Monday, August 6, 2018

NU Run For Walk 4.1 Miler 2018 - "Pace" Recap

My 10 year old nephew was in town last weekend. He loves running, so I offered to pace him for his first race ever at Northwestern University's "Run for Walk" which would be by far the longest he'd ever run continuously. His previous record was two miles and since this was a 4.1 mile race, I thought a good strategy would be to pace him slowly for the first 2 miles, see how he felt and then up the pace if he felt good. Last year, the youngest age group was 0 to 10, so since he is one of the few age groups where it pays to actually be younger than older, I thought he had a decent shot of at least getting an AG medal.

Once we got our bibs and race packets, we sat down in Northwestern's football stadium and watched them setup the finish line on the 50 yard line. Then we walked over to the start line which was just outside the stadium. There, we bumped into Erica and Brooke and ran about 0.25 miles of warm-ups with them.

We lined up near the back and we were off! My nephew can sprint 100m almost as fast as me (probably by next year he will be faster), so I intentionally held him back. I told him we would take it easy and for breaks we would walk through the water stations. I had to instruct him to stay off to the side while walking with his water. Anyway the mile went by quickly, probably because we stayed chill and just chatted.

We hit mile 1 in 8:54, and he started to complain that "it feels like we're going so slow, we're walking". So, in a moment of carelessness, I thought that maybe I wasn't challenging a potential running prodigy enough and we started to speed up (contrary to plan).  In any case, he seemed to take the increase in pace well. I tried to keep him distracted from the effort by jumping up and running on the concrete benches on the Northwestern campus, and he followed my lead. Near the lake, one of Northwestern's athletic teams was handing out water and we slowed to walk again. The course ran right along Lake Michigan and by the beach full of sailboats, which is on Northwestern's (beautiful) campus.

As we finished mile 2 in 8:23, he seemed fine, so we kept up the speedier-than-planned pace. However, once we slowed to walk through the next water stop, he complained that his legs felt bad and that he needed to walk more. So, we walked an extra 30 seconds past the water station and watched as scores of runners passed us by. I tried giving him a little pep talk about how we were less than two miles away and that if we got going again we could rest all we wanted once we got to the finish line. My talk may have worked, because he started to run again slowly, but after another quarter mile, he needed to walk again for another minute.

Run/walking got us to through mile 3 in 10:22 and I was afraid that we would be walking the last mile entirely. However, he was able to do a run/walk combo that kept us moving at a reasonable pace. I told him, that once we could see the football stadium (where the finish line was), we would pick up the pace and sprint on in. He let me know that he had actually been saving some energy for the final 0.1, since he wanted to sprint on the football field. Once I realized he had more in the tank than he was perhaps letting on, I gave him pep talks to "just keep moving"  and told him to run behind me and just focus on my feet. That seemed to work for him.

After some high-fives with the Northwestern football team, we got to the mile 4 marker in 10:37, and turned into the football stadium. We weaved around the 5k walkers and shot across the finish line. Our final 0.17 was at 7:23 pace.

Video of us finishing (starting at 19:15)

After sitting and recovering on the field for about 5 minutes, we walked over to the results tent to see if he had gotten an AG top 3. When we looked up his time on the computer it said that the age group was now 0 to 14 (instead of 0 to 10) and he didn't place. I think I was more disappointed than he was. He was happy to get the race shirt and the purple foam hand we got in our goody bag and didn't miss getting a medal too much.

The race was a pretty big positive split, but not a disaster. I was kicking myself afterwards for not sticking to our pace plan, but it was my first time pacing a newbie for an entire race, so lesson learned.

Post-race, my nephew said his legs were sore and he was slow walking up and down the stadium steps. However, after an hour of two he was running and jumping around with the pups at home, his recovery complete. It's nice to be young!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon 2018 - Race Recap

Lately, I've been waiting until the week before a race to actually register for it. I have a more relaxed attitude towards racing and want to see how I feel physically and mentally before I commit to doing a race. So, even though I knew that I wanted to run the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon over a month ago, I waited until the Tuesday before the race to register. However, I learned a valuable lesson:  

Never register for the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon less than 7 days before the event.

First of all on-line registration closes seven days beforehand so if you want to run the race you have to register in person at the expo. Second you are forced to travel to the expo to register with no guarantee of spots being available. Third, you have to wait in line to register. Fourth (and the most important reason) is the price!

** Price Not including service fees!

I, unfortunately waited until the Tuesday before the race and was shut out of on-line registration.


So, on Friday after work, I took the Green Line 25 minutes and walked about 2 miles to finally get to the expo which was located far inside McCormick Place. Once I found the in-person registration booth I was faced with the decision of dropping over $175, which is about 3x of what the early-bird price would have been had I taken a leap-of-faith last year and registered early. Anyway, I really wanted to run and figured that I needed to seize the moment and hand over my credit card, price be damned. 

