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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Race Recap: Chicago 10K

Here I am managing to post back to back days in this blog.  That's almost as impressive as the back to back races.  I signed up for the race on a whim after several other friends said they were doing it.  I figured that racking up the race mileage would be good practice at some point.  I think in 2015 I want to do the Dopey Challenge so this is a good early test to see how my body reacts.

After the half on Saturday I napped pretty heavily and moved around minimally.  Sunday morning I was up bright at early - even earlier than I did for the half out in the burbs.  I met a friend at the bus stop then we picked up Jennifer along the route.  It was still pretty quite at Grant Park when we got there so we used the facilities before any line formed.  It definitely felt warm out and I was already starting to sweat a little just standing around.  Our other friend eventually met up with us at gear check and we hung out until the race started.  Soon enough we headed to the start corrals and I broke off from the girls and headed towards the faster corrals.

It was kind of nice once I got up to the 7:30 pace group and saw lots of open room.  I don't like being packed in like cattle.  I also knew there was no way I was going to run a 7:30 pace so I hung out in the back of the group and was hoping to keep it around an 8 minute mile.  After the national anthem we were off.  My legs were not happy with me.  They were sore, stiff, and heavy.  I was a struggle at first to get my feet high enough to clear all the cracks in the sidewalk.  Halfway through the first mile my ankle started to scream in pain.  I eased my pace and tried to settle into a nice jog to compensate.  A little over a mile in I was still in rough shape and contemplated walking.  I told myself there was no way I was walking 5 miles, it would take forever - you're gutting this out!  Soon after I got to the first water station and walked through it making sure to drink enough water on the sun exposed course.  I soon started running again with some difficulty.  My first 2 miles clocked in at 8:10 and 8:53.  Sometime during the 3rd mile my body finally relaxed and I could start to run with a bit more ease.  I still walked through the next water station, but I was no longer struggling.  My pace started to pick up a little and miles 3 and 4 were at 8:34 and 8:32 respectively.

Once I was in the final stretch of the race I told myself I could pick up the pace even more and see how things react.  My body started taking it pretty well.  Not even the sun was bothering me.  I don't know if my body just turned off pain receptors or what.  I still wasn't anywhere near top speed, but was running a respectable pace that I would probably maintain if I were doing mile repeats.  Mile 5 was done in 8:04.  I kept up the same pace for a bit and told myself that I would kick it into gear after the last water stop.  I once again lollygagged my way through the water stop and then did just like I said I would and booked the 6th mile in 7:59.  I pushed even hard for the last .2 miles, even though it was uphill, and ran that portion at a 7:24 pace.  It was kind of nice knowing I could still kick things into gear temporarily after 19 racing miles in a weekend.  I sure hope that holds true in 2 months at the Chicago Marathon.

It seems like medals for 10Ks are the new it thing.  The medals at this race were some seriously big bling.  It kind of makes up for the nicely designed, but unfortunately cotton shirt given out.  There was an option to upgrade to a tech tee for another $5, but for someone who races as much as me, I've got enough of those as it is.  The medal is monstrous though, it dwarfs many medals I've gotten for halfs.

Here is the size comparison between my Chicago 10K and Nearly Sane Trail Half medals I got this weekend.

The Chicago 10K was an alright event.  It felt a little crowded out on the course and its a route run by many races so it is getting a bit overdone.  The medals were definitely a great design with the "EL" train background.  This would strictly be a race to have fun at and not one to try and set a PR.  Or its a good race to do something dumb like me and run back to back races.

