Friday, December 20, 2013

VIP Christmas Party at Road Runner Sports

Last night was the Christmas Party at Road Runner Sports.  I got an invite both as having VIP membership as well as being part of the Chicago Running Bloggers.  I thought some of my fellow bloggers were going so I made a mad rush home from work to make it on time.  When I got there I checked in and got a raffle ticket.  I then got another raffle ticket for playing guess how many Hershey Kisses were in a jar.  I was given a thank you Xmas ornament and off I went.

I wandered around the store a bit waiting for others to arrive.  It appears they were doing a fun run before the party and I hadn't realized it. I haven't run in awhile myself since I've been letting my body heal from various ailments so I wouldn't have gone even had I known about it.  From what I heard they actually took a route to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see the lights.

Also while I was waiting I checked out the display that the Mizuno rep, Ryan, had set up and checked out the various shoes.  I love my Wave Inspires 9 and was excited to finally see the 10s in person.  Ryan loaded all the runners up with a bunch of Mizuno swag.  The best item had to be the reflective vests.  They will be perfect for running in the dark no matter the time of year and even have a small inside pocket for keys or ID.  I also got a water bottle that opens on both ends and a clip on reflector with strobe light.

The swag
After some announcements were made and pictures taken the runners headed off.  There were only a handful of people who stayed behind.  I wandered around the store some more and then finally decided I wanted to try the Inspire 10s on.  Yup, felt fantastic and had to get them.  I was due for new shoes anyways.  I also tried on a pair of trail shoes since I will probably need some for my various trail runs in 2014.  I didn't wind up getting those and that turned into a wise decision later on. Since I bought Mizuno shoes, Ryan disappeared and came back with a Mizuno t-shirt for me which was kind of awesome.  I also got a re-usable bag with the Kanji symbol for Run on it.  Finally someone decided to break the ice and grab a beer so I followed suit.  They had brews from Revolution and Lagunitas. There were also some wines and bubbly.

10th anniversary Inspires

When the runners got back they swooped in on the snacks and drinks.  It sounds like they had a lot of fun out on their run.  Soon there was the raffle drawing.  The prizes were custom insoles, a pack of running socks, and a grand prize of free shoes from Ryan, the Mizuno rep.  First there was a hyperactive little boy who won the jar of Kisses.  My guess of 175 was way over the actual number of 139, but the boy had 140 so that was pretty impressive.  We tried to get him to eat them all at once but the father wasn't having it.  The numbers were called off for the insoles and the socks.  Next up came the shoes... my numbers were being read off, I won!  Ryan came over and gave me a big hug, he's friendly.  He was just as excited as I was for me winning since I'm a Mizuno guy.  He whipped out the catalog and was like I know you just got the Inspires, so you can get them in another color or any other pair of shoes.  We can go crazy with this if you want.  So after some thought I went with the Trail Ascend 8 which is based on the Elixir - a shoe I have worn previously - but made for the trails.

Ryan took down my information and I made sure that the shoes wouldn't ship before January 4th since I'm going out of town.  He got my address, email, shoe order and size and everything.  To top things off I had an e-mail from him first thing this morning saying it was nice meeting me and letting me know the order was all set and to follow up with him if there are any issues.

I was kind of sad that none of the other bloggers made it to the party, but I chatted with some other runners and Steph from RRS remembered me and my name from when I came for safety night.  Maybe you guys should come next time and get some great beer and great swag :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Trying a New Work Out

I've fallen completely off the wagon again.  Its been more than 2 weeks since I last ran, and that was for pint night.  First the holiday rush around Thanksgiving through me off so I missed a few days because of that and immediately afterwards I came down with a horrible case of the flu.  Glad my nephews decided to share something with me.  I was knocked down hard.  I spent a day unable to move and barely eating more than a few crackers.  I completely ached all over.  Once I recovered from the flu, my weakened body decided it was time to throw in a sinus infection for good measure.  So yeah that was a good 10 days lost to illness.  On the plus side it did help keep the holiday weight off.

I'm feeling a lot better now, but am hesitant to go back to running.  My leg muscles are all out of whack from spending so much time on my back and my knee has been aching like crazy.  I've been trying to get some stretching in the last couple days and that has helped.  The cold grasp of the recent weather has also kept me indoors.  I don't need to head out into negative wind chills while recovering from a sinus infection.  I don't have a gym membership either so that's out and I didn't feel like pulling the dreadmill out of storage.  I may have found an alternate solution though.  My own "personal trainer".

I managed to score an XBox One on Black Friday and was pleasantly surprised to find one of the built in features was a fitness program.  Its free to use as long as you have a XBox Gold membership and includes all sorts of free workouts, plus more available for purchase.  The application uses the Kinect 2.0 to track your movements and score your workout depending on how good your form is.

The camera has several different images available including heat sensing so it can actually tell if you are activating the correct muscles or not.  The camera can even take your pulse for you.

There are tons of workouts available from Jillian Michaels to P90X to Insanity.  The app keeps track of your fitness scores and lets you compare to others if you like.  There are even achievements you can earn for workouts completed.

This was the boost I needed to get my motivation on track.  The application turns working out into a game with a score and everything.  The workouts are tough too.  I did one of the 10 minute ab workouts and I was dying halfway in.  I know my core needs work, but it made me feel like I've never used the muscles before.  Has anyone else used video games for fitness?  How do you motivate yourself to get back on track after a doldrum?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Race Recap: Rock and Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

 Yesterday night I returned from my trip to Las Vegas.  Of course I took all day today to recover since that's what happens after 5 days in Sin City... the rest.. well that stays in Vegas.  Alright, fine I will tell you about the race experience.

Chris and I took the same flight out of Chicago on Saturday morning and landed in Las Vegas around 8AM local time.  We took the shuttle over to the hotel, Treasure Island, and dropped our bags off.  We made it our first mission to get caffeine. Chris got a coffee and I got a coke.  Our 3rd party member, Vijay, arrived a little over an hour later and off we went to the expo to pick up our race packets.  The timing couldn't have been better since the expo had just opened when we got there.  There was a long line of people filtering in, but we didn't have our confirmation sheets so we had to fill some out before we could get our packets.  By the time we had done this the line was done.  We picked up our bibs, shirts, and bags and meandered through the expo.  This was the first big one Chris has been to so I wanted him to get the full experience.  Afterwards we walked back to the hotel.  The walk round trip was about 3 miles.... we would wind up doing a lot of walking the first day and a half even though we never ventured further than 1 hotel over.  We tried to keep things easy on the first day so we caught a show next door at the Mirage on Saturday night.  We saw the Beatles/Cirque Du Soleil - Love and it was the most amazing show I have seen yet in Vegas.

Daytime view from our room

Night time view from our room
Shirt Design

On race day we had slept in slightly then wandered across the street and got brunch at the Palazzo at Grand Luxe Cafe.  I know we have one in Chicago, but I've only been to the one in Vegas.  After lunch and a brief tour of the canal shops we went back to the hotel to veg out for an hour before heading down to the race start.  Here is one mistake I won't make again - we walked down to the start of the race, which was about 3+ miles away.  It took us an hour and 15 minutes to get there with a restroom break on the way.  We arrived about 30 minutes before the race began.  My legs were already tired before this walk, but this was the nail in the coffin.  I already knew this wasn't going to be my best race.  I have been trying to recover from IT Band Syndrome/Runner's Knee and had only run 3.5 miles in the 2 weeks before the race.  To top things off I had fractured the tip of my left big toe just 3 weeks prior.  All things considered I should have just dropped out of the race and no one would of thought any less of me.  I couldn't do that though.  My goal was to do 13 halfs in 2013 and the 13th might turn out to be the unlucky one.

