marathon trainig

The winner of the Hot Chocolate 15K race entry is Taylor Nichols of Chicago!  (Cue the confetti and balloons!)

Taylor tells me she had promised a friend she’d run the race with her so the news came as a pleasant surprise. A runner since graduating from Michigan State University, she fell in love with both the riverfront trails in Chicago and the half marathon distance specifically.

Hot Chocolate 15K will be her first race after a groin injury that prevented her from training for the Chicago chocolate

“Hot Chocolate will be my first race back and I couldn’t be more excited,” she wrote. “I’m just hoping it is a little warmer than last year. ”

Tapering tips

Shudder. Tapering can be a difficult transition for a lot of us as we switch from running four our five times each week to significantly reduced mileage. Some of us get a little cranky and may not know what to do with our time.

Some of us spend a lot more time baking things like banana bread, can’t-leave-alone bars and chocolate chip cookies.

This Competitor Running article gives more technical advice to tackle the taper.

The week after your race

No one told me that the week after a race would be just as — or even harder than — the taper. Because I look out for you, here’s a nice Women’s Running piece on what to expect and how to deal.

And here are my tips, just in case you need additional help (and who wouldn’t?).

Forced tapering (a.k.a. injury)

If you want to avoid getting forced to significantly reduce or stop running altogether due to injury, check out this great resource from Strength Running, which lists gobs of information.

Have you ever won a giveaway? What’s your favorite race distance? What’s worse, tapering or the week after a race?


An ode to running friends

by lachicaruns on

For the past three-and-a-half years, almost any new friend I have made is a runner. We, well, run in packs.

That’s because runners are a great, friendly and supportive bunch. (They also don’t care if you stink, burp, fart or talk about bodily fluids.)

Many of my new friends run A LOT. My friends Brandess and Shannon for example, have been known to run ultramarathons (anything over 26.2 miles).

According to Running USA’s annual Marathon Report, we’re in good company. In 2013, there were 54,100 marathon finishers, with 57 percent men and 43 percent women. Almost half — 47 percent — were 40 and older.

It is in this context that I set out to prove to myself that I, too, could run a very long distance. And I did on Sept. 20, 2015, finishing the Capital City River Run in a little under six hours.

Source: ©

Source: ©

Because I am surrounded by runners, I just knew that I would finish the race if only I put in the time and followed a plan. I had a few moments of doubt. I am human, after all. (Shhh. Don’t tell my family or employer.)

Any doubts were immediately dispelled whenever I spent time with my running friends.

These were the people who met me at ungodly hours on Saturday mornings, but who also ran part of the race with me, cheered me on or left encouraging messages in chalk on the route.

My non-running friends didn’t quite get it. In fact, their congratulations came in tones typically reserved for people who are a bit unstable. Or crazy.

It was as if they were thinking this little hobby of yours is going to kill you. Good thing now you can go back to running for fun and eating donuts. (Not a bad idea, I must admit. I do surround myself with some very smart people.)

This experience cemented my appreciation of my friends who run. Because they not only understand why I do this, they join me. Encourage me. Revel in the minutia of marathon training — from what to eat and drink for fuel to where to apply Body Glide to prevent chafing.

I’ve spent the past week recovering and thinking deep thoughts about my running. I’m itching to put another race on the calendar, but have forced myself to take the time to reassess what’s next.

And while I may be deciding what kind of a runner to be, there’s no doubt of who’s going to be taking those steps beside me. Thanks, friends.

Who are your most-favorite running friends? Why are they so special?




La chica is a marathoner

by lachicaruns on

Thanks to God, a slew of friends and family, and Dr. Awesome, I finished my first marathon today.

Here’s photographic proof:

marathon finish line

I am even prouder because I spent the three days before the race at a work conference that involved walking up and down hills and very long days. Oh, and I took a nasty fall that made my arms and hip hurt. I do not recommend it.

That all said, I prepped my gear the night before just to make sure I didn’t miss anything since I’ve been known to forget things like shoes, socks and headphones. Ahem.

marathon gear

Race day morning was perfect. It was in the 40s and sunny, meaning I started stripping layers about three or four miles in.

marathon with Brandess

My friend Brandess dressed as a rock star for her pace group, the Mullet Crew — the party in the back.

marathon with BGR

Black Girls RUN!

My pacer was awesome: 71-year-old Arlen on his 97th full marathon despite having a hip replacement less than a year ago. He also climbs mountains, does ultra marathons and tris, and did an Ironman just a few years ago.

marathon with arlen

I felt really good for the first half of the race and kept a decent-for-me 13-minute mile pace.

marathon selfie

I got to enjoy the gorgeous day and beautiful scenery through the Michigan State University campus farms and fields. But the best things I saw during my run were my friends who turned out to cheer or who came back after they were done with their own half marathons plus messages my friends wrote for me in chalk.

marathon message

Fast forward to about mile 20, when I start to slow down a bit. I was still running, fueling every four miles and drinking all of the water and Gatorade offered on the course.

No big deal. I figured I could run 10K no problem.

