Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chicago Marathon: Hitting The Wall (and Breaking Through)

Today, I ran the first run of my taper week, 8.25 miles to the lakefront trail and back. The temps were around 60 degrees and it was windy (as you can see by the sailboat pictures I took this morning). One question I keep asking myself during my runs is, "during the Chicago Marathon, at what point will I hit the dreaded wall, and will I be able to handle it so that I can keep running?" 
Over the Wall to Victory!

Sail Collapse in the Lake - 9/30/12
Collapse Point: Luckily, there is a formula I can do to figure out just when I might hit the wall.  The formula is part of the "Collapse Point" theory. Without going into to much detail, it says, you should have averaged at least 65 miles/week for last 8 weeks before the marathon in order for your "wall" to be at 26.2 miles.  This means you would theoretically finish before you hit your wall.  If you have trained less than 65 miles/week, you can calculate what mile you will hit your "wall." Since I trained less than 65 miles per week, my wall should be just after mile 21.

How far can I go?: However, the Collapse Point formula is a little basic.  I did quite a lot to torture my legs in my marathon training to rely on a quick calculation to determine my collapse point. Realistically, I am betting that since I ran 7 days a week for most of the last 18 weeks, that I can maybe push my legs until mile 23 or 24 until I hit the wall.  For me, hitting the wall has had two meanings: 

  • Laying on the sidewalk along Michigan Ave. for 10 minutes because BOTH of my legs won't move (Chicago '10). 
  • Walking the last 3 miles of the marathon (New York '11) due to leg cramps.
However, this time around, it will be the point where my mind is telling me to stop, even though I actually have enough energy and stamina to pull off a decent finish.

 Breaking Through The Wall: So, how can I handle the wall once I feel I am about to slow down along Michigan Ave.?  Here's a list I came up with:

Will I be able to crest the wall when things get stormy?

#1) Memories: Remember the 117 of the last 126 days that I laced up my shoes and headed out the door sometimes in the oppressive heat, sometimes twice a day, just so the last 6.2 miles of the marathon would be more of a breeze! 
Will I soar like this guy?

#2) Find A Group. Get pulled along by runners that are at a similar pace. Draft when necessary.  Gain confidence when a runner falls out of the group because I am still able to go faster.

Make some temporary running buddies during the Marathon

#3) The Crowd:  Let the cheers of the crowd pull me along. How many times in my life will I have thousands of people cheering me on? The least I can do for them is to pick my head up and move my legs a little faster! Also, I need to eat the sugary/salty things that they are handing out when they offer them.
Let the crowd pull you along....

#4) Run Slowly Early: Aka, run negative splits. One of the most accepted theories of why runners' legs cramp near the end of a marathon is due to too many fast, early miles. Yes, I have a tendency to try and "bank" miles early, and I have proven to myself beyond all doubt this does not work.  As an added bonus: If I run the first 3 miles as a warm-up, the marathon becomes only a 23.2 mile race!

Remember the 100+ solo runs that got me to this point...
#5) Relax and Have Fun: If I am having fun during the final 6.2, the only thing that I will be dreading is the finish line coming too soon! I won't be running another fun marathon until April!

Relax and have fun!
   How do you plan on "breaking through the wall?"

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"This workout is going to hurt, but it will make you faster."

Let the taper begin!

Today was my last S.O.S. (Something of Substance) workout. I ran it at the North Park University track. There was a high school track team practicing there at the same time. I heard the coach telling the boys team:

"This workout is going to hurt, but it will make you faster." 

He then shouted, "Go!", and without missing a beat, the boys team took off running fast around the track. I guess kids are not afraid of coming face-to-face with pain!

Anyway, it was fun being out there, because it made it easier to run fast when a bunch of fast runners were flying all around me.

At the track this morning
6 x 1 Mile Workout Summary:

  • 1.75 mile warmup
  • 3 miles @ 6:27/mile
  • .25 mile walk
  • 2 miles @ 6:28/mile
  • .25 mile walk
  • 1 mile @ 6:21/mile
  • 1.75 mile cool down
How this week compares to the week before my Marathon p.r.:
Today, my average pace per mile was 6:26 for the 6 x 1 miles. This is a whole nine seconds faster than the identical workout I did one week before my marathon p.r.. However, when I set my p.r. in 2011, I was averaging 57 miles/week. For the 2012 Chicago Marathon training cycle, I only managed to average 47 miles/week.  I may be slightly faster today than I was in 2011, but my legs are not as "battle hardened" and I likely have slightly less endurance. So, what should my marathon pace be?

A view this morning of the "L" looking southward from the Lawrence Ave. Bridge over the Chicago River
Determining My Marathon Pace:
I would like to set a new marathon p.r., which would mean averaging 7:02/mile. I trained for around a 7:00 pace, but, realistically, I did not put in a ton of miles this training cycle, so my confidence in finishing the marathon strong is not super high. In any case, all of my personal records in races were set when I ran negative splits, so I need to run negative splits for this one too. It would seem that my best bet is to shoot for a 7:10 pace and if I am feeling good at mile 13, I can drop down to a 7:00/mile until mile 20. If I am still feeling good at mile 20, I can drop my pace down to 6:55/mile. That would bring me to my marathon p.r. If I am not feeling good at any point, I can slow down a bit and still get a decent finishing time.

