Thursday, June 6, 2019

Run For the Animals 10k 2019 Race Recap

This was a race that didn't turn out as expected. About a mile and a half into the race I realized that it wasn't my day. I blame it on running/walking nearly 60 miles for the week (plus 20 miles of "Bike the Drive") and basically walking all over Chicago the 24 hours before the race. Reminder to self: Don't arrive at the start line fatigued.

After getting only about four hours of sleep due to a doggy with tummy trouble, I was out the door at 5 a.m. for a shakeout run of 1.5 miles in the city. I was hoping to do a little over two miles, but I was running late. This year there was no need to do a pre-race doggy walk (they had just been outside at 3:30 am), so 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. At bag check, I bumped into Zoe who had moved back to the area from Colorado. I met up with my nephew who was running his third 5k ever and we did a few warm-up strides, then we slid into our respective corrals. The national anthem was sung beautifully, but at a low volume such that runners in the back of the corral kept chatting for the duration. The temps which were humid and in the mid 60's not perfect, but better than expected for early June. 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. My target was around 6:30 and I wish I'd stayed there, but the downhill was so tempting.  6:21/mile.

Mile 2: As we crested a small hill, I could feel I was straining a little too much given the pace, but thought I could push through it, after all my goal pace was 6:17/mile.  6:17/mile.

Mile 3: This is typically the point in a 10k where I either maintain pace or accelerate, but I wasn't able to. Was it my lungs or fatigued legs, or both? Probably both. I made the gut wrenching decision to "admit defeat" and slow down to avoid disaster during mile six. I thought a sub-40 was still doable as I slowly let go of my grip on a sub-39. 6:26/mile.

Mile 4: Slowest mile. A mile I'd like to forget since I was slowing down to start the second half of the race. However, I shall visualize this mile during my training and work hard so that such a mile doesn't happen during the RnR next month. 6:36/mile.

Mile 5: The guy in my AG that I always seem to pass during races was in my sights, so I made an effort to get ahead of him and I did. 6:29/mile.

Mile 6: The final mile is a gradual uphill, which helps to kill most momentum. It really made me work. I forced myself to keep focused despite having my goal time out the window and struggling to keep a moderate pace. A sub-40 was still in the works, but I guess I was not running good tangents, because it started to dawn on me that I needed to run faster to get that time. 'Twas not to be. 6:29/mile.

Mile 6.29: As I made the turn to the homestretch, Zoe was standing there yelling "Go Pete!" and I gave her a wave. After looking back to make sure that no one was immediately behind me, and seeing "40:xx" on the board, instead of "39:xx" - I slowed way down for the last 20 meters and trotted over the finish line. 6:04/mile.
Finish line from 2016. Much more exciting!
Race Summary: 
  • Official Time: 40:22 (a full 1:24 slower overall than last year)
  • Official pace: 6:31/mile
  • Overall Place: 36th out of 590
  • Age Place: 2nd out of 34 (2nd place CARA finish. Okay that was nice!)

I went to bag check and then over to the 5k finish line to meet up with my nephew and family.

Race Takeaway:
Here were my splits:
6:21, 6:17, 6:26, 6:36, 6:29, 6:29

Last year my fastest mile was 6:14 and slowest was 6:20 - a six second spread. This year my fastest mile was 6:17 and slowest was 6:36 - a 12 second spread. That's double the variation from last year. Maybe if I had held back a little more during the first half, I could have given my tired legs more of a chance to get into the race?

Anyway, my performance in this year was a disappointment. I don't like slowing down at all during the second half of a race and was also hoping for a 38:xx and instead ran a 40:xx. Oh well, not every race goes as planned and I will use this as a learning experience. After a week off, I will ramp up the mileage to get my endurance back and then stick to a decent taper (maybe two weeks long) for my goal half marathon in July.

Next up:
RnR Half!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Ravenswood Run 2019 Race Recap

Since the Shamrock Shuffle, I set my sights on gaining more fitness and feeling better in general. That doesn't necessarily mean I ran more weekly miles, it means that I hit the gym more and dialed in my diet by eating less carbs and more fat. In the month since I undertook this endeavor I can really feel the difference. Lifting a little more and substituting the cookies for bacon, helped me feel stronger and to drop those three pesky pounds which were keeping me from my "racing weight". Getting just slightly more fit, brought along a lot of side benefits like sleeping better, having more energy and more confidence that I did all I could (besides running more) to be ready for a race. It always makes me wonder, why can't I don't I do this year-round? Is the cookie habit really worth it?!

