Friday, June 9, 2017

Grim Mile 2017 Race Recap

Racing a mile on a track is a blast. Fortunately, for the past three years I've had the opportunity to run such a race at the annual Grim Mile. Unfortunately, Luther North High School where it is held is closing. Therefore, this year's edition (held on Sunday), would be the last one - forever. In fact the t-shirts they gave out had the words "The Final Grim Mile" emblazoned on them.

This was an evening race, and the first age group heat started around 5:00 pm. The 40-49 year- old division wouldn't get started until 6:15 pm, so after an afternoon shopping trip to Menard's and then stopping off at Wendy's for a Frosty, I changed into my running clothes. Then it was a 4 mile drive over to Luther North High School to register for the race about 30 minutes before my heat started.

Waiting in the extreme heat for my heat to start!
Unlike last year's sparsely attended race, the grounds were packed with people. Lots of alumni came out to pay tribute to their soon-to-be-closing high school and to bask in the class reunion vibe. They had a grill going with free food and lots of family-friendly games on field inside the track. The track itself was old school, pre-metric, so each lap was a quarter mile, instead of the standard 400m, which meant that we had only to do exactly four laps.

My legs were tired as I had just run the Run For the Animals 10k the day before, and it was 91 degrees as race time approached, so I opted to do just a slow quarter mile warm-up. This race would not be about running a PR or even close to it, just simply to have fun and to bask in the glory of what might be my last track mile for a long time.

As for pacing, I actually had no plan due to my still-recovering legs and the heat. I was just going to run by feel.

About 12 of us gathered at the line. The gun sounded and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 0.25:  I was on the inside lane and a guy in racing flats bolted out ahead of me. After about 200m he slowed considerable to what was about a 6:00/mile pace. I foolishly bolted by him at a blistering pace since I thought I should easily be running a 5:30 pace at that point. 1:19 (5:15/mile pace).

Still in first place after one lap.

Having to swerve as spectators made their way across the track!
Mile 0.50: Near the beginning of this lap some spectators who were on the field decided to cut across the track directly in front of me. After swerving to the outside to avoid a crash, I got quickly back to the inside lane. Anyway, about halfway into this lap, I realized that maybe I'd fallen into a classic race "trap" during the first lap. By slowing down, the guy I passed had tempted me to do an early surge (which wasted energy) and he had also gotten me to unwittingly lead the race! I knew he was drafting off of me, since I could hear his footsteps behind me. I soon realized that the leg fatigue from the 10k the day before was not going to let me sustain the pace I set out at, so I backed off a little and then the guy behind me shot by me like a bullet. I had nothing in the tank to respond with. 1:21 (5:24/mile pace).

Mile 0.75: I had a feeling I was safely in 2nd place but it's a helpless feeling when racing on a track and you can constantly see the runner ahead pulling away from you after every turn and not being able to respond. 1:22 (5:33/mile pace).
Now in 2nd place
Mile 1.0: I tried pouring on whatever I had left. Another frustrating feeling is seeing the lead runner finish to cheers and then trying to motivate yourself when you still have 50 meters to go! Last year I ran this lap in 1:12! This time I was crawling in comparison. 1:20 (5:32/mile).

Official Finish Time: 5:22
Official Pace: 5:22/mile
Garmin Pace: 5:22/mile
1/2 mile splits: 2:40 and 2:42

Place Overall: 2nd out of 12

I ran by feel and ran pretty even splits, so that's something to be proud of. Otherwise, it was the first time in my life I've run back-to-back races so I just didn't have the turnover or the energy to even come close to my 5:08 PR set last year. In any case, I ran the race for fun and I had fun!

