Sunday, March 31, 2013

Honeymoon to Egg Shell Shuffle recap

Let's face it.  I hit the jackpot, in many aspects of life, but I was again reminded of this during our honeymoon.

Ryan and I got married in October, but did not take our honeymoon right away because I had just started my amazing teaching job.  My uncle had offered his timeshare in Cabo San Lucas to us when we got engaged, so we of course said yes right away.  As soon as I was hired, we looked at my Spring Break date and had my uncle book his timeshare for us for that week.

About another week passed before either of us made the connection that my Spring Break would have the final days of Easter....which would mean that the last Saturday of Spring Break would be the 3rd annual Egg Shell Shuffle 1/2 marathon and 5k.


We thought about our options: postpone the honeymoon until summer or have my dad be the race director for this year.  We looked into flights (I had travel vouchers, so we clearly were using those since it's a tad pricey to fly to Mexico), and realized that we would leave Friday after school and come back Thursday before Egg Shell Shuffle.  Realistically, we wanted to come back Friday as we knew that we would have everything prepared and ready for our race, but there were ZERO flights on Friday.  Not even any ones with connection to eventually get us to Chicago.  SO frustrating.

After talking over every single aspect, we decided that our best option would just be to fly home Thursday.  It was obviously a sign that we needed to be in Schaumburg for our race as there were no flights on Friday.  It definitely would suck to not be able to stay at my uncle's place (all-inclusive, in Cabo, who wouldn't want that?!) for the full time, but at the same would be worse to disappoint our friends, volunteers and participants in our race.

We put so much into our race as not only a way to raise funds for our charities, but also as a way of giving back to the running community.  It would not be right for us to not be present at our own race (even though my dad clearly would do a phenomenal job as he's been working the Cary March Madness 1/2 marathon for over 20 years now!).

So, we left on Friday right after school for our honeymoon.  My uncle's all-inclusive place (Dreams Los Cabos) didn't begin for us until Monday, so we stayed at Playa Grande the first two nights.

Playa Grande is pretty close to the marina, which is where all of the action takes place.  Hundreds of restaurants, shopping, beach activities, etc., that we really just went on recommendations.

A friend from school recommended a few places, one of them being Pancho's.  WOW was she right.  The chicken tortilla soup was the best I've ever had (and I make a pretty darn good one!), the salsa and guac hit the spot, and my tuna steak was to die for.  The place was packed, but we were treated as if we were the only ones in the restaurant.

Sunday we splurged and paid the $10 fee to workout.  Yep, unless you're under the all-inclusive plan, you PAY to workout.  BUT, safety was more important and 16 miles were on the agenda, so running around the marina (3mile loop tops) was not an option.

After working out, we went into the marina and hung out at my uncle and school friend's recommended Medano Beach....we just enjoyed relaxing in the sun and watching the crazy/funny Spring Breakers participate in silly contests.  Pretty much any place you go to has a deal where you purchase food or drink and you get a lounge chair to sunbathe/relax on.  Ryan saw a guy wearing an Ironman visor, so we talked to him for awhile...turns out he's the Ironman doctor!  We told him we were planning to qualify for Kona this year, and he told us we looked like Ironman athletes, which only made us even more excited for our attempt!!  Finally, we had to take up a vendor on the Beach Massage offer.  We bartered with her and got 2 20minute massages for her original 30min asking price of $35.  Worth every penny.

We ate lunch at The Office and had some of the best seafood we've ever eaten.  This place is to die for, seriously.  After lunch, we just lounged around for awhile before heading back to our resort to get ready for dinner.  We went to Hacienda Cocina y Cantina, which is rated #1 on TripAdvisor, deservedly so.  The food was AWESOME.  We had the molcajete (recommended) and the churros.  While the food was great and all, the experience was even better.  Our table was literally IN the sand, and we had authentic Mexican blanket things to wrap around us when it got colder.  We were feet from the ocean....highly recommended for anyone traveling to Cabo.

 Courtesy of TripAdvisor....part of the restaurant is literally on the beach!
Molcajete. YUM.

The next morning, it was finally time for us to go to my uncle's all-inclusive place, Dreams Los Cabos.  WOW, was it nice.

Our room was ready right when we checked in, so we put our stuff down, our swimsuits on, and headed to the pool for some almuerzo and cervezas.  We absolutely utilized the swim-up bar and ate way too much at the lunch buffet. 

 Looking out once you arrive...swim-up bar to the right.
The view of the swim-up bar with resort in back and hot tub in front.

It was nice, too, to just relax and have the servers come around and get our drink and food order. All of the staff was super accommodating and really nice.  We decided just to hang out here for the night and try out the fancy Italian restaurant, Portofino's.

 Bartender took our picture at the swim-up bar

Dinner at Portofino's.

