“Thank You” Will Never Be Enough

Chicago Marathon 2017

Background Story: (Dad, I promise this is the “short version” )

On December 13th, nearly 10 months ago, I found out I received an entry into the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Before I could really start dreaming of a big goal for Chicago I knew I needed to get through the Little Rock Marathon in March before I would have a “realistic” idea of where I was at with my training.

Originally, this was my game plan: I wanted to break 4 hours at the Little Rock Marathon and then 7 months later I hoped to run a 3:35:00 at Chicago in order to qualify for Boston. Well, let’s just pump the brakes right there. All my hopes and dreams came crashing down when heart break ensued at Little Rock Marathon. I ran a 4:04:35. Less than FIVE minutes from the biggest goal I had ever set for myself. I’ll save the dramatics and get to the point. I finally started realizing THIS is a process and it’s not going to happen overnight.

Fast forward 7 months and here I am…. Sitting in a hotel room in Chicago, anxiously awaiting for Sunday morning to arrive. My coach and I have decided that a realistic time goal is sub 3:50:00 and to hopefully land somewhere in the 3:45:00-3:50:00 range. While this is not the Boston Qualifying attempt I dreamed it would be, this would still be a HUGE personal best and a vast improvement from my first marathon, which was less than 2 years ago. With all of that being said, I’d be crazy to think I got to this point on my own. My friends and family have been an amazing support system. A simple “Thank You” will never be enough, but its a start…

My Family: Thank you to my family for supporting my running journey thus far. To my dad, who supports me, loves me, attempts to understand the running jargon, and runs mile 25 of Little Rock Marathon with me…. You could never be replaced. I love you. To my sister-in-law, Stephanie, who makes a constant effort to stay in touch, ask questions, gets involved, and genuinely cares about my success. God couldn’t have blessed me with a better “sister.”  To my mom, my step mom, my brothers and Steph D., You guys are irreplaceable. I love you all.

Dustin: My babe. Thank you for being so understanding of my running!  There have been so many Friday nights that we didn’t do anything because I had a long run the next day. So many early bed times. So many 4 am mornings. So many texts sent before sunrise complaining or celebrating a run. I know you’re not a morning person, but I think we are slowly converting you into one. I Love you.

Tia: I owe all of my success to you. I would not be where I am today without you. You are the best coach anyone could ask for. Thank you for not just being a coach, but being one of my best friends. The one person who understands my inherent ability to overreact about all things running. The overwhelming excitement and the overwhelming let downs. You’ve been there. Cheering me along all the way.

Natalie: To the one friend who tells me the things I don’t want to hear, the things I need to hear, and the things that are going to make me better. You, my friend, are one of a kind. Thank you for your relentless, unwavering support since day 1. You’re the real MVP.

Lori: Where do I start? There is so much I could put here, but I’ll save the tears for another time. I am so thankful for your friendship. I am so thankful we have been able to learn and grow in our running journey together. You have been at every. single. marathon. and I could never adequately express my appreciation! I can’t wait to celebrate you crossing the finish line of YOUR first marathon in just a few short weeks.

Erica: My non-running friend who continuously engages in this process and cares about my success. Thank you for meal prepping all of my food for the week of the marathon! This was a LIFE SAVER. Thank you for calling me at 5:15 am  during the week to get me out of bed in time for my runs.  You would think I’m old enough to get out of bed without a wakeup call, but nope. You’re my girl. Always there when I need you. Thank you to the only person who will jam to a single Taylor Swift song on repeat during a 10 hour road trip. “Look  what you made me do….” Love youuuuu.

Lindsey: Thank you for being the big sister I’ve never had. Thank you for being my official aid station, stocked with water & gatorade during my training runs. You have been one of my biggest fans this training cycle and I am forever thankful. Thank you for listening to me whine and complain about injuries, toenails, and sore muscles. I wish I could promise that you will never hear the drama again, but I’d be lying. Love you big!

