Sunday, March 31, 2013

February vs. March

What a difference a month can make. 

My Easter lakefront run 3/31/13
Since I was injured, February was mostly about cross training.... 
Skiing on Montrose Ave. 2/22/13
Or short runs with really fun breaks....
Chicago Running Blogger meetup at Half Acre Brewery 2/23/13
Whereas March was more about...

Long runs in search of ice pancakes...
Lakefront 3/3/13
Running an Actual Race...
Get Lucky half marathon 3/16/13
and seeing great sunrises on long runs...
Sunrise over Lake Michigan 3/22/13
But mainly February was mostly about being in "Injury Jail" and March was about feeling like I escaped! 

I'm looking forward to an even better April.

February Days Run: 6
February Total Mileage: 21

March Days Run: 28
March Total Mileage: 178

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Are Some Running Injuries Mostly Mental?

After my first run yesterday, I started to notice I had some shin pain, mostly in my right shin, but also some faint pain in my left shin. So, all day yesterday, I kept focusing on my shins and wondering if the shin pain would be so bad that I would need to cease training and rest the next two weeks until my marathon.  
Is it all in my head?
Later in the day, I ran my recovery run and kept the pace so slow that my shins were hardly involved in the run. After my run, I took a shower and then as I was getting out of the tub, BAM! I hit my toes really hard on the edge of the tub. As I was wincing in pain, I knew I would be feeling it later.

Since smashing my toes, my pinky toe is one big painful bruise, but on the bright side, I have not noticed any shin pain at all! So how did my shins "heal" in an instant? Can my mind instantly "cure" a minor injury by focusing on a slightly more painful injury? Can my mind only handle one injury at a time? Or, am I just hyper-focusing on injuries right now, since I am so close to my marathon? 

Anyway, I bandaged up my pinky toe this morning and went for a (mostly painless) lakefront run. It was spectacular. There were hardly any runners out there, just lots of commuter bikers. You know spring is officially here when the commuter bikers outnumber the runners.

Just a few runners...
out on the trail this a.m.
Anyone else experience a miracle "injury cure" by having another injury?

9.75 miles total @ 8:21/mile.

Next up: Rest day on Saturday?!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spectating the "Short Course" Chi Town Half Marathon and 10k

I was running my one and only long run before Boston and it happened to coincide with the Chi Town Half Marathon and 10k. The races were held on the Lakefront Trail where I was also running.

 I arrived near Diversey Harbor at 8:45am about 30 minutes after the race started. I immediately saw a runner in an owl hat go by and knew it must be Xaarlin. So, I sped up and ran passed her to get a couple of shots of her running.

Xaarlin near the finish line
Almost there

I also got a video of her finish:

Xaarlin's 38:55 finish!

I knew that Xaarlin had been training extra hard this winter, but her time of 38:55 was phenomenal. However, it was not to be. Somewhere on the course she got misdirected and ended up running a short race. There were other runners in the same spot and they discussed what had happened.

10k runners discussing the short course
 I also noticed a couple of elite women who had just finished the half marathon in around 40 minutes, so they also ran a short course! They looked upset, and there was plenty of grumbling to go around. I needed to keep on my long run so I left. (BTW: There is youtube video later of the race director making a heartfelt apology and offering refunds to all misdirected runners. Hopefully, most of the runners are happy with that.)

I left the finish area to continue on with my long run and headed over to the Lakefront Trail.  I saw a lonely misdirected runner who was all by himself on the east side of Lake Shore Drive. He was watching the race runners on the west side of Lake Shore Drive. I spoke with him briefly, and he seemed confused as to what had happened. Luckily another runner who had also gotten lost showed him how to rejoin the race!

Another misdirected 10k runner watching the race on the other side of Lake Shore Drive
Anyway, on the positive side, I actually saw and got to say hello to Lindsay of Running The Windy City for the first time. She ran by me in the other direction, as I headed north. She is also training for Boston. Shortly thereafter, I was able to catch a video of the race leader:

I also got one of the 1:30 pace group. Chicago Runner Girl Britt was in the group. I cheered her on:

The 1:30 pace group

I ended up running the northern portion of the half course and then headed home. I got my 16 miler in with a few breaks for picture taking.

