Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hobbit Vs The Dwarf

In just 4 weeks from today I will embark on my next running adventure. I will be heading down to Orlando, FL with my pals Jennifer and Vijay in order to run at Disney. This has been a trip that has been over a year in planning. None of us has ever run a race at Disney before so that makes it all the more exciting. The unique thing about this particular race weekend is that there are actually 4 races that if you run them all it is called the Dopey Challenge.

Of course I had to sign up for the challenge since I'm a masochist. Although what once seemed like a daunting feat doesn't scare me as much as it did a year ago. After tackling the 3 marathons in 6 weeks I feel like I will be able to handle the 48.6 "magical" miles in just 4 days. That is of course as long as I don't decide to go all out for any of the races. I could feasibly run one of them for time if I wanted to endure some pain, but it's a vacation in Florida in January at the most magical place on Earth and I would like to enjoy myself. As for my companions, Jennifer is tackling the 3 shorter races, including her first half in a couple years, and Vijay is just doing the half.

The other fun thing about this trip is that the marathon falls on my actual birthday. I'll have to decorate a shirt for the race or wear one of the Disney celebration buttons and see what magic ensues from there. I know that by just wearing the race medals to the parks you get all sorts of congratulations, so celebrating a birthday on top of that? I can't wait. I made sure to book reservations that evening at one of the top recommended Disney restaurants - Ohana. It is a Hawaiian restaurant where the food is served rodizio style like the Brazilian steakhouses. There are of course drinks served in pineapples as well.





Recovery the day after the marathon and belated birthday celebration will be attempting to drink around the world at Epcot.



This might be tougher than finishing the marathon. Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The 4 Things Post

I got tagged by Mo so here's my 4 things post.

Four names people call me other than my real name:
1. Easy E
2. E-Dips
3. Tricksy Hobbitses
4. Da Peach

Four jobs I've had:
1. Dishwasher
2. Prep Cook
3. Student Supervisor in dorm cafeteria
4. Painter

Four movies I've watched more than once:
1. Empire Records
2. Saving Private Ryan
3. Forest Gump
4. Dazed and Confused

Four books I'd recommend:
1. A Game of Thrones
2. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
3. Brave New World
4. Born to Run

Four places I've lived:
1. Canton, MI
2. Rouen, France
3. Mysore, India
4. East Lansing, MI

Four places I've visited:
1. Paris, France
2. Munich, Germany
3. Prague, Czech Republic
4. Dublin, Ireland

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. Las Vegas
2. Orlando
3. Bahamas
4. Paris

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Babyback Ribs
2. Chicken Tenders
3. Pizza
4. Buffalo Wings

Four things I don't eat:
1. Fish (not even sushi)
2. Mayo
3. Beans
4. Tofu

Four TV shows that I watch:
1. Game of Thrones
2. Mythbusters
3. Agents of Shield
4. The League

Four things that I'm looking forward to:
1. The Dopey Challenge at Disneyworld
2. Aspen Valley Marathon
3. Next Vegas vacation
4. Going to see Big Hero 6 with my nephews

Four things I'm always saying:
1. If only I lost weight (see favorite foods)
2. This one time during study abroad...
3. Sure, why not
4. I'm not racing as much this year (20 registrations later...)

Four people I tag to answer these questions:
1. Jennifer
2. Chris
3. Declan
4. Tiffany

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Becoming a Maniac

When I started the year I only had 1 goal in mind, and that was to break 4:00 in the marathon. I had hoped to do it last year at the Chicago Marathon and had crashed by mile 18, but still wound up with a respectable time for a first marathon. This year I would learn from my mistakes and become better trained. I dealt with injuries early in the year, but then got myself into a training groove.

Building up mileage became important for me. I had initially entered the NYC Marathon lottery on a whim not thinking I even had a chance. When a wedding was moved I jumped in and entered the Chicago Marathon Lottery as well. I had hoped to get into 1. Well I was either lucky or cursed since I got into both. NYC was just a 12% chance and 60% for Chicago. I knew I needed the mileage now so that I could bounce back from Chicago and run NYC just 3 weeks later.

