Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Week - Running Recap

I had an entire week off of work this week (3 vacation days and two holidays for Thanksgiving), so what to do to fill my time? Why, run of course. Here's a look at how the week went down:

Lincolnwood Turkey Trot:

The Turkey Trotters
Fleet Feet Pint Night with WRCE:
Pre-"Get Lit Run" with the WRCE
Lynton, Mo, Erin and Eric Stylin' during the "Get Lit" Run
Lakefront 10 Mile Run:
Loving my mid-day Tuesday run
Chicago River Run (with four pull ups on the jungle gym):
Getting in some pull ups in the 15 degree weather
Ducks getting a steam bath
Thursday (Thanksgiving):
3 Miles around Welles Park with my dad

Thanksgiving recovery of two mini-runs for four miles total.

3.8 Miles to the infamous Lincoln Square McDonald's for a hockey puck, then around Horner Park

Weekly Total:
41 Miles.

Up for next week:
Long run on Sunday, getting back to the gym (the real one not the jungle version) and restarting the yoga routine. Also "Speed Work Thursday" with Anne and Sara at the North Park University Track.

What was your week like running/exercise wise?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 2013 10k Race Recap

This was my fifth Lincolnwood Turkey Trot since 2008. Traditionally, I run the 10k and my dad runs the 5k which was also the plan for today. Today's version was, according to the mayor of Lincolnwood, the coldest it has ever been for the race. It was around 15 degrees at the start. Last year, I set a course PR in speedier conditions and brought home a sweet turkey trophy.

Luckily, I had picked up our bibs yesterday, so it was a perfect setup for us to arrive just before the race start and wait in the car with the heat blasting. No need to park far away, wait in line to get the packets, and then run all the way back to the car to put on the bibs and drop off our stuff. So, after parking and waiting on a residential street a few blocks from the start, we made our way to the start line at about 8:40 for the 8:45 start. After stopping at a porta-potty, I ducked into the start corral. The mayor of Lincolnwood gave a speech and then without a countdown, blasted the horn to begin the race. NO. ONE. MOVED. He kept yelling for people to go, yet no one did. He then said that people weren't paying attention, but maybe everyone had dozed off during his speech?! Anyway, after some yelling from runners in the back, the people up front finally heard that the race was underway and we were off!

The Race
Mile 1: As per usual, the 5k and 10k started at the same time, so as I did last year, I spent the first part of the first mile weaving in and around 5k runners who had darted out in front of me and who got gassed early and had to slow way down. These runners seem to be a majority of headphone wearing kids who can't hear how hard they are breathing and don't realize that a 5k is actually not won in the first mile! Oh well, it's not the Olympics. Anyway, I was trying to hold back, but it was tough when you start with 5kers. Pace 6:37/mile.

Mile 2: We wended our way into the suburban houses of Lincolnwood. This is also where we 10kers split from the 5kers (at least until mile 6). I was still telling myself to hold back: 6:38/mile.

Mile 3: It was about this point that I realize that despite holding back early, my course PR was not attainable. It's not like I was struggling to keep the pace, but I was not feeling like I could ramp up too much either. I blame my lack of mileage since the Chicago Marathon (i.e. my endurance is low). 6:32/mile.

Mile 4: Since I knew I wouldn't be putting on a speed clinic today, I stopped looking at my Garmin completely and I started to play the "reel-em-in" game. That is, I started spotting runners ahead of me and tried to reel them in. There was a hairpin turnaround which made it nice so I could see who was ahead of me and who was lurking behind me.  I passed about five runners this mile. 6:29/mile.

Mile 5: As a side-note, sometimes during the early miles of a race, I see runners way out ahead of me and then eventually some (not all) come back to me as I accelerate and they fade. Sometimes early in a race I catch myself saying "Look at the guy/gal, they have awesome form, they look more athletic/stronger than me and they are so far in front, I will never catch them by the end of the race." The fact that they are way ahead of me, gives them some kind of aura of awesomeness. Then, sure enough, a mile or two later, I pass them. However, even when I pass them, I brace myself mentally for a "duel" as I think I am going to piss off this "super athlete" so much they will accelerate. However, this "duel" hardly ever happens. Most of the time they are fading ever so slightly as they are gassed. They don't have the energy to stage a comeback. Note to self: I need to relax a little more when I pass people - there likely won't be a speed fight! Anyway, I pass a few more runners. 6:34/mile.

Mile 6: I know that if I have any reserves, I need to use them here. The only problem is, is that we rejoined the 5k walkers. Many of them walk three abreast and don't create a lane for the 10k runners who are barreling through. Also, the aid station had ice in front of it, as water that hit the ground was freezing. I nearly slipped and fell on an ice patch of spilled water. I pass a few more runners. As we near the 6 mile marker, I start running on fumes. 6:09/mile.