By the end of last week it was time for my annual neighborhood race, the Ravenswood Run 5k. How would I fare? McMillan said that I was in 18:54 (6:05/mile) shape. So, the negative splitter that I am, planned to run 6:05, 6:00, 5:55, 5:55. I wanted to beat 18:54. For that to happen - my kick would have to squeak me under 18:54.

After accidentally waking up at 4:15 a.m.(!), I did a 3.25 mile shakeout run to the Ravenswood Run course and back. It was about 38 degrees, and there was still snow on the ground from the freak late-April storm from the day before. I found out that the wind would be bad heading northbound, but that would mean a nice finishing southbound tailwind. I also gauged if it was warm enough to only wear shorts and a singlet by taking off my jacket for the final mile. It wasn't so bad, but I realized that in addition to the shorts and singlet, a hat and gloves would make things more comfortable.
Early morning shakeout run to the race
Once I got back home I changed into my race gear, pinned my bib on, walked the doggies, ate an egg and some chicken and then left for the race with my dad, brother and sister at 7:20 for the 8:00 start. We found a parking spot not far from the start line. By the time we left the car there was about 20 minutes remaining until race start. I checked my gear and did some warm-up sprints. Then I headed over to the A corral and bumped into Ken W and John B. Anyway, the national anthem was sung, a prayer was said, and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 1: Since this was a CARA Circuit race, and there were tons of speedier runners present, I started about 10 rows back. As soon as the gun sounded, just past the start line, I once again saw a kid stumble, but he was propped up immediately by a good Samaritan behind him. What's up with kids tripping while racing? Are their shoes too big?!  I was running by feel, and I felt astonishingly good, the wind out of the north certainly helped speed me up faster than goal. My arms were a little chilly, so I shook them out to warm them up. 6:00/mile.

Mile 2: At the start of mile two I knew I had started out perfectly and knew I could hold pace for the remaining 2.1. I spotted a guy who I knew was in my AG and who seemingly always starts out to fast (I passed him mid-race in the Shuffle as well). As I passed him once again, I could tell by his labored breathing that he was in for a positive split. I wonder why experienced runners continue to do this? We headed northbound into the wind, so I tucked behind whoever I could before passing them. 6:01/mile.

Mile 3: Right after passing the two mile marker, we ran into the quaint shopping area of Lincoln Square and I once again said my goodbye to the still shuttered Chicago Brauhaus. I was looking forward to the southbound tailwind once we made the turn onto Damen and soon enough we were there and the photographer was waiting for the spectacular photo opp under the Brown line! 6:01/mile.

Under the Damen Brown line Station near mile 3 (src).
Mile 3.13: I knew I was close to a sub-19:00 and used that as motivation as I sped up. Nothing like an arbitrary number to push you a little harder at the end of a race. I was running all alone as the finish line neared. The announcer called my name once I hit the first mat.

About to hit the first timing mat (src)
Gotta stop my watch! (src)
I stepped on the second (and final) mat and stopped my Garmin. I was finished!. 5:25/mile.


Official Finish Time: 18:51
Official Pace: 6:04/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:59/mile

Place Overall: 57th out of 2,094
Place Age Group: 1st out of 115

AG is usually tough since this was a CARA circuit run, but maybe the weather the day before kept some guys at home because I scored my first ever 1st place AG in a CARA race! I ran the race in over 19 minutes last year, and I beat the 18:54 prediction, so I was pretty happy. My splits were pretty much pristine - 6:00, 6:01, 6:01 and that was running by feel.

Post Race:
I ran backwards through the course (using the sidewalk) and found my dad and ran with him a bit, then I left him and ran further back to run with my brother and sister to the finish. After collecting our things, we drove home. AG medals will be mailed apparently.

I'm not going to race for another month until the Run For the Animals 10k. I don't anticipate ramping up the mileage between now and then. I like where I'm at fitness-wise, so I want to keep the positive vibes going. I think a month of consistent yet moderate training will get me to where I want to be for the 10k - (i.e. in just a tiny little bit better shape)!

Next Up:
Run for the Animals in June!

Friday, April 19, 2019

2019 CARA Lakefront 10 Miler Race Recap

It's been three years since I last ran the CARA Lakefront 10 Miler. Even though it's only two miles from my house, recently hadn't been quite ready for the March pre-Shamrock race dates. Luckily, they shifted the date to a post-Shamrock mid-April date. I figured I was in 10 mile shape and even managed to squeeze in my first 10 miler in a long time the weekend before.