I also planned ahead since I was doing Dopey Challenge at Disney in January and knew I wouldn't get a full cycle to train. I started doing the training for that during my training for Chicago. I would stack my weeks so I would do a longish and long run on back to back days. Twice I would run 5,5,10,20 miles on consecutive days. I averaged 40 miles a week during the first 16 weeks and topped myself out at 60. I was running every day and felt quite strong. I broke every single one of my PRs from 5K to Half Marathon without even meaning to during this stretch.

At some point the conversation of topic turned to becoming a Marathon Maniac. I checked out the criteria hoping that my 3 races would get me there. Minimum level was 3 marathons in 90 days. I used a handy dandy calculator online and Disney was 92 days out. Damn! The seed had been planted though. I had signed up for the Rock and Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon just 2 weeks after NYC, but they offered a marathon too. It helped that Mo was running it so I wouldn't be on my own. I needed to wait and see if I was going to attempt this nonsense.

Chicago came and went. I finally broke 4 hours, but didn't run as well as I had liked. Since I hadn't run with an all out effort I was actually feeling OK after a few days and even raced a 5K before heading to NYC. The weather conditions meant that NYC was just for fun, but I broke 4 hours yet again. By this point I knew I would be OK for Vegas and told Mo I could pace her to her goal of breaking 4 at Vegas. I didn't promise much more than that since I had never attempted anything like this before. I ate and drank a little too much before the race, but still kept us where we needed to be for the first 12 miles before Mo couldn't take anymore and needed to switch to walk/run intervals. She sent me on my way and I ran my first negative split in a marathon. I not only hit the 3 marathons needed for Maniac status, I did it in just 36 days. I also ran all 3 under the 4 hour barrier which seemed crazy to me 6 months ago.


I decided I'm going to spend the early part of 2015 embracing my Maniac status. With Disney in January and plans to run in Bayshore in Traverse City, MI in May I decided to add Circular Logic in Indiana in March. This would put me at 6 states in under a year. I decided why stop there since 9 states would put me at Iridium Level. I was going to do a 50K at Devil's Lake in July, but that got nixed so I could visit family and run the Aspen Valley Marathon in Colorado. I'm going to instead run the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha in May. The last one to get me to 9 states will be at Little Rock in March. I looked at a few races, but decided on this one since it helps keep them somewhat spread out. My shortest gap is 3 weeks which I like a little better than 2 weeks. Once again I'm overachieving since the feat of 9 marathons in 9 states will be achieved in 280 days and not the 365 allowed. Once Colorado is done, I will reverse taper into an actual training program for what I hope to be a fast fall marathon. By that point I hope to have the confidence to let loose a bit like I've finally done for the half marathon.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon

Ladies and gentleman, I have done it. I am now Marathon Maniac #10228. It certainly wasn't an easy task, but I accomplished what I had set out to do.

I took the earliest flight out to Las Vegas on Saturday morning. The excitement meant I slept very little.




My flight did actually land a little early and I caught a shuttle to my hotel. I was staying at the New York New York. I had paid for early check-in and after dealing with a desk clerk who had a bit of attitude, I was finally able to get my room. I brought my suitcases to the room and settled in a little bit and texted Anne to see if she had gone to the expo yet. She had not so I met up with her at the Paris and she wanted to walk to the convention center, which was a couple miles away, since it was her first time in Vegas. I obliged and thought so much for saving the legs.

The expo was super crowded, but the line to pick up my bib was short. I then headed over to solutions since I had originally registered for the half and had since decided to upgrade to the full. The was a small line and soon I had my new bib. There was no cost for the switch since both races had the same registration fees. I found Anne and we looked at the gear and decided not to get anything after seeing the lines. We then struggled to get out of the expo with all the crowds. I caught the monorail back to MGM and Anne headed to Fremont St to use a Travelzoo voucher. I told her Fremont was more fun at night, but she was determined to go anyways. I let her know what to look for and she seemed excited by the prospect of an actual coney dog.

