Friday, July 28, 2017

Run For Gus 2017 - Race Recap

Since the Rock 'n Roll Half 10 days ago, the only running I've done has been the occasional puppy sprint in Welles park with my two dogs. I guess our little sprints have made an impression with park goers. In the park yesterday, we walked by a boy in a stroller who had apparently seen us sprinting through the park a few days prior. He looked up from the stroller at his dad and said, "Dad, those dogs are really fast!" to which the dad replied, "Yes, son, dogs are fast." The boy said, "No, dad. THOSE dogs are fast". I had to smile at that one, because he was right. The "kids" make speedwork fun. It's intense, especially when the pooches spot a squirrel, rabbit or another dog, they instantly take off and pull me along for the "hunt" and we fly at a pace much faster than I would otherwise.  

In any case, on a dog walk a couple of days ago, I bumped into a neighbor and he asked about my running. I told him that since I was taking a long break post-RnR, I was looking for a 5k to use some of my residual fitness. He mentioned that there was a 5k he was doing called the "Run for Gus" which supports children with brain cancer. A kid at his son's school who was the top fund raiser for cancer research in his class, coincidentally and tragicaly came down with brain cancer a few weeks later. So, in order to get a 5k in and support the cause, I decided to run the race.

This was a Thursday evening race, so it was challenging to figure out what and how much to eat for lunch so as not to drag me down too much for the race. Morning races are much easier. I have a four day hiatus before I go into an even more restrictive elimination diet on Monday, so, I had some meat and cheese ravioli for lunch, figuring maybe the carbs would do me some good. It was still sitting heavy in my stomach as I jumped in the car and headed down to the lakefront at 6pm for the 7pm start.

As I got down to the parking lot at the Diversey Harbor driving range, I noticed a woman loading her golf clubs into her trunk, so I waited for her to leave. She went over to the passenger side and grabbed here parking receipt off her dashboard and came over and handed it to me. It still had 2 hours left on it (an $8 value)! I thanked her profusely and parked in her spot after she left, which was only about 200 yards from the start line!

I went to the registration tent and signed up. They had iPads, so I was able to use a credit card. Then I put on my backpack and headed out for a shakeout run. 
Pre-Race Overlooking Diversey Harbor

When I got to the underpass at Fullerton, up ahead I saw a man on rollerblades and his dog going down the hill on the other side of the underpass super fast and nearly slamming into the concrete wall. Luckily, he was able to turn at the last second to avoid the wall. Suddenly a woman on rollerblades came even faster and she (likely a novice) slammed into the wall going about 20 mph! She instantly crumbled to the ground and screamed "My knee! My knee!" As I got up to her, I could see her knee was badly messed up. Her boyfriend (who was the guy on rollerblades) came to her aid and immediately called 911. In the excitement, the guy had forgotten about his dog, and the dog was wandering away. So, I went over to the dog, told him to sit and he did right away. Then I grabbed his leash and held onto it. I waited with the dog a few minutes, but as race time was nearing, I asked a bystander if they could hold the dog until the ambulance arrived. They obliged and I took off to the start line. I decided then and there if I ever decide to rollerblade, I will wear knee protection!

After dropping off the dog, I ran back just in time to check my backpack and get in the corral. Without pomp or circumstance, the horn sounded and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 1: There was quite a headwind heading north (about 15 mph) and loads of people sprinted out ahead of me. Since it was an out-and-back course, I knew we'd have a nice tailwind coming home. So I held back as we made our way over to the Lakefront Trail. I could still feel the lunch in my tummy, but tried to ignore it. 6:04/mile.

Mile 2: I started to think I should tuck behind someone for drafting purposes, but I was all alone with the next runner pack about 20 yards ahead. I just kicked back and waited for the turn at mile 1.55. Once we hit the turn at Belmont, I accelerated with a tailwind assist and started gaining on, then picking off runners. The course was kind of a figure 8 in that we had to cross back across the course, narrowly avoiding the runners (who were behind us) coming towards us. Luckily, I made it through unscathed.  5:59/mile.

Mile 3: Right after starting mile 3, I set my sights on a young 20-something runner in racing flats and who was wearing a college cross country singlet just ahead. I gradually made my way up to him and we were flying stride for stride. I was really feeling like I was redlining, but was determined to keep up with him. I drew on every drop of endurance I had built up over the last six months and focused on turnover. We both spotted the finish line ahead. 5:49/mile.

Mile 3.07: The college guy had just a little more juice in the tank than I did. Plus, he probably had a little more leg speed due to being 25 years younger. He broke ahead and stayed a couple of paces ahead of me until the finish. I came in with all I had and was finished!. 4:38/mile.