After sweating bullets as my card was charged the full amount plus service fees, the woman at the registration desk then asked me what my expected finish time was and I told her 1:28:00. She promptly wrote "Corral 3" on my bib. Shocked, I asked her what was Corral 1 qualifying time and she said sub 1:19:00!! I couldn't believe it, but thought maybe the race was really going to be competitive this year.

After getting my bib and shirt I started to rationalize my decision:

1) I would hardly blink if someone dropped $175 in two hours at a casino  

2) I only have a finite amount of races left in me and I get to do this. Do it now.

Time goal: I did the calculations based on my 10k last month and the result for a half marathon was somewhere around 6:38/mile or a 1:27:00. I figured with the heat/humidity I would be happy with a 1:28:00.

I woke up at 4:00. After a few swigs of coffee, and walking the dogs I packed my race bag and drove my new wheels down to Grant Park. The garage where there is usually a long lines of cars was happily line-free. I think the lines are long for the Shamrock and for the Hot Chocolate. Also, arriving an hour and a half before the race helped too.

After leaving the garage, I walked/ran about a mile into Grant Park  After that I took some pictures:

Pre-race Start Line

I used the porta-potties, then chilled near bag check. I spotted Erica and said hi. Then I ran another mile through Grant Park, doing about four strides. I could tell right away that my legs were ready for 13.1 somewhat fast miles. That's a great feeling. It was about 68 degrees and humid and I started to get hot. I decided to stop my warm-ups and just go over to the corrals and wait. Since I had been assigned to corral 3, I scanned corrals 1 and 2 and spotted a few team jerseys here and there, but not enough that warranted me being in the third wave. In fact, I think furthest I've ever started back was wave 2. So, I decided (thankfully) not to start in corral 3, but the back of corral 2. There was no corral enforcement, so I walked into corral 2. After a few minutes, I realized I should have been in corral 1. I heard people discussing how they wanted to keep a 9 minute goal pace! It was too late, I was hemmed in and it would have been too great of an effort to move forwards. The national anthem was sung, the countdown was on. Wave 1 was sent off than about one minute later, we were off!

The Race:
Miles 1 through 3:  As soon as I crossed the start line, it started to rain. It was a welcome relief and I thought to myself that this was going to be fun! However, soon thereafter I had to do a huge amount of weaving. 8 to 10 minute milers who had started ahead of me were running three of four abreast. There was even a pack of 10 runners with matching t-shirts running not faster than 12 minute miles. No corral enforcement = people all wanting and getting to start in front. I think RnR needs to have some enforcement especially for corrals 1 to 5. Wasted some energy weaving and surging over the first mile. However, on the bright side, it was raining  and it felt fantastic. My sunglasses were somewhat blurred by the rain, so it was difficult to see my watch. I decided to just run by feel. After 100+ races, I am getting more comfortable with "feel" racing!  6:42/mile

Miles 4 through 6: Running through the Loop is so much fun. As for pace, I just focused on how I was feeling and modulated my pace accordingly.  The crowds were thinner than last year, thanks to the rain. Eventually the rain seemed to taper off - unfortunately. A big band was playing. Still passed lots of people.  6:39/mile

Miles 7 through 9: Running southbound along Michigan Ave., I thought Xaarlin may be spectating in her usual spot somewhere during mile seven. I didn't see her, so I continued on down the road. Passed even more of people. We did the out-and-back down the desolate stretch of MLK Drive. At least there was a rock band playing there and I signed the devil horns at them. 6:36/mile

Miles 10 through 12: This stretch is typically the hottest on the course because it is in the direct sunlight as we run between Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail. Luckily, it was not too hot thanks to the rains we had been having. I was playing cat and mouse with a guy in no shirt as we entered the McCormick Place tunnel. We had caught up with the 10k walkers and had to weave around them since there was no lanes separating the distances. I nearly twisted my ankle in a pothole, but luckily it wasn't too deep. Once I was in the clear,  I floored it and broke free from Mr. No-Shirt. 6:44/mile

Miles 13 and 13.17  Outside the tunnel, Mr. No-Shirt tried to pass me, but I willed myself to not let that happen. We went up and down two hills to get to Columbus Drive. Once safely over the hill, I floored it for the remaining .75 miles straight down Columbus to the finish line. Passed a woman and then hit the additional timing mat that sits just before the finish line and the announcer called my name.  6:20/mile

Almost Finished!


Official Time: 1:27:14
Official Pace: 6:39/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:18/mile (bad signal)?!

Place Age Group: 1st out of 329 
Place Overall: 83 out of 8,909

Personal Analysis: 1st AG win in a Rock n Roll event! Over a minute faster than last year despite the fact that I was running higher mileage at that time. Maybe it was the rain or maybe I'm just in a better spot right now mentally and physically? I ran completely by feel and almost hit my goal dead-on.