I grabbed some lunch and a cat nap then met up with Mo, Jakre, and Anne at the Venetian for a beer. Anne had dinner plans so Mo, Jakre, and I decided to head over to the Monte Carlo to use food credit we had got from MyVegas. We decided on D. Vino since carbs. The Italian restaurant was actually very good. I got a starter of meatballs, chicken parmesan, an extra side of parmesan baked potatoes, and a beer and still had a couple dollars left in credit. We left feeling fat and happy. We headed back to New York New York and I finally did some gambling. I lost of course. Soon it was back to the room to sleep.

The next day I met back up with Mo and Jakre and we grabbed brunch. I wound up getting chicken and waffles which may not be the optimal pre-race choice, but I knew I wasn't running for my fastest time. After lunch I spent a little more time feeding the machines before going back to my room to mellow out. Soon I was getting ready for the race. It's so odd having a 4:30PM start time. I met Mo over at MGM and we walked over from there. It wasn't a long walk. We avoided the pre-race concert area featuring Macklemore and I hit the facilities. We found our corral and a curb to sit on. Mo noticed that nearly all the marathoners were on the curb while the half people were bouncing around. After the usual pre-race announcements the race started. We were in corral 8 and off about 10 minutes after the gun.

The early miles were slow and crowded. I stayed relaxed and knew we were ok. It was far too early to be weaving. I told Mo that we would be just fine with the slow start. All the way around the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and back up the strip we went. I felt some twinges of soreness in my quads and was secretly in a panic. I had promised Mo I would get her to sub 4:00 and now I was worried I may have to drop out if things got worse. By the 10K mark Mo had remarked that it felt like we were flying but we were barely keeping around a 9 min/mile mark. I was a little relieved that it wasn't just me struggling. We pushed on and in the dark streets between the Strip and Fremont Mo was contemplating dropping to the half. Remarkably my legs had begun to feel better and my outlook had improved. I told her do what she needed, but I committed to becoming a maniac.

Mo stuck with me as the half marathoners split off. She was going to run the whole thing even if she needed to walk a bit. She told me to not worry and take off it I wanted. I wasn't ready to yet. I also really had to use the restroom by this point. We got to run under the canopy on Fremont and it was the most amazing and surreal experience ever. The canopy is like a giant TV screen and was playing some patriotic video. We had a roped off path right down the middle and people were on either side cheering us on and giving out high 5s like crazy.  Once past Fremont things quieted down drastically. We hit an aid station around mile 10 or so and I finally was able to use the restroom. I told Mo to just keep going and I would catch up. I was serious about really having to go. I pee'd for a good 90 seconds according to the break on my Garmin. Once done I was relieved and high-tailed it to catch up to Mo. I did finally get back to her around the 11.5 mile mark. I was worried that I would be paying for running just under an 8 min/mile pace for around a mile would kill me later on. We stuck together for the next half mile and I regained my composure. At mile 12 Mo was ready to walk and sent me to run my own race. I hit the halfway point in 1:58:25 which was a bit slower than NYC.

The next few miles were a bit of a blur. I ran well for a couple miles then inexplicably struggled for a couple. After the turnaround I started to run well again and realized why - we had been going uphill. I kept cruising and reeling in other runners. I passed a lot of runners in the 2nd half and things were going better than expected. We got to run back through Fremont street where you would of thought we were running onto the field for the Superbowl. One guy gave me a pretty hard high 5 that stung my hand. Once past Fremont we were once again sent into the abyss. The course would not rejoin with the half runners until around the 24.5 mile mark. Even then we had dividers. The course until then was dark and only had a few runners. I tried to cheer some of them up when we only had 5K to go. Somewhere around this point I realized I had a chance at doing a negative split and picked up the pace a bit. I gritted through a bit of pain, but the energy came back as we were back in the glow of neon. I was so thankful that the 26 mile marker came late. A short sprint later and I was finished. The 2nd half was 1:56:34. My overall time was 3:54:59. I achieved my sub 4:00 trifecta.

