Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chicago Marathon Race Report

It's been awhile since I've ran a road marathon and I've never written a race report for one before. I usually just showed up, ran and called it good. My first marathon I didn't even own a watch...needless to say I did not negative split that race! I really didn't know what to expect going into Chicago. I had been running well and my legs felt good, but I hadn't run any sort of long run since Run Rabbit. How would my legs feel after 20 miles? All I could do was try to recover and hope for the best.

Dan, James and I arrived in Chicago on Friday afternoon just in time for the RDS pre-race party. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say James had the most fun of just about anyone there. He ran around in circles until he nearly passed out from exhaustion. Dan and I had a great time meeting so many people we only knew only from online and social media.

Saturday was quite the adventure as Dan and I were certain we could navigate our way through Chicago to packet pickup. After 4 miles of running, more bridge crossings than I can count we arrived safely at packet pickup in the back of a cab. Once inside I felt like country mouse in the big city. I wandered around head spinning and after getting our t-shirts I was desperate to get out of there. So we quickly grabbed a cab and retreated to the hotel for cheese burgers...because really what race would be complete without pre-race burgers?

Sunday morning Dan and I headed to the starting line determined not to get lost. After being so used to getting to races 10 minutes before the start it was a rough adjustment getting there an hour early only to barely have enough time to drop gear bags, use the porta-pottys, kiss good luck and rush into our corrals. I seriously made it as they were saying one minute left. It was perfect running temps so I was a bit chilly in shorts and a t-shirt, but I knew it would only take a couple minutes to warm up. 

Get Lucky would turn out to be the theme of the day and it blasted through the speakers and I broke out in a smile picturing James dancing away! Before I knew it the gun went off and I was crossing the starting line. I had only managed to make it up to the 3:45 pace group so I spent a fair bit of the first mile navigating around runners before settling into what felt like an easy pace. Just before we hit the 1 mile mark I noticed a guy just ahead of me wearing an Ups for Downs shirt and I quickly caught up to him. Of all 26.2 miles this moment stood out the most to me. Here was some complete stranger who didn't even know it but he was running for James. Tears started to fill my eyes as I tapped his shoulder and told him that I have a son with Ds, pointed to my shirt and said I was running for him too. The man told me he was running for his brother who has Ds. A moment later I was off running again, smiling to myself at this little encounter. 

The miles ticked by quickly and I was doing a good job maintaining a steady 7:25ish pace. I was feeling good, but definitely worried as to whether or not I could hang on. I never run this fast so I had no idea how long I could continue. As I approached the charity mile, mile 14, I couldn't help but get excited to see the RDS tent and my family. Apparently I got a little too excited as I clicked off a 6:44 mile. I didn't think I was capable of a sub-7 minute mile for one mile let alone over halfway through a marathon. I guess I'm a bit faster than I give myself credit for, of course I also probably should not have gotten swept up in the moment as about five miles later my pace started falling off. 

At mile 19 I wouldn't say I hit a wall like I've experienced in past marathons, but I was struggling to maintain the same pace I had all morning. Whether it was from lack of calories, I could not begin to stomach any gel so my only calories were from Gatorade at aid stations, or because I had started out too fast I won't know. Looking back I think I could have maintained the pace but probably needed to have trained to run that pace a bit further. My marathon training had been essentially non-existent so I couldn't be too upset. 

A few miles later I began to realize that while I hadn't set out for a BQ, I was pretty confident I would get one, I was really going to qualify by quite a bit. It was just a weird thought. Every other marathon had one goal, one time in mind and one thing I was racing for. This time none of that mattered. I was running for a whole different reason and actually running a heck of a lot better. 

I passed a guy in a Western States shirt and finally started to feel like maybe I was back in my element. And then I got shouldered by another runner who seemed to care less about anyone else's journey. I congratulated the WS runner as I went by and remembered why I had transitioned to ultras a few years earlier. There is a different sense of community in ultras, not to say road races are bad, they're just different. Runners cheer each other on and not just back of the packers, but the elite, lead runners cheer on those behind them, runners of all abilities stop and help the runner sitting on the side of the trail. You certainly never run more than a mile without receiving or giving words of encouragement. Chicago was different. The first half the spectators lined the streets cheering non-stop and the excitement was electric. This was so much fun after running so many races lately where the majority of spectators are the aid station volunteers. There are some amazing aid stations that are totally rockin' it, but its hard to beat the hoards of crowds we ran through.

As I turned into the park I realized I had a shot at going sub 3:20 so I took off. I didn't have seconds set on my garmin so I had no idea how close I was or just how hard I had to push. As it turns out I finished in 3:20:13...should have pushed a little earlier. But still that was over a 15 minute PR, a BQ and overall a time I was pretty stoked about. It also meant the end of our 321 mile challenge, 321.9 miles to be exact. For a moment I kicked myself that I hadn't thought to actually slow down at the end and finish in 3:21...but well I'm just not that poetic. The whole weekend was fantastic, meeting the other RDS runners and their kiddos, seeing the family, eating pizza, and finishing it all with huge PRs for both Dan and I. Dan took 14 minutes off his PR and I couldn't think of a better way for us to end our season than with having great races.

Week October 6 - 12

Miles Running: 51.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 8.0

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Down Syndrome Awareness Month - James Update

October is Down syndrome awareness month so I figured since I'm not training too hard I might as well give a James update. 