Official Finish Time: 18:09
Official Pace: 5:51/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:56/mile

Place Overall: 15th out of 765
Place Age Group: 4th out of 51

So, this would be my 3rd fastest 5k ever, except the course was definitely short (by about 70 yards in my estimation). It should probably be counted as an 18:23. In that case, it might barely fall into the top 10 fastest since I have a whole bunch of 5k finishes between 18:10 and 18:23. 

So, taking a ten day rest post-RnR didn't hurt me. In fact, it helped me! My RnR finish time was a 1:28 and according to McMillan's Calculator, an 18:23 5k is equivalent to a 1:25 half marathon! So, note to self, take a much longer, easier taper before a goal half. I'm in better shape to run fast now than I was 10 days ago!

Post Race:
I went over and congratulated the college guy, and he told me I pushed him at the end since he didn't want me to pass him. I told him he helped pull me along as well. Then I got my bag and changed, then went out to root for my neighbor and some other friends.

The Run for Gus course
While on the sidelines, a woman named Tracey from the Chicago Tribune introduced herself. She had interviewed me over the phone a few years ago for this article and somehow she recognized me! Anyway, after everyone I knew had finished, I said my goodbyes and took a lake picture as I walked back to my car. 

On my way to the car, I snapped this one.

Then I left to go shopping for two dozen eggs and whole milk to splurge on over the weekend until my new restrictive diet starts on Monday!

Next Up:
I'm probably still going to do some intense resting over the next two weeks. Rest is certainly doing some good apparently! Then, maybe I'll think about training for a fall half.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon 2017 - Race Recap

Last year at the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon, I broke my long held "Unbreakable PR" when I ran a 1:21:54. It was a monumental run, and marked the peak of my running fitness. Ever. This year's RnR Half Marathon would be the longest distance I've raced since I ran the Chicago Marathon in October. Since October, I have gravitated to shorter distances in order to give myself a break from the constant grind of marathon training. 

Many people ask me why run a half marathon in the July heat? Well, I can only think of four races with courses mainly in the Loop (RnR, Shamrock, CM and Hot Chocolate) and I make it a point to try and run them all, since the setting is second to none! Unfortunately, it seems like attendance at the Rock 'n Roll Half keeps getting smaller every year.

I did manage to meet Kathrine Switzer at the expo on Friday which was very cool. The people in front of me were in tears as they met her. When it was my turn to meet her, after a couple of hugs, I asked her about her Boston effort ... in 2017. Since she has probably recounted her 1967 Boston Marathon about a million times, I think she was excited to talk about her phenomenal Boston Marathon this year (8th in her AG). She told me she trained in New Zealand for it. So maybe I need to take a trip over there and do some hillwork?
After chatting about her legendary race...
Boston 2017
Time goal: This year I was going into the race having run about 30% less miles in training than last year. Therefore, my "A" goal to a seemingly reasonable 1:25. If the weather wasn't agreeable, then my "B" goal would be 1:27 and "C" goal 1:30. The weather was a humid 70 degrees, so I thought my "B" goal would be more realistic.

I woke up at 4:45. After a spoonful of sunflower butter and a few swigs of water, I packed my race bag and met my neighbors Tad and Stacey and we headed downtown to the race.
Waiting for the race to start in Grant Park
We split up at bag check and I then used the ample porta potties. As race start time got closer, I headed over to the first corral for the race to start.
Last year's start (src)
A few minutes later our corral started and we were off!

The Race:
Miles 1 through 3:  I was carrying a water bottle - that way I could blow through the aid stations early on and drink whenever I wanted. Plus, I wanted total control of my fluid intake due to my six food elimination diet. No reason to drink some unknown fluids from a random source! Anyway, my goal was to start the race at a relaxed 6:45/mile clip, which I was on track to do, but it seemed way too difficult for me for some reason. Maybe it was all of this slow training, maybe it was my new diet, but it was a struggle to crank out a relaxed mile and I felt like I was "forcing" things. Usually, I like to start slow and feel like I'm holding myself back, but I didn't have that feeling and I knew that any hope of speeding up later in the race was gone. In any case, I hoped that the endurance that I'd gained over the last four weeks would help me hang on. 6:35/mile

Miles 4 through 6: Running through the Loop is so much fun. As for pace, I just focused on how I was feeling and modulated my pace accordingly. Fortunately, these miles were all in the shadows of the buildings so the temps were tolerable. 6:44/mile

