Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Guest Post: Logging in the Pacific Northwest by Dan Clay McDowell

I am very happy to introduce you all to my friend, Dan Clay McDowell. Dan and I became fast friends as coworkers at Fleet Feet Sports Chicago due initially to our mutual love for running, similar running ability, and mutual friends (many of you are probably reading this). As I got to know Dan, I developed a great appreciation for his honesty and courage. You'll find these things liberally scattered throughout this piece on logging.

My wife and I recently moved across the country from Chicago, IL to Portland, OR.  When we were unpacking I found a binder that was labelled “Running Log” and looked inside curiously to find a running log, or more accurately, a comic strip, I had written and drawn in early 2010.  As is often the case when I find random things I've set aside long ago enough that I've forgotten they've existed, I was suddenly flooded with a strange nostalgia (*1) for that time in my life.  This strange onset of emotion led to a longer series of thoughts about my history of running logs and when Dan Kittaka graciously asked if I’d like to write something for his blog I thought maybe it would be a good opportunity to share the log and examine the thoughts I had after looking at it in hopes other runners might relate.

First, a bit more about the comic/log I briefly drew, which you can look at if you so choose, in its entirety here.  It had no name, and no plan.  I drew it solely for myself thinking it might eventually turn into something bigger.  It didn't.  Stylistically, it was largely influenced by my favorite comic, Jim’s Journal.  At the time, I had just moved to Portland, OR for the first time.  I was unemployed and living in the home of my then girlfriend’s parents with them and their wonderful dog, Shadow.  My girlfriend at the time was in her first year of law school, and thus she spent long hours each day away from home at the library.  I had just come off of one of the most disappointing performances of my running life and I was sort of re-calibrating my aims as a runner.  I share all of this to try to explain (to you, and to myself) why I felt compelled to draw the strip.  Ultimately, I’m not sure why, but I suppose to a certain extent I had a lot to get off of my chest and I was experimenting with new outlets.  

Each day of the log is represented by 1-6 frames and I sneaked in the date my daily mileage into each drawing.  The comic certainly isn't good, but I’m glad I drew it, because I remember more about those and runs and those weeks than I do about a lot of runs I did just this past year.  Obviously, the fact that these runs were in a new place geographically and a new phase of my life played a role in my enhanced memory, but I think the act of drawing and writing out the log helped me to remember them more.

The first page of Dan's Comic Log

The strip often references music and books I was into at the time.  It occasionally offers hints to what shoes I was wearing at the time (at least to me, probably not anyone else) (*2).  And, it even recaps a run I went on with Olympian Ian Dobson in which we stumbled upon world record holder, Paula Radcliffe.  I could spend time waxing on and on about specific runs from the strip, and someday I may just do that, but for now I’ll move on to the point of sharing all of this. (*3)

Finding the comic log made me think about the various methods I’d used to log since I first began to run in 2006.  I first started by writing by hand in a paperback book I picked up at Borders (*4).  I’d write the time, distance, weather, and rate how happy I felt.  The book was laid out chronologically.  At the end of each week and month it had a place to tally the totals of time and mileage.  It wasn't rocket science, but it helped immensely.  For instance, I realize how often I checked that I was sad or unhappy, and that I needed to make some changes in my life.  This is part led me to move to Chicago.  I continued off and on with this method for two years or so.  I’d go weeks without logging at a time, and when I’d start up again I remember of times realizing I wasn't running as many weekly miles as I thought.  By mid 2008 I was taking running much more seriously and was focused on getting as fast as I possibly could.  I never missed a day of logging and constantly wrote down my goals (as seen in a brief part of this time-warping video). (*5)

On New Years day of 2009 I went for a hungover run in the mid to late afternoon with my friend Verdo weaving through the farm fields of Reedley, CA.  It was a great run that I remember for many reason, mainly because it was good to see a friend I hadn't seen in a few months. (*6) I was fitter than I’d ever been, and living in a small town like I did at the time, I never got to run with friends.  After the run I saw Verdo logging his run on the Runners World website.  I asked him about it and he showed me the ins and outs.  When I returned to home I logged the run on the website and began doing so each day.  In 2009 I ran over 3,200 miles and logged every one just minutes after I got done.  I didn't share the log with many people and never imagined anyone looking at it other than myself.

I logged roughly the same way I had on paper, but the website had a few advantages.  For one, the runs were presented in a lot of great visual ways with charts and graphs.  But even better, the runs were automatically databased in such a way that I could choose to call up a collection of workouts based on several different criteria.  For example, in a matter of seconds I could pull up every speed workout I’d ever done that included mile repeats at an elevation between 6,000 and 9,000 ft.  This caused me to frequently look back over my notes of previous runs and helped to me to understand if I was improving or not.

I continued logging runs this way through the beginning of 2012.  Even when I was drawing a comic, writing a blog about running, or sharing workouts on Garmin Connect, I always took the time to keep my Runners World log up-to-date as well.  While my logging practice was consistent, my enjoyment of running was not.  For a variety of factors I’ll save for another essay running was beginning to make me feel miserable.

It was time to make some changes to make running enjoyable again.  In some ways I felt running was taking up too much of my time, so I decided one easy way to cut back would be to log in fewer places.  Beginning on January 1, 2012 I only logged on dailymile which a few friends had convinced me to try.  From time to time I’d check back into my Runners World log to see how I’d performed various workouts in the past, but only recorded new info in one place.  One day when I went to check out some old workouts after a few weeks without looking at the Runners World’s website, I found that my log was gone.  It seemed 3 years of data I’d only kept online, and never exported, was gone forever. (*7)  Of course, losing the data doesn't mean the miles come off of my legs and lungs, but I still feel a sadness about losing the info as I used it as a diary of sorts on occasion.