No backing out now
After some announcements, a wedding ceremony, a pep talk from Kimmy Gibbler (Full House), and the national anthem we were finally off.  I was in the 7th corral and took about 12 minutes for me to get to the start line.  It was slow going and crowded at first.  We made our way down and around the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign.  There was a photo opportunity but I declined.  I just wanted to get done with the race and off my feet.  Early going was slow and steady, just trying to stick with the crowd.  I ran with a 4:00 hour marathon pace group for awhile. The dry air was getting to me so I made sure to get fluids at all the aid stations.  Overall I was holding up pretty well though. It was nice heading down the strip.  There were so many spectators out cheering all the runners on.  Once we got towards downtown and did a couple miles off strip did things get strange.  We ran down dark streets with periodic bursts of light from portable light posts erected just for the race.  This wasn't a sketchy area at all.  Once back to Fremont Street the energy came back.  There was a burst of energy from runner's who had done the half of a half finishing that finished on Fremont to cheer us on.  It also helped that there was a giant metallic praying mantis spewing giant flames up in the air.  Soon we were back on Las Vegas Blvd and heading back towards the strip.  The marathon runners continued down the canopied section of Fremont, which would of been awesome to run down.

 It wasn't until mile 8 that my knee started to hint that there might be trouble, but it wasn't too bad.  I made the decision that I wasn't going to stop to walk, I was going to run this thing since I had made it this far.  By this point in the race the crowds had also thinned out.  There were something around 30K registered half marathon runners, but only 20,566 had finished.  I wonder where those 10K people went?  Around mile 11 I had seen Vijay on the other side of the street heading north.  He was in a much later corral so was only around mile 6.  It was also around this time that I got to take my greatest race picture yet.  I had not seen the photographer sitting in the road because I was behind 2 girls running abreast who dodged to the right at the last second. It was "Oh $H!T!" and a dodge to the left in order not to trample him, but he was a pro and captured the moment perfectly - as well as a runner behind me who decided to join in on the moment.

Oh, hello
I tried to push things a bit the last couple miles, but my body wasn't having any of it so I just tried to hang on.  I finally made it to the finish line at the Mirage in 2:04:07.  This was no where near my best time, but was also no where near my worst so I'm calling the race a success.  I was still feeling ok if a little sore and tired and slowly starting to stiffen.  This was the longest finishing chute I've ever been down and took a good 15 minutes to walk through.  I grabbed a space blanket, my medal, a water bottle, a gatorade bottle, an apple, a chocolate milk, and finally a beer.  After that I had to fight the crowds to get back to the hotel.  I stayed at the hotel just north of the finish line, yet it took about 45 minutes from finish until I got back to my room, where my knee proceeded to scream at me for the rest of the night and into the next day.

I rocked it
Gear Bag and Medal
Close Up of Glow in the Dark Medal

 After the race I showered and stretched.  I waited for Chris and Vijay to finish.  Chris got back about an hour after I was done.  Vijay wasn't too far behind him.  I was actually hungry at this point.  I had been messaging with Mo about meeting up, but Chris and I decided we weren't making it out of the hotel at this point and we definitely didn't want to fight the crowds again.  We wound up going downstairs and having dinner at Kahunaville.  I stayed up and gambled a little bit and Chris went to bed.

The day after the race we were all still a bit beat up.  We went over to Paris for the Village Buffet since I had a Groupon and we refueled on delicious crepes and wine.  We gambled a bit and then I learned Mo was nearby at Planet Hollywood so Chris and I went over to meet up with her for Remote Pint Night.  We started things off classy by stopping in a convenience store and buying tall boys...  This would turn into a late night of fun.

Stop 1: Planet Hollywood - tall boys from ABC Store.
2: MGM - Gambled on the old fashioned horse race machine and got free beers
3: Aria - Todd English Pub for happy hour
4: Cosmo - cocktails at the Chandelier bar.
5: 4 Queens - dinner and microbrew at Magnolias
6: Main Street Station - More gambling
7: Binions - even more gambling
8: The D - quick tour of the refurb job done here

We finally took a bus back to the Strip where a couple of over-served young women were fighting with one guy and tried to get another to pull his pants down on the bus.  It was a fun night and the alcohol took some of the soreness away.  I'd pay for it the next morning, but hey, that's waking up in Vegas!

Oh and I met Teller from Penn and Teller at the airport on the way home!
Totally friends now!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dealing With Setback

I've had a bit of an unlucky last month and a half of running.  I struggled in the taper period for the Chicago Marathon and my taper was more of a cliff.  I did get through the marathon without any major issues, but didn't get close to my goal time.  I foolishly went out hard in a half marathon just a week after the marathon to try and see if I could PR and lift my spirits a bit.  Instead I wound up walking half the race while dealing with hip pain.  After the race the knee pain set in and a week later I would be diagnosed with IT Band Syndrome.  Still being hard headed I went out for a trail run because I figured it would be easier on the joints and I didn't want to miss my friend's first race.  I wore a brace on the knee and all was going well until I stubbed the toe on a tree root 3 separate times.

After the trail run and the toe stubbing I finally slowed down and took it easy, mostly since I could barely walk, let alone run.  I don't do well with not running though and have had a bit of a problem with binge eating in the last month.  As a result I've gained about 7 lbs.  I did get myself into a routine of doing leg exercises and stretches, but not much else.  The weekend after the trail run I did manage to get myself out on a short jog to test out the knee brace and things went relatively well.  This helped me think that not all was lost.  I went for another short run at Blogger night at Roadrunner Sports and was completely pain free which was a huge boost in confidence in how things were progressing.

It was on Friday that I heard the dreaded words that I really didn't want to hear.  I was overdue for an annual exam so I went to the doctor's on Wednesday.  I had them check out the toe while I was in there since I still had some pain.  I showed the doc my day after picture and she said she wanted me to get an X-Ray just to be sure.  I went and got that X-Ray on Thursday and then got the call on Friday.  The diagnosis is "fracture of the distal aspect of the distal first phalanx, obliquely oriented. This is essentially nondisplaced . There is adjacent soft tissue swelling."  In layman's terms, the tip of my left big toe is cracked. It takes 6 weeks for a fractured toe to heal.

Now here is my quandary - I've run immediately after breaking the toe - even sprinting on it to finish the trail run, and I've run twice more since -albeit short runs, but they didn't seem to have any affect on the toe.  Do I keep up with the occasional short run to keep some sort of athletic base going?  I'd hate to see what would happen if I don't let myself run for another month.  And don't suggest swimming.  I hate swimming.  The other thing is I have the Rock and Roll Last Vegas Half Marathon coming up on Sunday.  I don't think there is any way I'm going to let myself skip that.  I may wind up walking half of it, but there's enough booze in the city to overpower any toe pain I might have once I finish.  I will have to test out shoes since some seem to cause more issues than others.  I won't be able to fully toe off during my stride.  I can jog in place up on my forefeet without any issues, but something with more flexing, like pushing off during lunges doesn't feel too good.  Luckily after this race I will have 8 weeks until my next race, which is plenty to recover.  Luckily that one is just a 10K.

