Sunday, May 25, 2014


I could complain right now.

I could show my vulnerability and emotionality and cry.

But I won't.

Not because I don't want to.

But because, sometimes, as an athlete, you need to be humbled.

You need a reminder of why you are chasing your dreams. And the dedication, trials and tears that may come along the way.

Back before Ironman Cabo, Coach Bill had told both Ryan and I that, while we have great potential in the triathlon world and will go far if we choose to, we will have very humbling experiences that we must handle with class.

Though it wasn't a triathlon, that experience for me was at the Soldier Field 10 mile.

2013 Soldier Field 10mile: Hands down, best post-high school (running) race of my life.

The week leading up to Soldier Field wasn't ideal, and looking back, we probably should have scratched the race or modified the plan accordingly...but as the saying goes, "hindsight is 20/20."

Monday I chose to sleep in. After running 17 miles with 5x1mile workout on Friday, 11 miles on Saturday, 11 miles on Sunday (split up), and traveling from ORD--MEM then driving to Jonesboro, driving from Jonesboro to Memphis and then traveling MEM--ORD, my body just wanted to sleep for an extra hour.

Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure my legs received the memo to wake up until I had my massage with Dave Davis on Thursday.

The whole week my legs just didn't feel fresh. Coach Dave (he's a pilot so knows a thing or two about traveling) and I knew that my traveling plus lack of sleep was the cause, so I selfishly went to bed at 9pm on Thursday and Friday night. I've been using my FitBit Flex (awesome birthday gift from the hubs) to monitor my sleep...and if it is even 75% accurate, I think I have a lot of work to do in the sleep department...

After our night out on Beale Street...the pink line is ironically when I normally wake up. 
My body just knows...

Sad but true. Longest night's sleep in a really long time.

Regardless, my easy morning run on Friday felt pretty good comparatively to everything else during the week, so I was confident going into Soldier Field. I saw my PT friend Earl on Friday after school to get a few strengthening exercises for my hamstring as it was sore for TWO weeks post-Palos 1/2 marathon.


The good:
-perfect pre-race meal the night before with perfect company
-perfect pre-race breakfast (banana, small Dunkin coffee, Peanut Butter & Jelly PowerBar finished by 1 hour before the race)
-decent race warmup (minus the waiting in the bathroom line part)
-hamstring never once flared up during the race (always flares up in runs over 9 miles)
-met Saucony Hurricane teammate Whitney Lazzara, who WON the whole thing!
-ran with a group of fast girls for the first four miles

The not as good:
-1 minute slower than last year
-legs "locked up" at mile 5....which is only halfway through the race
-I said "I can't"....something no one should ever say

I was pretty happy with how the beginning portion of this race unfolded. The plan was to run the first 5-6 miles at 6-minute pace and then hammer home from 7 on. Looking back at my races last year, and knowing that I am in better shape than last year, this seemed like a great plan.

 Photo credit: Wendy Shulik
National Anthem.

Mile 1--5:59. Felt perfect. Ran with the three Team New Balance girls (Kristen, Amanda and Christy) and that really helped me get into a good groove.

Smiling 'cause I get other girls to run with!!

Mile 2--5:49. Oops. Maybe I got too excited about running with other girls.

Mile 3--5:51. As much fun as it was running with a group, I knew I needed to back off a bit if I wanted to have a strong final 3 miles.

Mile 4--5:59. Christy and I lost contact with Kristen and Amanda. I knew it was best to let them go and hope for the best at mile 7.

Mile 5--5:59. There's the consistency I'm talking about...

...except that going over the turnaround I clipped my calf (I'm truly a klutz) and it was tightening up.

Mile 6--6:14. Ryan saw me right after 5 and told me after the race that I gave him "the look," meaning my facial expression told him I wasn't feeling it and that I wanted to quit (pretty accurate, actually). Two guys ran past me, and I tried to go with them and my legs wouldn't respond.

Glad my face isn't wasn't pretty...

The easiest way for me to describe how I was feeling is to compare my legs to how they feel in a triathlon: breathing-wise, I feel like I could go SO much faster, but my legs just won't go any faster. I know to expect this in a triathlon, but in a 10-mile race? This was the exact feeling I experienced at Palos three weeks ago, too. I made a mental note that this was something I needed to figure out asap with Coach Dave.

Mile 7--6:14. Really? This is when my March Madness 1/2 marathon partner, Jonathan Cain, had run up from behind and told me to go with him.

It was at this point that I uttered the words I wish I could take back,

"I can't." 

Physically, that was very true. Mentally, that probably made fighting the pain and continuing on 100x worse. Definitely one of my weakest moments and something I am not at all proud of.

Mile 8--6:13. I picked off one guy here, so that increased my confidence a little bit. But, my legs still wouldn't respond and I was just praying for dear life that no other girl would catch me.