The finishing chute was another marathon in itself. I fought through slow walkers and stoppers to get my medal. I collected a blanket, water, gatorade, and milk on my way through. People kept stopping all over to text or take pictures. It was obvious there were a lot of first time runners since they weren't very good with etiquette. I had trouble all the way back to my hotel. I was amused when we hit the stairs for the pedestrian bridge and the escalators weren't working. I've never heard so many people groan at once. I did finally get back to my hotel and started texting everyone to see how they were doing and if they finished. Anne wound up crossing 90 seconds in front of me since her corral of the half started far after mine and Mo. Mo crossed around 20 minutes after me. After a shower and some rest I met up with Mo, Jakre, and Jessie at Wolfgang Puck's at MGM for a well earned - and late - dinner.




There was much celebrating and fun after, but that will be a different post.

5 Weeks, 3 Sub 4:00s, Marathons 2,3, and 4
Chicago - 10/12/14 - 3:49:51
NYC - 11/2/2014 - 3:55:55
LV - 11/16/2014 - 3:54:49

Friday, November 7, 2014

NYC Marathon By The Numbers

Since this is my first time doing two major marathons within a short span I thought I'd do a bit of statistical comparison between the 2 races.

NYC Number of Runners: 50,875
Chicago Number of Runners: ~45,000

NYC Finishers: 50,511
Chicago Finishers: 40,599

As you can see most people who started NYC also made it to the finish line. Cooler temps may play a role here, but I also think the heavier crowds of cheering supporters also helps out.

Winning Times

NYC Men: 2:10:59
CHI Men: 2:04:11

NYC Women: 2:25:07
CHI Women: 2:24:35

For the men it is easier to see that the tougher conditions cost some time for the pros. The NYC course is hillier and the wind conditions were brutal. For the women we don't see as wide of a gap, although that could be due to a fierce battle for first that saw a gap of only 3 seconds.

My Own Numbers:

CHI:  3:49:51
NYC: 3:55:54

I didn't feel the greatest for Chicago and gutted that one out. I felt a lot better for NYC, but found the course and wind tougher to deal with. The other limiting factor in NYC was being placed in Wave 3 and dealing with thick crowds of people and limited room to run. I decided to just hang tight during the race and have fun with it and not over exert myself.

Splits:
Chicago 1st Half: 1:50:01
Chicago 2nd Half: 1:59:50
+ 9:49

NYC 1st Half: 1:56:07
NYC 2nd Half: 1:59:47
+3:40

As you can see I ran the 2nd half of both races with remarkable consistency. The first half is where all the difference was made. Chicago I was trying to gut out a good time and NYC I just rolled with the day. I'm more impressed with NYC since the 2nd half there seemed more hilly, that or my legs just got tired and I felt the inclines a bit more.

NYC
5K:   27:59
10K: 27:33
15K: 26:54
20K: 27:34
25K: 28:36
30K: 27:19
35K: 28:40
40K: 28:53
42.2K: 12:26

CHI
5K:   26:19
10K: 26:02
15K: 25:54
20K: 26:09
25K: 26:09
30K: 27:53
35K: 28:58
40K: 30:40
42.2K: 11:47

My 5K splits are a lot more even from NYC than Chicago. You can see where I basically hit the wall with the splits in Chicago whereas with NYC I hit more of an incline and just faded some. I did manage to find a burst of energy for a late push in Chicago, but my legs were pretty taxed by the hills and I just didn't have the same late push in NYC.

Looking back at the numbers and the factors for each race I feel like I actually ran NYC much better than Chicago in spite of having the slower time. I was more consistent and felt stronger throughout. If the course had been flatter, less windy, and less crowded I would of ran faster than my Chicago time for sure.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dash to the Finish 5K Recap


One of the series of events leading up to the NYC Marathon is a 5K through Manhattan the day before. It shares a finish line with the marathon allowing those unable to get in or unable to complete the marathon to experience the thrill of crossing the finish line in Central Park. Once we spotted that the race was available, Jennifer decided she had to do it to fulfill a goal of running through Central Park, and I figured it would be a nice way to get a shake out run in before the main event.

