Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Urban Hoedown 5K

I'm not a fan of country so normally I wouldn't have signed up for this race, but I had won a free entry in the raffle at the Adventure Run a few months ago so I figured why not.  I did have some concern with this race being only a few days after my back to back half marathons, but figured I would just run for fun.  It's funny how time changes your plans.

I got to Soldier Field a bit early and quickly found Courtney.  We used the facilities and found a place to camp out.  Soon I got a tweet from Mo letting me know she was at gear check so I went over and got her.  The 3 of us chilled and chatted for a bit.  I then went and did about a mile warm up jog. I didn't feel all that great during the jog and decided I wasn't really going to push things too hard for the race.  I asked Mo what she was going to run and she said she'd run with me until I burned her.  I asked if 23:30 was OK and she said sure since she recently ran a 23:40ish.  We soon lined up and found ourselves in corral A as people moved forward.  After the national anthem we were off.

I held things pretty conservative for all of 30 seconds.  It felt like I was going slow.  After the first turn I looked over and saw that I had already lost Mo.  I then decided to just get into a groove and let things happen.  My watch and the race markers were a little off so my splits seem to be a little slower than what they should be.  There were volunteers at the mile markers reading off the time as you ran past. 6:43, 6:44, 6:45... well crap, I didn't expect anything that fast.  My watch finally beeped a little later at 6:54.

I tried to focus and keep things in the same groove for mile 2. The course was an out and back on the path so this mile featured a nice hairpin turn.  I lost my groove for a bit but soon regained my speed.  On the way back I spotted Mo and we did an air 5.  A bit behind her I saw Harry who I run track nights with on Wednesdays.  We both shouted hey and off we went.  The guy shouting times at mile 2 seemed to be a bit off.  The times were in the 14 minute range which didn't sound right.  I didn't think I slowed down all the much.  Shortly after my watch beeped and showed a 6:50 split confirming I did indeed go faster.

The last mile I struggled a bit.  The crowd had thinned out and I had already passed many runners.  I had a couple I was trying to hang on with to keep pace.  My breathing started to become a bit labored.  The toll of the 2 half marathons over the weekend was finally showing its ugly face.  I did keep pressing though and finally caught 1 of the 2 runners with a half mile to go.  He would actually out sprint me to the finish later on.  Oh well.  With the end in site I hit mile 3 with a 6:54 split.

With a time showing in the 20:30 range I didn't think I stood a chance to break 21 minutes.  I still pulled together everything I had and threw myself towards the finish line.  As I got closer and saw the gun time I knew I was so close to 21.  I stopped my watch and looked down - 21:05.  I came so close to crossing the barrier.  As it stood the time represented a 55 second PR over my previous best 5K run last year.  After some time spent with my hands on my knees trying to pull myself back together and not get sick I grabbed my bolo medal and some Gatorade and let the euphoria set in.

I waited towards the end of the finisher's chute since Mo wasn't too far behind and soon she cross in a better time than last week.  She asked how I did since she knew I was flying and I shared the good news.  Next on the list was to grab beers.  We went to get her bag from gear check and then to grab our cowboy hats, but I spotted Harry and his wife and so stopped to chat with them.  Harry asked how I did since he too saw me flying and congratulated me on the new PR and lamented that now he had to work harder to catch up.  Courtney sauntered up as we were chatting and then we finally grabbed our hats and more importantly beer and set up in the field to listen to the band play and continue chatting until we decided that it was time to go.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

North Country & Wine Trail Halfs

This past weekend I ran in back to back half marathons.  On Saturday I ran the North Country Trail Run in Manistee, MI.  I then headed downstate and participated in the Wine Country Trail Half in Baroda, MI.  The two-fer weekend means I'm doubling up my race recap.

My adventure began on Friday, and it really was an adventure.  With construction, detours, and re-routes it took me about 7 hours to finally make it up to Cadillac and my hotel about 20 minutes away from the race site.  It was too late to pick up my packet so I checked into my hotel and read for a bit before getting some sleep.  I headed to the race site early the next morning since Erica tipped me off that parking was difficult and I also needed to get my packet.  The packet involved a lot more swag than most races.  They were commemorating the 15th anniversary of the race so all runners got a tech tee, polo, sweatshirt, running hat, and pint glass.  I went back to my car and got ready then wandered around the race site a bit waiting for my race to begin.

