Monday, October 17, 2016

Chicago Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Race Highlights
BQ-minus 13:57 minute time of 3:11:03 for 26.5 miles
* CQ-minus 3:57 time (Chicago Qualifiying)
* Post-race with fellow BRC team members
* Weather was pleasant

My only goal for this race was to break three hours. Although I failed in this endeavor and am still processing how that happened. I could say that all was going well during the race then gradually I understood that it wasn't going to be my day. Once I knew that my goal was out of reach I even considered dropping out and doing a "revenge marathon" a few weeks later. Anyway, I stuck with it and crossed the finish line with a pretty hellacious positive split.

I called a cab (no Uber, I'm old school) at about 5:45 am, and made it down to Grant Park in about 20 minutes, a few yards from the Balbo gate. The lines through security were non-existant. I was able to secure a spot in the Balbo Hospitality Tent so I went inside and grabbed a breakfast sandwich, coffee and some fruit and then kicked up my legs.

In the Balbo Hospitality Tent
Some running celebs gave some inspirational words as well:
Running Celebs including
 Joan Samuelson and Deena Kastor
I checked my bag at the private gear check then used one of the 100 unused porta potties. Then I made my way over to the "A" corral without incident. Since my goal was to run a sub 3:00 I lined up just behind the 3:00 pacer and just in front of the 3:05 pacer. The horn sounded and we were off. 

The Race

First Half
My legs were stiff and sore as they seemingly never recovered at all during the taper, but I figured that they would loosen up eventually. They always seem to once the adrenaline kicks in and I put a few miles under my belt. I even figured that even if my legs didn't "unstiffen" eventually, I had run more that enough miles over the last four months to at least compensate for the soreness and will them to a 2:59:59. Anyway, for the first few miles I remained just behind the 3:00 pacer. Eventually, I made my way up to the group and tucked in behind them. There was much chatter and I was clipped by a runner here and there. I decided to swing out of the group and run to the outside where it was a little safer. I asked a runner or two to make way and was finally in the open. At mile 8 I high-fived my Aunt and Uncle and saw Ken from the BRC soon thereafter. I chatted with a guy who said he was running way too slowly for his capabilities, but that he would open things up later. As soon as he said this I started to evealuate if I felt the same way he did and I realized that at such an early stage, I really was feeling like I could be almost red-lining, that is my legs still felt sore and it was taking more effort that I would have liked to hold pace. However, again, I thought I just needed to have some faith that my training would take me another 16 miles at "pace".

I made it to the Blogger Press Box at mile 13 and saw Erica, Wendy and Marcia. I got a couple of side-fives and started to feel a little better!
Side fiveing the Blogger Press Box (src)

First half split: 1:29:35 (6:51/mile)

Second Half
After running through the "Charity Block Party" around mile 14, I tried took a mental inventory of how I felt and I realized I was feeling how I normally feel at mile 20. My legs were still tight and the soreness was getting slightly more pronounced. I also felt way more fatigued than I should have at running a (for me) pedestrian 1:30 half (I ran a 1:21 PR in July). For the final time, I tried to convince myself that I would be able to "power through" the soreness and mentally block out the increasing fatigue due to my huge training base.

Anyway, for the next five miles I was able to stay ahead or at least even with the 3:00 pace group. However, I couldn't shake the fatigue that was becoming overwhelming. At mile 18 the 3:00 pace group started to slowly separate from me and I could not muster a response. I knew at this moment what lay ahead for me - a slow fade and then a rapid crash. This was the point where I considered dropping out. If I did that I would be treating this race as a long training run and then sign up for a "revenge marathon" in November. However, I decided that I really didn't want to run another marathon in 2016 so therefore I might as well finish. So, I pulled way back on the pace in order to see if I could at least salvage the last 8.2 miles by not crawling to the finish.

