Monday, April 7, 2014

Good For Life 5K Race Recap

Last year I ran The Race That's Good For Life 5K on a whim.  It was a well organized little race that was a little different that the others and I enjoyed myself.  This year they decided to re-brand themselves with a title that is a bit less of a mouthful - Good For Life 5K.  It is a community based race that takes place in a neighborhood in Oak Park.  It also appears to be a family affair as with added kids events the whole family comes out to run.

I registered for the race early on.  I took advantage of the early registration rate which made this race a bargain.  I knew the early April date meant that weather should still be cool and the course itself is great for those gunning for a PR.  Last year I didn't know what to expect and came away from the race with an unexpected PR.  When I signed up I had visions of another PR, but got sidetracked along the way.  Instead I decided to use the race as sort of a barometer or benchmark to see what kind of fitness level I'm at.  I haven't done much of any speedwork yet this year and came off a rough March where I spent the first 9 days resting an injury before easing into mileage and then getting sick and losing another week of running.  I still pulled off a decent Shuffle last weekend so I knew I could handle the 5K... just a matter of seeing how much work I needed to be in true race shape.

Come race morning I got up and got ready.  I took the Clark bus to the Green Line and from there out to Oak Park.  Base camp was set up inside the local high school which meant I was able to get out of the slight chill of the early morning.  I easily picked up my packet and headed to the cafeteria to relax since I was a bit early.  They already had refreshments set up for those who wanted them.  Around 9AM I decided to finish preparing and drop off my bag at gear check.  I ran into fellow running friend Lynton outside who introduced me to one of his friends.  They hadn't run the race before so I gave them a little heads up on what the course was like.  They had already heard about the deep field of runners.  After a little bit of a warm up and some light active stretching I headed to the start corral.

The way this race is set up is that the men and women run in their own heats.  The women started their race at 9:10 and the guys kicked off at 9:50.  The women also got flowers as they cross the finish.  Well anyways I picked a spot in the middle since I knew what kind of group was running this race and I didn't feel like getting run over by being up front.  The gun went off and away we went.  I felt real solid early on.  My early pace was sub 7 and felt kind of easy, but I knew it wouldn't last.  I slowed off the pace a little bit and clocked mile 1 in a time of 7:11 .  Midway through the 2nd mile I started to feel the wheels come off.  My body was definitely not ready to be running hard for a 5K.  I passed the 2nd mile marker with a time of 7:37.  The 3rd mile turned into even more of a struggle.  I tried to keep up the spirits that I could still run a respectable time and that I'd just get stronger from here on out.  We were now running into a breeze and that didn't help.  I was at mile 3 in 8:00.  I did somehow manage to muster a little strength for one last kick to the finish line and the pace for that last 0.1 was at a 7:04 pace.

Heading down the long final straight away - and it is long at nearly 3/4 of a mile - I was hoping that I just might be able to repeat last year's time.  As I hit the 3 mile marker I knew it wasn't meant to be but pushed on anyways.  I finished in 23:32 which was 12 seconds behind what I ran it in last year.  The key difference is that last year I came into the race in excellent shape and ready and this year I'm still trying to build myself back up.  I'm definitely satisfied with the result.  Its still my 4th fastest  5K time... well official 5K since my split at the Shuffle last weekend was 23:28.  I'm if nothing else pretty consistent.

If you're looking for a great, affordable, and well run 5K next spring then definitely give the Good For Life 5K a look.  The course is down neighborhood streets with people cheering here and there.  There are plenty of families involved so there are people of all skill levels.  If you want to push yourself to your limits there were 121 runners who broke the 20 minute mark.  The race is easy to get to and there are indoor and outdoor bathrooms.  There are also plenty of refreshments after the race.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 Shamrock Shuffle Recap

Last Sunday I woke up and it felt like I had been rolled over by a truck.  I ached everywhere and my sinuses were throbbing.  I knew immediately that I had a sinus infection since I had previously been very prone to them.  About a year and a half ago I had gone to a specialist to get my sinuses checked out since I got very bad sinus infections around 3-4 times a year.  I got to take a fun CAT scan and all that to find that I had a slightly deviated septum, but nothing worth having surgery over.  He prescribed me 2 nasal sprays to take twice a day as well as using a neti pot, humidifier, etc.  Since then I've rarely gotten sick and when I have its been really minor.  That was until Sunday... It didn't help that the prescription on my nasal spray ran out and life didn't let me refill it yet so I'm blaming that.  A trip to the doctor on Monday for antibiotics and a refill on my nasal sprays and I hoped I would be good for the Shamrock Shuffle.