I know I'm being a bit hard headed, but once I get into a routine I don't like to stop.  I was doing so well this year with consistency in my running and the results showed in all aspects of my life.  I've been rather fortunate during all my training and never really faced any injury.  I started running just over 2 years ago and other than some tendinitis from overdoing it when I first started out I've been doing well ever since.  I've had occasional shin splints and a couple hamstring strains, but nothing that has completely sidelined me.  I just really don't want to let myself fall off the wagon since that's what happened to me in high school.  I hurt my knee my senior year of track before the season even began.  I tried to get myself back together, but couldn't get it healed to where I could run and wound up sitting out the rest of the season.  I would eventually see a specialist who recommended surgery.  I finally got that surgery before my 3rd year of college.  I tried getting back into running that year, but woke up sick the following day... wound up with complications from impacted wisdom teeth, unlucky timing... and didn't try running again until 8 years later.  Let's hope I'm back on track in 8 weeks instead of 8 years this time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Taking it Easy

My time after the marathon hasn't been fun.  I took a week off and then managed to injure myself on my first run back.  That is probably my own fault for trying to do too much too soon, so live and learn.  Now it feels like I'm reliving the taper madness because of how little running I'm doing.

Since the marathon I've now run a grand total of 4 times for a total of 22 miles.  Before the marathon that would of been a slow/easy week for me let alone a nearly a month.  I'm trying to take things in stride though.  I don't want to get to the point where I knock myself out of running for months.  I realize I have some time until I would need to do another training cycle, and even that isn't necessary at this point if I re-arrange my plans.  I'm not committed to any longer races next year until Soldier Field 10 miler at the end of May.  I would like to do a spring Marathon and possibly even take a stab at the Lakefront 50K - but am hesitant to register for anything until I start feeling better.

So what is wrong with me?  I have Runner's Knee - that fun catch all phrase for knee pain.  It can also be referred to as patellofemoral syndrome or iliotibial band syndrome.  In simpler terms I have an imbalance in my muscles that is causing extra strain around the knee and in turn is causing inflammation and pain.  I also have pain in the tensor fascia latae (or TFL) which is a muscle in the front part of the hip that connects to the IT band.  According to Wikipedia the muscle is responsible for assisting the gluteus maximus in supporting the knee in a position of extension. 

So what do I do now?  I've been given a number of exercises to help strengthen my hip muscles.  This in turn should help restore the balance and stop the twisting at the knee causing the inflammation.  The exercises make me look a bit like Jane Fonda or Suzanne Sommers with the leg lifts and clam shells.  I'm also doing quite a bit of stretching and having some personal time with the foam roller.

Unfortunately I don't have the same outfit to do my exercises
Hopefully soon enough I'll be able to ease back into running.  I got a patella brace for when I do to in order to help the knee stay properly aligned.  I've already done a short run with it to test things out and all worked out.  Unfortunately I can't run much more than 10 minutes without something acting up so I'll keep things brief until I can handle more.  I just don't want to go completely stir crazy.  I'll probably also spend more time on the stationary bike this winter.

Hope everyone else is doing well out there.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Race Recap: Pumpkins in the Park 5K and Muddy Monk Thriller in Schiller 5K

Alright I'm cheating and doubling up on the recaps since I did not one but two 5K races this weekend.  The plan was to test out my knee before the weekend to see if I could actually run, but I never got a chance to do that.  I'd been resting, icing, taking NSAIDs, and doing lots of stretching leading into the weekend to take care of soreness I was experiencing.  I had been relatively pain-free heading into the weekend so I felt a little better about things, but was going to run cautiously just in case.

I did packet pick up for Pumpkins in the Park at Fleet Feet on Friday.  It was a quick and painless pick up and I was out in no time flat.  I had forgotten my CTA pass so I wound up walking home.  In doing so I happened to catch all the emergency vehicles heading towards a 3-alarm fire occurring in Wrigleyville.  Nothing like seeing tons of billowing smoke in the direction of your apartment and thinking to yourself - Did I turn the oven off after lunch?  Once I got closer I could see that the smoke was coming from further down the street.  Turns out a hookah bar and Roadhouse 66 went up in flames.  When I got home I checked out the no frills packet.  The shirt was black long sleeve with a nice logo.  Probably not a good idea to run in this shirt at night.

On Saturday I took it easy most of the day before finally heading to the race site.  I took a nice easy jog from my apartment to warm up a bit.  The knee wasn't happy, but everything was tolerable.  I was still determined to run and find out how things were really going.  I wandered around a bit before my friends finally showed up.  After talking a bit we headed to the start corrals.  I lined up with the 8:00 min/mile pace group knowing that I would be going a bit slower.  After the national anthem we were off.  I felt great at the start - no pain at all.  I was even running around a 7:45 pace - which is no where near top 5K speed for me, but was at least a strong 10K speed.  We wound around Lincoln Park up towards Diversey before turning back.  Around the 2 mile mark as I went down the underpass at Fullerton I felt a sharp pain in my knee and it felt a bit like it wanted to give way.  I slowed my pace quite a bit from this point.  The sharp pain didn't endure, but the knee was getting sore again.  I started getting passed by a lot of runners, but at this point it was just about getting to the finish.  I was too stubborn to start walking for such a short race and being a mile from the finish.  I eventually made it to the final turn and found it in myself to sprint to the finish.  I wound up with a 24:51 which is my slowest 5K time since Firefly in September, 2012 - but I made it.

After the race I headed over to the massage tent to inquire if they did injury screenings - and they did, score!  I had to wait though since the physical therapist had ran the race herself and was getting refreshed.  Once she came over and we started talking about what was going on with my knee she suspected that I had patellofemoral pain syndrome aka Runner's knee.  Those were not words I wanted to hear.  After a few quick tests, it was confirmed.  She gave me a recommendation for treatment, a doctor to see, and some exercises to take care of the muscles causing the issue - weak hips.  I suspect fatigue from the marathon, etc. probably contributed to bad form and my issues are just compounding now.  After getting the news I met up with my friends again and headed to Twin Anchors for some tasty ribs.

I awoke Sunday morning and started prepping for Muddy Monk's Thriller in Schiller Trail 5K.  I was a little stiff so I knew extra stretching and warm up would be needed.  I didn't want to back out of things since I was the driver for Chris and his brother Jim who was running his first ever race after I'd been trying to convince him to run one for months.  Soon Chris showed up and we drove over to get his brother and off we went.  Thankfully Schiller is just down Irving Park Rd so it wasn't a very long drive.  We arrived, got our packets with bright yellow shirts (these will be awesome for night running), and went back to the car to prep and hang out a bit.  We were a bit early so we chilled and observed people in their costumes.  About 25 minutes before race time we started warming up and stretching out.  This was my first test of the knee brace I was trying out.  Dr Google said that knee braces with a patella window could help with tracking of the patella and aid in runner's knee.  Luckily I happened to have a brace from back in my high school track days.  The warm up run wasn't promising, but I was going to go with it anyways knowing that the trails are softer than pavement and I would line up in a spot where I could run slow.