Me with sailboats in background
I don't feel very sore, probably thanks to the plentiful photo breaks. With this run, I am 85% sure I can make it to the finish line in Boston on April 15th as long as my legs can handle the hills. I have done zero hill training so far. Oops!

Total Miles: 16
Average Pace: 9:11 (includes breaks)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sunrise in the City

In Chicago this morning, we had another spectacular sunrise. Maybe it's due to the cold, arctic winds blowing in our direction, but in any case the air is crystal clear and is perfect for picture taking. On my run this morning I took a few:

Montrose Harbor Sunrise

Geese in Montrose Harbor

Sunrise with clouds

Montrose Harbor Geese in Flight
5.75 miles total. Next up: 16 miler on Sunday, then taper for 3 weeks.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Has Anyone Seen My Sock?

Running southbound by the lake this morning, I enjoyed a nice tailwind for a couple of miles. I was wearing my yellow ski hat and was quite toasty. However, once I made the turn to go northbound near Belmont Harbor, I was greeted by a howling 20 mph wind. With the temps hovering around 17 degrees, the wind chill was probably about 0 degrees. I needed to better protect my ears because the ski hat alone wasn't going to cut it. So, I reached back and flipped up the hood on my jacket. My ears felt instantly warmer and I continued on running into the wind. However, once I got to Irving Park Rd. to head west, the bright sun behind me threw a shadow on the sidewalk and I noticed the shadow of something flopping around on my head. So, I felt the top of my hood only to find....

Reenactment of sock incident a mile or two later..
Apparently, my hood has a velcro strip on the top, and a sock must have gotten stuck to it while my jacket was in the laundry. So, to all of you people driving/running by me this morning, I am not completely insane, the sock bopping up and down on my head was a laundry malfunction! It was not so much embarrassing as funny and I laughed out loud for about a minute to myself, which probably made even more people think that I was on something.

Anyway, I had taken some pics of my run, before the "sock incident" of the sun rising in the city:
Walker by the lake
Bus on Irving Park Rd.
LSD going over Irving Park Road
No more ice on the lake
Enjoying the sunrise!
Lake sunrise
I got in a slow 7.5 miles and that includes running with 3 socks (two on my feet  and one on my head)! Anyone else ever have a malfunction of some sort while out running?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Get Lucky Half Marathon Race Recap

Me and Xaarlin before the race
Since the Boston Marathon is four weeks away, this weekend was the perfect time to throw in a "tune-up" race. I had no plans on using this as a pace predictor for the full, since I am just getting back into the swing of things after my injury, and I hadn't run over 12 miles since November.

Signing Up:
The "Team Ortho Get Lucky Half Marathon" fit the "tune-up" race bill. So about two weeks ago, I signed up. One complaint about these big corporate races which I make often, is that the entry fee is advertised as $69.77 (get it? 7s are lucky!). Once you've entered all of your info and finally get to the checkout web page, a $5.50 "fee" is added. So, the final price, was an only half as lucky total of $75.32!

It's no mystery why races do this, they figure people will be attracted to a sub $70 race, but in reality the race is ~10% more. They tack a meaningless fee to the price and add almost 10% to their bottom line.  Anyway, I'll quit my complaining since I'm just glad someone was holding a half in Chicago in mid-March! Just beware, that most races cost a little more than advertised.

The Race:
I got to the Western "L" stop at about 7:30 am.

I switched to the Red Line and made it to the Roosevelt Rd. station at about 8:05. After a 15 minute walk from the train to the race, I spotted other runners much more festively decked out than I:

Runners in full-regalia for the St. Patrick's themed race.

Eventually, I made it to the Chicago Running Blogger meetup at the gear check and got to meet Xaarlin (and her awesome owl head hat) for the first time!

Apparently, we were the only two bloggers at the meetup, so we checked our gear at the tiny gear check. I think most people must have driven and used their trunks as their personal gear checks, as the line moved surprisingly quickly. 