Race Analysis:
Love this race. This is my favorite half marathon course in the world. It would be perfect except for the mile in which we do an out-and-back on MLK Drive. Oh yeah, and the pot-hole filled McCormick Place tunnel.

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute and collected my medal.

After exiting the finisher's chute it started to rain. So, I grabbed my bag at bag check, changed clothes threw on a poncho and went over to watch the race.  I went back to the course to spectate. I got a video of Wendy who was looking strong (~40 seconds into the video).

Then I went over to the beer garden had a beer and waited for the awards ceremony. It was pouring rain as I heard my name called. I picked up my sweet first place AG trophy.
Sweet Rock n Roll Guitar AG Trophy!
I stayed in the beer garden another few minutes looking for anyone I knew. However, the place was thinning out with only a few dozen people left due to the rain. So I headed back to the car.

Was it worth it?:

It's true that on paper that the race was expensive. The higher-than-expected price made me analyze how much an individual race is really worth to me. The days before are fun with all of the anticipation as I "run" the course in my mind. My diet the week before a race is very clean and I start feeling better, making me wonder why I don't eat like that year round. Then the race itself is indescribably fun and tests my limits mentally and physically. It's also a blast to run (nearly) as hard as you can for as long as you can. The post-race endorphins last at least two days and then there are the memories, which last even longer. So how much is all of that worth? To me races are a bargain considering all the other ways I could spend my money.

Up Next:
I'm tired post-race, so best to take a few days off and recover. I have no idea what my next race will be. 10% chance it will be a marathon, which is up from 0% chance last month! Stay tuned...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Firecracker 6 Race Recap

I happened to find myself in Indianapolis on the Fourth of July, so I looked for and found a local race called the Firecracker 6. It's odd that on the Fourth there seems to be all manner of different race distances available. Over the last five years on the Fourth I've run:

2014: 5 miler
2015: 4 miler
2016: 5k
2017: No race
2018: 6 miler

I never specifically train for these Fourth of July races. They're usually just for fun and so it was with the Firecracker 6. Plus if they are an odd distance, they're are usually good for an instant PR!

Left the hotel with the car and was in downtown Indianapolis in about 20 minutes. Found a free street spot and walked over to the historic Indianapolis Market to pick up my bib.

After a two mile warm-up in the humidity, I started to get hot. So, I used the remainder of my time to try and cool down before the start. The national anthem was sung, a prayer was said and then a bunch of firecrackers were lit and we were off with a bang (or lots of little bangs)!

The Race
Mile 1: The race began right in the heart of downtown Indy, as we ran around Monument Circle This is where the tallest buildings in Indy are, so my GPS went in and out. However, I remember my time crossing the one mile mark. 6:20/mile.

Mile 2:  We made our way around the American Legion Mall. Things were getting warm and I started to realize that the heat was getting to me. I started to leap frog runners who were fading, but there was a definite gap forming between the pack I was leading and the lead pack. 6:20/mile.

Mile 3: We made our way past the 100 year old rollicking beer hall and restaurant "The Rathskeller". The heat was starting to take its toll, but I tried desperately to hold pace. 6:17/mile.

Mile 4: Flying solo somewhere between the lead pack and the second pack, I came upon a hill, which normally wouldn't have bothered me, but the heat was draining my energy rapidly. I started to struggle and slowed, hoping for a second wind. I ran by my favorite duck pin bowling alleys in the Fountain Square neighborhood. 6:36/mile.

Mile 5: Once we made the turn to head back to downtown, the uphill of the last mile became a downhill, but it was still becoming less and less fun as the heat and humidity were getting bad. I guess this was my second wind! 6:21/mile.

Mile 6 and 6.1: We joined up with the 6k runners for the final mile. The volunteers were handing out mini american flags to wave at the finish, but I blew on by. I was lifting my shirt to get some air circulation. Thank goodness this race was not a full 10k, because I was out of gas! 6:18/mile.

Must stop watch directly over timing mat!
Race Summary: 
  • Official Time: 38:19 
  • Official pace: 6:23/mile
  • Overall Place: 17th out of 629
  • Age Place: 2nd out of 33 
  • Instant PR!! First time at this distance.
I was completely spent. Went over to a shady spot and chugged a bottle of water. I didn't hang around for the after party or awards ceremony, despite the fact that they had free pours of a local craft brew. I threw down some dry towels in my car and cranked up the A/C and headed back to the hotel.

Race Takeaway:
Here were my splits:
First three miles: 18:54
Last three miles: 19:26

Positive split, but not too bad considering I didn't factor how hot I would get. Also, it looks like pretty much my entire age group ran positive splits, so I wasn't the only one. This is a good learning experience on pacing the Rock n Roll Half if it is a hot one. Also, no warm-up and I'll pack a towel!