Soon it became time to line up and so we did.  Jim, Chris, and I stuck together somewhere near the middle.  Art made some announcements, put on Thriller, and sounded the air horn.  The beginning of the race was a bit crowded and slow.  The early single track made things a little difficult, but soon hit a spot of wider trail.  At this point Jim takes off up the side to get around some of the slower runners.  I tried to keep up with him while being careful of the knee.  Things are actually going pretty well and I'm doing alright.  I soon find myself picking up the pace and leaving Jim and Chris behind.  I wasn't flying or anything, but just running a nice, comfortable up-tempo pace.  Soon I started to feel a bit of soreness in the hip like I felt at Monster Dash.  I didn't let it phase me this time though, it wasn't nearly as bad and once again it was a short race.  My knee was holding up just fine and wasn't causing any discomfort.  There was a drawback to wearing the knee brace though- the one I had was cumbersome and not meant for running- well not trail running anyways.  I wasn't getting the lift of my feet that I normally would.  About 2 miles in I stubbed my toe hard on a tree root and went crashing down on my left side.  I wasn't really hurt - just more of a "did that really just happen?" kind of feeling.  The guy behind me stopped to check on me and helped me get up.  A quick inventory check showed that I was fine, but my toe stung a bit from where it made impact.  No big deal I was still good to go.  Not long after I hit another tree root with the same toe.  I stumbled but stayed upright.  Pain shot through my toe and I winced big time.  I kept going, but now the toe was very tender and I had to be very careful with it.  Not long after I came to a spot where you had to dodge under a tree branch and over tree roots.  There was a walker in front and he let the guy in front of me around him and I thought he was going to let me by as well, but instead he crossed into my path causing me to adjust - and yes I stubbed my toe in the same spot yet again.  This time it was blinding pain and then some temporary numbness.  I knew I did some serious damage to the toe, but just wanted to finish.  I hobbled the rest of the course, slowed by a toe that I couldn't put weight on.  Once we reached the clearing for the finish line I saw Jim fly past me.  I tried to speed up to catch him, but knew I couldn't hit those speeds with the condition I was in.  Instead I tried to keep pace with Chris as he also sped up.  We managed to cross the finish line at exactly the same time.

After we crossed we got our Thriller pint glasses and a free Finch's beer.  I chose the Fascist Pig Red Ale and the brothers chose Secret Stache Stout.  We chilled for a bit before deciding to get in line for food.  I told Chris and Jim about my mishaps.  They said that I had gotten pretty far ahead of them during the race and they didn't see my fall.  Jim said he could see why Chris and I like racing so much.  He's in for next year's race.  After Jim and I got our hot dogs - they ran out of veggie before Chris could get his - we headed back home.  Once I got home I finally got my shoes and socks off to see the damage done.

My toe looks more like a plum than anything.  There's really not much I can do other than rest and ice.  Even if it is broken, the doctor won't do anything unless its a compound fracture.  I just hope it heals enough to run Rock and Roll Vegas in 3 weeks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Race Recap: Monster Dash Half Marathon

This was my second year running Monster Dash.  It is part of a series of races put on by Team Ortho here in Chicago as well as a few other cities.  My experience with the race last year was so so and I thought I would give them another chance to prove themselves.  I had actually ordered a shirt from them last year that I have yet to receive.  They did send me another running jacket which costs more than the shirt, but a duplicate of something I already have so I gave the jacket to a friend.  I'll be honest, this half was more about squeezing in the 13 halfs this year and wasn't something that I would need to travel for.

I had actually done packet pick up for this race long ago.  They allowed pick up during the expo for the Chicago Half Marathon.  I went over to the booth at the expo with Jennifer and killed 2 birds with 1 stone.  I also wound up signing up for Polar Dash that day so Team Ortho will get a 3rd chance to prove themselves.  The date for Polar Dash has actually already been moved and now falls on my birthday.  Who loves winter racing on their birthday?  Anyways the swag for Team Ortho races is always pretty cool and this year they gave out hoodies that ran a little big.

Oops, hobbit feet in the photo
I was feeling a bit unsure of the race right after the marathon because let's face it - I was pretty sore.  I knew I was moving around a lot better after the marathon than some people, but that's no excuse to jump back into racing right away.  I also made the wise decision to get my first ever massage from a licensed therapist Friday morning.  It hurt like hell getting it since some of my muscles were so stiff, but I felt so much better afterward.  This may have been my undoing come race day.

So Sunday morning I get up at 6AM and prep to catch a 7:30AM bus.  The morning is going fine and I step outside into the frigid weather.  I get to the bus stop to find out its delayed and try to keep myself warm for an extra 10 minutes.  The bus arrives and I'm off.  Jennifer gets on a few stops later.  We get down to Grant Park and make the trek over to Arvey field.  We met up with our friend Courtney and I do gear check and get ready for the start of the half.  I decided to line up in front of the 8:30 pace marker, but behind the 1:50 pace group.  I was still feeling really good at this point and decided to see what I could do with it.

The race started and off we went.  The start was pretty typical for this area - crowded and you have to dodge cracks in the sidewalk.  This race had the added bonus of dodging costumed runners.  I held steady for the first quarter mile before I let my legs do what they wanted.  They carried me past the 1:50 pace group and before I knew it I was well under PR pace.  I decided to slow down a bit, but I was still under pace when I passed the first mile.  The 2nd mile was right at PR pace.  The third mile I came back to earth a bit and slowed down a little.  I also started to notice that my body wasn't really happy with how I started the race.  The third mile was slightly slower but about where I should have been running the first half of the race.  The 4th mile is where I fell apart.  My hip started screaming at me.  I stopped and tried to stretch it out before continuing on.  Also the first aid station wasn't until well beyond the 3rd mile marker which wasn't nice for half.

I spent the next few miles running what I could before slowing down to walk and try and stretch my hip out.  I noticed that when I ran I was doing really well, but then the pain would set back in and make things hard again.  I wish I was better at adjusting my pace naturally to compensate.  I eventually saw an aid station on the left that I would hit shortly after the turnaround and this became my marker for my next stop.  I continued down for what seemed like forever and hit the sharp turnaround which didn't help with my diminishing mobility.  I walked through the aid station and then walked off the path and hit the ground.  I gave myself a really good stretch and watch as all the costumed runners went past.  Once I felt good enough I got up and kept walking.  I was going to finish this thing, I'm too stubborn not to.  I soon got frustrated with walking and tried running again.  The first attempt was just 1/4 of a mile.  After walking again I went for 1/2 a mile.  This was how the rest of the race went until I finally pushed myself to run nearly all of the last 1.5 miles.  I was never more happy to finish a race.  Even with all the issues and all the walking that I had done, it was not my slowest half. I collected my medal which was kind of absurd and doubles as a belt buckle.

 I soon spotted Jennifer and Courtney and limped over to them.  I collected my gear so Courtney could borrow my coat and then went and found a place to stretch.  I was getting worse by them minute.  After stretching we walked like what seemed like forever to catch a bus back to get brunch.  The movement helped, but I stiffened up whenever we stopped.  We got to the bus stop just as a bus pulled up.  We took it back up to Lincoln Park for brunch and when I got off the bus I knew I was in trouble.  My knee started hurting and I really hobbled into the restaurant.  After brunch I walked the half mile back home.  My knee really hurt a ton, but the movement helped once again.  I got home, changed clothes, grabbed an ice pack and crashed on the couch.  Later in the day I stretched a bit more and tried to figure out what was going on.  Eventually I realized it was my IT band that was tightening up and tugging at my hip and knee.  I used the foam roller which hurt like hell, but helped relieve some of the soreness and stiffness.  I've been stretching the IT band every few hours since.

Now that it is a few days later I'm doing much better.  I've stayed away from running, but did some light workout on a stationary bike last night.   For something that nearly incapacitated me on Sunday, I feel like I should be ok to do some light running again in a few days.  I'll just have to be careful this weekend since I'm running back to back 5Ks.  I'm not going to concern myself with time.  My friend Jim is running his very first ever race with me on Sunday for Muddy Monk's Thriller in Schiller so I want to make sure I'm there for him.  I realize now the mistakes I had made with Monster Dash - 1. I shouldn't race so soon after a marathon and 2. If I do decide to race, don't go out at PR pace without having enough warm up, especially after not running for a week.