Mile 6.27: Near the end, I saw a guy ahead of me who looked like he would be in my age group, (turns out he was), so my final "reel-em-in" mission was to pass him and hope that I would finish 3rd in my age group and snag a turkey trophy. After weaving around a few more walkers, I passed him in the last 200 yards and sprinted past the finish line while my dad cheered me on. Coincidentally, this is the same exact pace I ran the same last split last year.  5:49/mile.

Race Summary: 
  • Official time: 40:36. Average pace: 6:32/mile
  • Overall Place: 26th out of 561
  • Age Place: 6th out of 72 (these are 10 year age groups).
  • No turkey trophy this year. Boo! I am now three for six getting turkey trophies.
  • Note: Except in the first mile, I did not get passed at all in the race, which is always a confidence boost. 
  • Other note: My dad placed fourth in his age group in the 5k.

My dad and I went over to the finish line and found Anne and Kim waiting for Bob and Erin to finish. Erin's husband (the unofficial course photographer) took this pic of the group:
Bloggers and Runners (src: Erin's husband)

Race Takeaway:
Not as fast as last year, but a solid, steady pace with negative splits. I'll take it considering how few miles I've put in since the Chicago Marathon and the extra chilly race temps. The race proved to me that I have a little bit of leg speed and combining this with being injury free, I am in a good spot heading into spring marathon training.

Next up:
Possibly another 10k in December if I get the itch to go sub-40 before my spring marathon training starts in earnest.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pint Night and Comparing Two Track Workouts A Year Apart

Pint Night
On Monday night, I left work early in order to get to Pint Night at Fleet Feet Lincoln Square with plenty of time to spare and of course instead was stuck in traffic for an hour and 45 minutes and arrived late. Since I was running 15 minutes late for the run, instead of going home and changing clothes, I drove directly to Fleet Feet. Unfortunately, I only had my workout clothes from earlier in the day in my gym bag. So, in the Fleet Feet bathroom, I changed into my already worn workout clothes, putting on an outer layer shirt that wasn't too funky and wearing my fresh cotton undershirt. Then I took off on the run to try and catch up with Maggie and Erin who were already out and about. I took a shortcut going by the Lincoln Square McDonald's parking lot where a crime would happen 10 minutes later*. Anyway, I ran at a fast clip to the turn-around at the Chicago River and spotted two runners running with a stroller. Sure enough it was Maggie and Erin pushing her daughter along. We said our hellos and I got to enjoy half of the run portion of Pint Night running and chatting with them. Once we arrived back at Western Ave., a police car with lights and sirens on came out of nowhere and we had to hurry across the street. It was undoubtedly on it's way to McDonald's.

In happier news, once we arrived at Fleet Feet we got a picture:
Erin, A, Maggie and Me outside Fleet Feet
Then we headed over to the Grafton for a pint. After some conversation with Erin about her move, her daughter started getting tired, so they decided to leave. Then Erin, being the hardcore runner that she is, ran home pushing the stroller!  Not more than a couple of minutes later, Lynton showed up. Maggie, Lynton and I chatted for another 20 minutes before it was time to leave so I could get dinner. However, before we left, a Fleet Feet rep at the bar told us that there would be a bonus Pint Night on Monday, where we would be able to get more than one free pint. So, since I am taking next week off of work, it could get crazy. Watch out! :)

Track Workouts 2012 vs 2013
The Lincolnwood Turkey Trot is on Sunday, so I needed to get a little pre-race speed work in this morning. The race has some cool trophies for the top three finishers in each 10 year age group, which are good motivators for me to do well. I won this at last year's race:
2012 Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 3rd Place AG
Before a race, I like to take a look at my fitness and try to guage how fast I will run the race. I do this by analyzing workouts and mileage from previous years and comparing them to the current year. This also helps me determine what a realistic race pace should be. So for this year's analysis, I took a look at my splits from today (11/21/2013):
Today (November 2013) at the Track
1.75 mile warm-up
1.00 mile @ 5:58/mile, .22 walk
0.75 mile @ 5:57/mile, .17 walk
0.50 mile @ 5:45/mile, .21 walk
0.25 mile @ 5:10/mile
1.66 mile cool-down

...and compared them to my splits from my last track workout before the 2012 Lincolnwood Turkey Trot (11/15/2012):
November 2012 at the Track
2.00 mile warm-up
1.00 mile @ 5:59/mile, .25 walk
0.75 mile @ 6:05/mile, .25 walk
0.50 mile @ 5:58/mile, .25 walk
0.25 mile @ 5:06/mile
2.8 mile cool-down

Comparing the two workouts, one could argue that I am slightly faster now than I was at this stage last year. However, I have not been putting in the same number of weekly miles as I was last year. So the question is: Will my five week old marathon endurance still be around for miles five through 6.2 to keep me in the top three for 2013? Will a fourth turkey trophy be mine in the near future? Stay tuned and find out on Sunday! Looking forward to see loads of running bloggers there on Sunday as well!

