Thursday, May 12, 2016

Flying Pig Marathon Recap

I had heard many good and potentially concerning things about Flying Pig before I had run it. People talked about the great course and crowd support. They also talked about the hills. Given that this was day 2 of my first ever marathon double, the hills would definitely be of a concern.

We drove up to Cincinnati from Louisville, which is about 80 miles away. We got to the expo and saw that it was pretty big. After some initial confusion we found out where to get our packets, and then had to head to the opposite end of the place to get our shirts and our pretty nifty bags with yoga mat holders. The wandering around the expo was probably good for my legs as it kept the blood flowing and prevented me from getting too stiff after my marathon that morning. I also wound up buying a new pair of shoes, Hoka One One Infinity, that aren't carried by Fleet Feet in Chicago. After we went to our hotel, grabbed some dinner, and then settled in for the night.

Race morning felt like it came a little too soon. It was also raining steadily outside. This didn't bode well given that I finished Louisville looking like a drowned rat. I was smart and had a poncho with me, so I wore that down to the start line, which was about a mile away. The walk served to warm the legs up and get a little loose before the race. It started to feel a bit steamy out with the humidity and also wearing the poncho. The rain let up just before the start of the race and I ditched the poncho.

I was in Pig Pen B (aka Corral B) for the start of the race. I headed towards the back knowing I wasn't going to start out too fast and the pen was really for runners who expected to run between a 3:20 and 3:40. Totally not happening this time. The race starts and we're running along near the river and by the sports stadiums. Things feel a little stiff, but ok. We hit a long uphill on a bridge and I decide to take a walk break. I see a runner from the day before and we chat for a few minutes before he goes running off.

About 2 miles into the race I spot Meg, a fellow Marathon Maniac who I had run a couple miles with at the Garmin Marathon 2 weeks prior. We made the decision right then to stick together since it was the first double for both of us and would make things easier, and it did! The miles actually started to tick by. It helped that we had a lot of similar goals and talked about other marathons we planned to do or had already completed. She's going for 50 states at a far faster pace than I am and hopes to finish next year. I wish I had the vacation days and funds to pull that off. We also started sort of a game. We knew that the hills would eat us alive if we tried storming up all of them so we would pick a landmark such as a sign or a traffic cone and say we were going to run to that sign and then start walking. We would repeat for transitioning from walking to running.

We hit the halfway point in around 2:12. I was still feeling optimistic at this point of achieving my goal of not running my worst marathon ever which was a 4:26. I knew the 2nd half of the course was mostly downhill and the worst of it was behind us. Up to this point the crowds had been pretty awesome and people were handing out all sorts of things on the course such as twizzlers, swedish fish, orange slices, and even slices of bacon! I had a twizzler that I ate part of before I gave up on trying to chew the rest. The sun had come out during the course of the race and was beating on us in full force now.

There was a lady after the halfway point who was yelling out that it's all downhill from here. I joked to Meg that I was gonna have to cut the woman if she was lying. She was most definitely lying. Although the course was net downhill after the halfway point, there were still a lot of inclines. As the sun continued to beat down and warm things up, the walking breaks became more frequent and longer. My stomach started knotting up a bit. I grabbed a beer on the course and that seemed to help for a bit. Finally I stopped and used the facilities around mile 20 or so. Meg walked so I could catch up to her after. It was here that I realized something else scary, My thighs had chafed badly and I was bleeding. It didn't hurt, yet, so I continued on.

As the end of the race came near the crowds picked up again big time. It felt like a big city race heading through the downtown streets towards the finish. Meg and I decided to put our all into the final stretch. The final time of 4:38:35 was a new personal worse by 12 minutes, but I had completed my double with the 2nd day being the hilliest course I've ever run and on a fairly warm day with temperatures in the 70s. Meg had run only 2 minutes slower than the day before so she was pretty happy. The finisher's chute had so many goodies after we collected our medals and water. I wish I had a bag to collect all the chips, cookies, candy, etc. I soon parted ways with Meg and found Natali who immediately asked if I was ok and pointed at my legs. I had partially dried blood streaked down them. It's a wonder no one stopped me on the course or in the finisher chute since it did look pretty bad.

