Monday, April 30, 2018

Ravenswood Run 2018 Race Recap

After the Shamrock Shuffle I took 21 days straight off from running and lifting. About my only physical fitness was twice daily dog walks and twice weekly yoga. A lot went down in the last month and I suddenly found myself with unlimited free time (hint), however instead of ramping up the mileage and doing more intense training, I decided to use this extra time to sleep more and focus on my diet. I am now able to take daytime naps, which has helped tremendously, and I'm starting to feel normal again. As for my diet, I completely eliminated post-dinner desserts which basically was the only time of the day I would eat sugary things. I did lose a few pounds pretty rapidly - probably just water weight, but the carbs/sugars were making me waterlogged just so I could enjoy a few savory cookies a day. I finally feel rested, healthy, and I got to my racing weight without even running!

Not lugging around excess pounds, more rested and a race looming on the horizon, I decided that it was time to ease back into training last weekend. So, I did three four milers Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, which were rough, but I felt that I had retained at least some of my post-Shuffle fitness. I lifted three times and quickly felt stronger.

By the end of my comeback week it was already time for my annual neighborhood race, the Ravenswood Run 5k. How would I fare? I only had a slight hunch. In any case, I decided just to run by feel (no pace goals, no GPS) and see what happened. I ran it in 18:16 last year, but this year I guessed I was in 19:50 to 20:10 shape since I had hardly run in April.

Pre-Race:
I woke up at 6:15 a.m. for a one mile shakeout run around Welles Park. It was about 38 degrees, but I wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt just to test out how I would fare in the chilly temps. I felt like I could handle the things if I only wore shorts and singlet since the wind was minimal, so once I got back home I changed into my race gear, pinned my bib on, walked the doggies and then left for the race with my dad and brother at 7:35 for the 8:00 start. All three of us ran/walked over to the start line. By the time we got there there was about 10 minutes remaining until race start. My brother was spectating and my dad and I made our way over to the corrals. The "A" corral entrance was blocked by runners just standing there so I went around to in front of the start line ducked under the fence, then made my way back to the middle of the corral.

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. Once the gun sounded, just past the start line, I saw a kid had tripped and fallen on his face and I swerved to avoid him, I yelled back at the crowd to watch out and a woman behind me stopped and swooped him up. Maybe the corrals should be more strictly enforced for the safety of the kids. Every kid wants to start the race right up in front, but it's a recipe for disaster if they fall. Anyway, I was running by feel, and I felt astonishingly good, but I was not sure how much residual endurance I had left, so I held back a little. I still passed about 30 runners in this mile. 6:08/mile.

Mile 2: It was odd not to be periodically glancing at my watch to better modulate my pace, but I guess having run a few dozen 5ks in my lifetime must have ingrained the feeling in my lungs and legs of my maximum 5k pace. At the start of mile two I felt like I could finish at the same pace I was at even though I had approximately over two miles to go. I spotted a guy with grey hair who was about 10 yards ahead and running strong. So, I made it my goal to stick with him and then pass him near the finish. We were mostly running into the wind the second mile, which is why I had the three second slowdown from mile 1. 6:11/mile.

Mile 3: Right after passing the two mile marker, we ran into the quaint shopping area of Lincoln Square and I said my goodbye to the now shuttered Chicago Brauhaus. I kept my head down, just focusing on the guy-I-was-gonna-leap-frog's legs turnover. We made the turn onto Damen and ran under the Damen Brown Line stop. 6:07/mile.
Hamming it up under the Damen Brown Line stop (src)

(src)

Mile 3.13: I kept thinking about making my move to pass the guy I had been trailing, when suddenly a young guy sped by both of us. I noticed the guy in front of me didn't make a move, so sensing he was redlining, I floored it. In fact, I ran so fast I even sped by the young guy and ran solo to the finish line.

Finish line (src)
(src)

I came in with hands held high and I was finished!. 5:24/mile.

