Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Thought Constipated

Since the Chicago Marathon, I've raced for fun a handful of times. Unfortunately I also managed to hurt my right Achilles and am now taking some time off of running. In addition to resting from running, I have been implementing the Alfredson Protocol: 3 x 15 eccentric heel drops twice per day (for 12 weeks). This protocol is very commonly recommended for runners with injury to the midpoint of the Achilles tendon. It's important to note that injury to the insertion point of the tendon should be handled differently. Google it and consult a professional if you have questions.

Anyway, here's a video that clearly illustrates eccentric heel drops:

Instead of running, I've been riding my commuter and road bikes. This has been somewhat of a rude awakening as I've been run commuting so much that I'm out of practice when it comes to dressing for colder rides and riding itself. The constant threat of traffic is much greater when riding in the street and is sort of grating compared to the relative serenity of the sidewalk.

On top of biking for "fun" and transportation, I've also been taking this time to develop some strength and conditioning routines to help make me more injury resistant and faster. I've never had a serious Achilles tendon injury and so I think this is more of a freak injury; the result of a couple of runs where I pushed my body too hard without a proper warm up. That said, pretty much every runner can benefit from additional injury-proofing. My existing routine before and after Chicago Marathon was very, very minimal: calf and quad rolling, the occasional MYRTL routine, and that was pretty much it. I'm still developing a plan around injury prevention, but I know a lot of it has to do with my hip and core strength. In addition, I fully realize to achieve my goals on the track and roads next spring and in Berlin next fall, I need to get stronger in general. So I'm also looking into protocols for this as well.

My upper body is a particular area of focus. I undervalue upper body strength and have done little to maintain or develop strength in this area. To this end, I am going to do a 30 day push up challenge I found via a quick Google search. I've always sort of looked down on these sorts of challenges. If I'm painfully honest with myself, I've looked down on these challenges at least in part because I felt threatened by them and the people that did them. I lack motivation/ability/confidence when it comes to my upper body.  This is obviously a really unhealthy, constipated way of thinking. My hope is to use this challenge to take steps towards strengthening my upper body, embracing challenges, and celebrating the diverse skills, dedication, and talents of people around me (which yes, maybe different from my own).

Here's my Google Sheets Push-Up tracker for accountability!

What are your tips for embracing challenges?

How about celebrating the skills, dedication, and talents of others?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Race Recap: 2015 Chicago Marathon

I'm finding it difficult to write naturally about the race so I am resorting to a contrived Race Analysis form, which I found in my training log from the summer before my senior year of high school that my then coach, Jon Gordon, put together. I'm not sure where this form comes from so if you know, let me know!

I logged 601 miles in 14 weeks that summer. This year in the 13 weeks leading up to the Chicago Marathon I logged 1064 miles.

A lot has changed since I started this blog while training for my fourth marathon, the 2013 Chicago Marathon. I've grown and learned about the marathon and life though I'm still far from master of either. Throughout the last few years, I've really grown to appreciate the support of those near and far, on and off the course. My 2014 Chicago Marathon Race Recap catalogs all the friends and family on course. Looking back at it now, I'm no less thankful, but it does come off as a bit obnoxious. This aside, thanks for your support! I hope you enjoy this race recap.


Date: 10/11/2015
Distance: 42.195 km or ~26.2 miles
Time: 2:33:29 (chip)
Position: 116
Winner's Name: Dickson Chumba
Winner's Time: 2:09:25
Own best time to date: 2:31:42, 2010 Dallas White Rock Marathon

photo credit: Janet Takayama

Number of hours sleep 48 & 24 hours before race: 
7-8 & 6.5 respectively. Honestly, I'm not 100% sure. This would be in alignment more or less to my typical sleep patterns throughout training.

Food eaten before race, and when (Note: I didn't write this form, what strange wording!):

During the Race
Typical schedule of 3 gels; Gu Salted Caramel (mile 7), Huma Apples & Cinnamon (mile 13.5), and Gu Salted Caramel (mile 20, taken early due to cramping in lower legs).

Morning of
5:10am - 1 packet pomegranate-blueberry Generation Ucan immediately after 1 mile shakeout jog, normally I wouldn't take anything, but since I had practiced with this product with no ill GI effects and it has minimal impact on insulin response (impacting fat burn), I decided due to my light dinner the evening before I should top off my energy stores.

Evening Prior
7:30pm - 4 small Gala apples with ~4 tablespoons almond butter, the body didn't feel like eating a large dinner since I had a late lunch. I wanted to get some fiber in the system, too.

5:00pm - 1 square of Skratch Labs portables Blueberry Coconut Chocolate Rice snack

Late Lunch Day Prior
1:30pm - .5 lbs ground beef 80% lean, sauteed with tomatoes and zucchini 

I don't recall what I had for breakfast, but it was probably
8:30am - 2 bowls of cereal with almond milk

Two Evenings Prior
7:00pm - Angus burger topped with fried egg and french fries at Burger Bar on Clybourn with Austin Hendrix and Cole Sanseverino

Type of warm-up carried out:
1 mile shake out run done 2.5 hours prior to race start. ~1 mile walk to start corral including some very light jogging. Temps were cool, but not chilly/cold.

Tactics in early stages of race:
My goal was to settle into 5:48-50 pace with as little drama as possible. Cole and I started in the A Corral together. Cole stuck right on my shoulder as we navigated the crowded, adrenaline-filled first mile. I think we split about 5:40, but then quickly got things under control. Our 5k split was 18:08 or 5:50 pace so we were exactly where I wanted to be. Also within this first 5k, we ran into my friend, Rich Heffron. Rich and I have similar marathon PRs and had planned on trying to work together in this year's race. In addition to Rich and Cole, I found myself in a group including some other Chicago guys, Dan Regalado and Matt Thor.