We made our way back to the hotel where it felt great to get out of my soaked clothes, all sweat this time, not rain. I found out my once white socks now had a nice pink hue. The shower was a bit painful to wash certain areas, but much needed. Luckily I had first aid cream and medical tape in my toiletry bag to patch myself back up.

After showering we managed to wander over a few blocks to Tom + Chee to get the most amazing grilled cheese sandwiches ever. I think that might be my ultra food. I had one at mile 36 of the DPRT 50 miler last fall and it was a godsend. After a few hours resting at the hotel we got hungry again and wandered out for dinner. I found a place called Eagle Food and Beer hall that looked good. It had an hour wait at 6PM. We put our names in and headed across the street for a drink. The wait was well worth it as I got half a fried chicken and a 5-cheese mac with garlic bread crumbles. I destroyed that dinner and then had Graeter's Ice Cream for dessert. I guess 52.4 miles made me a little hungry.

We managed to barely stay up long enough to watch Game of Thrones and then had a good night's sleep before driving back to Chicago the next day.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

Some time ago I got the bright idea of running two marathons in one weekend. Kentucky Derby and Flying Pig seemed like the perfect set up since the races were only about 80 miles apart. I soon signed up and all was well until race weekend approached. I was never able to properly train for the double, so that had me a little worried heading in.

I drove down to Louisville on Friday afternoon. It was largely uneventful except when it came time for lunch and the realization there is almost no where to eat on the drive between Chicago and Lafayette. We finally got to Louisville which featured nearly as much road construction as Chicago and headed to the convention center for the expo. I picked up my stuff which included a hat that I wasn't expected then headed out. The only route out of the expo snaked you through all the exhibits and had narrow corridors full of people gawking over stuff. Not fun. Next was over to a friend's place that we crashed at and dinner and finally bed.

The original forecast was for a wet and stormy morning. I checked the weather once again when I woke up and saw that the rain was going to hold off until later in the morning. I brought my hat in preparation, but this was much preferred to having the race potentially canceled. After parking somewhere in the vicinity of downtown Louisville we made our way to the start line. I soon found Amanda and line up in the corrals with her and Julie. The race started and sent us down the main drag past bourbon places and the Louisville Slugger museum.

It wasn't long before I left Amanda behind as she was making sure to take things slow to survive the double as well. I ran past some girls where one was explaining to the other what the different bib colors meant and that some of the people were running a marathon. I announced to them I was running two. They asked if my 2nd one was Flying Pig and I said yes. They were excited since they were from Cincinnati and love Flying Pig. They were shooting to get the girl a sub 2 hour half so I ran for them awhile to try and keep them on pace. I tried coaching the girl a bit as she was running far to tense and it showed. The miles ticked off and soon we were doing a quick lap around Churchill Downs. A bit after this the course split so I said good luck and good bye to the girls and was on my way.

There were far fewer marathoners than half runners. It didn't take long to spot some Maniacs though. I found a couple who were also trying to be 50 Staters. There was a sprinkle that started at mile 8 that was now turning into heavier rain. It was refreshing and I picked up the pace a little. At mile 11.5 we entered Iroquois Park which featured a lot of ups and downs, especially compared to Chicago. I swallowed my pride and walked a bit of the uphill portions knowing full well that even though I wasn't tired, I wasn't even 1/4 of the way through my weekend mileage yet. One of the Maniacs, Steady Eddie, saw what I was doing and joined me to conserve some energy as well. He told me about another group he's in that I should join - 50sub4.  You need 10 states at sub 4 hours to get in and the goal is to his sub 4 hours in every one, which only 84 people have completed to date. We were still on sub4 pace for KDF so that would give me my 10th state if I kept it up.

As we finally hit some downhills and left the park I also left Steady Eddie to greet his wife. Back on the streets I picked up the pace a bit. The trip through the park meant some splits closer to 10 minutes with the walking. While still on sub 4 pace, I wanted a little more cushion. Once we reached mile 18 the half and full course merged once more, but had dividers splitting the 2. The marathon side was a bit narrow and I soon found myself weaving around a lot of the marathoners who had faded. I was still running strong and enjoying myself in the rain. I cleared 20 miles in 2:56 and knew I could practically coast to the finish line under 4 hours. I finally realized how dumb I was being and slowed things down at mile 22.

