Monday, October 31, 2016

Hot Chocolate 15k 2016 Race Recap

This was my fifth time running the Hot Chocolate 15kAs always, it's an opportunity to use some of my residual marathon fitness for a potential 15k PR. However, as I mentioned previously, going into the race I was dealing with some major post-marathon leg and hip soreness. Luckily in the days since that post, I did a handful of recovery runs and was able to work out a couple of the kinks that were hobbling my legs. 

The Expo:
The expo was on the west side of McCormick Place. I paid for 45 minutes of street parking but was able to run up the escalator to packet pickup and grab my bib, hoodie and visor and get back to my car in about 15 minutes flat. The race organizers have had years to smooth out the packet pickup process and it shows.

Pre Race (Run in with the jerk once again!)
I paid in advance for a $13 SpotHero parking space in my normal pre-race parking lot underneath a downtown skyscraper which is about three blocks from the starting line. There is typically a line of cars to get in the garage as the attendant scans your driver's license and does a security check of your trunk. Before last year's race a woman in running attire waved her building ID badge out of the window as she drove ahead of the line and forced her way to the front. At the time, I yelled at her for cutting the line. Well, as I was waiting in line once again, who rolls up behind me, but the same woman waving a badge out the window! This time I leaned my head out my window and stared her down. I wonder if she remembered me from last year, because she didn't cut in front of me thankfully.

Race Strategy
My 15k PR is relative to other races, my slowest PR and thus it's tempting to try and smash it by a wide margin. However, due to my still recovering legs, my main goal was to have fun. My secondary goal, was that I wanted to finish feeling strong. Since my last memory from a race was a painful and demoralizing run/walk to the finish, my strategy would be to run the first 5k by feel and err on the side of running too slowly. Then I could see how I felt and make a mid-race decision on how to proceed.

On arriving in Grant Park, I used the porta pottie. I have never seen as many porta potties in one place in my life. They were seemingly everywhere. They even had about 50 to the side of the corrals so people who lined up early in the corrals would be taken care of if nature called.  Once I was in my corral, a woman sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, and then three cancer patients were interviewed including a 13 year old girl with leukemia who was running the 5k. Her family was going to bring a wagon along so that if she couldn't finish on foot they would pull her in the wagon to the finish. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house and it put all of my fretting about my legs in perspective. Here's a moving video of her story. Anyway, the DJ then played "Go Cubs Go!" for a few minutes, and all of us runners sang along at the top of our lungs until the gun sounded.

The Race:
First 5k:
The Hot Chocolate 15k and the Chicago Marathon share the same start and finish lines, some of the same streets, and with almost 40,000 runners and walkers, the two races are comparable in size. However, for the Hot Chocolate race there are hardly any spectators, so the race is surprisingly peaceful way of running the same streets that were so loud and crazy only three weeks prior. The first half mile was relatively uneventful. Once we found our way on Lower Wacker along the river, I finally checked my watch and discovered that I had run a relatively slow first mile of 7:00/mile. I tried to determine how my legs felt and tried to predict how they would be able to handle the remaining 8.3 miles. All systems seemed to be "go" so I decided to speed up, which wasn't too difficult as we had a nice tailwind for the next two miles. We ran through the Loop and onto Michigan Avenue headed southbound. It was already time to bid adieu to the 5kers as they made their way up "Mt. Roosevelt" to the finish line. 
20:22, 6:34/mile

Second 5k:
Aided by a tailwind, we continued running down Michigan Ave on the marathon course in reverse. Once we got south of Roosevelt Rd. Xaarlin was standing on the right hand side of the street and L and CB were off to the left cheering me on. 
Running down Michigan Ave.
(pics courtesy of Xaarlin)
I started running alongside another guy and we started chatting about race goals. He said that his goal was a sub-60. I glanced at my watch and told him that if we kept up at our current pace, we would have a sub-60. So we continued on chatting and then he started to take off ahead of me and I wished him well. He said I was welcome to draft off of him, so I sped up a little as well and tucked in behind him.
19:36, 6:19/mile

Third 5k:
As we headed eastward and into the wind at the 10k mark, I noticed my buddy was starting to fade ever so slightly and I realized that if I wanted to go sub-60, I needed to separate from him. So, I gradually sped past him into the headwind by myself. The McCormick Place tunnel was a nice respite from the wind, but I had to take off my sunglasses in order to see the potholes. I had no idea how close I was to a PR since I stopped looking at my watch and just put my head down and kept running. As we went up the final hill and made the turn onto Columbus drive, I made a mad dash down the hill and my legs were moving fairly fast but never found their all-out sprinting gear. Anyway, I saw the clock quickly moving up towards my PR time of 59:45. I knew I had an 8 second differential between my chip time and gun time so I gave it all I had and as I crossed the line just as the clock hit 59:45 on the nose!