Goal: The tables said that I should be in 1:05:30 shape, but realistically I didn't want to go all out at the race. So, I decided I'd like a 1:07 (~6:42/mile) pace.

Getting To the Race: At about 7:55 am I drove east down Foster until I reached the parking lot at about 8:05 am. 

Pre-Race:  I drove another half mile south to snag a parking spot closer to the start/finish area. I sat in my car for 5 minutes drinking coffee until I decided it would be a good time to head over to the start areas.

The race booths were all setup on the Lincoln/Montrose Running Track infield. It was astroturf, and was therefore a pretty clean, dry, place to host the pre and post-race festivities. I bumped into Wendy and we had a nice pre-race chat. She asked me what my goal was and I said a 1:07. After taking off my sweatpants and jacket, I decided to hike back to my car to drop off my gear. Once I got there, I realized that post-race I probably wouldn't want to walk that far to get my stuff, so I sat in my car, drank some more coffee then headed over to gear check.

After checking my bag, I had about 5 minutes to spare. So, I queued up by the porta potties and at 8:58 darted in and out of one and jogged over to the start corral. The countdown started horn sounded and we were off!

The Race
Miles 1 and 2:  Since it was pretty windy and I had only done one 10 mile run in the past six months, I just wanted to take the first couple of miles slowly. For a long stretch we ran headlong into a westerly wind. I tried to tuck behind a couple of runners to help break the wind. Near the 2 mile mark we separated from the 5kers. 6:51/mile.

Miles 3 and 4: Last time I ran this race, we ascended Cricket Hill twice. Thankfully it would only be once this go around (near the finish). I started passing runners who went out too fast. More tucking. I think it was at this point that the race had bused in a bunch of kids as a cheering section. I side-fived about 10 kids. It was pretty cool. 6:37/mile.

Miles 5 and 6:  We circled Diversey Harbor and headed north into the wind. I spotted the guy I knew was in my AG, so as I did in the Shuffle, once I passed him, I used him as motivation: I would not let him pass me if he challenged. 6:32/mile.

Miles 7 and 8: I started to feel the burn of not having raced this far in awhile. 6:38/mile.

Miles 9 and 10: At the base of Cricket Hill, I heard a guy behind me saying "get going old man!" I thought he was talking to me. Once he passed me, I realized he had his headphones on and had been talking out loud to himself! He was likely in my AG and decked out in Boston gear. However, I didn't have any juice left to pass him. I could only will myself uphill. Once at the bottom of the hill, we got onto the running track for the final quarter mile loop! I saw Wendy and she snapped my pic just before the start of the final lap. 6:48/mile.
Head down up Cricket Hill (src)
Last few meters on the track (src)

I crossed the finish line and got my medal about ten feet later!

Time: 1:07:08
Pace: 6:43
Overall: 61/1,191
Age Group: 3/65

I pretty much nailed my goal and was only off by 8 seconds. My splits were pretty much even: First five miles was in 33:35 and the last five was done in 33:33! I think I am getting this pacing thing down!

Post Race:
I picked up my gear and headed back to see Wendy. She looked up my time on her phone and it said that I had gotten 4th in my AG, with the first place guy running a 58:00 or some such craziness. I would find out later that they moved him out of our AG and I got 3rd. I love the accomplishment of placing in CARA races since they are so competitive.
Wendy and Me (src)
We went over to the beer garden to see if we could find Erica and we both turned down the free Michelob Ultra. The last time I ran this they had Magic Hat. I guess the big beers have big sponsor dollars?

Beautiful day for a race, Nice cool race conditions!

Next Up: Ravenswood Run 5k!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Shamrock Shuffle 2019 Race Recap

My goal race - The Shamrock Mile - was the day before, so I planned that the Shamrock Shuffle 8k was going to be just for fun. However, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I simply can't just run for fun! Plus I was running for the MRC team this year and I wanted a decent AG finish to score points (or less points!) for them.

The only real calculation I did prior to the race was to check my average weekly mileage 12 weeks before the race vs. last year. This year I was at 32 miles per week and last year 30 miles per week (when I ran a 31:08remember that number). So, I actually had a tiny bit more base than last year. I really didn't do any more exacting calculations as to what my 8k fitness level was, despite having a 5:36/mile to work with from the race 18 hours before. The 5:36, put me at about a 32:00 8k, but I hadn't bothered to look it up, because you know, I was trying to chill.