Next up:
RnR Half

Monday, June 4, 2018

Run For the Animals 10k 2018 Race Recap

When I ran the Run for the Animals 10k in 2013, I won my age group despite the fact that I was the oldest person in it - as the race was held the day before my birthday. As I mentioned in my previous post - I would be in a new AG for the 2018 edition of the race. In fact, this time I would be (at least tied for) the youngest runner in my AG since it was to be held on my birthday.

After a practically sleepless night due to some sudden bug that I had gotten from god-knows-where, I finally gave up on sleep went out the door at 5 a.m. for a shakeout run of one mile in the city. I didn't trust my stomach to do a two miler and be far from home, so I just did one mile. After walking the doggies, I jumped in my car and headed out to the 'burbs. My dad had picked up my bib along with his bib (for the 5k) earlier in the week, so I met up with him at his house, put on said bib, and we headed over to the race in downtown Wheaton. On our way to the start area we met up with my sister and her two kids. My nephew was running his first 5k ever and he was super pumped. My sister was running with him. I did a few warm-up strides, then slid into the corral. The national anthem was sung beautifully, but at a low volume such that runners in the back of the corral kept chatting for the duration. Oh well. The temps which were in the upper 50's were were quite pleasant for early June. The horn sounded and we were off!

The Race
Mile 1: This was a dual 5k and 10k, so I started a little ways back. I'd forgotten that this mile had a gradual downhill for the first half mile, so I was running just slightly faster than plan. I felt okay to start, but once I sped up to pass a couple of runners, my lungs were feeling the effects of a cough I'd had all week. There was a skinny teenager just out in front of me with a bouncy stride who seemed to be running strong and about my pace. I decided to keep him in my sights.  6:15/mile.

Start of the Run for the Animals from last year. I'm in the neon hat and shirt.
Mile 2: I felt like I was pushing things a little too much early on, but had faith that I was at around the right pace. I could feel the congestion in my lungs which bugged me, but tried not to think about it too much. 6:19/mile.

Mile 3: The masses soon parted ways as half the 5k runners headed for the 5k finish line and I continued on the 10k course. 6:17/mile.

Mile 4: Still followed behind the teenager guy. I leaped frogged him, but then he passed me soon thereafter. 6:14/mile.

Mile 5: The second half of the 10k course is cool because it contains a mile or so loop around a nice little lake. I closed the gap between the teen to about two yards. We ran by three of his friends and they were cheering him on and warned him that "there is a guy literally on your heels!". I made the "shhh" sign at them by tapping my index finger to my mouth! 6:15/mile.

Mile 6: For the final full mile the course heads on a very gradual uphill, which helps to kill most momentum and really made me work when I didn't have the will or the energy to do so. The only thing that was keeping me motivated was to keep contact with the teenager just ahead of me. Suddenly, about a half mile from the finish I urgently had to go to the bathroom. This had never happened to me before during a race. There were no port-potties in the suburban neighborhood we were running through, so the only two options would be to knock on someone's front door and ask to use the bathroom, or "gut" it out to the finish line where I knew exactly where an indoor facility was. I was still behind the teenager and started to slow slightly, not knowing if running fast would give me the fast runs or not. The one thing I was certain of is that I didn't want a picture of my finish to become an Internet meme, so I decided if I couldn't reach the finish line before nature called, I would drop out of the race and drop in some bushes! 6:20/mile.

Mile 6.2: I decided that looking at the finish line in the distance would only remind my intestines of the fact that there were facilities just beyond it, so instead I just focused on the teenager's shoes turning over in front of me. I wanted to do a big kick at this point, but only did a small one as I didn't want to tempt fate. The teen accelerated as well and we flew stride for stride to the finish (according to the results, I beat him by a second, but I don't remember as my mind was focused on more urgent matters)!  I held up five fingers with one hand and made a "zero" with my other hand, thinking there might be a finish line photographer somewhere! 5:37/mile.
Finish line from 2016!
Race Summary: 
  • Official Time: 38:58 (only 10 seconds slower overall than last year)
  • Official pace: 6:17/mile
  • Overall Place: 16th out of 484
  • Age Place: 2nd out of 25 (first 2nd place CARA finish ever - thanks to my new AG!)
  • Fourth fastest 10k ever (out of 25 races)
I was completely "wiped" out but kept running past the finish line. I kept running a block and a half right until I got into the indoor facilities. Unfortunately, the indoor facilities were all occupied so I quickly made another dash to a bank of port-potties, praying that at least one was available. There was - and disaster was narrowly avoided!

Anyway, after that was done (whew), I went over to the 5k finish line to meet my sister and nephew. He ran a PR (naturally) and my dad finished 1st in his AG in the 5k. He also found out the joys of chip time vs. gun time when we looked up his results. His official time was a minute faster than he had read on the finish line clock because he had started so far back. Score!

