Friday, August 12, 2016

Chicago Marathon 2016 Training Update

Finishing the Carmel Marathon in April
I came up a mere 21 seconds short of a 2:59:59 marathon in Carmel in April. Since then, I have doubled down on my efforts to help ensure that I will be fit enough to give myself a chance at redeeming myself in October at the Chicago Marathon. In order for redemption, I have changed my normal marathon training plan in only one regard:

Run more miles than ever before. A lot more miles.

Not faster miles, not miles at any particular pace - but a lot of miles at any pace. It was an audacious plan which has been difficult due to this summer being relatively hot and humid one in Chicago. As someone who dreams and loves running in the arctic chill, these are not ideal temps to be hammering out 80+ mile weeks. But, you know what? I am trying not to complain. So I put my head down and power through the goop. If I have a 10 mile run planned for the middle of the day, I get outside, start running and then mentally countdown the miles remaining until I can take a cold shower, chug a glass of ice cold water and lounge in an air conditioned room when I get home. If it's gonna be hot on race day, I'm at least giving myself a chance by not cowering from the heat during training.

Anyway, here is a comparison of my 22 week training mileage from my previous two marathons (Chicago 2015 and Carmel 2016) mapped against my current training plan for Chicago:

The green line is actual + forecast for my 2016 Chicago Training (taper is on the right - weeks 20,21,22)

For those of you keeping track at home here are the totals:

I'm running 45.8% more miles this time around
So, if everything goes to plan, I will be putting in over 45% more mileage in the lead up to the Chicago Marathon in October than I did in the lead up to the Carmel Marathon in April. Here's hoping that that will translate into at least 21 second faster result. Fingers crossed for decent weather conditions and that I come up with a proper pace and fueling plan!

I'm going to take a three week taper this year and am planning on taking a cutback week soon. So, I only have four more weeks of high mileage remaining. It's almost here...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon 2016 - Race Recap

I had long ago filed my half marathon PR of 1:23:53 in my "Unbreakable PR" folder. In a single race in May 2010, I annihilated my half PR by taking 14 minutes off of my previous time of 1:37:29. I have vivid memories of running the last mile of the 2010 Indy Mini with my legs feeling fresh and flying down the long final stretch. In fact, that moment was so euphoric - it's my favorite running memory ever. It was one of those rare moments in life when the impossible became possible.

Celebrating my impending PR
at the Indy Mini 2010 (1:23:53)

For the past six years, I've been chasing a new PR, but come up short in the 20 subsequent slower half marathons since.

Before my 21st PR attempt at the 2016 Rock n Roll Half, my chances of a PR were looking good. Coming into the race I had trained more than ever before, and I knew from the race conversion tables that a PR was within reach. In fact, the McMillan site predicted a 1:22:00 half based on my most recent 10k time. So, I knew I needed to just arrive to the starting line rested and in one piece, and if I played the pacing game correctly, I could likely cross the finish line and do what I hadn't done in six years and 20 attempts at the distance.

It didn't hurt things that the course is my favorite half marathon course which I look forward to tackling. The main drawback to RnR Chicago is that it usually takes place on one of the hottest days of the year. However, it does start at 6:30 a.m., so the first 45 minutes is usually in the shade. Luckily, this year the forecast called lower than normal temps - it was "only" 70 degrees at the start.

Time goal: First and foremost I wanted to PR so I knew I'd need to run a 6:21/mile pace at the slowest. I also knew the McMillan predicted time might also be in reach so I could allow myself to run 6:14/mile at the fastest.

Age Group goal: I noticed that a sub-1:28:00 would have gotten me first place in my age group in last year's RnR Half, so I thought that if things played out like last year, I might have a shot at at least a top 3 AG placement.

I woke up at 3:45. After breakfast, I packed my race bag and drove down to "my" parking lot about 1/4 mile from Grant Park. I used SpotHero for the first time and only paid $10 for a parking space. Anyway, once I walked over to the race, I used the more-than-ample facilities, got a start line picture...
At the start line before the race
...and then checked my bag. I did a 3/4 mile shakeout run on the sidewalk along Lake Shore Drive. As race start time got closer, I headed over to the first corral for the race to start. The "wheels start" went off a few minutes before the general 6:30 start and I noticed there was a woman pushing a baby stroller in the wheels group! I would see her later on during the race.
Start of the race (I'm at the tip of the red arrow with the green hat) (src)
A few minutes later our corral started and we were off!

