Monday, April 24, 2017

Ravenswood Run 2017 Race Recap

I've been swimming 4x a week in the three weeks since the Shamrock Shuffle. Post Shuffle, I was feeling run down physically and decided that low miles and swimming was the best thing I could do in order to start feeling better. Since I have no major races on the horizon, I could afford to pamper myself and float and kick in the pool for a few weeks. Once I dialed back my running I could really notice how sore my hips and upper legs were. Sometimes running every day helps to mask pain, and an extended break lets me realize which areas need to heal and time to strengthen.

With the extended run break, I was going into this year's Ravenswood Run with slightly less endurance than I would have had if I had kept up with my miles. However, even with the run break, I could sense my endurance had only faded slightly. My Shamrock 8k time of 29:54 translates to a 18:09 (5:50/mile) using McMillan, so I guessed I was somewhere around 18:30 shape.

I came up with the following strategy for the race: First mile at around 6:00 and then evaluate how I feel. If I feel good, then drop to 5:50 and try to hold onto that for the remainder. If an initial six minute mile felt too fast, slow down in order not to crash and burn in mile three.

I woke up at 6am for a three mile shakeout run in which I ran the last mile of the Ravenswood Run course. Since the pylons were up and the streets essentially closed, I made mental notes of which stoplight the turns were at, where it was best to cut the tangents and which point I would start my final kick. Then I ran home, where I had ate two hard boiled eggs, a cup of black tea, a bagel with peanut butter and a banana. I took my dogs out for a half mile jog then my dad and I ran 1.5 miles over to the start line. We got there with five minutes to spare.

Anyway, the national anthem was sung, a prayer was said, and to the sound of tolling church bells - we were off!
Video of the start of the Ravenswood Run

The Race:
Mile 1: Since this wasn't a CARA Circuit race, and hence I would probably place fairly high, I started about three rows back. Once the gun sounded, I was still passed by 20 or 30 runners, but luckily didn't have to weave too much. For the second race in a row, I passed the 12 year old girl who was featured in Runners World. Hit the mile 1 marker eight seconds faster than planned. 5:52/mile.

Mile 1 (src)
Mile 2: It was time to evaluate how I felt to determine if I could speed up. I didn't feel as good as I did at this point last year, but I thought I had room for just a little acceleration. However, when I went to speed up, I couldn't muster any extra turnover in my legs. I don't know if it was the wind or if my legs were tight, but I actually started slowing down! I started to get nervous that I might crash and burn if not in this mile, maybe in the next one. 5:56/mile.

Mile 3: Right after starting mile 3, we ran into the quaint shopping area of Lincoln Square and I said my goodbyes to the soon-to-be-closinig Chicago Brauhaus. Luckily, after trying another acceleration, my legs finally started to obey and I quickly adapted to a slightly faster pace. We ran down Damen and then made the final turn onto Wilson for the quarter mile homestretch. 5:48/mile.

Tera Moody at the 2013 Ravenswood 5k (in front of the
 Chicago Brauhaus)
Mile 3.13: I wanted to run at a blistering pace, but had pretty much tapped all of my reserves. I focused on just running with a controlled kick.


I came in with all I had and was finished!. 5:04/mile.


Official Finish Time: 18:16
Official Pace: 5:53/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:50/mile

Place Overall: 26th out of 2,498
Place Age Group: 1st out of 157

My first first place AG finish ever at the Ravenswood Run. This was my fifth fastest 5k ever just behind these four: 18:15, 18:10, 17:54 and 17:36.

So, taking a three week run break didn't really hurt me too much since I ran only seven seconds slower than I would have had I kept my fitness from the Shamrock. That said, I'm probably "living on borrowed time" and if I don't want to dig myself out of too big of a "fitness hole" I should resume running more miles in the next couple of weeks.

Post Race:
I ran backwards through the course (using the sidewalk) and met up with my dad. I ran most of mile three with him and then left him for the last quarter so he could kick it to the finish by himself. We met up after the finish line and since there was no awards ceremony, we slow jogged home.

I'm likely not going to race for another month, but in the interim, I'll continue to swim and run low miles. It's tempting to ramp up the mileage so my fitness won't fade, but getting a restart with my legs this summer is a higher priority. Declan mentioned maybe doing a fall marathon together. So, if I want to have any chance of keeping up with him, it would be best to have some fresh legs and be rested going into a potential 10 to 12 week marathon cycle.

