Friday, March 10, 2017

How many runners did I pass? Shamrock Shuffle Edition

Since the 2017 edition of the Shamrock Shuffle is the only race on my calendar, I've had more time to focus on 8k race strategy/planning than usual. In order to glean some insight as to what I should do strategy-wise this year, I went to the race website and looked at my splits from the Shuffle last year (which was a huge PR). Looking at the splits, I was surprised at how big of a negative split I had run. The first mile was run at 6:05/mile and the last mile was at 5:36/mile! Now in full disclosure, I purposely held back during the first mile to see how I felt, since I was unsure of my fitness going into the race. Anyway, as expected with such splits - I passed lots of runners most of whom weren't negative splitting. So, of course I was curious of exactly how many I passed. So like I did two years ago (post 2015 Shuffle) I wanted to find out.
2016 Shuffle Finish

Since the 2016 results have 1 mile and 5k splits, I was able to come up with the following analysis:

Shamrock Shuffle 2016:

Number of runners I passed after 1 mile mark:

Number of runners I passed after 5k mark:

Number of runners I passed total:

Number of runners who passed me after mile 1:

My place at the 1 mile mark:

My place at the 5k mark:

My place at the finish line (8k):


So, over the last four miles I passed 128 runners and moved up in the standings accordingly.  Here is another interesting tidbit:

Of the people that I passed after mile 1, the average runner ran the first mile 10 seconds FASTER than me (5:55 vs. 6:05), yet that average runner finished the race almost a whole minute (50 seconds) SLOWER than me!

Now, I guess you could say I should have run more even splits which seems to be the consensus best race strategy. However, if not the best strategy, at least negative is better than positive. If those average runners had kept at that 5:55/mile first mile until the finish line, they should have been 40 seconds faster than me (10 seconds x 4 miles) overall. Instead they ended up 55 seconds slower. That's a swing of 95 seconds over four miles.

Why do so many runners go positive a the Shamrock? I think it's because it's the first race of the season for most people, and they tend to overspeed in the beginning thinking that they have the same fitness that they did at the end of the last season. Also, there are actually a few people who think it's a 5k rather than a 5 miler and then at mile 3.1 (after burning up all of their energy) realize too late they have another 2 miles to go and so they have to crawl for the remainder!

In any case, my recommendation for all of 2017 Shufflers:

Run the first mile relatively slowly - then open things up and start passing...
Here I am at mile 2 of the 2016 Shamrock Shuffle (red hat and gray shirt)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

80/20 Running

As readers of my blog probably know, when I have a goal race on the horizon, I tend to dive in head first with my training and then keep ratcheting up the miles without too much attention to pace. But doing miles at any pace means that there are usually quite a few that are run too fast. This has left me feeling flat and burned out once my goal race/marathon is finished. I now realize I need to train at paces that will keep me feeling fresh while still giving me the best bang for my buck from speed sessions.

I read 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald a while back, and although I bought into his philosophy at the time, I never could bring myself to run as slowly as the plan's training intensities prescribe. I don't like slow, because I want to feel the burn of a good workout. This is what Fitzgerald calls running at "habitual pace", which is a pace run faster than necessary for peak fitness. A habitual pace is one that's difficult enough that you feel like you're getting a good workout because it causes strain. However it's the area where paces are too fast, causing unnecessary stress, yet not fast enough to allow you to reap the benefits of speed work.

So, what does mean for my training? Well I started reading 80/20 Running from the beginning in order to come up with a solid plan for the long term. In the meantime, I took a cue from Xaarlin's tempo training where she throws in some race pace miles in her long runs (which she used successfully to prepare for the Carmel Marathon last year). So, I'm swearing off running any miles at what I'll call "junk pace". Instead I plan to run easy for 80% and then throw in 20% of relatively fast miles. This will also keep my runs interesting - I can look forward to a couple fast miles while shuffling through all of those slow miles, instead of waiting until the next day for a speed workout.