Well, folks, that’s a wrap. Chicago Marathon training is complete! I could never have done this without each of you. I’m going into this race feeling more thankful and blessed than ever. My heart is so full!

So much love,

Amy 

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White River 4 Mile Classic

Well, its been a little over a month since I posted my last blog post. I had high hopes that I would make time to blog about each week of Chicago Marathon training, but life’s been crazy and that may have been an unrealistic goal (no surprise there). After a month break from racing it’s time to jump back into it. I have secretly dreaded the August races because I KNOW weather will play a huge factor in race performance.

I kicked off the month of August with the White River 4 Mile Classic.  This was race number 11 of  20 in the series. It is also listed as a championship race, which means more points up for grabs. If you’re not familiar with the Arkansas Grand Prix series and want to know more, click here.

The Strategy:

My coach emailed me my race strategy on Thursday evening prior to the race, which allowed plenty of time for me to dwell and let my anxiety build. Ha!  Going into this race I think I was a little more nervous than normal because it is a challenging course requiring me to focus more than I normally would. For most races, the plan is to start out a little conservative and then pick up the pace a little with each mile, however, this course is not the norm.  So here was the plan….

1st mile:   7:20-7:30 (long downhill the first 1k then a short moderate hill before flattening out to the mile point)

2nd mile:  8:05-8:15 (long gradual uphill first 1k then downhill to the 2 mile point)

3rd mile:  7:50-8:00 (gently rolling first half mile, then significant downhill to the 3.9 mile mark then short steep uphill to the 4 mile point)

4th mile:  8:05-8:15 (significant long steady climb the first .75 miles and then downhill the last .25 miles)

The Reality:

Splits: [ Mile 1- 7:26, Mile 2- 8:02, Mile 3- 8:00, Mile 4- 8:03] 

My official time was 31:41 (7:55 pace). I was the 17th female to come in and took 5th in my age group. I am super excited with how I paced and the fact that I broke 32 minutes, which was the ultimate goal for Saturday’s race. My inherent ability to compare myself to other runners kicked in after I realized I had come in 5th in my age group, falling short of 4th place by 15 seconds and 3rd place by 16 seconds. 

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Holy Hills

 

 

Lori & I after the awards!  She got 2nd in her age group with a time of 36:27! Go girl!

 

Relieved to have gotten this first August race out of the way! Several more to go…

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 4

Monday: 5 miles

Definitely should have done my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday.  My legs were not recovered and 5 easy miles did not feel easy.


Tuesday: 5 miles

I was out way later than normal last night and slept through my run! Ugh! By 8 am it was already in the upper 80s. I knew I was going to have to suck it up and grind out my miles on the treadmill.

First time I had ever done any of my training runs on a treadmill. It was a nice break from the heat & humidity

 

Wednesday: 6 miles

2 mile warm-up, 30 minute Fartlek, 1 mile cool down

Fartlek: {1 min @ hard effort, 1 min easy recovery jog, 2 min @ hard
effort, 1 min easy recovery jog, 3 min @ hard effort, 2 min easy
recovery jog} x 3 sets

This is one of my favorite workouts! During the workout I felt like I was completely dominating my hard efforts and was pretty excited. However, I went back to March which was when I last did this workout and my hard efforts were closer to a 7:00-7:20 pace, whereas today they were 7:35-7:50 pace. I know the heat & humidity play a huge role in this.

Moral of the story: crushing a workout in March is very different from crushing a workout in July (at least in Arkansas anyway)

Thursday: Rest & Recovery

Friday: 5 miles

Another day of oversleeping = Another day on the treadmill

Saturday: 14 miles

Could not have gotten through this long run without my friends! Alyssa and Natosha both ran the first 10 miles with me and helped pace my tempo miles! I definitely wouldn’t have hit my goal pace if it weren’t for them. Running friends are the best friends.