We decided to hang out at our resort for the whole day today.  We woke up and ran on the highway for 10 lovely miles. We knew a few people who had raced the Ironman the week before we arrived who had said that there were HUGE shoulders on the roads and that, as long as we were paying attention, running on the shoulder should be no problem.  We didn't have a single scare and actually ran up and down quite a few hills, which was nice!  After showering, we hung out at the pool ALL day....and even swam some laps:)  My aunt had recommended getting massages from the places on the beach, so we just had to take her up on that.  Plus, $30 for 70 minutes is a hard deal to beat! We went to the Japanese restaurant at our resort for dinner and watched the Magic Show after.  We went to bed early as we had a big day ahead of us...

After running the opposite (less hilly) way on the highway, we showered and headed out to catch the bus.  Our resort had a shuttle, but we needed to be in town at 8:30am and the shuttle didn't leave our hotel until 9:30am, so I did some searching and found out there were plenty of bus options for us.  Let's just say, while safe, these busses are NOT like the ones in Chicago! 

We arrived at 8:30am for our brunch Whale Watching boat tour.  While it was AWESOME seeing the whales (we saw a mama and her baby!) and the Arch and Lover's Beach, the crew was rude and I would NEVER recommend this company to anyone.  Even Ryan wanted to write a review on TripAdvisor about this company.

 The Arch
 My Love
Mama and baby whale!

After our boat tour ended, we hung out at Medano beach at our favorite spot, Billygan's (recommended by my uncle!) and just relaxed.  We ended our time downtown by going to Mi Casa (an adorable restaurant recommended by my school friend) and Happy Endings (#1 bar on Trip Advisor).

We headed back to our resort to shower and get ready for our last dinner:(  We went to Oceana, the adult-only restaurant at the resort.  It was the best restaurant we ate at....primarily due to the OUTSTANDING cappuccino's we were served in wine glasses!  

On Thursday, we woke up and ran, then ate our last breakfast by the beach before heading out to catch our shuttle to the airport. 

The second we got on the plane and could turn our laptops on, we were in race mode.  We wrote out an hour-by-hour schedule for things we needed to do when we arrived back home.....and we got everything done.

Without sending out a post-race email yet, I only have the feedback from our Facebook page and emails we've received....but I feel confident in saying that we pulled off another successful Egg Shell Shuffle.  

When some people heard we were going on our honeymoon the week of our race we put on, they seemed skeptical, which is to be expected. Ryan and I knew that we needed to be 100% in race mode once we got on that plane ride back, and we did just that.  

Thank you SO much to our volunteers, friends and family who helped out in many ways, and of course to all who ran.  We are already writing down ways to make next year's event even better (including not going on our honeymoon the week of the race:)).

Monday, March 25, 2013

March Madness 1/2 marathon recap....and we're off for our honeymoon!

A little late, but better than not at all. 

Sunday, March 17th was not only St. Patrick’s Day this year, but it was also the Cary March Madness ½ marathon race.  I have looked forward to this race for as long as I can remember.  My dad is the President of the Hillstriders Running Club, the group that puts on this race.  I have been volunteering or participating in this race for years.  When I was younger, my soccer teammates and I would be in charge of a water stop.  It was SO cool to us to pass out water and Gatorade to runners (it also helped that my soccer coach, aka mom, would bring us all Munchkin donut holes for breakfast).  And, the best part was receiving a warm pretzel after the race, just like all of the runners.  It was truly something I looked forward to every year.

This year was no exception.  Once I went to college, I would still come home and help out if the race fell over my Spring Break, but it wasn’t until my senior year that I started running the ½.  My first time, I was just doing it as a training run in preparation for the GO! St Louis marathon in April.  This year (2008) is the year Ryan shattered his personal best ½ marathon time and ran an incredible 1:09 on this extremely challenging course.

After seeing Ryan’s results, I decided I would be racing it for years to come.  Ryan astounded my dad’s running club friends by winning the ½ marathon in 2008, 2009 and 2010.  In 2011, he decided to run it with me as he was racing a BIG, KEY race the following weekend.  Boy am I glad he did, because he pushed me to a 1:24, which at the time tied my best time ever!  In 2012, it was super hot, so both of us made sure to slow the pace a bit to risk any sort of injury or dehydration. 

That brings us to 2013.  As silly as it may seem, being that this race is SO early in the year and on a rather challenging course, I have made this race a KEY race for me since 2011.  The excitement from my dad’s running club and the proudness my dad displayed when I won in 2011 really was the highlight of any race I ran that year.  2012 was no different.  I can’t really explain what it is, but the feeling that I get knowing how impressed my dad (my first true coach ever) gets with me when I race well at March Madness is one of the most powerful feelings I have ever experienced. 

There is no prize money at this race, this doesn’t qualify me for Boston or the Olympic Trials…but this race does and always will hold an incredibly special place in my heart.

Alright, onto the race itself. 

