Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

After joining the Marathon Maniacs towards the end of 2014, I decided that I was going to live up to that status in 2015 and followed through in a pretty big way. I spent the year completing 9 marathons and a 50 miler while covering 10 different states. I will finish the year with 2,000 miles running which is a huge step up from my previous high of 1477.

January - I kicked off the year by going down to Disney and running in the Dopey Challenge. I survived running a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon in that order. My time for the full wasn't even awful. This was a great confidence builder for the year to come.

February - I spent all month running like crazy on the treadmill. I was doing 50 mile weeks. I even had a short span where I was eating clean. I was feeling confident for an upcoming PR attempt at the marathon.

March - On the first day of the month I ran in the Little Rock Marathon. This was not supposed to be my PR attempt, but to date it has been my fastest marathon. I did everything wrong for this race - no taper, 11 hour drive, ate like crap, ran a hilly course, but it all worked out in the end. I took the new found confidence in speed into my next few races only to flame out in the 2nd half. I also ran Circular Logic in March, which was supposed to be the actual PR attempt and found myself way ahead of PR pace halfway in before flaming out in the 2nd half. Not bad for being only 4 weeks after the actual PR. I then ran Shamrock Shuffle the next day and didn't completely suck so that's a bonus.

April - The month was a bit of a struggle fest as I tried to recover from the dual marathons of March and shifted gears and attempted to break 20 minutes in the 5K. I ran the Good for Life Race and Ravenswood 5k getting times in the 20:XX range for both of them which were both PRs, but not that glorious sub 20 I had hoped for.

May - I originally planned to run the full in Wisconsin, but stuck to the half and was glad I did on a warm day. Stomach cramps kept me from running my best, but I still set a new half PR with the fitness gained from the crazy marathoning. Memorial Day weekend saw a fun trip to Traverse City for the spectacular Bayshore Marathon followed by lots of breweries and passing out early. Oh and then I closed on a condo and moved in.

June - Ragnar happened again. I was in a van full of girls again. I also kicked off goal marathon training having picked out Twin Cities as my fall goal race.

July - I did or didn't break 20 min at Strike Out ALS 5K depending on who you ask. The official results have me at 20:00 even, but my own watch which I thought I stopped a bit after the finish line had me at 19:59.9. I also headed to Colorado and ran the gorgeous Aspen Valley Marathon. The altitude was a little rough at the start, but I found myself doing pretty well for a flat lander.

August - The month of struggles. I had to deal with re-building after a hamstring strain likely caused by compensating for sore quads that were beat up by running downhill in Aspen. I also went to Lollapalooza for the first time ever and saw Paul McCartney for the 2nd time. I also saw the Foo Fighters at Wrigley which was amazing.

September - I was back on track for the most part and set a huge new PR in the Lung Run 10K. It was a windy day on a crowded lakefront course so there's likely improvements still to be had. I did 2 5Ks and the 10K in an 8 day window and wound up getting sick, uh oh.

October - The craziness begins. I was still reeling from being sick and didn't do well in Twin Cities. It didn't help that I also twisted my ankle early in the race. Somehow I managed to heal pretty quickly and still ran my first ever 50 miler at the DPRT just 2 weeks later. If I thought my first marathon was tough, oof, the first 50 miler beat me up.

November - The month kicked off with the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon and my legs were just not ready for the hills. I started off well enough, but struggled into the finish. Just 2 weeks later and I was in Vegas running in the wind and rain - wut? Another struggle fest, but followed by lots of fun. I managed to get sick in time to run Route 66 the following weekend. I didn't run my worst time ever which is always a bonus.

December - I've been racking up miles on the treadmill, slowly rebuilding and trying to get enough mileage in to hit that 2K mark. Just one last 3 mile run on New Years Eve and I'll be there.

All in all 2015 was a pretty epic year. Hopefully 2016 is just as good or better. I've already registered for a number of marathons, though not as many as this year. I learned some lessons and limitations of what I'm able to do. Here's to staying injury free and crossing off more states!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Race Recap: Route 66 Marathon

When I last left you I was a bit weary and wind battered by the RnR Vegas Marathon. I stayed in Vegas for the rest of the week and continued on with my shenanigans. Towards the end of the week I could feel illness coming on. I flew out Friday morning to head to Tulsa, OK and by the time I arrived I knew it wasn't going to be a pretty weekend. I took the shuttle to my hotel, found a nearby Subway, grabbed a sandwich and called it a day.