The race started on First Avenue in front of the UN Building going south before turning towards Midtown on 42nd Street.  It goes by Grand Central Station and the main branch of the New York Public Library before turning up Sixth Avenue towards the Park. You get to run by Radio City Music Hall and 30 Rock before making the turn into Central Park for the final mile or so of the race.

It was a damp and chilly morning so we bundled up and were still cold. I wasn't worried about overdressing since I was taking things nice and slow. I think our time was somewhere around 32 minutes which I was completely fine with. The course also gave a sampling of how misleadingly hilly NYC actually is. I warmed up a mile or so into the race and felt great by around mile 2. The goal was achieved for a shake out.

After crossing the finish we had a long walk to get out of the finisher chute. We got some of the same goodies that would be given out the next day for the marathon finishers. We finally found some caution tape that had been torn down and snuck out through the shortcut. We walked back towards Midtown and found a diner to grab some breakfast. While dining I looked up the results and saw that the winners were an Olympian steeplechaser, Donn Cabral, and ITU Triathlon World Championships gold medalist Gwen Jorgenson.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The New York City Marathon

I arrived in NYC on Friday morning with Jennifer in tow. NYC is her favorite city and wasn't about to let me come alone. I figured why not since it helped defray some of the hotel costs. It looks like we were wise in our decision to fly out early given the conditions in Chicago later on Friday. We took a cab to our hotel in Murray Hill and dropped off our bags and set out for food and the expo. We found a pizza place and grabbed a couple of slices where Chris met up with us.

We walked over to the Javits Center and were in immediate shock. The line just to get into the expo was 2 blocks long. It was moving steadily and we made it inside in about 20 minutes or so. This was so much more disorganized than Chicago. I made my way over to booth for my bib number and picked that up then headed over to get my bib for Dash to the Finish 5K. After more chaos to get my goodie bag we were dumped into the shopping area for the Asics official marathon merchandise. I picked up a Run NYC shirt and some NYC Marathon arm warmers and stood in yet another huge line to pay for my stuff. The expo felt smaller and a lot more crowded than Chicago. Between going to the expo and after, Jennifer had me speed walking all over Manhattan. Saturday featured the Dash to the Finish 5K which I'll write about later followed by breakfast at a diner and later a nice Italian dinner in the theater district.

Sunday morning I was up bright and early and headed down to the Whitehall Ferry terminal to catch my 6:45 AM boat to Staten Island for the start of the race. The terminal was a little crazy and crowded, but not too bad. I caught my ferry without issue and enjoyed a nice view of the Statue of Liberty on my trip. Arriving in Staten Island I decided to stay in the warmth of the terminal for as long as I could given that I was in Wave 3 and didn't start until 10:30AM.  I found an uncomfortable piece of wall to rest against a midst the other runners and spent the next hour snacking, hydrating and taking micro-naps. Soon the police were going around telling us to clear out since the last shuttle buses left at 8:30. Luckily the bus ride and the wait was fairly long giving me more time to rest in warmer conditions and catch another micro nap or 2. We got to Fort Wadsworth and got wanded with metal detectors before being allowed to the starting village. I jumped in a long line for the restroom that shortened as Wave 1 and 2 runners started freaking about getting to the start line. I did my business and then headed to blue start area. I chilled until it was time to go to my corral only to find a wall of people who were not moving. The Wave 4 people were already trying to start getting into the start corrals and blocked out a number of the Wave 3 folks. It was chaos to say the least. I finally managed to squeeze through and get into my corral just as it started moving towards the start line. The corrals were a crazy tunnel filled port-a-potties on one side and piles upon piles of clothes all over. We heard the cannon boom followed by cheering as we moved forward.