Fast forward to Sunday.  I headed to the Shuffle Expo with Jennifer.  We got our bibs and shirts rather quickly and then looked for Maggie to get the team bib.  We were running as part of the Wurst Running Club Ever.  We found Maggie down the first aisle we tried  and chatted with her for a bit.  While we were there an announcement came from the PA at the Nike/Fleet Feet stations... There was a wedding proposal in progress.  We stopped and watched the crowd gather around and a one of the Fleet Feet club runners proposed to a fellow runner.  It was cute, but doesn't seem as cool as a finish line proposal.  After talking to Maggie for awhile I realized that this had been the longest I'd been on my feet in a week and I was starting to feel it.  This wasn't a good sign.  I went home, got some pizza and passed out.

Sunday I was up bright and early.  I used a layering strategy to dress for the race.  I had a compression tank on followed by a long sleeve tech shirt and last year's race shirt.  I opted for shorts and knee high compression socks.  I wore a jacket and track pants over this that I was going to gear check at the race.  I also had gloves and a hat.  I wound up running with the gloves but not the hat.  My hands tend to stay cold unless I'm really trucking it for some reason.  As you can see from above that I was placed in the A corral.  I was excited since this was my first time in A, but also worried since I've been sick and also haven't done a lick of speed training so far this year.  I just didn't want to embarrass myself, or worse - get run over.

Looking back towards the other corrals

There's the start line
Once in the corral I ran into Chris.  He says he was hoping just to break 40 min, but I know he's way faster than that.  I let him know 40 would be nice for me too, but I just didn't want to get run over.  Before we knew it the national anthem was being sung and then the elites were off.  Just 2 short minutes later and we were on our way.  I forgot my watch so I was running by feel.  The adrenaline really carries you off the start.  I was soon on Lower Wacker listening to the beeps as people lost their GPS signals.  Soon after we cross the bridge and were north of the river.  We hit a downhill stretch and all I kept thinking was don't hit a pothole, you don't want to go tumbling down the hill at this speed.

Since I didn't have my watch and I forgot to check the gun time of when I cross I really had no idea how I was doing.  The clock at mile 1 showed just under 8:30 as I passed.  I would later find out this meant my first mile was in about 7 minutes.  I made it to mile 2 as the clock showed about 16 minutes... ok 2nd mile was around 7:30 pace.  I was at around PR level.  I wasn't expecting this and wasn't totally dying either.  I decided to keep it up and see how I would do.  The clock was still under 25 minutes when I passed the 5K marker.  I now knew I could finish the race in under 40 gun time if I didn't let up.  I struggled a bit in reaching mile 4 and knew it.  The clock time was 32 minutes.  I still knew that if I dug in that a sub 40 gun time was still possible.  When we turned down Michigan Ave I dug in and tried to pick up the pace the best I could.  I clawed my way up Mt Roosevelt trying not to lose my steam.  Once I hit the home stretch I tried to dig for a sprint and just didn't have it.  I was able to speed up a little bit and crossed the line when the clock showing 39:28.  This meant I definitely finished in under 40 minutes and wasn't too far off from a PR.  I made my way down the finisher's chute getting some water and whatnot.

As I made my way towards gear check I pulled up my race results to see how I actually did.  My time was 38:12 which was just 31 seconds behind my 8K PR and a totally unexpected performance given how I felt all week.  I was pretty elated to say the least.  I spotted Lynton and he let me know where the Bootlegger's were going to be camping with their beers.  I grabbed my gear and put my pants and jacket back on.  I started walking to get a beer and Mo spotted me.  I walked with her to get her gear and then we headed to get our prize of beer.  Mo was a real trooper after having completed a marathon yesterday.