In order to measure if I'm actually running 80/20, I came up with some general parameters (for the moment) of what I consider fast, slow and junk paces:

For example, here's how my run on Sunday run breaks down according to these paces:
Sunday 80/20 run
So, I ran a "perfect" 80/20 run without any "junk" miles! Running all of those slow miles is harder than it seems because if I'm not looking at my watch, I might accidentally run a moderately fast mile and end up with a 70/20 run or even a 60/30 run. In any case, I hope to keep this pattern up until I finish reading the book, which will probably be around the time of the Shamrock Shuffle. At that point, I will hopefully have a more scientific training plan laid out (even without having a goal race on the horizon). In any case, for the next few weeks I'm going to see if a dash of fast mixed with a lot of slow helps me to become a better runner.

Running in 70 degree February weather last week

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

20 Miles a Week

In the last four months I've been averaging around 20 miles per week. This is quite a change over my mileage last year, when I averaged about 50 mpw. At the height of my marathon training, I was doing around 80 mpw. However, since the 2016 Chicago Marathon in October, my energy levels have been low, so my overriding goal has been to take things easy. I'm doing this by getting more sleep and running no more than three to five miles per day. Cutting back on the mileage has hurt my endurance, but at the same time its done wonders for my legs. They aren't constantly sore and stiff like last year, and I'm getting some great turnover in them. So much so that I've rediscovered some short distance speed that I lost when I was marathon training last summer.

One big contributor to my leg speed is due to my two dogs. Since I now have more spare time (since I'm running less), I'm taking them on longer daily walks to the park. Once we're there, we do quite a bit of all out sprinting for 50 to 100m every few minutes as we chase their tennis ball, which I throw out in front of us while we're running. Last year when my legs were trashed, I was never able to do these "intervals" since I was so burned out from my training volume. Now I can give those pups a run for their money!

How will this relatively low mileage mixed with daily "speed work" translate into say a 5k race time? I'm certain that with my current training regimen I won't be anywhere near as fast as I was last year when I had a huge weekly base mileage and could start a race at a relatively fast clip and simply hold on for the remainder by tapping into my huge endurance. Now that my endurance is (mostly) gone but my legs are fresher, I might be able to at least have a decent final mile topped off by a killer 100m kick at the finish line.

I still haven't signed up for any races this year except for the Shamrock Shuffle (which was free) and it's kind of a nice feeling of not having the looming pressure of getting in lots o' miles for a goal race. However, if I see a 5k (or shorter) race that is somewhere near where I live, I just might jump in and see how fast I can kick.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 Recap - The Year of the PR

In 2016 I PR'd all eight distance that I keep track of on the right hand side of this blog. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime year in my running "career" and one I will look back on fondly for the rest of my days. When I was putting this post together, simply revisiting the links below made me want to lace up my shoes and go out for a few fast miles.

Which races from last year were my favorites? Here they are in descending order:

8) Hot Chocolate 15k, Oct 30 - A PR by 8 seconds, but considering how sore and tired I was three weeks post Chicago Marathon, I'll take it.

7) Lakefront 10 Miler, Mar 19 - First race of the season, one minute PR and a harbinger of the good things to come for the rest of the season.

6) Grim Mile, June 11 - Racing all out on a track for a mile? Count me in! I beat my PR by "only" four seconds, but extra seconds are hard to come by when the race distance is this small.

5) Shamrock Shuffle 8k, April 3 - Twelve days before my marathon PR, I lined up for this race with no expectations and came out with a minute and a half PR. To quote Lynton: "Dude, you were running 5 minute miles!"

4) Run For the Animals 10k, June 4 - A PR by well over a minute in hot windy weather.

3) Ravenswood Run 5k, Apr 24 - A scant eight days after setting my marathon PR, I annihilated my 5k PR by 33 seconds. I've raced so many 5ks and to beat my best time by such a large margin still blows my mind.

2) Carmel Marathon, Apr 16 - A "woulda shoulda coulda" sub-three of 3:00:20. Nevertheless, I beat my previous PR by almost 5 minutes.

1) Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon Chicago, Jul 17 - Broke my "unbreakable PR" by two minutes. At this race, I was the fittest and fastest I've ever been.

Finishing the RnR in July

Honorable Mention:
Oui Run 5k, Sep 25 - Not a PR, but I won the inaugural edition of this race and got some sweet prizes to boot!

