Friday, May 22, 2015

Recap: Chase Corporate Challenge

This week I participated in my first J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge. My company was offering to partially subsidize anyone who ran for their race fees. I registered and then promptly forgot I did. The race date grew nearer and it dawned on me that oh yeah, I signed up for this. I wasn't paying attention at registration because I also realized that it was 2 days before a marathon I had signed up for. I figured I'd just turn it into a shake out run.

As race day grew nearer I looked at those who registered at my company for familiar names and didn't find very many. It looked like I might be in for a lonely night, or trying to make new friends from other departments. I also spied on last year's results and noticed something with the times... they were very achievable for my abilities. The top runner from my company ran the same pace as my 5K PR pace I ran just last month. My half marathon pace would also place me in the top 10 for my company. I was now debating whether to go for broke and try to get top honors for my company and bragging rights at the office.

Race day came and I worked from home so I could get downtown fairly easily. I got to Grant Park and found my company's tent. Good thing I had my head on a swivel because I saw our flags in a spot that wasn't where we were told we were going to be. I walk over and there's no formal check in or anything so I grab some water and a seat and wait for familiar faces. Eventually a former colleague who had transferred departments showed up and we chatted and I met others who I had only know by name and through email. We took team pictures, warmed up, and off to the start corrals we went.

The start was extremely crowded. I found out later that there were somewhere around 25K runners and walkers compared to 10K finishers last year. I found a gap in the gates and squeezed myself into corral A since I learned from others of how awful the start can be since no one lines up where they are supposed to. After the national anthem and some words and thanks, including some from my company's CEO, we were off and running. Sort of. It was very crowded and sure enough there were walkers clogging up things up front. I spent the first half mile moving in spurts through gaps when they opened up.

As the race progressed I quickly realized I was unable to find a steady rhythm with all the dodging and weaving I was doing. So I just settled in and rode it out moving through openings when I could get them and just conserving strength for the marathon. I passed several coworkers along the way and yelled words of encouragement. Heading down the home stretch I saw that people still hadn't even started the race yet. I crossed the finish and had to detour way around the corrals to get back to my company's tent. I was the 2nd person back to the tent which was encouraging. I had finished the 3.5 mile race in 24:28 for a 6:59 pace and wound up finishing 5th of 113 out of my coworkers. Our lead runners were faster than last year so I would of been hard pressed to catch them. After post race snacks and chatting with coworkers I went over and caught up with Maggie who's tent was 2 down from mine. I finally decided to head home since I had to be up for a road trip the next morning.

All in all it was a successful night in that I ran relatively well and at the effort I had wanted to without jeopardizing my marathon. I made a few new connections with coworkers as well. I'm not sure if I'd do the race again though just because the crowds were a bit much.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I'm Moving!

Some of you are already aware of this, but now it's blog official. I am moving. Not only that, but I decide to take the next step in adulthood and am buying my first condo. I've been renting in Chicago for the last 8.5 years including 5 years in my current apartment so this will all be a big change. In addition I'm heading to a new neighborhood that I've visited many times in the past, but never lived in.

I'll be making the leap from southeast Lakeview over to Lincoln Square. I'm trading easy access to the lakefront path for the river path. I'll also be less than a mile from the River Park Track. Yet another perk is being close to Fleet Feet. I know the Lincoln Square store is smaller, but still nice to be near a running store for the fun runs and whatnot.

So I lucked out and found a great place. My realtor told me that the housing market this spring was crazy and boy was she right. After only a week of searching I found a place I loved and wound up in a multiple bidder situation. My bid was chosen and soon I'll be closing on it. I've be upgrading from 1 to 2 bedrooms and will also get an extra 400 square feet for my current place in addition to a storage unit and a private patio. It'll be nice when I'm finally settled in this summer to have some cookouts.

Obligatory pictures:

Living room

Another angle


Dining room

Another angle

Master bedroom

2nd Bedroom




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wisconsin Half Marathon

This week's adventure would be my first serious attempt at a half marathon since last September's Chicago Half. For those who don't remember I set a monster PR at that race which served as a testament to how much work I put into training last summer. I've kept pouring on the mileage and expected even more gains this time around. Heck, I even ran the first half of a marathon faster than Chicago's time. We'll just ignore the 2nd half implosion that occurred after. All signs from other races indicated that a sub 1:35 wasn't out of reach. I appear to be cursed though since things didn't go quite to plan.

