amazing as it felt to cross the finish line in Chicago (and it felt AMAZING), I don't know that anything will ever compare to the feeling of finishing my first marathon in Paris.  I get teary-eyed just putting myself mentally back in that moment because it was such a monumental thing for me.  I can't wait for her to experience those same emotions.

From the runners event I went over to the Little Five Points Halloween parade.  It's funny, when I did my very first run training for the Publix Half Marathon with the Running Nerds group back in January, we ran through Little Five Points neighborhood.  One of the coaches, Holly (who I just saw in Chicago!) told me as we ran through, "Little Five Points has an AWESOME Halloween parade!"

That little statement jumped back at me last week when I saw a few people mention on Facebook that they would be attending and I pulled out an old costume and met some friends.  It was so fun and a very cool parade full of all sorts of crazy floats and costumes.  I loved the group of Girl Scouts we saw that were dressed up like bloody zombies with signs saying, "Buy cookies or die."  I thought it was so cute and funny to see these little girls dressed up so crazily rather than cutesy.

The parade turned into dinner and drinks and I had a great time being silly and seeing friends!

And as for my Sunday?  In addition to being super productive and getting all ready for the week by making some soup, chicken, cutting up fruit, veggies, and hard boiling some eggs - I also got my first run in after the marathon.  Around the same exact time a week ago I was finishing the marathon, I finished the Atlanta AIDS 5K.  It was a really fun, well supported race, and one that I did really just for fun and to support a great cause.  They had so much energy along the course (and a nasty hill) and the whole time I just kept thinking... wow, what a difference a week makes!  Because man, I felt terrible.

From there, I went over to the Movers + Pacers flagship run for another short 2 miles.  I was able to catch up with friends and got a marathon shout out and also heard all about my friend's Ironman experience from the weekend before, which was incredibly inspiring.

It was an awesome weekend and a great kick start to getting moving once again.  It also didn't hurt knowing we had such great weather here and it was SNOWING all throughout the Northeast where my family is.  And to that point, I need to wish a very, very happy birthday to my baby niece and nephew who turned one.  I feel like it was just yesterday I woke up to a text message that I was officially an aunt and I fell in love with those little babies.  I swear they get cuter and more fun every single day and it kills me to be away.

I missed their birthday but am thankful I got to spend time with them not too long ago.  I love those munchkins SO, SO much.

I kept my exercise going today with yoga class and tomorrow will be running again, as well as starting Weight Watchers counting points again.  I was doing really well with it all summer until my birthday.  I haven't counted points since the end of August and because I was running so much it wasn't too hard to maintain my weight somewhat.  However, I gained a couple pounds through the taper period and need to get back into watching my portions and what I eat because it is far too easy to keep eating like you are training for a marathon when you aren't doing the work.

Hope you had a great Monday!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Marathon Weekend 2015 in Chicago

So, I did things a bit backwards here and wrote my race recap without writing about the days leading up to the race, but whatever. I wanted to record all the moments of the race I remembered and I also figured that it was one of the more interesting things to read about rather than what I did the rest of my time in Chicago and what I thought of the marathon expo..

That being said, I do want to record everything I did in the days leading up to Chicago.

Following the weekend, I went into race week with a lot of nerves.  I think I mentioned that I went to yoga class on Monday night, followed by a near panic attack with race anxiety.  My final week of training runs consisted of a 3-4-2 week of mileage that started with 3 miles running through Midtown on Tuesday AM with the crew.  Then 4 miles on Wednesday evening on the Silver Comet Trail.  Followed by a 2-mile run in the morning on Thursday on the Jackson Street Bridge.

The week before I also was extra careful to drink lots and lots of water to be sure I was hydrated going into race week.  One of the things that I've been told since when I did my first half marathon was to be sure to hydrate the week before, and not just the day before your race.  I've had it drilled into me a bit more this training cycle, and seen the impact of not being well hydrated on a run, so was sure to pay extra close attention to it the week before Chicago.

All of the runs, I tried to run easy and not push to hard, but just feel relaxed and comfortable on the runs.  The last thing I wanted to do was somehow hurt myself the week before, so just comfortable and loose was my main goal in these runs.  I read or heard someone say that during the taper, you can never do too little, but you can always do too much.  It was a good final week of runs with my regular morning crew, some solo miles, and with some of my friends to me inspired for the trip.  I also did a last minute trip to the chiropractor and for a sports massage, which seriously helped so much and had me feeling a bit sore, but confident that I had done everything I could to be race ready.

When I left work at the end of the day on Thursday, I checked out my race training calendar and got some tears in my eyes knowing that I had worked so hard since I had put that training plan together and I only had one box left to check.  This was a good indicator to me that I was also moving from the "race anxiety" phase to the "race emotional" phase where lots of things make me cry.

Thursday evening after work I head out from Atlanta to Chicago and the weekend definitely started out on the right side with an upgrade to first class!

It was an easy flight in, where I did some reading, drank some wine, and enjoyed the view of the city as I got ready to run those streets!