Monday, October 14, 2013

2013 Chicago Marathon

I don't know where to begin when it comes to writing about my marathon weekend experience.  I had such a great time and learned a lot.  I fell short of my hopes of breaking 4 hours, but learned a lot along the way to take into my next race.

My weekend start on Friday as I made sure to take extra time off work.  I had days to burn considering how crazy work was earlier this year.  I got myself together and headed to the brown line to start the journey to McCormick.  On the platform there were 3 other girls who were obviously runners and looking lost and checking their smart phones.  They figured out that they needed to transfer trains so I didn't say anything yet.  When we got to Fullerton to transfer to the red line I struck up some small talk since we were all heading to the same place.  It turns out 2 of the girls were from North Carolina and the 3rd was from Columbia and all were very lost.  I decided to turn into mother hen and help get them to the expo.  They asked about hills on the course and I pointed out "Mt Roosevelt" which made them feel relieved since its an ant hill compared to what they are used to.  We caught the 3 bus and were greeted by a large contingent of runners from Argentina who were chanting and having a grand old time.  They were very interested in talking to the Carolina girls.

I split ways with everyone and we all did our own thing at the expo.  I just got lost in everything, soaking it all in.  I wound up buying an official long sleeve marathon shirt from Nike as well as a quarter zip running jacket.  I picked up some Gu and Nuun.  I also got a new SPIbelt, one that has loops for gel since I decided I wasn't going to wear the water belt for the race.  I originally was just going to wear 2 belts, 1 for the phone, 1 for the Gu, but having everything on 1 belt was nicer.  As I left the expo, who do I see sitting on a bench outside - the Carolina girls of course, and they needed directions again.  We headed over to the bus stop and were greeted once again by all the Argentinians.  Talk about timing.  We took a few group pictures and took a very crowded 3 bus back to Michigan Ave.  I showed the girls where to get off to do some shopping.  I also wound up helping a family visiting from Augusta, GA to find a place to get some grub.  I jumped on the red line and took it up to Belmont.  I wanted to stop at Michael's on the way home to get some tape to decorate my running shirt for the race.  I wound up using neon green tape to put my name on my shirt.

After doing nothing but being lazy and preparing on Satuday, I got up nice and early on Sunday.  I got myself together and worked out issues with a nervous stomach.  I caught a bus full of other runners and got to the race site around 6:30AM.  I paced around while having a light snack and drinking my Nuun water.  I decided that I should use the rest room before the race started, but guess I took too long because all of the lines were now crazy.  I headed toward my corral a half hour early since I knew more portajohns would be there and hoped the lines were shorter - they weren't.  I was still 8 or 9 back in line when the national anthem was sung.  I was a few people back when the wheel chair racers went off.  People started to ditch the line to get into the start corrals.  I finally was able to go and basically finished up as the elites started.  There were so many people trying to still get into the D corral that I was basically waiting in the overflow area in back, but quickly got in as the corrals in front started moving.  At approximately 7:38AM my journey began.

The race started well enough.  I knew what to expect having run the same start for 2 Shamrock Shuffles. I didn't lose my signal under Wacker, but it still threw my GPS off.  It rang up the first mile about .18 early.  I also had some shin issues the first mile or so.  It wasn't as bad as it had been during my taper period, but I kept trying to get myself a bit more relaxed and it subsided a few miles in.  The next few miles flew by.  I was anticipating getting into Lakeview and Lincoln Park and seeing some familiar faces.  The first I saw was Maggie at mile 7.  She barely got her camera out in time to snap a picture.  Its still the best one of me all day.

Near the 15K marker was Jennifer.  I tossed her my arm warmers that I no longer needed.  I looked for others who said they would be out in the area but didn't see them.  So the whole thing with having the name on the shirt is true - people will shout encouragement to you.  This was nice, but sometimes distracting.  I could never tell if it was someone who knew me or just some random stranger.  I totally got lost in my thoughts when someone was screaming my name like crazy near the 13 mile mark.  I looked back to catch Erica.  This was funny since I was yelling her name at the start and she missed me.  I also caught Gingerfoxxx volunteering along the course.  I know other friends were also volunteering but didn't see them.  Some I'm glad I didn't see since they were working medical tents.

The first half of the race went about as well as expected.  I coasted to a 1:58 half which was slightly slower than I wanted, but hoped would keep me strong until then end.  After the 25K mark I started to slow down a bit.  After the 30K mark my legs were basically done and I wound up walking most of the rest of the way with some stretches of short runs.  I think this has to do with the fact that I didn't run longer than 16 miles during my training and even though that was planned - I didn't stick close enough to the actual plan to make it work effectively.  I held pace for 18 miles - far harder than anything I did during training.  After that I decided to just enjoy the rest of the race, even if I did have to walk.  I'm too stubborn and know there will always be another race to improve my time.

So after switching to run/walk at mile 18 due to legs that were about dead I kept at it.  I know it was far too late to do this and going from walking to running would be painful, but I wasn't going to drop out this far in.  By mile 21 I realized my stomach wasn't quite right.  There was some sloshing and I didn't seem to be digesting the Gu, but I still felt thirsty.  I had been alternating Gatorade and water so everything should of been balanced.  I spent a few miles trying to figure out if I needed to just get a good burp out or find somewhere to heave.  At mile 22 I actually slipped on a banana peel.  People weren't good about getting them off to the side of the road and I happened to catch one just right.  Luckily I stayed on my feet and didn't injure anything.  That could of gone far worse.  By mile 24 I knew the end was near and my legs had basically gone numb.  I started to do a bit more running than I had the previous few miles.  I walked most of the way up the Roosevelt Hill before looking at my watch and realizing I had a new goal.  I bolted up the last 1/3 of the hill and down the home stretch as fast as my legs could take me. I crossed the finish line in 4:26:32.  This is just 6 seconds slower than double my very first half marathon which I ran only 16 months ago.  The pace works out to the same - 10:10.

I made my way through the finisher's chute and started to tear up a bit.  I actually completed a marathon!  I only started running 2 years ago and it took me 12 minutes to barely do a mile then and here I was running 26.2 miles at a 10 minute pace - talk about improvement.  It was also 10.2 miles further than I've ever run in my life.  I got my blanket, got my medal, got some snacks, and grabbed the beers they were handing out at the finish.  I was going to enjoy this one even if I paid for it later.  I found a spot to gather myself and sent out my first update.  I saw so many likes on FB since I had the runner tracking posting to my page.  It definitely felt nice to be supported my so many friends out there.

I walked through the 27th mile finisher party but didn't see anyone I knew so I headed back to take the train home.  I didn't want to stick around too long in case I started having post race issues.  I wound up riding an adrenaline high for a couple hours before crashing hard.  I was also wise enough to take Monday off of work.  I got up slightly later than my usual time and had some initial trouble moving, but soon got myself together and headed down to Fleet Feet for my free medal engraving and also picked up a finisher's shirt and 26.2 magnet.  I earned this so I'm taking it for all its worth.  Fleet Feet was followed by my first trip to McDonald's since the first week of June.  I've been tired and sore today, but I'm not completely incapacitated.  We'll see what Tuesday brings when the delayed onset muscle soreness is really supposed to kick in.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Taper and the Yips

Its funny how things can change so rapidly.  My final week of training was going great.  I hit a new all time high in mileage and was running a bit faster than planned since things had cooled off.  I was on top of the world and ready to rock the marathon.  I then wound up starting my taper a few days earlier than planned.

