Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hitting The Trail Again

After a two week break, I made my way back from my house to the Lakefront Trail. There was about a half inch of freshly fallen snow on the ground. 
As I got closer to the lake it started to snow again. 

It really feels good to be back running after my layoff,
especially since this is my favorite time of year to run.

Right  now, I'm just enjoying getting back into the swing of things and enjoying the fresh air and the fact that my legs can still move at a good clip. A relaxing run like this makes me not miss the emphasis on running lots of marathon pace miles, followed by an intense track workout. Maybe I should come up with a new training plan...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

No F^3 for Me

I had registered for, but did not run the F^3 Lake Half Marathon yesterday due to my ankle injury. Looking back on it, I probably could have gone 13.1 miles without causing major injury to my ankle, but I feel I made the correct decision not running. I think a gradual build-up after an injury is the safest and best bet.

Anyway, I learned something during this whole ordeal. I now realize what head games a "looming" race can have on me. I think that I put added pressure on myself to run this race because:

  1. The starting line was a 10 minute bus ride from my house
  2. I paid some good money for it.
  3. It was a half marathon in January! I remember when half marathons were only held from March to October.
  4. I run the F^3 Lakefront Trail course all of the time (i.e. it is on my "home course")
  5. I am in marathon training, and it would be fun to see how the McMillan Calculator would compute a full marathon time off of my half marathon finish time (i.e. I could get a good look at my fitness).
  6. There were lots o' bloggers running this one

So, as the race loomed last week I was constantly checking my ankle for signs of improvement, trying to imagine how it would hold up for 13.1 miles. Meanwhile, I fretted that my fitness level was dropping and my weight was increasing as I was not burning very many calories as I had committed myself to total rest. I think I wasted several hours of stress last week, going back and forth in my head on whether I should or shouldn't race.

I picked up my race bib and t-shirt on Friday. I was giving the guy handing out bibs my excuses for not running the F^3. When I was finally out of excuses he looked at me in the eye and said firmly, "I'll see you there in the morning..." But, little did he know that I really wasn't going to make it.

I made my final decision on Friday night:  It's just a race, no need to stress, no need to invite further injury. So, live to race another day! I was not racing the next morning.

So, at about noon on Saturday, after the time in the day that I would have crossed the finish line had I raced, the sense of "loom" finally lifted itself from my shoulders. I instantly felt better. There was no more stress and I was able to enjoy the rest of my weekend without fifty thoughts about the race bouncing around my head. Yes, I was disappointed that I couldn't run, but I had no more looming decision to make! Yay!

This weekend, I did some yoga, swam and actually ran 2.25 miles with an ankle brace, all without incident. So, I hope to be back to top form in a few weeks.

So, congrats to all of the F^3 finishers out there. Maybe I'll be running my next race in March at the Get Lucky Half.

By the way, I wasn't alone in not racing the F^3 noticed that over 25% of the runners who signed up did not show up:

1,850 people registered for the F^3, but only 1,375 started.  That means 475 people were no-shows including myself!  Wonder if this is typical for any race or if a lot of people were hoping for 30 or 40 degree temperatures and got teens instead?!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

To F3 or not to F3? That is the Question....

I am in day seven of an injury layoff.

The injury started over the holidays when I was experimenting with new running shoes. One pair caused my foot to land differently and thereby strained my ankle ligaments. This caused some numbness and tingling in my ankle and foot. Despite this fact, I kept running. As I got stronger, my ankle felt better, but I was likely still doing incremental damage to it every time I ran. Last week, my ankle had had enough punishment and it could no longer hide the injury, so it shot pain signals to my brain at the end of a run. That was enough for me to decide to rest it and get the thing healed far in advance of Boston. I still want to be able to run a competitive 26.2 miles.

Most web articles on ankle injuries don't give a definite recovery time for an ankle injury. Most articles' advice is to see an ankle specialist. Having been to the doctor for an ankle injury before (last year), I know the prescription for a mild sprain is typically:

  1. Rest
  2. Strength exercises

However, since open-ended waiting is extremely frustrating, especially when a race countdown is looming, I wanted someone to tell me the exact number of days I needed to rest until I could start running again. In my search for an answer, I found a New York Times article which said that for a "grade one" ankle injury (i.e. a mild injury) the MINIMUM time off should be seven to ten days. I have rested seven days, and although my ankle feels better, it does occasionally get those tingly sensations and is only 50% less sore than last week. Does this mean I can begin running on it? I have paid for the F3 Half Marathon on Saturday. So, I have been coming up with scenarios on what to do:

1) Run a test run tomorrow of 1 to 2 miles to see how the ankle feels and make a decision tomorrow whether to race on Saturday.

2) Don't run until Saturday. This would allow for the most time to heal, but then risk "shocking" my ankle with 13.1 miles. Plus, I may go 2 miles and realize that it was a bad idea and have to pull a DNF.

3) Do a run/walk combo on Saturday and put up a really bad half time and still risk injury.