I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and went for a one mile shakeout run around my neighborhood. Temps were hovering around 40 degrees and there was a slight wind. I made coffee, scarfed down bacon, an egg and a banana. After letting the dogs out and getting them back inside, I drove down to the race and to park at a new $10 garage. Unfortunately, Columbus Ave was already blocked off so I had to spend an extra 10 minutes driving west to approach the garage using the bridge over Columbus. I was in a hurry to get to the MRC pre-race photo op and time was ticking. So, I parked quickly and sprinted over to the meetup area with what turned out to be plenty of time to chat with the MRC team.

I checked my bag with about 15 minutes before the corrals closed, so I did a slow jog for 5 minutes then did some fast pickups for another 5 minutes.

Once in the corral, I spotted the MRC group and saw Xaarlin and company. I then made my way up closer to the start line. I spotted John B who hadn't raced in over a year and we shared how good it felt to be back at it for the Shuffle. The national anthem was sung and we were off.

The Race:
Mile 1: The weather was perfect - mid 40s and overcast. Last year, I ran this mile in 6:20, but I figured I 'd be happy with a 6:30. 6:35/Mile

Mile 2: I realized I'd been holding back a lot for the first mile, especially when you count that there is a big downhill after the Columbus St. bridge. I was feeling good, so I opened things up a little. 6:11/Mile

Mile 3: The wind was a factor, and I tried to tuck in behind a runner here and there.  6:14/Mile

Mile 4: I crossed the 5k timing mat at 19:43 which was 21 seconds slower than my time at the same point last year. I guess I had really been holding back. I typically love to step on the gas at this point in the race and since my lungs and legs both felt great, I proceeded with Operation Pass Lots-o-Fading-Runners! 6:09/Mile.

Mile 4.97: I relish the long straight stretch southbound on Michigan Ave. This is where the footrace begins since there are no turns and you can see everyone ahead and you. You can also see where the footrace will end with Mt. Roosevelt looming in the distance. This is where I spotted a guy I knew was in my AG and quickly put him behind me. For extra motivation I told myself that I needed to stay ahead of him. I kept the speed up thinking that he might be on my heels. We made the turn onto Roosevelt Rd and then I flew uphill and then with all my might down to the finish line! 5:59 /Mile.

Mt. Roosevelt
Official Pace: 6:16/mile
Official Time: 31:09
Official Pace: 6:16/mile
Age Group: 6th out of 651
Overall: 470 out of 20,632

Analysis: Almost identical finishing time as last year:

2019 Shuffle

2018 Shuffle
I am proud of the negative split. Unlike last year, when I positive-splitted, I never really felt like I was red-lining until the very end. Despite the "same" finishing time, I even moved way up in my AG standings thanks to the new AG! Fun stat: according to the results, I passed 58 men in the last 1.9 miles!

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute and got my picture taken;

For some reason, I found myself walking down the chute alongside Deena Kastor, who moments ago set a world masters 8k record. She was talking about how her lungs felt fine, but she couldn't get more speed out of her legs! Anyway, I mentioned to one of the course volunteers that Deena Kastor was walking by her. The volunteer asked me if she thought that Deena would let her take a picture of her. So I asked Deena and she said yes, but that the volunteer had to get in the picture with her. So I took her phone and got a picture of the two together!

Next I took off to the Buckingham Fountain Beer Garden to meet up with the MRC gang:

MRC and Beer (last year)!
I offered John B a ride then we headed back to my car stopping off at Starbucks first.

The Future:
I like where I am fitness-wise and generally feel better rested and less burned out than I have. As for goals, I'd like to make a strong age group showing the day before my birthday at at the Run For the Animals 10k in June. However, before that happens I'll get a tune up at another CARA race - the Ravenswood Run 5k at the end of April! Who knows? I might even be a late entrant for the CARA Lakefront 10 Miler!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Shamrock Mile 2019 Race Recap

To say that this was the best day of the year wouldn't be an overstatement. I finally shook off all of the racing cobwebs that had accumulated over the last 200+ days and had a wonderful experience. The weather was picture-perfect, I got to meet three Olympians and hung out with friends before during and after. Plus, as a bonus, I got to race what is perhaps my favorite distance now - the mile, that heart-pounding, leg draining, adrenaline fueled slice of racing heaven!