After getting our beers Mo set up her blanket and we chilled and talked to Pete while awaiting others to finish.  Eventually people showed up once they found us.  After a bit I took off with Vijay and Jennifer to go get brunch.  I needed to get done in time for the MSU game.  Needless to say after brunch I fell back asleep on the couch while watching basketball.  I'm still a little under the weather and my body was tired.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Ever Evolving Race Plans

 Shortly after I finished the Chicago Marathon I had visions in my head of completing another marathon this spring.  Those who know me know that I'm determined to accomplish my goals.  Chicago was my very first marathon and I didn't quite hit the 4 hour mark goal I was aiming for.  I wanted to get right back on the horse and give it another shot.  After dealing with some aches and pains for the rest of the year I finally gave things a rest and picked up running again in January.  Things went well, but I might of did too much too soon.  After completing a run streak of 41 days I wound up taking a week off to start March.  I've eased back into running, but know that I'm too far off in training to be ready for any marathon before summer.  Let's be honest, I'm not going to do a summer marathon since the heat would definitely derail any plans of making 4 hours.

I finally signed up to do the Wisconsin Half Marathon on the same weekend I originally hoped to run a marathon.  Now there is no excuse to try and train like I'm running a marathon - not yet anyways.  This race also gives me a gauntlet of 8 races in 11 weekends.  My spring/summer schedule is looking like this:

3/30 - Shamrock Shuffle - 8K
4/6 -  Good For Like - 5K
4/27 - Ravenswood - 5K
5/3 - Wisconsin Half Marathon - 13.1M
5/18 - Chicago Spring Half - 13.1M
5/24 - Soldier Field - 10M
6/6 - Ragnar Relay - ?
7/10 - Bastille Day - 8K
7/12 - Devil's Lake - 13.1M
7/15 - Strike Out ALS - 5K
7/20 - RnR Chicago - 13.1M
8/23 - North Country - 13.1M
8/24 - Wine Country - 13.1M
9/7 - Chicago Half

I still might throw in Heatbreaker or BTN Big 10K on 7/26.

I had always envisioned doing a fall marathon as well and that is definitely still in play.  I threw my name in the lottery for NYC.  I'd also do the lottery for Chicago and would of most likely done Grand Rapids as a back up.  Well those plans all changed as well.  My friends were going to get married the same weekend as Chicago so I with held entering the lottery for that.  I did get great news today though...

I got accepted into the NYC Marathon!  I was of of the 9,170 runners chosen out of a pool of 77,087 who entered the lottery.  I'm very excited and feeling pretty lucky.  I have to start making travel arrangements.  November is going to be a crazy month now since I'm also doing RnR Las Vegas again on November 16th.  For someone who is in only their 3rd year of running and being able to do Chicago and New York as their first 2 marathons is pretty special and pretty crazy.  Disney world will be my 3rd marathon come January.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Good Life Race

Just  a month from now is a great Chicagoland race.  For those who like 5Ks, this one is one of the best around.  I ran in the race last year.   Its super well organized and held in Oak Park.  Its easier to get to for suburbanites and still on the green line for the city dwellers.  The race is HQ is at a local school that gets transformed into packet pickup and gear check as well as a post race area to regroup.  There are plenty of port-o-lets at the start of the race as well as room to jog around and warm up.

One of the unique features of the race is that the men and women run separately.  The guys and girls can still watch each other start and finish in spite of having different paces.  The course has more of a small town feel to it as it runs through a more suburban like setting.  There are runners of all speeds, but enough speedier folks to help push you to new limits.  I broke my PR at this race last year without that as a goal.  It served as a morale boost for when I shattered my PR later at Race to Wrigley.  Also the best part of the course - the last half mile is pretty much downhill.  Nothing like a strong and fast finish.

Use code CHICAGOSBEST2014 to get $5 off and CARA members still get an additional $3 off on top of that.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

First Setback of the Current Cycle

I'm tentatively planning to run a marathon either May 3rd or May 4th.  I've been eyeing the Wisconsin Marathon and the Lansing Marathon.  Both have their pros and cons which I'm not going to get into right now.  I haven't registered for either race yet because I've been wanting to make sure that my body felt up to the task.  Its no secret that I had knee problems after the last marathon.  I took time off from running and used other exercises to work on core strength and still get a little cardio in.

My return from injury has been absolutely fantastic so far.  I've been able to ramp up without many issues.  I still get occasional soreness, but it has been manageable. Case in point:  There are still 3 days left in February and I've run 54 more miles this year for the month than last year.  I've also had a 34 mile increase over January of this year.  My pace has been slower, but steady.  I've done absolutely no speed work and that is ok for now.  I wanted to make sure I built up the endurance first.  I think the lack of hard miles has helped me to run consistently.  It's also allowed me to have a run streak that is currently at 38 days.