Our group at about 2.5 miles into the race.
photo credit: Felipe Lopez

Things stayed relatively consistent for us through half way which we passed in 1:16:12 which is right at 5:50 pace. Shortly after this, our group started to splinter apart, but I was feeling relatively comfortable and continued to enjoy the company of Rich and Cole.

At what point discomfort set in:
After the halfway point, I held steady a few more miles, then started to ratchet the pace down a bit. I figured if we were to run under 2:32, now would be the time to start getting time back. After a few 5:45 miles though, I could tell maintaining this tempo would be challenging. Still nearly 10 miles out from the finish, I relaxed and tried to maintain the previous tempo of ~5:50 pace. Surprisingly Rich, Cole, and I were still running together.

After 30k, around mile 19 or so, I noticed that my arches and the medial portion of my calves were beginning to cramp. From this point onward, I would experience cramps that would lock up my foot and calves (more on the right than the left) for about 20 steps at a time every mile or so. At this point, Cole had dropped back and it was just Rich and me with Monika Juodeskaite trailing us. Running through Pilsen, dealing with cramps, I knew I was slowing down slightly and prepared for Rich to run away from me. Ultimately though, this never happened as we traded leads a number of times in the last 10k down to the final stretch on Columbus with Rich overtaking me in the final stretch.

I thoroughly enjoyed running nearly step for step with Rich since we've done a number of runs and races together over the past couple years:

Rich and I running the 2013 Paleozoic 25k
photo credit: Jenna Heffron

It's pretty rare for two runners to be able to set out to run a race together, but that's pretty much what we did and I wouldn't have run as well without him!

Whether absolutely maximum effort was made:
Wow, this analysis sheet doesn't pull any punches! I believe I made the maximum effort. It's a bit tough to say when you're dealing with something like calf cramps. I  felt like at times I might be able to run a bit harder, but at the same time I didn't want to push too hard and pull something.

In the early stages, I made a conscious effort to keep the pace in check; in alignment with my fitness. I also made a conscious effort to slowly push the pace after halfway to put myself in a position to set a PR. So in these aspects of execution, I would say I made the maximum effort. I then maintained what I thought was maximum sustainable effort when I became hampered by calf cramps, being willing to sacrifice 5-10 seconds/mile in the last 10k in order to prevent a catastrophic injury that would prevent me from finishing.

How long it took to recover:

(A) From immediate exhaustion:
1-2 hours.

(B) Completely:
Three days later, I'm still a little tired, but not sore at all. Initially (Monday morning), my left arch was completely frozen up. This is my problem arch. I rolled out my calves and did a lot of walking and biking which helped a lot. I'm planning on resuming running on Sunday, but not resuming any formal training for some time.

Type of cool down carried out:
Minimal cool down. Approximately 1 mile of walking immediately after the race. 10 minute massage targeting the calves, quads, hamstrings, and upper back.

What can be learned from this race:
Rich, who runs for Dick Pond/Fast Track, is the best teammate I never had. Team rivalries are fun, but in the long run (haha), working together to achieve our goals and building friendships is even more fun and productive. I'm also thankful for Dan, Matt, Cole, and the other members of our initial group who helped keep the pace rolling along in the earlier miles.

I forgot to hydrate well enough prior to the race. I think this may have contributed to the cramping I experienced. I changed shoes because I experienced some foot cramps in my last 4-5 marathons or so, but these were by far the worst I have experienced yet. I have trouble replicating them in practice as I think they're a function of dehydration and running for a long time at race pace.

My calves were also the issue in this past year's Boston Marathon. Over the off season, I would like to work on lifting and plyometrics targeting the calves/lower legs to help prevent future issues.

Next race (marathon):
2016 Berlin Marathon!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sticking to the Plan (Training 6/22-8/30)

After Grandma's Marathon, I took two weeks off of running (6/22-7/5). I really enjoyed and needed this break from running and probably could/should have taking a third week off. During this time, I was able to follow up last year's Three Floyds brewery ride with a ride with Eric and Lyndsey to Two Brothers Tap House in Warrenville, IL:

The Prairie Path is great, but I wasn't a huge fan of the crushed gravel. Riding through Oak Park, was probably my favorite section; the streets are wide and the houses are pretty.

After my break, I immediately jumped into the program I wrote for the 2015 BoA Chicago Marathon. This year, after a somewhat disappointing result in Duluth and conversations with teammates, I decided it was time for me to try a higher mileage approach again. After years of off and on injury, I'm a little gun shy about higher mileage (consistently 80+ mpw), but it felt like my body and mind were getting to a point where I could and should increase my average mileage. 

This is the first program that I've ever tried to execute that outlines every single day of the cycle. The two driving forces behind trying this approach were 1) to plan recovery days/weeks to avoid falling into the trap of trying to string together as many 90+ weeks as possible (I ended up injured doing this before) and 2) to reduce the stress of planning when I'd be getting my runs in for the day/week. Of course I use the term "stress" here sort of lightly however since I've made run commuting a habit, it does require some additional thought and planning to get one's self and stuff from one place to another. I figured if I could reduce some of the constant unknowns, by planning ahead as much as possible I could be more relaxed and enjoy my training more.

I'll post my program in another post to keep things focused more on the execution of the program itself.