Stats:

Official Finish Time: 19:06
Official Pace: 6:09/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:07/mile

Place Overall: 63rd out of 2,306
Place Age Group: 8th out of 155

Analysis:
AG was tough since this was a CARA circuit run, combined with the fact I was probably the oldest guy in my AG, so 8th isn't that bad. This was my first 5k over 19 minutes in a long time, but I ran to my fitness - so that's the best I could hope for. Since I actually would have been happy with a 19:59, I was smiling pretty large at the end. My splits were 6:08, 6:11 and 6:07, so basically completely even despite the fact that I was running without looking at a device for feedback!

So, taking the three week run/strength break didn't really hurt me too much running-wise. Maybe the weight loss made up for some of the fitness loss? 

Post Race:
I ran backwards through the course (using the sidewalk) and tried to find my dad, but missed him in the masses, so I ran back to meet up with him and my brother at the finish area. We then walked home.

I'm not going to race for another month, but in the interim, I hope to continue to ramp up the mileage and continue workouts. I will be at the very least tied for the youngest person in my new age group next month at the Run For the Animals. The Ravenswood Run was probably my last race in my old AG.

Next Up:
Run For the Animals in June! New AG!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Shamrock Shuffle 2018 Race Recap

I rarely run sub-7 miles in training any more. Since I haven't had a marathon or a PR attempt for over a year and a half, I'm content running whenever I want at whatever pace I want. Often I'll run 20 miles per week and use the extra time to sleep in and get the magical REM hour of sleep when I start to dream. Some weeks, I'll get a stronger dose of the running bug, and forgo an hour of sleep so I can run a few more miles. On those kind of weeks, I could run as many as 50 miles. However, 98% of those miles are completely stress-free - as in they aren't forced "I've gotta run hard and hit my goal paces" kind of runs. Since I now run by feel, my pace could be anywhere between 7:45 and 9:00 minutes per mile. Once or twice a week I might throw in a fast finish and run a 6:59 just for fun.

Goal:
However, when a race comes around, it really helps to know your fitness level (usually using a recent race time), and then translate that fitness into a realistic goal pace. So, without the benefit of a recent race - the last one I did was the F^3 Half Marathon in January, I would need to take a SWAG at what my fitness level was in the days just before the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. My F^3 time of 1:28:17 translates to a 31:25 8k. So, after some reflection, I figured I was in the same shape as I was for the F^3, but 31:25 just isn't too fun of a number, so I set my goal for a slightly speedier time:

30:59

It was a dauntingly low number since it would mean I would need to run five consecutive miles at 6:14 per mile. At first blush it seemed to be an impossible task especially since I hadn't run one single mile near that pace in the last six months. I had to remind myself that those pace tables are pretty spot on - especially when converting from longer to shorter distances. All I would need to do would be to trust my legs, lungs and Greg McMillan!

Pre-Race
I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and went for a two mile shakeout run around my neighborhood. Temps were hovering around 28 degrees and there was a gusty kind of wind. I made coffee, scarfed down a sausage patty and a banana. After letting the dogs out and getting them back inside, I drove down to the race and got in a 15 minute line of cars to enter my no-longer-a-secret-thanks-to-SpotHero $11 parking garage. Luckily, I was at the race early enough that I wasn't too stressed out sitting in that super slow moving line, but unfortunately I missed the MRC pre-race photo op. Womp! Finally, I got in the garage parked the car and jogged over to Grant Park.

I did not possess a Shamrock VIP pass like last year where the private gear check and porta-potties were within spitting distance of each other. So instead I had to walk a half mile from gear check to use the no-line port-a-potties with the common folk! As I was walking back, I felt a tap on my shoulder and who do you think it was? The guy I used to see before every single race until he moved to Boston two years ago - Lynton! He had flown back to Chicago to run the Shuffle and hang with friends for the weekend.

We were both in a hurry as they were announcing that they were closing the "A" corral in five minutes. So I told him we'd chat in the corral and I made my way over to that area.