This past weekend I went to visit family.  This meant a 4.5 hour drive each way.  All that time spent sitting isn't very kind to the body.  My knee aches after my hour commute to and from work.  When I arrived I quickly realized that the outdoor conditions weren't ideal.  Instead of 40 degree temps and rain melting snow, my parents got sleet and snow and streets covered in ice.  I still made a go of my run on Saturday.  I started on the sidewalk but realized the piled up snow on the lawns turned them into canyons full of ice.  I moved to the street where I could dip and dodge and find bare pavement and fewer occurrences of ice, but it was still there.  After jogging back and forth on the main street of the subdivision a few times I decided I gambled enough and wanted to quit while I as ahead.  There was still too much ice plus traffic to deal with and that was a bad combo.  My 7 mile run wound up being just 2 miles.

On Sunday I was supposed to do 15 miles according to my plan.  I knew there was no way I was going to accomplish that outdoors.  I instead tried to use my parents busted up treadmill that ran but didn't have a working display.  It was also next to a litter box used by 3 cats in a dirty basement.  To top things off the treadmill had so much bounce to it I felt like I was on a mini trampoline.  Needless to say I wasn't happy about meaning on it and the bounce made my knee angry.  I eked out 50 minutes which I estimated to be about 5 miles since I had no display.  My weekend ended 15 miles short of the goal.

I thought maybe I could make up the 15 miles on Monday after work.  Nope, that wasn't in the cards.  I got home a little late for it plus I just didn't have the energy for it.  I did a few workout programs on the Xbox and ran my mile instead.  Today I woke up and my legs didn't have the same pep they usually do after a cross training day.  I think I might have over did things and one of the workouts had a lot of lunges and squats.  After work I got on the treadmill anyways with just 4 miles to put in and I threw in the towel at just over 2 miles.  I couldn't coax anything more out of the knee and decided to roll and stretch instead.

It's still over 2 months until either potential marathon so I'm not in any sort of panic mode.  It is just a little frustrating to be doing so well and then go through a rough stretch.  I'll bounce back though.  I've learned what works and what doesn't.  Funny enough it's my right knee bothering me now and not the left that was so troublesome after the marathon.  I think I wasn't very good about doing my rehab exercises on both sides so now I'm paying for it.  There's another lesson learned.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Return to the Lakefront Path

If anyone saw a weather report I definitely didn't head outside for a run today.  It is fun to run in the falling snow, just not in the wind and when the rate of snow is 1-2 inches per hour.  My return to the lakefront path actually occurred yesterday for my weekly long run.

How long has it been since I've been on my normal training grounds?  I had to dig deep to find an answer.  I did a 2 mile loop back on November 3rd while my knee was still giving me issues.  I ran 3 more times outdoors after that before taking nearly a month off from running to rehabilitate the knee and let the broken toe mend.  Those runs were a fun run from Roadrunner Sports, Rock and Roll Half Las Vegas, and November bonus pint night at Fleet Feet Lincoln Square.  I wouldn't run again until I hit the treadmill in the waning days of December.  I did manage to get through a 10K on January 11th along the lakefront path, but that was much further south than my usual stomping grounds between Oak Street and Wilson.

The plan to hit the path was sort of half baked.  I couldn't picture myself doing 14 miles on the treadmill.  I suffered through the 12 mile run I did 2 weeks ago and that was just torture.  I had thought maybe do part of the run outside and part of the run inside and even left my apartment with that being the plan.  I filled the 2 bottles on my water belt with Gatorade since it was about 25 degrees out and water would of just froze in the 2 plus hours the run would take me.  I figured I would loop back to the inner path between Diversey and Fullerton and hit the CARA water fountain that is kept on all winter.  I also brought along an Accel-Gel to try out.