Post Race:
A guy in a white shirt (as seen in the pic above) handed me my 2nd place medal right after I crossed the finish line. I talked to the winner briefly. He finished in 5:02, so I would've had to PR by a ton to have even come close to beating him. Anyway, I spoke with a nice Polish woman who was there with her teenage son who was running the elite race. She congratulated me on a fast race and said that when she was younger she had run a PR of 16:09 in the 5k! We chatted for awhile, then I went over and watched the next heat and ate a free sausage from the concession stand. Before I left, I said my goodbyes to the track and to Luther North High School - saddened that this great race won't happen again.

Next Up:
Maybe the Chicago Rock n' Roll Half next month.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Run For the Animals 2017 Race Recap

As I mentioned in my previous post - I was uncertain how I would fare at this year's edition of the Run For the Animals 10k. I had put in about 33% less miles going into the race than I had last year, but I was optimistic that I had retained my fitness from the Shamrock Shuffle in April. If this was the case then a 37:59 10k was in my sights if the weather was favorable.

After a 5 a.m. shakeout run of two miles in the city, 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 I bumped into Zoe and we said hi for a moment. After reaching the start area, I again spotted Zoe lined up about 10 rows back. She was running the 5k and she also mentioned that she was going to run the Pike's Peak Half later in the summer. After a lovely chat the national anthem was sung. I could feel the sun beating down on us as we listened to the anthem. This race traditionally has pretty warm weather and Saturday was no exception. I went over my pacing strategy in my head:

Miles 1 through 3: 6:20, 6:10, 6:05
Miles 2 through 6.2: 6:00, 6:00, 6:00, 6:00

Running those paces would get me right about to a 37:59. I felt this was realistic especially since I ran 5 miles at the Shamrock Shuffle at just around 6:00 mile.

After the anthem, 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 I began to feel a little off. 6:13/mile.

Start of the Run for the Animals. I'm in the neon hat and shirt.
Mile 2: I waited for things to feel better, but I began having the feeling that this was not going to be my day. I shouldn't have felt like I was forcing things this early, but I was. It's not that my legs were leaden, but I just didn't feel 100%. Maybe it was the heat, but it actually hadn't gotten too hot out at that point. So, despite not knowing the exact reason I couldn't get going properly, I sadly had to admit to myself that I needed to back off lest I crash and burn during the second half. My goal finish time would be out the window and my new plan would be to find a new, slower maximum pace that I could finish the race at. 6:10/mile.

Mile 3: I started to gradually slow down and right after the mile 2 marker, a guy running next to me said, "one more mile!" to which I replied, "four more miles"! We both had a laugh and then soon parted ways as he headed for the 5k finish line and I continued on the 10k course. 6:16/mile.

Mile 4: I realized that the only person left on the 10k course that I could see was a guy about 30 seconds ahead of me who appeared to be in my age group (spoiler alert: He was). 6:20/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 guy ahead of me to about 20 seconds, but things were a struggle. I even slowed way down during a water stop to try and reset myself, which seemed to help a little and I started up at a slightly faster pace. 6:17/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 guy in front of me. 6:28/mile.

Mile 6.2: For the last two tenths, the road finally flattened and I used every ounce of my dwindled reserves to try and catch the guy ahead of me since he was likely in my age group. He sped up as well and I had nothing to respond with. Soon enough, I saw him hit the finish line 8 seconds ahead of me. 5:32/mile.
Finish line from 2016!
Race Summary: 
  • Official Time: 38:48 Official pace: 6:16/mile
  • Overall Place: 16th out of 484
  • Age Place: 3rd out of 25 
  • Third fastest 10k ever (out of 24 races)
I was completed gassed and stumbled over to a tree and layed down on my back in the grass to catch my breath. I hadn't felt this winded after a race in a couple of years. It really was a monumental effort just to hold the slower pace I had relegated myself to during mile 2.

My sister and her kids came over and congratulated me (and asked me if I was okay) since I probably looked pretty wiped out laying on the ground and all!