Miles 7 through 9: I knew Xaarlin would be cheering me somewhere during mile seven, and sure enough, there she was in the middle of Michigan Avenue snapping pics and giving me a high five simultaneously! 6:44/mile
Mile 6.5 still with water bottle (src: xaarlin)
Miles 10 through 12: There is a hairpin turn on MLK Drive to start mile 10. On the return trip going north, you can see the other runners who are behind you going south. I was shocked to see how close the 1:30 pacer was behind me, and I was determined not to let him catch up with me which would mean I would even miss my "C" goal. I laughed when I remembered that I'd heard someone call the pace leaders running behind you "the grim reapers of racing". It's truly a deflating feeling to have a pace group pass you mid-race! Anyway, we made the turn northbound on Ft. Dearborn Drive (which runs parallel to the Lakefront Trail) and into the sun and heat. I threw down my water bottle at the "cold sponge" station and really dialed all of my focus on holding pace. We joined forces again with the 10k runners/walkers and we all had to squeeze through the McCormick Place tunnel. If I had been gunning for a PR, all of the swerving around the walkers would be irritating, but since I was just trying to finish ahead of the 1:30 group, I didn't stress too much. 6:51/mile

Miles 13 and 13.17  We crested the last on-ramp to get back onto the mile long straightaway on Columbus Drive. I was really noticing the heat and each step was a struggle. After what seemed like 20 minutes, I finally got close to the finish line.
Finishing up
At the finish line, I threw my arms overhead which the announcer noticed and commented on. However, it seemed like all of the race photographers were over at the 10k finish line, so we may never know how I looked! 6:41/mile


Official Time: 1:28:19
Official Pace: 6:45/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:35/mile

Place Age Group: 5th out of 441 
Place Overall: 107 out of 9,796

Personal Analysis: Six minutes slower than last year and over a minute slower than my "B". goal. It was frustrating, as I know I have more speed in my legs somewhere, but it wasn't to be on this day.

Race Analysis:
The Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half marathon keeps getting smaller from year-to-year:

2010: 19,000 finishers
2011: 15,000 finishers
2012: 15,000 finishers
2013: 14,000 finishers
2014: 14,000 finishers
2015: 12,000 finishers
2016: 11,000 finishers
2017:   9,800 finishers

I know they recently added the 10k and some runners are likely choosing that distance instead of the half, but I'm hoping they can somehow stem the outward flow of runners from the half. I fear that one day they will make the whole thing a 10k and then move the whole shebang over to the Lakefront Trail. Then we will lose one of the only four glorious races that run mostly through streets in downtown Chicago.

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. I went back to the course to cheer on my neighbors and Wendy who was looking strong. Then I met my neighbors in the beer garden and I drank the gluten free beer I'd brought along while they enjoyed the free Michelob Ultra.

The Future: 
I'm feeling a little burned out now, since I've been running pretty high mileage weeks the last four weeks. I think I need a week off of running to get my legs and head back in order.  Maybe I'll do some light lifting and yoga then reassess what I want to accomplish running-wise for the remainder of the year.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Rock and Roll

On Sunday, I'll be running my sixth Rock 'n Roll ("RnR") Half Marathon. I know it will be a long, hot race, but I can't pass up running on city streets in the Loop (for the first half at least). Since I don't have a marathon planned this year, this is turning out to be my "goal" race, so I'm pretty pumped.
Lakefront Run on Sunday
Last year, I set a two minute half marathon PR at the RnR. However, I don't anticipate getting anywhere close to that mark this year, as my YTD mileage is 30% less than it was last year. However, the last three weeks have all been 70+ mile weeks so I might have some newly acquired endurance to hold a decent pace.
PR finish at RnR 2016
That pace will definitely be weather dependent. If the weather is cool, my "A" goal would be a 1:25. If it's just hot, I'd "B" happy with a 1:27. If it's a hot and humid, I'll "C" about running a 1:30. As of this morning, the forecast calls for 70 degrees and 84% humidity at the start. So, we might be looking at a "B" or "C" kind of day.

In other news, I've been following a six food elimination diet. That means I haven't had any eggs, dairy, wheat, seafood, nuts or soy in over four weeks. I've been learning quite a lot about alternatives to the foods I can't eat. For example, you can either buy egg substitute in a package or use apple sauce when a recipe calls for an egg. There is also rice milk, which although it doesn't pack the nutritional wallop of a glass of whole milk, does a decent job when poured over a bowl of wheat-free cereal (e.g. Chex, Cheerios). I've also discovered a line of GF cookies and chocolate called "Enjoy Life" which have been a life saver in the snack department. I've also learned that some wines may contain egg, so I need to either drink cider or vegan wine.