Next Up:
I have my eye on the Run For the Animals in June and the final Grim Mile the day after. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shamrock Shuffle 2017 Race Recap

I hadn't raced since November of last year, so I only had a vague concept of how I would do at this year's Shamrock Shuffle. Despite the fact that I did have a pace plan, I wasn't nearly as confident in it as those I used last year when I could predict my race time within a few seconds using an assist from the McMillan conversion tables. In any case, as I wrote in my last post, I had a hunch I could run it somewhere between 30:30 and 30:45.

My general approach would be the same one I implemented last year - a slow(ish) first mile, comfortably hard until 5k and then a turbo charged final 1.97. I've been training by running mostly slow miles (>8:00 min) mixing in only an occasional "fast" (sub-7:00 min) mile here and there. In fact, I'd only run one single six-minute mile this entire year which was 10 days prior on a downhill street in Palm Springs. So it would be a good test of the 80/20 training I'd been doing so far.

Would running slowly actually help me to run fast?

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and went for a two mile shakeout run around my neighborhood. Temps were hovering around 45 degrees with only a slight hint of a wind, so in other words, perfect racing weather! After changing, eating two hard boiled eggs, and walking the dogs. I drove down to the race and parked in a $16 parking garage. I was at the race early enough that I saw people street parking in the Loop. The street spots I saw were $2 an hour with a two hour limit. Note to self: I need to download that parking meter app on my phone and then street park. Using the app I can remotely add meter time via my phone if I stay longer than two hours. Even if I stay at the race for four hours that's only eight bucks. Lesson learned.

Anyway, I had a free VIP entry for winning the 2016 Oui Run 5k, so I can't really complain about overpaying for parking. With my VIP entry, I got access to the hospitality tent next to Buckingham Fountain with buffet, private gear check and private bathrooms with sinks!

Waiting for the race in the tent
Since there was free food, I naturally loaded a plate up with a bagel and cream cheese, some fruit and a banana. After I had sat down and had eaten everything on the plate, I was full, but now had only 45 minutes until race start. I became a little paranoid that I wouldn't digest it before the race started. I thought, "oh well, can't do anything about it now!". So, I sat there for another 20 minutes reading on my phone hoping the full feeling would dissipate. I felt a little better by the time it was to check my bag. On my way out of the tent, I grabbed a bottle of water and did a slow jog over to the start corrals. I did some pickups on the grass near the corral entrance and ran with Kim P for a minute or two. Finally, with about five minutes before the corrals closed, I stopped my warm-ups and made my way over to the start area. Maybe it was the pre-race adrenaline, but by the time I hit the corral, the extra food in my stomach didn't seem to bother me any longer. Whew!

Once in the "A" corral, I saw Xaarlin taking skyline pictures, so before she saw me, I jumped as high as I could to do a photobomb. It was a success.
Once I landed, I also said hi to Eric and Jeff H.
In the corral with
Eric, Jeff and Xaarlin (src)
After chatting a bit, I wished everyone luck then moved a little further up in the corral. The national anthem was sung and I flung my disposable clothes over the fence and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 1: Last year, I ran this mile in 6:10, but my aim this year was to run it in 6:30. I started a little further back in order to not get swept up too much in the initial mad dash and run relaxed. Luckily, I didn't have to weave around many slower runners since I didn't want to do much passing early on. Maybe I run a little faster when I feel relaxed because I ran 16 seconds faster than plan. 6:14/Mile

Mile 2:  Since some runners at this point were slowing down, anyone I was passing was almost solely due to attrition, rather than acceleration. Once on State Street, I found myself running alongside Olympian Alexi Pappas who seemed to be pacing a young girl (found this in Runners World about her). They eventually slowed down enough that I passed them as well. I was still holding back with all my might. 6:11/Mile

Mile 3: More running through the Loop. Mentally, I was trying to hold back just a little yet still run comfortably hard.  5:58/Mile

Mile 4: I crossed the 5k timing mat at 18:58 which was only 28 seconds slower than my time at the same point last year during my 8k PR. After all of the early relaxed running, I was definitely ready to "release the Kraken" and start gunning full speed. At last, I allowed myself to consciously speed up and I smiled wide as I stepped on the gas. This was gonna be fun! I started getting some nice turnover. 5:46/Mile.