As we got closer to the start line the familiar Sinatra tune of New York, New York as blaring over the loud speakers. It took nearly 8 minutes to get to the actual start line. The whole way there they were greeting people from countries all over the world. It was cool to hear all the different languages being spoken. We hit the start line and off I went. So the weather for the race was a little less than ideal. Temperatures were great being in the low 40s, but the 15-25 mph winds made the windchill 35 degrees. To top things off it was gusting in excess of 40mph. The NYC marathon starts by running over the Verrazano bridge which exposed us to the worst of it right away. It was tough enough with the long 1 mile trek up the bridge but with those gusts blowing the runners every which way didn't help. I saw one women unprepared for a gust and fall while trying to keep her footing. I kept getting knocked sideways myself. If the wind was any stronger I would of had to hit the deck to avoid being blown over the side. I may have picked up the pace a little more than planned to just get off the bridge. Luckily what goes up must come down and we had a nice mile long downhill into Brooklyn.

Brooklyn was amazing. There were so many people lining the streets and bands and partying everywhere. I was loving every minute of it. I let myself soak it in and enjoy things. At times I had no choice with the way the crowds were on the course. With 50K runners, it can be hard to find room to run and the course bottlenecks at each aid station. I often found myself almost dancing on my feet and waving my hands and singing along to the music. There were only a couple small sections without crowds. Soon we were at the halfway point and crossing into Queens for even more partying. It was just a short jaunt through Queens and soon were were on the Queensboro bridge for another long uphill and eventual downhill allowing me to fly into Manhattan. Once we turn onto 1st Avenue it is just a madhouse full of people. The race gets tough here as it is another stretch with a bunch of hills, but the crowd is there to push you along. About 20 miles in you're on a short bridge into the Bronx for a couple miles and then back into Manhattan for the final stretch.

I was hoping to finish the race strong and still had plenty of energy at mile 20, but the hills had taken their toll and sapped the strength from my legs. I hit the 20 mile mark in just under 3 hours and knew I couple run a 10 minute pace from there on out to break 4 hours. I let up the effort a little bit, but not a lot. The stretch on 5th Avenue heading towards the final stretch in Central Park was just brutal. It was another long uphill that just never seemed to end. I was contemplating walking since the rest of my strength was nearly gone, but I kept at it. I chugged along feeling like I was running in place and eventually made it to the top and then down into Central Park for the home stretch. It was tough running through the park since the course narrowed and a lot of runners were now walking at this point. I regained a bit of my legs and kept trucking and weaving through the walkers. We let out onto 57th St for one last decent uphill before turning back into Central Park at Columbus Circle for the last half mile to the finish with one last hill for good measure. I crossed in 3:55:54.

After crossing the finish line the runners are treated like cattle. We collect our medals, space blankets, and recovery bags and are told to keep moving. I chose the no baggage option so I had an early exit. I only had to be herded a full mile before getting my poncho and then another 10 block walk to meet up with Jennifer and Chris. It felt like it was never ended and moving slow as molasses. The family reunite area was chaos as the families showed no respect to anyone other than their runner and kept darting across the street impeded other runners from getting through or blocking the path to get their photos. It appears I finished only 15 minutes after Chris so they didn't wait long for me. The next order of business was lunch. My stomach doesn't like food immediately after a race like that so I nibbled on some chicken fingers and fries and had plenty of pop and water to re-hydrate.


I'm actually very proud of how I ran. This was not a goal race and definitely not for time, but I was able to show myself what kind of fitness I actually had. The course alone is difficult enough to be a few minutes slower than what the same runner would achieve in Chicago. Even more so for someone who is not used to hills. The windy conditions also caused considerable slow down. Runner's World said the winds would cost the typical runner around 12 seconds per mile. Given that I was only 6 minutes slower than my Chicago time and I ran with an easier effort in spite of everything means I had a helluva day. I wish I felt that good during Chicago 3 weeks ago and who knows how much faster I could or ran it.

Next up I'll try to make it a sub-4 trifecta with a switch to the full marathon at Rock and Roll Las Vegas in just 2 weeks. It's amazing what a year difference can make in a runner.