The fire pit
The post race party
Marathoners passing through the start area after a loop
There were a record number of participants in the half this year so the director broke things into 2 waves.  He set the cutoff point at an 8:50 min/mile pace.  I didn't know whether this meant on the roads or trails so I waited for the 2nd wave.  roughly 10 minutes or so after the first wave left I started my journey.  We first went on a mini loop before doubling back through the start area and up to the hills.  Yes there were hills, lots of them.  I paced myself conservatively in the early going and was running strong.  I was determined to run more uphill than I did at Devil's Lake last month and succeeded for the most part.  The course was scenic and a lot less technical than that last trail run.  I enjoyed myself and chatted with others along the way.

Perfectly flat course
Deer in headlights
The second half of the race got tougher.  There was a section that was like running up and down a roller coaster track with all the hills.  I thought for sure I'd wreck my quads before my half on Sunday.  The final obstacle was a huge hill with a great view from the top and then a loooooooong downhill that I somehow managed to stop myself midway down since my shoe came untied.  We then came back to base camp and the finishing chute was line with flags representing where all the runners came from.

That red dot is a runner far downhill
33 states and not sure how many countries
After the race was done all the runners got a plate of food - burger, potatoes, chips, corn, and pie.  There was also a beverage for each runner - pop, Gatorade, or beer.  Each additional drink was just a buck.  I stuck around a bit and they soon posted unofficial results.... I placed 2nd in my age group!  At the time only 2 people in my age group had finished so I stuck around a bit longer to confirm.  I had indeed placed 2nd and so waited for the awards ceremony and got a piece of wood with the race logo branded into it as an award.  I already got a huge medal for finishing the race.
I do it in the woods or idiot in the woods, either fits
The next part of my adventure involved driving 3 hours downstate to Benton Harbor to meet up with Maggie and company.  We had rented a place on AirBnB for the weekend.  I dropped off my stuff in my room aka the sun porch and then jumped in the pool to cool off the legs and hopefully save what was left of them for the next day.  The group of us then had a pot luck dinner and played a game of Cards Against Humanity.  I had a couple of beers supplemented with Gatorade.  I went to bed a little later than I should of and was up early again the next morning.  Out of the household it was just Erin and I that were running.  We headed over to Baroda and got lost trying to find the start line after parking.  We eventually found it and picked up our packets.  While waiting for the port o potty we spotted Erica.  She congratulated me on my finish the day before and asked how I was doing.  While waiting for the race to begin Anne found me and her husband and his friend followed shortly.  Bob asked how I thought I was going to do and stated my goal was to beat Saturday's time.  He thought for sure that I had it.  The weather was slightly warm and very humid so I had no clue.

Soon we were lined up and off we went.  Bob and his friend were off and darting between runners.  I stayed conservative and picked my spots for passing to keep from zig zagging all over.  My first 2 miles were on the very conservative side and also pretty much all uphill. I soon settle into a rhythm and kept things at an easy effort to start. I had conversations with fellow runners along the way.  Soon I found myself really chugging along and decided to just go with it since my heart rate was still on track for an easy effort.  One girl I was passing made it very obvious she wanted to chat with me so I relented and ran with her talking up a storm for about a mile.  It soon became obvious that she couldn't keep up with my pace even with me doing most the talking.  She said I was looking stronger than her and that I should just keep going and so off I went.

Not quite as bad as the trails
I had some bad luck at the aid stations and seemed to get the cups with barely anything in them.  Oh well, I was doing fine and wasn't parched.  I just needed enough at mile 8 to wash down my Accel-gel.  At mile 10 I was surprised with an ice cold wet towel.  This was fantastic.  I wiped myself down, but realized I could keep myself even cooler by stick the towel in my hat and draping it down the back of my neck.  This worked exactly as planned and I stayed perfectly cool for the rest of the race.  It was like renewed vigor since I really picked up the pace after this.  It probably also helped that the last 2 miles were downhill, but I ran them in 8:03 and 7:56 respectively.  The last 0.1 was at a 6:32 pace.  I flew into the finish even with it being the end of 26.2 miles in a little over a day.  I was proud of what I accomplished and even smoked my time from the day before.  I only finished 5th in my AG this time behind Bob and his friend finishing 3rd and 4th.  The post race celebration featured all you could drink beer and wine.