I managed to run another 7 miles Monday night bringing my 3 day total to 26.3 miles completed in 3:53 which is a nice confidence boost knowing my goal is to break 4 hours for the marathon.  My ankle acted up a bit during Monday's run as well so I am switching my Wednesday off day with my Tuesday speed day to give it a short break.  Seems like there is a rash of injuries going around with Declan and Pete also dealing with issues.  I'm not going to overreact at this point though.  I know the joint is just a little inflamed from the uptick in hard miles recently.  I just need to run a little easier for a bit and warm up longer to let things loosen up.  I couldn't help but consult Dr Google who let me know I may have a condition that leaves me more at risk to ankle/heel/Achilles/shin injuries than most people.  There is a bone in my foot that sticks out a little further than it should which indicates I have either Accessory Navicular or just a dislocated Navicular bone.  Neither would be really fun since it causes extra stress to be placed on the tendon there which controls your arch.  It explains so much since I've had issues with plantar fasciitis  in just this foot and have a greater tendency to get shin splits or a sore ankle on just my right side and not the left.  It also wouldn't be surprising if its the Accessory Navicular since I have already had an extra wisdom tooth(yes I had 5) removed as well as an extra ligament in my knee removed as well.  Yes I'm a bit of a mutant, but without all the cool superpowers, just ones that injuries or pain.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Race Recap: Nearly Sane Trail Half

For this week's adventures I decided to try something new - I ran not 1, but 2 races this weekend.  Not only that, I ran a half marathon and a 10K so I covered a decent amount of ground.  The first event was the Nearly Sane Trail Half put on by the great folks at Muddy Monk up in Vernon Hills.

I woke up bright and early and made the trek from the city up to the far north.  I had opted for race day packet pick up since I didn't want to zig zag across the city getting packets for both races if I didn't need to.  I got to the race site and the starting area was stationed behind a mini mall.  This was a typical Muddy Monk event which meant a low key affair.  Getting my packet was nice and easy and then I headed to get in line for the port-a-potties.  The line was long so I decided I wanted to get my race gear together first so I headed back to my car and switched shoes and got my hydration belt settled and put my bib on.  I headed back and got back in line for the bathroom.  I think they need more than 4 next time considering the line was long up until race time.  I chatted with a couple other runners in line who were doing this as their first ever trail run.  I gave them a bit of a heads up on what to expect.

Soon after we were lining up and away we went.  We had an initial bottleneck as everyone tried to get through a narrow path and onto the trail.  In a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one, the trail was pretty much crushed limestone and dirt the entire time.  It was feeling pretty warm in the sun so I was kind of ok not dealing with the single track mess of dodging roots and jumping creeks and all that.  The worst we had was getting out of the way of bikers, horses, and their droppings - the horses', not the bikers.  The course was set up to be a double loop which turned out to be very important for me since I totally forgot to bring my watch.  I didn't want to toy with the GPS on my phone either so I ran blind. I did the entire run by feel and estimated where I was based on water stations and turnaround spots.

I started off the run at a fairly modest pace.  This worked well for me back at Double Down so I figured I'd go with it again.  I wasn't running for time since I knew I had 2 races to get through.  About a mile or so in an older gentleman went flying past me in an arm flailing furry and legs going every which way while wheezing like crazy.  I knew there was no way he was keeping up that pace.  Later as I neared the first turnaround the lead runners came flying back the other way.  There was one guy who was hooting and hollering and giving high 5s to ever runner as he headed back.  You got to love the spirit in that guy.  I also saw the 2 guys I had talked to earlier doing pretty well.  After I made the turnaround I hit a spot around 3.5 miles(there was randomly a 3 and 4 mile marker, but no others) I hit a spot where I just felt completely drained.  My body was like meh, we're doing a lot of running this weekend, you can walk some.  I didn't walk though, I kept going and soon felt my energy come back.

I finally hit the turnaround to head back out again and this time I had a better idea of how far things were and what to expect so I kicked things into a higher gear.  Since I had no watch I had no idea what my pacing was.  It was just hard enough to where I could still talk and wasn't breathing too hard.  I started playing the roadkill game for the second half.  I know this is only supposed to be done during long relays, but hey it kept me mentally engaged while allowing me to push myself a little bit.  I wound up with 20 "kills" during the second loop of the course and was only passed by 2 other runners.  I definitely passed the guy who was wheezing, even before completing the first loop.  I also passed the 2 young guys who I had talked to before the race.  One was having issues with the heat.  Eventually I made it to the finish for my spastic finish line picture.