We went over to the kids' race to watch my niece compete in the half miler. After her fast finish and getting her raccoon medal, we all headed over to breakfast at a nearby diner.

Running Family!
Race Takeaway:
Here were my splits:
6:15, 6:19, 6:17, 6:14, 6:15, 6:20

My fastest mile was 6:14 and slowest was 6:20. For some reason my paces have really flattened out lately. Maybe I'm getting a better feel for things now that I'm older? Take a look at my splits from five years ago and see how much I've improved since then:

6:23, 6:18, 6:28, 6:36, 6:45, 6:56

Anyway, my effort in this year's race was about as fast as can be expected, given my persistent cough and the inability to let loose and run a fast last mile due to the "unforeseen circumstances" during mile six! Also, it was the first time I finished 2nd in my age group in a CARA race which is pretty cool. I think I would have finished 7th in my old age group had the race been held a day earlier!

Next up:
RnR Half? 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Ravenswood Run 2018 Race Recap

After the Shamrock Shuffle I took 21 days straight off from running and lifting. About my only physical fitness was twice daily dog walks and twice weekly yoga. A lot went down in the last month and I suddenly found myself with unlimited free time (hint), however instead of ramping up the mileage and doing more intense training, I decided to use this extra time to sleep more and focus on my diet. I am now able to take daytime naps, which has helped tremendously, and I'm starting to feel normal again. As for my diet, I completely eliminated post-dinner desserts which basically was the only time of the day I would eat sugary things. I did lose a few pounds pretty rapidly - probably just water weight, but the carbs/sugars were making me waterlogged just so I could enjoy a few savory cookies a day. I finally feel rested, healthy, and I got to my racing weight without even running!

Not lugging around excess pounds, more rested and a race looming on the horizon, I decided that it was time to ease back into training last weekend. So, I did three four milers Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, which were rough, but I felt that I had retained at least some of my post-Shuffle fitness. I lifted three times and quickly felt stronger.

By the end of my comeback week it was already time for my annual neighborhood race, the Ravenswood Run 5k. How would I fare? I only had a slight hunch. In any case, I decided just to run by feel (no pace goals, no GPS) and see what happened. I ran it in 18:16 last year, but this year I guessed I was in 19:50 to 20:10 shape since I had hardly run in April.

I woke up at 6:15 a.m. for a one mile shakeout run around Welles Park. It was about 38 degrees, but I wore shorts and a long sleeve shirt just to test out how I would fare in the chilly temps. I felt like I could handle the things if I only wore shorts and singlet since the wind was minimal, so once I got back home I changed into my race gear, pinned my bib on, walked the doggies and then left for the race with my dad and brother at 7:35 for the 8:00 start. All three of us ran/walked over to the start line. By the time we got there there was about 10 minutes remaining until race start. My brother was spectating and my dad and I made our way over to the corrals. The "A" corral entrance was blocked by runners just standing there so I went around to in front of the start line ducked under the fence, then made my way back to the middle of the corral.

Anyway, the national anthem was sung, a prayer was said, and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 1: Since this was a CARA Circuit race, and there were tons of speedier runners present, I started about 10 rows back. Once the gun sounded, just past the start line, I saw a kid had tripped and fallen on his face and I swerved to avoid him, I yelled back at the crowd to watch out and a woman behind me stopped and swooped him up. Maybe the corrals should be more strictly enforced for the safety of the kids. Every kid wants to start the race right up in front, but it's a recipe for disaster if they fall. Anyway, I was running by feel, and I felt astonishingly good, but I was not sure how much residual endurance I had left, so I held back a little. I still passed about 30 runners in this mile. 6:08/mile.

Mile 2: It was odd not to be periodically glancing at my watch to better modulate my pace, but I guess having run a few dozen 5ks in my lifetime must have ingrained the feeling in my lungs and legs of my maximum 5k pace. At the start of mile two I felt like I could finish at the same pace I was at even though I had approximately over two miles to go. I spotted a guy with grey hair who was about 10 yards ahead and running strong. So, I made it my goal to stick with him and then pass him near the finish. We were mostly running into the wind the second mile, which is why I had the three second slowdown from mile 1. 6:11/mile.

Mile 3: Right after passing the two mile marker, we ran into the quaint shopping area of Lincoln Square and I said my goodbye to the now shuttered Chicago Brauhaus. I kept my head down, just focusing on the guy-I-was-gonna-leap-frog's legs turnover. We made the turn onto Damen and ran under the Damen Brown Line stop. 6:07/mile.
Hamming it up under the Damen Brown Line stop (src)


Mile 3.13: I kept thinking about making my move to pass the guy I had been trailing, when suddenly a young guy sped by both of us. I noticed the guy in front of me didn't make a move, so sensing he was redlining, I floored it. In fact, I ran so fast I even sped by the young guy and ran solo to the finish line.