I nearly made it through the entire race without using the facilities, but decided to stop during the 23rd mile because I had time and there was no need to run with discomfort for the next few miles. When I slowed down I switched to monitoring my heart rate. Once I hit the threshold from moderate effort over to hard effort I would walk myself down to and easy level heart rate and then start jogging again. The system worked out pretty well even if I did have a 10 minute and 10:30 mile doing it. I soon found myself on the home stretch and with a large group of people yelling my name. It was the girls from earlier and their friends with them out there cheering me on. That gave me a little pick up for the home stretch as I crossed the line in 3:55:59.

Don't think I've ever looked this strong at the finish (in yellow)

I soon got my medal, water, Mylar blanket, and a chocolate milk. The finish area was under an overpass so it stayed mostly dry. Unfortunately the area was sandy which was a mess to walk through. My friends found me and after a bit we decide to grab lunch at a local bbq/microbrewery. By this point the rain was a complete downpour. Lunch was good, but I wasn't very hungry. My tummy was a little out of whack still from the running. One of the girls from earlier actually came in and she ran over and hugged me. She PR'd and was happy about that but missed her sub 2 half by 33 seconds.

After lunch it was time to put on some dry clothes and head to Cincinnati for the next part of this epic journey.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ravenswood 5K 2016 Edition

After last year's move to Lincoln Square, this meant that Ravenswood was now my neighborhood race. I had to sign up for it of course. I've run this race for a few years now and the convenience factor was now a definite plus. I was able to do packet pick up from the Fleet Feet Lincoln Square location on Thursday evening. The races are now being organized by RAM so it was their set up with check in, get a random bib, and scan it in under your name. Fairly quick process and then I went and bought new shoes.

Race day was one of those freakish warm days we've been getting this Sprinter. I decided to jog over to the start as warm up. I might have gotten a bit of a late start and then have to rush a little, but not too much. I got to the race site with 12 minutes to spare before the race was to start. I headed over to gear check and spotted Pete. It was quick to drop off my gear bag and then head towards the start corrals. Had a little bit of a fight to get anywhere near the pace I needed to be lining up at. Lots of kids near the front which worried me a bit.

It wasn't long before we were off and running. The early going had some speed bumps, but those weren't much of an issue. It was everyone who sprinted out and then got winded and slowed down that I had to weave through to keep on pace that slowed me down. The first mile was still a respectable 6:35. There were no Rahm sightings for me this year since I found out after the race he actually ran.

During the 2nd mile I began to struggle. I just could not keep my legs pumping as hard. My cadence slowed and my stride shortened. I was working way too hard to maintain the pace I was running and thus slowed down a bit to 7:10. Things should not have been as hard as they were given that I had run faster on a windy day 2 weeks prior. I didn't think the warmer temperature was affecting me that much. Every time I went to try and push things I got a little dizzy and realized my heart rate was up near top effort.

We ran down Lincoln and through the main square where the Fleet Feet employees were cheering everyone one. After than is the turn down Lawrence that seems to go on forever before turning back down Damen. I was getting passed and really fought to maintain the pace that I had been running. The third mile was just a touch slower at 7:14. Turning back down Wilson I pushed with everything I had left and ignored that I was getting dizzy again. I crossed the line at exactly 22:00. It was a subpar performance for me and I was happy to just be done. I grabbed some water and headed towards gear check.

I ran into the Bootleg group on my way to gear check and found out where the meeting spot was going to be. I got my gear fairly quickly and also got a sticky bun before heading over to church for pictures with the Bootlekeggers and the bloggers.

We began discussion race performance. Pete had an amazing PR. I realized that I had not eaten well the day before and likely just bonked. It's been recommended that I get the book Racing Weight to be able to cut weight and still train for endurance. Also found out that Rahm was behind Pete at the start. We had an Olympian in the race who finished 2nd overall for females. Pete and Annabelle both placed in their age groups.  In spite of the bad personal race, it was a good day and the weather was beautiful. Couldn't think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Garmin Land of Oz Marathon Recap

Last fall I gave in to a whim and signed up for the Garmin Marathon. There was a discount for Marathon Maniacs and they were touting some perks. I figured it was a race I could drive to and spend a 3 day weekend. I didn't put much thought into how the course or weather might turn out or the fact that I was doing my first double marathon 2 weeks later.