The nice thing about the Wisconsin Marathon and Half Marathon is that they do a local Chicago packet pick up. It was at Fleet Feet the prior Sunday and I headed down their after my post-Ravenswood shenanigans. I raced down there with about 5 minutes to spare and only a little tipsy. The shirt was kind of a blah white, but whatever. Fast forward to Friday and I start experiencing the first signs of trouble.  I spent the morning running to the bathroom every 15 minutes. Not good at all. I made it through the rest of the day and was able to eat ok. I was up bright and early on Saturday for the drive up to Kenosha. All was pretty uneventful and I arrived in time to see the sun nice and low over the lakefront.

Waiting for the race to begin I used the facilities and walked around a bit. I spotted one of the Redditors and went and sat next to him. From there I spotted Kelly and gave her a wave. There were mosquitoes everywhere and it was starting to get annoying. I could also feel myself already getting warm and the air was thick with humidity. This was sounding less fun. Soon I decided to hit the restroom one last time before heading to the start corral. All seemed fine and after some announcements and the national anthem we were off.

The start of the race was quite crowded and I had some trouble finding room to run. At about the half mile mark I finally found more room and did some mental calculations and figure out I was behind pace for how I wanted to start so I sped up. I never display my pace while running, instead relying on mental calculations which gives my brain a distraction while running. Well my calculation was off and I also sped up a bit too much and hit mile 1 in 7:15. According to my Garmin stats later on I had sped up to 5k speed. Oops. The next couple miles were also low 7s.

Around mile 5 I was starting to feel both the warmth and humidity as well a developing stomach cramp. I guess the issues from the day before weren't done yet. I kept soldiering on, but slowed my pace to mid 7s. I took a little longer at a couple of the aid stations to make sure I stayed well hydrated. Some of the roads that we ran on were quite rough and full of potholes so it turned into a game of be careful where you step. The course is relatively flat, but there are just enough gentle hills to keep you on your toes.

Getting towards the late miles I was definitely in discomfort. I was still holding around a 7:45ish pace and knew I was still on track for a PR, but no where near my goal. I finally decided that I had enough and stopped and used the restroom just past mile 12. I know I was just a mile away, but I figured the relief would allow me to pick up speed to account for the time lost. This was my slowest mile of the day at 8:13, but not all that bad given the restroom stop. I pushed myself and crossed the finish line in 1:38:22. This was a 2.5 minute PR over September's time.

Post race I grabbed some gatorade, water, and a chocolate milk and then headed over to where Lynton an Kiku were spectating and cheered on the runners for a bit. He was watching for a friend who was trying to BQ in the marathon. We figured we had some time and headed to grab a beer and brat. We once again headed out to spectate and his friend destroyed her PR and crossed 12 minutes under her BQ qualifying time. More beers followed and everyone had a good time.  Wisconsin is a fun race and well run. The weather and spotty roads made it a little difficult this year. The tummy troubles didn't help either. Oh well, it just means I'll have to PR again in my next half.

Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Ravenswood 5K

This year was my 2nd year participating in the Ravenswood 5K. It's a relatively fast course in the Ravenswood neighborhood of the city and includes a leg that takes you through the heart of Lincoln Square. I enjoy the race since it is early enough in the season where it's usually not too warm yet and plus it takes place on city streets so there are less crowding issues than faced on the lakefront path. The downsides are the race features a few more turns than optimal and sections of the course include speed bumps.

Heading into race day I felt a bit less than optimal physically. I didn't sleep well during the week and loud neighbors didn't help. I can't wait to move out of here and get some peace. My weight actually dropped as low as it's been and I even felt a bit shaky on Saturday. After eating a little more than normal and resting up most of Saturday I did feel better, but not at the top of my game. The 6am alarm on Sunday still felt real early.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Good Life Race 5k Recap

I apologize in advance for the brevity of this recap. I've been extremely busy lately and may get much more busy. More on that to come later.

This was my 3rd year running this 5K. I enjoy it because it offers something different than the typical 5K course along the Chicago lakefront path. It also features relatively low registration costs and stiff competition to push you to run your best. Uniquely the race splits the field into a women and men's race with starts timed 40 minutes apart.You could theoretically run and also see your significant other start and finish.