This tapir doesn't like to taper
I went out for an easy run and my knee didn't feel quite right.  I didn't want to chance things so I cut back the mileage and took extra rest days.  My knee hasn't really improved much but the pain goes away when I get warmed up after a couple miles of running.  The problem there is I'm all over the place while my body is trying to compensate for the cranky knee.  Think of Elaine Benes dancing, only in running form.

My form wasn't pretty and my legs have been paying for it.  I haven't had shin splints in ages, yet they reared their ugly head last week.  I knew it was from the way I was running and not the mileage since I had backed off.  I tried different shoes as well to see if that made any difference and it didn't.  I wound up spending one day running in the sand to get some work in and save my legs from as much pounding as possible.  It finally occurred to me what was going on....

Yip yip yip yip yip...
I have the yips!  For those who don't know the yips are a slang term for an athlete that has a sudden, unexplained loss of a previous skill.  The term originated in golfing when a player tried to explain his inability to putt.  The term is used in baseball as well and is also known as "Steve Blass Disease" after a pitcher who after several dominant years, including an All Star appearance, was unable to throw strikes.  The movie Major League II made a gag out of it as the rookie catcher was unable to throw the ball back to the pitcher.  I decided to follow Hollywood's lead when coming up with my solution - I needed to get my mind on something other than running so that the running part would just happen naturally.  In the movie the character memorized the statistics of Playboy bunnies and repeated them as he threw the ball back to the pitcher.  I went a simpler route and got a catchy song stuck in my head just before I headed out to run.  I have to say the plan was a success!  I could feel a bit of soreness in my lower legs to start after all the damage I've probably done the last few runs, but things got better and I felt great by the end.  That was the run I needed to get in before Sunday's marathon.

Anyone else having issues during their taper?  Any injury concerns?  Anyone have the up to the minute weather forecast memorized like I do?  Good luck to all my fellow marathoners!  Let's have fun and remember that the first goal is to finish and stay out of the medical tent!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Race Recap Oktoberfest and Other Updates

I've been told I need to write my race recap.  I guess I am nearly a week late.  To be fair I did head back to Michigan for my niece's 1st birthday over the weekend.  I was a little pre-occupied there to write a blog post.  The first few days this week have been a little hectic as well.

Yay for first birthday.  Now where's the cake?
I was a little hesitant to sign up for the race at first since I didn't want to do anything to risky too close to the marathon.  On the other hand this was the same race I ran my best 5K time at last year and I do love the opportunity to run fast.  After some brief discussion on Facebook with the Wurst Running Club Ever I decided to go for it.  Once I was in, I was all in and got the Dirndl shirt along with everyone else.

Race day came and things didn't look to promising with Mother Nature.  We had storms followed by a mini heat wave.  I decided I was going to run to the start of the race since it wasn't too far from my place and I needed to get enough mileage in.  I was a sweaty mess barely into my warm up run.  That wasn't a good sign.  Even worse I ran the back half of the course and saw how muddy and torn up the paths were.  This was definitely not a day to go all out.

I got to the race site and found the first couple Wurst runners.  We chatted as they stood in line for their packets. Others soon followed suit.  We started drawing attention in our matching shirts.  The Redeye took a group photo for us.  The race director also had to get pictures of us for the Facebook site.  I kept looking around for Jennifer but never found her.She had texted me, but I didn't know since I had my phone securely wrapped and tucked away after partially damaging it with sweat earlier in the week.  Before we knew it we were off to the starting line, everyone splitting up to guess about where they should stand.

After the national anthem was sung we were off to the races... ok more of a trot to start.  There were quite a few slower runners up front, but that happens at all races.  I just waited for openings and darted through.  Its not like I was going for a PR on this night.  I feel kind of bad because I caught Maggie and Mo catching up next to me in the corner of my eye, but I saw a big opening so I darted through and was able to run my own pace after that.  I actually ran a pretty solid 5K.  It was warm and humid and I kept having to dodge puddles, but I kept a solid pace without over exerting myself.  I debated picking up the pace a bit for the second half to see if I could give my PR a run for the money.  Once we turned around we had a pretty solid headwind going to I just tucked in and cruised along.  About a quarter mile before the finish I saw Declan, the wurst high fiver ever, along with his wife and Lil Smokie.  After the high five I picked up my pace slightly to go for a strong finish.  I wound up with a 22:52 which is actually my 2nd fastest 5K time ever and I finished 55th out of 500 runners.  Not a bad day all factors considered.  I think my 5K PR is going to drop sometime after the marathon :)

After gathering some post race goodies I started making my way over to where Declan was at.  I spotted Maggie coming down the final stretch and yelled out to her as she finished.  Once I reached Declan I quickly became the entertainment for Lil Smokie.  She was playing around with me and decided I needed decoration in the form of leaves and dirt.  I tried to teach her to wave and cheer on the runners, but she was more interested in going running with them.  After cheering on the rest of the WRCE members we headed back to the finish to regroup.  We got a couple more photos in before part of the group split to head home and the rest of us headed to Ranalli's for post race free beer and grub.

The day following the race I intended to get up and run 6 miles before heading to Michigan, yeah that didn't happen according to plan.  Instead I just packed up and headed out.  I did get up on Saturday and get my miles in.  Its no fun running through a subdivision I learned.  After my run I took a quick shower then spent another 75 minutes on the road to head to my sister's place.  I spent most the day playing with my nephews and niece.  Its been months since I've seen Brooklyn so she was shy at first, but by the end of the day her favorite activity was pound on Uncle Eric.  I spent a lot of the day on my feet and active and could feel a bit of soreness creeping in which wasn't a good sign considering Sunday would be my long run.  Getting up on Sunday I wasn't fully rested and I was slightly sore, but if you follow the Hanson method, this is the type of condition you want to run under so you can prepare your body for the rigors of the marathon.  I also had to have a gameplan considering I didn't have drinking fountains on the route.  I wound up putting water bottles in my parents driveway and wore my hydration belt and carried some gels.  I ran loops that would take me back to my parents place every 4 miles to refill.  This wasn't a very scenic run and I didn't realize how uneven sidewalks can get, but I made it through without quitting and stayed within my prescribed training pace.  After the run I went to get milk to find only a little bit left in an expire carton.  I wound up just downing 20oz of water and grabbing a coke to get some carbs.  I then took a shower while my mom made me a bacon sandwich (mmmmm... bacon).  After a brief rest it was off to the cider mill with my nephew.  He had a friend with him and they were running all over the place.  Needless to say my legs were done at this point.

And stay down!

I drove back to Chicago a bit on the late side on Sunday night.  Nothing like spending 4 1/2 hours in the car after running 16 miles then spending a couple hours walking around a cider mill trying to keep up with a 5 and 6 year old.  I feared for the worst on Monday morning.  When I woke up I was surprising alright.  When I headed downstairs I cringed and hesitated as I took the first step expecting some soreness and creaking as has become the norm, but there was nothing!  I was shocked to say the least.  I made it through the day without any soreness or stiffness, just some general fatigue.  I headed out on Monday night for an easy 6 miler and overshot my prescribed pace by quite a bit, my legs had some pep to them.  I took Tuesday off since I got home late from work, but tonight I decided to try mile repeats since I have slacked on speed and strength workouts and found that my legs were still feeling awesome.  I was rocking the mile intervals at speed workout pace instead of strength pace, oops.  I'm feeling a little more confident now that I'm peaking at the right time in my training.  The slight aches and stiffness that goes along with training has been going away and I'm running as fast as ever.  I've just got to get through a few more days and I can begin the taper.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pint Night at Fleet Feet Lincoln Square

So I was finally able to join my fellow bloggers who make up the Wurst Running Club Ever for Pint night up at Fleet Feet in Lincoln Square.  I snuck out of work early and got lucky with traffic.  I got home and changed real quick and hydrated a bit before racing for the brown line.  I learned the first rule of Pint night is not to show up on time apparently.  I arrive at pretty much 6:30PM if not a minute before.  Shortly after Declan showed up and even though we never met before there was the recognition from the back and forth on the blogs and reddit.  Soon after Anne, Mo, and her boyfriend showed up.

We chatted a bit and I shuffled nervously as I'm not as familiar with the group as everyone else.  I broke the ice with Mo by reminding her we talked about Rock n Roll Vegas which we both plan on rocking - or maybe rolling depending on how much we eat come November.  We wondered where Maggie and Pete were at when Maggie finally popped in the door.  She brought along the Wurst shirts ever for our 5K on Thursday.  The Fleet Feet guys made some announcements and off we went.  Wait, where's Pete?  We ran into him outside on Lincoln Ave about a half block down.  We're trying to corral him into the group run and he's trying to take our pictures.

It was a nice run through the neighborhood.  I wasn't real familiar with anything except for the area around where they have Maifest so I followed the group.  We chatted about various things, made jokes, and only got delayed (temporarily lost) once.  Once we hit the turnaround point we took a group photo.

We even let a random join the fun

On the way back Pete and Declan took off.  I wasn't sure if I should keep up or hang back... I stayed back.  I wound up talking to J since we are both MSU grads (Go Green!) and found that we graduated the same year after we both took victory laps.  We wound up getting a bit ahead of the girls, but still way behind those speedsters.  We had a bit of an interesting moment when back near the Maifest area a car wasn't paying attention and basically ran a stop sign and nearly hit one of the runners in front of us.  He stopped as the girl just barely jumped out of the way and then glared at us as the rest of the runners decided to go and make him sit there awhile.  He's lucky he didn't hit the girl, plenty of witnesses to make sure he got what he deserved.

We got back to Fleet Feet and grabbed our gear and headed down to the Grafton.  Once we got there we found out our free beer was going to be draft only.  Apparently some people may have taken advantage of the any beer free policy previously.  Some people are just the Wurst aren't they?  I settled on a Guinness since the night had a bit of a chill to it and seemed appropriate.  We hung out and chatted and talked about training and race plans and whatnot.  I ordered food, or at least I thought I did.  It never came.  The waitress finally checked on me when the others were mostly done.  I had ordered a buffalo chicken sandwich that she forgot to put in... I wound up with buffalo chicken tenders, but the waitress didn't charge me so I'm not one to complain.  Declan lost his man card by drinking a cider and following it up with a chicken mango salad.  I hope Anne takes care of it better than Declan ;)

After parting ways I found the most appropriate picture ever at the brown line stop on my way home.

Insert sausage joke here
-That's what she said!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Race Recap: Chicago Half Marathon

A year ago this race was my second ever half marathon and I was hoping to break 2 hours for the first time after a disastrous a first attempt on a warm day.  This year the race didn't have nearly the ideal conditions last year did since it was slightly warm with the low 70s temperatures and a very sticky 88% humidity.  I didn't have any goals this year other than to escape unharmed.

After work Friday I met up with Jennifer and we headed down to the expo to do packet pick up.  We decided to kill a few extra birds and picked up our packets for Monster Dash as well and sign up for Polar Dash.  I also picked up some Gu to start experimenting since I know I will need some sort of fuel to get through the marathon.  I just barely get through half marathons on Gatorade as it is.

On race day I was up dark and early since the sun wasn't up yet.  Jennifer showed up at 4:30 and we drove down to the race parking at the Museum of Science and Industry.  It was a bit more leisurely this year as we didn't get stuck in traffic and I didn't have to run to the start line like last year.  I like having a more relaxed start to things.  We found a bench to chill on and messed around on our phones and I snacked on fig newtons until it was time for the blogger meet up.

Pre race can be eerie

Around 6:30 we headed over to the HDSA tent, bumping into Emily on the way and seeing Gingerfoxxx and Waffles once we got there.

We took our obligatory picture and chatted a bit.  Everyone then went their separate ways to prepare to start the race.  I headed to the start line and found a spot between the 1:50 and 2:00 signs.  There were no organized corrals unless you were among the elite runners.  This was a bit frustrating since no one pays attention to the signs, but it is what it is.  A few minutes later I spot Maggie entering the start chute and head over to where she is to chat pre-race and start together.  Soon the race began and we parted ways.

The first couple miles were on crowded side streets.  I tried not to weave too much, but it was darn near impossible since without corrals, many more people started up near the front that shouldn't have.  My first 2 miles are on the slow side.  I started picking up the pace in mile 3 as things thinned out a little bit.  I was rocking and rolling by the time I hit Lake Shore Drive and am running strongly in spite of the humidity.  If I stayed strong I would of had an outside shot at a PR if I really pushed it on the back stretch.

Just after the aid station at mile 7 my stomach decided to hate me.  There was no running this one out.  I was going to have to make a stop.  I did so at the next aid station at the turnaround and lost nearly 4 minutes time.  We need to start putting reflective coatings on portapotties or something because it was like sitting in a sauna out there on the course.  Upon exiting it was like being in air conditioning with the change in temperature.  This lead to a brief burst of speed as the "cooling" effect helped give me a push.  I soon dropped back to reality and figured since I wasn't going to get a PR, I might as well just coast a bit.  It also didn't help that I started to feel a slight twinge in my left hamstring.  Nothing major, and I could still run.  I think it was just getting a little angry at me for my yo-yo running habits lately. 

As I coasted towards the finish, just wanting to be done I did see some struggling runners.  There was a guy in a stretcher with an ambulance waiting at mile 12.  I picked up the speed just a tad with 1/4 mile to go, but wasn't going to risk going any faster with the hamstring.  I finally crossed the finish, got my medal, a bottle of water, and some pretzels and sipped on a cup of Gatorade.  I realized I wasn't even that thirsty given all the aid stations on the course.  My time was just 17 seconds slower than last year which was greatly satisfying given the harsher conditions and the unplanned pit stop.  I headed over to pick up my Windy City Challenge medal and then to the HDSA tent.  I texted Jennifer to let her know where I was and looked up and saw Maggie had just finished as well.  We chatted a bit then Maggie headed off to the VIP tent while Jennifer and I left since I wanted to keep moving and get home before the Bears traffic and before my legs stiffened up.

This is my 2nd year doing the Windy City Challenge.  My combined "marathon" time is 3:44:55.  Hopefully I will see something similar next month.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Race Recap: Peapod Half Madness

If you couldn't tell by me posting here - I'm still alive!  I went through a whole 5 day stretch last week without running at all.  I was a bit under the weather and extremely fatigued if you couldn't tell by my last post.  I went for a short shake out run on Saturday to see how I would hold up.  I quit after 2.3 miles because I was overheating and my body wasn't having any of it.  I knew Sunday was going to be a challenge, especially since the course had real hills and the forecast was for temperatures to approach 90.  I texted my friend wondering where in the world I was going to get more energy in time from the race since I was still dead tired.  I hoped a shower, pizza, and a nap would revitalize me.

Near the start line
Thankfully the Half Madness had an option for race day packet pick up.  The race was in Batavia which is near Aurora (Party time, excellent! for those Wayne's World fans) and was just around an hour drive outside the city.  I woke up at 3:30 AM after what was basically a 2 hour nap instead of a real sleep to get ready for the race.  I headed out at 4:30AM and made my way to Batavia for the pre-race packet pick up.  I was there a little before 6AM and had no issues.  I use the port a potties a couple times and sipped on Nuun water and ate a fig newton waiting for the race to begin.  The area was pretty scenic and definitely different than a Chicago race.

Start/Finish Chute pre-race
Finally it was time to line up for the race.  I got in the chute just behind the 1:59 (yes it was 1:59 instead of 2:00) pacer figuring I'd hang with them and see how things went.  This wasn't going to be a PR day, that was for sure.  The chute got really crowded as 1,131 runners crowded into a small space.  You couldn't get in from the sides, so the faster runners who waited until the last second started pushing their way through to the front.  One of the runners joked about running with the 2:59 pacer - the course had a 3 hour limit so I shot back that its called the sag wagon, just stay in front of it!  The pacer was an older gentleman who was friendly and energetic and seemed to know everyone.  People were teasing he might leave us behind since he normally runs 6s.

The race was soon underway and off we went.  I fell behind the pace group right away.  The start was crowded and hard to get through.  I wasn't going to waste energy weaving so I just did my thing and caught up a couple hundred yards later.  About a half mile in we already shot up our first hill and I was hoping I'd be able to hang on.  By mile 2 I was ahead of the 1:59 pace group and separating.  I was feeling decent and decided to go with it.  I definitely made sure to walk through water stations to get every last drop though.  The area around the mile 4 marker was just nuts.  You drop 50 feet in a quarter mile then make a sharp turn.  I tried to just go with gravity on the downhill portions, but this section was too steep and my quads are feeling it today.

The course and elevation map for the race -

After mile 4 we wound up on a trail going up and down the Fox River which was pretty nice.  Most the course was actually shaded which helped a ton.  Things were nice and easy on the path and I picked up the pace a little bit.  We left the trail around mile 6.5 and thus began a series of climbs through side streets and a neighborhood.  Some of these were monsters.  We finally stopped climbing around mile 9.5.  I spent the next mile and a half cruising and letting my legs recover.  We re-entered a path around mile 11 and I settled behind a guy and his g/f and he seemed to be coaching her along letting her know what a great job she was doing.  They picked up the pace and I let them lead the way for me.  The 12th mile featured a net 100 foot drop so that made for a quick mile.  I stopped for water shortly after the 12 mile marker and had trouble getting my legs going again after that.  My energy was finally spent, maybe I should of taken the gu they were offering at mile 8.  I willed my way through the final mile.  The mile 13 marker is at the beginning of a bridge so the finish is a bridge, a street crossing, then the finishing chute which was kind of neat.  I looked down at my watch and saw 1:55:43.  That's exactly 6:30 slower than my PR, but far faster than some of my halfs.  I call it a victory after being sick and tired all week.  Its really a victory considering the hills on the course and the fact that the temperature was about 80 when I finished.

Finishing chute during race
Post race party
I think one of the things that got me through this race was the community involvement.  There was support over the entire course.  People were out on their lawns cheering on the runners, waving signs, ringing cowbells, it was fantastic.  The first water station had a bunch of high school girls dressed as super heroes. The final half mile was through an old fashioned downtown district and across a bridge with people lined up all over going crazy.  At one point on the course there was a little girl who had to be 3 or 4 years old telling runners you look fantastic, keep it up.

The post race atmosphere was just as great.  There was a tent set up with pizza, pop, water, gatorade, pretzels, granola bars, oranges, and bananas. It was a help yourself free for all.  There was also a tent with all the Sam Adams you could drink.  There wasn't a beer ticket to cash it, just have a runner's bib?  Ok here's your beer.  I refrained from drinking though, given the drive home I had after.  I settled for Dr. Pepper and pizza.  I walked around a bit, and then found a spot in the shade and just soaked in the atmosphere.  The medals for the finishers were also pretty cool.

The metal was kind of fitting... I had to be mad to think I could do as well as I did, but I did it!  The race capped off my little gauntlet of races as well.  I completed 4 half marathons and a 10K in a 5 week period. I'm kind of amused that my slowest of the bunch was the first half. My last was 9 minutes faster than the first.  The fastest was run 6 days after the slowest and was 16 minutes faster.  I have another half 2 weeks from now, then a 5K later in September, then its marathon time!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Welcome to Sick Bay

Its been a little quiet around here lately.  I haven't been running as much as I would like.  Thankfully I'm not injured.  I've just been under the weather and worn down.  I started to feel a little out of it last Thursday and decided not to run that night.  On Friday I didn't feel much better and even took the day off work.  On Saturday I was a little better rested and went out and did 8 miles but still felt kind of blah.

Sunday was the big day for work.  The project that I've spent the last 20 months working on was going live.  I had some conversion tasks to take care of and some validations to do and that would be it, we'd be up and running with our brand spanking new software.  A lot was riding on this.  I thought my Sunday tasks would take 2 hours, but they wound up taking 8.  Guess we should expect some bumps at first right?  After all was said and done I just wanted to get back out and run again so I did.  The first 11 miles were great, the 12th almost did me in.  My energy was just about gone, but that was mostly my fault for not carrying enough fuel or sports drink.  I got a funny feeling in my knee briefly, walked it off for about a minute, then started running again and it was gone.

I had a hard time sleeping Sunday night with the first day of go live jitters.  Monday night was even worse as it was the first time our batch process was running.  It took a little while to complete that first night, but we expected that.  Tuesday was a surprisingly quiet day.  We had one issue to sort out and got it taken care of.  The lack of rest took its toll though as a full blown sinus infection set it.  We've had a couple more decent days and the first week is turning out to be pretty good success.  Its now Thursday night again, meaning I've only run 2 days in the last 7.  I managed 20 miles, which is about half of what I was supposed to do in training.  At least I don't have an injury that is knocking me out of training.

Its actually not much of a surprise I got sick.  I've been under a lot of pressure and with little rest with the big project going live.  I've worked a lot of long weeks and weekends leading up to this.  Hopefully now that we're live and things are going pretty well I will be able to rest a bit easier.  The other reason its not much of a surprise is I've had sinus problems for years.  I'd get nasty sinus infections every few months due to poor drainage of my sinuses.  I finally saw a specialist last year who examined me and sent me for an MRI. It showed I had some slight deviation to my septum, but not enough to get corrective surgery.  I was instead placed on 2 nasal sprays that I had to take twice a day.  The medication is a bit of a pain, but it has worked out quite well.  I have an easier time breathing through my nose now and this is only my 2nd sinus infection in the past year.  They used to knock me out for a week or 2 before, these last 2 haven't been nearly as bad.

I will probably back out for at least a short run tomorrow.  Maybe another on Saturday depending on how things go.  Sunday will be interesting.  I'm running the Peapod Half Madness Marathon in Batavia.  It is going to involve me getting up at like 3:30AM just to get out there in time to do pre-race packet pick up and then a 7AM start time.  Something tells me this may be one of my slower halfs.  I may have fresh legs, but I will have a tired body and the weatherman is predicting 89 degree temps.  Maybe I should petition to start at 3:30AM instead?  I can't quit now, its half #8 of the year... over half way to that magic 13.