Once in the corral, I spotted Annabelle and Violeta in the front of the B corral, we chatted a bit, then I made my way over to the MRC group and saw Xaarlin and company. I then made my way up closer to the start line. The national anthem was sung and I flung my disposable jacket over the fence and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 1: Last year, I ran this mile in 6:14, but my aim this year was to run it in 6:30. I soon spotted Lynton ahead of me so I gradually made my way up so I could run with him. We started chatting about our race goals (his was about 45 seconds slower than mine). We also chatted about marathons. He had PR'd at NYC in November. I also asked him if he was running Boston (he's not). 6:20/Mile

Mile 2:  I continued chatting with Lynton and he reminded me that the final mile down Michigan Avenue would be fully into the wind. I said that we should save a bit of reserves for that moment, but wasn't really practicing what I was preaching since at the State Street bridge I needlessly surged ahead, and lost some precious reserve energy while also losing contact with Lynton! 6:17/Mile

Mile 3: I knew I was going too fast even without looking at my watch, because I could feel my lungs starting to red-line as they hadn't had to handle this fast of a pace for such a long stretch in quite a while. Also it was barely 30 degrees outside, so a cold day for a fast run.  6:10/Mile

Mile 4: I crossed the 5k timing mat at 19:24 which was only 26 seconds slower than my time at the same point last year and 54 seconds slower than during my 8k PR. I typically love to step on the gas at this point in the race and start flying, but, based on how my lungs were feeling, I knew it would be a struggle just to hold pace for the final 1.97. 6:13/Mile.

Mile 4.97: Once I turned the corner to head into the wind on Michigan Avenue, I realized that I would be cutting it very close to get to a sub-31. I tried to play leap frog with the runners ahead of me, but I could not conjure much more speed than would allow me to pass a couple of runners who were fading. Last year it felt effortless to run down Michigan Ave at a 5:42 pace, but this year it was a struggle to hold a 6:20, but being so close to achieving my 30:59 goal kept me focused on running as hard as I could. After cresting Mt. Roosevelt, I dashed down the hill on Columbus Drive hill and was finished!  6:20/Mile.
There are no finish line photos of me from this year,so here I am
running the last 10 meters, last year!


Official Pace: 6:16/mile
Official Time: 31:08
Official Pace: 6:16/mile
Age Group: 12th out of 898
Overall: 448 out of 20,899

Analysis: So close, but no cigar! I was only two seconds per mile too slow to break 31 minutes. This was my fourth fastest 8k ever (out of eight). This race is proof yet again, that I really can run fast by training almost entirely slowly. I also got to contribute to this year's BRC mixed team's 2nd place showing!

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute and turned around to wait for Lynton to finish.  We chatted as we walked then stopped for this pic:


Then it was over to bag check, where I changed into some warmer clothes:

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

MRC and Beer!
Finally it was off to Kaiser Tiger with the MRC to discuss all things running and where Anne made a surprise appearance! I also had a delicious bacon board:

About to devour my
 bacon board
The Future:
I like where I am fitness-wise and generally feel better rested and less burned out than I did at this time last year. As for goals, I'd like to make a strong age group showing on my first official day in the next age group 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!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It was just on Sunday that I played in the snow

On Sunday, I went to Alpine Valley (about 1.5 hours from Chicago) and experienced a picture perfect day for skiing. The temps were in the mid to upper 30s, the sun was shining and there was plenty of snow. Monday, however was a winter weather disaster with rain, slush and temps in the 50s. Luckily, I decided to go on Sunday of this long President's Day weekend and not Monday!

My long and skinny 20+ year old skis look out of place
with the new fangled shaped skis

Outside the ski chalet at the base. Seems like almost everyone else
 wears helmets to ski nowadays.

About to go down the snowboarding obstacle course on skis

Chairlift at AV

More than halfway through my day on the slopes, I turned my Garmin watch on and selected the ski/snowboard tracking option. Here's what my graphs look like:

Who knew Garmin watches tracked your skiing?