*Lincoln Square is generally a safe area, this was the first crime of this nature in over six years there!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

13.1 Mile Lakefront Run/Walk

There were storms today in Chicago, and luckily I ran my long run after the first early morning deluge and before the second one in the afternoon.  I set off for the Lakefront Trail with plans to do a run/walk. I chose the run/walk as I didn't want to overdo it: I had taken seven days off in the last two weeks due to a cold and only ran eight miles total last week. The run/walk thing forces me to take things easier. I need to take it easier in part because it's been hard getting rid of that fatigued feeling post-marathon. After finishing Chicago over four weeks ago, it seems like I have struggled to get back my normal energy levels. Add to that the cold that I had last week and it's hard to get the pep in my step without considerable effort. I'm hoping to get more sleep and get rid of that feeling (at least until the next marathon)!

Anyway, on my journey today, I alternated six minutes of running with 40 seconds of walking. The first half of the 13.1 may have been slower since I was headed into a strong southerly wind. That and I made a few stops for photo ops:
Trail and Hancock
Bird over the lake
Empty Trail and Skyline
At Fullerton Ave.
Navy Pier Rays
Storms starting to move in

Lakeshore condos
It was a tad on the warm side, with temps around 65 degrees. I started to overheat at the turnaround, but kept pushing onward. Can't wait for cooler temps to become the norm. Anyway, here's my run by the numbers:
First 6 miles: 7:59/mile
Last six miles: 7:19/mile
13.1 Average Pace: 7:41/mile

Next up: Pint Night at Fleet Feet Lincoln Square on Monday 11/18 and The Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 10k Sunday 11/24. 
How did your weekend runs go? 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thoughts on the Chicago Marathon Registration Going Lottery

Most runners I've talked to think that the Chicago Marathon will go to a lottery type registration system for 2014. Even Runner's World called it the "wave of the future." Demand was so great for the first-come, first-served registration in February that it crashed the servers and some people were shut out. For those who were shut out, they were able to apply for the spots that remained via a lottery system. Since we know that the race was able to hold a mini-lottery it looks as if the Chicago Marathon already has a process in place: It will just be bigger next year.

The other two U.S. major marathons, New York City and Boston, both have registration lotteries of some sort. Chicago was the lone holdout and now it would seem that the breaking point has arrived.

I also strongly suspect they'll go to a lottery system for 2014. However, I think that there are two other ways to consider in order to keep the current free-for-all dream partially alive:

  1. Raise the Price: If they really want to trim the number of people applying, they could always raise the price, like the New York City Marathon did. An entry into the NYC Marathon was $156 in 2011 then in 2012 it jumped to $216. That might weed out people who aren't overly serious about running the race and sign up for it on a whim. Heck, I know one guy who trained less than two weeks for the Chicago Marathon this year and walked over 13 miles of it. If he had had to shell out say $275 instead of $175, maybe he would have taken a pass. He might have balked at the higher registration fee and the spot he would have taken would have opened up for someone who was more serious about racing it. The price increase difference, say $100 per entry could be distributed to various charities to show that it's not a money grab, just simply an attempt to filter out some of the "excess demand".
  2. Time Qualification: A marathon is a long distance running race and as such could give preference to those people who are actually going to run the thing. So, there could be a scaled down version of the "wave registration" used for the Boston Marathon, giving early registration (based on age and finishing times in other races).  Qualifying runners get to register free-for-all first, then everyone else. For example, they could give runners under 50 who have run faster than a 2.5 hour half marathon, or a 5.5 hour marathon, first shot at registering. There would be slower time qualifications for those over 50. After all "runners" have signed up, it would then open up to the traditional first come, first-served registration. This system might weed out a few people (like that guy I know who walked over half the race), but still give a shot at those remaining spots to more casual entrants that qualified runners did not claim. 
So those are my ideas, neither one would be very popular with certain camps. But each would allow motivated people, who really want to run the marathon a better shot at gaining entry and at least partially preserve the traditional first come, first served system. So what will really happen next year? I think there may be a slight price increase, say $10, but there won't be a time qualification for early entry. The whole thing will be a lottery, but I'm hoping they give legacy runners some kind of special consideration like early registration.

How do you think registration will look next year? How would you want it to look? 

**Special thanks to ChasingCheeto for giving me the idea for this topic!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hot Chocolate 15k 2013 Race Recap

As many of you may remember, last year's Hot Chocolate 5k/15k did not come off without a few hitches. However, RAM Racing which throws this massive event (45,000 runners), seems to have learned from their mistakes and certainly redeemed themselves this year.