By the way, I do all of my marathon pace calculations based on a 26.3 mile course, since I don't always cut perfect tangents. In fact, my Garmin said I ran 26.5 for my marathon p.r. in 2011!

The Bottom Line: In order for me to break my p.r. I need to run negative splits. Also, it needs to be cool, say 45 degrees at the start and 55 degrees at the finish. A little drizzle would help if it is warmer. As a bonus, a nice little tailwind for the final few mile run up Michigan Avenue would be fantastic! If I start the race too fast, or the weather is disagreeable, then I can likely kiss a new p.r. goodbye.

The Bottom Bottom Line:
If the race day weather is warm or I start the race too fast, I'll be in the race purely for fun, so you marathon spectators should get ready for lots of high-fives and smiles from me!

Sunrise over Lawrence Ave.

Tapering Goals Next Week: Stay injury free, run 35 miles to stay sharp. Oh, did I mention that I am going to stay injury free?! :-)

Do you have any specific goals over the taper week?
Artistic rendering of Lawrence Ave.. Thanks Photoshop!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Long Run vs. The Newton Ready to Run 20 Miler

My longest run of my Chicago Marathon training cycle is 16 miles. So I tip my hat to everyone who did the Newton "Ready to Run" 20 Miler on Sunday. As I was entering the Lakefront Trail at Irving Park Rd around 7:15am,  I got mixed in the first wave of runners. It was fun to run by the aid stations and hear the cow bells (all for free), which is good race day simulation. Luckily, the lead groups were thin as I made my way down to Navy Pier:  

Gatorade! Gatorade!

At my final turn-around of the season at Navy Pier, it was a picture perfect day for my last long run. Looking out near the end of the pier, I saw the sun shine shimmering on the water around the lighthouse just off shore in Lake Michigan:

The lighthouse is over my shoulder in this pic

However, the relative calm was soon gone, because on my way back, I saw walls of on-coming runners:

Densely Packed and Ready to Run

Despite the amount of on-coming traffic on the trail, I still was able to put in a "fast finish" long run over the last 8 miles. I can use the average of the final 8 miles to help predict my marathon pace. I am now officially "ready to run" the Chicago Marathon. Too bad I have to wait 2.5 weeks...

Last long run stats: 16 miles at 7:22/mile. Last 8 were at 6:56/mile.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chicago Marathon Training: A Recap in Pictures of My Highest Mileage Week

This week was my highest mileage week of the entire 18 week training cycle before the Chicago Marathon.  Here is a breakdown of my runs this week along with some pictures taken on those runs:

Sunday was the Chicago Half Marathon on Lake Shore Drive. Week: 13.3 mi of 63.
  Monday a.m.: 7.8 mile recovery run to the lake and back via Irving Park Rd..Week: 21.1 of 63.

Tues a.m.: 10.8 miles to the lake. Tues p.m. 1.55 mi. neighborhood run.  Week: 31.5 of 63

Wed a.m.: 10 mile track workout.  Week: 41.5 of 63.
Thurs a.m.: 6.75 mile recovery run. Thurs p.m. 2 mile neighborhood run.  Week: 50.25 of 63

Friday a.m. 9.5 miles by the lake.  Week: 60 of 63.

Saturday a.m. 3 mile neighborhood run. Week: 63 of 63.

Up next: Last long run of my 18 week marathon training cycle!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Chicago Half Marathon Race Recap

This was by far the coolest temps I have ever raced in at the Chicago Half Marathon, so it all set up for a faster than normal race for me. Perhaps a Chicago Half P.R. was in the works....

GOAL: At this point in my marathon training, I am supposed to do a 10 mile tempo run at marathon pace, so I planned on using the Chicago Half Marathon as a "race simulator" and try instead to run 13.1 miles at as close to marathon pace as possible.

Getting To the Race: Car pooled with five other neighbors who all live on the same block as me. We left our block at 5:45am. Got parked about a mile from the starting line at around 6:30am. 

Getting to the Starting Line:  I hustled from the car to the starting area in Jackson Park and immediately got in line for the porta potties.  The line moved really slowly.  In fact by the time I was out in the fresh air it was about 6:58am, two minutes before the race! Unfortunately, the corrals with the thousands of runners created a solid wall that separated me from bag check! So I had to run about 0.25 miles to go around the back of the corrals, at which point the race started, and I still needed to check my bag. I ran another 200 yards to bag check. I checked my bag and then ran to an open corral and got across the starting line 6 minutes and 3 seconds after the gun sounded.