So how did my weekend stack up?  Saturday on the trails was a 2:11:57 which is pretty snazzy if you consider trail pace is 1-2 minutes slower per mile than your road pace.  Then there are the hills to consider as well.  Sunday's time was a shocking 1:54:29, even with an average effort level lower than what I raced at on Saturday.  My weekend total was 4:06:26 which puts me close to my marathon goal of breaking 4 hours.  I feel a lot more confident that I can reach that goal now considering that I ran both of these races on the conservative side and they are a lot tougher than the roads of Chicago.  I also don't plan on driving 7 hours before the marathon to stiffen myself up.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Marathon Training Week 11

Hi Folks,
This will just be a quick update.  Last week was a cutback week so I reduced the mileage down to 41.7 from the 54 the week before.  You may think this is quite the cut, but it wasn't a normal cutback week since I capped it off with back to back half marathons.  I'll get the recaps of this up soon.

Mon - 2.3
Tues - 2.3
Wed - 5.22 (slightly up tempo instead of normal interval workouts)
Thu - 3.38
Fri - 2.3
Sat - 13.1 - North Country Trail Run
Sun - 13.1 - Wine Country Trail Run
Weekly Mileage: 41.7
Monthly Mileage: 167.75

Let's just say as a sneak preview - both the halfs featured very hilly courses.  I was surprised in what I achieved.  I didn't run either of them all out, but still did well.  I'm not nearly as sore as I expected to be today.  Hopefully tomorrow brings more of the same.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Marathon Training Week 10

This was my 3rd straight week of stepping up the mileage and I felt it.  I've been careful of sticking close to the 10% rule, but that is really just a guideline.  I've been lucky enough to remain injury free, but know that it can be the cumulative mileage that hits you later so I'm making sure to take a cut back week and actually have cutbacks planned for 2 of the next 3 weeks since I also want sort of a taper before the Chicago Half Marathon so that I can use that as a benchmark race.

Early in the week I was dragging a bit.  I kicked things up a notch at the end of my long run the prior week and it definitely left me drained for a few days.  I kept my runs nice and easy and hoped the fatigue would pass in a couple of days.  On Wednesday my legs were still feeling tired, but I headed to track night with the Redditors anyways.  I was planning on attempting an 8x800m workout and figured I would let my body be my guide.  The first interval felt a big tough so I eased up a bit to make sure I would have enough in the tank to finish all 8.  I finished the first one in 3:20 which is absolutely flying for me and I was dumbstruck.  I wasn't that fast when I did my 6x800m 2 weeks prior and thought it might have been a fluke.  The next interval I let myself relax more and tried not to push too hard.  I completed it in 3:19.  Whoops!  And so this went for the rest of the session.  I did eventually slow down for a couple of the later intervals bottoming out at 3:26.  For the last one though I decided to finish strong and once again hit 3:20.  It was such an adrenaline rush to be hitting new and unexpected speeds for the workout.

Over the weekend I forced myself to get up early so I could my runs in before the Air and Water Show crowds appeared on the lakefront.  This meant a 4:30AM wake up on Sunday.  I logged 18 miles this weekend and it wasn't easy.  It was pretty humid out on Sunday and the low hanging clouds never cleared.  The effort level moved slightly above easy levels for the 2nd half, but I didn't let my heart rate get too out of control.  I also managed to negative split the run finishing the 2nd half a full minute faster than the first half.  Go figure.

Mon - 3.07
Tue - 6.5
Wed - 7.11 (8x800m)
Thu - 5.02
Fri - 6.11
Sat - 8.14
Sun - 18.01

Weekly Miles - 54
Monthly Miles - 126.05

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Marathon Training Week 9

This week was somewhat of a struggle.  I've been fighting the remnants of the cold I caught last week.  The good news is I never got worse even after running last weekend's long run with a slight fever in the rain.  I took things easy early in the week before ramping up the mileage later on.  My pacing has gotten better even with being sick and trying to keep things at an easy effort.  It might partly be due to doing most my runs as the sun was setting, but I think I'm also starting to show some improvement from putting in the miles.