The Expo:
The Hot Chocolate packet pickup last year was a disaster as people were waiting for up to 3 hours in the bitter cold just to pick up there race bib and hoodie. This year, the packet pickup was indoors at McCormick Place, and it was spread out over three days instead of two. The result (on Friday):
The 2013 Hot Chocolate 15k Packet Pickup at the Expo: More volunteers than runners!
After picking up my bib, I needed to find a race official so I could change my assigned corral. I had registered for the race after the corral seeding had closed and I was stuck in corral C, which is pretty far back for this race. Luckily, I found a booth at the expo where I could plead my case to a race official for a corral change:
I asked for my "A" corral here
The volunteer said that corral "A" was full. It looked as if she was going to be firm about not making the change for me. I told her my finishing place last year (179 out of 16,000+), and she verified that on her laptop. She also noticed that I was a loyal RAM Racing runner having completed more than a handful of RAM events. So after a couple minutes of intense deliberation, she upgraded me to the "A" corral, but told me it would be a tight squeeze. I thanked her profusely, as it would potentially save me two or three minutes of weaving in the early parts of the race.

Pre Race: 
My across-the-street neighbor Tad and I left his house at about 5:45 and about 20 minutes later we were pulling into a $14 garage just north of Grant Park. We had to hike quite a ways to get to gear check, since it was located near the finish line at the very south end of Grant Park. Once we arrived, there was barely a line and soon we were heading back north to the A/B corrals. Did I mention that this race is massive? There were about 40,000 runners to weave through and around to get to the A corral. The race had setup miles of high metal fences to prevent people from jumping into corrals. This caused backups of runners trying to navigate the narrow sidewalks to get to the front of the race.
Me and Tad at Bag Check
Luckily we had plenty of time, so I used the porta potty (no line!) and I got in my corral with about 5 minutes to spare before they were closed at 6:45. I had worn some disposable clothing (sweats and a sweatshirt) so I was pretty toasty waiting for the start gun. I stood about 5 yards away from Jim Cornelison as he belted out the National Anthem as best as he could.

The Race: 
My goal for this race was to PR, so I would need break 1:02:55 (6:45/mile) which means I would actually have to average about 6:37/mile with all of the turns and weaving. I have just started doing real speed training in the last two weeks, so I thought that the goal was lofty. However, I figured if I ran a smart race (i.e. negative splits) I would have an outside chance of snagging a shiny new PR.

Mile 1:
Did I mention that one of the things that I love about the Hot Chocolate race (maybe the main thing) is that it's a chance to revisit parts of the Chicago Marathon course only three weeks after the marathon. So, while the memories of the race are still crisp, you get to line up at the same start line, run along the same 3 mile stretch of Michigan Ave. and then end up at the same finish line. For me that's a huge bonus. Anyway, the gun sounded and we headed north on Columbus Drive. Security did not prevent people from cheering us on the bridge over the road, unlike the marathon, so that was very nice. We scooted onto lower Wacker for most of the first mile. RAM had set up a light show in lower Wacker which was okay, but at least they made an effort on what is arguably the least exciting (and darkest) part of the course. My footpod was giving my watch display all sorts of wacky readings since my GPS was useless in Lower Wacker. In the end it nailed my mile pace pretty accurately, despite the intermittent false readings. During this mile, I repeated to myself my early race mantra "just hold back." 6:47/mile.
Mile 2:
Finally, we reached daylight and ran down Clark St. right smack dab in the middle of the Loop. Very cool! Last year's race did not take us through downtown Chicago, so this is a HUGE bonus. Love it. However, I was forgetting to say my mantra, and I was speeding up too much: 6:34/mile.
Mile 3:
We headed over to Michigan Avenue and started running along the west side of Grant Park. Runners that had not yet reached the starting line, were darting in front of us trying to make it to their corrals. At Roosevelt Rd., the 5kers left us 15kers and headed up Mt. Roosevelt. I was going way too fast. 6:22/mile.
Mile 4:
The sun was coming out and we were headed down the Chicago Marathon stretch of Michigan Ave. which means one thing: goose bump time. I was in racing heaven, full of endorphins, on the Chicago Marathon course and so, I was letting my legs fly as if I were running a 10k instead of a 15k. Finally, my brain kicked near the end of this mile and I told myself to SLOW THE HELL DOWN - and I did (will miracles never cease?)! 6:52/mile.
Mile 5:
This is was likely the turning point of my race, despite it being my slowest mile.  This is due to the fact that I reeled in my emotions, got level headed and started to groove a comfortable pace. I needed to save myself for a surge over the last 5k which was my PR plan all along. We continued down beautiful south Michigan Avenue and turned east on 31st street over to the lake. 6:52/mile.
Mile 6: 
During this mile there was a "Chocolate Station" where kids were handing out small chocolate bars. However, I did not see any runners taking them up on it. Maybe a few people took them later? Anyway, we headed south on the eastern most northbound lane of Lake Shore Drive. We were separated by on-coming traffic by an extra layer of cones this year, so I guess it was a little safer than last year! 6:44/mile
Mile 7:
We made the turn headed north on the access road that runs along LSD, and I did a quick mental calculation as to what I needed to run to get my PR. I figured a 6:35, 6:35, 6:20 would get me close, so that was my goal. We ran through the McCormick Place tunnel and there was a light show in there as well. I had to remove my sunglasses in the tunnel to watch for those pesky filled-in potholes. 6:35/mile
Mile 8:
We rounded the corner just before Soldier Field. There was a "Triathlete Dude" running in front of me wearing a triathlon shirt and biker shorts. Suddenly, he turned around and beckoned me to keep pace with him as he accelerated. I think he must have thought I was someone else by the look on his face, but I still said "thanks man" and then of course, I accelerated and tried to keep up with him. 6:28/mile
Mile 9:
As I tried to catch up with "Triathlete Dude" he kept pushing the pace and stayed about 15 yards ahead of me. I ran almost effortlessly as I was solely focused on keeping up with him. I also soon realized that I would be cutting my PR time close, so I had that as an incentive to run fast as well. 6:15/mile

