Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Different World: Taking A Week Off From Running

I run practically every day. The only time I take a day off is during a day or two taper before a race. This week, I am taking an entire week off from running  and it is quite a lifestyle change. I liken withdrawing from running as waking up in completely different world. Everything seems different. Maybe it has to do with slowly diminishing amounts endorphins, adreneline, strength or endurance. Or maybe it is because my high-energy outlet is shut off. But the world seems different and I can't exactly put my finger on it.

Anyway, I took the week off because:

  1. I started feeling tightness in my right tibialis anterior (the outside of the shin). No real pain, but long runs were starting to be uncomfortable. Probably happened because I was increasing speed and mileage at the same time. A big no-no! Anyway, better to not aggravate it for no good reason.
  2. My 18-week Boston Marathon training plan starts next week and I'd like to be at least 90% healthy going into training.
  3. I need a break, and what better time than BEFORE I am going full-throttle in an 18-week training cycle!

To better put my finger on why the world seems different, I have compiled a list of things that I have observed about myself since I stopped running four days ago:
  1. Phantom Pains - these are the pains usually associated with tapering. I stopped running because my right leg had some soreness, and now my left leg seems to have joined the soreness party for no apparent reason. Ouch! What's that? My ankle is now sore....
  2. Diet - I eat worse and am hungrier. Another three cookies for dessert? Who cares? I'm not training for anything! For some reason, I seem to be hungrier now than when I am running. This is also seems to be a classic taper syndrome.
  3. Sleepy - I can now sleep 8+ hours easily, where when I am training, I am lucky if I can sleep for 6 to 7 hours.
  4. No Goals - I no longer pore over my upcoming marathon training, which I would plan out and tweak over-and-over. It has been completely ignored. I could be doing light cross-training, yet I haven't even been to the pool at all this week. I usually go once or twice.
  5. Reading - Only a few days ago, I would frequently read running articles on Runners World, check out race-time equivalents for my fitness-level, and read about marathon training. Now, I don't want to read about running or training. If I can't do it, I don't want to read about it!
Anyway, all of these things will pass soon enough. The world and I will be likely back to normal when I set out running again next week*!  Hopefully I won't have an extended period off from running for another 19 weeks!

Do you feel like the world becomes a slightly a different place when you don't run for an extended period of time? What are some of the things you observe about yourself when you stop running?

* If you see me on the trail this weekend, I guess I couldn't wait a whole week!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Instagram-free Lakefront Run

This morning, I completed my longest run since 10/7/2012. It was perfect training weather: Sunny, 35 degrees and a slight wind. The cold wind makes the workout a tad more challenging, but you don't feel that "heat stroke" type nausea that happens often during a long hot run in the summer. With the extra layers of clothing, I don't tend to over-speed, which is easier on my legs and that's the point of a true "long, slow, distance" run.

Anyway, I took some pictures on my run.

The Orb by the lake

#1 in my "Man Encounters Orb" Series entitled "Man Examines Orb"

#2 in my "Man Encounters Orb" Series entitled "Man Approaches Orb"

#3 in my "Man Encounters Orb" Series entitled "Man Touches Orb!"

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel with Runners

Near the half way point around Oak Street Beach
Believe it or not, all of these pictures are unfiltered/unaltered pics of the Lakefront Trail this morning.
Total: 13.1 Miles @ 7:51/mile. A Dunkin' Donuts bagel sandwich was my reward after the run!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sub 40 Minute 10k! Lincolnwood Turkey Trot - Race Recap

The Lincolnwood Turkey Trot is slowly becoming an annual tradition for me. It's an all-street race which takes place on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The course runs through the lovely town of Lincolnwood, which is on the outskirts of the Chicago city limits on Lincoln Avenue. The start line is basically in front of L. Woods Pine Lodge restaurant.

At the Start Line of the Lincolnwood Turkey trot

I have run this race with my dad over the last 5 years. Typically he runs the 5k and I run the 10k (except 2 years ago when I ran the 5k). The age group trophies are the big draw of this race as they are turkey trophies, and I have been lucky enough to win a couple. Would I be lucky enough this year?

My Lincolnwood Turkey Trot "Turkey Trophies"

It was about 40 degrees, sunny and a bit windy this morning. I got in line for the porta potties with 10 minutes before race start. Big mistake. The porta-potty line was barely moving and I still needed to do my warm-up run. So, I decided to hold it and I jumped out of line and started my warm-up run across a baseball field. A minute or two later I noticed that I was missing a glove. I must have dropped it early in my warm-up run. So, I frantically zig-zagged backtracking on my run, looking for my glove. Miraculously, I found it! It would have been a chilly race without it.