I had been doing about two quarter mile sprints 2x a week and I could usually bring them all in under 5:20/mile pace, so I figured that I would try for a 5:25. That meant the following target splits:

1:25, 1:20, 1:20, 1:20

But realistically with the hairpin turns (and four uphills), I knew that it might be a stretch goal. 

Pre Race:
My wave (competitive masters) didn't start in Grant Park until 11:20, so I had plenty of time after waking up to prepare. After a short (1/2 mile) shakeout run, I ate an egg and some bacon, walked the pups, got my stuff together, grabbed a coffee and was out the door at about 10:15. I parked in Grant Park North garage, had some more coffee and a banana. After ascending the stairs, I was pretty much on the course, so it was a well-chosen parking lot! I wandered around wondering where everyone was:
Pre-race near the bag check. Just me and the Green Guys
Eventually I spotted Erica there and we chatted and got a pic.

Me and Erica pre-race
I also noticed the three Olympians (Deena Kastor, Alexi Pappas, and Carrie Tollefson) milling around before the start chatting with people. Eventually Mo appeared, she had come from the Shamrock Shuffle expo with the MRC. She was going to run the wave after mine. The recreational wave started and I watched them start and finish, some of the "Green Guys" ran in that wave.

Did I mention the weather was fantastic? There was hardly a cloud in the sky and it was around 45 degrees. I did another 1/2 mile warm-up before the the announcer called the competitive masters up and I got in our corral with the 37 other men and women. Suddenly Deena, Alexi and Carrie ran along our corral and gave us all motivational high-fives. Once the excitement died down, I was standing no more three feet away from Deena Kastor, so I asked her for a racing tip. She said, "run like hell" and I said I'd try! Anyway, the horn sounded and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 0.25: This may have been the hardest part of the race - an uphill to start running west on Jackson. There are railroad bridges in Grant Park, so everytime we headed west we went up then down a bridge and each time we turned around we had to go up and down the same bridge again. We made the hairpin turn and hit the 0.25 marker. Hit my goal pace nicely. 1:24.9 (5:40/mile)

Mile 0.50: Back up over the Jackson St. bridge and turned onto Columbus Drive for a nice straightaway. I was really trying my best, but fell a few seconds short of goal. 1:23.4 (5:30/mile)
1/2 Mile marker at Columbus and Congress looking uphill
Mile 0.75: Next up was a right on East Congress Parkway just west of Buckingham Fountain. Then we went up and down a bridge with another hairpin turnaround just to head back uphill. I was starting to hurt, but was biding my time for the downhill finish when I would try to catch some of the guys just ahead of me. 1:26.8 (5:43/mile)

Turnaround on Columbus over the RR bridge

3/4 Mile market coming back downhill after the turn
Mile 1.00:  I could see I was in about 6th place at the final marker before the finish. First place was way out of reach but 2nd through 5th were in my sights, just seconds ahead. All systems were redlining at this point, so I figured I would use up any reserves after the last turn downhill towards the finish line. I was going to kick "like hell". Unfortunately for me, all of the other guys had the same general idea, except they were speeding up earlier. I noticed them picking up the pace and separating from me, so I had to speed up just to keep up. Since I couldn't seem to gain any ground using a conventional speed up, I knew I needed to reach into a dark place to propel even faster despite my lungs screaming for mercy. I floored it as fast as I could disregarding any and all pain signals. I could finally feel that I had a chance of perhaps reeling in 3rd, 4th and 5th, but I was running out of time. In the last two strides of the race, I was only able to pass the 5th place guy who was absolutely flying. If the race had been another 20 yards I might have passed 4th and 3rd. Oh well, I kicked too late, but that was that! This may have been my fastest race finish ever because over last 10 seconds of the race, my Garmin hit 4:03/mile pace!  1:20.0 (5:20/mile)


Master Competitive Group: 5th out of 28
Official Time: 5:36

I was short of my goal by about 10 seconds, but using my finishing time from the Shamrock (the next day) I was actually in flat-minimal-turn 5:26 mile shape, so my guesstimate was pretty good. I just need to find a mile on a track or something!  Also, the Master's wave was anyone over 40, so there were plenty of young whippersnappers in my AG!

Post Race:
After watching Mo do awesome in the competitive wave, we got our pictures with the three legends.