After a rough night of little sleep I headed down to Oak Park early. I saw Annabelle and introduced myself since we never formally met before. I knew her through reputation as well as friends in common. I then headed inside the high school to pick up my packet. I found some steps to sit on and get myself organized when Zoe sat in front of me. She totally missed that I was there so I leaned down and asked if she was ready. Totally caught her off guard and then she was like did I just sit in front of you without realizing? After chatting for a bit we both parted ways to prepare. I dropped off my bag at gear check and headed outside where I spotted Lynton. We watched the women's race start. I spotted Erica, but she was on the other side of the crowd. After the women headed off we took off down the course in reverse to warm up and cheer on our friends.

 We looped around and camped a little over half mile from the finish. We clapped and cheered as the lead runners came through. Eventually we saw most of our friends run by so we finished our warm up. The water table was empty so I headed back into the school to find a drinking fountain. Heading out to the start I spotted Jessie and spoke with her a bit. I also spotted Erin running around in an official capacity. I realized I needed to get moving and excused myself and nestled myself into the starting crowd.

The race started and we were off. I tried to keep it relatively comfortable to start things off, but soon started passing people. I still felt alright and hit the mile marker at 6:27. The 2nd mile is when things started to feel tough. I hadn't pushed myself in a 5K since October so my legs had to get re-acquainted. After a couple turns we went uphill into a bit of wind and the burn really started. Mile 2 was a little slower at 6:39. The 3rd mile had us turn into our final stretch which was a slight downhill, but right into the brunt of the wind which was unkind on this day. Legs were still burning and my heart rate was redlining. I couldn't go any faster on this day. Mile 3 was 6:42. I held on the best I could for the final stretch and ran the final 0.1 with a 6:36 pace. My final time was 20:29 which was slower than my target goal, but represents a 36 second PR which is still a win in my book. Once I get my legs back from the beating I gave them with my  Marathon/8k combo I feel like I'll have no problem getting under 20. It would also help if I had a week of better sleep and no electrolyte imbalance. I'm going to be ready to rock things at Ravenswood coming up next week.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shamrock Shuffle Race Recap

Every year I look forward to the Shamrock Shuffle. It was my first ever race and has since become tradition. This year was my 4th time running the race.The difference this year was that I was taking on a marathon the day before. While I did complete 4 races in a row for the Dopey Challenge, it is a much difference experience with the marathon coming first. There's no avoiding beating yourself up running 26.2 miles.

I headed down on Friday during my lunch break to get my packet since I was leaving Friday evening to head to Indiana. I took the El down to the new green line station. All in all it took forever to get down there and pick up my packet and finally get home. I didn't even have time to dawdle and check out the goodies at the expo. Once I got back from Indiana Saturday evening worries started creeping in. My stomach had been in knots since the 2nd half of the marathon and I was having trouble even eating. I finally did get some pizza down and went to bed at a relatively decent hour. A few restless hours later I awoke and headed down to Grant Park.

Once I got to the park I heard my name and saw Mo sitting there with her cousin. We sat and chatted for a bit. Neither of us were too beat up from the marathon and cautiously optimistic about the race ahead. After not spotting anyone else we made our way down the street to see if we could find where the meet up was and ran into a whole crowd. We took some pictures and chatted for a bit. Me and Mo were told we were crazy.  Soon enough it was off to gear check and then the start corrals.

Once over in the corrals the coldness set in. It was uncontrollable shivering whenever the wind picked up. I settled in towards the back of the A corral with Mo and soon we spotted Charlyn.  We all settle in, the national anthem was sung, and the race began. Charlyn darted off since she's been gaining crazy speed in her training. I quickly lost Mo and struggled to coax my body into running.

The first mile was a total struggle. All of a sudden my lungs and chest ached on top of the soreness I had in my legs. The one nice thing about this year's Shuffle was a smaller field with only 22k finishers vs the normal 36k.The reduced field was noticeable and I didn't have to worry about getting trampled for finding room to run. I came into the race hoping to crack 40 minutes and clocked a first mile in 8:11. I had some work to do.

The 2nd mile I started to find my groove and settle into a nice pace. The wind was blowing from the south but wasn't as bad heading south on State street. Mile 2 was completed in 7:45. As we wound around the Loop it felt tougher, but not as hard as an 8K would normally be. Mile 3 clocked in at 7:38. Turning back south down Franklin saw the wind return with vengeance. All I could do is tuck into the crowd, put my head down, and ride it out. It was all I could do until we turned back east on Harrison. The 4th mile was done in 7:31.