Mile 9.5: 
After running down the hill from Soldier Field, we turned the corner and went up the hill leading back up to Columbus Drive. Once we reached Columbus Drive there was only the 200m of the downhill portion of the Chicago Marathon course left.
Haulin' near the finish line
I could tell by the clock that my PR was narrowly within striking distance. So, I made my final move to PR and to beat "Triathlon Dude". Just as I got near his shoulder he must have heard me approaching from behind and so he took off and we sprinted together full out kamikaze style past the finish line! Awesome! We almost careen into the 5kers who are having group conversations 10 feet past the finish line. "Triathlon Dude" reaches out to side five me, but I miss, but at least he knows I tried. 5:50/mile

PR accomplished by 17 seconds!
Basking in the glow of a PR!
Unofficial Results:
Overall: 104/9,373
Age Group: 6/243
Official Pace: 6:44/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:34/mile

Unofficial 5k Splits:
1st 5k: 21:21
2nd 5k: 21:20
3rd 5k: 19:57

Since I haven't gotten any PRs this year I am more than happy to take this one home. Despite the fact that I ran somewhat positive splits for the first half, I ended up pulling back nicely midway and ran negative splits for the second half. I guess slowing down during the first part of a race is something I still need to work on.

Posing near the finish line

Tad and I met up at bag check and made our way over to grab our fondue mug at the north side of Grant Park.
Tad and me and the Hot Chocolate skyline
Me and my fondue mug
The chocolate fondue was nice and messy and there was chocolate all over our faces and hands. Luckily they provided us with Handi-wipes which got most of the sticky mess off.

Believe it or not, this is one of my favorite races of the year. The course is an eight out of 10, and it gets bonus points for including the key points of the Chicago Marathon (start, finish, Michigan Ave). Since it is held only three weeks post-marathon it is one more chance to get out and race on hallowed ground once more. Add to that the easy packet pickup, bag check, and plentiful porta potties this is slowly becoming a first class experience.

See you next year Mr. Hot Chocolate!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Worm Invasion at the Track

It's been raining steadily in Chicago. In fact it's the first decent rainfall we've had in quite awhile. After waking up, I looked out the window at the wet weather, and decided to head to the track to have a lovely rainy workout. After getting my jogging suit on, I ran over to the track at North Park University. I needed to get in some speed work in preparation for my PR attempt at the Hot Chocolate 15k on Sunday. After running a warm-up lap, I started doing an interval ladder. First interval was 1.0 mile, followed by one at .75 mile, and 0.5 mile. It was dark out for these intervals as Daylight Savings time does not end until Sunday.

At the track, unaware of the worm invasion

As I was about to start my last lap of a quarter mile, the sky turned brighter. I looked down and noticed that there were a few worms near my feet:

The rescued worm couple
They were wiggling across the track, ostensibly having been flooded out of their homes, trying to find some grass or dirt to burrow under.

Acting as a good worm Samaritan,  I picked them up and flung them to the grass, where they would be in less danger of being trampled by runners, and have an easier time finding a home.

Then, I moved on and realized that there were literally hundreds of worms all over the track:

Even more worms! Worms everywhere!

I soon realized that it would take most of the day to rescue all of the track worms. I still needed to run one more lap, however, so I would need to be careful not to injure any worms as I ran. To be nice, a rescued a couple more worms and then got ready for my last quarter mile. I then took off running, looking down the entire time, making sure not to step on too many worms!

