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.

Monday, January 25, 2016

F3 Half Marathon

I've been laying low for the most part since completing Route 66 back in November. It took me quite awhile to get back to feeling normal after beating my legs to pulp with all those races and then getting sick. The original idea for F3 was to be a benchmark and tune up for running the Phoenix Marathon in February. Well things didn't go all according to plan.

F3 had a later than normal start compared to most races with it kicking off at 10AM just outside of Soldier Field. I left with plenty of time to get down to the start and was supposed to meet people to get pictures beforehand. Fate had different plans for me. First the Brown Line train kept experiencing delays and kept getting held. Finally after several stops they announced that the train would likely be turning around at Merchandise Mart since the bridges into the loop were raised. Everyone groaned and I dashed off the train in search of other means. Luckily we were stopped on Chicago so I hoofed it the 5 blocks over to the Red Line and took that down to Roosevelt. Once there I didn't see any sign of a 146 bus so I started high tailing it over to Soldier Field along with some other runners. Once at the stadium there was a lack of signage on where we needed to go. The volunteers getting ready on the course didn't even seem sure. Finally after several dead ends I found the United Club and made it in just as everyone was starting to come out to get into the corrals.

I'm already sweating and my heart is racing from my pre-race dash. I fought through the crowds and finally got to gear check. Luckily I was mostly prepped so I just threw things in my bag and headed back into the stream of people. I also lucked out that one of the bathrooms was devoid of lines so I was able to hit that real quick on the way as well. There were a couple thousand people trying to get through one set of double doors so it took quite awhile to get outside and into the corrals. I made it with just enough time to acquire GPS signal and re-tie my shoes. After the national anthem we were sent off in waves 2 minutes apart. I was in the 2nd wave.

As my wave bolted out of the gate I managed to keep up with the lead runners. I think the adrenaline from rushing to get to the race had me going. I had no idea what pace I was running since I had my watch set to track my HR, which was higher than expected at the time and I hoped it was a glitch. It wasn't. First mile was completed in 6:59 and the second mile in 7:00.

After the first couple miles I slowed myself a bit to keep from completely crashing. I knew if I had kept the early pace up I would of had a meltdown before the race was over. I probably used up a little too much of my fuel hurrying to the start and was paying for it. Also going against me was the holiday weight gain which I still haven't dropped yet and the fact that I bruised my quadriceps a few days before the race and was still tender. Imagine my surprise when I saw Pete heading the other way when I was nearly to turnaround. I'd never been that close to him in a race before, but he sped up and I slowed down.

The 2nd half of the race was tough. My legs were being less and less agreeable. I had to slow my pace to keep the heart rate under control. I was in no man's land a lot of it which is tough. I couldn't try and reel other runners in. By the time I finished the 12th mile I had run my slowest split of 8:19, but saw that a sub 1:40 time was still in reach if I ran the last 1.1 miles in 8:30. I dug in and held on for dear life. At the 13 mile mark I saw that I still had about 45 seconds left and yet the finish seemed so far away still. I put everything I had into the finish.

Crossing the finish line I spotted Pete who managed to get a picture of me. I stopped my watch a little late at 1:40:02 so I knew it was close. I got my medal, chugged a gatorade, and grabbed a water bottle and headed over to where Pete was. I knew from after the turnaround that Charlyn and Mo were about a half mile or so behind me. It wasn't long before we cheered both on as they crossed. We took a couple pictures and then headed back inside to warm up.

Once inside I picked up my stuff from gear check and talked to some other runners I knew. Mo and I were going to head to Reggie's for the after party. There were shuttles which made it convenient. We stopped at the table that had results available and I found out that I just hit my made up in race goal with a time of 1:39:59. I had thought that was my 3rd best time, but it's actually my 2nd fastest half marathon. I do have a few half splits from marathons that were faster, but those don't quite count. Once at Reggie's we enjoyed some Goose Island and a bunch of kids playing Nirvana and Foo Fighters tunes.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

After joining the Marathon Maniacs towards the end of 2014, I decided that I was going to live up to that status in 2015 and followed through in a pretty big way. I spent the year completing 9 marathons and a 50 miler while covering 10 different states. I will finish the year with 2,000 miles running which is a huge step up from my previous high of 1477.