Eight weeks into my program and with six weeks to go, it seems that this approach has certainly helped me stay healthy while increasing my weekly mileage into the 90 mile range.

It's also been helpful to have a plan for commuting/running. Of course I've deviated from this plan due, but in general, it's been helpful to have a plan for the week. An added benefit of planning recovery runs/commutes is that I've been a lot more consistent about getting in strides throughout the week. I'm still working on being consistent about strength and mobility training, but it seems like the strides have helped running at faster paces become more comfortable.

Workouts have been consistent and for the most part pretty solid. The last three workouts in particular have been good efforts. Shout out to the 6am Fleet Feet / Nike Racing Team crew!

My long runs on the other hand have been a bit of a struggle. I've made some dietary changes, moving away from consuming as many grains in order to become a little leaner/lighter. This along with my return to running coinciding with warmer weather/poor hydration habits have resulted in my early long runs ending with me jogging or walking home. Lately, the weather has been a bit more tolerable and my long runs have been a bit more encouraging.

Looking ahead, the next three weeks feature my peak mileage for the cycle (I'll average ~95/mpw over these three weeks) and my hardest long runs and race specific workouts including a planned 24 miler at 90-95% marathon pace (which may need to be adjusted) and Oak Brook Half Marathon on Labor Day (9/7). I'm looking forward to these harder efforts as training seems to be going in the right direction.

How is your training going? What is your goal for the fall?

Have you ever made dietary changes while training? What differences did you notice?

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Race Recap: 2015 Grandma's Marathon

After running my fastest marathon in four years at Grandma's last year, I decided to return to Duluth for the marathon again in 2015. As I was already signed up for the Garry Bjorkland Half and the Marathon still had open spots, this was a relatively easy transition. I switched a week or two after Boston. While I was healthy coming off of my Boston Marathon, I wasn't particularly satisfied with my performance and had long entertained running Grandma's again in 2015 if Boston didn't end up going as well as I would have liked.

Post 2015 Grandma's Marathon!
photo credit: Erin Webb

Training between Boston and Grandma's was a little rocky. As with each training cycle, things change and this one was unlike last year's mini-cycle between Boston and Grandma's and unlike the cycle I did between Chicago and Dallas in 2010. Unlike my two prior experiences, with the 8 week turnaround between marathons, I could feel my motivation lag and doubt creeping into my mind as the weeks progressed. One of the big factors here was tweaking my left arch a two weeks after Boston. I wasn't nearly as sore this year and returned to running a little too aggressively. I also started doing hops and strides in an effort to find my speed and strengthen my calves which had given out in Boston. Perhaps the introduction of this stimulus also played a role in my arch issue. Anyway, it's difficult to motivate yourself to train hard when you're constantly dealing with a nagging injury. For future reference, when dealing with a nagging injury, take a break or train without fear. Continuing to run with a nagging injury that isn't improving doesn't have to be the end of the world if you're able to more or less maintain training at a high level. If you're compromising your training, you aren't going to achieve your goals, your motivation will suffer, and you're probably better off resting and recovering.

Note: This is more for my own reference, in no way am I advocating you train through injury. Ten of ten times I would tell you to back off and rest, particularly immediately following a decent marathon goal race and a hard training cycle. But the rules are different for me. Ha. ;)

I know this is supposed to be my 2015 Grandma's Marathon Recap.

The one good week of "training" I had was probably also one of the dumbest weeks of running I've ever attempted (100+ mile weeks included). It began Sunday, May 17th, at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon (my BibRave review), with pacing the 3:00 group, running 2:59:26, on a really humid day where only 18 people broke three hours. After taking Monday and Tuesday "off" (I "only" rode 17 miles+ to/from work), I returned to running Wednesday the week following Green Bay. Still feeling elevated soreness in my left arch, Thursday, I raced the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge representing team Shure for the second year! While the event was fun, the race was a struggle. I only managed 19:05 for 3.5 miles, 10 seconds slower than the prior year.

At this point, you're probably thinking, "Serves you right, Dan." I was just warming up!

After an "easy, recovery" run on Friday, it was time to race again. This time it was Fleet Feet Sports' Soldier Field 10 Mile. Despite barely averaging sub-5:30 pace for 3.5 miles, I had it in my head that I could probably average sub-5:40 pace for 10 miles. My gut told me that if I slowed down just a bit from the pace I ran at Corporate Challenge, I'd be able to hold it for the 10 mile distance. Marathon training does weird things to your physiology (and psychology, ha). Sure enough I was able to finish just seconds off my 10 mile PR set at Soldier Field in 2011, running 55:37 for 24th in a deep field.

Capping a very odd 7 day stretch of with a near PR performance over 10 miles probably indicates that my 10 mile PR is pretty soft but also gave me some much needed confidence that Grandma's Marathon wasn't going to be a total bust as my races, workouts, and long runs with the exception of Green Bay had not gone well.

Fast forward to several days before Grandma's Marathon. I hadn't had a great workout since Soldier Field, but was feeling pretty strong and confident something like 5:50-low pace was totally doable after averaging 5:34 pace for 10 miles. I planned to go out a little faster than last year, somewhere around 1:17:00 versus 1:17:45. After running a -2:04 negative split in 2014, I knew if I were to run faster than the year prior, I'd need to get out a little harder in 2015. I also had the though flash through my mind, "2014 was pretty much about as good as it could have been. It's highly unlikely 2015 will go quite as well." I don't think this is necessarily negative thinking as much as being realistic and preparing for the potential for things not to click quite as well as the year prior.

