Sunday, January 25, 2015

F^3 Lake Half Marathon 2015 Race Recap

This was the second time I've signed up to run the F^3 Lake Half Marathon yet only the first time I've actually run it.  Two years ago, I had paid my money and then made a last minute decision to not run. This year I was injury free, well for the most part.

Goal: Since three out of the four half marathons I ran last year were sub 1:30s, and since I have put in some major miles the last five weeks - I thought that a sub 1:29 was well within reach. However, on Monday night I pinched a nerve between my ribs and then the next morning, I went to the track (for the first time in over a year) for some fast intervals. By Tuesday night, I was finding inhaling deeply to be difficult, but I thought it was due to pinched "rib nerve". Then on Wednesday, I went swimming to loosen the legs, but in the process that exacerbated things with my lungs. Little did I know that I probably was dealing with a little exercise induced asthma. According to the Mayo Clinic exercise induced asthma triggers include:

  • Cold air
  • Dry air
  • Air pollution
  • Chlorine in swimming pools
  • Activities with extended periods of deep breathing, such as long-distance running, swimming 
My lungs were exposed to all of those things in the last few days leading up to the race. But I still thought that my issue was the nerve and that it would feel better by Saturday. So, my lungs were about a 4 out of 10 heading into the race on Saturday. If I had realized this, a couple of puffs off my inhaler would have made them a 6 or better. The inhaler, however, stayed unused. My gut told me that the race would either end up being a disaster or it would be awesome. I did not even consider that there was perhaps a "happy medium" result as well.

Getting To the Race: On Saturday morning, my neighbor Stacey (who later PR'd) and I drove to Soldier Field garage and sat in a long line of cars to get in the garage. Some drivers were driving around the line and then cutting in near the front. Nice. I guess they were more important than us.

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 stood around for awhile and spotted Emily and said "hi". As we were being called down to the start line, I had to decide what to wear (the temps were in the mid 30s and creeping upwards) and decided to leave my running pants and jacket in my backpack, but take my big warm mittens and not my running gloves (this turned out to be a mistake).
Pre Race in the United Club at Soldier Field
Then I checked my bag and headed to the starting line. On my way down the stairs I bumped into Lynton (who else?) . I have seen him at every race I've run in Chicago since at least April!

Miles 1 through 3: Temps were much warmer than expected for this time of year, I was wearing shorts, but I had three layers of shirts on plus a hat and warm mittens. I soon realized that I had over-dressed. After a one mile loop around Soldier Field, we headed by McCormick Place. I passed Xaarlin who took some pics of me getting ready to high-five. 
About to hi-five Xaarlin at mile 2 (notice big mittens)
My breathing was okay, but I was pushing the pace too much as I usually try to cover the first 3 miles of most half marathons in 7:00/mile pace. I was, unfortunately running much faster.  6:46/mile.

Miles 4 through 6: The course heads straight down along the relatively desolate portion of Lakefront Trail. I was starting to overheat, so I removed my mittens and from that point forward, I had to carry them with my bare hands the rest of the race. There seemed to be a slight headwind, which made me hopeful that at the turnaround at mile seven we would have a slight tailwind. My breathing was getting a bit harder at this point and I probably should have backed off my pace, but I rolled the dice in order to see if I couldn't hold a sub 6:50 for the rest of the race. 6:46/mile.

Miles 7 through 9:  At the hairpin turn at mile seven I was greeted with a stronger headwind as we headed north and I knew right then it was going to be a positive split for me.  I chatted with a guy from Switzerland and told him I wasn't feeling it. He soon dropped behind me, which made me think that I wasn't the only one having issues. However, he must have just had to take a slight break because a few minutes later he zoomed past me. By mile nine, my lungs were prematurely starting to beg for mercy and I got passed by about a dozen runners. I can't tell you how much I'd rather be the one doing the passing at this stage. I realized that it wasn't my day lung-wise and I would try and slow even further until my breathing would get more comfortable. I saw Kelly, Emily, Erica, Lauren and Lynton coming the other direction. 7:00/mile.

