Monday, July 28, 2014

Marathon Training Week 7

This past week was a recovery/cutback week for me.  After a 2 week stretch of a lot of high stress mileage my body really needed it.  I still might of run a little too much midweek and could feel the burn out when I did my run Friday morning.  My weekend miles were nearly non-existent since I had family visiting and staying with me, but I still got out to run and kept the run streak in tact.  I spent a lot of time on my feet and walking while playing tour guide to my family.

Monday - 2.18 miles
Tuesday - 2.28 miles
Wednesday - 6.01 miles
Thursday - 6.5 miles
Friday -  1.16 miles
Saturday - 2.29 miles
Sunday - 4.67 miles
Total - 25.1 miles

Monthly total - 125.29 miles

I kept the pace easy all week except for Sunday when I ran really late at night in the cool weather and had trouble stopping myself from taking the effort up a notch or 2.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Marathon Training Week 6

Week 6 was a bit of a killer.  It featured 2 more races on top of the 2 from the prior week.  I basically set target effort levels for the races that wouldn't kill me and then racked up slow mileage in between.

Monday - 4.5 miles
Tuesday - .75 warm up and then 5K race
Wednesday - 4.59 miles
Thursday - 4.5 miles
Friday - 4.51 miles
Saturday - 3.44 miles
Sunday - 13.1 miles

Weekly total - 38.5 miles. I also hit 100 miles for the month.

This week will just be a recovery week.  I'm slashing back to 30 miles and running nice and easy to let my body catch back up from the abuse I've given it the last 2 weeks.  I don't think I've ever endured a 2 week stretch like that where I ran nearly 70 miles while doing 4 races with 3 of them at basically my fastest times and the 4th race just a complete butt kicker as far as the terrain went. Alas the streak lives and I'm still kicking.  I've actually gotten into such a groove that slowing down for a week will be a little tough, but I know I need to do it so I don't break down.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rock and Roll Chicago Half

This was my 2nd year running the Rock and Roll Chicago Half marathon.  I only signed up because they were offering decent prices during a registration blitz.  July races have a tendency to be a bit on the warm side so this race usually isn't ideal for those going for time.  Packet pick up was at McCormick which can be a pain to get to.  I managed to escape the expo without any damage to the wallet.

I got up bright and early on race morning.  The temperature wasn't too bad - it was upper 60s, but a bit on the muggy side.  I've been training almost exclusively at night so I'm not fully adapted to the heat or running in the sun yet.  The plan was to go by effort and take it from there.  I wasn't sure what that would entail since I had a pretty intense stretch of running leading into this race.  The half was my 4th race in 11 days and include an 8K PR, the toughest half I've ever run, and a near 5K PR.  I also did not taper for the event and hit my highest weekly mileage this year.

I got down to the race site with a little time to spare.  I was going to use the facilities but the lines were already pretty long.  I figured once I started running that the feeling of needing to use the restroom would go away.  Soon I was lined up and the race began.  It was still pretty cloudy out which helped a ton.  Some parts of the race even felt pretty good with a gently breeze blowing.  My watch went out of whack pretty quickly as we ran on Lower Wacker and I never got it to sync right for the rest of the race.  I was only using it to track relative distance and heart rate anyways.  It wound up showing 13.6 miles and jagged lines all around the loops so I know it was going haywire.

By the time I reached the first mile marker my watch had me at 9 minutes.  I later found out the marker was a little further than it was supposed to be.  I was a little freaked at the time since I felt like I was running faster.  The second mile marker came up just 8 minutes later.  Well I didn't think I was going that fast now, but averaging the 2 out put around the right figure.  I kept up pace and crossed the 5K mark at 25:47.  I did some mental math and figured out I was about on track for PR pace.  My  effort was pretty steady so far and I felt good.

As the miles progressed after the 5K mark it warmed up a bit and my heart rate slowly rose, but that was all part of the plan.  As long as I didn't let it get out of control I was fine.  I was starting to wear down a bit by mile 8, but tried to keep focus and form while reeling in runners.  I wound up taking a walk break around the 15K mark to make sure I got my Accel-Gel down and followed it up with some water.  My heart rate was elevated at this point and the walk break didn't even bring it back down.  I trucked on while trying to breath and relax.

The course turned back onto the bike paths and soon we were at mile 10.  The DJ here kept announcing the mile marker of course, but he had speakers that reached the 11 mile mark so that by the time got to mile 11 it was a little disheartening to still hear him say only 3 miles to go.  I also did some more mental math at mile 10 and realized I still had a shot at a PR if I only held on.  The last 5K was tough and I was fading.  I had a hard time keeping the heart rate down.  I was starting to overheat a little bit.  Around the 12 mile mark there are a couple "uphill" sections that are basically ramps.  I seriously debated throwing in the towel and walking up.  Somehow I found the strength to keep charging.  These were bumps compared to last weekend's race.