Miles 1 thru 5 "The Great Weave": My goal for the first few miles was a 7:00/mile pace, but now I was back with the 10 minute milers and even some 15 minute milers! I literally had to run on the sidewalk and grass along the road for the first mile, dodging spectators, just so I could pass the walkers and slow joggers on the surface roads. During miles 2 and 3 I ran outside the pylons and had to weave back in and out as the course marshals would shoo me back onto the course. In addition to the extra distance spent weaving, I got a lot of practice "surging" in these first few miles, as my pace sped up occasionally when I had to squeeze between other runners as I saw breaks in the crowd. I expended more energy than I would have liked, especially in these early miles. I passed the 1:55 pace group and then the 1:50 pace group. My pace for miles 1 through 5: 7:03/mile.

Miles 5 through 8: "Into the Wind": At last we were on LSD (Lake Shore Drive) with beautiful views of the lake. Since LSD is pretty wide, the crowds were not as big of an issue as on the surface roads.  However, we were running into a head wind. Which, since the temps were cool, felt pretty darn good. Plenty of aid stations and some music. I passed the 1:45 pace group. Pace for miles 5 through 8: 7:00/mile.

Miles 9 through 13: "Where did the Wind Go?": There probably was a slight tailwind on the home stretch back to Jackson Park, but I did not notice it most of the time. By the way, Lake Shore Drive is a lot hillier than it seems when driving on it. I passed the 1:40 pace group, then made the turn towards the giant gold "Republic" statue. Pace for miles 9 through 13: 6:53/mile.

Mile 13 through 13.1 "Violence Near the Finish Line": After hitting the 13 mile marker, I threw it into a higher gear and started my typical "kick" just before the finish line. Most of the runners I passed were likely going to finish around 1:37, so their kicks might have been slightly slower than mine. At about 100 yards out from the finish line, I got ready to pass another runner. I think he spotted me out of the corner of his eye and obviously, did not like the idea of me passing him. So, once I got alongside him, he threw his shoulder into me, nearly knocking me off balance. However, I was able to quickly recover, and  in a dead sprint, lunged at the finish line and kept running 20 yards past it. I probably could have turned around and tried to figure out which guy had thrown the shoulder. But there was a mass of people, and I was completely spent, and was in no condition for an argument/fight. Why do people get so mad when they get passed that they need to resort to almost knocking someone down? Is this a hold-over technique from finishing in those narrow high school cross country chutes? Pace 6:00/mile.

According to my Garmin I really ran 13.3 miles at a 6:53 pace, oh well...

Post Race: After video taping the 1:45 to 2:00 hour finishers, I met up with my neighbors by bag check. We got some good Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza and some watery beer. But hey, it was free.
Neighbors Kirk, Renee and Stacey next to the beer balloon thingy

Then I got my neighbor group to go over and meet up with Gingerfoxxx, Matt and Waffles! at the HD tent, where we were generously supplied with some drinks called "Red Ribbons" (Bloody Marys and PBR), which actually tasted quite good, especially after the first few sips. Thanks for the hospitality guys!

Matt and Waffles!

Waffles trying to escape

Waffles posing with me

Waffles bored with the photo shoot, wanting to chase something

Pluses: Great race temps, good food, okay beer and it was fun finally meeting Waffles! Also, I met my objective to run at my marathon tempo. Minuses: I need to get to the race way earlier next time, so I won't have to run extra to get to the bag check and the starting line and then weave around slower runners.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Muggy Chicago Marathon Tempo Run by the Lake

This morning, the temps were only around 72 degrees outside, but it was so muggy that my sunglasses fogged over and my shirt was soaked for most of my run. I suppose that running in this weather is good training for an extremely humid Chicago Marathon. However, I don't see myself actually running an entire 26.2 miles in these conditions. So, if it's like this in October, I will lay on my couch in the A/C and watch the race on TV instead!

Anyway, today was a nine mile tempo run at marathon pace (as opposed to an eight tempo last week) on the Lakefront Trail.
1 mile warm-up @ 8:09/mile
9 mile tempo @ 7:05/mile
No cool down

Next up: Recovery run tomorrow. Thursday: Track work-out at the North Park University track

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Meeting GingerFoxxx and Surf's Up!

I did my long run on a windy, wavy day down on the Lakefront Trail.  I ran to Navy Pier and back.  At about mile 13 of 16, I spotted Gingerfoxxx and her running group up ahead of me. As I neared her group, I took out my camera and said, "Gingerfoxxx" and she said turned around and said "hi." Instead of us both slowing down to take a picture of this meeting of  two Chicago Running Bloggers, I did a self portrait of us while we were still running:
Gingerfoxxx and Me doing our separate long runs
She was in the middle of a 20+ miler (wow)! Her group was pulling over for water and I didn't want to stop, 'cause my legs probably would not have restarted very well, so I went on.  It's always  fun seeing a familiar face down on the trail!

Anyway, the waves were really crashing on the Lakefront Trail this morning, almost taking out some runners:

The kids (and adults) were having fun in the surf!

The lake waves were so big that you may have mistaken parts of it for an ocean!

This dog looked like he really wanted to play in the surf too! 

At my turn-around at Navy Pier

 So I am finished with 2 of my 3 long runs! Total was 16 miles @ 8:13/mile