Miles 10 through 12: The course was quiet and I only got passed by a handful of runners as I slowed down to help my lungs "reset". I even stopped to walk at an aid station while I got some Gatorade. I was still clutching my mittens which I wanted to ditch somewhere in the lake. Anyway, the walk did me some good and helped me breathe a little easier. 7:28/mile.

Miles 13 and 13.22: I was actually staging a mini-comeback! I passed a couple of the runners that had passed me over the last few miles. It wasn't much, but I was able to at least salvage what could have been a disaster into something somewhat respectable. 6:57/mile.

I crossed the finish line and got my medal about 2 feet later!


Total Finishing Time: 1:32:08 
Pace: 7:02/mile
Overall: 76/1,866
Age Group: 7/132

Well, I can either dwell on what could have been if I had had decent lungs for the race, but I'd rather dwell on the fact that I was able to retake control of the race over the final two miles. Some races all the pieces don't fall into place, so you have to look at the few positive things that happened. Pacing was an issue, and I probably could have broken 1:30, but it would have only happened with perfect pacing. The final outcome was neither a complete disaster nor completely awesome. I'm calling it a "happy medium"!

Post Race:
I picked up my gear, had the free Goose Island can and chatted briefly with Lynton, Kelly, Erica and Emily.

Hopefully I can take care of lung-related issues prior to my next race. Since this is an isolated race in the middle of the winter, I can use it as a learning experience for my next race, whichever one that is!

Next Up: Not sure. TBD.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2015 S-No-W Fun 5 Miler Race Recap and Video

Race Highlights:
* Ran a course PR of 34:06
* Coldest race (0º windchill) I've ever run
* Finished 3rd in my age group (however, these are ONE year age groups)
* Best race after-party ever

I stayed at the Grand Geneva resort and spa in Wisconsin (where the race was held) and the patio off of my room was approximately 5 feet from the course. I had planned on just "training through" this race (i.e. no taper), so my legs would not be fresh going into it. The day before the race (Friday), I ran twice for 10 miles total (three miles outside, seven miles on the treadmill in the spa). Then the morning of the race (Saturday), I ran a 3 mile shakeout run on the course. My legs were pretty tired by early Saturday afternoon, so I decided that right before the race I would go back to the spa and swim some laps for about 45 minutes to loosen them up a bit. At about 2:00 pm I got out of the pool, took a shower, got dressed, pinned my bib on and ran over to the start line for the 2:30 pm start.
Race morning shakeout run on the 5 Mile "Snow Fun" course
The Race:
The race temp was 14º  with a windchill of zero. Considering that the day before the race the windchill was -20º, it actually didn't feel too cold. My legs were tight from all of the running I had done over the previous two days, so I was just targeting about 7:00/miles, when normally I would try for something like 6:20/mile. I knew the footing would also be a problem, since the course was 90% unsalted, snowy roads.

Runners chilled beer on their patios
The course was out-and-back and the wind was to our backs on the way out, so I knew I needed to save a little in the tank for the return trip. It was hard to pass other runners as the only non-slippery (i.e. icy) part of the course were the two narrow "tire tracks" in the middle of the road which is where most runners hung out. Maybe if I were to do it again, I would start further up in the start corral, so I would not have had to spend so much time slipping and sliding in order to pass.

Anyway, the return trip was much harsher than the outbound trip as the wind was gusting in our faces. I heard one guy curse out loud at how he disliked the course, but his breathing was pretty heavy at mile three, so it was probably more appropriate for him to curse his too fast of a start. During the last mile there is a hill with (according to my Garmin) a 90 foot incline. I was able to pass a few people on the hill and then sprint down the other side of the hill to the finish area.

The downhill portion near the finish line
I turned the corner at the bottom of the hill, passed a couple more runners just before the finish line and I was done! 

Finish Time: 34:06
Course PR (out of 2 races)
Splits: 6:54, 6:56, 6:55, 6:50, 6:35. Average Pace: 6:49
One year AG: 3rd out of 12 (top 25%)
Overall: 42nd out of 657 (top 6%)

Yes, my one year age group was competitive!