Now its been nearly two years that I've been logging only on dailymile.  It’s simpler than the other online logs I’ve used in terms of what I input after each run, which means it eats up less time.  However, it also makes it harder to find useful information when I’m looking over previous workouts.  dailymile does have one aspect that all other logs I've used didn't.  It’s social.  I see workouts for friends and they see mine in a scrolling timeline.    Sometimes this is very helpful.  Seeing friends’ workouts can inspire me to get out and run when I’m lacking motivation.  Other times, friends are able to notice something about my workout, or offer perspective that changes how I perceive my own running, and how I plan for future runs.  And I suppose, it also has helped me to stay in touch with people I’d like to be closer to.

Unfortunately, it seems that over the years I've lost track of why I’m logging these runs in the first place.  Finding the comic log helped me to realize this (I’m finally getting around to the point here).  As I thought to myself, “why did I draw this?”, I realized I couldn't even answer why I had logged that very day on dailymile. 

So, what is the purpose of keeping this online log?  If I’m being honest, it seems to me that I often am censoring my thoughts about a run because I don’t want people to feel like I’m asking them to take pity on me, or other various reasons.  The problem with this, is that after weeks or months pass, when I look back at the old workouts, will I remember them truthfully?  If not, am I just wasting even more time than I did when I was logging in seemingly three or four different methods?  

While I was fortunate to make a lot of improvement as a runner in the first 5 years of my running, I've been stagnating or regressing for the last two years, and I think its time I reboot again (or perhaps more accurately, I've been in the process of rebooting for several months now, and I’m struggling to decide if I even still want to be a runner) (*8).  One of the major question I’m asking myself is:  What do I hope to gain by keeping a log?  What pieces of data will I need to record to do this?  Where and how should I keep them?  I doubt the answer will be to start writing a comic strip, but I’m sure glad I tried it once.  Even if this whole line of thought has been boring for the reader and pointless for myself, I’ll never forget the run I did along the Pacific Ocean while listening to Passion Pit and watching Sea Lions bark at me from just yards away.  I’ll never forget how much they looked like Shadow.  And I have it written down that I ran 10.3 miles that day and 62 miles that week.

What is your favorite way to log your runs?  Why do you log them?  

*1 I’m not sure nostalgia is really the correct word to use here.  I’m searching for a word that represents that emotion one feels when a memory resurfaces suddenly and it feels equal parts ancient and very recent. 

*2 Saucony Fastwitch 4 anyone?

*3 Or at least get a little closer to the point. Ha.

*4 At one time before I moved to Chicago I worked at Borders in Bloomington, IN and it was picking up a few books during my break about running that caused me to consider training for a  marathon, not just going out for a run now and then.

*5 Remember CD’s?

*6 In October of 2008 I moved to Mammoth Lakes, CA.

*7 I’d be grateful if someone knew how to recover these logs, although it might depress me to see how much slower I am now.

*8 Yikes.  That’s a whole different subject… Anyone know a good shrink?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Race Recap: 2013 BoA Chicago Marathon

I'll start by just putting down the numbers:

Mile splits:
6:06, 5:57, 5:55, 5:42, 5:57, 5:47, 5:53, 5:54, 5:50, 5:57, 6:01, 5:47, 5:57,

5:54, 5:52, 6:00, 6:03, 6:07, 6:11, 6:22, 6:17, 6:29, 6:39, 6:45, 6:59, 8:38 (1.2 miles).

Half splits: 1:17:32 (5:54 min/mile) followed by a 1:23:45 (6:23 min/mile).

Race morning, I woke up around 3:45am and started fueling with water, the new Clif Bar hydration drink, and an All in Almond Picky Bar (which despite being an allergy sensitive brand is the only favor that really works for me). Did a ~1 mile shake out, went to the bathroom. Generally felt good with the exception of my left shin which to be perfectly honest for the past 4 weeks or so has been bothering me.

I did a 5 mile shakeout with a few soccer turf strides with some of my Fleet Feet Racing teammates on Saturday as my second run of the week. The shin, specifically the areas where my posterior tibial tendon attach, felt "runnable." Some fleeting pain, but nothing I couldn't tough out.

Anyway on my shakeout, the left leg felt "tight" and the pain was fairly acute. At this point though I was already committed to starting the race. Looking back, I should have committed to finishing the race at this point as well. Things had felt good the day before so I tried to stay positive and did a bit of self massage and took a hot shower after shaking out to help loosen things up.

Obligatory Pre-Race Gear Photo

Still feeling pretty good otherwise, I got down to the race site pretty early (~5:50am) as I typically allow myself a bit too much leeway for city races and didn't want to be stressing about getting to the race on time.

Up until actually starting the race, things seemed to be going very smoothly!

The Race Itself

The plan was to run with Fleet Feet Racing teammate, Dave Strubbe through 10k at around 5:55 average pace then slowly accelerate and hold 5:50s for as long as possible.

The first mile is typically very quick so I was actually somewhat relieved to find that I hadn't gone out in 5:20 though also bit disturbed by the fact that my first mile in 6:06 didn't feel as easy as it should have. Perhaps there is something to allowing the energy of the start into your brain and legs. I intentionally slowed myself several times over the course of this mile. I also chalked things up to being a bit "stiff" after only putting in about 15 miles on the week.

The second and third miles were my attempt at continuing to stay relaxed, running by feel, and attempting to stay out of trouble (trying to run on the smoothest portions of pavement and not doing a whole lot of leading). Around this time, Strubbe got about 5-10 seconds ahead of me. I let him go and decided to work up to him slowly as I was still not feeling smooth at the pace we were running.

The fourth mile, I got a bit antsy and dropped my fastest mile of the day, catching Strubbe in the process. This was also about  the time I got to see my family for the first time on the course and  that we started running through the familiar areas of Old Town and Lincoln Park. Seeing this split, I backed off a bit. But as you can see splits 5, 6, and 7 were all over the map. I was still having a difficult time feeling comfortable at this pace.