Hopefully, most of the worms will find there way to safety today!  Anyway, here are my splits from my track session:

1.75 mile warm-up
1.00 mile @ 6:00/mile, .25 walk
0.75 mile @ 5:56/mile, .25 walk
0.50 mile @ 5:49/mile, .25 walk
0.25 mile @ 5:23/mile
1.6 mile cool-down

Analysis. A decent workout with nothing spectacular. I'm still recovering from the Chicago Marathon and have not run a really fast workout in quite sometime. So this will be a good baseline to compare to my future speed workouts this winter. Also, the last quarter mile suffered as I was trying to navigate around worms!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Getting Ready for Hot Chocolate

The much maligned Hot Chocolate 15k will take place on Sunday. The main gripes with last year's race were the disastrous packet pickup, and the uninteresting/potentially dangerous course. The lines at the packet pickup were, according to reports, up to three hours long, outdoors in the cold. As far as the race course, it was on some of the most boring stretches of the city including the dark, concrete portions of lower Wacker Drive, and one lane of Lake Shore Drive against on-coming traffic (runners were separated by moving cars by those tiny orange pylons). For a 15k that costs nearly $80, these things are unacceptable. I know of at least two seasoned runners that make a point of avoiding this race because of its blatant failings. However the race attracts about the same number of "runners" as the Chicago Marathon (36,000). I say "runners" because the race is mainly in place for the casual/non-runners who seem to be attracted to the the race because:

  • They are in it for the "chocolate" part of the race, 
  • They are in it for the goody bag sweatshirt (you see them all over the city during the months after the race)
  • It takes place in early November at a time when not much else is going on
Luckily, my experience with the 2012 Hot Chocolate 15k was better than most. In a stroke of luck, I sold my Hot Chocolate goody bag sweatshirt on eBay, so I recouped most of my $77 entry fee. In another stroke of luck my neighbor was able to go to packet pickup so I was spared the three-hour-line pain. I also got a ride from the same neighbor. We drove from my house to Grant Park Garage and we parked directly under the start line. After the race I met Kelly for the first time then went out for Bloody Marys at a bar across the street from the race. So, in short a quite enjoyable experience!

Since my experience with the 2012 edition of the race was a 7/10 instead of the 3/10 that a lot of people experienced, I was willing to give the Hot Chocolate a second go. Besides being a sucker for massive downtown races, I was convinced once I saw the 2013 race map which shows that the course will be much more interesting, including running three miles of the Chicago Marathon stretch of Michigan Ave. (in reverse).  They have also eliminated the dangerous stretch on LSD. On top of that, the packet pickup will be inside McCormick place with an additional pickup day on Thursday. So, the race was obviously listening to the complaints and made appropriate fixes.
To see how big the race is check out this video I shot (about 15 minutes after I had finished the 15k in 1 hour 2 minutes!) of the masses of people still running the first portion of the race:

So after signing up for the race, I ran a test run eight miler by the lakefront yesterday:
Belmont Harbor

I took the pace a little too quickly to start (what else is new?), but reeled myself in by mile four. In any case, it was a gorgeous day for a run.

My splits

Ideally at the Hot Chocolate on Sunday, I'd like to break my 15k PR I set last year, but am not sure I can hold the 6:45 pace for that long. My only shot at a PR will be if I run negative splits, so I will focus on that and let the chips fall where they may. At the very least I'll be in it for the chocolate... :)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Need for Speed

After I ran the Chicago Marathon, I took an entire week off from running. In previous post-marathons, I have jumped back into running too soon, making my recoveries last weeks longer than they should have. This time, I'm trying to err on the side of relaxation by doing some light swimming, easy yoga, and light strength work. Last night I finally got back to running. Along with the Wurst Running Club Ever, I ran in the Fleet Feet Pint Night in Lincoln Square.

For once I arrived to the event early, but that only meant that I had to wait while some "Crossfit" promoter dude gave us a spiel about how cars in the 1970s aren't as powerful as modern cars. Luckily Declan was there for some comic relief. Finally, we were allowed out to start our run. I ran with Declan and Lynton (from the BRC) with Mo and Anne pulling up the rear.

Me, Mo, Declan and Anne before the Pint Night run
After running through various North Side neighborhoods towards the Chicago River, we neared the turnaround. I suggested we run a 400m sprint at the North Park University track which is just on the other side of the river. So, Declan, Lynton and I made our way over to the track. Lynton decided to take it easy, since he is running the NYC Marathon in two weeks. Declan and I, however were going to try a little friendly 400m "race". Declan mentioned that he hadn't set foot on a track since college, and since he was nursing his post-marathon aches and pains he would give it a go, but would defer to not over-doing it. Of course, since I am injury-free, I was ready to throw caution to the wind, and go for broke.

Once we reached the track, we took off, running a blistering pace. I grabbed an inside lane and took the turn with Declan proudly representing the WRCE in his dirndl shirt in one of the outside lanes. Declan was in the lead, his legs quickly shaking off their ingrained marathon pace, now turning over so fast they became a blur. I came up close to him and made my move to pass him (perhaps a little early). I saw a couple of soccer fans who were in the infield turn around to watch our "race". It was fun to have a couple of spectators, just like in a real race. I think Declan could have crushed me, but he was wisely being cautious and backed off. Since I had "kicked" way too early, I was completely gassed near the 400m finish and stumbled badly over the last 25 meters. After catching my breath, we made our way back over the river to find Mo and Anne, patiently waiting for us for the return trip.

