Monday, December 31, 2012

My 2012 Running Lowlights

Not everything that happened to me running-wise in 2012 was a highlight. I did not make the leader board every time I raced! In fact, I had my share of running struggles and hardships. The trying times really made me appreciate the few times when things all seemed to click. So, with that in mind, here are my bottom five running 2012 lowlights, ranked in order from mild to major:

5) Rock and Roll Half Marathon Chicago (July)
I love this course, but it was hot. I wore a wool technical shirt for the first time in my life, which got soaked within the first two miles. I started too fast and paid for it with a painful, fatiguing final 3.1 miles. This was my worst half marathon result since, well, March!
RnR Chicago 2013. Sweaty hot.
4) Dennis Krzykowski 5k (July)
I like this race, it's hilly, it's in Wisconsin and I usually do well. This time I didn't. It was hot. My worst 5k finishing time in over three years.
This finish line pic really says it all..
3) North Shore Cupid's Dash 10k (February)
It was the second year in a row that the race organizers got the course distance wrong. This year it was 6.1 miles, last year it was 5.6 miles. The 5k runners actually ran 3.6 miles. Lots of unhappy campers. Also, I had cleaned my camera before the race and it was taking purple pictures. I had to buy a new one after this.
I just ran a short 10k, and I'm purple!
2) March Madness Half (March)
Yeah, everyone said this would be hilly. But come on, 75 degrees + lots o' hills in mid-March makes it feel like a 95 degree day. I wanted snow for this race, not heatstroke! Started the first half too fast and had difficulty breathing the second half. I also parked in a place where I had to wait until the entire race was over before I could leave! Worst half marathon finishing time in three years despite being near the end of my Boston Marathon training.
Hot and waiting to move my car after the race...
Drumroll please....and now, my lowliest lowlight of 2012, goes to...
1) Boston Marathon (April)
After 16 weeks of training, I flew to Boston just to hear that it would be 90 degrees for this puppy.  I hadn't yet completely recovered from a bad cold, and I had an ankle that could probably only make it 5 miles. I picked up my bib, but did not start and took the deferral. I rested about 4 weeks thereafter, missed two races and lost most of my fitness. Looking forward to next year's installment to be my #1 highlight of 2013. :-)
My spectator's view of the Boston finish line
Honorable Mention: I signed up for (and paid) but did not start: Indy Mini Marathon (May) and the Soldier Field 10 Miler (May). See #1 above.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunny River Run

Catchin' Some Rays along the river..
Yesterday was a lakefront run in the snow, today was a run on the Chicago River North Branch Trail.  Temps were 17 degrees, and I loved every minute of it!  Only saw three other runners for the whole 7 mile section. Said "hi" to each one.

Sculpture Park #1

Sculpture Park #2


Icy Trail

Train approaching the Western Brown Line Stop

9 Miles Total

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Runnin' in the Snow

Nice and easy medium length run to and from the lakefront. We had a dusting of freshly fallen snow. I'm back from muggy Florida and I am like a kid in a candy store here in Chicago. It doesn't get much better than this for running weather!

Yay, snow!
Ice plant by the lake
Wish I'd brought my x-country skis to the lake!
Another Icy plant

Irving Park Brown Line "L" Stop

Cafe 28 Sign
Classic Movie Posters by the "L"#2

Classic Movie Posters by the "L" #1
Ravenswood Building

Classic 1950's Chop Suey Joint "Orange Garden"

The neighborhood Bierstube

7.5 miles total.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boston Marathon Track Workout #2

I had to move up my weekly Boston Marathon track workout to today, as I am unable to do a track workout on Thursday. I wasn't sure how my legs would react to running fast so soon after my race on Saturday. Anyway, this was my first real Hansons Brooks "speed" workout where the goal is to do a total of three miles of 10k paced intervals with no single interval more than 1600 meters. Today, I decided to do the minimum number of intervals to get to the three miles, which was:
 3 x 1600 @ 6:20/mile pace (with 400m recoveries).

