Monday, July 7, 2014

Aside: Three Floyds Brewery Ride

One of my "goals" for the summer was to bike to Three Flyods Brewery in Munster, IN. Particularly after talking with my friend Javier about the Austin to Shiner ride (I guess it's called Shiner GASP) while we were training through Chicago's Polar Vortex for the Boston Marathon.

Since the prospect of doing a long run and an 80 mile bike ride on the same weekend didn't sound too appealing, I decided to schedule the ride after Grandma's Marathon while I would take a break from running. Props to Lyndsey Baum for completing her scheduled 16 miler AND our Three Floyds ride!

Considering the apparent popularity of this ride there weren't really that many good resources to help plan the ride itself (that said, it isn't rocket science), so I decided it wouldn't be a bad idea to write a little aside covering some of the important details for fellow Chicago riders.

Where should I start?

Meet your friends on the Lakefront Path (I can't stand calling it the Lakefront Trail). Did you know you can check the conditions of the path by following @activetransLFT?

We rode from the 0 marker at Ardmore Ave (5800 N). Actually, I got on at Lawrence and rode up to meet the Baums:

Meeting anywhere on the LFT is probably a good bet no matter where you live in the city. During the summer there are public bathrooms and access to water fountains from 5800 N to 7100 S (the South Shore Cultural Center, where the other 0 marker is).

Where do I go after the Lakefront Path ends?

Actually, if you've never been to the 0 marker on the Southside, it's actually not that easy to find. Up until this point, it is pretty clear how to follow the Lakefront Path south, Once you get to 71st/E South Shore Dr, it may not really be clear that you'll need to turn east and continue until the two streets split (you should Google Streetview if you really want to see what it looks like, in fact here's a link).

Once you've made it to The End (the marker is at the northeast corner of the intersection), you'll want to continue down South Shore Drive until you get to 79th Street (1.25 miles). At this point, you have the option of riding on what looked like the recently reclaimed S Lakeshore Drive (which was very beautiful) or continuing on South Shore Drive (which does wind a bit) to 95th Street:

I'm getting hungry...

For the full experience, you'll want to refuel at Calumet Fisheries, a Chicago dive which has been critically acclaimed by the press for years. Be forewarned you won't find any bathrooms here so do you business elsewhere! Also it's cash only...

Anthony Bourdain and the ATM

Regardless of what you do at the earlier fork, you can easily get to Calumet Fisheries as long as you're paying attention for 95th Street, both Harbor Ave and Ewing will get you to 95th:

The Burnham Greenway

If you don't like traffic and underpasses, I would suggest taking the eastern route, outlined as it will connect you to the Burnham Greenway with minimal bustle. The more direct route is to ride Ewing to Indianapolis and get on immediately after crossing under the Skyway:

It may look a little funny presented here, but the X marks where you'll be getting on the Burnham Greenway which lies just south of the Skyway and runs parallel for a half mile before turning directly south.

Follow the Greenway (this is dummy-proof) past Eggers Woods Forest Preserve for about 2 miles. This section is literally flat and straight with a handful of street crossings. Once you enter Eggers Woods, pay careful attention for the only fork in the path (again about 2 miles from where the Greenway departs from the Skyway). Take this left (east) turn immediately to get onto Wolf Lake Boulevard:

Follow Wolf Lake Boulevard to the southern most exit by the Ranger Quarters on to Avenue N. At Avenue N and 134th turn left (east) again. This gets a bit sketchy, but should be fine if you ride smart.

You'll  come to a T (there is a Luke's Gas Station on the northwest corner). At this point you'll have unceremoniously crossed from Illinois into Indiana and 134th will be 136! The T intersects 136th with Sheffield. After turning right (south) onto Sheffield continue right at the fork which should keep you on Sheffield which has much less traffic than Hohman though when Sheffield dead ends at Hoffman, you'll want to get on Hohman which will take you through downtown Hammond, IN!

Riding south down Hohman for about a half mile, look for Sibley St and turn left (east). On Sibley you'll be looking to turn right (south) onto the Erie Lackawanna Trail. If you pass the First Baptist Church, you've gone too far!

About .25 miles after getting on the trail, south of Douglas, you'll want to take the right (western) path which is the Monon Trail.

You're Almost There!

Following the Monon Trail for 4.4 miles will get you to Fisher St, cross Fisher and turn left (east) towards the Walgreens and Calumet Ave. Staying on the west side of the street (the sidewalk is nicely divided for bikes) turn right (south) onto Calumet Ave.

