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!