Sure enough, things didn't quite feel as good in 2015. While we started in a downpour, the rain lightened up so as not to be much of a factor for me pretty early in the race. I ran with a group that included the 6th, 7th, and 8th place women at the time as well as my friend Ben Kampf for many of the early miles, we were on a fairly hot pace, running 5:45s which was kind of my average goal pace. I told myself it was the incline variation and that I might be having a decent day.

After reaching halfway in 1:16:48, I could tell a negative split was out of the picture. Discouraged, I considered slowing to meet up with a group of friends who were trying to break 2:40. 13 miles is a long time to run when you know you aren't going to reach your goal. After a mile or so, I snapped myself out of my malaise and told myself to just focus on running as close to 5:50 pace as possible, taking each mile at a time. I strung together some decent miles and kept the slowing to a minimum until mile 22. After mile 22, I had one downhill 6:11 but the rest of my miles were about 6:20 pace. I wrote in my log, "Death by 1,000 paper cuts."

Dying by 1,000 paper cuts at mile 23.
photo credit: @kimmiepearlman

While my 2015 Grandma's Marathon wasn't the 2:33 I was hoping for, 2:36 and my 3rd "best" positive split ever (+2:40 on the second half) isn't the worst possible outcome. More importantly, I like to think choosing to stick with the race was a good character and race-skill building opportunity. I've found that it can be easy to check out physically and mentally when things aren't going as expected or desired, but often (not always, but often) staying positive and continuing to work towards your goals is still valuable. I suppose some people would call this "heart."

Weeks prior to Grandma's I was really looking forward to taking a break from running mostly because I wasn't really running well and my left arch wasn't getting better while training on it. I'm on day 7 of 14 planned days without running. I have been bike commuting, but this first week was pretty much a complete rest week. I'd like to reintroduce some light strength and stability work next week in preparation for returning to running and ultimately 12 hard weeks of training for the Chicago Marathon. My top priority is to get my left arch to a place where it doesn't hurt as much. So far, it's improved significantly, but is still sore. Hopefully another 7 days will do the trick.

Thanks for reading!

Some Qs for yous:

What are your mental processes when you know mid-race that your goal is out of reach?

How do you spend your time when taking a break from running?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Race Recap: 2015 Boston Marathon

I gladly add my voice yet again to those who have sung praises to the Boston Marathon. After completing my second consecutive race (race recap for my first), I can understand why one might return year after year as some runners do (the longest streak is 48 consecutive finishes!). The people of Boston celebrate marathon runners unlike any other town I've observed. It seems to me that they see the sweat and struggle as a sacrifice in their honor and respond with shouts of encouragement and thanks. I certainly would have faltered more without them. It is this celebration of the culmination of the runners' dreams that I believe makes the atmosphere so intoxicating.

As last year, I was fortunate enough to have access to the Boston365 amenities made available through Adidas and Fleet Feet Sports. This year, I was particularly thankful for the warm, dry charter bus where we spent a good three hours and weathered a spring shower, and the trail mix bar in the post-race lounge which brought me back from lightheaded limbo. If you're headed to Boston in 2016, I highly recommend looking into this program as it takes the training and racing experience to a whole new level and only continues to improve. Kyle Larson deserves a big shout out for coordinating this program for the Fleet Feet Sports Chicago crew. Kyle did a great job managing the needs of 100+ neurotic runners throughout training and race weekend.

I was also blessed with encouragement from across the country (social media at its best!). Friends, family, and acquaintances offered warm well wishes. I am learning to internalize their words of encouragement more each day.

Somewhere in Wellesley with my marathon friend Ari (right)
photo credit: Mark Erspamer

As for the race itself, I missed what I considered a reasonable time goal of sub 2:35 given my fitness and the course. This was likely due to a quick first half and really quick opening miles. Last year, by mile ten my left quad in particular was pretty beaten up. One of my theories was that this was due to braking in the early miles (my first mile in 2014 was a 6:35). So in addition to lifting, taping, and hammering Windmill Hill I decided that I'd try to relax and run at a more natural feeling pace which I suppose backfired a bit. Here's a look at my splits:

5k and half splits with average split paces

A couple additional notes on the splits from the race:
+5:39 from the first half to the second half 
-5:12 from 2014 (+4:07 positive split last year)

The early miles, as you might surmise from the splits, felt like they should; easy and controlled. I tried to get out of the way and let my body do its thing, trusting that my training had prepared me to run the last few miles triumphantly into Boston. This went on for some time. I enjoyed getting out a bit faster than last year as the water stations weren't as crowded, but there was still a good group of people including my marathon friend Ari (with whom I've run parts of two Chicago Marathons and now this race as well). This group seemed to be targeting 2:32-35 and was rolling along at about 5:45 pace which seemed good to me as I thought a slight positive split was probably more likely than a negative split on the course.

Rolling through halfway, my split of about 76 minutes was quicker than the 77 minutes I had initially planned, but I had minimal concern as I was still feeling pretty comfortable. My breathing was completely in control, and my quads felt great thanks to my most drastic taper yet and some KT Taping (see photo). At this point, I was starting to notice my calves begin to fatigue and my gels did not seem to be digesting well. Both these issues were likely due to the hot pace. In particular, I've noticed in marathons where I've gone out aggressively for my fitness level, I've had difficulty digesting my gels. Looking back, I also didn't really train much with Gu Roctane so that may also have played a role. At least I did stick to my fueling plan: a Roctane prior to the start and at 7, Salted Caramel at 14, and Huma Apple Cinnamon at 21. In retrospect, I wanted more caffeine earlier and would have liked to eat two Salted Caramels instead of the Roctane on course.