So, for the time being, I'm vegan that can eat meat. My nutritionist was thinking I might need to cut back on my miles while doing this diet in order to make sure I'm getting adequate nutrition. However, I told her I can do without the eggs, yogurt and milk as long as I can eat unlimited meat to get my protein, fat and vitamins. In fact, my mileage has actually increased since I started the diet! Most days, I cook an entire package of sausage or bacon for breakfast and wash it down with a bowl of oatmeal and berries. For lunch it's cold cuts or chili and a salad. For dinner, I eat hamburger patties with Daiya vegan cheese or a steak with sides. Four weeks in, I'm feeling better than I have in a year. My sinuses are clear (I can actually breathe through both nostrils at all times) and I have almost no acid reflux, which helps me to sleep a lot better/longer so my energy levels are higher all day. I'm starting to think that my Chicago Marathon 2016 "crash and burn" was due to low energy levels related to eating one of the foods above. In a few weeks, I start adding the six foods back in one at a time. When I begin to feel sluggish again, I'll be able to pinpoint which food was the culprit.
Yoga Class at Belmont Harbor on Sunday (as seen on my run)
As for cross-training, I'm still swimming three to four times a week, strength training three times and yoga twice. A good combo I've found is to swim in the morning and then do yoga in the evening. My muscles seem to really loosen up on those days! Unfortunately, my gym's pool will be closed next week, so I might have to find an outdoor public pool to for post-race recovery.

Anyone else doing the RnR?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Grim Mile 2017 Race Recap

Racing a mile on a track is a blast. Fortunately, for the past three years I've had the opportunity to run such a race at the annual Grim Mile. Unfortunately, Luther North High School where it is held is closing. Therefore, this year's edition (held on Sunday), would be the last one - forever. In fact the t-shirts they gave out had the words "The Final Grim Mile" emblazoned on them.

This was an evening race, and the first age group heat started around 5:00 pm. The 40-49 year- old division wouldn't get started until 6:15 pm, so after an afternoon shopping trip to Menard's and then stopping off at Wendy's for a Frosty, I changed into my running clothes. Then it was a 4 mile drive over to Luther North High School to register for the race about 30 minutes before my heat started.

Waiting in the extreme heat for my heat to start!
Unlike last year's sparsely attended race, the grounds were packed with people. Lots of alumni came out to pay tribute to their soon-to-be-closing high school and to bask in the class reunion vibe. They had a grill going with free food and lots of family-friendly games on field inside the track. 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.

My legs were tired as I had just run the Run For the Animals 10k the day before, and it was 91 degrees as race time approached, so I opted to do just a slow quarter mile warm-up. This race would not be about running a PR or even close to it, just simply to have fun and to bask in the glory of what might be my last track mile for a long time.

As for pacing, I actually had no plan due to my still-recovering legs and the heat. I was just going to run by feel.

About 12 of us gathered at the line. The gun sounded and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 0.25:  I was on the inside lane and a guy in racing flats bolted out ahead of me. After about 200m he slowed considerable to what was about a 6:00/mile pace. I foolishly bolted by him at a blistering pace since I thought I should easily be running a 5:30 pace at that point. 1:19 (5:15/mile pace).

Still in first place after one lap.

Having to swerve as spectators made their way across the track!
Mile 0.50: Near the beginning of this lap some spectators who were on the field decided to cut across the track directly in front of me. After swerving to the outside to avoid a crash, I got quickly back to the inside lane. Anyway, about halfway into this lap, I realized that maybe I'd fallen into a classic race "trap" during the first lap. By slowing down, the guy I passed had tempted me to do an early surge (which wasted energy) and he had also gotten me to unwittingly lead the race! I knew he was drafting off of me, since I could hear his footsteps behind me. I soon realized that the leg fatigue from the 10k the day before was not going to let me sustain the pace I set out at, so I backed off a little and then the guy behind me shot by me like a bullet. I had nothing in the tank to respond with. 1:21 (5:24/mile pace).

Mile 0.75: I had a feeling I was safely in 2nd place but it's a helpless feeling when racing on a track and you can constantly see the runner ahead pulling away from you after every turn and not being able to respond. 1:22 (5:33/mile pace).
Now in 2nd place
Mile 1.0: I tried pouring on whatever I had left. Another frustrating feeling is seeing the lead runner finish to cheers and then trying to motivate yourself when you still have 50 meters to go! Last year I ran this lap in 1:12! This time I was crawling in comparison. 1:20 (5:32/mile).

Official Finish Time: 5:22
Official Pace: 5:22/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:22/mile
1/2 mile splits: 2:40 and 2:42

Place Overall: 2nd out of 12

I ran by feel and ran pretty even splits, so that's something to be proud of. Otherwise, it was the first time in my life I've run back-to-back races so I just didn't have the turnover or the energy to even come close to my 5:08 PR set last year. In any case, I ran the race for fun and I had fun!

Post Race:
A guy in a white shirt (as seen in the pic above) handed me my 2nd place medal right after I crossed the finish line. I talked to the winner briefly. He finished in 5:02, so I would've had to PR by a ton to have even come close to beating him. Anyway, I spoke with a nice Polish woman who was there with her teenage son who was running the elite race. She congratulated me on a fast race and said that when she was younger she had run a PR of 16:09 in the 5k! We chatted for awhile, then I went over and watched the next heat and ate a free sausage from the concession stand. Before I left, I said my goodbyes to the track and to Luther North High School - saddened that this great race won't happen again.