Soon enough, my dad made his way over from the 5k finish line and we went over to the kids race to watch my niece compete in the half miler. After her strong finish, we went to the after party where I got my free Sam Adams. I took a couple of refreshing sips and checked the posted results on the big leaderboard. Two younger guys also looking at the results noticed that eyes were scanning near the top of the leaderboard. They then started peppering me with questions about how I got so fast! Talk about a boost for my morale! I guess that put things in perspective: I had what I considered a disappointing day, yet guys 10 years younger than me were astonished at my pace. I guess I might be too hard on myself this year since I had such a stellar year of training last year and subconsciously think that I should be near that level this year. I still had a good race. Not everyday goes as planned I can't really have similar expectations like last year. I'm not doing huge mileage volumes now, so I can't expect to feel the same way I did when I was.

Anyway, we all headed over to breakfast at a nearby diner. After breakfast, my dad walked back to the awards ceremony and got both of our medals. My dad got 2nd place in his AG!

Race Takeaway:
It was a tough and disappointing race since I finished almost a minute slower than goal and almost two minutes slower than the PR I set there last year. It also sapped a lot of energy out of me early on, and I was riding the struggle bus most of the race. It was just one of those days when things didn't click and I had to gut it out. Perhaps I am a handful of miles per week short of a breakthrough, or maybe it would be best to just maintain my mileage and see if a base of more weeks at the same mileage will pay off better in the long run? In any case, this is a recovery week so I'm going to do low miles and some swimming!

 BTW, next year the race will be on my birthday and I will be the youngest runner in my new AG!

Next up:
Grim Mile on 6/4!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Run for the Animals 10k Pre-race Thoughts

Last year's edition of the Run for the Animals 10k was a huge PR for me. With a 36:49, I knocked off over a minute and 25 seconds from my previous best. In the 20 weeks prior to that race, I was averaging over 60 miles per week. Leading up to this year's edition of the race my training has been a little different - only 41 miles per week.
Finishing the 2016 Run for the Animals
However, one thing I've done differently in training this year is to mix in three swims per week in addition to those 41 miles. At the very least, swimming has kept my legs looser as floating and kicking is therapeutic - allowing my joints to heal while at the same time increasing my aerobic base. I'm hoping that 3x per week swimming is worth five miles per week of running. Another thing working in my favor is that I've been dialing in my LCHF diet and have lost about five pounds over the last month. This puts me only two pounds over my ideal "racing weight". I'm probably a pound or two lighter than I was for last year's race. Maybe that's worth another handful of seconds?

Ideally, I'd like to run a sub 38:00 and snag a 2nd best PR, but that is no easy feat since it means running two 18:59 5ks back-to back. But is this goal realistic given my current fitness? In order to figure that out, I assumed that my fitness is the same as it was for my last 5k race, which I finished with an 18:16. I then plugged that time into the McMillan Calculator.  The result that popped up said that I should be able to run a 37:56 10k - almost to the second of my goal!

So, if it's not too windy (and not too hot) on Saturday and I pace myself correctly, I may just be able to eke out a 37:59! In any event, it will be a fun time with my family as my dad is planning on running the 5k and my niece is planning on running the kids' race.

Also, the last edition of the Grim Mile will be held the following day. I may be a late entrant to that race, depending on how my legs feel.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ravenswood Run 2017 Race Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shamrock Shuffle 2017 Race Recap

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

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

Would running slowly actually help me to run fast?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shamrock Shuffle 2017 Pre-race Thoughts and Palm Springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Anyone else shuffling?

Friday, March 10, 2017

How many runners did I pass? Shamrock Shuffle Edition

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

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

Shamrock Shuffle 2016:

Number of runners I passed after 1 mile mark:

Number of runners I passed after 5k mark:

Number of runners I passed total:

Number of runners who passed me after mile 1:

My place at the 1 mile mark:

My place at the 5k mark:

My place at the finish line (8k):


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

80/20 Running

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

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

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

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

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

Running in 70 degree February weather last week

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

20 Miles a Week

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 Recap - The Year of the PR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finishing the RnR in July

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

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