Mid workout at the track
So with that goal in mind, I hit the track and did this:

2 mile warm-up
1600m @ 6:22/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:12/mile pace (400m recovery)
1600m @ 6:08/mile pace
2 mile cool-down

Track workouts seem like an uphill climb for the first few laps...

you start chugging along, fighting to get your speed up...

and as they progress, you get faster...

 then they don't seem so bad as you start to fly around the track...

and soon enough they're over, and you're on your way home!
Analysis: Mission accomplished. My legs responded admirably at the track despite having run a 10k on Saturday. My goal was to run all three intervals at 6:20/mile and I actually averaged 6:14/mile. I felt like I could run another mile or two at the end when normally I am pretty fatigued. Maybe I'm getting stronger? Maybe a Tuesday track session suits me better than a Thursday session? Maybe I had a breakthrough at the 10k on Saturday? In any case, I'll see if I can keep this fitness level up. I will run at least a couple of miles tonight in order stretch out my legs and get some extra mileage.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jingle Bell Run 10k Chicago: Race Recap

I signed up for the Jingle Bell 10k using what turned out to be the last race deal before schwaggle went out of business. The entry was $22 instead of the standard $45. Even though the entire course is entirely on the Lakefront Trail, I thought it was reasonable enough for a whole 10k this late in the year.

Race Strategy:
Since the race was being held in the middle of December and during my marathon training (i.e. no taper), I decided that I should not expect a wicked fast finish time. I did, however, want to break 40 minutes. Breaking 40 is something I have only done twice before, and I should be in sub-40 shape at the moment. Another reason to not expect a fast time: Looking at the weather the night before, I noticed that it would be raining and that the winds would be blowing out of the south at 20 mph at race time.

Pre-Race in front of the Nature Museum
The race was held in front of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park.  The parking lot at the Lincoln Park Zoo race was charging $20/car, which would have nearly equaled my entry fee, so I parked about one mile away near Lincoln and Belden. So, after a mile walk by the Lincoln Park row houses, I checked my gear inside the museum and used the porta-potty. I had just enough time to slip into the corral about 30 rows back for the starting gun.

And we were off!

Mile 1: This was a 5k and 10k combined start so everyone sprinted out too fast, including me. I tried to reel myself in, but I noticed that I was running effortlessly. Then I remembered that there was a 20 mph wind coming from the south and we were heading north!  6:23/mile

Mile 2: This pace was so easy with the tailwind. I knew that I might regret running this fast once we turned around and headed back south. We lost the 5k runners and it was just me running stride for stride along a fast female runner. 6:14/mile

Mile 3: We looped around Cricket Hill, home of the place I should be doing some Boston hill training someday in the near future. I started to pull away ever so slightly from the fast female runner. I thought to myself "What place am I in?  Am I winning this thing?" I spotted some runners way ahead, but they may have just be running the trail for fun. We approached an aid station and I got a sip of Gatorade. Fastest mile of the day 6:09/mile.

Mile 4: I completed the turnaround and started heading back home. The 20 mph tailwind became a 20 mph headwind and my lungs really felt it. I had run on this part of the Lakefront Trail a hundred times before with these type of headwinds, just not in a race situation. So, at this point I realized that I would have to back off of my blistering pace or else I would fade dramatically in the final mile. I passed by the runners still heading north. They weren't cheering for me, so I could safely assume the 10k leaders have gone by and I was not one of them! 6:18/mile

Mile 5: My lungs were maxed out as I passed by the 5k turn around, a mile and a half from the finish line. Due to the many many 5k walkers, I had to run through the puddles of water on the gravel "shoulder" of the paved trail. At certain points I even had to run on the grass because the trail was overflowing with 5k walkers. I don't like these combo 5k/10ks for this reason. I really was feeling the "push-back" of the headwind.  6:31/mile

Mile 6: The trail was bursting with 5k walkers and I had to shout so walkers would know I was approaching, although it did not make a bit of difference. Not one walker moved out of the way! Shouting just ended up using up more of my already maxed out lung capacity! I had to narrowly avoid running over a homeless man sleeping under a bridge that goes under LSD.  6:36/mile
Hairpin Turn

Mile 6.2: As I neared the end of 6.2 on my Garmin, I still couldn't see the finish line. I shouted at a volunteer, "Which way? Which way?" and they told me to turnaround! Yes, the finish line was about 100 yards after a hairpin turn around! Not the best way to finish, but at least I got 100 yards of tailwind! 6:03/mile

Race Summary:
  • Total Time: 39:58
  • Overall Place: 5th out of 143*
  • Age Group Place: 1st out of 11

*Since I was 5th, I made the leaderboard on!