The Race:
Miles 1 through 3:  My goal was to start the race at a 6:40/mile clip. However, this year there were 10k runners mixed in with the half marathoners, so loads of people shot out in front of me. It was tempting to speed up and join the fun, and I probably did a little bit of that as my first mile was around a 6:20. I was carrying a water bottle - that way I could blow through the aid stations early on and drink whenever I wanted. 6:19/mile
Mile 2 over the State St. Bridge
carrying my water bottle
Miles 4 through 6: This was the western-most portion of the race which leads down Madison Street, over the bridge a couple of blocks there and back. There were lots of spectators cheering us on as we headed down State Street, but once we veered onto Lake Street under the Green Line tracks, it became pretty quiet. I was enjoying the relative silence since I never experience the Loop without noise (except for this race). 6:13/mile

Miles 7 through 9: Did I mention the sky was covered with clouds and there was a strong wind blowing from the South? Probably not, because I didn't notice how strong the wind was until this section. It was a headwind, which meant if I played it safe now, I would be able to take advantage of the tailwind for the return trip to the finish. We left the Loop and ran by Grant Park southbound on Michigan Ave. This is one of my favorite parts of the course as it covers some of the last three miles of the Chicago Marathon in reverse direction. I finally took the last swig from my water bottle then ditched it at an aid station. Just like the Hot Chocolate 15k course, this race burns up a mile by running a boring out and back down MLK Drive before heading out to the lake. So much for course creativity! At that point, I noticed that the woman who was running with the stroller was ahead of me and really flying at a fast clip. I was amazed that she could go so fast pushing a stroller. Lots of people were yelling encouragement to her since it was surprising to see a stroller moving so fast. After about a half mile of following her, I slowly passed her and she shouted out "nice job!" to me as I passed! I could only muster a hand wave back to her as my breathing was labored. I would find out later that not only was she Julia Webb, wife of racing legend Alan Webb, but she also broke the stroller half marathon world record at the race! 6:17/mile

Miles 10 through 12: I was super happy to make the turn northbound on Ft. Dearborn Drive (which runs parallel to the Lakefront Trail) because now the headwind was a strong tailwind out of the south. I started to really push myself to speed up as we joined forces again with the 10k runners once again. They were supposed to be in a separate lane marked by pylons, but I did have to swerve a couple of times as some of them ran or walked around the pylons and into the half marathon lane. Anyway, I was slowly gaining on a woman running the half marathon, but every time I would think I was gaining on her, she poured on the speed and remained ahead. I dumped a cup of water on my head and it got my sunglasses' lenses wet, so I took them off and carried them. 6:09/mile

Miles 13 and 13.17  I was trying to figure out how I was doing relative to my goals, but my math skills were mostly out the window at this point so I focused on maintaining a decent pace. I felt like I could fade at any moment, so as a confidence boost, I thought back to the 100 mile week that I ran 14 days before and told myself that the fitness gains from that week would help me maintain my pace over the final stretch. In fact as we crested the last on-ramp to get back onto the downhill straightaway on Columbus Drive, I started to really speed up. The woman who was in front of me also turned on the jets and we both flew down the final stretch, although she continue to maintain her 20 yard lead. 
Totally serious as I run the last few yards...
finally starting to celebrate...
and finished!
Elated after six years and 20 attempts -
 a new half PR!
I threw my arms overhead and was finished! 5:53/mile


Official Time: 1:21:54
Official Pace: 6:15/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:13/mile

Place Age Group: 3rd out of 480 (AG Goal accomplished!)
Place Overall: 46 out of 11,016

Analysis: PR by two minutes! My "unbreakable PR" has finally been broken! The McMillan table was almost spot on again. There was only a six second difference between their predicted time and my actual time! Here are some other stats I cobbled together:

  • First 6.55 miles were run in 41:15
  • Final 6.55 miles were run in 40:39 (sweet negative splits, how I love thee)
  • First mile was a 6:20
  • Final mile was a 5:57
  • First 5k was run in 19:51
  • Final 5k was run in 18:36
All-in-all I think I ran as fast as I could given the conditions and my one week taper. If I had tapered longer or it had been 10 degrees cooler, maybe I could have run 30 seconds faster, but that's about it.

Post Race: 
I slowly walked down the finishers' chute and collected my medal.