This race has the longest final straightaway ever.  I knew it was deceptively long and resisted the urge to hammer it home too early.  I picked up the pace a little, but didn't have much left to work with.  About a quarter mile out I realized that if I finished in the next 130 seconds I would have a new PR.  I put everything I had into that last quarter mile which wasn't much, but it got the job done.  It only took me 120 seconds.  I finished the race in 1:49:03 for a 10 second PR.  For the first couple minutes after I crossed the finish I thought I was going to be sick from that last push.  I regained my composure and got my medal, water, gatorade, a wet towel, and chocolate milk.  I was completely drenched in sweat, but I had taken beat up legs and coaxed a strong performance out of them.

After the finisher's chute I headed over to the post race beer garden and found Pete and we grabbed some beers.  Pete let me know that he had started the race within arm's reach of Shalane Flanagan.  We chatted for a bit then I had to be off.  I had tickets for a craft beer festival.  That was the wurst idea ever after that race.  Oh well, have to reward yourself sometimes right?

For those who are curious I ran very evenly for most the race except the last 5K where I faded a little.  It was a positive split but mostly consistent.  0-5K 8:18 pace, 5K-10M 8:19 pace, 10M - 13.1 8:24 pace.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Strike Out ALS 5K

I ran in my 3rd Strike Out ALS 5K on Tuesday evening.  For those keeping track it was my 3rd race in 6 days.  The race takes place at US Cellular field and includes baseball's All Star game as part of the festivities.  Things were changed up this year though and instead of finishing inside of the stadium and watching the game on the Jumbotron we finished outside and the game was on at the ChiSox Bar.

I wasn't a fan of the changes to the race this year.  The course featured even more turns than before which made efficient running very hard to accomplish.  My watch said I ran an extra 1/20th of a mile.  The post race water and snacks were off to the side and back on the course side of the finish line.  It was pretty hard to spot and I wound up directing several people there who saw me with water.  The one redeeming factor this year was that the weather was so much better than last year's 95+ degree heat.

I got to the race early with Jennifer and we picked up our packets. It was nothing special and the shirt designs were basically the same as last year.  We hung out with Natali and took some pics then ducked for cover as a quick rain shower came through.  About 30 minutes before the race I went off and jogged around the parking lot to loosen up a bit.  I was still feeling some of the effects of my prior 2 races so I wanted to get warm and stretch a bit.  Once loose I headed back to find the girls putting their bags in gear check.

We soon headed to the start corral.  They did split the start into runners and walkers corrals which was also a nice touch.  Everyone was standing around the way back of the corral apparently afraid to move towards the front.  I'm talking like 40 feet back of the start line.  I know this isn't a real competitive race being on a Tuesday night in July, but not everyone there is slow.  I slowly start scooting towards the start line and a couple others take that as a cue to move up as well.  Finally after much coercion everyone seemed to take the hint and moved forward in the corral.  After a few minutes we were off to the races.

Mile 1: 6:52 - I shot out the start a little quicker than anticipated and ran a bit wildly at the start of the race.  My plan was to run with a smidgen more effort heart rate wise than I did at Bastille Day.  It actually took nearly 5 1/2 minutes to get up to that level even while I was still trying to get my form under control.

Mile 2:  7:10 - For most the rest of the race I had everything under control.  I was breathing well and my form was pretty good.  I kept maintaining the same effort and hoped to just hold on.  I had started following an older guy who was about 20 feet in front of me but running around the same pace.  I locked in with him and ran.  My pace was slowly giving a little ground though due to all the recent race fatigue.

Mile 3: 7:06 - I kept the older guy locked in front of me and actually gained a few feet on him.  We finally entered the stadium for a lap on the field around 2.5 miles in.  Rounding the field to come back out I started to pick up speed anticipating that the end was near.  I was ready to pass the older guy, but he cut to the inside when I went to pass so I found a new gear somewhere to kick it into and sped past him.  I actually heard an audible groan come from behind me.

Mile 0.16: 57.1 (5:57 min/mile pace)  Like I said I somehow found a new gear to kick things into and went speeding towards the finish.  I ran into an absolute wall of wind but kept fighting.  I thought I was on pace for a PR, but didn't realize how badly I ran the tangents.  When I saw the finish I knew it would be close and sprinted with all I had left.

Total Time: 22:04 - I missed my PR by just 4 seconds.  I had run through the finish by about 30 feet and stopped to put my hands on my knees and just shook my head while catching my breath.  I had not expected to run so well considering the fatigue, but was a little disappointed to come so close only to miss it.