I took Friday off of work and drove to Olathe (Oh-LAY-thuh), Kansas. The home of Garmin. It is a suburb of Kansas City.The trip was mostly uneventful as driving across Illinois and Missouri can be. I stopped a few hours in for gas and lunch, but pretty much trucked it right on to the race expo. I must admit my legs were a little wobbly after being in the car for so long so I spent a few minutes getting my balance and senses back as I wandered into the expo. I got my registration sheet and headed towards the back to pick up my stuff and crossed paths with a girl from my Ragnar team. She was in the other van so we didn't really know each other too well, but she gave me a funny look and was like, hey, do I know you? After I said yes, Ragnar, she was like oh, right. What are you doing for dinner, me and the girls are gonna grab something soon. She was with Too Tall and Judy who I knew, so I figured why not join in on the fun.

After happy hour beers and a teriyaki stir fry I finally made it to my hotel. Someone must not like me because the room was filthy. I was too tired to complain. The only things clean were the sink and the bed which was all I needed after the long day. I talked to another runner after the race staying there who said she got a newly remodeled room. We both paid $45 a night so I still feel a bit shafted. I managed to get to bed after the Blackhawks game finished and got up bright and early to get to the race site. It was at an industrial complex without a lot of roads in or out and would be closing for the race so I was there 75 minutes before race time. I chilled in the car for half an hour before heading to the race area to use the facilities. I wandered around looking for familiar faces, but talked to several other Maniacs instead. I used the facilities one more time before the start of the race and then found the start corral completely jam packed with 10 minutes before race time. The pacers were all like 5 feet apart. There wasn't enough room for the number of runners so I had to wait with a large group to jump in from a side entrance after the race was under way.

Early Miles -
I was way back in no mans land by the time I crossed the start. I saw a 4:40 pacer in front of me and groaned. I wanted to start conservative, but this was a bit too much. There was no room to navigate either. I wanted to avoid weaving, but didn't have a whole lot of choice as the pace was painfully slow. I wound up using turn lanes on the road for a little extra space to get around people. We also got an early taste of some rollers. These were a bit taller than Mt Roosevelt in Chicago and ran back to back. I caught up to Too Tall somewhere around the 4:30 pace group and she was sticking around there with her friend and told me to keep going so away I went.

The Fun Miles -
It took about 4 miles, but I finally got locked into a groove. I had caught the 3:50 pace group and planned to stick with them for a bit. A couple Maniacs started talking to me and one of them was doing 3 more of the same races as I was this year. The pace felt casual and I had no problem conversing so I was surprised to see my watch show a sub 8 split on the next mile. After a couple miles my new friend said she wanted to take it easy and stay with the 3:50 group so away I went. There were some more small hills, but I was in a good mood and cruising so I kept at it. I eventually caught and passed the 3:37 pace group. I had no intention of running anywhere near this pace so it was a bit unexpected. The sun had come out though and things started to take more of an effort.

The Grind Miles -
There was a long hill up to mile 12. I fought my way up and might have used too much energy doing so. I only had one more sub 8 mile after that hill. I recognized that between the heat and the climbs, my legs had lost their mojo and tried to slow my pace just to survive. To make matters worse my stomach was in knots. I was sure I was having hydration issues and the powerade flavored water wasn't helping for electrolytes. I tried to use the bathroom during the 16th mile and this is when the 3:37 pace group passed me by.

The Wheels Falling Off -
I kept going. I started getting stomach pains and wondered when the next bathroom would pop up. Miles 12-25 of the race were along a paved bike trail that while scenic, meant longer distances between aid stations and restrooms. I tried using another restroom at 18 with no luck. Finally at 18.5 we hit the turnaround of the out and back along the trail and I was greeted with a fierce headwind. It was a steady 15 mph with stronger gusts. The fact that we were also going uphill just added to the battle. It wasn't long before I was reduced to mostly walking. I was feeling faint and dizzy, but was too stubborn to give up so I power walked what I could and jogged the downhill stretches. I hurt seeing a bunch of pace groups pass me by, but I didn't want to end up in a med tent or worse.