Finish line (src)

I came in with hands held high and I was finished!. 5:24/mile.


Official Finish Time: 19:06
Official Pace: 6:09/mile
Garmin Pace: 6:07/mile

Place Overall: 63rd out of 2,306
Place Age Group: 8th out of 155

AG was tough since this was a CARA circuit run, combined with the fact I was probably the oldest guy in my AG, so 8th isn't that bad. This was my first 5k over 19 minutes in a long time, but I ran to my fitness - so that's the best I could hope for. Since I actually would have been happy with a 19:59, I was smiling pretty large at the end. My splits were 6:08, 6:11 and 6:07, so basically completely even despite the fact that I was running without looking at a device for feedback!

So, taking the three week run/strength break didn't really hurt me too much running-wise. Maybe the weight loss made up for some of the fitness loss? 

Post Race:
I ran backwards through the course (using the sidewalk) and tried to find my dad, but missed him in the masses, so I ran back to meet up with him and my brother at the finish area. We then walked home.

I'm not going to race for another month, but in the interim, I hope to continue to ramp up the mileage and continue workouts. I will be at the very least tied for the youngest person in my new age group next month at the Run For the Animals. The Ravenswood Run was probably my last race in my old AG.

Next Up:
Run For the Animals in June! New AG!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Shamrock Shuffle 2018 Race Recap

I rarely run sub-7 miles in training any more. Since I haven't had a marathon or a PR attempt for over a year and a half, I'm content running whenever I want at whatever pace I want. Often I'll run 20 miles per week and use the extra time to sleep in and get the magical REM hour of sleep when I start to dream. Some weeks, I'll get a stronger dose of the running bug, and forgo an hour of sleep so I can run a few more miles. On those kind of weeks, I could run as many as 50 miles. However, 98% of those miles are completely stress-free - as in they aren't forced "I've gotta run hard and hit my goal paces" kind of runs. Since I now run by feel, my pace could be anywhere between 7:45 and 9:00 minutes per mile. Once or twice a week I might throw in a fast finish and run a 6:59 just for fun.

However, when a race comes around, it really helps to know your fitness level (usually using a recent race time), and then translate that fitness into a realistic goal pace. So, without the benefit of a recent race - the last one I did was the F^3 Half Marathon in January, I would need to take a SWAG at what my fitness level was in the days just before the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. My F^3 time of 1:28:17 translates to a 31:25 8k. So, after some reflection, I figured I was in the same shape as I was for the F^3, but 31:25 just isn't too fun of a number, so I set my goal for a slightly speedier time:


It was a dauntingly low number since it would mean I would need to run five consecutive miles at 6:14 per mile. At first blush it seemed to be an impossible task especially since I hadn't run one single mile near that pace in the last six months. I had to remind myself that those pace tables are pretty spot on - especially when converting from longer to shorter distances. All I would need to do would be to trust my legs, lungs and Greg McMillan!

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and went for a two mile shakeout run around my neighborhood. Temps were hovering around 28 degrees and there was a gusty kind of wind. I made coffee, scarfed down a sausage patty and a banana. After letting the dogs out and getting them back inside, I drove down to the race and got in a 15 minute line of cars to enter my no-longer-a-secret-thanks-to-SpotHero $11 parking garage. Luckily, I was at the race early enough that I wasn't too stressed out sitting in that super slow moving line, but unfortunately I missed the MRC pre-race photo op. Womp! Finally, I got in the garage parked the car and jogged over to Grant Park.

I did not possess a Shamrock VIP pass like last year where the private gear check and porta-potties were within spitting distance of each other. So instead I had to walk a half mile from gear check to use the no-line port-a-potties with the common folk! As I was walking back, I felt a tap on my shoulder and who do you think it was? The guy I used to see before every single race until he moved to Boston two years ago - Lynton! He had flown back to Chicago to run the Shuffle and hang with friends for the weekend.

We were both in a hurry as they were announcing that they were closing the "A" corral in five minutes. So I told him we'd chat in the corral and I made my way over to that area.