Ride a single mile south on Calumet, looking for Superior (there's a Speedway/White Castle just before Superior, if you're thirsty you should buy stuff to drink at this Speedway). Take Superior to Indiana Parkway and you'll have arrived:

Glorious, isn't it?

Once you've arrived, you'll probably have to wait as you can observe in the photos above and below. But that's why you ride with friends (thanks Eric and Lyndsey)!

Eric and I planning our meals.
(photo credit: Lyndsey Baum)

We arrived around 2:00pm and waited for a good couple hours to be seated (We ate, drank, and were on the road again around 5:00pm). I think you might be able to mitigate some of the wait time by arriving closer to 4:00pm of course this would push back your departure time.

Ultimately, it is rather astounding the number of miles you can bike on paths, away from car traffic. This ride was also done in rather mild weather for July and with a nice tailwind out of the south, expediting our return trip a bit. For complete route information of our trip, check out my Strava posts: to Three Floyds and Back Home.

I hope this was helpful for those planning a similar ride. 

Do you have any questions about the ride?

What are some rides you would recommend?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

To Inform and Inspire (Training 6/2-6/22)

Here's a recap of remainder of the training cycle prior to my 2014 Grandma's Marathon. If you'd like, here are links to the plan I outlined after registering for the race and a recap of the first four weeks of training.

To begin, I'd like to reiterate the goals of the cycle:

1) Stay healthy. By prioritizing workout/long run quality over volume, I hoped to stay healthy. I ran too much the in first week of the cycle. Unlike in other cycles, I realized my behavior was not moving me towards my stated goals and adjusted for the rest of the cycle. I was able to complete the cycle healthy which gave me a lot of confidence going into the race.

2) Practice running Marathon Pace, again by prioritizing quality over volume, I hoped to run Marathon Pace more comfortably than in Boston. I was able to execute some key workouts that I believe really helped contribute to my ability to handle Marathon Pace. Executing these workouts successfully required me to focus on being properly recovered then properly recovering afterwards. For me this meant eliminating "junk" mileage. Though I did supplement my running volume with cross training (more on this below).

Week 3

Training at this point was starting to really become tiresome. My body was tired and I was burning out mentally. I remember desperately looking forward to my 10 day-ish taper. It is in these moments when it becomes necessary to lean on your teammates and support structures.

Monday, I decided, due to lacking motivation and a later than usual run start time, that I would swing by Fleet Feet Sports in Lincoln Square for the weekly 6:30pm "Fun Run." Typically Angelica and/or Brian attend these runs and are usually up for a nice 8 miles to/on the lake. Fortunately for me, Angelica and I were able to get some good miles in.

Nice weather on Tuesday prompted an impromptu double with strides.

Wednesday was my opportunity to really nail a hard mid-week workout. Sort of unintentionally, I ended up racing quite a bit during this cycle. A couple of these races fell on Thursdays so they sort of became my mid-week workout. Despite being registered for 13.1 Chicago the following Saturday, I decided that I had to get in a pretty high volume workout at just faster than marathon pace a pace I could live with.

After a string of races where I felt I had significantly under performed, my hope was that my legs were fatigued and that the strength I had built with all of my consistent running would eventually lead to faster running and racing. For Wednesday's workout, I drew on memories of comfortably running a three mile segment of a workout well under 16:00. If I could get close to 16:00 on my last rep I would be content (all this despite the fact I wasn't running much faster than 16:00 through 3 miles during races at this point).

Though I didn't manage to quite hit 16:00, I was pretty happy with how the workout played out:

"I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get any brutally difficult marathon type workouts in during this cycle. I did 3 x 3 miles on the lake half into the wind and half out of the wind, taking 4 minutes between reps: 17:01, 16:45, 16:19. I was very happy with this workout though it left me very tired."

Just to be safe, I took the day following completely off.

I've run a half-marathon in June for four of the past five years. I use this run as a barometer of my fitness going into the big summer training months. 13.1 Chicago as served as this barometer for three of these tests thanks to a couple free entries. This year's edition featured very tolerable weather (I ran my slowest half marathon ever here in 2011), but my big Wednesday workout and general fatigue prevented me from running very quickly:

"Wasn't 100% sure how the legs would respond after my very hard effort on Wednesday. Ended up just sort of running 5:45-55 pace for the whole race. One gear. I'm hoping since I did it on dead legs that this is pretty close to marathon fitness."