The race actually had a station set up so you could get a little printout "receipt" of your results.  I went and punch my bib number in and was a little shocked at what I saw.  I finished 3rd in my age group!  I never placed before and knew they were giving medals to top 3 in each age group so I was definitely excited.  It also said I placed 17th overall (official results actually have me as being 16th).  It turned out to be my best performance compared to the rest of the field that I've ever had.

The numbers are misleading... the totals are those who finished when I retrieved my results

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dances With Dirt Devil's Lake Extreme Trail Half

The image above was from the back of the race shirt for the trail half I participated in this past weekend.  The race was definitely no laughing matter as I've heard stories of broken bones and unconscious runners occurring during past events.  Even with that knowledge I still decided I wanted to give things a go and have some fun with it... if climbing 700 foot hills is considered fun when you're only used to flat ground.

I took Friday off work and after a short run and a shower I loaded up the car and drove towards the land of cheese curds and beer.  About half way there I realized that I had forgotten my watch.  I wasn't going to be stuck in the woods not knowing how much further I had to go so I did some quick research while stopped for lunch.  I decided that I'd just upgrade to a newer model watch and oh look, there's a Fleet Feet in Madison practically on the way.  The Fleet Feet in Madison was tiny, but they had the watch I wanted and I made it to the resort and checked in followed by picking up my race packet and then going to the outlet shops near the Wisconsin Dells.


The race itself only offered up a shirt and a bib with tickets for food and beer post race.  The beer sponsor, Bell's, provided all sorts of stickers, pins, and sunglasses, etc. for the runner's to take as much as they wanted of.  I kind of liked it this way since you didn't want up with any unwanted or un-needed swag.

I knew going into the race that the course was hilly.  We were provided the elevation profiles, etc.  What I didn't know was how I would handle the course since I'm not used to hills like this at all.  It turns out I can't handle the big ones and wound up walking any hill that would take more than 30 seconds to run up.  This meant I walked a lot during the race.  I also wasn't very concerned with time, but just wanted to enjoy the experience.  I wound up taking a lot of pictures.

The Start

The opening field looks innocent enough

Then the hills started.  Notice the lean.
Some hills you couldn't run if you wanted
Even the non-hilly spots were tough to run
But it was pretty
And the rolling terrain sections were fun
The view made the climb worth it
It was so nice I didn't even ruin the shot
But it still felt great to reach the finish
This was a medal earned with sweat and sore muscles


It's pretty hard to put into words everything I experienced during the race.  Trail running is just so different from road races and can feel more rewarding at times even though you are basically forced to run slower or even walk.  I had a mile that lasted over 17 minutes.  On the flip side my fastest miles were at the end of the race flying downhill, and yes I was really flying when I felt like I could navigate without tripping and breaking my face.
Can't forget the post race beer
The crowd for events like this are different too.  Everyone is a bit more close knit and friendly since there were also ultra races involved and those are smaller, more close knit communities.  Many of the runners camped out overnight next to the race staging area complete with a hose "shower" and port-a-johns.  I opted to sleep pampered at the neighboring ski resort.  Oh did I forget to mention the ski resort?  The 10K runners ran up and down the ski hill twice.  So did the 50K runners before they went and ran the marathon course. The 50 milers did the ski hills to start their run,  then ran the marathon course twice, before doing one last loop on the ski hill.  These guys and gals were pretty badass, and many had the tattoos to back it up.

One of the top 50 milers chugging a beer brought by his GF before his final loop on the ski hills
Even the race director was getting in on the friendliness and was known as the "Head Goat".  He biked up to the top of the bluff to literally lend a hand at the aid station up there.  We had some rocks we had to literally climb down in order to continue on with the race and he made sure we didn't slip.


After suffering for most the first 4 miles I got a bit of a second wind around mile 5.5 after taking in some accel-gel.  Right around mile 7 or so is when we hit the views on the bluff and I couldn't help but stop for a bit and take everything in.  This was my 2nd slowest mile of the race.  Once the adrenaline from the view wore of I started to wear out again around miles 8-10.  I took another accel-gel and once we got past the real rough and rock section I posted the picture of above I started to feel better again and let loose for sections of downhill.  My finish time was 2:50:49 which is a personal worst in a half by 35 minutes, but not at all unexpected with this event.  It wasn't something I was doing for time at all.  I enjoyed myself immensely.