Then miles 23 and 24 came. My nemesis. I had a peek into what I’ve heard people call “the wall.” I couldn’t feel my legs. I was shuffling more than running. My mind was alert and I knew I would finish, but my body was just plain tired.

I kept moving with Arlen giving me encouragement, just concentrating on moving forward. I must have muttered “trust the plan” dozens of times.

And then I saw a bunch of my Black Girls RUN! Lansing friends. I can’t imagine what I would have done had they not been there.

marathon near death

That’s Brandess’ butt.

My training partner Janet even joined me for the last two miles, sporting a green tutu (she was a pacer for the half) and giving me the strength to just keep going. I won’t call it a second wind, but it was a boost and for that I am forever grateful.

As soon as I saw the chute, I knew I could draw some energy reserves only available to pigheaded women. I high-fived them, then saw my husband, daughter and youngest son, waiting near the finish line. I smiled and finished strong.

marathon high fives

In the end, I met most of my goals: I ran at about 13:27 per mile pace, finished in under six hours (5:52:50) and didn’t die.

I’ll call that a win.

Marathon with Janet
With most of la familia.

With most of la familia.

Now what?

Have you ever run a marathon? Did you hit the wall? How did you recover?


Autumn’s my least-favorite season because as much as I despise winter, fall is the time when everything dies. The trees are pretty with all of their red, yellow and orange splendor. But those leaves don’t last for very long and soon, well, fall, leaving the landscape barren.

But for a couple of hours this morning, fall was glorious. The temperatures were perfect for running in my favorite Skirt Sports Jaguar skirt, short-sleeve tech T-shirt and a light jacket; the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining.

la chica with the sun and blimp

I met my friends at our local running store for our scheduled Saturday morning long run, heading out around 7:30 and heading west toward the Michigan State University campus and its river trail. Within a couple of miles we spotted the Goodyear Blimp flying over us by Spartan Stadium, reminding us of the night’s game against Oregon.

la chica with the blimp

With a speedy-for-us 12-minute-per-mile pace, we chatted and told stories, laughing and mostly ignoring our watches except when stopped at aid stations…or for chica with vicki

Training last week didn’t go too badly. I got all of my runs in, even if I did have to cut one of them short so I could get my crew ready for school and myself presentable (read: not stinky) for work.

I already know this upcoming week’s going to be a challenge. I’m on the road for work all day Thursday, then heading up to Mackinac Island in the afternoon for some volunteer work with my boss (who is an elected official) through Saturday. That has me driving more than three hours back home to Lansing in time to pick up my race packet for Sunday’s Capital City River Run full marathon (my first!).

Having traveled for the same event on the Island in past years, I know that I’ll be on my feet almost the whole time and won’t get to do the prerequisite resting on the days leading up to my marathon. Trying not to freak out about that.

Guess I’ll have a lot of practice repeating my new mantra: Trust the plan.

Have you had to race after less-than-ideal conditions? How did it go?

NOTE: I am a Skirt Sports Ambassador Captain. All opinions are my own.

I’ve been increasing my mileage for the past 16 weeks as I follow Hal Higdon’s novice marathon training plan. He’s had me go from nine miles per week to 40 per week after last week’s 20 miler.

It’s been relatively easy to fit in my long run: just meet up with some friends early on Saturday morning and run for hours. The middle-of-the-week mid-distance run? That’s a completely different matter.

At 12:30 or 13 minutes per mile, the up-to-10 miles I had to fit in last week — on a weekday no less — meant more than a two-hour commitment. What’s a chica to do? She gets creative. To whit:

  • Get it in first thing or just before bed. I am a morning person but often already get up at 5:30 to get things done before the rest of the family is up. I could not fathom getting up at 4:30 to run. But that’s what I did several times so that I could still get ready and to work (relatively) on time. A few times, I was on my treadmill at 9 or 10 o’clock at night.
  • Flex time. If you are fortunate to have some flexibility in your schedule, consider a morning or late-afternoon run before or after work. If you have an awesome manager like I do (hi, Ruth and Mike!), you can get six or seven miles before work and still get a full day’s work by staying later or working an hour or two more on other days.
  • Split the run. My friend Janet suggested I get half my run in first thing and the other half in the evening. I never could bring myself to doing this but it might work better for your schedule.
  • Run it on the weekend. Not remotely ideal, but the Higdon plan does allow for switching the order of your runs. A couple of times I had to run my middle-of-the-week run on Saturday and my long run on Sunday. Not ideal, but it allowed me to get the miles in.
  • Be realistic. Despite my best intentions, there were weeks when I genuinely couldn’t fit in another six, seven or eight mile run. Instead, I ran as much as I can and moved on. Ignore the guilty thoughts. As long as it’s not a regular occurrence, I’m told by experienced runners, it’ll be OK.
8 miles

Got about eight miles in before work this week.

Was my training perfect? Um, not really. Will it get me through to the finish line? Absolutely. I used Higdon’s half-marathon training plan last year and I finished with a smile on my face.

Feel free to borrow my mantra: Trust the plan.

What’s your hardest run to fit into your schedule? How do you manage?