4) Blow off the race entirely and take another week off and make sure my ankle is at 95% before I start running again.

In any case I have two days to make a judgement call. Right now, I would say there is a 30% chance I will run the F3.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No Track Workout Today: A Little Tenderness

Yesterday morning, at the very end of my 3 mile recovery run. I was slowly rounding the corner of my street about 50 yards from my house when I felt a slight pain on the inside of my ankle. Nothing terrible, but a pain nonetheless. So, all day at work, I was in an elastic ankle brace hoping that the compression and the support would get my ankle better. I woke up this morning and it felt exactly the same. The pain was so mild that I could easily have done my track workout and not felt any ill effects during the workout. But I was afraid of any additional damage I might cause. So, with 2.5 weeks of great workouts and miles in the bag I am going to take at least a day or two off.

I won't gain any fitness, but I won't lose any either. The last few weeks, I have been riding the outer edge of my limits, trying to get used to of what being in the middle of 2:59 marathon should feel like. I stepped over the edge just a tad and need to pull back a tad in the other direction. I still have over two more weeks before the real intense training begins. That's when I start to train to get my legs used to what the last 6.2 miles of a 2:59 marathon feels like. So, I want to be 90% plus by then. I am also looking forward to the F^3 Half next weekend and would like to be able to put a good effort into one to see where I'm at fitness-wise.

So, dwelling on my ankle tenderness made me think of this 80s classic from my youth. When I sing it in my head I smile, because they are searching for a little tenderness! Well, I found it!

By his expression, I think he found it too!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Icy Prep Run for the F^3 Half: No Skittles Required

Last Sunday's long run included a big hunger bonk about 2 miles into the run. Before I ran this morning, I ate a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and peanut butter. I washed it down with a little coffee, and this time I was able to run 12 entire miles without seeing those scary bright orange spots like I did last week. However, I did put a bag of "Riddles" Skittles in my pocket in case of emergency (I also always carry GU, but sometimes it doesn't do the trick as well as Skittles)!

"Riddles Skittles" my new emergency candy
My goal this morning was to push myself semi-hard on a long run to prepare my legs for the F^3 Half Marathon.  So, I got a good pace going early and did not stop to take pictures.
Taken on the run:
I was running a good pace, so no stopping to take pictures
  The weather was nice. It was about 30 degrees outside, but last night it rained, so some of the trail was a little icy. While running on the Lakefront Trail it started sleeting/snowing and it seemed to all collect on my sunglasses, which made it hard to see!:

Ice covered sunglasses after my run

I feel like I had a quality, long, hard workout in wintry conditions. This gives me hope that I am in shape for running a good race in two weeks.

Total Run: 12 miles @ 7:21/mile

Friday, January 11, 2013

Where's Pete B?

I was sitting at my local yoga studio, leafing through Chicago Athlete magazine, and saw a two page picture they had of the start of the 2012 Chicago Marathon. In true "Where's Waldo" fashion, I scanned the two pages to see if I was somewhere in the picture:
Where's Pete B? Hint: Can you see the red arrow?

It pays to wear a goofy yellow ski hat so you can find yourself in a crowd of white hats and bare heads. Also, at that point it looks like I was only about a minute behind the Kenyans! Somehow I lost contact with them and they finished over an hour ahead of me!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Boston Marathon Track Workout #4 - Faster

On Tuesday, I ran six miles at marathon pace (6:52) or better. A week ago, I only ran five at marathon pace. I consider these "tempo" runs to be the hardest workouts of the week. So with only 48 hours to recover from my tempo run, I headed over to the track this morning for my fourth speed workout.

Is this the last bit of snow for this winter?

Track was crowed, three whole people...

and a dog!

In the middle of my intervals
Graffiti Wall near the Track

As mentioned in previous entries, in the Hansons Brooks marathon training plan the speed training calls for me to run interval distances at 10k pace for a total of three miles. But, no single interval can be greater than one mile (i.e 1600m). Instead of running the minimum number of intervals as I had done in the past few weeks, I decided to change things up a bit. Here are my results:

Last Week:
1.75 mile warm-up
1600m @ 6:18/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:17/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:07/mile pace
1.75 mile cool-down

Average Pace: 6:14/mile

2 mile warm-up
1200m @ 6:09/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:01/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 5:59/mile pace (400m recovery)
400m @ 5:49/mile pace 
1.75 mile cool-down

Average Pace: 6:02/mile  
Ducks in the morning

My version of "Seen on a Run

Ducks on the move!