[ 4 easy miles, 6 miles @ goal marathon pace 8:35-8:45, 4 easy miles]

Sunday: Rest & Recovery

Ready for week 5!! Also ready for Winter!!

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 3

Monday: 5 miles  6.5 miles

I had 5 miles on the schedule to start week 3 of training. Just as I was getting back to our condo my brother, Jonathan, asked me if I wanted to run a little bit more with him. I never have company on my runs so of course I said yes! We did 1.5 miles together to make it a total of 6.5 for the day!

We didn’t take a post run selfie so I made him take a picture with me after dinner

 

Half of this week’s training is being done in Florida on vacation, but surprisingly I am still feeling semi-motivated. Getting up in the morning has been the hardest part!

Tuesday: 5 miles

Nothing too special about this morning’s run. It was 81 degrees & 90% humidity, but I love running at the beach with a change of scenery!

Wednesday: 6.5 miles

[ 1 Mile warm up, 2 x 2 mile progression w/ 0.25 recovery, 1 mile cool down ]

Goal: 1st repeat at 8:10-8:20 pace and 2nd repeat at 8:00-8:10 pace

Even though I hit my pace goals for this, it was definitely one of the hardest runs I have done in quite some time. Last run at the beach before I head back home to Arkansas!

Thursday: Rest & Recovery

I drove 10 hours home from the beach with my sister-in-law and niece! My niece is not even two years old yet and she did so well on our road trip!

Nora Layne makes life so fun! I enjoyed a week at the beach with her!

Friday: 4 miles

Friday morning I woke up incredibly tired after traveling and made the mistake of sleeping in. I didn’t start my run until almost 11:00 am and it was already in the mid 80s. I actually only made it to 3.5 miles and walked the last half mile. The heat made me so sick. This is the first time I think I have stopped to walk on a training run in over a year.


I waited a few hours and was bound and determined to finish 4 miles for the day so I took my dog on a quick half mile run! That’s about as far as he can run in this heat anyway.


Sunday: 10 miles

[10 easy paced miles w/ 10 x 1:00 pick-ups  at 6:45 pace]

This run was technically supposed to be done on Saturday, but it was storming most of the morning so I pushed it back a day! Unplanned rest day yesterday, but it was just what I needed!

I’m so excited that I negative split this run! I had to stay super focused because the humidity was awful!!!! For the first 6 miles I was running through super dense fog and almost got hit by multiple cyclists, however, I had several moments where I wondered if that would have been better than finishing my run. We will never know! (For those of you that don’t know me well, I am totally kidding about the previous statement)


Weekly Mileage: 32 miles

Week 3 of Chicago Marathon training is in the books! 18 of my miles were done at the beach and 14 of them were completed here at home. All 32 of them were humid, hot, and difficult! 

“There is magic in misery. Just ask any runner.”   -Dean Karnazes


Chicago Marathon Training: Week 2

Monday: 5 miles

Happy Monday! Easy paced 5 miles this morning surprisingly felt good. It still feels like I’m working harder than normal to finish easy runs, but I know that is to be expected with the heat & humidity. I got a little carried away in that last mile, but that’s what happens when I start dreaming of the Chicago finish line!

Tuesday: 8 miles

2 mile warm up, 4 x 1 mile repeats w/ 0.25 recovery between sets, 1 mile cool down

[mile repeats @ 7:15-7:20 pace]


On Friday when I viewed my run schedule for the week I was with one of my best friends and when I saw Tuesday’s “mile repeats” I immediately told her “I can’t do that, my coach is crazy”…. Okay, so obviously my coach isn’t crazy, but I DEFINITELY questioned myself on this one. I have never done mile repeats, but I have heard about how hard they are. Naturally, I went into this workout pretty intimidated. I texted my coach Monday afternoon and asked for any tips or tricks to get through them successfully. (I was actually hoping she would look at my goal pace for them and tell me she made a mistake and I didn’t have to run them that fast) She recommended going early in the morning. Okay, check. Doing them on a track. Okay, check. And to start conservative. Okay, got it. I can do all that.