After a comfortable half, the next major checkpoint in my mind is getting to the Newton Hills (Mile 16) unscathed. Aerobically very comfortable, I kept on the gas, splitting 5:47, 52, 58, 40 for miles 13, 14, 15, and 16. I arrived in decent shape and so decided to continue running at the same effort up the hills with reasonable success through the first three, running 6:00, 01, 01, 10 for 17, 18, 19, and 20. As the splits reveal, the wheels were starting to come off up the third hill. I could feel my form falter on this climb as my hips began to sway more than normal. I also couldn't remember at this point how many climbs I had completed. I knew I was starting to falter so I continued to press along just trying to keep my effort up. I crested Heartbreak Hill and it took someone's very helpful sign to tell me I had completed the Newton Hills. Splitting a 6:26 for mile 21, I told myself to rally for the downhill ride to Boston.

Mile 17's Clif Shot Stop
photo credit: Team BibRave

In my experience, once you start running well above the pace you've been averaging for the earlier portions of a marathon it's pretty hard to pull things back together. Usually this means you're bonking (you've depleted available muscle glycogen) and your day is pretty much done. In 2014, I had gone out much more conservatively, ran strong through the Newton Hills and had gotten to mile 21, looked downhill, and knew my race was done. A knot in my left quad prevented me from running downhill without pain and had me hobbling to the finish despite my conservative start.

I specifically trained to handle this section in 2015, pummeling my body during long runs in Barrington, pushing the pace on downhill sections. Cresting Heartbreak, I knew it was time to go to the well for whatever I had left. I stood tall and tried to let gravity do the work. At about this point I also ran into my friend Peter from Chicago which also helped spur me onward. I split a 6:04 for mile 22 running with Peter. Unfortunately, the earlier miles had taken more of a toll than I thought they might and I couldn't maintain that pace. I slowed to a 6:14 for mile 23 and Peter begin to slip away.

Crowds, teammates, and experience come into play when things start to fall apart in the marathon. While I continued to slow in the last few miles, I recalled prior races where this had occurred and remembered that despite running 30+ seconds per mile slower than what I had hoped to be averaging that I wasn't hemorrhaging time too badly and still had a very good shot at a sub-2:40 performance on the course. I chased Peter and another friend Ian who passed me at mile 25. Last but certainly not least, the crowds thicken through these final miles, cheering triumphant and faltering runners alike. I fought onward, hoping my effort would align with their faith in me. Unlike last year, when I felt embarrassed about jogging in the last few miles of the race, I enjoyed and accepted the adulation of the crowds using it as fuel to continue onward. Finishing within a few minutes of several Chicago friends including Peter and Ian who's silhouettes I had chased made the experience even sweeter.

While the objective performance was better than last year's by over 5 minutes, I was also able to feel more present and enjoy the event more this year which is the larger victory won. Celebrating the wonderful performances from teammates and friends was also a highlight of the day. I will put my coach hat on for a moment and agree with my friend Graham who ran a 2:26 PR and said in response to me saying I had run a good first 10 miles, "[Y]ou're better than that! Anyone can rock a fast first 10 there!" I should have stuck with my planned 77 minute first half. I know I can run much faster on this course, however I do have my doubts about training for a faster effort in Chicago. While I'll likely not race Boston again next year, I do hope to return for a more successful third try at the course and to experience again the shared joy of race day.

Thanks for following along!

Did you run Boston this year? How did it go?

Is there a course on which you've experienced a connection with the spectators like I have?

Let me know in the comments below!

Also check out my review on BibRave!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Boston 2015 Specific Period (Training 2/2-4/5)

Since this is a recap of nine weeks of training (catch up on the previous 11 weeks of "global" training), I thought some data visualizations would be a helpful starting point.

First off, here's a mileage bar chart of my last nine weeks of training. I'm still working out using Google Sheets for these visualizations (I also tried SAP Lumira, but Sheets was easier for these basic visualizations, I should probably just use Excel but it isn't currently installed on my home computer) so the key weeks are missing data labels, but here are some details:

Total for the Period - 673.2 miles
Average - 74.8 miles/week
Maximum Week - 88 miles
Minimum Week - 65.4 miles (race week, I ran terribly)

I've dealt with tightness/pain in my left quad for much of this training cycle. This really began to effect my training about 7 weeks out from Boston, a very critical point of training, when workouts really start to get long and more marathon specific. I decided to go see Dr. Ryan Verchota who practices out of Active Body Chiropractic in the South Loop and Edge Athlete Lounge. My teammate, Ian La Belle, had recommended Dr. Ryan and after treatment, I felt much better, and was able to run the next 4 weeks without taking a day off! Tapering healthy feels great! I haven't gotten through my training without feeling banged up since 2010.

I segmented this mileage over the last nine weeks using Strava's Run Type field. Strava allows you to categorize your runs by four basic "types." This isn't the most accurate as some workouts were as long or longer than long runs and sometimes to adjust for GPS or user error generic "runs" were logged, but it does outline the mileage I've been logging.

Mileage Run Type

This chart shows the Run Type breakdown of the miles logged during this period. Below, I will cover a few thoughts on each Type for this cycle.

My Best Run in Barrington Ever?

Long Run -119.5 mi
Long runs this cycle were fast! It makes such a difference to go into a training cycle healthy! In 2014, I started the cycle swimming on my easy days to keep my shins happy. My Barrington long runs were more about surviving and making sure I got in good time on my feet. This time around, I knew I had to really hammer my legs on the downhills to prepare for what I might feel like in the later half of the course in Boston. It also makes a big difference having a group of faster guys hammering along side me on these runs.