When I landed in Chicago, I ate a lovely meal consisting of some freaking delicious tapas and sangria, followed by bedtime.  I was staying with friends in Chicago, which was a great way to do it and I loved that my marathon weekend was also a weekend to see lots of people I care about in an awesome city as well.  My local Chicagoans (is that a word) took such amazing care of me while I was there and I'm incredibly grateful.

Friday morning I started the day by heading out in the AM to go to McCormick Place for the race expo.  The city did a really good job of making it accessible to people and actually offered free shuttles from one of the Nike stores right by my friends apartment to the race.  However, since I am extremely impatient, I ended up taking an Uber when I saw the only lines to get on the shuttles.  Plus, Friday started a bit gloomy and rainy and I didn't want to be outside in that.

Packing to go to Chicago was a bit harder than I thought it would be.  It's funny, when I went to both Thailand and Nigeria this year, I packed so amazingly light and had just a carry on for both of those trips.  However, for some of the domestic trips I've had this year I have had to end up checking a bag.  Chicago was one of those trips, as I wanted to be sure to be over prepared and had packed all my race day essentials as well as back ups in case it was cold, rainy, etc.  I wanted to have everything I need.  This worked out well because it gave me the freedom to make some purchases at the race expo too.  You guys know I loooove race expos!  So many opportunities for pictures.

They had a lot of cute things!  Including some insannnnely expensive things - no lie, there was a Nike running jacket for $500 -- isn't that crazy?  But I found a few cute things to take home at reasonable prices.  My motto is always to enjoy the race expo and indulge a little if it is a big race that you've been working hard for you.  You deserve it.  Treat yo self! :)

The expo, beyond the shopping, was really great and extremely well organized.

And although I feel like Paris should be one, I realized that Chicago is my first marathon of the World Marathon Majors - something I would love to be able to complete someday and do all of.

At the expo we met up with a friend of ours who was working at the Nike booth, as well as a few other runners who were in town from Atlanta for the race.  Atlanta was DEEP at the Chicago Marathon this year!  I felt happy to be repping my run crew from Atlanta, as I knew they were all cheering me on at home.  And I also took a picture with a sign that said "We are not just runners.  We are athletes." as homage to the act that both the words runner and athlete are ones that I am still trying to get used to.

From the expo, we went over to Giordano's, an infamous Chicago deep dish pizza place and I started some carb loading with a mini personal pizza and salad.  It may be touristy or stereotypical but when you're in Chicago, especially to run, you've got to have some Chicago style pizza!

It was a really good afternoon and fun to be on an adventure in Chicago with some Atlanta-based friends!  And the delicious food didn't hurt, nor did it stop at lunch.  In the evening, I went out to a really amazingly awesome fondue restaurant called Geja's and enjoyed every single bite of three courses of cheese fondue, meat and veggies, and of course some chocolate dessert.  I just recently had the conversation with a friend that we like eating cheese the nights before a race, which others can think is crazy.  The fondue was perfect and so yummy.  A couple glasses of wine to relax didn't hurt either with all the anxiety I had been feeling leading up to the race.

Starting Saturday though I started to really get myself race ready.  I started the day with a short 15-20 minute shake out run.  I went over to Lakeshore Drive and did 5 minutes easy, then a few minutes at a faster pace and a few sprints and then another few minutes of cooling down.  It actually felt really nice to shake out my legs the day before.  Following the run, I had lunch at my friend's favorite neighborhood taco place, called Velvet Taco, that had all sorts of funky taco varieties that all looked amazing but I stuck with some pretty basic ones due to pre-race-day-stomach.  You never want to do anything too crazy to your stomach close to a race!!

I did enjoy my annual pre-race beer while out watching the Notre Dame vs. Navy football game, which I do consider to be a bit of a tradition, even though most pros will tell you not to.  It hasn't served me wrong yet, so I still stick to that tradition!

The end of my evening you all know about -- pasta and bread and race prep and an early bedtime.  However, I was really happy with how things had gone the days, and week, before the race and well -- you know how the story goes, the race was a success!!

And the rest of my time in Chicago?  Well, it was amazing.  How could it not be?  I had run a marathon in 3:58:39!!!  Gahhh!!! Still feels surreal.

However, beyond that, I had an amazing day.  I went and did all my post-race things such as get my print out of my times, get a post race massage (REDEEMED from Kansas City that "ran out" of massages! Yippeeeee!), got myself a sugary drink from Starbucks (I'd been holding off on them until the race), and then made it back to Courtney's apartment to do my thing and lay with my legs up against the wall.

My friends are pretty much amazing so as I lay on the floor, I munched on a sandwich that Courtney got for me on her way home, ate some leftover delicious corn that I had been afraid to eat the day before, sipped water, and drank my coffee.  I stretched a bit but to be totally honest - I felt good!  I'm so amazed at how well I felt at the race and afterwards.  None of the pain I had been feeling was there.  My legs weren't horribly uncomfortable.  I didn't have much of a headache or any sort of post-long-run-aches I have felt in the past.  My feet were a bit sore with blisters but it wasn't a huge thing.  I stretched, relaxed, took a semi-painful shower where that chafed skin caused a couple yelps, and then got ready to meet friends for a celebration dinner.