North Branch sunrise

Rockwell "L" Stop
Analysis: For the last few weeks I was stuck on an average pace of 6:14/mile at the track, and today my average plummeted to 6:02/mile. I simply added an extra, short interval at the end of my workout and more importantly, I cut back the first interval from one mile to .75 miles and presto! I am magically faster. I have always struggled with my first interval at the track, as it takes a while for me to hit my stride. So, I theorized, why not make the first interval a little shorter? I guess it worked. A few thoughts:
  1. The McMillan Running Calculator, says the 10k pace is for a 2:59:59 marathon is 6:10/mile. So my 6:02/mile pace this morning would indicate I have arrived. Realistically, I am not 6:02/mile 10k runner, but I would say I am on my way!
  2. The weather was not very cold nor windy today. Track was 99% clear of snow and ice, so the conditions were more favorable than last week.
  3. I ran 50 miles last week and am on pace for 60 miles this week, so I am adding distance along with this speed. This may have helped me hold the faster pace.
These signs have sprung up around town
 and make crossing the street on my runs a lot easier, as
some cars actually stop now!

One More Thing: .Could not find my heart rate monitor strap to measure my effort at the track. Still looking...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Start of Boston Marathon Training Week #5

I'ts hard to believe week 5 out of 18 is already here! There are less than 100 days until the Boston Marathon. Anyway, here's how the first day of week 5 went:

Morning Run: I got out late for my Sunday morning long run, and about 1.5 miles in I started seeing bright orange spots when I closed my eyes, I realized about 1/2 mile later that I had already hit the "hunger wall" about 2 miles into my run.  I was about two blocks from the Lakefront Trail and I had a "Gu" along in my belt, which I ate, but I felt I needed something of more sustenance. Luckily, I was in the city and there is a convenience store seemingly on every corner. The one in Park Place Tower had a tremendous assortment of candy and energy bars. I opted for a chocolate Nature Valley granola bar and a bag of Skittles. After eating said items, I felt completely normal again and continued on my run! Lesson learned: If I run after 9am, I need to eat breakfast before my run, (oh yeah, and thank God for Skittles)! 12 miles @ 8:03/mile
Eagle Statue near Diversey Harbor

Skyline from Diversey Bridge

Sunny Path

Runner and Lake
Evening Run: An easy run around Welles Park. No "bonking" this time! 4.25 miles @ 7:08/mile
Welles Park

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Favorite Spot of Mine Along the Lake

The far east side of Belmont Harbor is one of my favorite running spots along Lake Michigan. Most runners bypass this area entirely, since it is not on the Lakefront Trail. However there is a gravel path perfect for running. It is a good place to see the sunrise in the morning, see waves crashing during storms or get a view of the skyline. I took some pics of the area on my run this morning:

Looking North near Belmont Harbor

Ducks on the icy water

One of my favorite things about the area, is that it is kinda old school with absolutely no guardrails to prevent wayward pedestrians and bikers from falling into some sharp rocks or freezing cold water. The only things preventing certain doom for people close to the edge are some spray painted stencils to serve as warnings not to dive into the rocky shore below:

The rock isn't very "submerged" now is it?!
No Diving! Gee you think?! 

Ice formations on the rocks
Skyline view and a bench on the edge of another"cliff"

Skyline View

Sunrise through the trees
Belmont Harbor is a nice place to put me in a peaceful state during my morning run. Even when it is the height of marathon training season in the summer there are very few people. It is out of the way enough that for the two mile loop, I may share it with only a handful of people. Or like on today's run, have it all to myself.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Boston Marathon Track Workout #3 - Getting Faster?

On Tuesday, I ran five of ten miles at marathon pace (6:52) or better, which I consider a kinda big deal, since perhaps the key of marathon training is to get used to running lots of marathon pace miles. So, two days later, how would I fare with my track workout?
Tuesday, I ran 5 marathon pace miles
Well, for starters, what should have been my fourth track workout, was only #3. I skipped my track workout last week, but I was in Florida, taking a short break from running. While there, I did manage to lift weights and swim laps to maintain my fitness. Anyway, this morning, I got a late start, so I had to run quickly to the track and not mess around once I got there.

The Hansons Brooks marathon training plan, speed training calls for me to run interval distances at 10k pace for a total of three miles. But, no single interval can be greater than one mile. Again, as in workout #2 two weeks ago, I chose to run the minimum number of intervals (which is three). Here are my results:

At the track two weeks ago...
Two Weeks Ago:

2 mile warm-up
1600m @ 6:22/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:12/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:08/mile pace
2 mile cool-down

Average Pace: 6:14/mile

1.75 mile warm-up
1600m @ 6:18/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:17/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:07/mile pace
1.75 mile cool-down

Average Pace: 6:14/mile

Analysis: I am always amazed at how similar my interval times are week to week. Average pace for both workouts was exactly 6:14/mile. Solely based on my times, it may appear that I'm not making progress. However, if I look at the big picture:
  1. I'm logging more weekly miles this week vs. two weeks ago
  2. I ran more marathon pace miles this week, than I did two weeks ago
  3. It may have been slightly colder/windier today. The track also had a little ice/snow.
So even though I am still running the same 6:14/mile in my speed workouts, I am doing so on more tired legs in less speed-favorable conditions.

One More ThingI looked up on the McMillan Running Calculator, what the 10k pace is for a 2:59:59 marathon and it's 6:10/mile. So, I just need to drop four seconds/mile to be on target! I have five more weeks to get there, because at that time speed training switches over to strength training.