After exiting the finisher's chute and getting my bag at gear check, I changed into dry clothes. Soon thereafter, I bumped into Annabelle and we walked over to the beer garden. Not more than a few minutes after getting our beers from the bar, the band on stage announced lightning was headed our way, so instead of pressing my luck with possible electrocution just to drink a can of Michelob Ultra, I decided to leave and offered Annabelle a ride home. We got into the garage just in time, because as soon as we drove out onto Lake Shore Drive, it started to rain cats and dogs.

The Future: 
Now it's time to focus solely on training to set myself up for a great Chicago Marathon. I just need to keep doing what I'm doing and I should be able to do well there. So, Grant Park - I'll see you again in October!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dennis Krzykowski Memorial 5K (aka DK5K) Run 2016: Race Recap

On the Fourth of July I ran a hilly race called the DK5K in Cedarburg, WI. I've entered the race several times over the past seven years and it's the hilliest 5k I've ever run. The first mile has an uphill start then a long descent before another uphill jaunt into mile two. Mile three has several steep uphill climbs lasting a few blocks which lead back to the start. In any case as I've mentioned before, this race is a treat -  it's undulating terrain is a welcome change from flat-as-a-pancake courses. The race also pays dividends to runners who play it smart the first two miles in order to keep some fuel in the tank for the final uphill mile. I didn't have much hill training prior to the race but I hoped that the high mileage training I had done over the previous two months would pay off for me.
Cedarburg Mural
Elevation Chart: Note the two big hills in mile 3
The morning of the race, I drove from my hotel through downtown Cedarburg where residents had lined the streets with hundreds of empty lawn chairs in order to reserve spaces for their three hour 4th of July parade spectacular. I parked about 100 yards from the start line and went for a 4.5 mile warm-up run. During my warm-up I ran part of the course and tried to take the downhills and uphills gradually to condition my legs for the race. After I started to work up a decent sweat, I slowed down and ran up to the registration desk where I plunked down $30 in cash for my race entry and t-shirt.

This is a no-frills race and as such, there were no timing chips. So in order not to give away seconds - I lined up right at the starting line. The gun sounded and we were off!
Balloon start line at the DK5K. Yes, it is an uphill start!
Mile 1:
The first two hundred yards is up a steep hill, followed by a long descent of about a half a mile. A few high school speedsters shot out in front never to be seen again. Another seven runners were between them and me. I had to be careful and hold back once we started downhill because I did not want to over pound my legs (especially my shins). I injured myself in the 2010 version of this race by flying too fast on the downhill portions. I was in tenth place. 5:59/mile.

Mile 2:
This mile is the flattest on the course, and actually probably a net downhill. I began to slowly hopscotch a couple of runners. I may have sped up just a little too much at this point, wasting energy that I should have been saving for the big inclines ahead. But since this mile is relatively flat I didn't fear pounding my legs into an injury so I let them fly. I was in sixth place.  5:48/mile.

Mile 3:
This is the "Mile of Doom" as it's 3/4 of a mile of uphill running. There are two uphill stretches - one 1/4 mile and the other 1/2 mile that take runners near the finish. There was a group of four of us running dead even as we turned up Spring Street for the start of the final half mile of the race. I knew that it was going to be a war of attrition up the hill. As a confidence boost I told myself that I would beat the other three on the hill because I doubted that any one of them had also run 100 miles the week before. Advantage = me! I contemplated when I should make my move and try to shake the other three. I slowly sped up at the halfway point of the hill and only one of the three guys answered my surge and he kept right along side me. I didn't want to chance a finish line sprint with him, so I mustered all of my fading energy into a second surge and turned on the jets right before the top of the hill. Then I kept pouring on the speed when things flattened out. Suddenly I was alone. I couldn't hear the footfalls of the other runners. I had passed an intersection so I thought maybe I had mistakenly made a wrong turn!?  If I had taken a wrong turn, it was too late to go back, so I kept chugging along. 6:01/mile.

Mile 3.1
Still by myself, I made another turn and saw the finish line ahead. The last 175 yards are entirely downhill. I made a mad dash down the hill lest someone come out of nowhere to challenge me. I crossed the finish line and I handed a race official the strip from the bottom of my bib and was done!  5:05/mile.

My Results: 
  • Official Time: 18:20
  • Age Group: 1st out of 12+
  • Overall: 3rd out of 183
This was by far my fastest DK5K since the I started running it in 2010. This isn't a PR course so I was basically gunning for overall placement and I did well in that regard by coming in third. I'm also happy that my fitness basically carried me up the steep hills despite have little or no "hill muscles". I guess having lots of endurance training can help conquer hills. Anyway, I love this race just for the challenging topography alone. It's fun to mix things up (occasionally) when racing!