Mile 4.97: I kept looking at my Garmin and was stunned to see it was steadily reading just a tick over 5:40/mile. Despite the speed, I felt strong and was in a good rhythm sprinting down Michigan Ave. I hadn't had this euphoric feeling of running fast with minimal effort since early November. It made me super happy to be back in the "zone". It's these brief moments that make all of the hard work well worth it. At one point, I saw a guy slow down and start walking (and cursing loudly). Maybe he was a "thought-it-was-a-5k-casualty"?  As we turned the corner to go uphill, I slowed slightly on Mt. Roosevelt and looked forward to the summit so I could start my all-out sprint down Columbus Drive.
Cresting Mt. Roosevelt
Once I made the turn, it was an even madder dash downhill for the final 200 yards because when I spotted the clock, I realized I could squeak in under 30 minutes if I hurried! 5:42/Mile.
Running the last 10 meters, trying to break 30 minutes!


Official Pace: 6:01/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:56/mile

Analysis: Yay! I broke 30 minutes! This was my second fastest 8k ever and was only 43 seconds from the PR I set last year when I was running 40% more weekly miles. The first 5k was an 18:58 and the final 5k was about 18:02. That would have been a third fastest 5k PR by itself! This race is proof that I really can run fast by training (mostly) slowly. Before the race, I had only run one single mile as fast as 6:00/mile this year. In this race, I ran five at a Garmin average pace of 5:56/mile!

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute looking around for runners that I knew. After a minute of not recognizing anyone, I turned around to walk out. Suddenly, I heard someone yell "Pete" and it was Steve from Still Running. We chatted as we walked down the chute.
Hanging with Steve
 just after the finish line
Whilst walking back to the hospitality tent, Zoe ran up alongside me. We chatted for a bit before she went to bag check. I went to the tent, got my stuff and sat at a table for a few minutes while the caterers set up the post-race buffet. Olympian and US marathon record holder Deena Kastor went over and loaded her plate as soon as the buffet opened for business. When she came back she momentarily thought about sitting at my table to eat. Unfortunately, she chose the table next to mine. Fortunately, I got this cool photo of "us" once she sat down to eat!

Me and Deena (she's in the black hat)!
Alexi Pappas came in next with the girl she had been pacing and she also made a beeline to the buffet:
Alexi Pappas
Eventually, it was time for the winners to get their awards and they all posed near my table for a photo op:
Race winners featuring another Olympian 
After my celeb sightings, I forewent the free beer and wine in the tent and instead went outside and redeemed my coupon for a Michelob Ultra in the regular beer garden. I spotted Xaarlin, Mo and Eric and the rest of the Mikkeller Crew and we stood around, chatted and had a beer or two until the gang took the party to a secret bar location.

The Future:
Since this was a strong first race of the year, typically, I'd say that I'm going to elevate my game by running more miles and doing more speed work in order to see if I couldn't eke out some PRs. But this year I'll play things differently and say I'm going to just keep doing the same mileage volume, stick with my 80/20 training for a few months and just enjoy running. I can jump into races when I want and if I pace things right - even have a thrilling mile or two like I did at the end of this year's Shuffle.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shamrock Shuffle 2017 Pre-race Thoughts and Palm Springs

On Sunday it's Shamrock Shuffle time, which will be my first race of 2017!  I'll be gunning for a decent time, but only have an inkling of how fast I can run it. Based on my weekly mileage, I'm about a full month behind of where I was at this time last year when I was training for a marathon. Twelve months ago my higher mileage enabled me to hold a fast pace extremely well. This year I'm running about 20 miles less per week (50 vs. 70), so I probably shouldn't expect a PR or actually anything too close to a PR. My lungs feel strong however, and my legs feel a little looser than last year - so don't count me out!

I spent last week in Palm Springs doing some pretty serious pool relaxing as well as some hill work. On Sunday, my brother and I took the tramway up from the hot desert valley (it was 90 degrees) and hiked in mountain snow where the temps were in the 40s. Up on top, the air was pretty thin - we started at 8,300 feet and ascended to about 9,000 feet. The footing was not ideal as the snow was slippery. Most of the people we passed were either wearing snowshoes or skis!
Spring hiking near Palm Springs
On Thursday, I actually ran up a "mountain" trail near downtown Palm Springs for three miles.
Trail running in the mountains
Despite the inclines, I felt really good and didn't get winded. It was so much fun and the views were spectacular, I had to fight the urge to go up again when I was finished!
Elevation chart of Thursday's Mountain trail run 
Since there is no such thing as a truly flat street in PS, I saved my 20% speedwork for the downhill portions and was cruising pretty well - between a 6:00/mile and 6:20/mile in one mile intervals (with more than a little gravity assist).

Oh yeah, in addition to the 50 vacation miles I ran/hiked, I also had a lot of time to chill in the pool and try out my underwater camera.

Underwater in PS
Anyway, the entire trip provided a huge confidence boost and made me realize I'm peaking at the right time. Since the Shuffle is my goal race, I have the luxury doing a full taper even though it's only a five mile race!