It is here that I think I should have adjusted my expectations. Running up Sheridan, I was pretty much all alone. There was a big group about 10-15 seconds ahead (which I ended up catching at Addison) and I believe a whole slew of runners behind (not sure by how much, but it couldn't have been more than 20-30 seconds). 5:55 average pace wasn't feeling comfortable (I was forcing the pace even though it didn't feel particularly hard). I should have dialed things back to 6:00 or 6:05.

Instead I pressed on up Sheridan hoping to catch the group ahead for some protection from the wind. It was about here that I also took most of my Honey Stinger chews. Honestly I hadn't ever practiced with them, but I had decided I'd be taking something with whole food-ish ingredients probably once early on in the race. I landed on the chews as gels just haven't been appealing to me lately and some of the other Fleet Feet guys were going to be using them.

After turning onto Broadway, I was safely tucked into a group containing most notably, 2012 Olympic Trials qualifier Laurie Knowles, the "Michigan Guy" I ran with in 2012's BoA Chicago Marathon who was running with a couple of his Club Northwest teammates, and fellow CPS-alumni Steven Bugarin. We rolled together for quite sometime though I was still struggling to stay comfortable. Which is exactly what I told my good friend Mark Wehrman who joined in for a couple miles at this point. He reminded me to stay positive. I kept telling myself things would loosen up and feel more smooth by the halfway point.

Our pack rolling through Old Town

I hung with this group through around mile 15 when we split at 5:52. Things weren't feeling any more comfortable and I knew that mile 16-18 is usually where the struggle really begins particularly if the early stages of the race were not particularly good. I decided to allow the group to go ahead and focus on relaxing and running 6:00 pace through the next stages of the race.

This lasted just a couple miles before I started to slow even more. I was hurting pretty bad both mentally and physically. In retrospect, probably more mentally than physically. I was tired of running hurt. It was pretty clear I was not going to loosen up at all and that my mechanics had been compromised enough by a sore shin that my right leg was taking more of a beating than my left. I was regretting running in my soft, cushy training shoes which helped support my shin, but made my feet work extra hard.

Looking back, I am realizing that while I had committed to starting the race after having a decent shakeout, I hadn't really committed to finishing the race mentally. I spent the "middle miles" of 19-22 making this commitment. Mark jumped in again around mile 20. Running down Halsted, I looked up and saw a mullet and a bright Fleet Feet Racing singlet. It was my teammate, ColeSans who was running his first marathon and based on talk pre-race had gone out with three other teammates at sub-2:30 marathon pace. We caught him quickly at what has become one of my least favorite parts of the course:

I really, really wanted to stop and jog it in with Cole, but Mark wouldn't let me. It was at that moment, I was almost 100% committed to finishing the race. The frustrating thing about this for me was that I couldn't make that decision "on my own." Without a commitment to finishing, Mark had to talked me into finishing mid-race. My mental environment had become too negative with anxiety surrounding running injured and not meeting performance goals for me to realize that running a 6:17 at mile 20 is still actually pretty decent.

While this was probably the watershed moment in terms of successfully completing the race, I still carried a little backup drop out plan in my back pocket for another couple miles. I was expecting to see my family a final time around Chinatown. If I was feeling really terrible, I would drop out in front of them so the would know I was done with the race.

It was running through Chinatown where the wheels really started falling off in earnest. Things were pretty uncomfortable and I think sort of warm since there really isn't much shade on this portion of the course (I don't recall feeling hot though). Mark continued to run with me. I saw my family just before turning east on 33rd street.

The rest of the race was me struggling just to put one foot in front of the other, not cramp, and maintain as much pressure as I could. I felt like I was halfway between racing and jogging it in. I was running slowly for a race, but I maintained sub-7:00 pace until the last 1.2 miles which was about 7:00 pace exactly.

The final turn onto Columbus, I got a bit dizzy and saw a flash of black. I told myself if I had to that I would slow to a walk to make sure I crossed the finish line. I didn't want to run all that way to pass out less than 200 meters from the finish line. Fortunately my body held together long enough for me to run across the finish mats.

I'll have to write another blog outlining the many things I learned and am continuing to learn from this race, but for now this will do.

Did you run the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon? 

Share your thoughts on the race (or a blog recap) in the comments below!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ready for the BoA Chicago Marathon (5 photos).

Wondering if you're ready to take on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon? Here are five photos that remind me I'm ready to roll.

26 pie 2
My mom made (and I consumed) a marathon pie. But seriously, I have changed my fueling habits. I have been making sure my glycogen stores are well stocked for the race unlike training when I intentionally did a lot of training without pre-fueling in order to train the body to burn fat as fuel.

Race Day Do
I typically cut my own hair, but this time around I got my hair cut at the Irving Park Barbershop by my friend, Shawna. How you look & feel is important. It's like a job interview.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't know how people take #selfies in dark rooms. I tried an embarrassingly long time to get this shot...

Pro Tips
When Meb Keflezighi was in town for the Fleet Feet Sports Breaking Through the Wall event, Dave mentioned that I was trying to run fast at Chicago. Meb's advice: run even or negative split to achieve your time goal.

That's the plan. Go out conservative (I mean it this time).

Road 5k PR
Just a couple weeks before race day, I ran a significant 5k PR. I take this as a pretty good fitness indicator as I have probably done about 5 miles of running at this pace over the hundreds I've put in preparing for Chicago.

Best 15 Week Segment Ever
I have never run this type of mileage consistently, ever.

Guys and gals, my shin still hurts, but I look at these five things and however Sunday goes, I can still walk away from this training cycle with some really good things.

I'd like to leave you with what is in my humble opinion one of the best ways to get excited to run the BoA Chicago Marathon, watching Sammy Wanjiru race in 2010:

How do you know you're ready to race?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I Can't Shake Him (Training 9/30-10/6)

For the second week in a row, I've chosen a line from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope as the title for a training post. Sorry. I feel like I've neglected the blog a bit (I've consistently been posting twice per week).