The Finish -
Even if I had fresh legs, the climb just before the mile 25 marker was pure evil. It was 80 feet up a steep incline. We then went down a little decline and small incline before turning onto the same road we started the race on. One last trip over those rollers before hitting the finish. I had pushed myself just enough over the last couple miles to avoid a personal worst. I finished just under 4:21. I collected my medal, a water bottle and headed straight to the beer tent. I caught up on news from Carmel and waited for the others to finish. The medal was actually pretty cool.

After thoughts -
I actually felt really good in the first half of the race. I may not have lost as much fitness over the winter as I thought. I'm definitely not in shape for hilly courses on warm days though. I also need to start splurging for host hotels and the perks they give. I could have slept in an extra hour if I had. The race was well themed and well done. The only problems were the crowded start, the over diluted powerade, and the lack of on course port-a-potties.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

2016 Shamrock Shuffle Recap

In 2012 I ran my first race ever at that year's Shamrock Shuffle. It has since become an annual tradition of mine. Who doesn't love flying through the streets of the loop having a near Chicago Marathon experience without the mileage?

The Friday before the race I headed down to McCormick after work for packet pick up. It takes a little longer to get their from my new place, but it's nice that the green line has a stop nearby now. I'm also glad I paid attention to where people were coming from since they moved the expo into a different hall than it normally is in. Packet pick up was pretty painless and then I wandered around looking at vendors before bumping into Harry and Tiffany. Not long after I also ran into Luis and Charlyn.

The next morning was the monthly meet up of the Mikkeller Running Club. I had planned on taking it easy and just getting loose before the Shuffle. Well I did the running nice and easy no problem, but then I might have gone a bit overboard with the drinking. I apparently got a bit drunk. Untappd says I drank 6 beers with the last one being 12% alcohol. Oops.  I did manage to make it home with a pizza by 5PM so I had some time to recover.

Race morning came far too early. I was slightly hungover and it was far too cold out. I made my way down to the start area. I met up with some of the usual suspects, but needed to use the facilities and wandered off. I did bump into Charlyn in time to head to the corrals together where we found Pete and watched the elites warm up. Pete soon headed off to the front while we stayed near the back of A corral.

Once the race started I got sucked into things. I was running stiff and could feel myself over striding. It's hard to correct myself in a short, fast race like that. I decided to just hold on the best I could even though it isn't very efficient. I hit the first mile in 7:02 which was just a touch slower than I had hoped for. Mile 2 was more of the same and a similar split.

The middle miles turned into bit of a drag. We had a couple stretches where we had to fight the wind. The inefficient stride was also wearing on me and I slowed closer to 7:15ish splits. During the last mile we turned back onto Michigan Ave and I tried to pick up the pace a bit knowing the end was near. I caught Charlyn passing me so I had a new target to keep up with. We turned up Roosevelt and were nearly to the homestretch. I got stuck taking a wide turn around a slower runner who also took a wide turn. The hilly fall marathons must of paid off because I was able to power up the hill pretty well. After that final turn towards the finish I was able to pull together everything I had left and finished pretty strongly. Charlyn wound up a few yards behind me. Final time was 35:27 which was good for a 7:08 pace. While it was a PR, it was still slower than the 6:46 pace I had during my 10K last fall. I guess that's what I get for running hungover.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Live Grit Lakefront 10 Miler

Last year I was invited to join a running group that competes on the CARA circuit. I knew I wasn't going to score any real points for the team with age group wins, but I could still get participation points so I signed up for a bunch of races on the circuit. It helps that I'm also a race addict. The first race on the circuit this year was the Live Grit Lakefront 10 Miler.

As tends to be the case I woke up race morning after going to bed too late the night before. I got myself together and hydrated and ate a Kashi bar before taking the bus towards Montrose Harbor. I made it to the race site without having to run to the start this time. I found Mo at the Ragnar tent and Pete strolled up a few minutes later. We discussed goals and I basically said finish and PR since I've actually run 14 marathons since my last 10 mile race which was Soldier Field in 2014. Wrap your minds around that.

I didn't have a whole lot of time before I got myself together and dropped off my stuff at gear check before heading to the start corrals. I opted for shorts and tshirt on this chilly day with arm warmers and gloves. I'm like a furnace when I run so I knew I wouldn't be cold for long, but it always seems like forever when in the corrals. After an acapella version of the national anthem we were off and running.