While I say the long runs this cycle were fast, I was also trying to shift my mentality a bit around long runs and pace. While training for the Chicago Marathon, I did one 22 miler with 18 miles at about 95% marathon goal pace. I thought this was a "fast" long run. This cycle, many of my long runs were done at a similar average pace with the mentality that for a faster marathoner, 6:00-6:10 pace isn't that "fast."

I take a lot of confidence from hammering almost every long run, but at the same time, I think I really sacrificed some of my Wednesday workouts, but we'll get to those later. I plan on running a faster long run every other weekend versus every weekend in the future.

Must beat Manpri
photo credit: Eric Baum

Race - 20.6 mi
It's hard to believe I'll be racing more miles on April 20th than during this entire 9 week period. The highlight was probably the 16:18 I ran at UW Parkside on February 7th, 11 weeks out from Boston. This race was supposed to cap the "global" or general fitness phase of my training. Coming from a year where I never broke 16:20 in the 5k, the Parkside race was a nice confidence builder. That said, I bombed my next race, a terrible 16:45 at UChicago.

The other two races I ran, the Shamrock Run 15k in Portland, OR (my BibRave Review) and BoA Shamrock Shuffle 8k were ambiguous gauges of Boston fitness as I ran both prior to the Marathon last year. Shamrock Run 15k is hilly and I was about 20 seconds faster than the year prior. Shamrock Shuffle is fast and I was about 20 seconds slower than last year.

I believe I'm in much better shape than at last year's 2:42 in Boston. I may not be able to race fast (in relation to my PRs) over shorter distances, but I'm confident in my ability to run reasonably fast over the marathon distance.

A Typical Run Commute

Run - 430.9 mi
I'd say close to half of these miles were done to or from work and quite a few of these with teammate, Eric Baum, who is also training for the Boston Marathon this year. This was the first time I really ran consistently with a pack which I fabricated myself (more on this another time? Comment below if you'd like to learn about my pack).

I feel like every runner has a distance that is their "perpetual run distance" or PRD. This is the distance they can cover without much effort almost every day. It is the ideal distance for easy days during marathon training. For me, in high school, this distance was probably 6-7 miles. Since then it's crept up to 8-10, but really settled around 8 miles after dealing with years of injury. Enter the run commute of 9 miles door-to-door. Forced to extend my PRD by necessity, I slowed down and took my time, ultimately adapting well to this new distance.

Workout - 99.1
As I alluded to earlier, I feel that my workouts were significantly hampered by the fact that I hammered virtually all my long runs averaging under 6:20 for pretty much all of the major long runs. It's not a great feeling to bomb mid-week workouts, but that's kind of been my story now for the last 18 months. Healthy and strong, but completely lacking speed. I tried to take this in stride as much as possible, focusing on my key workouts and performing decently when I prioritized them.

The capstone workout was 3 x 3 miles with a half mile recovery run between reps. I was very pleased with this workout and couldn't have done it without the help of Kyle, Austin, and Mark. We did this run sort of in the place of a long run (I ended up covering just over 19 miles total), warming up to Fleet Feet Sports - Old Town then running the first 1.5 reps south. I ran 16:50, 30, 30 or so for about a 5:33 average. When I performed this workout last year prior to Grandma's Marathon, I averaged about 5:40 so this is a big improvement from that effort. For Grandma's this ended up being about 10 seconds per mile faster than goal marathon pace. Now, I'm not convinced I'm in 2:30 marathon shape (5:43), but I am happy with the effort as it shows that I am developing some decent fitness.

 Strength Training
I would be remiss to leave out the final (new) piece of the training puzzle that Eric and Lyndsey Baum introduced me to: Dr. Yessis' running specific resistance band exercises and the 1x20 Program developed by their friend Amber for their marathon preparations.

I had been doing Coach Jay's Pedestal and MYRTL routines, but I hadn't really lifted regularly since high school (I was also injured less in high school so there's that...). While I didn't really log this activity in Strava, I lifted a total of 6 times during this cycle, typically on Tuesdays, run commuting from work with Eric. This additional stimulus has helped develop much needed stability and general strength which I believe has helped keep my healthy. I really do notice this on my easy days as well as workouts and races. I even noticed the difference riding my bike! That said, my legs are usually trashed after doing squats and Romanian dead lifts, yet another contributor to my less than stellar Wednesday workouts.

This cycle featured:
-Professional prehab/treatment of a nagging minor injury (+1 for taking care of one's body)
-Consistent, moderate, and (mostly) healthy mileage
-Faster group long runs (6:20 pace and faster)
-A good indoor 5k among otherwise mediocre race results
-Run commuting
-Perpetual Run Distance (PRD) extended to 9 miles
-Generally bad faster workouts
-A good 3 x 3 workout
-Sport specific and general strength training
-Support from teammates and others

Overall this has been one of my most successful marathon cycles ever. I have learned a lot and become much more consistent. I'm still not where I was in the fall of 2010, but I believe I'm well on my way to a successful and healthy 2015!

How has your training been going?

What new stimulus have you introduced recently and what has its effect been?

Leave a comment or question below!

Shameless plug: I'm running the Super Sunny 5k on June 6th which benefits Garden Center Services, a Chicago-area agency that serves people with developmental disabilities. You should join me!

Monday, April 6, 2015

My First Race

The passing of another year, a #tbt photo, and a vlog post about Good Friday, Easter, and personal narrative, have inspired a reflection on how my self-narrative has changed over the years.