Next Up:
Maybe the Chicago Rock n' Roll Half next month.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Run For the Animals 2017 Race Recap

As I mentioned in my previous post - I was uncertain how I would fare at this year's edition of the Run For the Animals 10k. I had put in about 33% less miles going into the race than I had last year, but I was optimistic that I had retained my fitness from the Shamrock Shuffle in April. If this was the case then a 37:59 10k was in my sights if the weather was favorable.

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. On our way to the start area I bumped into Zoe and we said hi for a moment. After reaching the start area, I again spotted Zoe lined up about 10 rows back. She was running the 5k and she also mentioned that she was going to run the Pike's Peak Half later in the summer. After a lovely chat the national anthem was sung. I could feel the sun beating down on us as we listened to the anthem. This race traditionally has pretty warm weather and Saturday was no exception. I went over my pacing strategy in my head:

Miles 1 through 3: 6:20, 6:10, 6:05
Miles 2 through 6.2: 6:00, 6:00, 6:00, 6:00

Running those paces would get me right about to a 37:59. I felt this was realistic especially since I ran 5 miles at the Shamrock Shuffle at just around 6:00 mile.

After the anthem, the horn sounded and we were off!

The Race
Mile 1: This was a dual 5k and 10k, so I started a little ways back. I'd forgotten that this mile had a gradual downhill for the first half mile, so I was running just slightly faster than plan. I felt okay to start, but once I sped up to pass a couple of runners I began to feel a little off. 6:13/mile.

Start of the Run for the Animals. I'm in the neon hat and shirt.
Mile 2: I waited for things to feel better, but I began having the feeling that this was not going to be my day. I shouldn't have felt like I was forcing things this early, but I was. It's not that my legs were leaden, but I just didn't feel 100%. Maybe it was the heat, but it actually hadn't gotten too hot out at that point. So, despite not knowing the exact reason I couldn't get going properly, I sadly had to admit to myself that I needed to back off lest I crash and burn during the second half. My goal finish time would be out the window and my new plan would be to find a new, slower maximum pace that I could finish the race at. 6:10/mile.

Mile 3: I started to gradually slow down and right after the mile 2 marker, a guy running next to me said, "one more mile!" to which I replied, "four more miles"! We both had a laugh and then soon parted ways as he headed for the 5k finish line and I continued on the 10k course. 6:16/mile.

Mile 4: I realized that the only person left on the 10k course that I could see was a guy about 30 seconds ahead of me who appeared to be in my age group (spoiler alert: He was). 6:20/mile.

Mile 5: The second half of the 10k course is cool because it contains a mile or so loop around a nice little lake. I closed the gap between the guy ahead of me to about 20 seconds, but things were a struggle. I even slowed way down during a water stop to try and reset myself, which seemed to help a little and I started up at a slightly faster pace. 6:17/mile.

Mile 6: For the final full mile the course heads on a very gradual uphill, which helps to kill most momentum and really made me work when I didn't have the will or the energy to do so. The only thing that was keeping me motivated was to keep contact with the guy in front of me. 6:28/mile.

Mile 6.2: For the last two tenths, the road finally flattened and I used every ounce of my dwindled reserves to try and catch the guy ahead of me since he was likely in my age group. He sped up as well and I had nothing to respond with. Soon enough, I saw him hit the finish line 8 seconds ahead of me. 5:32/mile.
Finish line from 2016!
Race Summary: 
  • Official Time: 38:48 Official pace: 6:16/mile
  • Overall Place: 16th out of 484
  • Age Place: 3rd out of 25 
  • Third fastest 10k ever (out of 24 races)
I was completed gassed and stumbled over to a tree and layed down on my back in the grass to catch my breath. I hadn't felt this winded after a race in a couple of years. It really was a monumental effort just to hold the slower pace I had relegated myself to during mile 2.

My sister and her kids came over and congratulated me (and asked me if I was okay) since I probably looked pretty wiped out laying on the ground and all!

Soon enough, my dad made his way over from the 5k finish line and we went over to the kids race to watch my niece compete in the half miler. After her strong finish, we went to the after party where I got my free Sam Adams. I took a couple of refreshing sips and checked the posted results on the big leaderboard. Two younger guys also looking at the results noticed that eyes were scanning near the top of the leaderboard. They then started peppering me with questions about how I got so fast! Talk about a boost for my morale! I guess that put things in perspective: I had what I considered a disappointing day, yet guys 10 years younger than me were astonished at my pace. I guess I might be too hard on myself this year since I had such a stellar year of training last year and subconsciously think that I should be near that level this year. I still had a good race. Not everyday goes as planned I can't really have similar expectations like last year. I'm not doing huge mileage volumes now, so I can't expect to feel the same way I did when I was.