4:30 a.m. came rather quickly. When I do track workouts I always make the 30 minute drive to Conway and do them at UCA. I could find a track here in Little Rock, but running at UCA brings back memories of college and I enjoy reminiscing every now and then. I did my 2 mile warm up through the campus and made it back to the track for my mile repeats. When my watch said 7:37 for my first mile, I cringed. This was no where close to my goal range, however, this is fast for me and I decided I would try and get a little faster each mile even if it wasn’t the “goal pace.” Mile 2 displayed on my watch at 7:36. Okay, I am on my way to negative splitting this workout, I can’t give up now. Mile 3 is where things got challenging. I had to stay super focused and snap out of my day dreaming that was going on. 7:34. Yes! I can do this I thought to myself. At this point I was ready to be done, hurried through my 0.25 recovery jog, and finished my 4th repeat. Mile 4 repeat hit right at 7:31.

Even though I didn’t hit my “goal pace” for these I AM SO HAPPY, mainly because its over, but also because 2 months ago, I couldn’t have done this. Thankful for my coach who pushes me to be my best and believes in me more than I do myself.  Tia, my coach and friend, you’re the real MVP. I couldn’t do any of this without you! 

Wednesday: Cross Training

18.5 miles on the road bike

Bike rides are better with friends

Thursday: 5 miles

I originally had 4 easy paced miles on my schedule for today, but I ended up doing 5 so I could join Lori on her speed workout.

[ 1 mile warm up, 4 x 800 w/ 0.25 recovery, 1 mile cool down]

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Squinty eyes
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We should start taking our pictures BEFORE we almost die in the heat

 

Friday: 10 miles

[ 10 easy paced miles w/ last two @ 8:30-8:50 pace]

Long runs are normally on Saturday, but coach worked it out this week for it to be on Friday because I am traveling tomorrow. I don’t normally WANT a rest day, but I AM READY for my rest day tomorrow. It was 77 degrees with 100% humidity for this morning’s ten miles. It took everything I had to finish and stay focused during every mile.

Today marks 100 days until the big CHICAGO MARATHON!!

 

Saturday: Rest & Recovery

After a couple long days of traveling my back really started bothering me. I was so thankful that today was a rest day! Keeping my fingers crossed that this lower back issue will pass soon.

Made it to the beach just in time to relax and get some sun

Sunday: 4 miles

Finishing week 2 with a run at the beach! It was hot, humid, and windy, but relaxing too! Thankful that my back didn’t bother me while running, but it is definitely not 100%. Sleeping and getting comfortable has not been easy, but hoping some stretching and foam rolling will help.

Weekly Mileage:  32 miles

In addition to the excitement of marathon training, this week I am so excited to be spending the week with my family! Training on vacation isn’t going to be easy, but it’s really not that much different than the Arkansas heat & humidity.

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 1

Monday: 5 Miles

I kicked off official marathon training with 5 easy paced miles in 70 degree weather & 100% humidity. I’d be lying if I said I don’t question how I’m going to be able to train for Chicago in this Arkansas heat. I’m going to try and remain positive and hope my body will adjust. After all, it is only DAY 1!

Tuesday: 30-45 min Cross Training

I normally lack quite a bit of motivation on cross training days. I would much rather be running instead of biking or swimming, but I figured since this is week one I couldn’t start slacking this early in my training cycle!

Road bike: 10 miles (16.3 mph)

Wednesday: 7 Miles

Easy run with 8 x 30 sec pick-ups; started pick-ups after mile 3

Even though this is slower than I would like it to be, I am super proud of negative splitting in this humidity. It’s becoming clear I am going to have to take training one day at a time! I think I can, I think I can.

Watching the sunrise always reminds me of God’s goodness

Friday: 4 miles

Woke up late, per my usual, and I definitely wasn’t feeling this one. Glad I got it done, but the 75 degrees and 100% humidity (again) had me feeling so annoyed.