As I was getting into the picture, Carrie Tollefson said to me, "I saw you at the finish, that was one wicked kick!" My heart started to soar. That's the first time an Olympian actually noticed and commented on my racing!

 Best. Day. Ever.
Deena, me, Alexi and Carrie
I hear they are going to hold the Mile again next year, despite the very low turnout this year. Here's hoping more people find out about it. I will be there!

Next up: Shamrock Shuffle!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

It's Been a Long Time Since I Rock 'n Rolled

It's been a long time since my last race. In fact on Saturday it will be 244 days since I "broke the tape" as my AG winner at the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon.  After taking a few weeks off thereafter, I realized that the major leg soreness and general fatigue from constant training would take more than just a few weeks to recover from. So, I pretty much stopped running in August, September and October and my only exercise was walking the pups and maybe an occasional visit to the gym (hence my absence from here). It's funny that once I started to cut out the miles, I was able to sleep longer and feel less fatigued all day. Did running mega miles cause me to sleep less? Who knows, but eventually the soreness went away too.

I started up gradually in November and December - only running occasionally and keeping my runs between 2 to 5 miles. Currently, I'm running about the same low number of daily miles, but since January, I'm back to running seven days a week. In order to stay limber and strong I am going to the gym every other day, and yoga once a week. So here's hoping that should help keep me on the roads and out of PT.

A few weeks ago at an MRC run, Mo told me about the Shamrock Mile which would take place the day before the Shuffle. So, naturally once I got home I looked it up and figured I could at least race a mile. So, I signed up and threw down the Mile as the marker for my racing "comeback". Then a couple of weeks later, I decided to throw in for the Shuffle as well and contacted Xaarlin and she put me on the MRC Shamrock team.

Anyway, I am pumped for this weekend, although once the course map came out, I had a complaint about a the number of sharp turns in this one mile race! Since there is nothing I can do about it,  I will just try and put forth a decent race and try and hold a nice even-paced effort.

2019 Shamrock Mile Course
So, it looks like I'm back at it and ready to rock. Maybe not as fast as in the past, but I'm looking forward to still competing and seeing where lower mileage, while staying fresher and healthier leads me.

Monday, August 6, 2018

NU Run For Walk 4.1 Miler 2018 - "Pace" Recap

My 10 year old nephew was in town last weekend. He loves running, so I offered to pace him for his first race ever at Northwestern University's "Run for Walk" which would be by far the longest he'd ever run continuously. His previous record was two miles and since this was a 4.1 mile race, I thought a good strategy would be to pace him slowly for the first 2 miles, see how he felt and then up the pace if he felt good. Last year, the youngest age group was 0 to 10, so since he is one of the few age groups where it pays to actually be younger than older, I thought he had a decent shot of at least getting an AG medal.

Once we got our bibs and race packets, we sat down in Northwestern's football stadium and watched them setup the finish line on the 50 yard line. Then we walked over to the start line which was just outside the stadium. There, we bumped into Erica and Brooke and ran about 0.25 miles of warm-ups with them.

We lined up near the back and we were off! My nephew can sprint 100m almost as fast as me (probably by next year he will be faster), so I intentionally held him back. I told him we would take it easy and for breaks we would walk through the water stations. I had to instruct him to stay off to the side while walking with his water. Anyway the mile went by quickly, probably because we stayed chill and just chatted.

We hit mile 1 in 8:54, and he started to complain that "it feels like we're going so slow, we're walking". So, in a moment of carelessness, I thought that maybe I wasn't challenging a potential running prodigy enough and we started to speed up (contrary to plan).  In any case, he seemed to take the increase in pace well. I tried to keep him distracted from the effort by jumping up and running on the concrete benches on the Northwestern campus, and he followed my lead. Near the lake, one of Northwestern's athletic teams was handing out water and we slowed to walk again. The course ran right along Lake Michigan and by the beach full of sailboats, which is on Northwestern's (beautiful) campus.

As we finished mile 2 in 8:23, he seemed fine, so we kept up the speedier-than-planned pace. However, once we slowed to walk through the next water stop, he complained that his legs felt bad and that he needed to walk more. So, we walked an extra 30 seconds past the water station and watched as scores of runners passed us by. I tried giving him a little pep talk about how we were less than two miles away and that if we got going again we could rest all we wanted once we got to the finish line. My talk may have worked, because he started to run again slowly, but after another quarter mile, he needed to walk again for another minute.