This summer has been an explosion for James in terms of milestones and learning new skills. He started walking which quickly progressed to running which has in turn led to full on chaos! I'm fairly certain James does not get his never-willing-to-sit-down mentality from me...I mean really where did that come from? He is constantly on the go, climbing, running, tripping, closing doors (yes this is one of his favorite activities) and dancing. It's been a fun and exhausting summer of chasing. 

James has also made huge progress with his communication. Last spring he used a modified version of more and go and that was really it. On last count he has over 50 signs that he now uses. He only uses about 4 of those spontaneously, but it's major progress. Early this summer his frustration level was through the roof as he really wanted to communicate and tell us what he needed. The frustration has really calmed down now that he can ask for help or tell us he wants a drink or to eat or go to bed. Some people have cautioned that if we focus too much on signing that it will further delay his verbal speech. According to James' private speech therapist there are no studies that indicate this and really, if he can communicate and be that much less frustrated I'll take it. Even if it means he might be delayed a bit more in verbal speech. I've known James long enough now to know that once he crosses that frustration boundary he doesn't learn. It doesn't spur him to work harder on using his words, he just shuts down. So I'm not going to worry about that. We'll take signing for now. He is also using a few verbal words: mom, dad, up and down. His word approximations have increased as well and he frequently uses ba, da, ma for words like ball and home. 

James has also had a pretty healthy past few months. He's still quite small (21.5 lb) but has grown, to what feels like quite tall (33.75"). Poor kid can't keep pants on...well it's that or where flood pants. Aside from the typical back to school snottiness and requisite ear infection we've been pretty lucky this summer. He's still on oxygen at night, but his cardiologist thought in another year we could look at weaning him off. So we're hopeful on that front.

All in all James is doing great! He loves music, balls and is really into cars lately. His favorite music remains Daft Punk and Michael Franti, which he signs along with all the time. He blows kisses, gives kisses and gives the world's best hugs (I may be partial but if you've ever had the opportunity to be on the receiving end of a 'James hug' you know this is no exaggeration!) James doesn't do much to defy the sterotype of kids with Ds being happy and full of love...that pretty much describes James 90% of the time. There are still good days and bad days. Times I wish he didn't have to struggle as much as he does. Times where I wish we didn't have to be frequent flyers at Children's. Times where I see other 2 yo and wish I could do some of the same things with James. For some reason fall is always hard. I wish I could take him to the pumpkin farm and let him walk next to me each drinking out hot chocolates. But James doesn't like chocolate milk, warm or cold, he doesn't listen very well (I'm sure this is not a Ds thing), and he certainly does not walk next to me pretty much anywhere. He doesn't get doing things like helping make cookies at home, he hates wearing costumes, and gets very overwhelmed in public settings. I know he'll get there and someday I'll laugh that I ever worried about him drinking hot chocolate or making cookies and he may refuse to ever go a day without being in costume. It's just we're not there yet, there's always tomorrow right? This year when I took him to the farm with EI he cried and hid in my arms for an hr, he refused to pet the animals, didn't want apple cider and certainly was not interested in riding the cow train. But we played in the tepee and he went down the slide all by himself. So it may not have been the perfect day at the farm, but I'll take the small things, I'll take that he climbed 3 stairs by himself, took a bit of help setting down on the slide, and then slid down all by himself. That's more than we were able to do last year!

So that's what James has been up to the last few months. It's been a constant whirlwind of learning new things, running around and going to appointments. But that's are normal and it doesn't scare me anymore. I may feel bad when there are things he can't quite do yet that other kids his age are able to, but I no longer worry will he ever I know he WILL it just may take awhile. 

Week September 29 - October 5

Miles Running: 42.7
Hours Hiking and Running: 9.0

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

100 Miler Hangover

Bear Chase 50k
I love the weeks after a 100! After Run Rabbit I took the longest non-running stretch I've taken in years, mostly due to a hectic schedule of James appointments and work meetings. But after 4 days of not running I couldn't do anything until I got in a run, no matter how slow or painful it was I had to get back on the trail. I'm not one to go to the gym or cross-train. My cross-training is...well...running. It may not be the greatest plan out there or what would be recommended, but that's me so I stick with it. I've had many people tell me you need to take at least a full week off of running.I feel like you should start running when you head and heart are ready for it. 

At the end of a season or after a big race I do what I call zen running. No watch, no plan, no prescribed mileage. Purely running by feel. Combine this with fall running and I'm in heaven! Hands down my favorite time to run is the fall. The ground feels a little softer, the cooler temps let you run a bit faster and the changing leaves just seem to propel me down the trail with a perma-grin plastered on my face. I really think this is what keeps me from burning out. I think so many people focus everything on this one big race or event and when that's over there's a huge void there. 
Bear Chase 50k finish

Of course this could also be my downfall...taking enough time off from running after a big race has always been a problem for me. I guess we'll just have to see how that pans out over time. For now I'm going to run when I feel like it and take the day off when I'm just not feeling it. I've been having some fun runs lately. Taking the boys out, meeting friends, meeting Dan for a lunch run, just mixing it up and really having fun!

Week September 15 - 21

Miles Running: 24.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 5

Week September 22 - 28

Miles Running: 40.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 7.5