Saturday: 10 miles

I had the grand idea to run through my new neighborhood that I will be moving into in August and the hills were out. of. this. world. I regretted this decision in mile 1. After mile 5-6 I just quit looking at my watch because I was literally running at a snail’s pace and it wasn’t getting any better the longer I ran. Even though it was not my best run, I am thankful for: lower humidity, cloudy skies, and good health.

 

Weekly Mileage:  26 miles

Now that marathon training is in full swing, I discussed with my coach what realistic goals would be for my finish time at Chicago. As most of you runners know, its best to have several attainable goals in case “Goal A” doesn’t go as planned. We know that the Chicago course is a great one, but we obviously have no way of knowing what the weather is going to be like. With that being said… Here are my A,B, & C goals for Chicago 2017:

Goal A: sub 3:50:00 

Goal B: sub 4:00:00

Goal C: sub 4:04:35 (current PR)

Here’s to another great week of training… Next week things get a bit more challenging, but I’m ready! 

Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours

Go! Mile- Little Rock, AR

Saturday morning I attended the Go! Mile race here in Little Rock. Its a local race sponsored by the local running store, Go! Running. The race starts and finishes at the Clinton Presidential Library. To be honest, I was completely dreading this one. The race is broken into different heats based on age, gender, and elite status. I signed up to run in the Female 39 and under heat, which was definitely the best decision. I toyed with the idea of running in the elite heat. The required pace for women was a sub 6:30 mile and that was my goal, but the idea of running with all the elite runners really intimidated me. Maybe next year.

My friend, Lori, and I have a routine for race days. We normally meet and ride together and then warm up together. For this particular race, my coach had me do a 2 mile warmup with the last 90 seconds up tempo.

As we were warming up we decided to run across the Clinton Presidential bridge. As we were running down the bridge we came up on something. I asked Lori “What is THAT?” We got closer and it dawned on me. THAT was a homeless man sleeping on the bridge. We continued running for another 50-100 meters and I had to stop. I completely lost it. It took me a couple minutes to get it together and we continued running.  I instantly knew the Lord was telling me to go back and pray for that man.  To be fully transparent, my initial reaction was not what it should have been. I had this race, I was nervous, there were people running and biking across the bridge, it’s not always comfortable to pray aloud for someone that you don’t  even know,  and the list of excuses goes on. We had to cross back over the very same bridge to get back to where we were going. I expressed to Lori what the Lord was prompting me to do and as we approached the homeless man for the second time, we stopped.  I realized the man was in a deep sleep, so much so, he was snoring. For safety reasons, I decided it was best to not wake the man. Perhaps this might have startled him and made him feel more uncomfortable than he already felt.

It took me a few moments to collect myself to be able to speak words, let alone pray words out loud. Lori and I linked arms and began to pray. I remember my specific words being “Lord, we know that it is not our job to judge this man nor is it our role to question how he got himself into this position.”

Ever since this encounter, God has continuously reminded me of the phrase “break my heart for what breaks yours.” I think too often, we (myself included) become numb to the lost and hurting people that are around us every day. We drive by people on the street corners and we are quick to question their intentions or their REAL situation. We pass up people every single day because we are too busy on our cellphones, iPads, and computers to even notice the need around us. My prayer is that I don’t become so selfish and complacent that I am blinded to the real world around me. Often times, I find it easier to travel to foreign countries to spread the gospel and tell others about Christ than it is to do right here at home. Why? I think for me, I am too distracted here with worldly things. I am too comfortable. I am too self-absorbed. When I’m in a foreign country with no cell phone service, no wi-fi, no social media, I am much more open to letting the Lord use me in the lives of other people.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” –– Matthew 28:19

My hope and prayer is that I will start living this scripture out right here at home in my everyday life. I don’t want to miss the next opportunity that the Lord has for me because I am too busy, too self-centered, and too distracted.

Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours