Sunday, April 28, 2013

Race Recap: Race That's Good For Life 5K

I signed up for The Race That's Good For Life just a few weeks ago when I saw that it was pretty easily accessible from the city using public transit.  At the time I only had 2 5Ks on my schedule so I decided I wanted to add another in as a tune up run.  In a prior running life (high school) I was a sprinter and still have that thirst for speed every once in awhile.  Running 5Ks gives me a chance to let loose and fly, not that I'm very fast, but it is a change up from the long slow runs.  With the increased mileage I've added this year I was curious to see how much I'd improve.  The only downside is I was recently back from vacation and still trying to get back into a running groove for this race.

The packet pick up for the race was either at Competitive Foot in downtown Oak Park or at the race on race day.  I opted to pick up the packet from the store on Friday since I had the day off and didn't want to spend it all on the couch.  I took a bus down to the loop where I transferred to the green line and road that to the very last stop.  I never thought that the green line would be the 2nd EL train that I've ridden to its terminus after the blue line.  Anyways the store was near the stop and pick up was a breeze.  After that I was on my way home and even picked up groceries on the way.

Getting to race day was a little bit more of a challenge.  I had forgotten about the Wells St bridge construction.  I had to take a shuttle to the Clinton stop and catch the green line from there.  I got to the race just as the women were off and running.  Yes, this race featured different start times for women and men.  I hit the restroom and checked out the school before heading over to the finish line to catch the top women finishers.  After watching for about 10 minutes or so I went for a quick little jog and then over to the start line for the mens' start.  There were a lot of families running this nice little community event.  There was one boy who was upset that he had to run with his dad and he could only run about a 25 minute race because his dad couldn't find a faster friend for him to run with.

Before we knew what was going on the starting gun was going off.  There was no announcement, at least nothing on loud speaker, so those of us in the middle of the pack gave each other a look and were like I guess that means start.  I started off a little fast and had to fight a bit through the crowd.  After the first turn I was settled into my spot and ran fairly consistently.  I slowed slightly the 2nd mile before picking it up again in the 3rd mile. After the last turn there is just over a half mile stretch that seemed just ever so slightly downhill.  I started to pick up steam and was starting to fly by the end of the race.  After crossing the finish line I checked my watch and realized I had set a new PR by 15 seconds.  Not bad considering I wasn't targeting this race for a PR.  I was just trying to shake out some cobwebs and get a tune up in before Race to Wrigley in a couple weeks.

So after I cross the finish line and go grab some water something bizarre happened.  One of the volunteers passing out water pulled the cup away as I was reaching for it because she knew the runner behind me and gave it to him.  I've never encountered this before and it seems like bad volunteer etiquette considering she had 2 hands and water in each hand... she could of easily handed water to both of us.  Oh well, there were other volunteers to get water from.  The post race spread also featured little bottles of Gatorade, bananas, dinner rolls, pretzels with hummus, and Chewy granola bars. 

After I made it through the finish line goodies I ran into some fellow bloggers.  They didn't know me so I introduced myself.  I had previously seen Erin at the Road Runner Sports meet up but never formally introduced myself.  The other bloggers I met where Katie, Kelsey, and Lindsay.  After chatting for a bit I went with Katie, Kelsey, and Lindsay to figure out the Green Line situation once more.  I got home, made a sandwich for lunch, took a nap, then went for another run to complete my mileage for today.  All in all it was a good weekend.  Next weekend I get a break before completing 6 races in 6 weekends.

Anyone else running Race to Wrigley?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

13 13 13 Challenge

Well I survived my trip to Las Vegas.  My bank account on the other hand is on life support.  Thankfully I finished signing up for all my races for the year before I left. 

I may have been a bit overzealous when signing up for races, but I decided to try and take on a challenge I heard about from a contractor I work with. She's from the Boston area and her running club is doing a 13 13 13 challenge where everyone is trying to run 13 half marathons (13.1) in 2013.  I am taking some slight liberties with the challenge.  Since I'm running the Chicago Marathon I'm counting that as 2 halfs.  I'm also counting the 20K I ran for Muddy Monk Double Down as another half since let's face it, 12.4 miles through the mud we had on that day was just as tough as any half I've run.  I've created a new races page that has my updated racing schedule.

Here are the halfs I'm running for the 13 13 13 challenge:

1. 3/24/13 - Chi-Town Spring half - Completed - 1:52:57
2. 4/13/13 - Double Down 20K - Completed - 1:58:52
3. 5/19/2013 - Chicago Spring Half
4. 6/8/2013 - Allstate 13.1
5. 7/21/2013 - Rock and Roll Chicago Half
6. 7/27/2013 - Heatbreaker Half
7. 8/10/2013 - Nearly Sane Half
8. 8/25/2013 - Peapod Half Madness
9. 9/8/2013  - Chicago Half
10. and 11. - 10/13/13 - Chicago Marathon
12. 10/20/2013 - Monster Dash
13. 11/17/2013 - Rock and Roll Las Vegas

So am I crazy for taking on the challenge? Some of the races do make sense from a training standpoint.  Rock and Roll Chicago will probably be warm and run some of the same streets as the marathon.  Just 6 days later I have the Heatbreaker which is an indoor race doing loops around an ice rink.  The tired legs and monotony of the run should help prepare for the latter stages of the marathon.  Both of my August races have hills to strengthen my legs.

Anyone else joining me for the challenge? Will I see any of you at the halfs?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vacation Time!

Its time for me to head out of town for a few days.  I'm taking a much earned trip to Las Vegas.  Hopefully I won't be leaving all of my money there.  I might also be taking my longest break from running since I was sick in January.  I'll be gone 5 days.  I'm going to bring my shoes and some gear, but it is Sin City, so I don't know if I'll get a run in.

I actually won't feel too guilty if I don't get a run in.  I've been loosely following the Hansons Marathon Method training plan to get a feel for what things will be like when I actually follow the plan starting in June to train for the Chicago Marathon.  Even though I'm loosely following the plan, its really helped me increase my mileage.  In the last 2 weeks alone I've covered 87 miles which would actually rank as my 3rd highest monthly mileage ever... even though its only 2 weeks worth of runs.  I capped things off today with my longest run ever at 16 miles. The 16 miles is actually the longest run the plan has you do vs the 20 miles most marathon plans have scheduled for training.  The key difference here is you're working with cumulative fatigue from running more consecutive days and have harder days before the long run so those 16 miles feel like the last 16 of the marathon.  Your body gets used to those tired miles and adapts, hopefully making it so you never hit the wall during the actual marathon.

Anyhow... Don't miss me too much while I'm gone.  This is actually Vegas trip #1 of 2 this year.  I'm heading back for Rock n Roll Las Vegas in November.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Running 101

In light of recent events I have felt inspired to try and explain the basics of running.  I've had many messages this week asking about runners, or asking how to start running, or running tips in general.  I'm sad that it took a tragedy to spark the interest, but glad that people are taking an interest in a passion of mine.  Runners have big hearts, literally and figuratively.  I want to embrace new people into the community as the community has embraced me.

Why do we run?

Everyone runs for a different and sometimes personal reason.  Its to get in shape or as a cheap form of exercise.  Running can be therapy or an escape.  Running can be a way to enjoy nature.  It is away to make yourself a better person.  Running allows you to be part of something.

As strange as it sounds, running can also be a very solitaire and lonely pursuit.  Even those who run with clubs or with friends will often spend many miles training on their own if they have a big goal race.  Its these times where its often just the runner and their thoughts, or their music.  Sure you may pass others and give a nod, smile, or a wave, but those are just a few brief seconds. 

Its on race day that everything truly changes.  You get to the race site and are surrounded by hundreds of other people who worked and trained hard just like you did.  Everyone is united in spirit and hard work.  This is where you get to see all that hard work pay off and everyone else wants to see you do your best too.  Yes, there are many competitive runners out there, myself included, but we compete with the clock and ourselves.  You won't see much animosity between elite runners like you do at other professional sports because running is the one sport where having heart matters and chasing the competition helps you get better.

Running also allows us, as mortals to achieve and do truly extraordinary things.  This year I ran in the US Track and Field 8K championship and will be running in another USATF Road Championship series race when I run at Soldier Field Memorial Day weekend.  I've raced with Sean Astin, aka Rudy aka Samwise Gamchee aka Mikey from Goonies. I've raced under the marquee at Wrigley Field, I've run on the field at US Cellular.  I've gone storming down Navy Pier and cruised along Lake Shore Drive using foot power.  I've run with the animals at Lincoln Park Zoo.  I've run to experience life.

How Do I Start Running?

The answer to this is different for everyone.  For some its like the old saying goes, you have to walk before you can run.  It takes time and patience.  Not everyone is a natural who can lace up any old shoes and head out down the road.  You need to build up your muscles and endurance.  The best way to start is with a walking/jogging routine.  It involves jogging for a short time and then walking for a longer time.  Eventually the ratio shifts so that you are jogging more than you are walking.

Even before you go out to hit the pavement, you should make sure that you have adequate protection from the concrete.  Like I mentioned, not everyone is a natural, and not just any shoe will work for running.  Everyone has their own tastes for what kind of shoe they like whether it be cushioned or minimal or lightweight, etc.  I do recommend that anyone who truly wants to take up running should go to a specialty running store where you can be fitted.  These stores often have mini tracks or treadmills they have you run on so they can see what your feet are doing.  Some runners have neutral strides and can run in almost everything.  For most of the rest of us, we tend to roll our feet either inward or outward as it lands.  This is called pronation and there are different shoes for whether you over pronate or under pronate.  The running store clerk should be able to guide you as to which shoes work best for your feet.  The wrong kind or wrong size can lead to shin splits, knee aches, or worse.  And last but not least, choose shoes for function, not style!

Once you have your shoes, its time to hit the road.  Don't do too much at first.  You may not realize it, but you're using new muscles that need time to adapt and strengthen.  If you want to make sure that running becomes a habit you should find a race to train for.  Most people start with a 5K(3.1 miles) and work their way up to longer races.  I know the distance seems daunting at first, but it really isn't once you work through a training program that eases you up to it.  There are many resources for finding races.  In the Chicago area we have the Chicago Area Runner's Association that posts a schedule of some of the recommended races in the area.  Other good sites are and  Local running clubs will also be able to tell you about upcoming races.  Once you have found a race that you would like to do you should find a plan and make sure to follow it.  For the 5K distance the most popular program seems to be Couch 2 5K.  After training you'll get to lace up for race day and experience what the rest of us runners do.

Am I A Runner?

Anyone can become a runner.  It doesn't matter how fast or slow you are.  As long as you embrace running, you are a runner.  If you would of asked me a year ago I probably would of been hesitant to say that I was a runner.  At that point I had only run in 2 races and considered myself "slow" compared to how I ran in my youth.  As time went on I learned to embrace and love what I was doing.  It didn't matter that I couldn't run as fast as I did in high school, what mattered was that I was getting myself in shape, getting the most out of life, making new friends, becoming a better friend, and becoming a better person.

I am a runner and I welcome you to join us.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Race Recap: Muddy Monk Double Down 20K

I'm just going to come out and say it - Muddy Monk races are awesome!  I had my doubts considering the preview pictures they posted on FB before the race. I wasn't sure how I felt about running through a very muddy and wet course on a very cold day that saw a few snowflakes.  I was running the race with my friend Chris.  I talked him into it after I had a blast running Chiller in Schiller last December, which was ironically warmer than today's race in April, go figure.  The forest preserve the race was at was near my work so I knew how to get there pretty easily, but I'm used to midweek traffic so we were there a bit early which was fine since I needed to use the restroom and we could also basically sit in the warmth of the car until the race started.  Things looked promising from the start...
You know you want one.

Ah yes, this is why I run.

I think the race started on time.  I did not bring my Garmin to the race.  I think I subconsciously forgot it since I was really just running for fun today and didn't want the pressure of having a watch tormenting to push myself during the course of the run.  I actually wound up surprising myself when I saw the results.  I had intended to run with about a 10 minute pace since that is what I do on my easy runs.  Trail running also tends to be 1-2 minutes slower per mile than what you would run on the streets given the rough terrain, and on today's trail the ankle deep mud.  I was simply shocked to see that I finished in 1:58:52 for a 9:33 pace.
I'm all the way on the left, green striped shorts
I think the course sprung a leak

I had a ball during the race.  I kept things nice and steady and picked it up for the few clean and level stretches we had.  Much of the race was high kneeing it through ankle deep mud and puddles though.  This was the first time I had conversations with fellow runners while out on the course.  It was relaxing and refreshing.  It was even cooler doing the Double Down and running the course a second time.  I felt like my 2nd loop was even faster because I was already prepared for all the obstacles.

What's a little water at this point

Finishing Strong

Waiting for my post race hot dog.

Muddy Monk does things right.  After the race was over all the runners got a hot dog and a beer.  They served Finch's which is a local Chicago brewery.  I drank their Fascist Pig Red Ale which I didn't realize was 8.0% alcohol by volume until I was most of the way through it.  My the time me and Chris had our hot dogs and beers, most the post race party was cleared out.  I don't think the cold and wind helped.

 The aftermath
Post race with my medal that doubles as a bottle opener

So now that I got Chris hooked on Muddy Monk I'm looking forward to the next one.  Looking at my racing schedule though I think I'm going to have to wait until 'Merica! on July 6th in which they are promising a redneck cookout after race with beer and brats.  Who could ask for more?  If you don't have an aversion to getting a little muddy you should come join us.  There is a group discount for 5 or more runners.


Friday, April 12, 2013

When it rains it....

Gets muddy!  While some people are preparing for Boston this weekend and others train in hopes of some day qualifying, I will be capping off my biggest mileage week ever with a nice run through Dam No 1 Woods Forest Preserve for the Muddy Monk Double Down 10K and 20K.  They just posted a lovely update of the course on FB to get us all ready....

 Since I am "Doubling Down" I will get to run through this lovely puddle not once but twice!

Will anyone else be there with me?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Race Report: Shamrock Shuffle

Now that I'm in my 2nd year of running I've finally had my first repeat race.  I managed to trim nearly 2 minutes off of last year's time, but it was still a disappointing day for me running wise.  I enjoyed everything else though,  The Shuffle is such a fun event with so many runners and great support from the spectators.

So I went to the Expo for the Shuffle twice this year.  I first went on Friday night and met up with my friend Jennifer after she got off work and wandered over to the expo.  Picking up packets was pretty easy, but of course they send you entirely to the other side of the expo hall to pick up shirts.  Not that this is such a bad thing since I love looking at all the exhibits anyways.  I wound up at the Mizuno booth talking to Ryan who was also at the RRS Meetup this past Tuesday.  I realized this week that my Wave Inspire 9s are really racking up the mileage and will need replacing very shortly.  It was just convenient that they were running a sale at the expo.  Unfortunately they were out of my size.  Ryan had me try on some Wave Elixirs which felt pretty nice and fast, but I need a distance trainer right now, not a race shoe.  I told him I was coming back on Saturday and he said he'd make sure they had my size in stock.  On Saturday I went for the meet up with Maggie and Kelly.  I was a little early at the Bean so I just chilled and people watched while waiting for the girls who were delayed by a drawbridge.  Since it was just the 3 of us and Kelly is running a little less these days, we decided to walk over to the Expo after taking the obligatory reflection photos of course.

Back at the expo I followed the girls around as they seemed to know people here and there.  We also met up with Maggie's former co-worker Megan who I found out lives in my neighborhood.  She plans on running a half later this year and was asking about running groups.  I'm not in any myself yet, but I volunteered to run with her sometime if she wanted.  I went back to the Mizuno booth and got my Mizuno Wave Inspire 9s.  I also got a sweet Mizuno pint glass since beer and running go hand in hand right?

After the expo I went home and took a nap.  I spent most of the day relaxing and watching TV.  Maybe I should of been a little more active, but I wanted to be fresh for the race.

Well come race morning I felt a little off.  I figured it was race morning jitters and I'd shake it off.  It never really happened.  I met up with a couple friends and we were outside of the corrals by around 7:30 waiting for some other friends to arrive.  Around 8am we checked our bags and headed to our corrals.  While in the corrals I bent over to tie my shoe and knew then that my right hamstring wasn't going to cooperate today.

The race finally started and we were off.  I was able to get my first mile in at the pace I wanted but it felt like an uphill fight.  My lungs were willing today, but the legs were not.  Between my hamstring acting up and the first ever 15 miler I foolishly ran last Sunday I just didn't have a peak performance in me today.  Oh well, its an off day and a lesson learned.  It also means I will keep an oddity on my PR sheet... My PR pace for an 8K is 8:12 while my PR pace for a 10K is 7:42.  I know 8K races are a bit rare and I've only run 3 now, but yeah that just seems goofy to me.

After the race I waited around for my friends and had my post race beer.  I actually spotted Maggie once again and got a quick hello again as we both went off to meet friends.  After everyone in the group finished we headed off to brunch.  After brunch I took a nap and went out for another nice and slow 5 mile run.  I needed 10 miles today and hoped the slow run would help promote blood flow for the hamstring.  Luckily I don't have any "speed" races until Race to Wrigley next month.  I'm running the Muddy Monk Double Down on Saturday, but will just enjoy my time on the trails, doing it in the woods so to speak and hopefully not aggravating the hammy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

RRS Blogger Meet Up Recap

So my blog isn't very old, but I've been following many of the other runners through the Chicago Running Bloggers website for quite awhile now.  When I found out about the meet up I was a little apprehensive at first since I'm new to this whole thing and didn't know anyone yet. I'm so glad I went though since all of the fellow bloggers were quite nice.

Unfortunately I work way out in Northbrook and snuck out early just to make it for the 6PM start time.  I missed the early meet up for the fun run where everyone tried out some Mizunos.  I did arrive before they got back so I spent some time talking to the Mizuno rep about the new Evo Cursoris shoe and future developments on the way later this summer.  I already have a pair of Wave Inspire 9s in my running rotation and love them, so not going for the run in them wasn't much of a loss.  Once the running group got back, they gathered us up to tell us about the features of the store and other assorted fun.  I stood towards the edge of the group kind of nervously not knowing what to do.  Luckily after the speech was over Amanda introduced herself to me and helped get the ball rolling.

I spent the rest of the evening meeting more fellow runners like Dan, Maggie, Chris, and Bethany.  We shared stories of past races, shoe preferences, and what events we're looking forward to coming up.  Many people got fitted for shoes and some got massages that were being offered.  I've been fitted at RRS before so I didn't do it again, besides I just bought new shoes at Fleet Feet this past Saturday kind of ruining that part of the fun.  It was just really great to put some faces to blogs and see how genuinely nice everyone is in person.  I also wasn't the only first timer so that helped as well.  I can't wait to meet up with everyone again.  I promised a friend I'd do Shamrock Shuffle packet pick up on Friday, but I may still go back and join the fun with everyone on Saturday as well.  It will be a great day for a nice little fun run and hanging out with fellow enthusiasts.

And now for something different...
I took the new shoes, Newton Motions, for a nice little 5 mile jaunt tonight.  I must admit they do have a different feel to them.  I picked them up since I want to try and develop a more efficient stride and they supposedly help you to practice landing on your midfoot.  The shoe has lugs or nubs or whatever you want to call them placed right in the middle of the midfoot area.  They are quite bizarre at first and while walking in the shoes make it almost feel like your  toes are at an upward angle even though they are not.  The shoes actually have a 3mm heel drop so they are similar to minimal shoes, but with more cushioning.  It took me a little while for my stride to adjust so that I was striking the ground correctly.  I was probably putting way too much though into it.  I'm sure my pace was all over the place too as I was trying different things.  Once I got the hang of things I couldn't help putting the shoes to a speed test.  I picked a flat half mile section and went for a nice little interval run.  I made sure not to go all out, but instead tried my best to hold it to the effort I would do if I was running intervals.  Let's say I was impressed with the results, but further research is needed :)  It will probably take me a few more runs to fully get used to the shoes and the proper way to run.  I could tell later in the run that my toes were getting sore.  Newton recommends that you take time to acclimate yourself to the shoes and I thought I would be ok since I also have Brooks Pure Cadence with a similar heel drop and I also occasionally run in Vibram Five Fingers.  It turns out that I may have developed calf and foot strength, but the Newtons make me work my toes more due to the lever action caused by the nubs. Guess I'll save them for short runs for now until I get used to them.