The big story continues to be, "Can I Shake Soreness in my Left Tibia?"

9/30 Monday

After running 2:29 on Sunday with a sore shin, I figured a day off couldn't hurt (this is the start of taper after all).

10/1 Tuesday

I wasn't planning on taking this day off. Got a call/text that my grandpa had a stroke and so I went to visit him in the hospital immediately after work. Was planning on an afternoon workout so I didn't run in the morning. My shin wasn't complaining.

10/2 Wednesday

Morning Run - 1:01 at an easy pace
Decided to try to make up my tempo run in the evening. Ran an easy hour to shake the rest out of my legs.

Afternoon Run - 1:10 at an easy pace
Decided to just run easy with Mark W. Scott, and Rh. I'm more interested in making sure my body doesn't shut down completely by dropping my mileage super low than I am running more MP miles.

10/3 Thursday

Run with Joko - 1:20 at a moderate pace
Did 8x1 mile with Joko in 6:40. Shin loosened up after 3-4 miles and ended with 6x100m strides on the track without pain. I think my shin is loosening up...

10/4 Friday

Easy 10 - 1:13 at a moderate pace
Felt great (other than my left shin which was a little sore & never really loosened up like on Thursday).

10/5 Saturday

Quick - 1:03 at a moderate/uptempo pace
Ran with Cole without a watch. Wanted to get 90 minutes in, but it was pouring. Rolled pretty quick about 30 minutes out and 30 minutes back. Ran some 3 minute 1/2 miles and felt pretty good. A tiny bit of weakness in the right hip. The left shin was kind of sensitive.

10/6 Sunday

Run 10 Feed 10 - 10k at ~marathon pace
2 miles W/U with Doug. 10k in ~35:55. 2 miles C/D with Dough. Joe V. PR'd running 7:13 pace for his run!!!

Felt very labored: legs were stiff feeling, left leg hurt. Right hip. Sounds about right for a final marathon workout.

At this point, it seems like I'm losing the battle to take the shin pain. On dailymile, my friend, Dan M reminded me to try nuking the shin with anti-inflammatory drugs for a bit. I'm taking Monday off and taking some ibuprofen in order hopes it will help me shake some of this shin pain as it is clearly causing me to change my form a bit and put more pressure on my right hip.

One week to go!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Coming in Point Three Five (Training 9/23-9/29)

A solid week of training with a nice little bonus on Saturday. On going pain in my left tibia and soreness in my right quad made me a bit cautious. Logged just 8:55 for the week not counting stretching, massage, biking, etc.

Forgive me if there are a few funny tenses here as I'm pretty tired and I wrote this by merging my dailymile log with some brief reflections/clarifications.

9/23 Monday

Twelve - 1:30 at an easy pace
Ran into Matt Blume, Doug Maisey, Adam Palumbo, Will Fischer, and Ben Reifenberg running south. Turned around at Fullerton then ran Blume home on my way back to Lincoln Square with Ben. 

My right quad was a wreck thanks to not being able to recover well after my 20 miler yesterday. Got a tiny bit of work done on my left tibia & the quad which felt good (Aligned was at Fleet Feet Sports - Lincoln Square for the Fun Run).

9/24 Tuesday

Easy - 1:03 at an easy pace
Went out in my Hokas as I was tired of feeling beat up. Iced and rolled my right quad and left tibia. Tried to go as easy as possible because my legs were feeling crappy and I needed to get in my second to last big workout in sooner rather than later.

9/25 Wednesday

Penultimate Key Workout - 1:09:59 for 12.12 (5:46 min/mile) + 4 miles W/U & C/D
While most of the time I try to share my workouts in duration/time as explained here. I feel like this is a pretty good indicator of the quality of workout needed to run in the low 2:30s so it might be helpful to actually share the details for someone interested in seeing what it might take to get to that level.

I'm pretty proud of doing this one solo even though it was on the shorter end of what I had wanted to run. When I set my PR, I started thinking I'd do 12 miles and ended up doing 15 miles at 5:45 pace.

1.5 mile splits - 8:53, 48, 29, 44, 41, 44, 49, 47, 47. I was thinking about going one more 1.5 mile straight, but decided against it as I was just trying to run a fast half marathon (to be fair, I also wanted to practice pushing through fatigue). I think I'm glad I kept it to 12, my right quad doesn't feel quite normal yet though my left tibia is feeling decent now.

Ran home just in time to register for the Park Ridge Charity Classic 5k online. They say strike when the iron is hot. Usually when I'm in good marathon shape I'll be in decent 5k shape. Since I hadn't really raced 5k since I ran a disappointing 16:23 5000m at the NCC Dr. Keeler Invite I decided to give it a go.

9/26 Thursday

Watchless Run - Measured to be just over 13 miles at an easy to moderate pace
Went without a watch! It was so freeing. Wow, definitely longer than I intended. I thought I was only running 12. Oh well. Tibia and right quad still acting funny. Ate a ton of food after, still catching up after Wednesday's run.

This run was a clear indicator that it was probably a good idea to cut the key workout at 12 miles.

9/27 Friday

Horner Park Loops - 10 minutes easy then 56 minutes easy
Ran 1.5 mile then spend 10+ minutes talking to Coach Gordon, Coach Nebrida, and Dan Carlson about the NCP XC season. My left shin was hurting. It loosened up as I tried to turn early for home. Decided I could keep running;  ran 3 big loops on the dirt around Horner Park. Things loosened up a bit. Continued icing and the use of compression socks during the day/while sleeping.

9/28 Saturday

Park Ridge Charity Classic 5k - 15:50 (5:06 min/mile) for 6th place + 5 miles W/U & C/D
Still dealing with some shin pain. The quad finally felt good after yesterday's crazy slow, soft run.

Read the Race Review.