I decided to take a look back at what I did last year in training and how I was doing comparatively.  Well for one thing, my longest run last year was only 16 miles which I matched last week.  This week featured a 17 mile run.  Through the first 9 weeks of training in 2014 I logged 225 miles.  Through the same period this year I have logged 295 miles.  I also took a look at the 2nd half of training last year and saw I only logged 226 miles for the last 9 weeks.  My training took a little bit of a stumble and it showed when I collapsed after mile 18 in the marathon.  I don't intend to do that again so I plan on keeping up the strong effort in training.  I will be careful to avoid burnout, but definitely want to log more than 225 miles between here and the marathon.

Mon - 2.29 miles
Tues - 4.52 miles
Wed - 6.51 miles
Thu - 6.51 miles
Fri - 4.67 miles
Sat - 6.71 miles
Sun - 17.01 miles
Weekly mileage - 48.2
Monthly mileage - 72.09

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Marathon Training Week 8

It was back to a mostly normal schedule this week after doing the cut back thing last week.  I returned to the track with the Redditors on Wednesday night where I surprised myself with some unexpectedly swift 800m intervals.  I also happened to browse back through my training logs from last year and realized 2 things occurred this week - I hit my highest monthly total mileage ever in July and also hit my highest ever weekly mileage this week.

For awhile I was concerned I wouldn't hit my weekly mileage totals or even keep the running streak intact.  During my run on Friday I felt a little off.  My nose kept running and I was blowing snot rockets like no tomorrow.  I shrugged it off as me taking my nasal sprays too late in the day.  Later that evening while laying on the couch and watching some TV it felt like someone laid a cinder block on my head.  I knew I had developed a cold or sinus infection.  Fun.  I was going to get up and run on Saturday before meeting friends for brunch but decided sleeping in sounded better.  I did wind up dragging myself out for a run later in the evening and didn't feel half bad.  It helped clear the sinuses even.  Later that night though I felt a bit worse and developed a slight fever.  Sunday I went back and forth over whether I should run or not.  The prudent thing would of been to take a few days off and let whatever this is work its way out of my system.  On the flip side everything was from the neck up and technically you can still exercise when you do that as long as you don't ever exert yourself.  I decided to go with being stubborn and went for my run.  I'd get something in even if it was just to keep the streak alive.

My first attempt to do my run was scuttled.  I was all dressed and ready to walk out the door when it started pouring.  I went back to the computer and checked the weather and it seemed like it would pass quickly.  Once it passed I headed out and started my run.  The first few minutes felt rough.  I thought about doing the mile and packing it in.  A few minutes later it started lightly raining.  It felt good and I decided to press on to at least the water fountain so I could get my stretch in and then turn back.  I never did turn back.  I kept bouncing from fountain to fountain while stopping for a minute or 2 and gathering myself and blowing some snot rockets.  It rained on and off for the first 6 miles.  Sometimes quite heavily.  At some point I actually felt pretty good and started rattling off some faster than expected splits.  I felt strong as I completed mile 15, but then after a quick stop for water it all fell apart and the last mile was something of a struggle.  I did it though, I completed all 16 miles despite being under the weather.  I was watching my heart rate the entire time making sure I wasn't showing any signs of distress that might not be evident right away.  It all worked according to plan.  I even negative split the run.

Monday - 3.07 miles
Tuesday - 4.52 miles
Wednesday - 6.86 miles - half mile up, 6x800m@6:52 min/mile pace quarter mile recovery, half down, plus a jog to the post workout bar.
Thursday - 5.51
Friday - 2.31
Saturday - 5.55
Sunday - 16.01
Total - 42.8 miles

Monthly - July - 144.25  August - 23.87

Monday, July 28, 2014

Marathon Training Week 7

This past week was a recovery/cutback week for me.  After a 2 week stretch of a lot of high stress mileage my body really needed it.  I still might of run a little too much midweek and could feel the burn out when I did my run Friday morning.  My weekend miles were nearly non-existent since I had family visiting and staying with me, but I still got out to run and kept the run streak in tact.  I spent a lot of time on my feet and walking while playing tour guide to my family.

Monday - 2.18 miles
Tuesday - 2.28 miles
Wednesday - 6.01 miles
Thursday - 6.5 miles
Friday -  1.16 miles
Saturday - 2.29 miles
Sunday - 4.67 miles
Total - 25.1 miles

Monthly total - 125.29 miles

I kept the pace easy all week except for Sunday when I ran really late at night in the cool weather and had trouble stopping myself from taking the effort up a notch or 2.