Post Race:
After stopping momentarily in the finishing chute to hand a race official the strip from the bottom of my bib, I continued to run. In fact I ran another 3.5 miles as a cool down. By the time I stopped for the awards ceremony I had logged a total mileage of 11 miles for the day. At the awards ceremony, I got my age group medal and then went back to the car to return to the hotel. All-in-all it was a great way to kick off my Fourth of July festivities!

Next Up: Rock 'n Roll Half Chicago on Sunday!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Grim Mile 2016 Race Recap

Racing a mile is fun. The gun sounds and then its a mad dash for 5 minutes. It's extra fun to race a mile on a track. The crowd can watch and cheer the entire race without leaving their seats. For me it's the "official" way to race a mile. Just ask Roger Bannister!

This was the second time I've raced a mile this year and the second time I've raced the Grim Mile. In the 2015 version, I won my age group. This year, I would be drafted into competing in the elite race!

After a two mile hot shakeout run in my neighborhood (temps were already in the 80s). I drove five miles due west of my house and arrived at the Luther North High School track where there was a nice shady parking spot facing the track. I went in the high school's gym and got my bib and race shirt (no singlet like last year). They told me that instead of the age group race they wanted me to race in the elite division race! So, I figured why not? Maybe I would get swept up with the fast crowd which would help my chances for a PR. Anyway, I went outside where they were holding the heats for kids and teenagers, giving free massages and serving up free pancakes and sausage at the concession stand. 
Waiting at the concession stand!
Just like last year, this was a casual race which is more than just a little reminiscent of a high school track meet where the only distance is one mile. The track itself was old school, pre-metric, so each lap was a quarter mile, instead of the standard 400m, which meant that we had only to do exactly four laps. 

Just before my heat, I did a few pickups and ran an additional half mile. I got pretty hot doing so, so I went over and sat in the shade for a few minutes to try and cool down.

Finally around 10:45, it was time for the elite race!

The start line!
According to McMillan's calculator, based on my 10k time from last weekend, I was in 5:07 shape, but what fun is a 5:07? My goal instead would be a 4:59! So, in order to hit that number I planned my quarter mile splits to be:

1:18, 1:16, 1:14 and 1:12

If all went according to this plan, it would hopefully result in a sub-5:00 mile. I figured if I could hold back the first quarter mile I would have enough energy to kick my way to a 4:59.

Once at the start line, I mentioned to one of the other two runners, that I wanted to go for a 4:59 which I'd never done before. So he got one of his friends to act as a "rabbit" for me. I told him I was looking for a 1:18 first quarter and he said he would try for around that time.

They actually used a horn this year (instead of a starting gun like last year) and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 0.25:  My rabbit and the two other guys shot out of the gate super fast. I knew that a full out sprint at this point was foolish, but I kinda, just slightly, got sucked in with them. Hey, how many times am I going to have my own personal rabbit? About halfway around the track, I started feeling winded, which was not a good sign that early in the race. So, I knew I needed to apply the brakes and started to slow and had watch the other three fade into the distance up ahead. 1:14.7 (4:59/mile pace).
Lap 1
Mile 0.50: I don't know if it was my too fast first lap, the heat or the fact I was running my 83rd mile of the week, but I felt like I was straining to get any leg turnover. I was still in last place. 1:20.6 (5:22/mile pace).
Lap 2
Mile 0.75: I felt like I was settling down and my legs came back to me a little. The guy in front of me was starting to fade, so I made my move to pass him and by the end of the third lap I had 10 meters on him. 1:19.8 (5:20/mile pace).
Lap 3
Mile 1.0: I finally found my second wind, but it was too little too late for a sub-5. I really didn't feel too much pain this mile, so maybe I had held back too much in the previous quarter mile? I turned on the jets and was done!  1:12.7 (4:54/mile).
Lap 4
Official Finish Time: 5:08
Official Pace: 5:08/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:08/mile
1/2 mile splits: 2:35.3 and 2:32.5.

Place Overall: 2nd out of 3

This was only my second track mile - but it's still a PR! My pacing was pretty spot on for my goal, although I wish I could have run the first two laps just a little more slowly. I still negative split the race, which is hard to do given the initial adrenaline rush in a short race like this. I was only one second from McMillan's predicted time (5:07). Those tables are scary accurate when it comes to shorter distances!