My run started on the inner path near Diversey and headed north to the Belmont underpass where I turned south.  The first part was a little tricky since the path was still quite covered in snow, but I trucked along keeping the strides small.  The actual path was fine until I got south of Fullerton and saw that it was diverted to the upper portion above the ledges.  Everything here was a muddy quagmire and people made a path on the snow to go around it.  So much for the plan to just do loops from Diversey to Castaways and back so I could keep hitting the fountain.  I continued down until I hit Oak Street and turned back.  This is where the wind hit me and things became a struggle.  I've been running for other a month with no wind so I definitely wasn't prepared.  My face numbed and my eyes stung, but I gritted it out.  When I got back to Belmont I turned back to the inner paths to hit the fountain.  I was at 6.65 miles and figured I should just take my gel while I was there.  I liked the Accel-Gel. It tasted alright and went down a lot smoother than Gu normally does for me.  I continued back to Fullerton and onto the path and turned back north.  The wind wasn't as bad north of Belmont which helped me decide to just truck on with the run.  I wound up going a little bit north of Lawrence instead of looping around the Cricket Hill area like I normally do since the paths weren't plowed.  I was at 10.5 miles and turned south and still felt pretty good.  I had enough energy and the legs still felt strong.  I wound up picking up the pace ever so slightly.  I realized I didn't go far enough north and would have to add a little loop to my run to finish at 14 miles so I overshot Belmont by 1/3 of a mile before coming back and heading down the path for the final stretch.  My legs finally started to burn a bit that last mile.  I actually had quite a bit of Gatorade left and only hit the fountain once.  I guess the cold water helped me not need as much hydration.  I even had a negative split by a minute the second half.

It probably wasn't the wisest decision to make my weekly long run my return to the lakefront path.  It was probably crazier still that this was my longest run since the Chicago Marathon.  I got through it though and wasn't too bad today.  My knees were a little sore, but nothing that can't be worked out with some stretching and core exercises.  The one thing I did notice is that my form and cadence seem to be better.  I kept focusing on form and engaging my core muscles better while on the treadmill.  I think the consistent pace of the treadmill helped with my stride cadence.  My final mile with the burning legs was still only 1 second slower than my overall pace for the run.  The overall pace actually surprised me since I didn't feel like I was over exerting myself, yet was faster than the training I've been doing on the treadmill.

Anyone else have experience transitioning from the treadmill back to the streets?  How does your pace differ between the two?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I Drank Wednesday

Ok so I've been encouraged to blog about my drinking habits and so here it is.  I know Wednesday is almost over, but it ain't midnight yet!

I'm going to cheat and go back to last Wednesday which is what kicked this off.  After work I went on a date with a girl who lives up near where my office is.  We decided to pick a spot halfway to meet and that happened to be Ram Brewery and Restaurant.  I got there a bit earlier than her and grabbed a Blonde Ale.  I went for lowest alcohol content because I didn't know how long I'd be there and I had to drive back home after and don't condone drinking and driving.  That wound up being my only beer that night.  The date was also sort of a bust.  Oh well.

Friday night I went out for a friend's birthday.  Their choice for dinner was Hubbard Inn.  We got their before our reservation and hit the bar.  I started thinks off with a Metropolitan Krankshaft beer. I know its a kolsch and more of a summer beer, but I was trying to ignore the snow that was starting to come down.  After we sat for dinner I switched over to Pilsner Urquell. Dinner was a bison burger and was just so so.  After dinner we went to Bub City since the birthday girl loves her country.  Not me, but I dealt with it and drank lots of Shiner.  After awhile there we headed up to Galway Bay.  I drank a Labatt tallboy... its been awhile since I went Canadian. Galway Bay closed and we headed next door to Yakzies where I finished the night with Bud Light.  Once you reach a certain point its just not worth it to drink good beer anymore.  It marked the 2nd time in a month that I stayed out until the bars closed.  What have I turned into?  I still got up and did my 6 miles on Saturday... just a little later in the day.  Sunday was another 12 miles before I went to a "Big Game" party.

My friends hosted people over for the game on Sunday.  I got there a little bit late so I missed the safety and whatnot.  When I arrived I was immediately offered a beer... Smithwicks, but the label was a bit funny.

My friends had gone off to India and gotten married over there, but still needed to have their American ceremony.  It looks like they picked a date and asked me to be a groomsman.  I gave a tentative yes considering that the wedding is likely to be in Iowa and the Chicago Marathon is the following day.  I guess I should hope that I don't get in the lottery and have to choose another marathon since I've never been a groomsman before.  I also had a Guinness during the game along with the Smithwicks.

So yeah, I drank a bit more than normal this week but didn't try anything new.  I don't know if next Wednesday will be quite as exciting since I don't have plans to go out this weekend.