 19:39, 6:20/mile.

PR by eight seconds! 

Basking in the glow of my new PR and candy bar medal!

Time: 59:37
Overall: 27/11,100
Age Group: 3/379
Official Pace: 6:26/mile

 5k Splits:
1st 5k: 20:22
2nd 5k: 19:36
3rd 5k: 19:39

This was my fifth year running the Hot Chocolate 15k and my fifth 15k PR set at the event! The headwind for the last 5k was a challenge, but my marathon endurance helped me maintain the pace I set after the 5k mark until the end. I also won 3rd place in my age group for the second year in a row, so once I get my AG award in the mail I can display it next to last year's award!

I have now PR'd in every distance I've raced this year: 1 mile, 5k, 8k, 10k, 15k, 10 mile, half marathon and marathon!

My "buddy" caught up to me in the finisher's chute and asked me if I got my sub-60. I said yes and he congratulated me. I asked him if he did as well, but unfortunately he came up just short but was pleased with his time anyway. Gotta love the instant comraderie at races! After that encounter, I got my gear and then feasted on some fondue and hot chocolate.

This race has everything: Easy parking, thousands of porta-potties, beautiful finisher medal, and a chance to run down Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive. Keeping my 15k PR streak alive will be an even bigger task next year, but that's the way it goes.

Next Race:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pictures from my Wrigleyville Run this Morning

Since the World Series comes around these parts once every 71 years, and I only live two miles from Wrigley Field, I thought I'd do my morning run around Wrigleyville. I was excited to see the sights before game three of the World Series tonight.  My run was at around 7am and it was already a beehive of activity:

World Series at Wrigley? Believe it!
Hundreds of people in line to see if last minute World Series
 tickets become the box office

At least 40 people were already in line at 7 am to pay $100 to
watch the game on tv at the Cubby Bear Lounge at 7 pm

The Bleachers decked out with World Series flags

A dancing Cubs fan outside the bleachers

Murphy's Bleachers with about 100 fans drinking outside
 in 45 degree temps at 7 am.
I can't imagine how crazy things will be near Wrigley Field tonight and especially on Sunday if they win the next two games and are on the verge of clinching. Go Cubs!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

2016 Hot Chocolate 15k: Pre-race thoughts

Hot Chocolate 15k 2015
I've only run four times in the past three weeks. After taking 11 days completely off from running, my first run post-marathon was a laborious and uncomfortable three miler which resulted in me to taking another four days off. My legs (especially above my knees) and my hips have been extremely tight and sore. I only have a few fleeting moments during my runs where I am not absolutely focusing of all of the micro tears and tightness in my muscles. So it's not an especially fun place to be right now, but on the bright side I can still run.

Last week, I figured all of my maladies would disappear by this week, so with one dose of optimism and another dose of habit - I decided to sign up for the Hot Chocolate 15k which takes place on Sunday. However, the condition of my legs has not improved at all since last week and I'm somewhat regretting my decision to pay to race on Sunday. I'm sure that 9.3 miles at race pace is too far and too fast considering it is only three weeks post-marathon. Typically my legs bounce back about two weeks post marathon, but I fear that this time around my recovery may take two months or longer.

If the state of my legs doesn't improve by the end of next week, I'm considering not signing up for another race again until my legs unwind and heal up. That would mean passing up running the Schaumburg Half and the Lincolnwood Turkey Trot both in November. That doesn't mean I won't run at all however. My self-designed recovery plan includes doing short runs five days a week with the sole goal of stretching and strengthening my legs. The speed and distance of those runs will be based on how I feel and not according to a plan, since I won't have the pressure of a race looming on the horizon.