I ducked under the corral ropes about 50 yards from the start line and after a few seconds we were off!  

Mile 1: The 5k and 10k started at the same time, so I spent the first 1/2 mile weaving in and around the casual 5k runners who had pressed their way to the front of the line. Even though I was passing people, I kept telling myself to hold back, just hold back as we tore down Lincoln Ave. Pace 6:24/mile.

Mile 2: We started to make our way back into the houses of Lincolnwood. Suddenly, a guy in front of me strips down to his pink underwear (his bib was on his behind)! I heard a kid spectator shout, "hey there goes daddy." Still held back: 6:23/mile.

Mile 3: Running into the wind, made the next few miles difficult. But I was passing people who I thought were fading, but it turns out I was starting to speed up: 6:18/mile.

Mile 4: We were finally rid of the 5k runners (for the time being) so I could better pace myself with the 10k runners. 6:13/mile.

Mile 5: I tuck behind a tri-athlete looking guy with tatoos on his arms. He just wouldn't let me pass him, When I would surge, he would fight me off. We headed into a tough wind and we both slowed down a bit. 6:20/mile.

Mile 6: At this point, I started pouring on the speed, and "Mr. Triathlete" did the same. We started to catch up to the 5k walkers and slow runners. Weaving around them as they seemed oblivious to the fact that there was a 10k race going on. I was slowly running out of energy, and my lungs were straining, but I was giving it my all. I made it my mission in life to hunt down "Mr. Triathlete". Fastest mile of the day. 6:02/mile.

Mile 6.2: We ran onto the final street and with 100 yards to the finish line with my lungs screaming for mercy, I turned on the after burners and finally ran past "Mr. Triathlete!" I almost barrel into people milling around just after the finish line. Luckily, no one was injured! I collapsed on someone's front lawn for a couple of minutes until I could breathe normally again. 5:49/mile.

Race Summary: 
  • Total time: 39:06. Average pace: 6:18/mile
  • Overall Place: 7th out of 554
  • Age Place: 3rd out of 74 (note, these are 10 year age groups).
  • Other note: This was my second fastest 10k ever! And only the second time I've broken 40 minutes in a 10k. The age group awards aren't given out on race day, so I assume I can pick it up this week at the park district building. I'm hoping they are still giving out cool turkey trophies for third place! I will try and post a picture if they do. 

Anyway, I am really happy with my run. I was full of endorphins all day. I almost teared up during the James Bond movie, which I went to afterwards! Last time anything like that happened to me was when I cried for no reason during the L.A. Marathon last year. 

Race Takeaway:
Running fast = lots of endorphins all day!

Next up:
Next race will be another 10k in December and I can't wait!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Still Recovering from the Chicago Marathon

I think that I am still recovering from the Chicago Marathon. I am struggling to run 30+ miles a week, where pre-marathon a 40 mile week was a cutback week. On long runs, my legs are barely willing to do any pace which is faster than my marathon pace. I have done some track work, and I have yet to crack a 6:00 mile, where before marathon training, a 5:30 mile would not be unheard of.  But, I guess this is the price you pay for racing a marathon. There is a reason that most elites* only race two marathons a year -> They need a lot of time to recover. And so do I.

Anyway, I did a slow eight miles today, and with my not-so-smooth running, it makes it easier to stop to take some shots of the city:

Runner near Belmont Harbor

What I see running down Irving Park Rd. towards the Lake
Lone Runner
Another Runner
Remember the Super Storm Sandy wave video and pictures from last week? Well, here is the same location now:
Yes, the waves are a lot calmer. Check out the runner. Oh yeah, that's me.

One of the last sailboats still on the lake?

A great morning for a sail..
Skyline with Haze

Hancock and Trump Tower with haze

Buildings along Lake Shore Drive
I'm still recovering from this run, mid-run!

So the Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 5k/10k is coming up soon. I have yet to register. I am trying to decide between the 5k and 10k. I am leaning towards the 10k, so I can run a slower pace and still get a respectable time.