Once in the corral, I spotted Annabelle and Violeta in the front of the B corral, we chatted a bit, then I made my way over to the MRC group and saw Xaarlin and company. I then made my way up closer to the start line. The national anthem was sung and I flung my disposable jacket over the fence and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 1: Last year, I ran this mile in 6:14, but my aim this year was to run it in 6:30. I soon spotted Lynton ahead of me so I gradually made my way up so I could run with him. We started chatting about our race goals (his was about 45 seconds slower than mine). We also chatted about marathons. He had PR'd at NYC in November. I also asked him if he was running Boston (he's not). 6:20/Mile

Mile 2:  I continued chatting with Lynton and he reminded me that the final mile down Michigan Avenue would be fully into the wind. I said that we should save a bit of reserves for that moment, but wasn't really practicing what I was preaching since at the State Street bridge I needlessly surged ahead, and lost some precious reserve energy while also losing contact with Lynton! 6:17/Mile

Mile 3: I knew I was going too fast even without looking at my watch, because I could feel my lungs starting to red-line as they hadn't had to handle this fast of a pace for such a long stretch in quite a while. Also it was barely 30 degrees outside, so a cold day for a fast run.  6:10/Mile

Mile 4: I crossed the 5k timing mat at 19:24 which was only 26 seconds slower than my time at the same point last year and 54 seconds slower than during my 8k PR. I typically love to step on the gas at this point in the race and start flying, but, based on how my lungs were feeling, I knew it would be a struggle just to hold pace for the final 1.97. 6:13/Mile.

Mile 4.97: Once I turned the corner to head into the wind on Michigan Avenue, I realized that I would be cutting it very close to get to a sub-31. I tried to play leap frog with the runners ahead of me, but I could not conjure much more speed than would allow me to pass a couple of runners who were fading. Last year it felt effortless to run down Michigan Ave at a 5:42 pace, but this year it was a struggle to hold a 6:20, but being so close to achieving my 30:59 goal kept me focused on running as hard as I could. After cresting Mt. Roosevelt, I dashed down the hill on Columbus Drive hill and was finished!  6:20/Mile.
There are no finish line photos of me from this year,so here I am
running the last 10 meters, last year!

Official Pace: 6:16/mile
Official Time: 31:08
Official Pace: 6:16/mile
Age Group: 12th out of 898
Overall: 448 out of 20,899

Analysis: So close, but no cigar! I was only two seconds per mile too slow to break 31 minutes. This was my fourth fastest 8k ever (out of eight). This race is proof yet again, that I really can run fast by training almost entirely slowly. I also got to contribute to this year's BRC mixed team's 2nd place showing!

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute and turned around to wait for Lynton to finish.  We chatted as we walked then stopped for this pic:

Then it was over to bag check, where I changed into some warmer clothes:

Near bag check
Next I took off to the Buckingham Fountain Beer Garden to meet up with the MRC gang:

MRC and Beer!
Finally it was off to Kaiser Tiger with the MRC to discuss all things running and where Anne made a surprise appearance! I also had a delicious bacon board:

About to devour my
 bacon board
The Future:
I like where I am fitness-wise and generally feel better rested and less burned out than I did at this time last year. As for goals, I'd like to make a strong age group showing on my first official day in the next age group at the Run For the Animals 10k in June. However, before that happens I'll get a tune up at another CARA race - the Ravenswood Run 5k at the end of April!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It was just on Sunday that I played in the snow

On Sunday, I went to Alpine Valley (about 1.5 hours from Chicago) and experienced a picture perfect day for skiing. The temps were in the mid to upper 30s, the sun was shining and there was plenty of snow. Monday, however was a winter weather disaster with rain, slush and temps in the 50s. Luckily, I decided to go on Sunday of this long President's Day weekend and not Monday!

My long and skinny 20+ year old skis look out of place
with the new fangled shaped skis

Outside the ski chalet at the base. Seems like almost everyone else
 wears helmets to ski nowadays.

About to go down the snowboarding obstacle course on skis

Chairlift at AV

More than halfway through my day on the slopes, I turned my Garmin watch on and selected the ski/snowboard tracking option. Here's what my graphs look like:

Who knew Garmin watches tracked your skiing?

Hopefully, the colder forecasted temps by the end of the week mean that the local ski places can make enough snow to get them through to March. There was just an article in the New York Times this week about how all the businesses and towns that rely on snow are feeling the hurt in a major way with these short winters. For now, I try and savor these old Midwest winter ski places, which can hopefully stay around on for a few more years.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Yay Snow!

I finally got to break in my new cross country ski boots today in Horner Park! The soles on the old boots came unglued when I went skiing in -10 degree temps in Lake Geneva.

They were brand new and were so much more comfortable then the old ones.  Anyway, the hill in Horner Park had about 200 sledders and snowboarders on it, even though the average trip length down the hill is about 15 seconds. Of course, I went down on my skis for a little downhill practice!

Hill in Horner Park
I have taken about two weeks off from running (except puppy sprints and the MRC three mile run on Saturday). I haven't even been to the gym once. I'm trying to catch up on my sleep after my F^3 training cycle. Snow throwing, shoveling, skiing and resting are now my new workouts!

Lovin' my new gear!

Monday, January 22, 2018

F^3 Lake Half Marathon 2018 Race Recap

I've run the F^3 Lake Half Marathon twice before (in 2015 and 2016). It's a chance for us Chicago area half marathon fans to break out of our winter training routine and actually run a race in the middle of January. The forecast this year called for unseasonably warm temps with highs in the upper 40s. The pleasant weather is probably the reason why this year's race had almost 2,000 runners.