Mile 9--6:13. Did I tell you I'm really good at being consistent? Because clearly, I am.

Mile 10--6:02. Honestly, the reality of breaking 60 had faded after mile 8. I was on pace all the way until mile 7 so was not happy that I wouldn't be breaking 60, but I was not about to let myself get passed in the final mile. I'm pretty sure I had to work harder during this mile this year than last year... and last year's race came down to a sprint finish.

 "Well, only a minute slower than last year..."
 YAY Teammate for WINNING!!! Way to represent!
 Regardless of how awful I was feeling, this moment put everything into perspective.
 Hey girl heyyyy. RockSTAR.
 Thanks for introducing us, Wendy!
2013 and 2014 Soldier Field 10mile champs. 

Mentally, this was probably the toughest race I've run in awhile. Physically, this was by far the most frustrating race I've ever run.

I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was having these great workouts and mediocre races. I know a 1:00:36 is absolutely a dream for many people, and I am still happy with my time, but Coach Dave and I both know that I am in better shape than that so this is why the frustration occurred.

Luckily, talking with Coach Dave and running friend (and Team New Balance Chicago guy) Michael Lucchesi, the frustration was resolved as we figured out my issue.

Aerobically, I am super fit. I ran a 4mile recovery run at 3pm and had to slow myself down to avoid running sub-7's.

Anaerobically, I am super weak. The reason I was able to perform so well at running races last year despite training for triathlons is the fact that I was putting in anaerobic work.

Regardless of the outcome of this race, my goals are still focused and I am even hungrier now than before for that breakthrough race!

A fellow blogger had posted this quote, and I couldn't think of a more appropriate way to wrap this up:

“I also realize that winning doesn’t always mean getting first place; it means getting the best out of yourself." ~ Meb Keflezighi (2014 Boston Marathon Winner)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Being selfish.

Over the course of the past week, I learned something that will be key to my "big race," exactly ONE month from today.

I need to be selfish. 

Let me explain. 

Long story short, this weekend was my sister's college graduation from Arkansas State University. My brother Nic and I flew out on Friday so as to not miss work, but did not arrive in Jonseboro, Arkansas until 1am. Knowing this would be the plan, Coach Dave and I came up with an alternative to my run schedule during our lovely 20 mile run last weekend at Waterfall Glen: 

-Long run Friday
-11miles broken up on Saturday
-11miles broke up on Sunday
-therefore still hit the 70-75 miles intended for the week

It all seemed like a pretty simple plan, and truth be told it was executed perfectly. 

I went to bed really early on Thursday night to wake up early Friday morning to run the prescribed 5x1mile workout.

Little did I know it would be snowing. On May 16th. Only in Chicago.

Last time I did this workout as 6x1mile, my splits were 6:20, 6:03, 5:56, 5:48, 5:40, 5:38 and that was with Ryan's help and on a beautiful 50 degree day.

This time, I had 15mph winds plus snow to deal with. Mentally, I reminded myself it was about the effort and that needed to be my focus throughout this workout.

I split 6:14, 6:00, 5:47, 5:42, 5:38. And couldn't feel my hands until I got to school (despite wearing gloves).

Both Dave and I were very pleased with the workout, and I went to school pretty darn happy and excited going into the weekend.

Everything went well with our flights, and we arrived in lovely Jonesboro around 1am. Nic and I woke up to run with Kristina at 6:30am....did I mention that their "easy" day is pretty freaking hard in my book? The only miles we split that were over 7minutes were the last two when I literally dropped back because I was dying. 11 miles in a sub-7 average after the workout I did on Friday about killed me.

I didn't have much time to allow my body to get sore as we quickly showered and headed out to Kristina's graduation ceremony.

Not only did this stud graduate with Honors from the Nursing Program, but she also set 4 school records (1500, 5k, 10k, and DMR) and made it to NCAAs twice (possibly three times). 
To quote her, "Nothing is impossible." Words to live by.

 The last Aubert to officially graduate from college! So proud!!

After Kristina officially graduated, we all piled into our cars and headed to Memphis for her graduation celebration. We went out to Charles Vergo's Rendezvous restaurant (you know, the one where Prince Harry and Prince William's friend had their rehearsal dinner at), had some Memphis BBQ, and headed to our hotel to get ready for a night on Beale Street.
Love this lady!!

One of my best friends from college, Mary, lives in the suburbs of Memphis and came out to see me. She also completed her first triathlon (Memphis in May...more about that in a second), so it was really wonderful to congratulate her in person!

Ryan and I headed in somewhat early as he was crazy enough to be competing in the Memphis in May Olympic distance triathlon the next day. Note: the triathlon, despite being called Memphis in May, is actually in Mississippi, a mere 40 minute drive from Beale Street.