I now know I have decent endurance and can go uphill pretty well, so what should my strategy be on the flat Shuffle Course? I came up with this pace strategy off of the top of my head:

6:30, 6:10, 6:10, 6:00, 5:55 = 30:45

I like going out slowly for the first mile (as I may have mentioned in my last post). Even though my goal will be a minute and a half slower than my PR time last year, I am hoping if I feel good after mile three, I can always speed up and try and set a 2nd fastest PR of a sub 30:35.

In addition to being pumped for the race, I also scored a pass to the VIP tent, so it'll be a fun time regardless of what happens!

 Anyone else shuffling?

Friday, March 10, 2017

How many runners did I pass? Shamrock Shuffle Edition

Since the 2017 edition of the Shamrock Shuffle is the only race on my calendar, I've had more time to focus on 8k race strategy/planning than usual. In order to glean some insight as to what I should do strategy-wise this year, I went to the race website and looked at my splits from the Shuffle last year (which was a huge PR). Looking at the splits, I was surprised at how big of a negative split I had run. The first mile was run at 6:05/mile and the last mile was at 5:36/mile! Now in full disclosure, I purposely held back during the first mile to see how I felt, since I was unsure of my fitness going into the race. Anyway, as expected with such splits - I passed lots of runners most of whom weren't negative splitting. So, of course I was curious of exactly how many I passed. So like I did two years ago (post 2015 Shuffle) I wanted to find out.
2016 Shuffle Finish

Since the 2016 results have 1 mile and 5k splits, I was able to come up with the following analysis:

Shamrock Shuffle 2016:

Number of runners I passed after 1 mile mark:

Number of runners I passed after 5k mark:

Number of runners I passed total:

Number of runners who passed me after mile 1:

My place at the 1 mile mark:

My place at the 5k mark:

My place at the finish line (8k):


So, over the last four miles I passed 128 runners and moved up in the standings accordingly.  Here is another interesting tidbit:

Of the people that I passed after mile 1, the average runner ran the first mile 10 seconds FASTER than me (5:55 vs. 6:05), yet that average runner finished the race almost a whole minute (50 seconds) SLOWER than me!

Now, I guess you could say I should have run more even splits which seems to be the consensus best race strategy. However, if not the best strategy, at least negative is better than positive. If those average runners had kept at that 5:55/mile first mile until the finish line, they should have been 40 seconds faster than me (10 seconds x 4 miles) overall. Instead they ended up 55 seconds slower. That's a swing of 95 seconds over four miles.

Why do so many runners go positive a the Shamrock? I think it's because it's the first race of the season for most people, and they tend to overspeed in the beginning thinking that they have the same fitness that they did at the end of the last season. Also, there are actually a few people who think it's a 5k rather than a 5 miler and then at mile 3.1 (after burning up all of their energy) realize too late they have another 2 miles to go and so they have to crawl for the remainder!

In any case, my recommendation for all of 2017 Shufflers:

Run the first mile relatively slowly - then open things up and start passing...
Here I am at mile 2 of the 2016 Shamrock Shuffle (red hat and gray shirt)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

80/20 Running

As readers of my blog probably know, when I have a goal race on the horizon, I tend to dive in head first with my training and then keep ratcheting up the miles without too much attention to pace. But doing miles at any pace means that there are usually quite a few that are run too fast. This has left me feeling flat and burned out once my goal race/marathon is finished. I now realize I need to train at paces that will keep me feeling fresh while still giving me the best bang for my buck from speed sessions.

I read 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald a while back, and although I bought into his philosophy at the time, I never could bring myself to run as slowly as the plan's training intensities prescribe. I don't like slow, because I want to feel the burn of a good workout. This is what Fitzgerald calls running at "habitual pace", which is a pace run faster than necessary for peak fitness. A habitual pace is one that's difficult enough that you feel like you're getting a good workout because it causes strain. However it's the area where paces are too fast, causing unnecessary stress, yet not fast enough to allow you to reap the benefits of speed work.

So, what does mean for my training? Well I started reading 80/20 Running from the beginning in order to come up with a solid plan for the long term. In the meantime, I took a cue from Xaarlin's tempo training where she throws in some race pace miles in her long runs (which she used successfully to prepare for the Carmel Marathon last year). So, I'm swearing off running any miles at what I'll call "junk pace". Instead I plan to run easy for 80% and then throw in 20% of relatively fast miles. This will also keep my runs interesting - I can look forward to a couple fast miles while shuffling through all of those slow miles, instead of waiting until the next day for a speed workout.

In order to measure if I'm actually running 80/20, I came up with some general parameters (for the moment) of what I consider fast, slow and junk paces:

For example, here's how my run on Sunday run breaks down according to these paces:
Sunday 80/20 run
So, I ran a "perfect" 80/20 run without any "junk" miles! Running all of those slow miles is harder than it seems because if I'm not looking at my watch, I might accidentally run a moderately fast mile and end up with a 70/20 run or even a 60/30 run. In any case, I hope to keep this pattern up until I finish reading the book, which will probably be around the time of the Shamrock Shuffle. At that point, I will hopefully have a more scientific training plan laid out (even without having a goal race on the horizon). In any case, for the next few weeks I'm going to see if a dash of fast mixed with a lot of slow helps me to become a better runner.

Running in 70 degree February weather last week

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

20 Miles a Week

In the last four months I've been averaging around 20 miles per week. This is quite a change over my mileage last year, when I averaged about 50 mpw. At the height of my marathon training, I was doing around 80 mpw. However, since the 2016 Chicago Marathon in October, my energy levels have been low, so my overriding goal has been to take things easy. I'm doing this by getting more sleep and running no more than three to five miles per day. Cutting back on the mileage has hurt my endurance, but at the same time its done wonders for my legs. They aren't constantly sore and stiff like last year, and I'm getting some great turnover in them. So much so that I've rediscovered some short distance speed that I lost when I was marathon training last summer.

One big contributor to my leg speed is due to my two dogs. Since I now have more spare time (since I'm running less), I'm taking them on longer daily walks to the park. Once we're there, we do quite a bit of all out sprinting for 50 to 100m every few minutes as we chase their tennis ball, which I throw out in front of us while we're running. Last year when my legs were trashed, I was never able to do these "intervals" since I was so burned out from my training volume. Now I can give those pups a run for their money!

How will this relatively low mileage mixed with daily "speed work" translate into say a 5k race time? I'm certain that with my current training regimen I won't be anywhere near as fast as I was last year when I had a huge weekly base mileage and could start a race at a relatively fast clip and simply hold on for the remainder by tapping into my huge endurance. Now that my endurance is (mostly) gone but my legs are fresher, I might be able to at least have a decent final mile topped off by a killer 100m kick at the finish line.

I still haven't signed up for any races this year except for the Shamrock Shuffle (which was free) and it's kind of a nice feeling of not having the looming pressure of getting in lots o' miles for a goal race. However, if I see a 5k (or shorter) race that is somewhere near where I live, I just might jump in and see how fast I can kick.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 Recap - The Year of the PR

In 2016 I PR'd all eight distance that I keep track of on the right hand side of this blog. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime year in my running "career" and one I will look back on fondly for the rest of my days. When I was putting this post together, simply revisiting the links below made me want to lace up my shoes and go out for a few fast miles.

Which races from last year were my favorites? Here they are in descending order:

8) Hot Chocolate 15k, Oct 30 - A PR by 8 seconds, but considering how sore and tired I was three weeks post Chicago Marathon, I'll take it.

7) Lakefront 10 Miler, Mar 19 - First race of the season, one minute PR and a harbinger of the good things to come for the rest of the season.

6) Grim Mile, June 11 - Racing all out on a track for a mile? Count me in! I beat my PR by "only" four seconds, but extra seconds are hard to come by when the race distance is this small.

5) Shamrock Shuffle 8k, April 3 - Twelve days before my marathon PR, I lined up for this race with no expectations and came out with a minute and a half PR. To quote Lynton: "Dude, you were running 5 minute miles!"

4) Run For the Animals 10k, June 4 - A PR by well over a minute in hot windy weather.

3) Ravenswood Run 5k, Apr 24 - A scant eight days after setting my marathon PR, I annihilated my 5k PR by 33 seconds. I've raced so many 5ks and to beat my best time by such a large margin still blows my mind.

2) Carmel Marathon, Apr 16 - A "woulda shoulda coulda" sub-three of 3:00:20. Nevertheless, I beat my previous PR by almost 5 minutes.

1) Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon Chicago, Jul 17 - Broke my "unbreakable PR" by two minutes. At this race, I was the fittest and fastest I've ever been.

Finishing the RnR in July

Honorable Mention:
Oui Run 5k, Sep 25 - Not a PR, but I won the inaugural edition of this race and got some sweet prizes to boot!

How will 2017 pan out? Well, based on how low my mileage has been lately, I'd say that each of these PRs will be safe for another year, but who knows? Maybe I'll break one when I least expect it!