* I am not an elite by any means. :-)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hot Chocolate 15k Race Review

The much maligned, massive Hot Chocolate 15k took place in Grant Park and surroundings this morning. The main pre-race gripe was the 2 to 3 hour line just for packet pickup on Friday. Luckily, my neighbor who lives across the street, volunteered to pick up my packet along with his. He went to pick up the packet late Friday night and "only" had to wait 45 minutes. He did not seem to mind, since 45 minutes was far short of the 3 hour wait time he had anticipated. Anyway, on Saturday morning after yoga with no effort on my part, the packet was hanging on my backdoor, so packet pickup was a breeze for me!

I hitched a ride from the same neighbor and we parked in the Millenium Park garage, directly under Grant Park. Arrival time was 5:45. We sat and waited in his car for about 30 minutes and then I made my way up to the Blogger Meetup.  I got to the meetup about 10 minutes late, and everyone (2 bloggers) was gone by then.  Anyway, I checked my bag and booked on over to the "A" corral with 5 minutes to spare. An observation on the corral assignments  They need to start verifying the qualifications of the runners in the "A" corral, I saw people running with backpacks lining up ahead of me. Also, some runners were more concerned with the playlist on their iPhones than getting warmed up!

Anyway, at just around 7 am, after Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel gave a speech and the Blackhawks guy sang the National Anthem, we were off.

Miles 1 through 3.1: I thought this race would be more scenic, however we were stuck mainly on Lower Wacker Drive, essentially underground with just pavement to look at. Eventually we got to run down a short portion of Michigan Avenue, yay! Then the 5k runners separated from us 15k runners and they made their way up "Mt. Roosevelt" back to what was essentially the Chicago Marathon finish line. Average pace: 6:48

Miles 3.1 through 6.2: After leaving the 5k runners, We headed down a ramp that brought to a road that runs below Lake Shore Drive, for about a mile. Some guy I was running with was complaining that the race last year ran through the Loop and this year's course had us running through relatively uninteresting areas. I could not agree more. The up and down ramps provided a mini hill challenge. We also got to run in yet another McCormick Place tunnel! Finally, we ran on one lane of Lake Shore Drive. However, we were running against traffic. The oncoming traffic had not been diverted and was separated from us, by a few pylons. Average pace: 6:48

Miles 6.2 through 9.3: The final third of the race was run mainly on the Lakefront Trail instead of closed off roads. Wow, Incredible! Not! Then it was back through the Eastern tunnel at McCormick Place. In the last 200 yards on Columbus Drive, I was dusted by a woman about 25 years old.  It felt like I was standing still. Average pace: 6:41

This will give you an idea of how big this race was: After I crossed the finish line, I could still hear the starting horn for the waves that had not yet started!

Race Summary: 

  • Total time: 1:02:55. Average pace: 6:45/mile
  • Overall Place: 177 out of 16,457
  • Age Place: 11 out of 588
  • Other note: This was my 15k p.r. Although, granted, it was my first 15k ever. However, I told myself during the race if I did not break 1:04 which is my 10 mile p.r., I could not count this as a 15k p.r. So, mission accomplished!

After the race, I got my cheap plastic hot chocolate mug, complete with a dollop of chocolate fondue which made a mess on my jacket.

I also got a picture of me by the marshmallow man:
Me and the Marshmallow Man!

Then I headed over to the Chicago Running Bloggers meetup area to see if I could spot anyone amidst the masses of people milling about.
Masses of people waiting around the A-B meetup area


And then at last, I spotted Kelly from Running Kellometers.  We had a nice chat for a few minutes and also got a picture:

Alas, we were the only running bloggers to make it after the race, but at least we were able to connect! Then my neighbors and I went over to Gage across the street on Michigan Ave. There we had a couple of Bloody Marys to really get the day started!

Race Summary: 
  1. I have a soft spot for these massive Loop races. They are just awe-inspiring when you see how many people are involved.
  2. Easy transportation to the race. The "El" was running extra trains and if you drove, you could essentially park right underneath the race.
  3. Weather was picture perfect.
  4. I got a 15k p.r., but how many 15k races are there?
  1. Race packet controversy. This may be hard for the race to live down.
  2. The course is relatively uninteresting, was allegedly better last year.
  3. Expensive. $70+. Also, why do they charge a transaction fee when they are the ones accepting the payments? What a ripoff!
  4. Running on Lake Shore Drive against car traffic going 45 mph!
  5. Corral assignments are based on unverified times.
  6. For those who don't like crowds this thing is Massive.
I may be back next year, but may decide based on the course layout.