Random "Get Lucky Half" runners #1 - "Fighting the Wind"
Since the race didn't start until 9:07 (get it?), we hung around in the cold for 20 minutes. Then we went on a 0.6 mile warm-up jog, just before the start of the race. The half marathon course ran essentially straight south 6.5 miles, followed by 6.5 miles north on the same trail. During our warm-up we quickly realized that the winds would be directly to our backs for the first half and directly in our faces for the 2nd Half. As the Tribune weather forecast put it:

"Brisk northeast winds 10-22 mph off still icy lake waters add to the day's discomfort"

So, in order to avoid too much discomfort, we would have to pace ourselves for the first half even though the temptation to run fast was present. We would have a mega tailwind for 6.5 miles!

Random "Get Lucky Half" runners #2
The gun sounded and we were off. This would be my first race ever that I ran with someone I knew! Fun! Xaarlin and I chatted as a few runners sprinted ahead taking advantage of the tailwind. We were just a little more cautious, trying to hold back to preserve the much needed energy for the 2nd half. I heard more than one person mention that once we made the turn at half way, things were going to get bad. I also heard a couple of people compliment her owl hat! I've got to get one.
Random "Get Lucky Half" runners #3
Xaarlin and I were joking that we were hoping for the winds to change direction for the second half so we would have dual tailwinds! Unfortunately the winds did not change direction for us.  We made the turn and it started to rain a little. During the first half of the race I mentioned/bragged to Xaarlin that I rarely go to the bathroom during half marathons, I just calm down a little and forget about it. Well, wouldn't you know I had to really go just after the turn! Luckily, the sole porta-potty at the turn was unoccupied, so I ducked in it and she continued running ahead and I told her I would try and catch up with her.
Random "Get Lucky Half" runner #4

Once I left the porta potty, things got really rough, as my sunglasses got completely covered in ice and I could barely see through them. The winds were probably gusting at over 20 mph and it felt like that there was a giant man pushing against me as I tried to run. Eventually, I caught up with Xaarlin and we ran together again. Despite the howling headwinds and pelting sleet coming off the lake, we were running hard. It made my legs strain and my lungs burn. It's these kind of conditions that pay huge dividends in marathon training. It is a monumental effort to move forward, so we were building lots of strength and endurance without the leg pounding that such effort normally requires. 

My ankle felt pretty good at mile 10, so I decided to "race" the rest of the way in. I told Xaarlin I would meet her at the finish line and we parted ways. I then started reeling in runners that had gone out too fast. In fact, from mile 6.2 to mile 13.1. I passed 38 runners and was only passed by 5. How do I know? Because of the very cool individual results sheet that was available to each runner shortly after the race! See mine:

My "Get Lucky" results page, very cool.

Anyway, completely exhausted, I sprinted past the 1:45 pace group 20 yards from the finish line and stepped on the last timing mat. I was done!

Post Race:
After the finish, I collected my medal and headed to gear check to quickly grab my video camera to shoot Xaarlin's finish. Unfortunately, gear check could not find my bag! I actually had to go behind the gear check desk and into the sea of bags to find my bag. By the time I found my bag, 5 minutes had elapsed. I hurried over just south of the finish line, and set up my camera. Unfortunately, I was probably less than a minute late, as Xaarlin (unbeknownst to me at the time) had already finished.

So I got some video of random runners, which you can see here, here, here and here:

After looking for Xaarlin unsuccessfully for about 5 minutes, I was starting to get mild hypothermia as the cold wind was chilling my already cold sweaty running clothes. So, I made a "bee line for the Red Line" so to speak. I did stop on the way to take a quick picture the St. Patrick's Day parade staging area on Columbus Drive. There were a few DeLoreans getting ready to drive in the parade:

DeLoreans at the Chicago St. Patricks Day Parade
As I was slowly turning into a popsicle on the "L" (I was sitting by a door), all I could think about was getting warm. So, as soon as I got home I had a hot bath and then ate some hot chili. It's good to be warm again!

  • I got to run with Xaarlin. Awesome!
  • Cold and wet conditions
  • A Lakefront Trail course, which could have been bad, but it was not overly crowded
  • A little over-priced for an open course which I could have run on anyway, but I needed this race for a tune-up for Boston.

Next up: 

16 miler next weekend then my taper starts!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Enemy of Good is...

The main lesson I can take away from my marathon training season is:

"The Enemy of Good is Better"
Lake trail this a.m.
Allow me to explain. A couple of months ago, I got to a point where I felt my marathon fitness was starting to get good. Not being satisfied with that, I wanted my fitness to get even better. I ratcheted up my weekly mileage and speed training, and pounded the crap out of my legs day after day without a break. My regimen became a classic case of overtraining.