I still have some work to do on getting the posing down.  As I was gathering myself and grabbing water after the race I ran into a girl who live on the floor of my dorm in college and we caught up a bit.  It turns out she's been a big runner and did her first marathon earlier this year in Paris.  Now that would be quite the cool trip - mind you I spent 5 months living in France and many weekends of that 5 months in Paris so I learned the city quite well, but still!  She's doing a half in Salem, MA next month - too bad its not October since then you would obviously dress as a witch for the run.  The post race spread featured more goodies than you could ever want as well as food from Chubby Wiener and beer from Lucky Monk.  I settled on 2 bottles of water since I can never seem to get food down after a hot run.

I love the design of the shirt - nice, simple, clean.  The medal is fine too - although it does get outshined by the Chicago 10K meda.  Tune back in tomorrow to read the race recap for the Chicago 10K!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Would You Like To Run A Relay?

So I encountered a wonderfully hilarious video over the weekend and thought it would make for a great intro for my next blog post.

I've never actually run a relay.  I was asked if I wanted to join a Ragnar team last year, but was already committed to the 13.1 half - which was my first ever half marathon at the time.  I've now run 9 halfs and numerous other races and am training for my first marathon.  I think next year I will need a new challenge to tackle and there are some pretty interesting races within reasonable driving distance.  I figured I'd post about some of them and see if anyone want to take the plunge next year.

Icebreaker Indoor Marathon Relay - Milwaulkee, WI - January 25th, 2014
I figured I would start chronologically.  With this event you get to do laps around a 445 meter indoor track switching off between a team of 2-4 runners as many times as you like.  I recently ran a half marathon at the same venue and its not as bad as one would think.  You also really get to cheer your teammates on as you will see them every 1/4 mile.  The event is held on a Saturday afternoon.  For those who are masochist there is also a morning half marathon and a full solo marathon on Sunday.

Mad City Race for Ages 50K Relay - Madison, WI - April 19th, 2014
This relay features a 10K loop through the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and along the shores of Lake Wingra.  Each team can have 2-5 runners with each runner completing at least one 10K loop.  The prizes are awarded according to the combined age of everyone in the group.  There is also a solo 100K race for the adventurous.

Dances With Dirt Gnaw Bone Extreme Relay - Nashville, IN - May 2014
Do you like to do your relays with some trails thrown in?  This looks like your race.  Up to 5 runners get to split 55 miles of legs with names like The Plunge, The Graveyard, and Devil's Daughter. Once again, for the adventurous there are 50M and 50K solo runs as well as marathon, half marathon, and 10K distances.

Grin and Bear It 50K - Lowell, MI - May 2014
This is a solo and relay 50K event.  The website doesn't give many details other than the distance was shortened from 100K because the course was too tough.

24 Hours at Sunset Relay - Valparaiso, IN - June 2014
This is a relay of a different sort.  You can enter as an individual, team of 2, or team of 10.  The objective of this race is to complete as many 5K loops as you can as a team within the allotted 24 hour time period.  The event also features a beer garden, fireworks, rally tents, and campsite.

Third Coast Relay - Holland, MI - June 2014
A 12 man relay team runs from Holland, Michigan following the lakefront 200+ miles all the way up to beautiful Traverse City.  This relay is set up much like Ragnar, but without all the marketing.  There are van decorating contests and everything.

Fred Meijer 200M Trail Relay - Comstock Park, MI - August 2014
This race is named after the former chairman of Meijer grocery stores and features 36 legs or "spurs" as they call them that range from 2 - 9 miles a piece on the trail and pavement.  The event features its own lingo as teams are either Ultra Crews (6 runners) or Yard Crews (7-12 runners) and user train themed team names.

There are certainly plenty of alternative races out there for those who want a change of pace.  As fun as those neighborhood 5Ks are and that big half marathon is - sometimes things to be shaken up and we need a bit of a challenge.  Hopefully next year I'll get to participate in an event or two.