After running 1.5 miles back, we arrived at the Fleet Feet store, got our free pint coupons and headed over to the Grafton for some beer and quality conversation.
Mo and Anne arriving via airplane
I guess the end result of the running portion of the event was that I realized how much I really miss running fast. Training for shorter distance races includes lots of fast miles with a day or two off during the week. I've missed this fast running while training for the marathon.  So, to give myself some much needed speed running, I came up with an in-between-marathon goal: A sub-1:30 half marathon in November. Right now, according to the conversion calculators, I am in about 1:34 half marathon shape, so I have a little work to do. My ultimate goal will be for me to go sub-1:25 next year so I can qualify for the New York City marathon. I am excited that I will get to do some faster long runs and lots of short, fast track work instead of long, slowish mile repeats all the time.

I really love the "euphoria" I get from running a marathon that lasts for hours afterwards. I also like the days after the race when the blogger community swaps marathon stories. In fact, I can't think of a single event which I have more fun before, during and after than a marathon. But, the downside of a marathon is that the training involves running lots of slower miles every single day. I'm ready for some speed...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chicago Marathon 2013 Race Recap

Race Highlights:
* Near-perfect marathon temps 50 to 55 degrees. 
* Meetup with fellow BRC team members
* Huge, enthusiastic crowd with a few blogger sightings
* Course 2nd best time and BQ time of 3:18:30 for 26.5 miles

My goal was to set a sub 3:10:40 course PR, and I came up a little short. However, I have lots of positives from the race. One of those positives is that I now know that I can train for a marathon in nine weeks, still BQ and have an excellent time running the entire city. 

I shared a cab with two of my neighbors (Tad and Stacey) to Grant Park. The cab dropped us off 100 yards from one of the main gates. We were there early enough that there were no lines at the security check point.
Tad, Stacey and Me Pre-Race
After clearing security, we wished each other well and headed in separate directions. I walked over to the gear check to wait for my fellow BRC members to show up. A few minutes later they were all there and we made a little campsite:
Camp BRC
Declan doing warm-ups at our campground
In front of Buckingham fountain
Declan getting a tattoo pre-race from Erin
BRC Team Photo (Erin, Annabelle, Ken, Erin, Me, Declan)
After we completed our pre-race rituals, we left our campsite and made our way over to the start corrals. I used the corral porta-potties and waited for Declan and Annabelle to arrive at the "B" corral. Luckily I spotted them and we got in a line to enter to the "B" corral. Unfortunately, the guards would not allow a runner with an "A" bib to move back to the "B" corral, so they told me to fight the surge of humanity and make my way over to the "A" corral. I was disappointed that I couldn't run with them. It would have been a blast: All three of us had the same goal pace!

The Race
After shedding my throw-away clothes, the corrals were herded closer to the start line. Then at long last we were off!

First Half
My goal was to run the first two miles at 7:45, 7:35. I actually ran them in 7:34, 7:13 despite a concerted effort on my part to relax and slow down. By mile 3, I had to use the bathroom again, and found a porta-potty with a green symbol by the door and darted in. Mile 3 was a 7:50.

Then, for whatever reason, I decided that I needed to make back the time lost in the porta-potty (even though I was basically still perfectly on track) and started laying down some 7:10s, which although felt okay, did cause my heart rate to go up more quickly. This could have been due to the fact that my legs were tight and were not loosening up as much as they typically do once I get in my cadence. It was harder to get turnover. I blame the short taper, but I did my best to tell myself that I could run the rest of the race at 7:10/mile.

I passed by Maggie and she shouted my name and got this great shot of me:
Hi Maggie! (source)
Then I side-fived my aunt and uncle who were holding these awesome posters near mile 8:
BRC support
They remembered the "T" 
I ran south through Lincoln Park still hoping to get my leg muscles to cooperate.
On N. Sedgwick St. in Lincoln Park
On top of drinking lots of Gatorade at each aid station, at around mile 10 I broke open my first GU. I quickly realized that the gel must have been about two years old as it was kinda mealy and had an bland taste. I debated whether it would make me sick if I ate it. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to eat only half of it. Luckily, I did not get instantly sick, but my stomach was starting to feel the effects of too much sugar. 

 Erica, yelled to me just around mile 13 and I gave her a wave. I basically averaged 7:15s for miles 4 through 13.1. Total time for first half: 1:36:17 (avg: 7:21/mile)

Second Half
The second half started out with a positive as Emily shouted my name and I waved back at her. However, by mile 14, I realized that my goal of setting a course PR (3:10) was likely out the window. Holding my current 7:15/pace was becoming more of a struggle. My legs were still tight and my stomach was not doing very well. Every whiff of bad air by a porta-potty or a garbage can made my stomach feel like it would be sick. On top of all that, my heart rate was about 10 bpm faster than it was for the first half just to hold the same pace. In order to go sub 3:10 for the race, I needed to drop down to 7:00s for the last 10 miles. That feat was merely a dream given my condition. So, I decided to see if I could handle running 7:30s which would hopefully enable me to at least run the rest of the way (i.e. not walk at all) and BQ (<3:25) since I had banked lots of time so far.

