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!