These words read as somewhat prophetic as I ended up running nearly exactly double my 13.1 Chicago finish time in Duluth (1:16:47 at 13.1, 2:33:26 at Grandma's). I like to think that it wasn't so much premonition as finally understanding what marathon pace is supposed to feel like. Previous cycles, I had gotten too much confidence from fast, hard workouts. A 17-18 miler with some very fast running mixed in is good training stimulus, but these runs made me overconfident when going into a marathon and didn't provided the appropriate aerobic stimulus necessary to run my intended marathon goal pace without blowing up. I'm pretty sure, easy to moderate 20 milers would have been more beneficial in retrospect.

Week 2

After one of the hardest weeks of the cycle, I was very happy to be done with workouts long, marathon type workouts. That said, two weeks is a long time to just sort of run aimlessly. Workouts (that you're slightly scared of) provide a very nice stimulus with intermediate goals and a mini recovery cycle. As you can see I didn't get too creative (I think I ran the exact same route 3 times this week). My goal here was to rest from marathon pace running while continuing to run somewhat consistent volume. I ran 2 hours for my final long run. This was probably a bit too long in retrospect, but I took off the day following so I don't feel too bad about this one.

I also did a mid-week 6 x 1k which went pretty well:

"Did 6 x 1k with Strubbe, Javier, and Andrew: 3:21, 3:15, the rest were around 3:10. Pleasantly surprised to feel decent during this one. Pretty cashed after the 6th one though. 2 min recovery between reps."

After so much running at or around marathon goal pace, I thought it might help break the week up and be good to do a bit of running at 5k pace.

Finally, due to additional rest/fitness coming around/boredom, my runs became much faster on average (let's say from ~7:45 average pace to more like 7:00).

Week 1

The first half of this week was an extension of the previous week. I was sick of running 8 milers, but I was also afraid that if I didn't run at least 8 miles, my body would stiffen up and not feel very good. I was very relieved to make it to Thursday prior to the race as I more or less let how I felt finally dictate how I ran. I was sick of running so I basically just warmed the legs up.

Friday, I alternated fast/slow 200s on the track for 1600m with a mile warm up and cool down. I wanted to get the blood flowing a bit faster as I knew I'd be sitting on the plane. Little did I know I'd be driving!

I was pretty happy with how my taper played out. I'm not a fan of cutting mileage significantly since I don't feel like I'm running too much mileage to begin with, however I did feel like reducing intensity 10 days out while keeping volume consistent, then slowly dropping volume until you're just relying on your body seemed like a good way to taper down for a goal race.

Unlike my first two marathons where I feel like stumbled on success, my previous three less successful cycles  (four if you count failing to even start in 2011) along with this mini-cycle taught me a lot about what sort of training I need for low 2:30s fitness:

  • Appropriate recovery, typically incomplete recovery in order to simulate the fatigue of the marathon distance, prioritizing recovery before and/or after key workouts in order to stay injury-free. I think Luke Humphrey does a pretty good job describing this in Hansons Marathon Method, he calls it "cumulative fatigue." I'd also lump in self/preventative care. I've been able to find a routine that has kept my lower legs from preventing consistent training so far.
  • Longer (hard) long runs (I count my 2:42 in Boston as one of my key long runs as well as my 2:49 in California). Now this idea is very Canova-esque as my Boston run was about 95% of my Grandma's effort for 100% of the marathon distance.
  • Some running at faster than marathon pace, 5k pace for me (including a few races). This will not feel very comfortable or build your self-confidence much, particularly if you're used to running faster at shorter distances.
  • Regular cross-training. I didn't really included this in my earlier write-ups as I've never viewed bike commuting as training, but I certainly spend enough time on my 11 mile round-trip bike commute to count these efforts a significant aerobic stimulus. I plan on starting to log these consistently for my next cycle. I realize now that when I was running well in the marathon, I was also doing a pretty decent bike commute on a regular basis.

Finally, I also drew a lot from Matt Flaherty's 2:25 at the 2013 Napa Valley Marathon which occurred after he was sidelined for much of 2012. Taking off the final two months of 2013 and spending January 2014 splitting time between the pool and the roads, I had my doubts about getting into low 2:30s shape this calendar year, but it certainly helped me to review Matt's record and not put too many limits on my own running. I also took a lot of ideas as well as inspiration from Rich Heffron's build up to the 2013 Grandma's Marathon where he posted a nice 2:31:21 PR. Rich started his build up in 2013 at nearly the same time I did in 2014 so it was very helpful to track my own progress against his. My hope is that someone else will be able to use these blogs to join Rich and I in the Chicago-area low-2:30s club! Thanks guys!

What resources have informed and inspired your running?