Goal: My last half marathon was the The Big Easy Half in November, where I ran a 1:32:26. Before that race I had been averaging about 25 miles a week and I planned to remain at that level afterwards. However, without really paying too much attention to my volume, I suddenly found myself running 50 mpw mid-December through January. With that kind of mileage I figured I should be able to run two minutes faster than I did in November, which would mean running a sub-1:30. Since the race would have pace groups, my strategy would be to run with the 1:30 pacers the first few miles, see how I felt and either remain with them, or take off on my own if I felt good.

Getting To the Race: My neighbor Stacey and I drove to Soldier Field garage and sat in a long line of cars to pay to get in the garage. It seemed like some of the bottleneck was caused by people paying with credit cards which took longer to process than cash. My idea for next year's race: $20 cash per car or $25 when paying with credit card. That should speed things up as theoretically more drivers would pay with cash.

Pre-Race:  After getting out of the car, we walked up the stairs and found ourselves in the United Club at Soldier Field. I used the indoor facilities with indoor plumbing. Then I bumped into Sara and we chatted briefly. She told me it was going to be her first half since she had kids! Anyway, I had planned all along to run in long sleeves, but I made a last minute decision to run in shorts and a singlet instead. I stuffed the rest of the clothes I was going to wear in my backpack and checked it at bag check. I briefly said hi to Erin who was working the race. I then headed down the staircase to the starting line. Once in the corral, I spotted Annabelle and Maggie. Annabelle had toured the course that morning and filled me in on the details of where the mud, ice and traffic barriers were.

Leaning over the corral fence
with Annabelle and Maggie (src: MagMileRunner)

The national anthem was sung and we were off!

The Race:
Miles 1 through 3: Temps were right around 40 degrees with sunny skies. In other words it was perfect running for mid to late January. I let the 1:30 group get ahead of me by about 10 meters and figured I reel them in later. Then I decided to move into the middle of the pace group as there was a headwind and I wanted to do some drafting. Once we were out on the southbound leg on the Lakefront Trail, I noticed that Maryhelen from the Mikkeller Running Club was right in front of me. We chatted a bit. 6:49/mile.

Mile 3 on the Lakefront Trail with lake to the right (src)
Miles 4 through 6: Eventually, Maryhelen said that she would drop back a bit, but would keep me in her sights. I told her good luck and continued on. Running with the 1:30 group felt a little slow, so I decided to make a break for it and darted ahead of them. Fortunately, I did this right before we ran through a narrow muddy patch (which got my shoes all muddy) then up and down a "big" hill. It took me a few minutes until I could scrape all of the mud from the bottom of my shoes (by scraping the sole of my shoes on the ground). I don't think that slowed me down too much - it was more of an irritant than a time waster. Anyway, the leaders had already made the turn and were headed back by me going the other direction. With a $500 first prize for both men and women, it's no wonder this race pulled in the speedsters. 6:42/mile.

Miles 7 through 9: After the hairpin turn at mile seven, I decided I would take advantage of the tailwind and speed up. After a mile or so, I began to suspect that the tailwind was now once again a headwind and pulled back a little. 6:36/mile.

Miles 10 through 12: After three miles into the wind and running about two minutes per mile faster than I average in training, I started to feel the start of some cramps in my calf, so I slowed slightly to give my legs a break. 6:42/mile.

Mile 12 on the Lakefront Trail (src)

Miles 13 and 13.20: I was trailing a couple of guys up until the finish, and started to make my move. As I tried to pass one guy he sped up to keep ahead of me. A speedy runner who had started walking told me "you've got him" as I ran by. I made my best effort and we ran stride for stride until the finish! 6:28/mile.

Finished! (src)

Total Time: 1:28:17 
1st Half Split: 44:33, 2nd Half Split: 43:44
Pace: 6:45/mile
Overall: 73/1,997
Age Group: 4/136

Three minutes slower than my course PR, two minutes faster than goal and four minutes faster than my November Half. The conditions were pretty much ideal, and I kept the splits pretty even, so I don't know if I could have run this race any better.

Post Race:
I went inside Soldier Field to pick up my gear.  After collecting my things, I made my way back to the finish area and cheered on the runners and I even got to see Mo finish. I went back into Soldier field and spoke with Mo, Maryhelen, Annabelle and Erin and some of us planned to meetup at Kroll’s, the post-race bar.

Stacey and I headed over to the Kroll’s and used or beer tickets for our a free beer. Maggie showed up and we all got a table where we chatted for awhile.

I'm in a good spot now fitness-wise, but do I ramp up the mileage, maintain as-is or cutback and take a break? I will have a week to think about it as I'm more or less taking this week off.

Next up: Shamrock Shuffle?