Post Race:
There was a short awards ceremony where I got my second place medal. Mr. Grim said that they'd be back next year and to tell your friends. So, I'm telling you to please try this race out next year! A mile race on a track may be my favorite distance next to the racing a marathon. I guess those two distances are at two different ends of the racing spectrum and that's maybe why I like them both. The marathon is a test of endurance with a little bit of speed and the mile is a test of speed with a little bit of endurance.

Next Up:
PR attempt Chicago Rock n' Roll Half next month.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Run for the Animals 10k - 2016 Race Recap

As I mentioned in my previous post - after putting in a monthly and weekly PDR prior to this year's Run for the Animals - I didn't want to just best my 10k PR (<38:10).

I wanted to demolish it. 

However, in order to demolish anything I needed to get out of bed and get ready to race! After a 5 a.m. shakeout run of two miles in the city, I jumped in my car and headed out to the 'burbs. My dad had picked up my bib along with his bib (for the 5k) earlier in the week, so I met up with him at his house, put on said bib, and we headed over to the race in downtown Wheaton. After reaching the start area, I went for a half mile warmup with some striders. This was going to be the hottest, most humid race of the year - and I was starting to sweat, which is not a good sign, but I have felt hotter prior to other races.

My strategy was to negative split by running two six minute miles then gradually pick-up the pace and see what I had left after the mile two marker.

The national anthem was sung and we were off!

The Race
Mile 1: This was a dual 5k and 10k, so per usual, I had to relax and let the hordes sprint by me at sub 5 minute pace over the first 200 yards and then watch as a lot of them fell back behind me. Right before the mile "1" marker, a guy in my age group tried to make a move to pass me. As he came up alongside me, I could hear that his breathing was labored and yet mine was barely audible. I knew he was in trouble, but I still couldn't in good conscience let him pass me. I sped up slightly and I didn't see (or hear) him again until the race was over. 5:57/mile.

Mile 2: I started catching up to people I had seen way down the road earlier. 5:58/mile.

Mile 3: Things started to really spread out and then suddenly the 5k and 10k course split and I was running behind only one guy. 5:57/mile.

Mile 4: I passed that guy and there seemed to be a big gap between me and the next guy. So, I had to really focus on the arrows painted on the road to make sure I didn't make a wrong turn. Also, it was getting hot. When I grabbed water I'd take a sip, then splash the rest on my face for some brief relief. 5:54/mile.

Mile 5: The wind was entirely to my back this mile and it shows in my split. As we made the turn around a lake, I sped by the final runner that I would pass in the race. 5:50/mile.

Mile 6: The tailwind became a headwind, which offered relief from the heat, but also was working against my tiring legs. I knew I had a PR in the bag, but could sense I was slowing down and was afraid that it would result in a somewhat ugly positive split. I ignored my watch and tried to muster any speed that was left in my legs. I hate slowing down near the end of races! 6:03/mile.

Mile 6.21: Down the homestretch I could feel the burn in my lungs and my legs. It's no wonder - I have never held a sub-6:00 average pace over six miles! Soon enough I was almost at the finish line and glanced over at the race clock to see my time, but the clock was turned off for some reason. I stopped my watch and was done.  5:39/mile.
Finishing strong into the wind (see the flag on the left)!
Race Summary: 
  • Official Time: 36:49.393. Official pace: 5:56/mile
  • Overall Place: 12th out of 671
  • Age Place: 3rd out of 40 (another CARA race podium)
  • Fifth PR in a row in five different distances this year
  • Beat my PR by 1 minute and 20 seconds = PR demolished!
  • Mission accomplished!
Soaking up the PR
I grabbed a cup of water and looked down at my watch to see what my finishing time was since the race clock at the finish line was blank. I saw that the first two numbers on my watch read "36" and instead of drinking my water I threw it up in the air for joy. One of the volunteers who saw me do this said to me, "PR?" and I said "Yes! Big time!" and she congratulated me. Then I gleefully skipped over to the results tent to get my results. After standing in line for 5 minutes, the results official told me that the 10k results weren't ready. When I went finally got the results printed out 10 minutes later, the piece of paper said I ran a 41:07!! I could see other people staring incredulously at their results and after speaking with them, they said their results were also wrong. I was not happy since I had actually PR'd and wanted the official results to reflect my real time. It made me feel slightly better that at least I wasn't the only one with incorrect results.