After debating back and forth, Ryan and I decided it was best that I not go with him to the triathlon in the morning. He didn't want me missing out on sleep, and more importantly, we didn't want me to miss my flight back home. Though this was 100% the right call, it would have been pretty freaking awesome to watch this stud WIN the whole triathlon!!! 

 Only Ryan Giuliano can WIN a triathlon on no sleep.
Oh yeah...did I mention THIS is what the race looked like? Little bit of rain.

After Nic and I flew home, I went to the store and bought all of my healthy food for the week. I'll definitely post a blog about eating healthier leading up to the marathon, but WOW is it time consuming. 

 Meals for the week: lunch.
 Jac's healthy breakfast bites.
Lunch every day. Check out all the colors!!

Here is the part where I talk about being selfish:

My Monday run was awful. I woke up Monday feeling exhausted, so opted to run in the afternoon despite knowing it would be close to 80 degrees out and windy. I of course factored this into my run, but WOW did my legs hate me. After Tuesday's 6x2min HARD/2min easy workout felt equally as draining, Dave and I again evaluated my week.

Conclusion? Lack of sleep = poor recovery = exhausting runs no matter the pace.


While I don't regret anything about the wonderful weekend in Memphis, I have to keep my race goal in mind. Running a 2:42:59 is no easy task, and if I really want it, I need to do everything in my power to prepare myself to get to that finish line before the clock strikes 2:43.

From this point forward, I am going to be asking myself a question Dave has told me to ask to keep my focus: "Will doing this help me get to the Trials?" If the answer is no, I need to find a new option or eliminate the choice. 

With very limited training (as in 2.5 months post Ironman) to gain more pure run fitness, every step I take needs to be putting me in the right position to run a sub-2:43. 

So, bye bye social life, sorry in advance for focusing on myself, and THANK YOU for understanding that being selfish will help me reach my goal.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Simulation Success: it's all about perspective

This past Sunday's workout was what most people would consider an "epic fail."

However, I like to look at this past Sunday's workout as something I learned a lesson from. While it may not have been an easy lesson to learn, it has made me mentally stronger and even more determined to make my dream a reality.

I participated in the Palos 1/2 marathon this past Sunday, a race I've run for probably the past 5 years. Ryan works it, we get to stay at a Double Tree (because honestly, who doesn't want to indulge in one of their cookies post-race??), there's an awesome bison burger place nearby, our Saucony rep is there... just to name a few of the reasons I have enjoyed this race over the past few years.

The race preparation was pretty similar to last year:

-get a good shakeout run of 3 miles in, check
-swim (last year was a 4,000m swim...this year was half of that), check
-work the Long Jump at the junior high Conference track meet at Stevenson, check
-go to Tribes Alehouse and order bison burger with a side salad, check
-grab a beer at the Double Tree, check
-work on school work while enjoying burger and beer, check

So really....I was kind of hoping for similar results to last year.

Last year's race was run eight days after I set a 2+ minute personal best at the U of I 1/2 marathon. I was not expecting much out of my legs, but shocked the heck out of everyone (myself included) by winning Palos in a time less than 2 minutes slower than what I had just run at U of I....essentially breaking my previous previous PR if that makes any sense.

This year's race was run 4 weeks after an Ironman.

I'll let you come to your own conclusion on where this is going...

...but in case you can't figure it out: this year was a totally different story.

The plan was the run the first six miles at Marathon Race Pace (MRP), 6:10-6:13, and then "Red Line," meaning to go all out for the last six miles.

Coach Dave and I were both completely dialed into the goal and after a 10minute warmup with Ryan and a quick sip of my Kona Punch PowerGel, I was ready to roll.

Long story short for multiple reasons, the first six miles went as planned, but my body just wouldn't GO at mile six. I saw Ryan leading by a LONG shot at mile five and he told me to go catch the girls on my way back (I was in 4th place), and that was the plan until we turned around...and my legs wouldn't move any faster.

Still feeling good at this point.

I made the decision at mile 9.5 to drop the workout. I was running MRP if I was lucky, so there was no point in delaying my recovery process by pushing my body hard for the last 3.5 miles.

I was pretty bummed when I crossed the finish line. I know that there are a lot of people who would KILL to run what I just had, but the work I have been putting in shows me capable of a much faster time, so I was naturally pretty frustrated and upset.

It was hard to show that though since Ryan just crushed the race and won by over 5 minutes. On 2 hours of sleep. After driving from Ohio to Illinois the night before. After standing on his feet at an expo for the two days prior. The man is amazing....and I'm a very lucky girl:)
 Looking smooth and fast!
 With one of our favorite race directors, Mel.
Giuliano win again!

Coach Dave and I talked and came up with a few thoughts on why the race didn't go as planned. After having one of the most miserable 6 mile runs of my life on Monday, Dave made a few phone calls and we figured out my issue: my body simply hadn't recovered from the Ironman 4 weeks prior.