9/29 Sunday

Chicago Marathon Course Run - 2:29 at an easy pace
Last long run of the cycle. I first did this run with Mark Wehrman before my first Chicago Marathon. This was tougher than I thought it would be without hydration. Ran with Braulio Benitez, Kyle Larson, Scott Laumann, Evan Rosendahl, and Dan Carlson. It was a great relaxed run and made for a pretty cool looking GPS image:

Check out our funny detour around mile 11.5 I totally misled the group

What workouts and runs do you use as marathon benchmarks?

BONUS: From where did I poach this week's blog title?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Race Review: Park Ridge Charity Classic 5k

View Larger Map

Before I forget the details, I wanted to throw together a quick "Race Review" post on the 36th Park Ridge Charity Classic 5k. As you can see, the course is a nearly straight out and back and with pretty calm conditions and temps in the high 60s this race was a great opportunity to run fast.

Online registration and "packet pick-up" were a breeze. Scott Laumann and I picked up our packets just as they were set up around 6:40 am with no issues or waiting at all. The amazing thing about this race is that your race "packet" is literally a fantastic cotton race t-shirt and your race bib. No handouts or flyers, no goofy samples, and no bag! 

Being used to race packet inserts being sold as a part of sponsorship packages, this strikes me as a very interesting choice on the part of race organizers. I love how it contributes to the feeling of purity of purpose. The Park Ridge Charity Classic is a running race to see how fast you can run, build community event (all sponsors were local businesses), and raises funds for charity (though I'm not sure what charity they're raising money for). I'm not even sure if all these things are intentional choices or not, but it is great "marketing" in my book.

One of the neatest race shirts I've gotten in a while

Warmed up with a whole bunch of TTAU guys from the race start area to just a bit past the 1 mile marker for about 2 mile of total easy to moderate running. Did two quick strides at about 5k effort and walked to the line. Felt my left shin a bit on the warm up and even a bit on the strides, but once I accelerated to race pace, it seemed to subside.

Make a conscious decision to not get psyched out by the fast guys and trust that I had the fitness to run with them up front. At my all-time peak fitness, I've run in the low 16 minute range for 5k and even dipped below at a very small 5k with possibly questionable course measurement. Looking at past results, I saw the top runners were running between 15:40 and 16:00. If I was in the kind of shape I thought, I should be right there mixing it up for a podium finish.

Ran by feel, following Mark Wehrman from the gun. Rolled through the first mile at 4:59 (yikes!) with a pack of 6(?) including Jeff Hojnacki. Started to feel the pace a bit and dropped off the pack by about 3-5 seconds. Went through 2 miles at 10:01 (5:01 split), a PR!). Caught one of the Hurricanes guys as he fell of the pack with about 800m to go. Tried to break away but wasn't able to push hard enough. Caught Jeff. with around 500m to go, but got passed by the Hurricanes guy (Tony Teunissen). Finished 6th overall in a huge 5k PR. 5:49 for the last 1.1 for a final time of 15:50.97.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pasta Party!

I've had "All You Can Eat" pasta two nights in a row this week and I think it is time to write a post on one of my pet peeves, the association of pasta with distance running.

From our youth, we are taught that you need to "eat carbs" before a race and big events are often preceded by celebratory Pasta Parties, where athletes gather to eat (in my case inhale) pasta most commonly served with red (tomato) sauce and cheese.

Exhibit 1: A photo of 2004 Northside College Prep Cross Country Pasta Party

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy these festive pre-race events. They're great for creating a sense of camaraderie and they can be a lot of fun. What I take issue with is the intentional focus on consuming carbs and widespread acceptance of pasta as a defacto fuel of choice is probably not the ideal pre-race ritual.

While I'm not a physiologist nor nutritionist and I readily acknowledge that everyone is (very) different I would like to point out a few reasons to reconsider the Pasta Paradigm. I'll be offering up a few alternatives in a later post (this one is kind of long).

I attribute a lot of my ability to train at higher volumes over the last few months to embracing (at least theoretically) the Thrive Diet's One Step Nutrition philosophy.

One Step Nutrition
This philosophy prioritizes foods containing simple carbohydrates (think fruits), fatty acids (nuts and seeds), and Amino acids (leafy greens) over foods containing complex carbs (processed grains), fats (animal fats), and protein (animal protein). 

While foods that contain simple carbs, fatty acids, and Amino acids put less strain on your digestive system leading to a plethora of benefits including faster recovery and digestion.

Pasta is full of complex carbohydrates
While some complex carbs are a necessary part of your diet, they do put additional stress on your body. When you're preparing for peak performance additional stress should be minimized!

Pasta is lacking in nutrients
Pasta lacks fiber which helps remove toxins from your body and triggers your sense of fullness. I've always had problems with over-indulging when eating pasta so this makes a lot of sense to me.

An aside on "carb loading"
Pasta's lacking nutrition isn't the only factor when it comes to my over-indulgence when eating pasta. For me the idea of wanting to have "enough" energy was always a license to over-indulge. The funny thing about this is that it is unnecessary to over-indulge as your muscles can only store about 2 hours worth of rapidly accessible glycogen. If you're eating a reasonably balanced diet it is pretty easy to top this supply off before a race.

Additionally, if you're racing for longer than 2 hours you'll be relying in some part on your nearly endless body fat stores of energy. Even the most lean people on the planet have enough energy stored in body fat to fuel many marathons.

Finally, pasta often contains gluten
Gluten is a protein with a pretty bad rap. Like I said, I'm not an expert, but for some people this causes mild to severe GI distress (I'm sure there are better blogs to read about this). Since most things that contain gluten also fall under the umbrella of my other two issues with pasta, it's probably best to avoid before a big workout or race. I know I feel better GF before a hard workout or race.

Red (tomato) sauce can cause indigestion
I often experience indigestion(acid reflux) after eating tomato sauces. This is particularly severe when the sauces contain additional sweeteners and fats from the meat and/or cheese ingredients.

While I enjoy cheese, I've had a sensitivity to it and other dairy products for my entire life. It leaves me headachey and often times with excessive congestion.