Post  Race:
Post race at the finish line
After the race, I caught my breath for a couple of minutes then grabbed a banana, drank some pomegranate hot tea, and took a video of some of the finishers:

I was ready to go home at 9:45am. However, the race emcee mentioned that the medals were to be given out at 10am. So I decided to wait. However, I did not actually get my medal until almost 11am. They had a delay in getting the results, held a costume contest, a raffle, the 5k awards then another 5 minute wait, then finally the 10k awards. There were only a few of us 10k medal winners waiting around to the bitter end. I should have just gone home when I finished the race like most of the others and saved an hour and 15 minutes!

Race Takeaway: Only 3rd time in my life to go sub-40 for a 10k! However, I need to remember to pull back even more in the first half of the race if there will be a headwind on the 2nd half. Also, this reminds me again that I don't like races where the last 1.5 miles is weaving through walkers!

Next up:
F^3 Lake Half Marathon in January. Some of the same trail sections I ran today will be used for that one.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My First Speed Workout

The Brooks Hanson Marathon Training Plan calls for speed workouts in the first nine weeks of the 18 week plan. The workouts consist of a total of three miles of speed intervals at 10k pace. Today was supposed to be my first such speed workout of this training cycle. However, I am running an actual 10k on Saturday, so I will be getting more than enough 10k pace running in just two days from now. So, I needed to modify my first track workout!

Mid-workout at the North Park University Track this morning
So, since you are supposed to focus on speed (not distance) in the week before a race, I thought I would run less total distance, but faster. So I decided to do:
  • 2 mile warmup
  • 1200m fast, 400m jog
  • 800m fast, 400m jog
  • 400m at all out pace, 400m jog
  • 400m run at exactly 10k pace (to get used to what I will be doing on Sun)
  • 2 mile cool down
I think the intensity of the workout was just about right, although I am sore right now. I only have 48 hours to recover, so I may be feeling the workout by mile four on Saturday! Next week, I will start the actual speed work called for in the training plan, but I'm sure the Hanson brothers would approve if I did 6.2 miles at 10k pace instead of their recommended 3 mile 10k pace track workout!

A view from my cool down run along the Chicago River
Another view from my cool down
I will run tomorrow, rather than take the day before the race off, because I am participating Kim's December running streak.  So, how is my streak going?

December 2nd: 2.3 miles, 3rd: 4.1 miles, 4th: 8.0 miles, 5th: 8.0 miles, 6th: 9.8 miles, 7th: 5.3 miles, 8th: 2.4 miles, 9th: 10.3 miles, 10th: 2.0 miles, 11th: 8.8 miles, 12th: 6.2 miles, 13th: 6.5 miles.

Anyone else doing the December streak?

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Got What I Wanted

On Saturday, I mentioned that I wanted a few weeks of cold and strong winds this winter for my marathon training. 

So, I went for a run by the lake yesterday morning.
Waves crashing
Who knew that on my first run of my 18 week training cycle, I would almost get my wish?

Runners avoiding the waves on the paved trail at Fullerton Ave. Beach

I "almost" got my wish because it was only 40 degrees (not too cold), but it was wet and windy.

Heading South on the Trail
However, it felt more like 30 degrees.
Entrance to Diversey Harbor
 Nevertheless, it was an excellent workout and it was nice to knock out my first run, get home and get dried off! 

One down 100+ more to go! Total Run: 10.25 miles @ 7:56/mile

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Boston Marathon Training Starts Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I start my 18-week training cycle for the Boston Marathon in April. I took last week off from running and I am now feeling 95% healthy. After running 40 easy miles this week, I feel completely refreshed. I am ready to tackle whatever plan I come up with. As I make last minute adjustments to my training calendar I am left to wonder:

  • Is my goal of a sub 3-hour marathon too aggressive? Should I just run Boston to say I ran Boston, enjoy the experience and not risk an injury which will sideline me?
  • Which workout on the calendar (if any) could be my undoing (i.e. I push too hard and have to sit out for a few days/weeks)?
  • Am I planning on running too many miles each week or not enough?
  • Will I really be able to run the three tempo runs in weeks 15, 16 and 17 (my peak mileage weeks) which call for 10 miles a piece at marathon pace (6:52/mile)? 
  • Will I really be disciplined enough with my sleep and eating habits to accomplish my goal?
That said, I am super excited to get started. I am hoping for lots of cold and windy workouts which will make me stronger and more battle hardened.