Anyway, we all headed over to breakfast at a nearby diner. After breakfast, my dad walked back to the awards ceremony and got both of our medals. My dad got 2nd place in his AG!

Race Takeaway:
It was a tough and disappointing race since I finished almost a minute slower than goal and almost two minutes slower than the PR I set there last year. It also sapped a lot of energy out of me early on, and I was riding the struggle bus most of the race. It was just one of those days when things didn't click and I had to gut it out. Perhaps I am a handful of miles per week short of a breakthrough, or maybe it would be best to just maintain my mileage and see if a base of more weeks at the same mileage will pay off better in the long run? In any case, this is a recovery week so I'm going to do low miles and some swimming!

 BTW, next year the race will be on my birthday and I will be the youngest runner in my new AG!

Next up:
Grim Mile on 6/4!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Run for the Animals 10k Pre-race Thoughts

Last year's edition of the Run for the Animals 10k was a huge PR for me. With a 36:49, I knocked off over a minute and 25 seconds from my previous best. In the 20 weeks prior to that race, I was averaging over 60 miles per week. Leading up to this year's edition of the race my training has been a little different - only 41 miles per week.
Finishing the 2016 Run for the Animals
However, one thing I've done differently in training this year is to mix in three swims per week in addition to those 41 miles. At the very least, swimming has kept my legs looser as floating and kicking is therapeutic - allowing my joints to heal while at the same time increasing my aerobic base. I'm hoping that 3x per week swimming is worth five miles per week of running. Another thing working in my favor is that I've been dialing in my LCHF diet and have lost about five pounds over the last month. This puts me only two pounds over my ideal "racing weight". I'm probably a pound or two lighter than I was for last year's race. Maybe that's worth another handful of seconds?

Ideally, I'd like to run a sub 38:00 and snag a 2nd best PR, but that is no easy feat since it means running two 18:59 5ks back-to back. But is this goal realistic given my current fitness? In order to figure that out, I assumed that my fitness is the same as it was for my last 5k race, which I finished with an 18:16. I then plugged that time into the McMillan Calculator.  The result that popped up said that I should be able to run a 37:56 10k - almost to the second of my goal!

So, if it's not too windy (and not too hot) on Saturday and I pace myself correctly, I may just be able to eke out a 37:59! In any event, it will be a fun time with my family as my dad is planning on running the 5k and my niece is planning on running the kids' race.

Also, the last edition of the Grim Mile will be held the following day. I may be a late entrant to that race, depending on how my legs feel.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ravenswood Run 2017 Race Recap

I've been swimming 4x a week in the three weeks since the Shamrock Shuffle. Post Shuffle, I was feeling run down physically and decided that low miles and swimming was the best thing I could do in order to start feeling better. Since I have no major races on the horizon, I could afford to pamper myself and float and kick in the pool for a few weeks. Once I dialed back my running I could really notice how sore my hips and upper legs were. Sometimes running every day helps to mask pain, and an extended break lets me realize which areas need to heal and time to strengthen.

With the extended run break, I was going into this year's Ravenswood Run with slightly less endurance than I would have had if I had kept up with my miles. However, even with the run break, I could sense my endurance had only faded slightly. My Shamrock 8k time of 29:54 translates to a 18:09 (5:50/mile) using McMillan, so I guessed I was somewhere around 18:30 shape.

I came up with the following strategy for the race: First mile at around 6:00 and then evaluate how I feel. If I feel good, then drop to 5:50 and try to hold onto that for the remainder. If an initial six minute mile felt too fast, slow down in order not to crash and burn in mile three.

I woke up at 6am for a three mile shakeout run in which I ran the last mile of the Ravenswood Run course. Since the pylons were up and the streets essentially closed, I made mental notes of which stoplight the turns were at, where it was best to cut the tangents and which point I would start my final kick. Then I ran home, where I had ate two hard boiled eggs, a cup of black tea, a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I took my dogs out for a half mile jog then my dad and I ran 1.5 miles over to the start line. We got there with five minutes to spare.

Anyway, the national anthem was sung, a prayer was said, and to the sound of tolling church bells - we were off!
Video of the start of the Ravenswood Run

The Race:
Mile 1: Since this wasn't a CARA Circuit race, and hence I would probably place fairly high, I started about three rows back. Once the gun sounded, I was still passed by 20 or 30 runners, but luckily didn't have to weave too much. For the second race in a row, I passed the 12 year old girl who was featured in Runners World. Hit the mile 1 marker eight seconds faster than planned. 5:52/mile.