Even though I was nailing workouts recently, the higher "stress" that the simulation race was putting onto my body just kind of made me collapse. My body was getting used to no longer biking or swimming while increasing my run mileage from 50 miles per week to 70-75 miles per week... the transition was not going to be easy, and a moment like this was bound to happen.

*Shout out and THANK YOU to Jen Harrison (a former athlete and current friend of Dave's) who helped us figure out this mystery!

Coach Dave altered my training a bit, but kept in today's hard workout:

2x1mile at 5:40-5:45, 2x800 at 2:40.

I am happy to report that my legs are BACK.

5:28, 5:32 (while trying to slow myself down in fear of dying on the 800s!)
2:34, 2:34

Have to give props to my awesome Saucony A6's as they made me feel like I was FLYING during this workout. Also experimented with the PowerBar Cola Gel Blasts prior to the workout, which have 2x caffeine in them. Two big influences in making this a successful workout.

Thanks to everyone for believing in me and knowing that Sunday was a fluke. I am very lucky to have such positive, supportive people in my life to help me get through the seemingly rough patches. I am focused and ready to keep chasing this dream!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Sacrifice: Do I have what it takes?

10 weeks to train to run the fastest marathon of your life.

Scary, right?

70 days to get into the best shape of your life.

Will it be enough time?

Luckily for me, I have incredible support from people who believe in me more than I believe in myself.

A lot has happened in these past three weeks since I announced that I would be running Grandma's to try and qualify for the Olympic Trials.

There have been MANY races that I have watched and thought, "Gosh, I wish I was out there competing"...

There have been days where I have seen cyclists and had tears in my eyes thinking, "I can't believe I miss biking this much"....

There have been treats at school that I have imagined eating over and over again.

But my thoughts always take me back to one main question:

How bad do I want to qualify for the Trials?

Bad enough to give up racing every weekend.

Bad enough to drop biking to two easy spins per week, knowing full well that my bike fitness that I worked SO hard to gain over the past year is slowly diminishing.

Bad enough to turn down cookies, ice cream, candy, bread (!!!!) and pizza.

Last year, I chased the CARA Circuit in hopes of being the Female Athlete of the Year after hearing early on that I had a good shot at doing so. Between CARA Races and money races, I found myself pretty much racing every weekend. This clearly worked to my advantage last year, but my goals are different this year. You see, you really only have a few QUALITY races to run each year. After already racing an Ironman this year, to have another quality race by mid-year (as in Grandma's Marathon), I needed to cut the excess out and have a strong focus on what was really important.

These past three weeks of training have included a few really successful runs that kept my goal in front of my eyes:

-YASSOS! For those who don't know what this workout is, basically you run 1/2 mile repeats at goal marathon pace. Coach Dave had me start off at 2:50 and work my way down to 2:42-2:45. Tracks aren't open to the public out by me, so I had to do this workout on the road. Did I mention I live in Oakwood HILLS? There is always an incline or decline on even our simple 2-mile route, so I sucked it up, realizing my odd 800s would be slower than my evens and was okay with that. Hitting 2:42 at the end as planned really solidified that this Trials goal CAN happen.

-15mile run with 6x1mile in between. This was run on the March Madness 1/2 marathon course on Miles 1-2, 3-4 and 4-5 due to the strong headwind. I was fortunate in that Ryan chose to run this with me and really helped me hit my times. The goal was to run the first two miles at 80%, the third at 80-90% and the last three RED LINED. We went 6:20, 6:03, 5:56, 5:48, 5:40, 5:38.

These past three weeks of training have also included some not-so-good workouts:

-Week 2 was supposed to include a hill workout, but my lower calf flared up so Coach Dave opted to have me run easy instead

-Week 1 and Week 2 included long runs with 3x2 miles at Marathon Race Pace (MRP) and 6mid-miles at sub-MRP. Both of these were really challenging, and Coach Dave was quick to remind me that I was one/two week/s out of an Ironman so should NOT expect the workouts to go as planned since my body was still recovering

With three weeks down and only seven to go, this Sunday will be a test for me on many levels.

I'll be toeing the line at the Palos 1/2 Marathon.

Ever the supportive husband: Ryan grinning ear to ear behind me:)

I shocked the heck out of myself at this race last year by running a 1:20 just one week after I ran a 2+ minute PR at the U of I 1/2 (1:18), so am hoping to shock myself again this year. The race plan is much different going into the half this year, but it is a plan that will show me how successful Grandma's can be.

One of my favorite pictures, running with my love (Palos 1/2 marathon, 2013)

A GIANT Thank You to everyone who has been so supportive and encouraging throughout this process. I cannot even describe how much it means to me to have people in my life who believe in me more than I believe in myself. Can't wait to post the Palos 1/2 recap....but first, off to the Junior High Conference Track meet!