Ryan and I moved into our house in Oakwood Hills (basically Cary, IL) 5 days before our wedding in October.  Not something I’d recommend doing the week of your wedding, but also not the point in mentioning that.  We have been training on this course for basically every run we do as our house is 1.5 miles off of the course.  Realistically, I should be able to go into that course and feel confident that I can run a good race.  And, that’s exactly what I was.  I had done SO many workouts on that course that the hills, while still some of the most challenging in the suburbs, didn’t seem to phase me nearly as much as they had in the past 4 years of running this race.  Sure, they were hard and my pace slowed, but my confidence that I would get my normal stride and pace back within seconds of clearing the hill was much higher than in years past.

I went into this race knowing of three other strong females competing: Tammy Lifka, Wendy Jaehn and Kristine Jennings.  Two of the three were for sure using this race as a good tune-up for Boston, so I knew I would be pushed throughout the race, which was something I was looking forward to. 

The first 3 miles, Wendy and I ran with my teammate Jonathan Cain, who kept talking to us and making sure we were doing alright and hanging with him.  I knew from that point that I had to stay with Jonathan if I wanted not only company, but to do well in the overall race.

At mile 4, I saw Coach Cari and she screamed to me that Tammy was about 20 seconds ahead.  I had been counting (and Jonathan had been informing meJ) as well, but I know on this course, it is beneficial to start off a little slower as the first few miles are the fastest on the course.

We actually hit our slowest splits, with the exception of the crazy hard mile 10 hill, during the first four miles.  Right after mile 5 is really where the race begins.  The hills start rolling and your legs start feeling it if you went out to quickly.  The hill just after mile 5 (“Shoetree hill”) was fun, as Jonathan kicked my butt up the hill but made sure I tagged along.  I told him once we hit the top that I might just keep going straight and head home (kidding, but I easily could have!).  The next hill (“Sneaky Hill”) was a new addition to the course this year and is where Tammy and I traded places.  This hill is HARD as it’s short, but steep….and when you turn to the next street, it goes on just a tad longer to make sure you really can’t feel your legs anymore.

At this point, you’re about halfway through the ½.  Volunteers are handing out PowerGels and cheering like crazy for runners as you’re about to go up another doozy of a hill.  The “mile 7 hill” is challenging as it goes on for awhile and turns as well, so you keep thinking it’s going to end, but it doesn’t.  This is the hill where I always see my former middle school P.E. teacher, so I never slow down going up this hill! 

After we made it up this hill, we came down the hill and made a turn to lead us into mile 8.  From mile 8 to mile 9 is a nice flat stretch.  In 2011, I ran a 5:59 mile on this and was AMAZED reading this after the race.  In 2012, this is where I had to stop and stretch my hamstring.  Two very different feelings in those years, so I was a little nervous going into this mile.  But, a 5:59 (no joke!) came out of it this year, so I was able to relax and breathe a huge sigh of relief. 

Then came the hill just before mile 10.  This one just about kills you.  It’s the hill you run down just before mile 3 when heading out, which of course feels great at the time.  No matter how many times I run this course (training or racing), the hill never gets any easier.  Jonathan took off a little here, despite my efforts to stay with him.  I knew, however, that I would be right back with him by mile 11 if I just kept my composure instead of worrying about the gap.  Sure enough, I was.  Even better, Bill Jensen (running friend) was right in front of me as well and we were able to push each other to strong finishes.

Just hearing Jonathan encouraging me, despite being a few seconds ahead still, throughout those last two miles made me feel incredible.  Probably my favorite part was running through the aide station at mile 12, where a bunch of high schoolers were stationed, and hearing them cheer for me (“woohoo, first girl!”) and seeing Jonathan’s reaction (pumping the crowd up, thanking them for cheering for him) was hilarious to me and took my mind completely off of the race.

The last mile was kind of a blur as I knew how close I was to breaking 1:22, but might not be able to do it.  I had looked at my watch ½ way through and calculated breaking 1:23 might not even be doable, so I am ecstatic that I picked up my pace on the more challenging half of the course.  I could see the clock as I sprinted in (5:24 pace for the last 0.1!!) but just couldn’t go any faster. 

I finished the race in a 1:22:10…..the second fastest time ever recorded in the history of the race (well, in the searchable history anyway). 

The best part?  Ryan not only won, but also ran a 1:08:55, setting a new PR!!

The second best part?  When they announced the winners, we weren’t mistaken as brother and sister as we have been at pretty much every race so far since getting married!

The reactions that my dad’s running club friends and our friends and just fellow runners in general had was incredible.  To be congratulated on what is such a special and meaningful race practically had me in tears. 

This race recap was long overdue, but with cumulative exams for my students, grades being due, packing for our honeymoon, and making sure everything is ready for the Egg Shell Shuffle before we leave….I was a little busy.  Hopefully this post touches everyone who helped me (and Ryan) in achieving our goals and feeling great about this race.  Thank you, everyone, for your continued support for and belief in me.