Beyond allergic stress, the fats present in cheese can slow digestion. Same goes for cream sauces.

Running on Empty
No matter the race distance I like to make sure my GI system is as close to empty as possible. For me, the typical pasta dinner is full of foods that can make this a challenging pre-race meal as it lacks fiber, can trigger acid reflux, and can be high in animal fats.

If you've ever had GI issues on a run or (much worse) during a race, I think I rest my case.

What is your pre-race fueling strategy?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Do You Know the Way to San Jose? (Training 9/16-9/22)

Didn't quite hit the volume goal I had for the week (I was about 60-90 minutes shy), but considering the amount of time I spend traveling and with family I don't mind too much. I spent 9:24 running (not counting the other stuff like massage).

I also didn't feel like doing another quality session while my sleep and eating schedule was off during travel. Quite honestly I ate a lot while I was away. My family likes to eat! Also my left tibia has been a bit tight and not being at home I didn't want to press things too much.

All in all I don't think this was a bad week, but after a down week and with not much longer until the BoA Chicago Marathon, I was hoping I'd feel a bit better this week.

9/16 Monday

52 Minutes at MP? - 2:13 with 52:00 at about marathon effort
Originally intended to run 5 miles at 5:50 pace with Mark Wehrman, I ended up meeting up with Scott, Robert, Evan, and Mark and getting talked into doing 52 minutes at about marathon effort. Had a tailwind for most of the later half of this harder effort segment which helped, but I felt remarkably relaxed and controlled. Ended up running about an hour more than I originally intended.

9/17 Tuesday

Palmer Square - 1:04 at an easy pace
As easy as things felt yesterday, I paid for it today (that and the extra distance). Everything felt awkward, like I was slamming my feet into the ground. 

I love running here. Ran here for the first time with my friend, Skinny Dan.

9/18 Wednesday

Skokie Valley Line Trail - 1:02 easily
My legs still felt beat and my left shin was sort of sensitive so I decided to run easily again.

As much as I enjoy Palmer Square it is much more relaxing to run up to the Skokie Valley Line Trail as it is quieter and there is much less car traffic. By the way, I hate cars. Just wanted to put that out there. Also it is not too late to start Car Free Week

Also my eating habits were all jacked up specifically I was eating meat AND eating late night snacks (cereal and other crap) before bed when I had to run in the morning.

9/19 Thursday

Skokie Valley Line Trail - 1:00 at an easy pace
Didn't want to risk things so I just ran an hour easily before work & travel to San Jose, CA for my grandma's memorial service on Friday.

9/20 Friday

Los Gatos Creek Trail - 1:02 at a moderate pace
A decent mix of asphalt and some very mild single track .5 miles from the door of where we stayed in San Jose. I was very blessed to be staying at a family friend's house that was just short jog from this fantastic path. On Sunday, I ran 20 miles on this path and had to cross just a handful of streets.

9/21 Saturday

Los Gatos Creek Trail - :50 at a moderate pace
Up late visiting with family & off to another family gathering before people had to leave. Snuck this one in.

9/22 Sunday

Los Gatos Creek Trail to St. Joseph's Hill Open Space Preserve - 2:13 at a moderate pace
Felt good to get a longer run in after just trying to recover from my long effort early in the week and dodging travel and family time.

Stayed on the Los Gatos Creek Trail through Campbell and Los Gatos to the foothills of St Joseph's Hill Open Space Preserve. There were a couple nasty climbs near the turnaround. Never felt great thanks to dehydration and late nights. Also wasn't able to eat properly after. I really wanted to do a long run while in San Jose, hopefully not at the cost of training for this coming week.

Where are some of your favorite places to run?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Timbuk2 Swig Laptop Backpack

Originally submitted at Timbuk2

My Swig after 12 miles of riding Chicago streets in pouring rain

The Timbuk2 Esales set up is pretty cool. After your purchase it asks you to review the product (pretty standard for esales nowadays) and after you review you can take the HTML code for your blog!

That said, you should buy your Timbuk2 at Fleet Feet Sports - Chicago (shameless plug).

Here's my review plus a few additional thoughts:

I've been using this bag for bike commuting and grocery shopping for about 2 weeks now.

So far I've really appreciated the bag's relatively low profile and super comfortable fit (thanks to articulated shoulder straps). I've been able to stuff a ton of groceries in the bag thanks to the messenger-inspired flap closure which helps expand the bags capacity significantly. I've also been able to stick an Addaday Ultra Roller into the bag with one end peeking out (a great race day feature)!

I also really like the loop on the back that lets my slide my LED light onto the bag without fear of losing it.

I haven't had to use it yet, but I think the side access laptop compartment is pretty awesome as it is totally a pain to carry-on with a laptop buried in its sleeve in your bag. The zippered side access port makes it easy to slip it in and out at airport security checkpoints.

Finally I dig that I don't have to travel with a dry bag anymore. I got caught in pouring rain today and thanks to the waterproof flap closure most of my stuff was kept dry. The area underneath the loop holding my taillight is not waterproof so some of my stuff got wet. If it wasn't raining as hard and if I didn't have the closure opened up for groceries, I think things would have been fine.

4out of 5
Pros: Roomy, Zippered Side Access, Crazy Durable, Comfortable, Sweet Color Blocking, Some Waterproofing

My biggest gripe with this bag is that there is only one water bottle pocket and it is on the left side which makes it hard for me to grab without taking the bag off. This is particularly annoying as my bike doesn't have a water bottle cage.

The other problem I have with this bag is because of the messenger-inspired Velcro/buckle closure it is time consuming to stash your stuff on the go. They've tried to address this with two zippered side access pockets, but the way I use the bag, the pockets (which are on the right side of the bag when you're wearing it on your back) aren't easily accessible. I've resorted to leaving the left buckle undone and relying on the Velcro closure in order to be able to get my U-lock in and out more quickly.