How will 2017 pan out? Well, based on how low my mileage has been lately, I'd say that each of these PRs will be safe for another year, but who knows? Maybe I'll break one when I least expect it!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Running into Winter

When I'd venture out for a short run over the last eight weeks, after a few slow miles, I would inevitably want to speed up, but was not able tap the power that I used to have earlier in the year. When I would ask my legs to move faster they resisted and I felt that forcing them to do something they weren't ready for would only set me back. So, although I was happy to be out running in the cooler temps, it was frustrating knowing that I really only had one gear - slow. It's only been over the last few days that my hips are starting to feel "normal" once again and I have actually run a couple of fast miles without too much difficulty. So, my "time off" from running may be winding down just in time for my favorite running season!

Suburban running today
No sooner was I feeling slightly better than I started to contemplate racing again. I was even kicking around running the F^3 Half just for fun. I think if I do sign up for a race over the next couple of months it will be more "spur of the moment". That way, I can keep training easy and then just jump into a race without having followed a plan. I know myself too well - if I have a goal race I tend to train like a maniac and that's definitely not what I need to be doing right now. I need my inner coach to tell me to do less intense workouts, keep my weekly volume low and just enjoy the "off season". Otherwise, I'll have to pay a real coach to hold me back!

Anyone else doing the F^3?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 2016 10k Race Recap

For the first race in a long time, I was running the Lincolnwood Turkey Trot without dreams of a PR. I'm in the midst of taking a "time out" from running so my fitness is less than stellar. I've run this race seven times before, so it's an annual tradition for me. Therefore, I'm willing to take a break from my running break to keep the tradition alive. That said, I also enjoy racing and trying my best at a race regardless of how much or little training I put into it. Part of the fun for me is determining where my fitness is at the moment and then come up with a pace per mile that corresponds to that fitness so I don't leave time on the table by running too slowly. Conversely, I don't want to overdo it and run some "painful" positive splits. As for a race plan, I hoped that I still had a sub-40 still left in me somewhere, so I'd try for a 6:24 average pace per mile. 

The weather would be a factor however. Just like last year, an arctic chill set over Chicagoland the day before the race. Temps were 25ยบ. For the first race since last year I wore long running pants to cover my legs and three layers for my upper body. It would probably end up costing me a few seconds but since I was running this race for fun and not a PR, I was hardly concerned about the aerodynamics of my outfit. 

Luckily, I had picked up my bib on Friday, so I didn't need to get to the race early for packet pickup. My dad and I left the house at 8:15am for the 8:45am start. 15 minutes after leaving home, we scored a street spot, then waited in the heated car for a few minutes. Then with about five minutes left, we slow jogged over to the start line. Once in the start corral I talked with John B who was running the 5k. Over the PA system, the mayor of Lincolnwood announced that whatever we do, we shouldn't finish last and that he was too old too run. The race started with a countdown and then several confetti cannons sprayed the lead runners with confetti right after they crossed the start line.

Start of the race (src)

The Race
Mile 1: Some eight year old kids slipped in front of me just before the gun sounded so in order to pass them I decided to floor it and weave around them. I also got caught up in the 5k rush so my pace was too fast for the first quarter mile or so. There was a strong tailwind which also tempted me to over-speed.  6:26/mile.

Mile 2: The wind was now a headwind. I became concerned as my pace slowed and my effort noticeably increased. I wondered if I was going to die a slow death of positive splits, but put my head down and hoped for the best. 6:39/mile.

Mile 3: I started to settle down and locked into what I thought was a manageable pace that would take me to the finish hopefully under 40 minutes. Tried unsuccessfully to tuck behind a couple of runners to draft off of them.  6:27/mile.

Mile 4: We were briefly joined by the 5k walkers. This is the perennial problem with the LWTT: The 5k walkers and 10k runners meet up a few times during the race. Oh well, what can you do? 6:26/mile.

Mile 5: My lungs started to open up, but my legs were tight and just didn't have the turnover that I'm used to. I realized at this point my dreams of a sub 40 were out of reach unless I pulled off a miracle final mile. 6:32/mile.

Mile 6: The miracle was not going to happen with my flat legs and the 1.2 miles of wall-to-wall with 5k walkers. Running past the walkers, I felt like an el car barreling past a platform of commuters. I used a 10k runner to act as my "guide" and when she would find an opening within the walkers, I would dart through the same one. It was like an obstacle course with oblivious walkers taking up the road as our fast race was going on around them. 6:18/mile.
Turn at mile 5.5 last year
Mile 6.29: My legs were burning since they hadn't run that fast in three weeks. Some walkers were taking selfies at the 6.0 mile marker so again another swerve. Luckily the end was in sight and for good measure I passed a couple of 10k runners near the finish line!  5:48/mile.