Since there was nothing I could do about my official time at the moment, I headed over to run the kids' 1/2 mile race with my niece and nephew. I ran most of it with my nephew who shot out fast and then had to slow way down. I tried not to coach him too much, but when he made a move (jokingly) to run on the grass to take a shortcut, I told him that I would 100x rather have him walk than to cut the course short. After he finished, I turned around and ran back to run with my niece and dad who were just finishing up. The crowd support was great for the kids and they each got a medal and a cool neon colored shirt.
Three generations of runners (10k, 5k and 1/2 milers)
We all went to breakfast at a nearby diner. After that I walked back to the post-race area to check my results and saw that they had finally posted my correct time on the results wall. There must have been a big computer snafu and hopefully they can get it straightened out by the next race. Anyway, before leaving downtown Wheaton, we all walked over to say hi to my sister's hair stylist Alicia - who is a reader of my blog and who I also see running with her training group on the Lakefront Trail from time to time!

Race Takeaway:
Despite the heat, I was able to hold pace, which bodes well for my half marathon PR attempt in July. Although the temps at that race figure to be a lot hotter, I have six additional weeks to acclimate to the heat.

Next up:
Grim Mile!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Run For The Animals 10k: Pre-Race Thoughts

I'm racing the Run for the Animals 10k in Wheaton on Saturday. My history with 10ks has been an up and down experience. At my first 10k ever, I ran a poorly executed 40:10 in the heat and ended up falling down at the finish line and needing assistance over to a fence where I got sick!  I then set an arbitrary goal of breaking 40 minutes by the time I turned 40. That did not happen - as injury from over-training got the best of me. In fact I didn't break 40 minutes in a 10k until I was past 40 when I ran a 38:10. However, I haven't been back below 39:00 in eight subsequent attempts.

Due to poor pacing decisions, my first dozen 10k times look like a roller coaster on a graph. Now that I'm older and just a little wiser, they've leveled off to around 40 minutes since my PR six years ago:

My 10k times
On Saturday I'll step up to the line to attempt not only to break that PR, but to hopefully demolish it. I just need to pick the right pace given the temperatures and how I'm feeling that morning. My expectations are high because it's been a banner year in the "PR department" with one each in the 5k, 8k, 10 mile, and marathon. I've put a lot of effort into training for this race with a 91 mile weekly PDR last week and a monthly PDR of 366 miles in May. So I'm either totally primed for success or will be trying to coax some non-existent speed out of tired legs!
Running along the lake

I guess I'll see what happens on Saturday!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Humboldt Mile 2016 Race Recap

This was the inaugural running of the Humboldt Mile which was held in Chicago's Humboldt Park. The course was a simple one: Head due south on Humboldt Boulevard then take one sharp turn and one gentle turn on Munoz Drive into the final straightaway. Race conditions called for sunny skies and warm temps. There would be a tailwind for the first half mile and a headwind for the second half. In any case, I had put in relatively high mileage over the course of the week prior (and no speed training), so I was curious to see how I would do.

After a two mile early morning shakeout run, I ran down from my yoga studio in Logan Square to the start line. On my way, I passed under the 606 Trail and decided to ascend the ramp and see what it looked like. After taking a peek and seeing how cool it was, I descended the ramp continued my run to the start. Once there I spotted John B and Jeff H.
Jeff, John and me
I also met up with Annabelle, Susana and Violeta from the Bootleg Runners. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many friends. I didn't realize that my team was going to make a showing - I guess I need to get on facebook! Anyway, for some reason the race organizers wanted to get the corrals organized a full half hour before race start and the emcee was calling everyone over to the start line at about 9:30 for the 10 am start! It wasn't that big of a race - with about 500 people over three waves, so not sure why we needed so much lead time.

My goal for the race was to run a 4:59 mile, which meant each quarter mile would have to average 1:15. I switched my Garmin to auto-lap at every quarter mile so I could better track how I was doing mid-race. I've never run a sub-5:00 mile and I knew it would be a stretch for me, but I thought I would go for it.

Finally, it was 9:59 a.m. and they did a countdown for about sixty seconds and at last we were off!

The Race:
Mile 0.25:  I was about four rows back and a ton of people from behind me shot ahead. I must have been in 50th place after the first 100 yards. I glanced at my watch and saw I was doing a 4:50/mile pace which was too fast, but the strong tailwind was really tempting everyone to unleash the Kraken. I knew the favorable winds wouldn't last, so I slowed down a little. After the fast start, many runners got winded and dropped back. I made my way up near the lead runners to about 20th place. 1:15.1 (5:00/mile pace).