Run/walking got us to through mile 3 in 10:22 and I was afraid that we would be walking the last mile entirely. However, he was able to do a run/walk combo that kept us moving at a reasonable pace. I told him, that once we could see the football stadium (where the finish line was), we would pick up the pace and sprint on in. He let me know that he had actually been saving some energy for the final 0.1, since he wanted to sprint on the football field. Once I realized he had more in the tank than he was perhaps letting on, I gave him pep talks to "just keep moving"  and told him to run behind me and just focus on my feet. That seemed to work for him.

After some high-fives with the Northwestern football team, we got to the mile 4 marker in 10:37, and turned into the football stadium. We weaved around the 5k walkers and shot across the finish line. Our final 0.17 was at 7:23 pace.

Video of us finishing (starting at 19:15)

After sitting and recovering on the field for about 5 minutes, we walked over to the results tent to see if he had gotten an AG top 3. When we looked up his time on the computer it said that the age group was now 0 to 14 (instead of 0 to 10) and he didn't place. I think I was more disappointed than he was. He was happy to get the race shirt and the purple foam hand we got in our goody bag and didn't miss getting a medal too much.

The race was a pretty big positive split, but not a disaster. I was kicking myself afterwards for not sticking to our pace plan, but it was my first time pacing a newbie for an entire race, so lesson learned.

Post-race, my nephew said his legs were sore and he was slow walking up and down the stadium steps. However, after an hour of two he was running and jumping around with the pups at home, his recovery complete. It's nice to be young!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon 2018 - Race Recap

Lately, I've been waiting until the week before a race to actually register for it. I have a more relaxed attitude towards racing and want to see how I feel physically and mentally before I commit to doing a race. So, even though I knew that I wanted to run the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon over a month ago, I waited until the Tuesday before the race to register. However, I learned a valuable lesson:  

Never register for the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon less than 7 days before the event.

First of all on-line registration closes seven days beforehand so if you want to run the race you have to register in person at the expo. Second you are forced to travel to the expo to register with no guarantee of spots being available. Third, you have to wait in line to register. Fourth (and the most important reason) is the price!

** Price Not including service fees!

I, unfortunately waited until the Tuesday before the race and was shut out of on-line registration.


So, on Friday after work, I took the Green Line 25 minutes and walked about 2 miles to finally get to the expo which was located far inside McCormick Place. Once I found the in-person registration booth I was faced with the decision of dropping over $175, which is about 3x of what the early-bird price would have been had I taken a leap-of-faith last year and registered early. Anyway, I really wanted to run and figured that I needed to seize the moment and hand over my credit card, price be damned. 

After sweating bullets as my card was charged the full amount plus service fees, the woman at the registration desk then asked me what my expected finish time was and I told her 1:28:00. She promptly wrote "Corral 3" on my bib. Shocked, I asked her what was Corral 1 qualifying time and she said sub 1:19:00!! I couldn't believe it, but thought maybe the race was really going to be competitive this year.

After getting my bib and shirt I started to rationalize my decision:

1) I would hardly blink if someone dropped $175 in two hours at a casino  

2) I only have a finite amount of races left in me and I get to do this. Do it now.

Time goal: I did the calculations based on my 10k last month and the result for a half marathon was somewhere around 6:38/mile or a 1:27:00. I figured with the heat/humidity I would be happy with a 1:28:00.

I woke up at 4:00. After a few swigs of coffee, and walking the dogs I packed my race bag and drove my new wheels down to Grant Park. The garage where there is usually a long lines of cars was happily line-free. I think the lines are long for the Shamrock and for the Hot Chocolate. Also, arriving an hour and a half before the race helped too.

After leaving the garage, I walked/ran about a mile into Grant Park  After that I took some pictures:

Pre-race Start Line

I used the porta-potties, then chilled near bag check. I spotted Erica and said hi. Then I ran another mile through Grant Park, doing about four strides. I could tell right away that my legs were ready for 13.1 somewhat fast miles. That's a great feeling. It was about 68 degrees and humid and I started to get hot. I decided to stop my warm-ups and just go over to the corrals and wait. Since I had been assigned to corral 3, I scanned corrals 1 and 2 and spotted a few team jerseys here and there, but not enough that warranted me being in the third wave. In fact, I think furthest I've ever started back was wave 2. So, I decided (thankfully) not to start in corral 3, but the back of corral 2. There was no corral enforcement, so I walked into corral 2. After a few minutes, I realized I should have been in corral 1. I heard people discussing how they wanted to keep a 9 minute goal pace! It was too late, I was hemmed in and it would have been too great of an effort to move forwards. The national anthem was sung, the countdown was on. Wave 1 was sent off than about one minute later, we were off!