We had the option to uber or walk and I chose to walk.  I was feeling good!  Stairs, especially going down, were a challenge, but I felt good walking and it was nice to stretch my legs out a bit.

We met for dinner at a place called Woodie Flats that had burgers and beer on the menu which was what I knew I would be craving post-marathon.  All my friends who had been out cheering were there such as Courtney and Ryan, ICT and Julia, Ayanna, Earon, and another one of our friends from Atlanta who ran the race met us out as well.

Woodie Flat's was a perfect place to go and we had a great seat.  Other marathoners were also there so it didn't seem like we were the only ones with that idea!  It had big open windows, lots of beer, good music, and a giant burger for me to eat away at.

I had such a good time recapping the race with friends, hearing about my other friend who ran's experience, and having so many different friends from different areas of life meet one another.  There were childhood friends, current and older work friends, Atlanta friends, running friends, etc. who all met each other for the first time and I think everyone had a good time! I certainly did!

As I mentioned, ICT used to cheer me on when I was working up to running 3 miles at a +12 minute/mile pace and now I just had done 26 miles at under a 9:10/minute mile!  Crazy how time flies.

I wore my "Boston Strong" shirt, a Run Chicago zip up I got at the expo, and OF COURSE, my medal.  In fact, I wore my medal the next day too :)  Sunday happened so fast and I crashed towards the end of the evening and headed back to go to bed.  I unfortunately didn't sleep too well which was a little bit of a surprise to me.  As soon as I lay down I could feel my heart beating, my legs were twitching, and I almost felt like I was still in race mode.  It took me a while to go to sleep, but that was okay because I also spent the afternoon tracking some friends who were doing the Louisville Ironman and it was exciting to watch them finish and cheer them on into the night.

Monday morning I woke up and started my day by making a trip to Walgreens to buy some blister bandaids to make the day manageable for myself.  And then we head over to do an architecture boat cruise in Chicago.  I have heard about these things for years and I have always wanted to do them!  I was so excited that my friends were game to join me and it was such a cool thing to do.  I loved learning about the city skyline, meeting other runners who were also on the boat, and celebrating with a drink all before noon!  Celebrations are celebrations.

We had so much fun on the boat tour and I really enjoyed the photo shoot, the nice but not blindlying sunny temperatures, and just enjoying our accomplishments from the day before!  The rest of the day in Chicago was fun, the weather stayed absolutely amazing, and I continued to enjoy the day with delicious food and basking in the glory of the race I'd been working all year for.  I also finally gave in and tried Shake Shack thanks to the rave reviews from Running off the Reese's.  I got the veggie burger at her suggestion!

I also took advantage of an amazing offer that some of the local running stores were offering that was to get my medal engraved for free.  I have never had a medal engraved after a race, so this was a pretty fun one to start at!  I had a hard time deciding what to write in the "Place" category as the guy said I could write whatever I wanted.  I am pretty happy with what I came up with, of "First Sub-4:00."  Which is strategically, "First" so hopefully not my last :)  I LOVE my medal and did not want to take it off all day, even when I had to take it off for them to engrave it, haha.

And finally.  You can't visit Chicago without visiting the Bean!  At first, I was totally not feeling like I needed to go to the Bean, especially as I had been there on other trips to Chicago in the past.  However, on Monday afternoon, I was in the Uber after getting my medal engraved, and realized that I was driving right past the Bean.  I told the Uber driving to just pull over and drop me off so that I could enjoy the gorgeous evening.  I hung around and people watched while making phone calls to friends and family and then walked around a bit on what was a glorious Chicago day.

As many people probably know, the Chicago Cubs have been playing in the playoffs and it was an exciting time to be in the city.  Especially with a game that Monday night.  What some of you may not know is that I now think that I am a good omen for cities in the playoffs.  Last year after doing my fall marathon in Kansas City, their baseball team won the World Series.  And now, well, let me say I have been telling my friends that the Cubs have a good chance at this thing :)

Tuesday, I took my medal off, but did wear some of my race gear yet again.  I spent the day in the neighborhood where I was staying and went back to that taco place to try even more deliciousness from Velvet Taco in Atlanta.  And also enjoy a midday margarita since I was still on vacation!

And from that, I was back to Atlanta.  I'm fighting the post race blues back in town and taking the week to rest easy and enjoy myself.  I will get back to the grind next week, but enjoying a week off.

I have some work cut out for me to put together a plan for what to do next but man, what an accomplishment this was!  When I got back to my desk, I checked off the final box on my training plan and next it will be retired along with my other training plans from the Nashville Half Marathon, Paris Marathon, and Kansas City Marathon.  Goodnight, Chicago!