Mile 0.50: I was perfectly on track, but a glance at my watch showed that I was slowing ever so slightly. This wasn't a good sign since we were about to head into the wind. At this point I knew a sub-5:00 probably wasn't in the cards. We rounded the turn and ran right into the wind. 1:17.5 (5:10/mile).

Mile 0.75: It felt like a 10 mph wind and thus it was a struggle to hold a semblance of goal pace. I kept my head down and just tried to keep my legs turning over. 1:19.1 (5:16/mile).

Mile 1.0: It seemed like the race had just started, yet I was already in the final quarter mile. I knew I needed to lay it all out, but for whatever reason (headwind, fatigue) I could not summon a miracle kick out of my legs. As more runners faded, I caught up to a group of guys that had started ahead of me, so at the very least I was motivated to keep running hard to secure a good overall placing. Just seconds ahead of me I saw a couple guys squeeze in under the 5:00 mark and a few seconds later, I was done!  1:16.1 (5:04/mile).

Finished! (src)
Gotta stop my watch! (src)

Official Finish Time: 5:08
Place Overall: 6th out of 502

This is my second fastest recorded mile - although since it only had two turns, it was probably "slower" than the 5:12 I ran last year at the Grim Mile which had 16 turns on a track. I had not tapered for this race and had done no speedwork (beside puppy sprints) leading up to it, so I am pretty happy with my result even though it is not a sub-5:00. Eight seconds may not seem like a lot, but relatively speaking it is like dropping about another 30 seconds off of my 5k PR (since a 5k is 3.1 times further). So it will take some work to shave off those eight seconds at my next mile race.

Post Race:
I met up with the Bootleggers near the finish line for a photo with the team flag.
BRC! (src)
There were no age group awards and actually no overall awards, but they did have a beer garden sponsored by Revolution Brewing. In the beer garden I met up with some MRC folks:
The MRC contigent in the post-race beer garden!
Soon enough it was time to leave and get some stuff done at home.

I love racing the mile and am happy for any opportunity to do so. The Humboldt Mile was well organized, there were plenty of running friends present and it fell at the right time of year or me (i.e. in-between marathon training cycles). I hope they continue this race in the years to come!

Next Up:
Run for the Animals.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Humboldt Mile: Pre-Race Thoughts

On Saturday I'm racing a mile. More specifically I'll be racing the Humboldt Mile which is essentially a loop around the eastern half of Humboldt Park.

Humboldt Mile Course (src)
I'm super pumped to be racing a mile. If you've never raced one, it's like getting a pure adrenaline shot of speed - you just let your legs fly and try to hang on until the bitter end. There is some strategy like trying to keep the quarter miles even, but essentially I'll be running near or at 100% for 5 minutes straight. There is some major pain involved especially over the last quarter mile, but the race is over so quickly that it's somewhat manageable. To this long distance runner, it stands in sharp contrast to any race or training run I've done over the last 11 months, and for that reason it will be exciting to run a pure "foot race" to see how fast I can go.

"I live my life a quarter mile at a time...nothing else matters..I'm free!"
  from "The Fast and the Furious"

I ran the Grim Mile at the Luther North track almost a year ago. Since that race was on a track it had 16 turns. Saturday's race will be on the road with essentially two turns - so, it should be a lot faster. However, whereas with the Grim Mile I raced against five other people, it appears that the Humboldt Mile will have over 500 participants. By the time I registered they were sold out of the first 500 t-shirts! However, there will be three waves, but that still will probably leave about at least 100 people in my wave jockeying for position at the start and around the turns. I want to be up front for two reasons: 1) Don't want to do too much weaving 2) Want to be up front with the fast dogs to see if I can get "pulled along" at a fast pace. Hopefully, this thing won't be a cluster!

My goal is to see if I can break 5:00/mile which I've never done. But since this race won't be held on a track I'm not sure about it being an "official" mile. A sub 5:00/mile in my mind is on a track, so my "official" attempt will come next month when I race the 2016 edition of the Grim Mile.

I still have done zero speed work since last year, so I will be drawing on residual marathon fitness, my multiple daily "puppy sprints" with my dog and whatever mileage I've put in since the Carmel Marathon in April. In any case I'm excited to see what happens!