With that said, I am going to see if I can show some restraint on Sunday and just have fun at the race instead of punishing my legs to go fast before they are completely healed. I love (most of) the Hot Chocolate course since it's primarily on downtown Chicago streets, and it's already paid for, so I really don't want to pass it up. If I can keep the pace relatively slow, I might not set back my recovery too much and also have a fun at the same time.

On a lighter note, I may have to dodge still-celebrating (or passed out) Cubs fans in the streets if the Cubs win on Saturday night. Let's hope that's the case!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Chicago Marathon 2016 Race Recap

Race Highlights
BQ-minus 13:57 minute time of 3:11:03 for 26.5 miles
* CQ-minus 3:57 time (Chicago Qualifiying)
* Post-race with fellow BRC team members
* Weather was pleasant

My only goal for this race was to break three hours. Although I failed in this endeavor and am still processing how that happened. I could say that all was going well during the race then gradually I understood that it wasn't going to be my day. Once I knew that my goal was out of reach I even considered dropping out and doing a "revenge marathon" a few weeks later. Anyway, I stuck with it and crossed the finish line with a pretty hellacious positive split.

I called a cab (no Uber, I'm old school) at about 5:45 am, and made it down to Grant Park in about 20 minutes, a few yards from the Balbo gate. The lines through security were non-existant. I was able to secure a spot in the Balbo Hospitality Tent so I went inside and grabbed a breakfast sandwich, coffee and some fruit and then kicked up my legs.

In the Balbo Hospitality Tent
Some running celebs gave some inspirational words as well:
Running Celebs including
 Joan Samuelson and Deena Kastor
I checked my bag at the private gear check then used one of the 100 unused porta potties. Then I made my way over to the "A" corral without incident. Since my goal was to run a sub 3:00 I lined up just behind the 3:00 pacer and just in front of the 3:05 pacer. The horn sounded and we were off. 

The Race

First Half
My legs were stiff and sore as they seemingly never recovered at all during the taper, but I figured that they would loosen up eventually. They always seem to once the adrenaline kicks in and I put a few miles under my belt. I even figured that even if my legs didn't "unstiffen" eventually, I had run more that enough miles over the last four months to at least compensate for the soreness and will them to a 2:59:59. Anyway, for the first few miles I remained just behind the 3:00 pacer. Eventually, I made my way up to the group and tucked in behind them. There was much chatter and I was clipped by a runner here and there. I decided to swing out of the group and run to the outside where it was a little safer. I asked a runner or two to make way and was finally in the open. At mile 8 I high-fived my Aunt and Uncle and saw Ken from the BRC soon thereafter. I chatted with a guy who said he was running way too slowly for his capabilities, but that he would open things up later. As soon as he said this I started to evealuate if I felt the same way he did and I realized that at such an early stage, I really was feeling like I could be almost red-lining, that is my legs still felt sore and it was taking more effort that I would have liked to hold pace. However, again, I thought I just needed to have some faith that my training would take me another 16 miles at "pace".

I made it to the Blogger Press Box at mile 13 and saw Erica, Wendy and Marcia. I got a couple of side-fives and started to feel a little better!
Side fiveing the Blogger Press Box (src)

First half split: 1:29:35 (6:51/mile)

Second Half
After running through the "Charity Block Party" around mile 14, I tried took a mental inventory of how I felt and I realized I was feeling how I normally feel at mile 20. My legs were still tight and the soreness was getting slightly more pronounced. I also felt way more fatigued than I should have at running a (for me) pedestrian 1:30 half (I ran a 1:21 PR in July). For the final time, I tried to convince myself that I would be able to "power through" the soreness and mentally block out the increasing fatigue due to my huge training base.

Anyway, for the next five miles I was able to stay ahead or at least even with the 3:00 pace group. However, I couldn't shake the fatigue that was becoming overwhelming. At mile 18 the 3:00 pace group started to slowly separate from me and I could not muster a response. I knew at this moment what lay ahead for me - a slow fade and then a rapid crash. This was the point where I considered dropping out. If I did that I would be treating this race as a long training run and then sign up for a "revenge marathon" in November. However, I decided that I really didn't want to run another marathon in 2016 so therefore I might as well finish. So, I pulled way back on the pace in order to see if I could at least salvage the last 8.2 miles by not crawling to the finish.