On the back 6.2 I passed Lynton at about 21 then Xaarlin at mile 23. She took these pics:
(src Xaarlin)
The final miles were a slow fade into oblivion and I actually switched to a run/walk in the final four miles make sure I could keep moving and not prolong the agony by totally flaming out and having to stop completely. As I crested the hill on Roosevelt Rd. I spotted the famous guy who always runs marathons dressed as Minnie Mouse. I tried to catch up to him so at least my finish line photo would include him, but I couldn't quite catch him. Within the last 100 yards, my right arm and right side started going numb, but I was still able to raise my arm for my photo. I crossed the line and was mercifully finished!
Happy to be done!
  Second half split: 1:41:38 (7:45/mile)


Analysis: My official time was a 3:11:03 for an official pace of 7:18/mile. My Garmin shows that I ran 26.58 miles for a 7:11/mile pace average. It was my fourth best showing at the Chicago Marathon (out of six). I BQ'd by 13+ minutes, which means I'm pretty much assured of getting into the 2018 race if I so choose. I re-qualified for the 2017 Chicago Marathon next year, but also I'm still a legacy finisher and I can run Chicago without qualifying for the next four years!

 Post Race
After drinking water, a Gatorade shake and passing on the Goose Island, I headed over to the Balbo Hospitality tent, where I grabbed a bowl of chicken soup and sat down for a half hour. Then I made my way over to the massage tent and got a wonderful massage which helped at least temporarily with the soreness. I changed clothes, grabbed a ham on pretzel sandwich from the buffet and walked the mile and a half trek back through the race crowds to the Weathermark on south Michigan Ave.

Once at the bar, I met up with the BRC:

At the Weathermark (src)
After chatting, laughing and discussing future races for a couple of hours, I said my goodbyes and walked back through the throngs down Michigan Avenue to the Red Line station at Roosevelt.

Maybe in some future post I'll dissect what happened to me during the race. But, in any case I hesitate to call it "hitting the wall". I think all signs points to my not being fresh for the race, since mile 14 should never feel like mile 20 in a marathon unless you ran those 14 at half marathon pace! I am now in the midst of a two week break from all running. I'm catching up on my sleep, eating with abandon and taking care of other life things that I put on hold during marathon training. I won't start running again until I feel like it. No pressure, just rest and relaxation!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My 2016 Chicago Marathon Training - In Pictures

As I may have mentioned in my last post, I ran a lot over the previous 20 weeks in preparation for the Chicago Marathon. One thing that I didn't bring along for most of my many runs was a camera or even a phone. On really hot days the last thing I want to do is to wrap a tight Velcro band on my arm to hold an electronic device just so I could take a picture or two. It's much easier and comfortable to slip a camera into a jacket pocket. That means I'll probably be snapping more pictures on my fall and winter runs.

In any case, I do have a few pictures from this summer although they don't really show me training - unless you count races as training!

May (366 miles):
A quick fun jaunt around Humboldt Park in the Humboldt Mile
June (374 miles):
10k PR at the Run for the Animals in Wheaton
The Grim Mile at Luther North track

July (282 miles):
On the 4th of July at the DK5K
Breaking my "unbreakable PR" at the RnR Chicago
August (400 miles):
No races, but I ran 400 miles in August (a PDR). I only had enough
spare time that month to take one picture. This one was taken before a run.
September (312 miles):
Finishing the Oui Run 5k two weeks before
the Chicago Marathon (src)
October (20 miles so far):
My run on Sunday
I'm going through the typical taper stuff - struggling on runs that are barely a handful of miles and wondering if my legs will ever loosen up by Sunday. The scale is also inching upwards as I nourish myself with as much cheese, eggs, and fat-rich meat as I can possibly eat while washing it all down with several glasses of whole milk. I haven't even started carb loading yet, so watch out!  As for race strategy, I'm kicking around the idea of just hanging with the three hour pace group the entire marathon rather than trying to go it alone. I really want to run even paces or a slight negative split, so if I do go with the pacer I'm hoping that they'll have a similar strategy and execute it like a metronome.

Let's see how this all works out!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My 2016 Chicago Marathon Training - By the Numbers

After wrapping up my miles for the week, I have officially finished "training" for the Chicago Marathon. With less than ten days remaining until the race, all runs from here on out are "just-keep-the-legs-fresh" type of runs. My fitness is 100% locked in now and no workout, no matter how difficult, is going to improve things enough to push that number to 101%.