Hopefully, the colder forecasted temps by the end of the week mean that the local ski places can make enough snow to get them through to March. There was just an article in the New York Times this week about how all the businesses and towns that rely on snow are feeling the hurt in a major way with these short winters. For now, I try and savor these old Midwest winter ski places, which can hopefully stay around on for a few more years.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Yay Snow!

I finally got to break in my new cross country ski boots today in Horner Park! The soles on the old boots came unglued when I went skiing in -10 degree temps in Lake Geneva.


They were brand new and were so much more comfortable then the old ones.  Anyway, the hill in Horner Park had about 200 sledders and snowboarders on it, even though the average trip length down the hill is about 15 seconds. Of course, I went down on my skis for a little downhill practice!

Hill in Horner Park
I have taken about two weeks off from running (except puppy sprints and the MRC three mile run on Saturday). I haven't even been to the gym once. I'm trying to catch up on my sleep after my F^3 training cycle. Snow throwing, shoveling, skiing and resting are now my new workouts!

Lovin' my new gear!

Monday, January 22, 2018

F^3 Lake Half Marathon 2018 Race Recap

I've run the F^3 Lake Half Marathon twice before (in 2015 and 2016). It's a chance for us Chicago area half marathon fans to break out of our winter training routine and actually run a race in the middle of January. The forecast this year called for unseasonably warm temps with highs in the upper 40s. The pleasant weather is probably the reason why this year's race had almost 2,000 runners.


Goal: My last half marathon was the The Big Easy Half in November, where I ran a 1:32:26. Before that race I had been averaging about 25 miles a week and I planned to remain at that level afterwards. However, without really paying too much attention to my volume, I suddenly found myself running 50 mpw mid-December through January. With that kind of mileage I figured I should be able to run two minutes faster than I did in November, which would mean running a sub-1:30. Since the race would have pace groups, my strategy would be to run with the 1:30 pacers the first few miles, see how I felt and either remain with them, or take off on my own if I felt good.


Getting To the Race: My neighbor Stacey and I drove to Soldier Field garage and sat in a long line of cars to pay to get in the garage. It seemed like some of the bottleneck was caused by people paying with credit cards which took longer to process than cash. My idea for next year's race: $20 cash per car or $25 when paying with credit card. That should speed things up as theoretically more drivers would pay with cash.

Pre-Race:  After getting out of the car, we walked up the stairs and found ourselves in the United Club at Soldier Field. I used the indoor facilities with indoor plumbing. Then I bumped into Sara and we chatted briefly. She told me it was going to be her first half since she had kids! Anyway, I had planned all along to run in long sleeves, but I made a last minute decision to run in shorts and a singlet instead. I stuffed the rest of the clothes I was going to wear in my backpack and checked it at bag check. I briefly said hi to Erin who was working the race. I then headed down the staircase to the starting line. Once in the corral, I spotted Annabelle and Maggie. Annabelle had toured the course that morning and filled me in on the details of where the mud, ice and traffic barriers were.


Leaning over the corral fence
with Annabelle and Maggie (src: MagMileRunner)

The national anthem was sung and we were off!

The Race:
Miles 1 through 3: Temps were right around 40 degrees with sunny skies. In other words it was perfect running for mid to late January. I let the 1:30 group get ahead of me by about 10 meters and figured I reel them in later. Then I decided to move into the middle of the pace group as there was a headwind and I wanted to do some drafting. Once we were out on the southbound leg on the Lakefront Trail, I noticed that Maryhelen from the Mikkeller Running Club was right in front of me. We chatted a bit. 6:49/mile.


Mile 3 on the Lakefront Trail with lake to the right (src)
Miles 4 through 6: Eventually, Maryhelen said that she would drop back a bit, but would keep me in her sights. I told her good luck and continued on. Running with the 1:30 group felt a little slow, so I decided to make a break for it and darted ahead of them. Fortunately, I did this right before we ran through a narrow muddy patch (which got my shoes all muddy) then up and down a "big" hill. It took me a few minutes until I could scrape all of the mud from the bottom of my shoes (by scraping the sole of my shoes on the ground). I don't think that slowed me down too much - it was more of an irritant than a time waster. Anyway, the leaders had already made the turn and were headed back by me going the other direction. With a $500 first prize for both men and women, it's no wonder this race pulled in the speedsters. 6:42/mile.