January - I kicked off the year by going down to Disney and running in the Dopey Challenge. I survived running a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon in that order. My time for the full wasn't even awful. This was a great confidence builder for the year to come.

February - I spent all month running like crazy on the treadmill. I was doing 50 mile weeks. I even had a short span where I was eating clean. I was feeling confident for an upcoming PR attempt at the marathon.

March - On the first day of the month I ran in the Little Rock Marathon. This was not supposed to be my PR attempt, but to date it has been my fastest marathon. I did everything wrong for this race - no taper, 11 hour drive, ate like crap, ran a hilly course, but it all worked out in the end. I took the new found confidence in speed into my next few races only to flame out in the 2nd half. I also ran Circular Logic in March, which was supposed to be the actual PR attempt and found myself way ahead of PR pace halfway in before flaming out in the 2nd half. Not bad for being only 4 weeks after the actual PR. I then ran Shamrock Shuffle the next day and didn't completely suck so that's a bonus.

April - The month was a bit of a struggle fest as I tried to recover from the dual marathons of March and shifted gears and attempted to break 20 minutes in the 5K. I ran the Good for Life Race and Ravenswood 5k getting times in the 20:XX range for both of them which were both PRs, but not that glorious sub 20 I had hoped for.

May - I originally planned to run the full in Wisconsin, but stuck to the half and was glad I did on a warm day. Stomach cramps kept me from running my best, but I still set a new half PR with the fitness gained from the crazy marathoning. Memorial Day weekend saw a fun trip to Traverse City for the spectacular Bayshore Marathon followed by lots of breweries and passing out early. Oh and then I closed on a condo and moved in.

June - Ragnar happened again. I was in a van full of girls again. I also kicked off goal marathon training having picked out Twin Cities as my fall goal race.

July - I did or didn't break 20 min at Strike Out ALS 5K depending on who you ask. The official results have me at 20:00 even, but my own watch which I thought I stopped a bit after the finish line had me at 19:59.9. I also headed to Colorado and ran the gorgeous Aspen Valley Marathon. The altitude was a little rough at the start, but I found myself doing pretty well for a flat lander.

August - The month of struggles. I had to deal with re-building after a hamstring strain likely caused by compensating for sore quads that were beat up by running downhill in Aspen. I also went to Lollapalooza for the first time ever and saw Paul McCartney for the 2nd time. I also saw the Foo Fighters at Wrigley which was amazing.

September - I was back on track for the most part and set a huge new PR in the Lung Run 10K. It was a windy day on a crowded lakefront course so there's likely improvements still to be had. I did 2 5Ks and the 10K in an 8 day window and wound up getting sick, uh oh.

October - The craziness begins. I was still reeling from being sick and didn't do well in Twin Cities. It didn't help that I also twisted my ankle early in the race. Somehow I managed to heal pretty quickly and still ran my first ever 50 miler at the DPRT just 2 weeks later. If I thought my first marathon was tough, oof, the first 50 miler beat me up.

November - The month kicked off with the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon and my legs were just not ready for the hills. I started off well enough, but struggled into the finish. Just 2 weeks later and I was in Vegas running in the wind and rain - wut? Another struggle fest, but followed by lots of fun. I managed to get sick in time to run Route 66 the following weekend. I didn't run my worst time ever which is always a bonus.

December - I've been racking up miles on the treadmill, slowly rebuilding and trying to get enough mileage in to hit that 2K mark. Just one last 3 mile run on New Years Eve and I'll be there.

All in all 2015 was a pretty epic year. Hopefully 2016 is just as good or better. I've already registered for a number of marathons, though not as many as this year. I learned some lessons and limitations of what I'm able to do. Here's to staying injury free and crossing off more states!