City light in the snow
 I had written a blog entry last year about how three out of the six U.S. Olympic marathoners did not even make it to the finish line in London due to overtraining, yet somehow, I thought that such principles did not apply to me! 

Predictably, I got injured trying to get better too quickly. 

So now that my injury has healed (for the most part), I have adjusted my mileage and have started running slowly with plenty of walk breaks. I am going to try and just get my fitness back to "good", so I can at very least participate in the marathon. However, the temptation to run a little faster or cram in a few more miles keeps rearing its head. But, if I want to be healthy next month, I need to fight such urges. My marathon training is now an experiment in self-control.

Belmont Harbor this morning
So, that's what I want for my marathon next month: To just be "good", and I'll fight to keep its enemy "better" locked away!

Is staying at "good" difficult for you too?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Two Inspirational Running Stories

If you're in a "running funk" or just need a little push to run faster or longer, nothing beats seeing or reading about real people in action doing inspirational things that show us how great running can be.

This week, I read two stories about two remarkable masters aged runners. One is about a runner who runs for the sheer joy of running and the second is about a man who ran faster than even he thought possible:

#1) Backwards Runner - His name is Cedric Givens. He is 60 years old, but doesn't look it. He runs through Washington DC backwards almost daily. He has been called names and even had trash thrown at him while he runs backwards and spins around, but not everyone thinks he's crazy. In fact this story and video of his daily run through DC is inspiring and the it's hard not to be moved by the constant smile that running brings to his face as well as to those people he runs past. Read the article here. See the video below:

#2) 46 year old breaks 4:20 in the mile: - His name is Brad Barton and he is 46 years old. A little over a week ago at a track meet, he broke the 45M indoor mile record by almost 4 seconds. His time was an astounding 4:16.84. Barton is currently coached by his college track coach and has his sights on the outdoor mile age group record. According to this story, his son who is a Division I collegiate runner,called him an old man. He was told by his dad that he can't call him old until he can beat him in the mile! Touché Mr. Barton.

Anyone else read/see anything inspiring this week? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Snow is Melting

If I hadn't shredded my marathon training plan, put it in a shoe box and buried it in the backyard a couple of weeks ago, it probably would have told me to do my 16 mile long run today. However, I'm training by feeling now, trying to preserve my ankle. So today I felt that the longest distance my bum ankle could handle was 11 miles.

Even 11 miles was probably pushing it. So, in order to preserve myself for future runs, I did a run/walk interval combo:

3.1 miles @ 8:00/mile + 0.2 mile walk
3.1 miles @ 8:15/mile + 0.2 mile walk
3.1 miles @ 7:15/mile + 0.2 mile walk
1.1 miles @ 7:24/mile

I felt pretty good the entire time and even treated myself to a Dunkin' Donuts multi-grain bagel when I was finished. I think early and often walk breaks help speed up recovery (from what I've read).

Anyway, the snow and ice are melting down along the lake, so I wanted to get in a few more pictures of it before it is all gone!

At my turnaround near North Ave. beach
Harbor Ice #1
Harbor Ice #2

A lonely ice pancake floating out to sea...

Door to a  basement? I bet the basement is flooded!

I think this is a Goldeneye duck which doesn't fly further south in the winter than it has to. So it's vacationing in Chicago!

11 Miles Total @ 8:10/mile (including walks)
We'll see how the ankle feels later today!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Icy Lake Run

I went to the lakefront this morning for a "run in the sun". Winter is hanging on a little longer this year than it did last year. That's good, because I missed a few weeks of winter running last month.

 I'll miss these icy landscapes in a couple of days!

Yes, I added the "Pancakes" and the arrow, but the sign did say "ICE"!
Belmont Harbor was 50% covered with ice pancakes!
Sunrise over the Waveland Golf Course club house
Golf course wall

Ducks in flight

Snowy rocks with ice pancakes

8 Miles Total.
  I'm planning my first long run in a long time on Sunday in preparation for the Get Lucky Half, which will be held next weekend.  Speaking of halfs, win a free entry to the Chicago 13.1 Half here.