Now, off to Cabo to finally celebrate our HONEYMOON!  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Over the past few weeks of training for triathlons, I kind of pushed off the idea of being a triathlete.  I told myself and others that I was going to race a 70.3 to try to qualify for Kona and then get back into marathon training in hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Trials again (thanks to Earl and Cari, my hamstring tearing again is NOT going to happen).

And then it hit me.

I AM a triathlete.

I'm not just training to do a triathlon.  I am truly training like a real triathlete.

The ah-ha moment came at our final indoor triathlon on Sunday, February 24th.  Ryan and I arrived early to warmup a bit and to cheer on our Multisport Madness youth triathlon team friends.  I also had a score to settle with the stupid spin bikes.  For whatever reason, the past two triathlons I just could not seem to get my legs to spin fast on the bike.  Girls, heck even guys, that I had done better than in outdoor triathlons were crushing me on the bike.

I decided to take out all of my anger on the bike by just spinning as hard as I could for those 20 minutes.  I might have definitely looked ridiculous.  BUT, I biked further than I ever had, and had the third furthest bike split in the whole darn series, so I'd say it was worth it (although, truth be told, I am SO glad there were no photos taken during this portion of the event).

These indoor tris are basically all out races that consist of a 10minute swim (10minute transition), 20minute bike on a stationary standard "gym" bike (5minute transition) and 15minute run on an indoor track.

The first indoor tri, I swam 22 lengths (0.313mi), biked 7.81miles (I tempo'd a 1/2 marathon the day before) and ran 2.563miles on the indoor track.  The second indoor tri, I swam 23 lengths (0.319mi), biked 8.17miles and ran 2.542miles.  I was improving on the bike, but still not enough to be competitive with the top three females.

In my defense, Lauren Jensen was one of the three females (and eventual overall winner).  She is one of the best bikers in the midwest and completely demolished me two years ago when I participated in this indoor tri series.

I think I realized I was truly training to be a triathlete about 20minutes before the final tri began.  Ryan and I had just received our weekly training from Coach Bill and I had responded back to his "good luck today" text with "I'm super nervous, really weird."  I only ever get nervous before races when I feel like I can do something big.

Like, in 2009 when I was racing the Chicago Marathon without the support of Ryan (in Dallas for the LifeTime Fitness Tri Championships) or my parents (on a college visit with my sister), when I knew I would break 3 hours for the first time in my life...with my biggest supporters (minus my brother) missing.  Or in 2012 when I felt like I would be able to get my revenge on the Milwaukee Marathon (in 2011 I tore my hamstring at this race).

So, to get nervous before this indoor tri was a good sign for me, but I didn't let anyone see it.

I swam 24 lengths (I'll take a 1 length improvement in swimming any day!) in those 10minutes.

I biked 9.03miles in those 20 minutes.

I ran 2.54miles in those 15 minutes.

Despite recording the highest ever distance (11.905miles) in a single indoor triathlon in this series, I still ended up 3rd overall.  The second place female was 0.06miles ahead of me, and the winner (Lauren Jensen) was 0.09miles ahead of her.

What does that mean?  It means that despite giving my all on that final triathlon, it wasn't enough.  Those two in the beginning (the series takes your top two tri's and add the total distances up) I was not working hard enough during.  I sure felt like I was working hard, but obviously if I was able to bike 0.8miles further, I had more in the tank.

And perhaps the best thing that came out of this was my realization that I am a triathlete.

Do I still want to get back to marathon training and qualify for the Trials?  Absolutely.  But am I going to go crazy about making sure I hit x amount of miles on this week and x amount on that week?  Not anymore.  I am seeing that my body is taking a beating pretty much every day of the week, and if I'm throwing those miles in the mix just to hit a certain amount, it's not healthy.  My body won't be able to recover, which means when race time comes, it won't properly react.

This is how our training works:
WEEK 1: hard
WEEK 2: harder
WEEK 3: hardest
WEEK 4: recovery (still logging 14+ hours of working out)

Monday through Friday, I am waking up to get my runs in before school and rushing home to get my bike or swim in after school (and core and lifting in there somewhere too).  Saturday is always a long run and Sunday a long bike.

Ryan and I are actually adapting to this training really well and feel the fittest we have in, well, forever. We won't see where we stand really until we race, but the times we are hitting in workouts are extremely encouraging seeing how the weeks are structured.

And the best part?  I am LOVING this.  And I am loving this more than any kind of training I've ever endured (middle school running socially, high school running, collegiate running, marathon training).

So while this blog started off as a way for me to update my friends and family about my journey to the Olympic Trials for the marathon, I have to say it is now going to be primarily triathlon focused because, time to face it,...

...I am a triathlete.