After getting my medal I decided to walk back to my hotel room and take a cold bath to help with the legs and then showered and re-hydrated and had a quick snack before heading back out to the race grounds to watch the marathoners and ultra runners come in.  I was also keeping an eye out for Amanda as I had seen her post the night before that she decided to do the marathon at the last minute. When I got back out to the side I grabbed my food and beer and found a place to watch the race from.  I saw the marathon clock was around 6 hours and thought maybe I had missed her, but saw no signs of her finishing and she wasn't in the results they kept printing and posting as the day wore on.  I also figured that it it took me 2:50 to do the half, she would of been around double that, if not more for the marathon.  She finally came in with a friend in tow.  I greeted her and we got some pics and had some much earned beers before she hit the road.  I stuck around for another night and headed to the Dells again for some conquest grub.

Some food for thought on the difficulty of the courses -
Top half finisher was around 1:30
Top marathoner was 3:43
50K was 4:23
50M was 7:46
These are far slower times that you would see from the winners of road races for sure. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Marathon Training Week 5

This is just going to be a brief post for the training update.  I still managed to get my miles in while trying to balance out a couple races.  I skipped my interval session for the week given the races, but still threw in some fartlek work on Tuesday.  I managed to set a PR in the Bastille Day 8K and then 36 hours later set a personal worst in the Dances With Dirt Devil's Lake Half Marathon.  The worst was expected since this was my first time running an extreme trail race.  The recap for that will come soon.

Mon - 2.27 miles
Tue - 2.29 miles
Wed - 2.3 miles
Thu - 4.97 miles
Fri - 2.29 miles
Sat - 13.5 grueling and hilly miles
Sun - 3.39 miles
Total - 31 miles.

The 31 miles is a slight cutback from the 33 the week prior, but I ran more tough miles getting in a nice "tempo" run on Thursday and some extreme hill work on Saturday.  This coming week will feature 2 more races with the Strike Out ALS 5K and the Rock n Roll Half.  I will skip interval work again, but will try to up the mileage again since this week will be easier than last.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bastille Day 8K

I've been a busy boy over the last few days.  Thursday, July 10th was my annual company summer outing.  It was also the date of the Bastille Day 8K.  I would of written a race recap earlier, except I took off Friday morning and headed up to Wisconsin to run yet another race on Saturday morning.  That's right, 2 races that started about 36 hours apart.

I had entertained some thoughts of pushing myself for the 8K to see where my current fitness level was, but also knew that it would be foolish to race all out given that it was the start of 4 races in 11 days.  I definitely didn't spend my day acting like I had a race. Our outing was at Arlington International Horse Track and involved a lunch buffet and open bar.  You better believe I had seconds plus dessert.  I also had a couple beers because that's what the Wurst runners do.  My race was to be fueled by pulled pork, buffalo wings, cookies, and Heineken.

I then got stuck in traffic for 2 hours on the way home, even though I left at 3PM.  Seriously?!?  This still gave me an hour to chill before I had to head out since the race started about a 10 minute walk from my apartment.  Jennifer had texted me saying she was still too sick to run, but was going to see me off anyways.  I met up with her and her mom and chilled for a bit and I tried to work the knot out of my calf that had been bugging me for a few days.  Soon it was time to head to the corrals.

Instead of racing I had decided to run with a nice and even, but hard effort.  It wasn't going to be all out, but I wouldn't collapse at the finish line.  The horn went off and I got sucked in with the speedsters up front.  I stopped displaying the pace on my way, opting for the heart rate instead so I had no idea how fast I was going until I uploaded by data after the race.  About a half mile or so into the race I had to pull myself back a bit since my heart rate was spiking, and with good reason as I had run around a 6:30 pace up until that point which is way below my 5K PR pace.  I soon recovered and steadied myself and ran with a fairly even effort the rest of the way.  My heart rate was barely moving from 172 BPM.  I finally pushed the pace a little at the end, but no where near what I had done at the beginning of the race.  I didn't need to, I had broken my previous PR by 54 seconds and was content with how I did.  I didn't need to gun things and risk pulling a hammy or something to knock a few more seconds off.

Even though I ran with an even effort, except for the start and finish, my pacing was a little uneven which I guess can be expected.  I got lulled into slowing down when I latched onto a runner in mile 3 who was slowly losing steam.  I realized this and finally passed her, but it cost some time.  My lap pacings were: 7:09, 7:17, 7:42, 7:27,7:12 for a cumulative time of 36:36, besting my previous time of 37:32 set last year at Bastille Day.

It's always nice to have an unexpectedly good performance.  It means that my training so far is paying off and hopefully will mean large gains when I run the Chicago Marathon.  I'm fully invested in the heart rate training and racing now as it seems to really be making a difference.  It is a lot easier to gauge performance by effort (heart rate) than blindly following a prescribed pace.