I thought it would be interesting to see how my training for the Chicago Marathon compares with my training earlier this year in preparation for the Carmel Marathon (3:00:20). Here is a comparison of cumulative mileage over both 20 week cycles:
I ran 547 more training miles for the Chicago Marathon (1,607) versus the
training miles for Carmel (1,060) - over 50% more miles. This is by far the most I've ever trained for a single race. 

Some more stats:

Training By the Numbers: 2016 Chicago Marathon vs. 2016 Carmel Marathon

Chicago 10/9/16 Carmel 4/20/16
20 Week Mileage Total1607 1060
Average Weekly Mileage
Number of Runs in 20 weeks211
Number of 80+ Mile Weeks14 0
Number of 50 to 79 Mile Weeks6 14
Number of Weeks Less Than 50 Miles0 6
Last Race Before MarathonOui Run 5k Shamrock Shuffle 8k
 Last Race Finishing Time/Marathon Equivalent Time17:54/2:54:25 29:11/2:52:34
 Actual Finishing Time?? 3:00:20

The predicted marathon equivalent time for Carmel was (surprisingly) almost a full two minutes faster than what is predicted for Chicago (2:54 vs 2:52). Why does the last race before Carmel appear to be so much "faster"? There could be a few reasons for this:
  1. I wasn't racing the Oui 5k as hard as I was the Shamrock Shuffle
  2. Since my mileage was higher in the weeks before the Oui Run 5k, I had less of a "taper" than I did for the Shamrock
  3. I had a lot more cumulative fatigue going into the Oui Run (i.e. more miles = heavier legs)
  4. Race temps were more favorable for the Shamrock
No matter what the reasons, I'll take a gander that a 2:54 marathon time with an average weekly base of 80.4 miles is a more accurate prediction than a predicted 2:52 supported by an average base of 50.3 miles/week. Therein may be the problem with my frustration in predicting marathon times using shorter distances. Marathons demand a higher base mileage so you can "hold pace" from mile 20 through mile 26.2. I can always count on race day adrenaline and leg speed carry the day for races 13.1 miles or less. However, the adrenaline in a marathon wears off for me after mile 18 or 20 and I need to "fall back" on my base mileage for the remaining handful of miles. Yes, a 50 mile training base can let me run a decent and even marathon pace for 20 miles, but then things start gradually slipping away. For Chicago '16 I'm putting my chips on the fact that my volume will allow me to hold onto that adrenaline fueled pace for the remaining 6.2 miles.

We shall see....

Monday, September 26, 2016

Oui Run 5k Race Recap

I'm in the middle of my four week Chicago Marathon taper and I normally like to reserve my tapers solely for rest and recovery. However, I couldn't pass up running the inaugural "Oui Run 5k" during my taper since it was taking place so close to my house. Besides - I figured running a 5k during this time frame would not only inject some life into my tired legs, but at the same time it would be a confidence boost if I could run a 5k in a sub three hour marathon equivalent time (sub 18:28) heading into October.

Over the last two months I have pretty much run all slow, marathon training type miles and not anything near the speedy miles that a 5k demands. In fact, I hadn't run a fast (i.e. sub 6:00) mile since the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in July. Would I be able to run three in a row at this race?

After walking the dog, I ran a 5.3 mile shakeout run. Then I got my dad and we ran another mile over to the race. Once there I ran around the block and used the facilities which surprisingly had no lines.

The Race:
The Oui Run 5k starts and finishes on the campus of the Lycée Français de Chicago on Wilson where the students speak French all day in each of their classes.

"Oui Run" Start (I'm on the right side of the middle pylon) (src)
Lining up at the start line, French was essentially the only language I heard as I was packed in with the students from the school. It was strange to hear so many American kids speaking to each other in French. I sensed a lot of excitement in their voices as pretty much everyone knew each other and were anxious to tear down the street and race right in front of their school. I stepped forward right behind the line and then the race director sounded the horn and we were off!