This photo was taken just weeks into my freshman cross country campaign at Northside and got a crazy number of likes on Facebook by people who have known me throughout various stages of my life. In considering this and the ways which the stories we tell ourselves shape our lives, I thought it might be helpful to share a little about how my self-narrative shifted as a result of choosing to run cross country.

My dad began training for his first and only marathon (Chicago 2002) at the end of my elementary school days. In preparation, he signed up for a 10k and asked me if I wanted to try running the corresponding 5k. Having basically no athletic background and carrying the awkward burden of being a (former) chubby kid I figured running might be a good way to "get in shape." The narrative I told myself was that as a (former) chubby, Asian kid with glasses, I wasn't "tough" and would never be an athlete. Without a background in traditional team sports or much natural speed, strength, or stature, I had written off athletic activity as an opportunity to be embarrassed, and was entirely content to view physical activity as a necessary evil of a healthy lifestyle akin to brushing my teeth. I allowed this narrative to limit my potential not just as an athlete but also as a person.

I ran that first 5k in 29:36 and figured that this would probably be the extent of my running "career." I didn't train much and figured running a bit faster than my dad's planned marathon pace for the distance would be respectable. It fit perfectly into the narrative I told myself: I was healthy enough to finish, I'd maybe jog once or twice a week and run a 5k for charity once in a while, but I wasn't about to win any races.

Fast forward a few months to my transition from home school to public school for the first time in five years. The only person I knew at my new school played lacrosse (shout out to Tori, haha). I hadn't really played organized team sports, but figured this sounded cool (tough or whatever) and sort of had an idea that not many (Chicago) kids had experience playing lacrosse prior to high school so I might have a shot at this "new" sport. Again to "get into shape" and develop some toughness, I surprised myself and my parents by deciding to run cross country the fall of my freshman year of high school (I don't think there is any "going out" for cross country as everyone makes the team).

Racing for the first time!

My self-narrative began to change in my first cross country race. I finished the Gordon Tech Invite Freshman Two Mile in under 13 minutes, truly racing for the first time and off little training. I believe I placed 19th or 20th in this race and received a medal or ribbon for this finish. Prior to the race, I realized I couldn't fail if I never backed down. No matter how slow I ran, I couldn't question my toughness if I ran through the pain. This thought was freeing for a failure fearing teen. Thus unhindered by paralyzing fear, I had objectively achieved something in cross country. In light of this evidence, my narrative had to change. I could no longer truthfully tell myself I was an athletic non-achiever and that I wasn't tough.

I still have miles to go in terms of refining my self-narrative, but this experience is one of the most significant to date. This mile (or two miles as it were) of my journey began to reset parts of my narrative that kept me from achieving my potential as an athlete and a person. I'm finding it difficult to connect this transformation of self-narrative to things beyond running at the moment. I will say that what this revealed was my ability/worth in a totally unexpected area, a foreshadowing of a (growing) realization of my worth regardless of achievement or ability.

How would you describe your first race experience?

Have you experienced a transformation as an athlete that has changed the stories you tell yourself?

Leave a comment or question below!

Note: A lot of the thought processes I describe above were fueled by an unhealthy fear of failure which characterized my adolescent mind. Perhaps another time I'll write about running "scared." Another adolescent fantasy to dispel is there is only so much "toughness" can overcome (sorry Pre fans). Being mentally tough and staying positive counts but I believe its dangerous to disconnect those things from our natural ability, current fitness, and the limits they impose. In fact, the lack of sprint speed, explosive strength, and stature that make team sports challenging for me is probably the flip side of the physiology that allows me to run well in the marathon.

Also thanks Dan McDowell for editing this piece!

Monday, February 16, 2015

PART 2: What Your Running Shoes Say About You

If you missed my original post, What Your Running Shoes Say About You, I wrote my takes on adidas, Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, Nike, and Saucony fans.

In this installment, We'll cover some old favorites and some up and comers!

Part 2:
What Your Running Shoes Say About You

photo credit: New Balance Running

New Balance
A genuine and humble soul, many people don't even know you run, much less bring the heat! On the track you're a fierce competitor while off the track you enjoy the simple things in life. Committed to a small group of training partners, you make each other better one day at a time. A smart racer; when rivals go head to head with you they usually lose.

Your spirit runner is Jenny Simpson.

photo credit: Hoka One One

Hoka One One
Relentless, you don't let anything get between you and your run. You know there are no shortcuts and consistent hard work is the path to success. A life long runner or new to the sport, you bring a unique perspective to the trail that your training partners appreciate. On race day, you are quick to smile and fast to the finish.

Your spirit runner is David Torrance.

photo credit: Newton Running

Newton Running
Colorful and quirky, you can't get enough of running or runners. Your running journey has taken a lot of twists and turns, but you're sticking with it. Your teammates rely on you for a positive mental boost. On race day, you feed off nervous energy and are constantly looking for opportunities to execute better than before.

Your spirit runner is Fernado Cabada.

photo credit: Altra Running

Your morning run is what gets you out of bed. A principled, self-starter, you aren't afraid of being different or trying something new. Those around you find themselves motivated to get out the door. You race to find the best in yourself and the world around you. You're particularly dangerous at altitude.

Your spirit runner is Larisa Dannis.

photo credit: Meb Keflezighi

You see opportunities and capitalize on them. Running has changed your life. For you, running is about family, both your blood relations and the running community at large. On race day, you're the underdog on paper, but your tactical skill is like that of a chess Grand Master.