Post Race:
I walked the 100 yards from the finish line back over to my hotel patio to watch the finish of the race. The guy who was standing on the balcony above me was throwing cans beers down to runners wearing Bears jerseys. I also saw a bachelorette party run by and they were taking turns drinking out of a flask!
Standing on my patio, watchin' the race
I also saw Darth Vader run by, although sadly, he was not offered a beer:
Sad Darth Vader without beer running the "Snow Fun Run"
I also shot a video:

I started to get the chills, so I went inside and took a hot shower before I made my way to the post-race festivities. In the festival hall, there was the traditional table of schnapps which had several delicious varieties. Then it was on to the buffet table to stuff my face with Wisconsin brats, burgers and serve-yourself craft beer. I saw a few of Mo's friends from last year's race and I said "hi". Then I went over to the awards table in order claim what I thought would be my age group medal since the age groups were one year as opposed to the traditional five year. However, I had actually come in third place and the woman behind the table informed me that there was no medal for third place. I hung my head in shame and slowly, sulked away. My spirits were soon brightened, however, when I was able to view the legendary "Sausage Dance" relatively close to the stage. The dance was quite interesting, but it was sorely missing Sausage Queen Erin and her dance moves. I also witnessed the "Hunk of Cheese" dance and drank a couple of beers. There was lots of revelry and the festivities went late into the evening until everyone moved the party to the pool and/or the nightclub at the resort.

This is one of those events that keeps people coming back year after year. It's basically a 40 minute race in the snow followed by and eight hour post-race party indoors. In any case, it's a great way to spend a wintry afternoon and evening!

Next Up: F^3 Half Marathon

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A New Year, A New Weekly PDR (in just six days)

I had this week off of work. So, what better thing was there to do than to attempt a weekly PDR?

Weekly PDRs are difficult to attain during work weeks when putting in lots of miles means early wake-ups, running a bunch of miles, working all day, then squeezing in a few more in the evening. However, being able to sleep in, then wake up and run relaxed paces without any deadlines makes loading up on miles easier and more enjoyable.

Anyway, my previous weekly PDR was just over 83 miles which I attained over seven days of marathon training last September. This is how this week's PDR broke down:

Sunday 12/28 Morning: 16 miles along the Lakefront Trail
Sunday 12/28 Afternoon: 4 mile recovery

On Sunday I ran 20 miles total
Monday 12/29 Morning: 10 miles along the Northshore Channel Trail
10 miles on Monday through Sculpture Park
Tuesday 12/30 Morning: 12.4 miles along the Lakefront Trail
12.4 on Tuesday
Wednesday 12/31 Early Morning: 8.0 miles to Wrigley Field
Wednesday 12/31 Late Morning: 5.0 mile recovery run to McDonald's
Wednesday 12/31 Evening: 2.3 mile recovery run (breaking in new shoes)
Wrigley as backdrop to 13 on New Year's Eve
Thursday 1/1 Morning: 16 miles along the Lakefront Trail to Navy Pier
Happy New Year! 16 miles
Friday 1/2 Morning: 10 miles along the Lakefront Trail
Friday 1/2 Afternoon: 2.6 mile recovery (breaking in another pair of shoes)
The geese and me on Friday for 12.6
Saturday 1/3: Rest

Weekly Total: 86.5 miles (previous PDR 83.2)

I could have actually squeezed in a few more miles today, but not wanting to be greedy (and not wanting to overdo it), I took the day off completely.

So how did I feel during the last few miles? Fantastic. In fact the last mile of my 10 miler Friday morning was run at 6:33/mile. I think if I am reasonable by not punishing my legs too much, and at the same time I build endurance, the whole running package comes together quite nicely.

I have a "bucket list" goal to run a 100 mile week, and I hope to get there someday - maybe even this year. However, it won't be anytime too soon. It's back to work next week, then I head up for the S-No-W Fun 5 mile race in Wisconsin. If there is enough snow, I'll do some cross country skiing there in addition to running. I also signed up for the F^3 Half Marathon in late January, and I will need to work a little on speed before that one. I'm not sure when I'll set another weekly PDR, but I'm looking forward to it, whenever it happens!