Race Summary: 
  • Official time: 40:18. Official pace: 6:30/mile
  • Overall Place: 13th out of 477
  • Age Place: 4th out of 71 (these are 10 year age groups)
  • Slowest 10k in 3 years
  • AG medal attained! 

I picked up my finisher medal, met my dad then headed over to the tent to have some hot soup. Then it was back to the car and was home by 10am. The entire excursion only took an hour and 45 minutes! 

Race Takeaway:
I'm happy to have almost hit my sub-40 target, but slightly disappointed that I ran the first mile too fast which may have dashed my hopes of attaining my goal. The extra layers and the cold wind probably also cost me a few seconds as well. In any case, it was a fun time close to home, and I look forward to running the race again next year!

Next up:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Time Out

Over the last 90 weeks I ran an average of 57 miles per week, which got me in physical condition to set multiple PRs this year. Over that time-span I also trained hard for three marathon PR attempts. In between those three marathons - I took only a handful of days off before ramping up once again for the next one. All the while, I stayed injury free, so I started to feel somewhat invincible and impervious to whatever training load I demanded of myself. However, during my post 2016 Chicago Marathon break, aches and pains surfaced that had been previously masked by daily doses of endorphins over the last 90 weeks. What also became apparent - without those daily runs to get my blood pumping - was that I was physically exhausted. Not only did I not have the energy to run, but forcing myself to jump back into my old running regimen so soon, seemed counter productive to my long term running health.

So, as much as I don't like running blog posts about people who aren't running, here I am with one of those posts. This break may last a week or it may last three weeks. I may do a spur of the moment turkey trot "just for fun" in a couple of weeks, but will be going in without any expectations or training for that matter. So far, I have even resisted signing up for a spring marathon and also for signing up for the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Not having any pressure of getting ready for a race is a welcome break after so many weeks with one looming on the horizon.

I know when I'll be ready when I feel my legs start to hunger to sprint again, and the fog has lifted from lots and lots of sleep. In the meantime, I still plan to continue to eat "healthier", catch up on sleep, do some yoga/stretching and strength training. My long term goal will be to resume training at some indeterminate time in the future, hopefully before my endurance fitness fades. I'm not going to let myself go completely, but just enough to get back "that feeling".

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hot Chocolate 15k 2016 Race Recap

This was my fifth time running the Hot Chocolate 15kAs always, it's an opportunity to use some of my residual marathon fitness for a potential 15k PR. However, as I mentioned previously, going into the race I was dealing with some major post-marathon leg and hip soreness. Luckily in the days since that post, I did a handful of recovery runs and was able to work out a couple of the kinks that were hobbling my legs. 

The Expo:
The expo was on the west side of McCormick Place. I paid for 45 minutes of street parking but was able to run up the escalator to packet pickup and grab my bib, hoodie and visor and get back to my car in about 15 minutes flat. The race organizers have had years to smooth out the packet pickup process and it shows.

Pre Race (Run in with the jerk once again!)
I paid in advance for a $13 SpotHero parking space in my normal pre-race parking lot underneath a downtown skyscraper which is about three blocks from the starting line. There is typically a line of cars to get in the garage as the attendant scans your driver's license and does a security check of your trunk. Before last year's race a woman in running attire waved her building ID badge out of the window as she drove ahead of the line and forced her way to the front. At the time, I yelled at her for cutting the line. Well, as I was waiting in line once again, who rolls up behind me, but the same woman waving a badge out the window! This time I leaned my head out my window and stared her down. I wonder if she remembered me from last year, because she didn't cut in front of me thankfully.

Race Strategy
My 15k PR is relative to other races, my slowest PR and thus it's tempting to try and smash it by a wide margin. However, due to my still recovering legs, my main goal was to have fun. My secondary goal, was that I wanted to finish feeling strong. Since my last memory from a race was a painful and demoralizing run/walk to the finish, my strategy would be to run the first 5k by feel and err on the side of running too slowly. Then I could see how I felt and make a mid-race decision on how to proceed.

