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The Chicago Chronicles: Let the Countdown Begin!

It’s so strange to say that this will be my last post before the Chicago Marathon next weekend. Although I have really enjoyed writing this blog for FLPT, I loved it even more that I was able to physically see my progress and thought process throughout my training.

I don’t usually blog about my training as I’m generally just blogging about a race report or destination runs, but it was a nice experiment to get an introspective look on the training cycle and to physically see more than just the numbers on my training log.

Before sitting down to write this post I decided to go through and read my other posts in this series. There were a number of things that I noticed.

I noticed mental and physical changes. My first few posts were incredibly optimistic and full of confidence. My most recent post was predominantly about my lack of confidence and feelings of unpreparedness. If you have spoken with me recently, the story is generally the same.

There have been several physical changes. I am no longer a vegetarian (I’m actually eating turkey slices while I write this!), and I am now much more metabolically efficient than when I started training. My training paces got faster, and I lost about 2% of body fat.

The changes in my geographic locations sometimes took a toll on my training, but it was also a nice change to the repetitiveness of the streets of Brooklyn. I started training while at a program in Cambridge, went to a wedding in the Catskills, did a trail run in New Paltz, a tempo run in the Grand Cayman, an unsuccessful long run in Fort Lauderdale, another unsuccessful long run in Orlando, an injury recovery run in Syracuse and some marathon pace runs on a work trip in Chicago.

I tried a new brand of shoes that briefly set me back, but I have also had to rest after a different injury which seemed to make me stronger.

I changed my sleeping habits and am more in tune with my body. Am I fatigued or just lazy? Am I hungry or just bored? Am I in pain or just sore? Is that pain related to an old injury or is it new? These are all things that I have learned to differentiate, which have led to a better training and nutrition regimen.

However the biggest question I should be asking myself is this: am I actually unprepared, and is there a reason for this lack of confidence? Or am I just being too hard on myself?

After an eye-opening chat with some of the amazing staff members at FLPT (they truly have become like a family to me), I decided to go back and re-read these posts to find the answer. Sports psychology has always been an interest of mine, and in addition to re-reading my posts I read a few articles to see if I’m just psyching myself out, and if so, how to get rid of it.

Besides the fact that confidence and having patience was a common theme throughout, I’m going to focus on what I do best: crunching the numbers. Ok, so I had an unsuccessful time trial at the Narrows Half Marathon, I had two pretty bad long runs and I skipped an integral marathon pace run due to an injury. However, I got a big PR at the Pride Run 5-Miler, a PR at the Team Championships (also 5 miles), a PR in the mile and a PR in a 5K that changed my NYRR-registered bib pace for the first time in over a year.

Numbers don’t lie. The training is there. My progress is obvious. I seem to continue to seek reassurance to know that I am where I need to be. I kept relying on long runs, MP runs and certain races to determine my fitness — but then ignoring the bigger picture. Do I actually feel ready? Yes.

I have noticed a pattern in my racing habits over the years. All of the races I didn’t really care too much about, I PR’ed. The races that I focus closely on and really build up for a specific goal, I bonk. It’s time to go back to the basics. In my post about trail running I talk about the love of running for the sake of running. Clearing your thoughts and just running. I’m ready. I will make it to the start line and will run.

I absolutely love the city of Chicago. Last week during a work trip in Chicago, I had a cab driver drop me off at mile 18 of the race, and I ran to the soon-to-be finish line to get a glimpse of the course. It was beautiful. It was also nice to have a little preview of where I know I will be struggling the most. That way, I’ll get to mile 18 and hopefully feel a little bit more comfortable because I will know what is coming.

There will be 20+ NBRs running with me and a bunch of NBRs out there cheering along with some friends and family that are in the area. The support is overwhelming. I’ve heard it’s a high-energy course, and it’s looking like the weather will be pretty good on race day.

Yes, my goal is to BQ, and I know I have it in me. But the only way I will be able to make that happen is if I let go and just have fun. Go back to the basics and run. I trust my training, and it’s obvious that I’m where I need to be. Now I just need to do it!

My next and final post will be after crossing that finish line in the Windy City. Wish me luck :).

Erica Silbiger is a 10-time marathoner, having run her first marathon with Team in Training in San Diego on June 5, 2011. She will run the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 12, with her sights set on achieving a BQ. Erica is the Assistant Director of Admissions for the Columbia School of Social Work, and part of her job involves traveling around the country speaking to prospective applicants in the fall. She trains with North Brooklyn Runners. She also blogs at Eat, Sleep, Travel, Run, Repeat.

The runner and the volunteer! I love this photo of me and my mom from the NYRR Bronx 10-Miler.