I decided I was going to give things a go on the final mile. I knew my 2014 Shuffle time was 38:xx and so I was well within reach to challenge it. I got my legs moving as efficiently as I could. I had to stay someone conservative heading south on Michigan Ave since the wind was gusting fiercely every now and then. I knew I also had to save some energy for Mount Roosevelt. Eventually I willed myself up the hill and gave everything I had left for the homestretch. It felt like I was running in molasses, but somehow I was moving forward. One last push got me across the finish line in 37:58 beating last year's time by 14 seconds. The final 0.97 miles was run in 6:54.

I had competed as part of the Mikkeller Run Club and we wound up in 8th of 58 teams in our division. A very surprising and strong performance thanks mostly to our fast women.

I learned a bit about myself in doing a "fast" race after a marathon. Even with tired and beat up legs I could still coax some turnover out of them. I just need to remember that for the later stages of my future marathons and ultras. It was a successful weekend overall with my 2nd fastest of 7 marathons and my 3rd fastest of 7 8K races.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Circular Logic Marathon Race Recap

Awhile back I was convinced by Mo to sign up for the Circular Logic Marathon. Since I'm trying to knock out states and it is a relatively close and cheap race I figured why not. We would drive down together and split hotel costs with Kelly and some of her running club.

I took the blue line out to the Harlem stop to meet Mo and Friday afternoon. This made it easier for her to pick me up and jump on the expressway. We still hit quite a bit of traffic and wound up arriving in West Lafayette a little later than intended. The 2 of us went across the street and grabbed dinner where the waiter told us they served "Michelle-lob" beer. Back at the hotel we stayed up and watched Michigan State get an improbably win and make it into the Final Four. It was also in the evening that I realized that I had forgot my watch.

On  race day we got to the site about 45 minutes before the race was to begin. This race is unique in that it features 1 mile loops through a park. You also get space on a table to set your own water bottles. We set up our stuff at our labeled spot on the table and head over to pick up our timing chips. They are the kind you strap onto your ankle and are re-usable. The race was smaller with around 125 runners plus a dozen relay teams along with friends, family, and support. It was much more communal compared to most races.

After a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner we were sent on our way. Without my watch I had to trust my gut as far as pacing went. It felt like I was off to a fast start, but not overly fast. The first lap featured a short out and back to get our additional 0.2.  You cross a timing pad each lap and your time is displayed on a screen. I missed my time on the first lap since names weren't in the system yet, but knew I was around 9:30 or so, but didn't know what pace that translated to since math is hard when you're cold and running a marathon. The 2nd time through my name did show up on the screen as well as a 7:26. Crap. I was going too fast.

At this point I decided to let things ride and see where it takes me. It wasn't a goal race so if I crashed and burned so be it. I soon spotted Noe who had stayed at the hotel with us. His goal for the day was to run a 3:15. I knew this was likely too fast for my current abilities, but had a morbid curiosity so I decided to run with him. And I did! I kept pace and chatted with him for a while. We'd pass Mo or Kelly and I'd be like "I've never run this fast before!".  Eventually around 11.5 miles Noe pulled away and I couldn't keep up with him anymore. My energy was waning a bit so I focused on slowing down some and just hanging on. This lasted until about mile 19 when I really started to feel my legs dragging.

I would continue to fight and run slower, but respectable splits until mile 23. By this point my stomach wasn't happy at all and I was starting to get dizzy. I started walking sections of each lap. Kelly and Brent wouldn't let me give up though. They made me jog with them since they were going at a slower pace. I told them I could walk it on home at still finish around a 3:40.  They weren't having any of that and made sure I kept moving.  With the end in site I saw that I could still beat 3:35 if I got my butt and gear and I did. I crossed in 3:34:52.

After crossing the finish line and getting my medal I got some chocolate milk and then went to cheer the others on. After seeing them all finish a lap I headed over to the car to get some dry clothes on to warm up and then headed back to cheer everyone on. Mo showed some real grit by finishing the race in spite of having the flu all week. She even ran the last lap as one of her fastest. Afterwards it was off to Chili's for post race celebrations and large beers.