Mile 1:
So many kids shot out in front of me at a 5:00/mile pace that I intentionally sped up so I didn't get passed by too many more. I knew it was foolish for me to start so fast, but I really don't like getting boxed in by runners who had gone out too fast. After the initial mayhem, I wove my way up to about sixth place by the half mile mark. As I settled in behind the runners ahead of me, I started to evaluate my competition. The fourth and fifth place runners were wearing headphones, so I immediately took them off of my mental list of those that would be competitive and passed them with confidence. I tucked in behind the second and third place guys, and as I glanced at my Garmin, I noticed that we were actually starting to slow down ever so slightly. This was a good sign for me, as I knew I could easily hold my current pace for another two and a half miles and that they were already slightly fading. I passed them and was soon in 2nd place. The lead runner was still out in front of me as we passed the "Mile 1" marker in Lincoln Square and we headed east on Lawrence. 5:46/mile.

Mile 2:
As the first place runner and I began to head eastward on Lawrence, I decided to make my move to get into first place. I stepped on the gas and slowly passed him. He sped up to match my surge, but when I noticed this, I poured on even more speed. Suddenly I was leading the race all by myself! I then tucked in behind the four bike escorts. Since I occasionally like to chase after bikes as a fartlek exercise on the Lakefront Trail, I locked my gaze on their rear tires and started to fly along with them, just like I was running on the trail. As we headed south on Ravenswood Avenue, a car from the east started to make its way onto the course. One of the lead bikers sounded a really loud horn and chased the car down and got it to turn around. He rejoined the other bikers soon thereafter. Whew! Most of the volunteers along the course were shouting encouragement in French: "Allez Allez!" 5:36/mile.

Mile 3:
Once I had established the lead - the pressure was on to not relinquish it. Not knowing how far ahead I was, and not wanting to look backwards, I mentally timed how many seconds it took for spectators who cheered for me to once again start cheering for the second place runner. At first it was a few seconds, but as I kept up a fast pace, eventually I could no longer hear cheers for the second place runner behind me. Since I hadn't run a sub-6:00 mile in over two months and was in the middle of my third consecutive one - my lungs started to feel the strain! However, my legs felt great and I knew I could at least hold on to my pace until the finish. 5:46/mile.
Making the final turn (src)
No one behind me (src)
Starting to raise my arms (src)
Mile 3.1
Still by myself, I made the final turn back to the campus and saw the finish line ahead. I poured on what remaining speed I had because I didn't want someone to come out of nowhere to challenge me. Before I crossed the finish line, the announcer said, "there is no one behind you at all!" and "dude, were you wearing roller blades out there?" I raised my arms up and was done!  4:45/mile.
La victoire! (src)

  • Official Time: 17:54
  • Age Group: 1st out of 36
  • Overall: 1st out of 559
Second fastest 5k ever and the third time I've ever won a race in my life. 10 seconds per mile faster than plan, but I'll take it, especially since I won the race. I think the mid-race surge to take the lead explains my (somewhat) uneven splits. In any case, so much for worrying about how slow my "marathon legs" had become! 

Post Race:
The race director ran over to congratulate me and to make sure I was okay. After telling him I was fine, I grabbed a banana and Gatorade and watched a few runners cross the finish line before I headed back out onto the course to run with my dad. I caught up with him and ran with him to the finish.

We had to wait about an hour before the awards ceremony due to the three kids races that were being held after the 5k. So we enjoyed some of the post-race goodies which included french pastries, ham and cheese baguette sandwiches and cold foamy espresso on tap! Finally the ceremony started and they called my name and I accepted my medal on the stage. My prizes included a free entry to the 2017 Shamrock Shuffle, a gift certificate to a running store and a three month pass to the local gym! 
Accepting my Medal
My dad won his age group and got his medal on the stage as well. After he got his award we walked home. 

It was fun to race a local 5k and was a great feeling to attain and actually hold onto the lead for a mile and a half for the win! However, my real goal race has always been the Chicago Marathon. My 5k time bodes well for a sub-3:00:00 marathon, but it doesn't mean I will definitely do it. Racing 26.2 miles is completely different than racing 3.1, so I need to keep that in mind when I do the conversion. Over the next 13 days I am going to focus as best I can to be rested and relaxed so I can set myself up for success on October 9th!

