Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

NYC Marathon By The Numbers

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

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

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

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

Winning Times

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

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

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

My Own Numbers:

CHI:  3:49:51
NYC: 3:55:54

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

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

NYC 1st Half: 1:56:07
NYC 2nd Half: 1:59:47

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dash to the Finish 5K Recap

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

The New York City Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tapering for NYC

It's so weird to go from recovery right back into taper mode. That's what you have to do when marathons are just 3 weeks apart. I kept my mileage easy for the most part and logged just a few more miles than last week. I did mix in a little speed this week, but not enough to kill the legs. I plan on taking things easy this week and hope to get to NYC on fresh legs and a lot of rest.

I did attempt my secret mission this week and didn't succeed.  I ran the Pumpkins in the Park 5K and was hoping my fitness levels were good enough to get me to the fabled 20 minute mark. Alas it wasn't meant to be. A few days of restless sleep left my body in recovery mode over the weekend and doomed the attempt before it began. A sudden warm spell and windy conditions that felt like you were always running into a headwind didn't help. I still gave things a shot and wound up with my second fastest 5K time ever.  I can now say I'm consistently in the 21:XX range even on bad days since I've landed there in my last 3 5K races. On the plus side I ran this race with a higher average heart rate than my PR attempt so I've learned to push my limits a bit. That could also be seen as a negative that I worked too hard, but I prefer the positive spin.

This week I get to fly out to NYC very early on Friday. I signed up for the Race to the Finish 5K on Saturday to use as a shake out run and help keep the streak alive. It also means I get to leave NYC with at least 2 long sleeve tech shirts plus whatever other goodies I get at the expo. I'm in wave 3 for the marathon, but am on top the bridge so I get to avoid any misting situations. I expect being so far back will leave me boxed in for a lot of the race which could be good or bad. If it's a day where I'm on, I'm not going to want to hold back. On the other hand it can help me stay conservative and save some juice for running Las Vegas in a few weeks.

Mon - 2.38
Tue - 2.58
Wed - 4.01 (4x800m @5K pace)
Thu - 4.27
Fri - 2.51
Sat - 4.7 (21:20 5K)
Sun - 5.04
Week: 25.4
Month: 112.1

This is my 5th straight month over 100 miles. If feels nice to have such a streak of consistency and remain injury free. I'm also at 1160 miles on the year. That's a full 100 miles further than last year and I'm still going strong.

Monday, October 20, 2014

3 Year Runniversary

On October 21st, 2011 I decided to go for a run with Jennifer. That year I started my quest to get healthier and had been working out and building up cardio on a stationary bike for a couple of months. I figured I could handle a few miles given that I would bike for 90+ minutes at a time. I was soon proven wrong as I had to stop every hundred yards or so and catch my breath. Jennifer loves to rub that day in my face, but I kept at it. I soon developed a case of tendonitis from trying to do too much too soon. I had to re-learn what I knew about running since this wasn't high school track anymore. It wouldn't be until December until I started to run regularly.

I had initially decided that running was just going to be for me to get my weight under control and get healthier. I later reluctantly signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle. Once I ran that I became hooked and it's been race after race ever since. I conquered my first half marathon in June 2012 and then my first marathon in October 2013. I feel like I've accomplished so much in these first 3 years and yet I'm just getting started.

5K - 
First - Race to Wrigley April 2012   24:24
PR - Urban Hoedown August 2014  21:05
Number Run:14

8K -
First - Shamrock Shuffle March 2012   42:19
PR - Bastille Day             July 2014      36:36
Number Run: 6

10K - 
First - United Run for Zoo June 2012   52:43
PR - United Run for Zoo   June 2013   47:00
Number Run: 8

Half Marathon
First - Allstate 13.1 June 2012            2:13:03
PR - Chicago Half September 2014    1:40:54
Number Run:21

First - Chicago Oct 2013  4:26:32
PR -   Chicago Oct 2014  3:49:51
Number Run: 2

I have 3 more marathons to run in the next 3 months so that number is definitely going to go up. I'm going to need to find a decent 10K soon just because I know I'm faster than my PR now by a longshot. I ran around 46 minutes for the last 10K of the Chicago Half so that is a sort of PR right? I really just have 2 goals I'd like to achieve in my 4th year of running - get my marathon time down to 3:30 and my 5K time below 20. Neither is going to be easy. I'm going to have to dig in and probably start eating better to lose a little more weight. I'm down 25 lbs in these 3 years, but am still about 25 lbs above normal for my height and that makes a huge difference when it comes to running performance. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Recovery Week

I was surprised with my resilience this week. I came out of the marathon less sore than I thought I would be. It probably helped that I didn't run it at the speed that I had intended so that put a little less stress on the legs, but 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles. The amount of soreness was on par with doing a 20 mile training run and then following that up the next day with lunges and squats. Yes, I totally did that this summer and yes it did leave me sore for a few days, but wasn't unbearable.

I kept the runs mostly easy all week.  This was a struggle since my legs didn't want to slow down enough and my heart rate monitor kept flaking out in the cold so I couldn't tell if I was running with an easy enough effort even though it felt easy. Running by feel can lie, your heart rate never does. While I seemed to have a slightly elevated heart rate all week, which is to be expected, it wasn't too bad. I even felt good enough to throw in some 400m intervals at 10k pace on Wednesday. Only a few though since I didn't want to over do things.

Mon - 2.3 miles
Tue - 4.05
Wed - 3.75 (6x400m)
Thu - 2.3
Fri - 1.52
Sat - 5.06
Sun - 5.08

Total - 24.8 miles

I've got 2 more weeks until I repeat the madness in NYC. The early forecast calls for wind and rain with temps in the low 50s. I can do without the wind, but the temperature sounds great. I've got a secret mission to try and complete before NYC though. You'll hear more next weekend.