Mile 1 (src)
Mile 2: It was time to evaluate how I felt to determine if I could speed up. I didn't feel as good as I did at this point last year, but I thought I had room for just a little acceleration. However, when I went to speed up, I couldn't muster any extra turnover in my legs. I don't know if it was the wind or if my legs were tight, but I actually started slowing down! I started to get nervous that I might crash and burn if not in this mile, maybe in the next one. 5:56/mile.

Mile 3: Right after starting mile 3, we ran into the quaint shopping area of Lincoln Square and I said my goodbyes to the soon-to-be-closinig Chicago Brauhaus. Luckily, after trying another acceleration, my legs finally started to obey and I quickly adapted to a slightly faster pace. We ran down Damen and then made the final turn onto Wilson for the quarter mile homestretch. 5:48/mile.

Tera Moody at the 2013 Ravenswood 5k (in front of the
 Chicago Brauhaus)
Mile 3.13: I wanted to run at a blistering pace, but had pretty much tapped all of my reserves. I focused on just running with a controlled kick.


I came in with all I had and was finished!. 5:04/mile.


Official Finish Time: 18:16
Official Pace: 5:53/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:50/mile

Place Overall: 26th out of 2,498
Place Age Group: 1st out of 157

My first first place AG finish ever at the Ravenswood Run. This was my fifth fastest 5k ever just behind these four: 18:15, 18:10, 17:54 and 17:36.

So, taking a three week run break didn't really hurt me too much since I ran only seven seconds slower than I would have had I kept my fitness from the Shamrock. That said, I'm probably "living on borrowed time" and if I don't want to dig myself out of too big of a "fitness hole" I should resume running more miles in the next couple of weeks.

Post Race:
I ran backwards through the course (using the sidewalk) and met up with my dad. I ran most of mile three with him and then left him for the last quarter so he could kick it to the finish by himself. We met up after the finish line and since there was no awards ceremony, we slow jogged home.

I'm likely not going to race for another month, but in the interim, I'll continue to swim and run low miles. It's tempting to ramp up the mileage so my fitness won't fade, but getting a restart with my legs this summer is a higher priority. Declan mentioned maybe doing a fall marathon together. So, if I want to have any chance of keeping up with him, it would be best to have some fresh legs and be rested going into a potential 10 to 12 week marathon cycle.

Next Up:
I have my eye on the Run For the Animals in June and the final Grim Mile the day after. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shamrock Shuffle 2017 Race Recap

I hadn't raced since November of last year, so I only had a vague concept of how I would do at this year's Shamrock Shuffle. Despite the fact that I did have a pace plan, I wasn't nearly as confident in it as those I used last year when I could predict my race time within a few seconds using an assist from the McMillan conversion tables. In any case, as I wrote in my last post, I had a hunch I could run it somewhere between 30:30 and 30:45.

My general approach would be the same one I implemented last year - a slow(ish) first mile, comfortably hard until 5k and then a turbo charged final 1.97. I've been training by running mostly slow miles (>8:00 min) mixing in only an occasional "fast" (sub-7:00 min) mile here and there. In fact, I'd only run one single six-minute mile this entire year which was 10 days prior on a downhill street in Palm Springs. So it would be a good test of the 80/20 training I'd been doing so far.

Would running slowly actually help me to run fast?

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and went for a two mile shakeout run around my neighborhood. Temps were hovering around 45 degrees with only a slight hint of a wind, so in other words, perfect racing weather! After changing, eating two hard boiled eggs, and walking the dogs. I drove down to the race and parked in a $16 parking garage. I was at the race early enough that I saw people street parking in the Loop. The street spots I saw were $2 an hour with a two hour limit. Note to self: I need to download that parking meter app on my phone and then street park. Using the app I can remotely add meter time via my phone if I stay longer than two hours. Even if I stay at the race for four hours that's only eight bucks. Lesson learned.

Anyway, I had a free VIP entry for winning the 2016 Oui Run 5k, so I can't really complain about overpaying for parking. With my VIP entry, I got access to the hospitality tent next to Buckingham Fountain with buffet, private gear check and private bathrooms with sinks!

Waiting for the race in the tent
Since there was free food, I naturally loaded a plate up with a bagel and cream cheese, some fruit and a banana. After I had sat down and had eaten everything on the plate, I was full, but now had only 45 minutes until race start. I became a little paranoid that I wouldn't digest it before the race started. I thought, "oh well, can't do anything about it now!". So, I sat there for another 20 minutes reading on my phone hoping the full feeling would dissipate. I felt a little better by the time it was to check my bag. On my way out of the tent, I grabbed a bottle of water and did a slow jog over to the start corrals. I did some pickups on the grass near the corral entrance and ran with Kim P for a minute or two. Finally, with about five minutes before the corrals closed, I stopped my warm-ups and made my way over to the start area. Maybe it was the pre-race adrenaline, but by the time I hit the corral, the extra food in my stomach didn't seem to bother me any longer. Whew!