On Saturday I slowly gathered myself and my strength, which was definitely fleeting, and got an Uber over to the race expo. When I entered the expo hall I was immediately alarmed by how long the lines are. I sighed, and got in line, but it actually moved fairly quickly. There wasn't any division for picking up bibs, it was just go to next available person. I feel like things go quicker when there is an alphabet or bib number division. Packet pick up was definitely longer than most races I've run. I wandered around the expo a bit and picked up my bracelet for the Maniacs corner and got myself a new Maniac shirt while I was at it. I found an excellent BBQ place nearby, Rib Crib, and managed to barely eat a couple bones of ribs and some brisket. I then headed back to the hotel to barely move again.

Race morning I was feeling marginally better. I think a lot of it had to do with race day adrenaline. My hotel had a shuttle to the start that I jumped on and it took us to the wrong drop off point. Luckily I spotted Amanda and Jude and we found a bus to the start. Next we had to find the Maniac Corner which wasn't too hard. We all huddle up frozen by the unseasonable cold temps. Luckily the corner had our own gear check so we could hold on to our jackets for a bit longer. Soon Mo popped up and then after that we all headed over for the ginormous Maniac group picture.

Mo, Judy, and myself were all in the A corral. Judy was going to drop back to run with Amanda, but they were actually strict about enforcing corrals. We huddle towards the back of the corral with no one planning on running fast. It didn't take long before we were on our way and up our first hill.

The course rolled and turned early on. I knew to expect it to be hilly, but I didn't realize how much it actually rolled. The support was definitely solid along the course. I started wondering when I would start to see the bootleg booze aid stations I kept hearing about before the race. Sure enough at mile 4 there was a rickety table set up with a sign that said free shots and I noticed handles of Bacardi and Smirnov on the ground nearby. It was definitely too early to do a shot, but if there was ever a race to drink, it's the 5th marathon in 7 weekends, right?

I refrained from grabbing a shot and kept running along with Mo. We had lost Judy at some point. Mo said she wasn't going to drink until at least mile 10, but soon broke that. At mile 9 there was a table full of jello shots so she grabbed one and I grabbed a craft beer from the table next to it. It was a bit hoppy, but went down pretty well. I kept with Mo until around the halfway point and then I needed to use the facilities and told her I'd see her at Maniac Corner. I wound up with some stomach distress and stopping again a few miles later before finally settling down. At some point there was a shopping cart full of PBR and people handing out cups, so of course I had to grab one of those as well.

I cruised along for awhile and met Sabrina, who is in charge of organizing the pace groups for Marathon Maniacs. Somewhere around mile 20 or so my legs decided they were about done and I started walking the uphills. At mile 22 there was the "party zone" where a local frat set up a table with Guinness, mimosas, M&Ms, pickles, etc. I grabbed a mimosa and enjoyed it. The next 4 miles were a bit of a struggle, but I trekked on. Just after mile 26 is a unique feature that this race offers called the Detour to the Center of the Universe. I have no idea what that's all about, but if you add 0.3 miles to your race you can get a medallion and a beer. I was down.

I made the turn for the Detour and it was a nice steep uphill to start before an equally steep downhill. I make it to the bottom and grab my beer. At this point I had realized that if I picked up the pace just a little I could finish the race without getting my worst time ever, even with the detour. Even though I was handed roughly half a solo cup of Michelob Ultra, which face it, it's basically water anyways, I quickly chugged it and stormed back up the hill. Somehow I didn't puke and picked up my medallion and was on my way. I didn't want to stick the medallion in my pocket for fear of losing it so I held it in my hand for the last bit of the race. As we neared the finish area I saw the Bart Yasso was on the course with a microphone cheering on the runners to the finish line. I came storming in with all I had left and Bart gave me a hear comes a Maniac cheer as I ran by.

I managed to cross the finish in roughly 90 seconds faster than my all time worse. Not bad for how beat up and sick I was. I ignored most the amenities at the finish since the Maniacs had their own tent and goodies. I wish I had picked up some snacks though since there wasn't as much at the tent as I though. Just beer and pulled pork. After getting my gear, medal, and polishing off a Pepsi I found Mo and we caught the shuttle back to my hotel to shower before heading to the airport. Thankfully the race negotiated 3PM checkouts.

With the gauntlet of races complete, I now have a better understanding of how much my body can handle. I made it through injury free, except for the sore ankle for a bit after Twin Cities. I just had to deal with being super sick for 2 weeks after the races. I should have known better since the dry air in Vegas always messes with my sinuses and then Route 66 while knowing I was already sick didn't help at all. Would I do it again? Most definitely, but maybe not with such an intense stretch of races. I seem to do OK with marathons a week or 2 apart, but I think the 50 miler as the 2nd race definitely put me for a loop.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

RnR Las Vegas 2015 Recap

The Rock and Roll event in Las Vegas has quickly become an annual event for me. This is the 3rd time I have gone as a runner and the 2nd time I've run the full marathon. I mean it's Las Vegas and I love visiting Vegas.

I arrived in town very early on Saturday, taking the earliest flight out of Chicago. This is both good and bad since anticipation means I barely sleep on Friday night. I've got the routine down now at the airport and was quickly able to grab my bag and book a shuttle to my hotel. I was staying at the MGM Grand this year which is the largest hotel in Vegas. I got there and waited in a short line before being helped. I splurged on early check-in which normally allows you to check-in at 10AM, but they were kind enough to give me a room a little after 9AM. I headed up and dropped my stuff off before changing and heading down to the workout room for a quick session on the treadmill.

Once Mo and J arrived in town, I headed over to New York - New York to meet up with them were we grabbed lunch at Shake Shack before taking the monorail up to the Expo Center.  The Expo for this race is what I would call organized chaos. It's big, noisy, and crowded, but we were able to grab our bibs and shirts without waiting too long. We made a quick stroll through the expo before the crowds got to us. From there we went and explored the SLS as none of us had been there yet before heading to the Linq and TAG Sports Bar for some video poker and craft beers. I set a new PR for the amount of beer drank the day before a marathon. I knew I'd be paying for it, but didn't really care since this wasn't a race I was doing for time.

On Sunday we spent most of the early part of the day at the Time Square Bar sucking down cokes, playing video poker, and watching all the football games. Eventually we headed over to Americas for lunch before I headed back to my room to chill until race time. There's something about a 4:30 PM start that throws you off a bit, but it's nice to have that time to just chill out and take a nap if you want. Soon enough I was getting dressed and making my way down to the start. Along the way I made friends with a couple girls from Milwaukee who were completely at a loss for where to go. Also picked up bits of sound from the Kid Rock concert along the way.

I found Mo waiting near corral 7. I went and used the facilities one last time before we jumped into the corral and waited for the start. There were announcements about having the option to switch to the half if we wanted due to the wind conditions. We looked at each other and were like "huh?" since it didn't seem all that bad out. It wasn't long before we were off and running. We stayed nice and steady early on. Once we looped around the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and headed back north the wind did start to pick up, but it was blowing across instead of directly into our faces. It was blowing a considerable amount of sand at us, but luckily the large casinos blocked most of that.

It wasn't long before we felt a few drops and the sky looked very ominous. We pass by J and Mo's dad on the bridge and I looked foolish for a couple of pictures. Running along the strip early in the race is very crowded, but we made our way along. It wasn't long before the skies opened up and it started raining. Yes, in Las Vegas, during the marathon we experienced rain and it wasn't just a sprinkle either. We kept ticking off the miles at a very steady pace and I let Mo know that if we kept this up we would have her 2nd sub-4 hour marathon. This is when she let me know she wasn't feeling it and was ready to drop down to the half, which she did eventually do.

After the course split I used the facilities as has become tradition as well. I felt better and picked up the pace for a bit. I did notice that the mile marker seemed to be about 0.2 miles off after being fairly on point according to my watch earlier in the race. I cruised along until we hit a steady uphill out and back section where I slow my pace a bit. Once I hit the turnaround ready to enjoy the downhill the wind hit me hard. It would be unrelenting for most the rest of the way to the finish.

The back half of the Vegas course isn't very exciting. They throw some lights up in sections and have some DJs and whatnot, but it doesn't hold the same thrill as running down the strip. I periodically chatted with other runners to help keep the spirits up. My splits slowly faded, but I grew too stubborn to slow to a walk. There was a band that was playing Blitzkrieg Bop around 23.5 that helped get me going again and I pushed my way down the last 3 miles before finishing. The course did wind up being 0.2 miles long as confirmed by other runners so it wasn't just me. I hurt right after finishing since pushing through that brutal wind didn't help at all. I was glad to be done though and the 4:04:53 could have been much much worse.

I'm signed up already for next year and will be ready for redemption.

Awesome PBR Neon downtown Vegas

Sadly I do get hangovers

Great local brewery