I quickly realized that I started myself too far back and that I was running pretty fast at the start. I also felt that maybe I hadn't hydrated as well as I should have before the race. Oops. The first mile ticked off in 7:01. The next few were around the 7:05 range and this included slowing to actually drink water at the aid stations and climbing over Cricket Hill. I had been finally getting over whatever funk had been plaguing me for months at it was starting to show.

As the course wound down and around Diversey Harbor my legs began to become uncooperative and heavy. It's been so long since I've run this fast and for this long. I began to focus on re-gathering myself and trying to optimize my strides. My pace fell off a bit, but I held on to sub-8:00. I also think I mentally caused myself to slow down on the way back to Montrose to conserve energy for the 2nd trip over the hill. This 2nd climb was definitely more of a trudge, but once it was over I gathered myself on the downhill and made a strong push to the finish with a 7:18 mile while hovering around a 6:45 pace for the last 1/4 mile.

I wound up finishing in 1:13:11 for a 7:19 min/mile pace and a new PR by 12 1/2 minutes to boot! I got my medal, gatorade, water, and part of a bagel and wandered over to get my gear and then back to the Ragnar tent. After catching up with people, me and Pete decided to head to the beer garden to celebrate our PRs. We stood near the back rope and had a few people slip us extra tickets which added to our cause. We had more than we can drink so we gave a ticket to a girl that was there and talked to her a bit. After she left Pete gave me a hard time for not getting her number. What can I say? I'm not smooth at all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Phoenix Marathon Experience

I first signed up to run the Phoenix Marathon last fall after my goal race didn't go as planned. I had visions of redemption on a fast course. Fast forward to recent times and I'm still in doldrums from all the fall racing and a bit out of shape. Well I'm in a rounder shape after a lackluster winter. Once race day got closer it also didn't look like mother nature was going to cooperate either.

I flew out to Phoenix a couple days early given that I've never been there before. The first night was spent meeting an internet stranger and drinking entirely too much good beer at Four Peaks Brewery. Day 2 saw me and my friend meeting up with a former coworker for packet pickup at a bigger than expected expo as well as driving past Wrigley West. After packet pickup We went over to Mill Ave to soak in the college crowd, and a drink, before heading to dinner to carb up. It was then lights out early for an all too early alarm clock on race day.

The alarm went off at 2:30AM so that I could be ready for my friend picking us up at 3:30AM. We drove over to the finish line area to catch the shuttle buses to the start. I hopped on my bus and it took us up one of the smaller mountains in the dark. Once there it was like a camp with port-a-potties, water station, and a bunch of heat lamps and fire pits. It was still a little cool in the dark so I settled in near a fire to relax.

Soon there was the national anthem, complete with fireworks and we were on our way with even more fireworks announcing the start of the race. The first few miles were a pretty steep downhill. I tried to settle in, but really just rode gravity and coasted downhill. Looking at my Garmin information later it's crazy to think that I was running a 7:25 pace with a less than optimal cadence. About 4.5 miles in there begins a mile long steady climb. It was here that my legs felt like molasses and I struggled a bit. This was followed by another steep downhill sequence where I went flying again.

As the race went on the sun rose higher in the sky and started to heat things up. The course started to flatten out again and things became a struggle. With as steep as the downhill sections were, once things were more or less even again it felt more like an uphill fight. I also began struggling with dehydration. I had to start walking a lot more.

The second half of the race was a stark contrast from the first half. What began with a 1:43:45 turned into a 2:35:xx 2nd half. The feels like temperature of 80+ was not nice. As I walked I talked to other runners who were also struggling, even meeting a fellow Chicagoan from Roscoe Village who had runner friends in common. I did manage to pick things up just enough to finish with my 3rd worst marathon time. I managed to spot Lauren as I approached the finish line. After crossing I got my medal and downed a bunch of water and gatorade. My friends found me and we talked while I cooled off a bit. The finish area also featured Famous Daves, french toast, turkey dogs, and the only thing I could eat, fudgesicles. It was a pretty solid set up.

The day after the race was spent going on an "easy" 3 mile hike near Tom's Thumb. Once that was done I wanted nothing more than to spend some time cooling off so I finally went and saw Deadpool which was hilarious.