Winter by the Lake (Jan, 2012)
I want the workouts to be just tough enough that I won't fear a 6:52/mile x 26.2 pace and not too tough that I won't be able to recover for the next workout.

 But for a few weeks this winter, I really want it cold, and I want to run against strong winds whipping off of the lake. 

A training wish for a few weeks of this type of weather.
These are the kind of winds which gust in your face and make you fight for every step. Sometimes it's an absolute struggle to run 10 minute miles. Those type of training conditions gave me my half marathon p.r. in May 2010 and my marathon p.r. in March 2011. They will hopefully bring me a new marathon p.r. in April 2013.

Despite all of those lingering training questions, as of tomorrow morning, I will throw my full confidence behind whatever plan I have in place. Then I'll put my winter gear on, lace up my Mizunos, start running, and I don't plan on slowing down until April 15th! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Different World: Taking A Week Off From Running

I run practically every day. The only time I take a day off is during a day or two taper before a race. This week, I am taking an entire week off from running  and it is quite a lifestyle change. I liken withdrawing from running as waking up in completely different world. Everything seems different. Maybe it has to do with slowly diminishing amounts endorphins, adreneline, strength or endurance. Or maybe it is because my high-energy outlet is shut off. But the world seems different and I can't exactly put my finger on it.

Anyway, I took the week off because:

  1. I started feeling tightness in my right tibialis anterior (the outside of the shin). No real pain, but long runs were starting to be uncomfortable. Probably happened because I was increasing speed and mileage at the same time. A big no-no! Anyway, better to not aggravate it for no good reason.
  2. My 18-week Boston Marathon training plan starts next week and I'd like to be at least 90% healthy going into training.
  3. I need a break, and what better time than BEFORE I am going full-throttle in an 18-week training cycle!

To better put my finger on why the world seems different, I have compiled a list of things that I have observed about myself since I stopped running four days ago:
  1. Phantom Pains - these are the pains usually associated with tapering. I stopped running because my right leg had some soreness, and now my left leg seems to have joined the soreness party for no apparent reason. Ouch! What's that? My ankle is now sore....
  2. Diet - I eat worse and am hungrier. Another three cookies for dessert? Who cares? I'm not training for anything! For some reason, I seem to be hungrier now than when I am running. This is also seems to be a classic taper syndrome.
  3. Sleepy - I can now sleep 8+ hours easily, where when I am training, I am lucky if I can sleep for 6 to 7 hours.
  4. No Goals - I no longer pore over my upcoming marathon training, which I would plan out and tweak over-and-over. It has been completely ignored. I could be doing light cross-training, yet I haven't even been to the pool at all this week. I usually go once or twice.
  5. Reading - Only a few days ago, I would frequently read running articles on Runners World, check out race-time equivalents for my fitness-level, and read about marathon training. Now, I don't want to read about running or training. If I can't do it, I don't want to read about it!
Anyway, all of these things will pass soon enough. The world and I will be likely back to normal when I set out running again next week*!  Hopefully I won't have an extended period off from running for another 19 weeks!

Do you feel like the world becomes a slightly a different place when you don't run for an extended period of time? What are some of the things you observe about yourself when you stop running?

* If you see me on the trail this weekend, I guess I couldn't wait a whole week!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Instagram-free Lakefront Run

This morning, I completed my longest run since 10/7/2012. It was perfect training weather: Sunny, 35 degrees and a slight wind. The cold wind makes the workout a tad more challenging, but you don't feel that "heat stroke" type nausea that happens often during a long hot run in the summer. With the extra layers of clothing, I don't tend to over-speed, which is easier on my legs and that's the point of a true "long, slow, distance" run.

Anyway, I took some pictures on my run.

The Orb by the lake

#1 in my "Man Encounters Orb" Series entitled "Man Examines Orb"

#2 in my "Man Encounters Orb" Series entitled "Man Approaches Orb"

#3 in my "Man Encounters Orb" Series entitled "Man Touches Orb!"

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel with Runners

Near the half way point around Oak Street Beach
Believe it or not, all of these pictures are unfiltered/unaltered pics of the Lakefront Trail this morning.
Total: 13.1 Miles @ 7:51/mile. A Dunkin' Donuts bagel sandwich was my reward after the run!