On the back 6.2 I passed Lynton at about 21 then Xaarlin at mile 23. She took these pics:
(src Xaarlin)
The final miles were a slow fade into oblivion and I actually switched to a run/walk in the final four miles make sure I could keep moving and not prolong the agony by totally flaming out and having to stop completely. As I crested the hill on Roosevelt Rd. I spotted the famous guy who always runs marathons dressed as Minnie Mouse. I tried to catch up to him so at least my finish line photo would include him, but I couldn't quite catch him. Within the last 100 yards, my right arm and right side started going numb, but I was still able to raise my arm for my photo. I crossed the line and was mercifully finished!
Happy to be done!
  Second half split: 1:41:38 (7:45/mile)


Analysis: My official time was a 3:11:03 for an official pace of 7:18/mile. My Garmin shows that I ran 26.58 miles for a 7:11/mile pace average. It was my fourth best showing at the Chicago Marathon (out of six). I BQ'd by 13+ minutes, which means I'm pretty much assured of getting into the 2018 race if I so choose. I re-qualified for the 2017 Chicago Marathon next year, but also I'm still a legacy finisher and I can run Chicago without qualifying for the next four years!

 Post Race
After drinking water, a Gatorade shake and passing on the Goose Island, I headed over to the Balbo Hospitality tent, where I grabbed a bowl of chicken soup and sat down for a half hour. Then I made my way over to the massage tent and got a wonderful massage which helped at least temporarily with the soreness. I changed clothes, grabbed a ham on pretzel sandwich from the buffet and walked the mile and a half trek back through the race crowds to the Weathermark on south Michigan Ave.

Once at the bar, I met up with the BRC:

At the Weathermark (src)
After chatting, laughing and discussing future races for a couple of hours, I said my goodbyes and walked back through the throngs down Michigan Avenue to the Red Line station at Roosevelt.

Maybe in some future post I'll dissect what happened to me during the race. But, in any case I hesitate to call it "hitting the wall". I think all signs points to my not being fresh for the race, since mile 14 should never feel like mile 20 in a marathon unless you ran those 14 at half marathon pace! I am now in the midst of a two week break from all running. I'm catching up on my sleep, eating with abandon and taking care of other life things that I put on hold during marathon training. I won't start running again until I feel like it. No pressure, just rest and relaxation!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My 2016 Chicago Marathon Training - In Pictures

As I may have mentioned in my last post, I ran a lot over the previous 20 weeks in preparation for the Chicago Marathon. One thing that I didn't bring along for most of my many runs was a camera or even a phone. On really hot days the last thing I want to do is to wrap a tight Velcro band on my arm to hold an electronic device just so I could take a picture or two. It's much easier and comfortable to slip a camera into a jacket pocket. That means I'll probably be snapping more pictures on my fall and winter runs.

In any case, I do have a few pictures from this summer although they don't really show me training - unless you count races as training!

May (366 miles):
A quick fun jaunt around Humboldt Park in the Humboldt Mile
June (374 miles):
10k PR at the Run for the Animals in Wheaton
The Grim Mile at Luther North track

July (282 miles):
On the 4th of July at the DK5K
Breaking my "unbreakable PR" at the RnR Chicago
August (400 miles):
No races, but I ran 400 miles in August (a PDR). I only had enough
spare time that month to take one picture. This one was taken before a run.
September (312 miles):
Finishing the Oui Run 5k two weeks before
the Chicago Marathon (src)
October (20 miles so far):
My run on Sunday
I'm going through the typical taper stuff - struggling on runs that are barely a handful of miles and wondering if my legs will ever loosen up by Sunday. The scale is also inching upwards as I nourish myself with as much cheese, eggs, and fat-rich meat as I can possibly eat while washing it all down with several glasses of whole milk. I haven't even started carb loading yet, so watch out!  As for race strategy, I'm kicking around the idea of just hanging with the three hour pace group the entire marathon rather than trying to go it alone. I really want to run even paces or a slight negative split, so if I do go with the pacer I'm hoping that they'll have a similar strategy and execute it like a metronome.

Let's see how this all works out!