Cons: Blocks Peripheral Vision, Easy Access Pockets Aren't Ambidextrous, Could Use an Additional External Water Bottle Pocket

Best Uses: Travel, Race Day, Commuting, Cycling, Groceries, Computer

What'd you think of this review?

Since I write about gear for a living, I'm not sure how many of these I'll be posting, but I do hope to write reviews from time-to-time.

I no longer write about gear so I feel more free to write gear reviews. What should I review next?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Back by *Popular Demand (Training 9/9-9/15)

This week's post should be pretty easy (I took two days off).

Hip Update
All better, thanks to resting the first couple days of this week. I have issues with my hip flexors and hamstrings from time to time typically when dehydrated or when I haven't taken the time to roll out my quads.

I'd like to recap my workouts in effort/duration in order to remove some of the metrics that people often get hung up on like pace and mileage. I received a number of comments on the pace and volume of the work I did last week which was a lot of fun, but I want to make sure these posts are inspiration/education for personal running goals. I think it can be easy to look at workouts and get totally psyched out because the paces and the volumes seem so unreachable.

If workouts are presented in terms of efforts and duration, it is easier to see how they might be applied to any given person's running goals.

If I'm not making sense, maybe Fluency's Folly puts it more clearly:

"I think A LOT of age-groupers, specifically newer distance runners tend to aim too high on mileage goals not realizing how relative these metrics are to each runner."

Same goes for pace in my book. How many high school athletes and age groupers run 7 min/mile day in and day out while underachieving on race day?

9/9 Monday
Off completely. I think I rode my bike to work if you want to count that. After my run on Sunday with Emil and Verdo, I tried to stretch out my hip and I think I ended up over stretching as I had pretty acute pain around the hip throughout the night into Monday.

It was certainly easier to take a day off after reading Matt Flaherty's training update for 9/2-9/8 which described the liberal use of time off in order to recoup from a biking accident and very long, race-specific effort. Matt uses days off in his schedule like any other workout.

9/10 Tuesday
Woke up to marked improvement. Iced a few times throughout Sunday night/Monday.

Worked a very warm Mather Invite #1 in the afternoon and ended up just taking another day off in order to make sure the hip was well on its way to recovery.

Colin G. ready to fuel the next generation of Chicago runners!

9/11 Wednesday

Tour of Albany Park - 1:10 Easy
Morning shake out after 2 days completely off. Hip feels much better, but still a bit funny. Saw Brian and ran him home then past the old house up to Skokie Valley Line trail.

Additionally, I was very tight (my back most noticeably) all day after this run.

1:02 Easy
Decided to do an hour or so after work. Felt much more smooth than this morning! Ran into TTAU and dailymile friends; Scott L., Evan R., and Justin J. A pleasant surprise!

A relief to feel smooth on my second run back.

9/12 Thursday

1:03 Easy
Felt tight (dehydrated) most of the run. Ate meat for dinner and also ate late. I blame it on both of those things.

INOV-8 FFS Staff Functional Fitness Workout/Footwear Launch Party
It feels silly to include this but I did 2 x push ups, air squats, sit ups, burpees, and kettle bell (water jug) swings as many as possible for 1 minute?

This workout left me sore as hell for the next few days. I even sandbagged the push ups in order to not be as sore.

I also didn't get home until 11:30 pm from this workout and was so over-stimulated I ended up not going to bed until well after midnight.

9/13 Friday

TGIF - 1:33 Moderate
I had hoped a moderate effort would help me work out some stress and shakeout some of the soreness for Saturday's key workout. No such luck. It was a good run though.

Ate some quinoa, asparagus, and turkey sausage. Note to self: don't put so much apple cider vinegar in next time!

9/14 Saturday

5 x 11 minutes - 1:52 Half-Marathon Effort
Not sure if this was really HM effort, but I wanted to give some sort of description of effort.

Wanted to do alternate ks, but my watch wasn't cooperating. Settled for this strength workout. Warmed up for 29 minutes to meet Kyle and Mark at Irving Park then 10:47, 10:55, 11:00, 11:09, 11:18 w/ .5 mile jog between. On my cool down, made it to Irving and Clark with Mark, but then started walking. Thursday night's workout caught up to me (see above). My abs, back, quads, and hamstrings had enough.

Cool Down continued... - 0:20 Beyond Easy
Mark dropped me at Clark & Irving Park and I decided to walk for a bit. I told Lakefront Runner on dailymile, my body was like, "Yeah, you need to walk, bro." Some GI discomfort paired with muscle soreness was too much at this point in the run.

Walk-jogged the next mile then ran (20 minutes) from Damen & Cullom to home very slowly. For perspective, running down Wilson I spotted a guy running with a baby jogger. I didn't catch him until he stopped to walk. Not saying guys or girls with baby joggers are slow, but he was not running hard and was actually pulling away until he stopped to walk.

Extremely sore not so much from running as from Thursday's workout on top of running. The good news is the quality work was done and the pain wasn't acute nor asymmetric. 

9/15 Sunday

1:05 Very Easy
Unfortunately my abs are still very sore (my legs and back not so much). I feel like they are tightening and causing me to hunch over so I decided to scrap trying to run medium-long today. It was also difficult to breath deeply so I just ran easily the whole time.

All in all, an okay down week. I spend about eight hours running this week (not counting stretching/self-massage or other activities) down from around 11 hours the last five weeks. I traded acute hip pain for acute muscular soreness in the abs, back, quads, and hamstrings. Hopefully I'll have relief soon!

Just about 4 weeks until BoA Chicago Marathon! I'll be looking to a couple key workouts over the next couple weeks to inform me of my marathon fitness as well as a course run (last 16 miles) and some hill repeats at Roosevelt and Michigan.

How did you like this week's training recap?

Did the switch to duration/effort make sense?

P.S. If you haven't already check out my Running History page! It is kind of interesting. At least I think so!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flowchart: Getting Over a Bad Race

We've all had bad races. Follow this simple flowchart to help you move on.