Next Up: Chicago Marathon in 13 days!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Oui Run 5k: Pre-Race Thoughts

Yes, you heard it correctly: I'm running a 5k on Sunday - a mere two weeks before the Chicago Marathon. Just like the Ravenswood Run which took place only one week after my PR at the Carmel Marathon, this race course winds its way through my neighborhood - hence I couldn't pass up running a race so close to home - regardless of how few days separates it from my goal race. The Oui Run 5k course not only runs along Welles Park, where I run with my dog every morning - but it also runs down the east side of Ravenswood Avenue on the Chicago Mikkeller Running Club "course".

The race is being hosted by my neighborhood French immersion school Lycèe Francais de Chicago and it starts and finishes on their campus - hence the "Oui Run" name. Anyway, it will be fantastic to actually run through more of my stomping grounds on blocked off streets.

Speaking of the course, check out this cool video:

I have 10 to 12 training miles on the docket for Sunday, so I will have a seven mile shakeout run prior to the race and then do a couple miles after for a cool-down. During the race I will try and keep my pace at around 6:00/mile. I am capable of running faster than that, but that's not the goal of this race. If I can run somewhere around 18:35 that will give me a little confidence boost for the marathon, but at the same time I'll still be respecting the fact that I'm in taper mode. That said, I will pull back on the stick if I need to. No use in overdoing it so close to my goal race just to finish a few meaningless seconds faster. In short, my main goal will be to have fun and remain healthy for the marathon. À dimanche!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Rock & Roll Half" Age Group Award

After finishing third in my age group at the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in July, I've been waiting patiently for my age group award to arrive. It finally came in the mail yesterday. I know some people were curious what an RnR "trophy" looks like so here's a picture of mine - a pretty decent sized wall plaque:

RnR Chicago 2016 AG Plaque (quarter to right)

In other news, my taper for the Chicago Marathon is on. My last big run will be my 20 miler on Sunday, then it's all easy medium and short runs until October 9th! The excitement builds...

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I Ran 400 Miles in August

I ran 400.46 miles in August - a new monthly PDR. My previous monthly PDR of 375 was set two months ago. I can safely say that unless I move to a much colder climate someday, I will never run that kind of mileage in the month of August again for the rest of my life! The heat and humidity combo over the last four weeks made almost every run an uncomfortable, laborious, dehydrating slog with drenched shirts and shorts that I literally had to wring out in the sink when I got home. I could bitch about it, but I realize I chose to run in the swampy air and am lucky to have had the energy and opportunity to do so. Even if my marathon falls short of my expectations, I can be proud of myself for pushing through the muck and not bitching too much in the process.

In any case, you can probably tell I'm feeling somewhat drained by my marathon training at the moment. I'm considering taking a three and a half week taper instead of the two and a half one I had planned. I feel I have much much more to gain fitness-wise by getting myself rested and refreshed over the 3.5 weeks prior to the marathon than running an additional high mileage "junk" week and only giving myself less than three weeks to get my racing legs back.
Before my run this morning
So that means next week is my last long week and then it's taper time! I'm looking forward to the shorter runs and maybe getting some pep back in my step as the weather cools off and those nasty "heat indexes" fall off of the weather forecasts. Simply getting through next week in one piece will be my main goal - then I will treat myself to those incrementally shorter weeks and some hearty eating, which comprise a quality taper. I will top off my last long run at 20 miles three weeks out, but that will be by far the hardest run that my taper will entail. Fresh and fit for the start line will be my goal over the next five weeks!

98% of the hay in the barn. It's almost here....

August By the Numbers
Miles Run
400 miles
Rest Days5 days
Average Miles Run Per Calendar Day  (i.e. 400/31)
13 miles
Average Miles Run per Run Day (i.e. 400/27)
15 miles
Number of "Marathon Equivalents" (i.e. 400/26.2)15 "marathons"
Number of Runs45 runs

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...