Around Comiskey Park, I suffered the indignity of the 3:15 pace group passing me. After that happened, I was determined to avoid letting the 3:20 group to pass me later on. This gave me motivation to keep my legs moving in a running-type fashion.
Trying to smile, trying to run
At about mile 20, I spotted Annabelle about 10 yards ahead of me. She had passed me without me noticing. I wanted to say hi to her, so I kicked up my pace a couple of notches. Once I reached her, I told her she was looking strong. She said that she was having leg issues and had to stretch every so often. She then took off and I spotted her the next mile or two taking stretch breaks, but still running too fast for me to catch up to her again. These two or three miles were a great distraction from my leg and stomach problems. Thanks Annabelle for passing me (and congrats on the PR)!

Upon reaching Chinatown at mile 21, I felt myself really slow down. I stopped looking at my splits and just focused on my overall time. I wanted to make sure I crossed the finish line by 3:23 (BQ -2). My legs grew heavy, my stomach sent some nauseous signals to my brain, and I decided to only drink water on the way in as I had overdosed on energy gels, shot blocks and Gatorade. My arms were starting to lose feeling in them as they had been in essentially the same position for over 2.5 hours. Even though it felt like I was running 9 minute miles, in retrospect my pace was actually about 7:55/mile for 21, 22 and 23.

In Chinatown: Hurting but still alive
I made the turn onto Michigan Ave. for the three mile homestretch. As I slowed to what felt like 10 minute miles, I kept waiting for throngs of runners to pass me. However, I only got passed occasionally, as most everyone was struggling at that late stage. Negative thoughts started creeping into my head, and I even questioned why I liked marathoning so much! I banished such thoughts and kept pounding my aching feet on the pavement. I told myself that all I had to do was to run straight ahead for the next three miles and I would essentially be done. I spotted the jumbotron at Michigan Ave. and Roosevelt Rd. which was about two miles away. No matter how hard I seemed to run, it did not look like it was getting any closer! It remained a tiny object that resided in a fantasy land that I could never get to. So instead, I started concentrating on the various mile marker signs off to my right. I passed the 40k sign, then the 25 mile sign, then the "1 mile left" sign, then the "800m left" sign. Before I knew it, I had passed the jumbotron, and turned onto Mt. Roosevelt and the 26 mile sign. I began my ascent up the hill slowly, but still running. I made the turn at the top and moments later I held my hands up high for my finish line photo.

Edit: Finish line photo Not available at this time...

  Total time for second half: 1:42:12 (avg: 7:48/mile)

My splits

Analysis: My official pace was 7:32/mile, but my Garmin shows that I ran 26.5 miles for a 7:27/mile pace average. I BQ'd by 6.5 minutes, which takes some pressure off of my 2014 spring marathon performance. Now I can just focus on a marathon PR in March!  My overall time was 8 minutes slower than goal, but given my nine week training cycle and short taper, I think I may have been too aggressive in goal setting. A 3:15 would have been within reach if I had paced for that and not a 3:10. I now see the value in having a solid base before training, as well as having an adequate taper so my legs can have some time to relax.

 Post Race
Once I stopped, my legs cramped badly and my stomach headed even further south. Luckily, I spotted Declan, Annabelle, Erin, and even Lindsay and my focus shifted to talking and walking with them instead of finding the nearest place to get sick! We made our way through the finishers' chute, and got wrapped in space blankets. We then got our medals and collected bananas, water bottles, ice, snack boxes and even beer. I did not have a beer as it would not have stayed in my stomach for very long if I had taken a swig. We got a group photo from the race photographer.
We all finished within a few minutes of each other
so we were able to get an official picture!
Then it was off to gear check.
Declan post-race with his blanket and icy head
I collected my stuff and changed clothes in the changing tent. It took me what seemed like 15 minutes to change, as I had some bad leg spasms once I sat down. Once I managed to stand up again, I met up with the BRC for the last time. Declan and I then made our way over to the family reunion area.
Ready to for the after party!
We met Declan's cheering section, and thanks to Declan I got into the VIP post-race area.
Declan's Cheering Section
I said goodbye to Declan and family and made my way to the Brown line and got this picture down Wabash Ave.
Runner leaving
All-in-all it was a memorable experience: My first marathon as part of a team, my first marathon on very short training, and a marathon in which I had my struggles, but overcame them to finish respectably. Ten weeks ago, when I was sidelined with an injury, I would not have thought that this day would have been possible.