Miles 7 through 9: After the hairpin turn at mile seven, I decided I would take advantage of the tailwind and speed up. After a mile or so, I began to suspect that the tailwind was now once again a headwind and pulled back a little. 6:36/mile.

Miles 10 through 12: After three miles into the wind and running about two minutes per mile faster than I average in training, I started to feel the start of some cramps in my calf, so I slowed slightly to give my legs a break. 6:42/mile.


Mile 12 on the Lakefront Trail (src)

Miles 13 and 13.20: I was trailing a couple of guys up until the finish, and started to make my move. As I tried to pass one guy he sped up to keep ahead of me. A speedy runner who had started walking told me "you've got him" as I ran by. I made my best effort and we ran stride for stride until the finish! 6:28/mile.

Finished! (src)
Analysis:

Total Time: 1:28:17 
1st Half Split: 44:33, 2nd Half Split: 43:44
Pace: 6:45/mile
Overall: 73/1,997
Age Group: 4/136


Three minutes slower than my course PR, two minutes faster than goal and four minutes faster than my November Half. The conditions were pretty much ideal, and I kept the splits pretty even, so I don't know if I could have run this race any better.

Post Race:
I went inside Soldier Field to pick up my gear.  After collecting my things, I made my way back to the finish area and cheered on the runners and I even got to see Mo finish. I went back into Soldier field and spoke with Mo, Maryhelen, Annabelle and Erin and some of us planned to meetup at Kroll’s, the post-race bar.

Stacey and I headed over to the Kroll’s and used or beer tickets for our a free beer. Maggie showed up and we all got a table where we chatted for awhile.

Conclusion:
I'm in a good spot now fitness-wise, but do I ramp up the mileage, maintain as-is or cutback and take a break? I will have a week to think about it as I'm more or less taking this week off.

Next up: Shamrock Shuffle?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Even Splits

When I ran the Big Easy Half Marathon in New Orleans in November I wasn't in top shape. I had been doing relatively low miles in the weeks preceding the race and was inspired to jump into the race when I saw Shalane mouth those two famous words on her way to win the NYC Marathon a couple of weeks prior.

Anyway, regular readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of negative splits, but for the Big Easy Half I didn't really know how I would fare over the distance (due to aforementioned low volume) so instead of any fixed strategy, I decided I would just run by feel. Well, long story short - my "central governor" was working that day, because running by feel produced some pretty-darn-close to even splits, as you can see by my two half times:

1st Half: 46:34
 2nd Half: 45:52
Final Time: 1:32:26 (7:03/mile)

Although technically I was slightly faster in the second half of the race, it was only by 42 seconds - a difference of 0.6%. in other words pretty darn even.

That's not super interesting in and of itself. However, after recently receiving an e-mail from the race, I went back to look at my results and noticed that they listed my overall and age group placements at each of the five timing mats laid down throughout the race:

So, even though I didn't light the world on fire during the 2nd half of the race via negative splits, I still went from 42nd to 15th overall between mile 3.1 and 13.1 without hardly having to alter my pace. I guess it just goes to show:
  1. A large number of runners positive split by going too fast too soon
  2. You can still have fun passing loads of runners by just holding pace as others fade
Even!

Maybe this could be a new race strategy for me. Anyone else try to hit even splits in distances shorter than a full marathon? 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Sunny Arctic Run

Despite the single digit temps and negative windchill, it was a beautiful day for a run in Chicago. This run got me pumped for the F^3 Half next month!