On arriving in Grant Park, I used the porta pottie. I have never seen as many porta potties in one place in my life. They were seemingly everywhere. They even had about 50 to the side of the corrals so people who lined up early in the corrals would be taken care of if nature called.  Once I was in my corral, a woman sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, and then three cancer patients were interviewed including a 13 year old girl with leukemia who was running the 5k. Her family was going to bring a wagon along so that if she couldn't finish on foot they would pull her in the wagon to the finish. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house and it put all of my fretting about my legs in perspective. Here's a moving video of her story. Anyway, the DJ then played "Go Cubs Go!" for a few minutes, and all of us runners sang along at the top of our lungs until the gun sounded.

The Race:
First 5k:
The Hot Chocolate 15k and the Chicago Marathon share the same start and finish lines, some of the same streets, and with almost 40,000 runners and walkers, the two races are comparable in size. However, for the Hot Chocolate race there are hardly any spectators, so the race is surprisingly peaceful way of running the same streets that were so loud and crazy only three weeks prior. The first half mile was relatively uneventful. Once we found our way on Lower Wacker along the river, I finally checked my watch and discovered that I had run a relatively slow first mile of 7:00/mile. I tried to determine how my legs felt and tried to predict how they would be able to handle the remaining 8.3 miles. All systems seemed to be "go" so I decided to speed up, which wasn't too difficult as we had a nice tailwind for the next two miles. We ran through the Loop and onto Michigan Avenue headed southbound. It was already time to bid adieu to the 5kers as they made their way up "Mt. Roosevelt" to the finish line. 
20:22, 6:34/mile

Second 5k:
Aided by a tailwind, we continued running down Michigan Ave on the marathon course in reverse. Once we got south of Roosevelt Rd. Xaarlin was standing on the right hand side of the street and L and CB were off to the left cheering me on. 
Running down Michigan Ave.
(pics courtesy of Xaarlin)
I started running alongside another guy and we started chatting about race goals. He said that his goal was a sub-60. I glanced at my watch and told him that if we kept up at our current pace, we would have a sub-60. So we continued on chatting and then he started to take off ahead of me and I wished him well. He said I was welcome to draft off of him, so I sped up a little as well and tucked in behind him.
19:36, 6:19/mile

Third 5k:
As we headed eastward and into the wind at the 10k mark, I noticed my buddy was starting to fade ever so slightly and I realized that if I wanted to go sub-60, I needed to separate from him. So, I gradually sped past him into the headwind by myself. The McCormick Place tunnel was a nice respite from the wind, but I had to take off my sunglasses in order to see the potholes. I had no idea how close I was to a PR since I stopped looking at my watch and just put my head down and kept running. As we went up the final hill and made the turn onto Columbus drive, I made a mad dash down the hill and my legs were moving fairly fast but never found their all-out sprinting gear. Anyway, I saw the clock quickly moving up towards my PR time of 59:45. I knew I had an 8 second differential between my chip time and gun time so I gave it all I had and as I crossed the line just as the clock hit 59:45 on the nose!

 19:39, 6:20/mile.

PR by eight seconds! 

Basking in the glow of my new PR and candy bar medal!

Time: 59:37
Overall: 27/11,100
Age Group: 3/379
Official Pace: 6:26/mile

 5k Splits:
1st 5k: 20:22
2nd 5k: 19:36
3rd 5k: 19:39

This was my fifth year running the Hot Chocolate 15k and my fifth 15k PR set at the event! The headwind for the last 5k was a challenge, but my marathon endurance helped me maintain the pace I set after the 5k mark until the end. I also won 3rd place in my age group for the second year in a row, so once I get my AG award in the mail I can display it next to last year's award!

I have now PR'd in every distance I've raced this year: 1 mile, 5k, 8k, 10k, 15k, 10 mile, half marathon and marathon!

My "buddy" caught up to me in the finisher's chute and asked me if I got my sub-60. I said yes and he congratulated me. I asked him if he did as well, but unfortunately he came up just short but was pleased with his time anyway. Gotta love the instant comraderie at races! After that encounter, I got my gear and then feasted on some fondue and hot chocolate.

This race has everything: Easy parking, thousands of porta-potties, beautiful finisher medal, and a chance to run down Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive. Keeping my 15k PR streak alive will be an even bigger task next year, but that's the way it goes.

Next Race: