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.