The Race:
Miles 1 through 3:  As soon as I crossed the start line, it started to rain. It was a welcome relief and I thought to myself that this was going to be fun! However, soon thereafter I had to do a huge amount of weaving. 8 to 10 minute milers who had started ahead of me were running three of four abreast. There was even a pack of 10 runners with matching t-shirts running not faster than 12 minute miles. No corral enforcement = people all wanting and getting to start in front. I think RnR needs to have some enforcement especially for corrals 1 to 5. Wasted some energy weaving and surging over the first mile. However, on the bright side, it was raining  and it felt fantastic. My sunglasses were somewhat blurred by the rain, so it was difficult to see my watch. I decided to just run by feel. After 100+ races, I am getting more comfortable with "feel" racing!  6:42/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.  The crowds were thinner than last year, thanks to the rain. Eventually the rain seemed to taper off - unfortunately. A big band was playing. Still passed lots of people.  6:39/mile

Miles 7 through 9: Running southbound along Michigan Ave., I thought Xaarlin may be spectating in her usual spot somewhere during mile seven. I didn't see her, so I continued on down the road. Passed even more of people. We did the out-and-back down the desolate stretch of MLK Drive. At least there was a rock band playing there and I signed the devil horns at them. 6:36/mile

Miles 10 through 12: This stretch is typically the hottest on the course because it is in the direct sunlight as we run between Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail. Luckily, it was not too hot thanks to the rains we had been having. I was playing cat and mouse with a guy in no shirt as we entered the McCormick Place tunnel. We had caught up with the 10k walkers and had to weave around them since there was no lanes separating the distances. I nearly twisted my ankle in a pothole, but luckily it wasn't too deep. Once I was in the clear,  I floored it and broke free from Mr. No-Shirt. 6:44/mile

Miles 13 and 13.17  Outside the tunnel, Mr. No-Shirt tried to pass me, but I willed myself to not let that happen. We went up and down two hills to get to Columbus Drive. Once safely over the hill, I floored it for the remaining .75 miles straight down Columbus to the finish line. Passed a woman and then hit the additional timing mat that sits just before the finish line and the announcer called my name.  6:20/mile

Almost Finished!


Official Time: 1:27:14
Official Pace: 6:39/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:18/mile (bad signal)?!

Place Age Group: 1st out of 329 
Place Overall: 83 out of 8,909

Personal Analysis: 1st AG win in a Rock n Roll event! Over a minute faster than last year despite the fact that I was running higher mileage at that time. Maybe it was the rain or maybe I'm just in a better spot right now mentally and physically? I ran completely by feel and almost hit my goal dead-on.

Race Analysis:
Love this race. This is my favorite half marathon course in the world. It would be perfect except for the mile in which we do an out-and-back on MLK Drive. Oh yeah, and the pot-hole filled McCormick Place tunnel.

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

After exiting the finisher's chute it started to rain. So, I grabbed my bag at bag check, changed clothes threw on a poncho and went over to watch the race.  I went back to the course to spectate. I got a video of Wendy who was looking strong (~40 seconds into the video).

Then I went over to the beer garden had a beer and waited for the awards ceremony. It was pouring rain as I heard my name called. I picked up my sweet first place AG trophy.
Sweet Rock n Roll Guitar AG Trophy!
I stayed in the beer garden another few minutes looking for anyone I knew. However, the place was thinning out with only a few dozen people left due to the rain. So I headed back to the car.

Was it worth it?:

It's true that on paper that the race was expensive. The higher-than-expected price made me analyze how much an individual race is really worth to me. The days before are fun with all of the anticipation as I "run" the course in my mind. My diet the week before a race is very clean and I start feeling better, making me wonder why I don't eat like that year round. Then the race itself is indescribably fun and tests my limits mentally and physically. It's also a blast to run (nearly) as hard as you can for as long as you can. The post-race endorphins last at least two days and then there are the memories, which last even longer. So how much is all of that worth? To me races are a bargain considering all the other ways I could spend my money.

Up Next:
I'm tired post-race, so best to take a few days off and recover. I have no idea what my next race will be. 10% chance it will be a marathon, which is up from 0% chance last month! Stay tuned...