If only it were that easy.

What are some takeaways from your worst races?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Express Post (Training 9/2-9/8)

I was working on a fancy post using approximate efforts and time elapsed to make my training post more universal, but decided it was taking too long (for now at least). I tweaked my right leg running a cross country race and it migrated all over my right quad/hip this week (currently my hip is irritated).

9/2 Monday 

1-4-1 12.88 mi / 01:32
Ran 1600m on the track - 4 miles at Tempo - 1600m on the track. 4 mile W/U, changed shoes at home then: 5:04, 22:27 (5:34 pace), 5:07 (that was tough). Took 3:00 between reps. This is very similar to a workout I did 5 weeks out from Dallas, just a bit slower. Aerobically felt very fit, the legs were wobbly.

9/3 Tuesday 

Shakeout 2.96 mi / 00:25 
Ended up setting up a workout with my Fleet Feet Racing teammate, Kyle Larson today (even though I worked out yesterday). So I decided I should get up and get the legs moving in the morning to be ready to go after work.

5 x 1k on the track 9 mi / 01:10
5.75 w/u & c/d on the path. Did 5x1000m on the track with Kyle. Phew, it was tough. I was fit enough to run this fast or faster, but it was hard for me to really relax and feel good. 3:09, 09, 09, 11, 09 w/ 2 min/400m jog. My quad is still a bit funny. Icing as I type.

9/4 Wednesday

An Easy 8 on the Skokie Valley Line Trail 8.01 mi / 01:00
Just needed to get some recovery miles in after back to back quality days and a big quality workout on Thursday.

9/5 Thursday

3 x 3 mile on the Lakefront Path 17.41 mi / 01:57
Glad to have Kyle and On Running's Mark Wehrman for this one. Ended up running right at marathon goal pace: 17:04 (2.96 mi), 17:06 (3.00), 17:02 (3.04). Basically started at 5:45 and cut down to 5:40 then 5:35 for the last one. Felt great the whole time with the exception of the last mile of the last rep. Came through 2 miles in ~11:37 and needed to drop a 5:20 or so to get the 17:00 I wanted. ~1 mile jog between reps.

9/6 Friday

Easy 8.37 mi / 00:59
Up super late for staff meeting. I was crazy tired all day. Got it done. Tried to run easily in preparation for tomorrow's run with Fleet Feet Racing teammate, Cole Sanseverino and Mark W.

9/7 Saturday

Ready, Go 10! 17.9 mi
GPS cut out mid run. Cole got ~17.9 for the effort. Ran 5.92 in 39:09 then 7.8 in 45:50 (5:52) w/ 1 water break + Honey Stinger Classic Gel last ~2.35 about 5:55 pace in ~14:00 (forgot to split). Jogged from Castaways to Fleet Feet Sports Old Town.

9/8 Sunday

Easy 13.06 mi / 1:31
Met up with Fleet Feet Racing teammate, Emil Bojanov at LS then Verdo Gregory at Montrose. Some right hip soreness. Hopefully it clears up! Felt great otherwise though certainly tired that last mile.

Honestly I didn't really enjoy putting this post together. We'll see if I continue doing these training recaps... I have other ideas for posts that seem like they would be way more interesting.

Do you like reading training recaps?

Would you prefer to read training recaps presented in duration/effort format?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's in a Name?

For quite a while now when I had a free moment or two I've had some really interesting thoughts for (running related) blog posts, but due to the fact that I don't really feel like spending 95% of my time in front of a computer screen typing (about running), I haven't written anything down.

I've also really struggled with coming up with a good name/title/direction for a blog. There are a lot of blogs out there. There are a lot of running blogs out there. There are even a lot of Chicago running blogs out there and I wanted to make sure before I started my own that it would offer something a bit off the beaten path (run pun?).

Enter two recent events:

1) A Twitter conversation with one of my running friends (and recent Minocqua No Frills Marathon Champion), @FluencysFolly (Fluency's Folly).

After this conversation, I had a fire lit underneath me to have somewhere not my work blog to send people if I was going to write a guest post (ever the e-marketing mind).

2) The realization that some people (runners) find my goal of running the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon fascinating. I've had a few interactions with coworkers on this and one in particular really likes the idea of an event that has a difficult qualifying standard (sub 2:30) paired with a strict cutoff times (you have to be on 2:27:40 pace through 20km or you risk getting pulled from the course).

Earlier this year the Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon was run for the 68th time. I'll probably cover this in more detail in a later post, but it is a very historic event with champions pulled from the all time greats like Abebe Bikila, Frank Shorter, Toshihiko Seko, Paul Tergat, and Wilson Kipsang.

These two recent events have given me the impetus and direction for this blog which may only last as long as my pursuit of this goal (giving it a bit more definition). This also makes coming up with a title a bit easier.

kansai kudasai

(there is no such thing as capitalization in Japanese)

Kansai is a region in Japan south-west of Tokyo on the main island of Honshu. The region is home to Lake Biwa and of course the marathon bearing the same name. Kansai region is also includes Chicago's sister city of Osaka as well as the ancient capital of Kyoto and the ancient, ancient capital of Nara.

I had the really unique opportunity to join my friend Andy for part of his walk across Japan through this region including Lake Biwa:

Lake Biwa from the Omi Ohashi Toll Road

I'll probably share more about that trip at a later time.

"Kudasai," is a romaji (Roman character analog) of the Japanese word most commonly translated as "please." The word expresses a request.

Of course this then begs the question to whom am I expressing this request. Again, I guess, maybe, the subject of another (several) posts in the future.

Any way I plan on updating this blog at least once per week with at the very least a training update similar to my friend Matt Flaherty's blog. You can also follow me on twitter and read the blog I help produce for Fleet Feet Sports - Chicago. Also I guess you can find me on DailyMile.

What's your long term running goal? 

Other than running what did you do today to get you closer to that goal?