Ice Pancakes!
Skyline 1
Skyline 2
Skyline 3
Alta Vista Terrace
I only saw one person on the LFT during my run, so we both waved at each other in camaraderie.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Turkey Trot Chicago 8k 2017 Race Recap

Until this year, the only race that I've ever run on Thanksgiving Day was 10 years ago at the traditional 8k race in Lincoln Park. My memories of that race were mostly bad. I paid $72 for the experience ($50 for the race + $22 for parking). The parking spot was at the southern tip of the Lincoln Park Zoo lot. This meant that by the time I got out and locked the car, it was super close to race time. So, I had to sprint a mile north to the start line only to be completely out of breath and to find the race already underway. Once I crossed the start line, I was mostly prevented from actually running for the entire five miles due to being blocked by masses of walkers and joggers. Since I didn't know anyone else there, I left right after my 5 mile "walk/jog", $72 poorer and sporting an 8k personal worst.

I decided, this year's Lincoln Park 8k would be different/happier. Not only would I leave early enough to find a free street spot, and be able to start near the front, but I would also be attending the race with my dad (he was doing the 5k). So I had three things going for me this year vs. 2007!

We arrived in my car near the finish line just off of Diversey and Cannon at around 8:15 am for the 9:00 am start. After making a couple of sweeps up and down the streets nearby, my dad spotted an empty spot that was near a fire hydrant. Luckily, I was able to squeeze the car in and was happy to park so close without paying. While waiting in the car, we took a look a look at the course map and realized that the start line was actually a few blocks south of the finish line, so we decided to head on over at about 8:30 so we would have enough time to take a leisurely stroll there.

Once there, the race emcee announced that the combined races were sold out with over 8,500 runners! That is an astounding number for a little race along the Lakefront Trail. No wonder I got blocked in so badly 10 years ago. Anyway, after checking my bag, we walked to the start corrals, which despite the posted mile/minute splits for each wave seemed to be somewhat of a free-for-all since there was no one monitoring the entryways. The "A" corral was only about 1/3 full, and despite it being for runners of sub-6:00/mile ability, I surmised that a decent percentage of the people queued up in the corral were likely not even sub-7:00/mile ability. So, I parked myself at the very back of that corral since I was shooting for around a 6:30/mile and knew it wouldn't be a problem.

The national anthem was sung and we were off!

Starting the race
 (Notice that I'm at the very back of the sub 6:00 first wave src)

As we headed north along the Lakefront Trail, I passed about 30 people who obviously had started in the wrong corral. In any case, we had a nice tailwind so my first mile was a little fast, but not too bad. Since the course was an out and back, the race did a fairly decent job of keeping the northbound runners hugging the lake via the sidewalks around the harbors and the southbound runners on the Lakefront Trail itself. About at mile two along the LFT, I spotted Declan who was out for his casual morning run, heading towards me. Luckily, we were able to make a successful side-five, which was very cool. At mile three we turned around and I once again saw Declan who was no doubt returning home for his Thanksgiving breakfast feast!

Mile 4 (src)
Up until that point, I hadn't been passed, but somewhere between mile three and four some guy who was breathing heavily started to pass me. I sped up a little to keep pace with him and he started complaining to me that the mile markers were off by 0.15. I agreed with him, but also realized that some of that was likely due to us not running the tangents perfectly. I could tell by how loudly he was breathing that I could put him away, so just after mile four, I stepped on the gas and he dropped back. Then it was a mad dash to the finish line and before I knew it it was done!

Dash to the finish (The 8k and 5k courses were together at that point)!

First half: 16:10
Second half: 16:04
Total: 32:14

Not my fastest by any means, but not a bad outing since I had just raced a half marathon five days earlier. I kept the splits pretty much even-steven despite the headwind at the end.

Post race
After I picked up my bag, I returned to spectate for my dad and got to witness him finishing 1st in his age group in the 5k! It would be another hour before the awards ceremony, so we decided to bolt. On our way out, we bumped into Kimberly, who had also finished 2nd in her AG. All-in-all it was a nice day for a run, a much better experience than 10 years earlier, and it was a good way to spend the morning working up an appetite for the Thanksgiving feast later in the day!

Next up: ??