Your spirit runner is Meb Keflezighi.

photo credit: On Running

You're always on the move because you can't stand staying still. You live on the cutting edge of technology and fashion which spills over into your running. Your friends ask you for the best running routes and restaurants when they travel abroad because chances are, you've already been there. Racing for you is an intensely personal experience where you seek the unknown, testing your limits.

Your spirit runner is Frederik Van Lierde.

End of Part 2!

I can't believe I did 6 more brands! There's probably at least 6 more brands, too, but I'm kind of getting tired of writing this stuff.

Did you relate to my take on your brand?

Tweet a photo of your running shoes @danielkittaka using the hashtag, #yourshoes to get your own personalized (made up) running shoe analysis!

Miss Part 1?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Your Running Shoes Say About You

Way back in the day (and maybe even now) running magazines, books, and websites would tell readers to examine their shoe wear pattern and thus determine their "right" running shoe.

Case in point, this guide found on CoolRunning

I subscribe to a more hands on (feet on) approach involving trying on actual running shoes at your local running retailer, but to each his or her own.

That said, what if your running shoes actually said more about you than if you made the "right" choice? With out further ado, 

What Your Running Shoes Say About You

photo credit: Nike Running

At the cutting edge of run fashion, you like to turn heads. In your book, function and fashion; style and speed go hand in hand. A social runner, you roll with a "crew" that shares your passion for fly kicks and fast clicks. On race day, you like to get out hard and set the pace, forcing the field to follow. You hold on for an honest effort and hope it's enough.

Your spirit runner is Sammy Wanjiru.

photo credit: Brooks Blog

For you it's all about having fun. You want to run your best but not at the expense of enjoying  the experience. Slow or fast; friend or stranger, you're more than happy to chill for a few miles on the trails and shoot the breeze. You like to go out relaxed in races, saving energy for a fast finish. Negative splits are more fun.

Your spirit runner is Katie Mackey.

photo credit: Saucony

Solitary and stoic, you let your legs do your walking and talking. You enjoy putting in work on the roads, trails, and track in relative solitude. A gritty runner, the beat of your feet against the pavement is all the music you need as you cover mile after mile. Confident in your fitness, you race like there's no tomorrow, pushing the pace and leaving your competition in the dust.

Your spirit runner is Ben True.

photo credit: Mizuno Running USA

You are the perfect running buddy. You always meet up on time and like running a predictable pace. Beyond the basics, you believe in your running buds and they know it. While racing, your secret sauce is consistency. Particularly over hill and dale, you ride rolling terrain like a surfer catching waves.

Your spirit runner is Serena Burla.

photo credit: asics america

You connect the dots, the ethic you display on the roads informs the rest of your life and vice versa. Running is as much a part as your personal journey as it is about fitness or achievement. While racing, you absorb the energy of the crowds letting them inspire you as you inspire them. 

Your spirit runner is Deena Kastor.

photo credit: adidas
Perfectly poised, you're all class. On and off the track, you stay focused, keeping your eyes on the prize. Racing, you like to lead wire-to-wire, defining distances and times for yourself.

Your spirit runner is David Rudisha.

End of Part 1 (Check out Part 2!)

So that's it, my take on the kinds of runners that wear the big 6 running shoe brands. Obviously I've left out a bunch of brands, but I only have so much time on my hands!

This is all just stuff I made up based on random images I found on the vendor websites and other vague associations. Did you relate to my take on your brand?

Tweet a photo of your running shoes @danielkittaka using the hashtag, #yourshoes to get your own personalized (made up) running shoe analysis!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Boston 2015 Global Period (Training 11/17-2/1)

Yikes! It's been 11 weeks or so since I last recapped on the blog. That's actually probably a good thing as I've been busy running and doing other things for the most part.

A shot from the Daniel Burnham Open cross country race Lee Greenberg and I produce.
(photo credit: Ground Up Dij)

In summary, the past 11 weeks, I've averaged about 70 miles per week, implemented hip/core strengthening, and done a number of workouts featuring faster paces/shorter reps. You can check out the details on Strava.

I had to nix my goal of racing at the Illiana Invite (as it is an invitation only event, duh), but it seems I've also gotten a bunch of other runners interested in racing on the (indoor) track at some point in February so that's cool. It looks like we'll be running 5000m on Saturday, February 2nd.

My feeling is that even with the progress I've made with stabilizing the chassis and getting the legs turning over with workouts featuring shorter, faster repeats, I'm still lacking a certain "something." That "something" could very well be just getting in a race or time trial so it's a good thing that it looks like there will probably be a few opportunities to race indoors this year.

Looking ahead, my training will start to become increasingly (Boston) marathon specific. This past weekend was the first Boston 365 workout in Barrington, IL which features rolling terrain and is one of the spots Chicago-area runners use to prepare for the Boston Marathon.

We tried something a bit different this latest outing, running out and back on "Windmill Hill" segment twice before flipping around for home.

The very steep second half of "Windmill Hill" provided some great downhill running stimulus.

I focused on running marathon effort (at this point about 6:00 pace) for these hills. After a gentle mile back on the roads, I ran 6 miles at marathon effort (again just over 6:00 pace). I think this was quite valuable as it gave me the opportunity to run marathon effort after some hard downhill running. Kudos to Boston Marathon Guru, Dan Daly for dreaming up this new training stimulus.

I'll have to post more specific goals and plans for the next six weeks or so, but the main thing is to begin making that transition to marathon specific workouts in preparation for a few key workouts like my staple 18 miles at 95% marathon goal pace.

What do your next six weeks look like?

Leave a question or comment below!