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!