Once in the "A" corral, I saw Xaarlin taking skyline pictures, so before she saw me, I jumped as high as I could to do a photobomb. It was a success.
Once I landed, I also said hi to Eric and Jeff H.
In the corral with
Eric, Jeff and Xaarlin (src)
After chatting a bit, I wished everyone luck then moved a little further up in the corral. The national anthem was sung and I flung my disposable clothes over the fence and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 1: Last year, I ran this mile in 6:10, but my aim this year was to run it in 6:30. I started a little further back in order to not get swept up too much in the initial mad dash and run relaxed. Luckily, I didn't have to weave around many slower runners since I didn't want to do much passing early on. Maybe I run a little faster when I feel relaxed because I ran 16 seconds faster than plan. 6:14/Mile

Mile 2:  Since some runners at this point were slowing down, anyone I was passing was almost solely due to attrition, rather than acceleration. Once on State Street, I found myself running alongside Olympian Alexi Pappas who seemed to be pacing a young girl (found this in Runners World about her). They eventually slowed down enough that I passed them as well. I was still holding back with all my might. 6:11/Mile

Mile 3: More running through the Loop. Mentally, I was trying to hold back just a little yet still run comfortably hard.  5:58/Mile

Mile 4: I crossed the 5k timing mat at 18:58 which was only 28 seconds slower than my time at the same point last year during my 8k PR. After all of the early relaxed running, I was definitely ready to "release the Kraken" and start gunning full speed. At last, I allowed myself to consciously speed up and I smiled wide as I stepped on the gas. This was gonna be fun! I started getting some nice turnover. 5:46/Mile.

Mile 4.97: I kept looking at my Garmin and was stunned to see it was steadily reading just a tick over 5:40/mile. Despite the speed, I felt strong and was in a good rhythm sprinting down Michigan Ave. I hadn't had this euphoric feeling of running fast with minimal effort since early November. It made me super happy to be back in the "zone". It's these brief moments that make all of the hard work well worth it. At one point, I saw a guy slow down and start walking (and cursing loudly). Maybe he was a "thought-it-was-a-5k-casualty"?  As we turned the corner to go uphill, I slowed slightly on Mt. Roosevelt and looked forward to the summit so I could start my all-out sprint down Columbus Drive.
Cresting Mt. Roosevelt
Once I made the turn, it was an even madder dash downhill for the final 200 yards because when I spotted the clock, I realized I could squeak in under 30 minutes if I hurried! 5:42/Mile.
Running the last 10 meters, trying to break 30 minutes!


Official Pace: 6:01/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:56/mile

Analysis: Yay! I broke 30 minutes! This was my second fastest 8k ever and was only 43 seconds from the PR I set last year when I was running 40% more weekly miles. The first 5k was an 18:58 and the final 5k was about 18:02. That would have been a third fastest 5k PR by itself! This race is proof that I really can run fast by training (mostly) slowly. Before the race, I had only run one single mile as fast as 6:00/mile this year. In this race, I ran five at a Garmin average pace of 5:56/mile!

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute looking around for runners that I knew. After a minute of not recognizing anyone, I turned around to walk out. Suddenly, I heard someone yell "Pete" and it was Steve from Still Running. We chatted as we walked down the chute.
Hanging with Steve
 just after the finish line
Whilst walking back to the hospitality tent, Zoe ran up alongside me. We chatted for a bit before she went to bag check. I went to the tent, got my stuff and sat at a table for a few minutes while the caterers set up the post-race buffet. Olympian and US marathon record holder Deena Kastor went over and loaded her plate as soon as the buffet opened for business. When she came back she momentarily thought about sitting at my table to eat. Unfortunately, she chose the table next to mine. Fortunately, I got this cool photo of "us" once she sat down to eat!

Me and Deena (she's in the black hat)!
Alexi Pappas came in next with the girl she had been pacing and she also made a beeline to the buffet:
Alexi Pappas
Eventually, it was time for the winners to get their awards and they all posed near my table for a photo op:
Race winners featuring another Olympian 
After my celeb sightings, I forewent the free beer and wine in the tent and instead went outside and redeemed my coupon for a Michelob Ultra in the regular beer garden. I spotted Xaarlin, Mo and Eric and the rest of the Mikkeller Crew and we stood around, chatted and had a beer or two until the gang took the party to a secret bar location.

The Future:
Since this was a strong first race of the year, typically, I'd say that I'm going to elevate my game by running more miles and doing more speed work in order to see if I couldn't eke out some PRs. But this year I'll play things differently and say I'm going to just keep doing the same mileage volume, stick with my 80/20 training for a few months and just enjoy running. I can jump into races when I want and if I pace things right - even have a thrilling mile or two like I did at the end of this year's Shuffle.